The Struggle Is Day 4

Written By: Stephanie Keiko Kong


Dear reader,

            The following article is based on a journal entry I wrote as a letter to myself back in 2014. At the time, I was at the very beginning of my journey into meditation, feeling frustrated and blissful by turns.

            Currently, I teach mindfulness and meditative singing, and I’ve enjoyed a strong, consistent practice for years now. However, as you’ll read, this wasn’t always the case.


I’m a meditator. Sort of.

I meditate on a daily basis for about four days in a row. Then, I miss a day. Like today.

It’s day 4 of my brand-new-again daily practice. I’ve squirmed every time I thought about sitting on my cushion today. It’s as if my butt is a magnet of the same polarity as my meditation spot. I get near it, and I can feel invisible forces driving me away.

Somehow, on days 1, 2 and 3, I woke up knowing I had to start meditating immediately. Maybe it’s because I knew I would otherwise get distracted. I didn’t even brush my teeth first. From my horizontal sleeping position, I slid off the side of the bed, onto the floor between the bed frame and my closet, and there I sat. I picked up my mālāfrom my nightstand and off I went. Continue reading “The Struggle Is Day 4”

Yoga Will Save the World

Written By:   LauraLynn Jansen


It is everywhere!!! It, meaning “Yoga.” Versions of it are used in advertisements on the television and in magazines. Corporate heads write of its’ underlying benefits and relate how engaging Yogic philosophies and practices aid in being a better leader in business settings. And, of course folks doing postures are all over social media channels. So… I thought I would take a moment to share some details of how Yoga is demonstrating impact in the scientific realm. Plus a few other ponderings.

  1. The physical movements associated with āsana, the postures, leave a ripple of benefits – flexibility, muscle coordination, and assist in healthier functioning of the organs and tissues. 
  1. Prāṇāyāma, the conscious movement of breath and bodily energy, has a full list unto itself. On the physical level it improves blood circulation and improves concentration. It also invokes a relaxation response to the body and mind. When engaged regularly these breath focused practices are being proven to address and release anxiety and depression (components of post-traumatic stress).
  1. The ability to self-regulate, also known as having the skill to respond and relate to stress in a healthy manner, is addressed by almost every marga(Yogic path), whether it is āsana, prāṇāyāma, meditation or nāda (sound, chanting, etc).
  1. One’s ability to focus attention shifts as an increase in mind-body awareness is acquired. Literally, the brain’s neuroplasticity changes through the engagement of attention networks and other mental facilities used in the aforementioned practices. This increase in mind body awareness, also known as metta-cognition, enables folks to stand back and watch what is happening from a more neutral mindset.
  1. Lastly, is the bliss factor, some call it the endorphin rush post a physical practice. However, the intense state of flow, unity (what Yoga/yujactually means in Sanskrit) and peace/calmness can present a deep change in an individual’s perception of self and their path in life.

Continue reading “Yoga Will Save the World”

The Teacher Mold

by Emerald Ralston


“I….. I just don’t think I enjoy teaching yoga…” I muttered to a friend, a fellow graduate of my 200-hour yoga teacher training. We were warming up at a studio of another fellow graduate, preparing to take class there, and I was contemplating her offer for me to teach there as well.
We’d all been teaching intermittently, subbing whenever we could and getting as much experience as possible, to attempt to bring to others what yoga had brought to our lives.

“Well, maybe you just haven’t taught enough classes, or you’re just not confident enough in the words,” she offered, in the purest, most encouraging way possible.

I allowed myself to sit with this suggestion, one I had considered several times before.

Maybe I’m just not confident enough. Maybe I just don’t quite fit the mold of the studios I’ve encountered or the students I have had in front of me. Maybe I’m just simply not a good teacher, maybe I’m just not good enough.
The doubt spiral took hold and didn’t let me go until I was halfway into Savasana. That is when I realized that it wasn’t true. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy teaching Yoga… it was that I simply didn’t enjoy teaching Asana.
When we consider yoga, in the West particularly, the first image to come to mind for most is the asana. The poses, the leggings, the catch phrases on the tank tops. But there is so much more to Yoga than that, Asana is only one of the eight limbs of Yoga. There are the Yamas, or the restraints and moral principles we follow. The Niyamas, or the positive observances. There is Pranayama, the breath work; Pratyahara, gaining control of the senses; Dharana, focus; Dhyana, meditative absorption; and finally Samadhi, or total enlightenment.

Anything that brings people to yoga is incredible, powerful and likely life changing, in my opinion, but there was always more to it than asana for me. In my YTT I wasn’t the most flexible, I didn’t know all the sanskrit names or possible variations of each pose, I wasn’t interested in perfecting the picturesque and beautiful poses that the other incredible yogis in my class excelled at as much as I was just there to move my body and spirit around.
But when it came time for papers and class presentations on the sutras, on the spiritual side, the academic side, I lost track of time and space. I connected with a side of me that needed to be awakened and I discovered Yoga. I discovered the yamas and niyamas, I truly dived into my breath, I sought the divine, I found it within myself.

Asana got me there, as it gets most people to yoga. Asana teachers are a gift, but not every 200-hour YTT graduate is going to be cut out for teaching asana, and I am here to tell you that is okay. I beat myself up for months, after spending so much time and money, seeing many of my fellow classmates moving on to teach incredible classes and truly find their calling in that. I felt the anxiety that yoga usually relieved for me creeping back, comparing myself to other people, wondering why I had failed. I even quit going to studios for class, only occasionally practicing my asana at home. My only connection to yoga on the surface seemed to be my daily spiritual reading and Instagram. My escape had become my prison, and everything that brought me to yoga wedged itself between us now.

Suddenly I realized I was no longer practicing Yoga. I snapped out of it with the help of my mentor and friends, and the spiritual foundation YTT had given me. I realized that even if I wasn’t arbitrarily teaching asana because that’s what was expected of a 200 hour YTT graduate, I had been teaching Yoga all along — even more so by following my truth that teaching asana was not for me.

I was reminded of stories of ancient yogis where there is not a single mention of Asana. Conversations that went well into many evenings about the impact yoga has had on the lives of me and my friends. This is because Asana does not have to be the focal point of yoga.

Teaching Yoga is reminding your coworker to breathe when they’re overwhelmed. Teaching Yoga is donating excess to charity because you are consciously practicing non-attachment. Teaching Yoga is setting boundaries to fill you own cup before you try to help fill others’. Teaching Yoga is living in truth and modeling that for others. There is so so much more to teaching Yoga than guiding someone into a pose with your words.

Grant yourself the grace you grant others if you are at this crossroads in your teaching journey and allow and trust your own path to guide you.
You might find that you can teach yoga in a different way, like I found that while I don’t love teaching asana, I do love teaching Yoga.

Namaste <3


by LauraLynn Jansen

“May I resolve to evolve,” I ask the Divine.

Resolve to evolve, to consciously seek a deeper understanding of Self.

This request is for the continual progression of understanding. An understanding of life in this body. I am realizing my request for personal evolution is becoming more of an involutioneach year. This life journey moving me more and more inward with a deeper desire to tend more inside than outside.


The recognition of a shift of evolving to involuting came while considering what to put onto the 2019 new year card. Every new year, I create a card. These yearly markers stashed away in a sacred spot date back over 15 years. They are milestones depicting the examination of life. Sometimes I pull them all out and reconsider the overall arch followed by my life. Each New Year’s Eve gives space to truly reflect on what is happening around and through me. The writing and imagery, on each card created, reflects a vision. Words and images depict an energy, a retrospective glimpse, and an inspiration toward a forming momentum awaiting manifestation.

This year’s card is covered in patterns and images of art nouveau flowers, a bird soaring, another bird singing on top of a dogwood branch that is blooming with a white pedaled flower. It has five words on it: “Dare… Create, grow, and expand.” Continue reading “Innvolution-Evolution”

Yoga’s Impact on Life’s Roller-coaster

by Madisyn Walter

Yoga has been the greatest mentor to me throughout the past two years, guiding my life toward a sense of nirvana.  Life means so many different things to so many different people; full of decisions, actions, happiness and regrets.  These decisions, like the tide, rise and fall each day. Every person has a constitutional right to the pursuit of happiness, yet it is up to the individual to make that happiness a reality. 

My path to personal happiness started when I found yoga.  Yoga, which is the practice of bringing wellness and strength into the body, is aimed to reduce the chaotic stress associated with life and help achieve inner peace. Previously in life I was focusing too much on the situations around me instead of the mental and physical turmoil living within me. However, when I started the practice of yoga everything changed.  I had more respect for the health of my mind, body and soul.  The less I started to worry about all the problems around me the more I began to realize more about my personal character and how unbalanced my life had been.  It was a breath of fresh air to be able to wake up and not feel the anxiety of a new day; instead, I could rejoice in knowing that I now have the mental and physical tools needed to tackle every obstacle that life throws at me.

Yoga does not take stressful situations out of your life; reversely it guides you to better awareness of how to deal with those stressful situations.  Throughout my childhood I experienced a lot of frustration, resulting in arguments with everyone.  Managing my stress did not happen after one yoga session. Instead, as with most great things in life, it happened with consistency and practice.  When practicing yoga, which is a mind-body connection experience for me; and it consists of a combination of activities from controlled breathing to meditation, and relaxation to physical poses. After enough practice, these activities become second nature and I find myself dealing with stress in a totally different manner.  This ancient practice of meditation and yoga has thusly encouraged my mind to heal itself rather than shut down due to chaotic distractions in everyday life. For example, instead of suffering a bad break down, yoga has helped me to be able to categorize and identify areas of stress in my life and allow me to handle them in order of importance. In my experience this has been a much healthier approach to dealing with stress rather than self-medicating or consulting a physician.

In order to deal with this epic reality time and time again, one must understand their own ‘feeling of being’.  For some this is an extremely intimidating task to confront because you are becoming aware of whom you are by flowing into your own natural rhythm.  The easiest way to feel your sense of wellbeing is by becoming aware of yourself.  Try this: Relax the body from your jaw all the way down to your toes by exhaling into each section of the body.  After you find yourself comfortable in a position where there is no tension, turn your focus on thegentle expansion and release of your abdomen as the breath draws and flows out of the mouth and/or nose.  Once a rhythm is established locate the short pause between each breath and focus on harmonizing each inhale and exhale.  At this point of your practice you may experience a natural smile or some type of warmth lingering in the body. This is the presence of your wellbeing.  To some this may sound strange but that will change once the importance of being in tune with your body is been discovered.               

            It is self-evident to the majority of people who try yoga, that it is an extremely healthy way to combat stress.  The well-being of one’s mind should be paramount above all else.  A healthy mind is free to better assist the body in problem-solving and thus creates a better flow in work and many other aspects of life.  It is understood that many people may find the idea of yoga to be a stressful thought in of its own; and I can assure you, it took some time for me to get used to it as well.  Through yoga I have found true happiness in myself and it is my wish that in reading the positive aspects it has played in my life that you as well may find the peace we all deserve.  Namaste.


by LauraLynn Jansen


So much has been given to me; I have no time to ponder over that, which has been denied.

– Helen Keller

This year, for the first time in 15 years, my partner and I are living openly on every level of our lives. I am grateful the hiding is over. If I am totally honest, I am challenged in remaining in this gratitude. Reminders of the imposed silence of our love flash back to me. My attitude of gratitudewaivers far more than I think it should considering we no longer have tohide.

Before this year of living openlywe shared our devotion to each other only in certain places and certain spaces, and only with folks we trusted to hold our love in confidence. When we legally bound our love just over 4 years ago on a beach with the splendor of the Sierras surrounding us a trusted posse of friends and a couple family members joined to witness this unprecedented moment in our lives. The societal acknowledgement of the validity of our commitment to each other was one I honestly never thought I would see in my lifetime. Not just because we are two women, but because of the restrictions placed on my partner as a military officer. That moment of deeply vulnerability, for both of us, marked the beginning of a major adjustment period we are still trying to navigate. Our capacity to find a new rhythm as we openly explore the world together is now the test before us. We must un-master our ability to tell untruths. Please know my deepest gratitude lies in the realm of not having to lie any more. Personally, as someone who tries her best to live by Yogic values, telling untruths and/or holding back pieces of what the heart is distressing.

The Yoga Sutrasencourage Yoga folk to think, speak, and act with integrity through the term, satya. The word satmeans that which exists, that which is. “Satya, therefore, is seeing and communicating things as they actually are, not as we wish them to be.” Oh the wishes I’ve had over the last decade and half. The many times I wished I could share the truth within my heart with new friends.

When we lie, the sages say, we disconnect from our higher self; our minds become confused, and we cannot trust ourselves.

This state of confusion is a familiar one to me. Over the years of hiding, my ability to trust self and others has faded, and as it dropped fear rose creating an even greater disconnection within myself and without. Now, everyday, I put forth effort to re-establish trust in Self and other. Now, I question assumptions as they arise, in the past they were a protection mechanism. I defeat fear by reaching out to those, who in the past I was uncertain I could trust. I am retraining the fear to back off and allow me to be myself with those who live around me.

It is said the truth sets us free. I wholeheartedly concur! I am so grateful we are free to be ourselves in the sense she won’t lose her job, and society is opening to the validity of our relationship. The great freedom to be who we really are, rather than hiding behind lies and untruths, is indescribable. And now as we remove the layers of cultural conditioning and find a new way to be together we struggle and celebrate. It is an opportunity to grow anew as individuals and as a couple. It is for all this – the freedom, the growth, the newness, and all that lies ahead yet unknown to us… that I find an even deeper attitude of gratitude.


Yoga Saved Me

By Amber Favaregh

Yoga saved me, but not in the way a white knight saves the day. It’s a bit more like how learning to swim saves you when you find yourself capsized in open water. In 2003, I found myself in a desperate and broken position following a violent rape. My PTSD from the attack was so severe I was unable to function well in everyday life. I was in constant fight or flight mode and my ability to calm myself down was impaired to a point that it substantially decreased my quality of life. Driving my car was difficult as fast-moving things just on the edge of my vision would cause very extreme physical reactions in my body.

Mindfulness and present moment awareness stepped on the scene by way of a counselor I was seeing. She guided me through meditations and at the most basic level she taught me how to always check in to see what was really happening in any given moment. This is the basis of mindfulness and yoga. I had a crash course in that present moment awareness just trying to make it through my everyday life.

Under extreme conditions I was forced to learn and relearn, a thousand times a day, just how important it is to know what is actually happening in a given moment. This was the beginning of yoga saving me. It’s not a white knight but a toolbox of skills that we must work hard to master and continually use in order to save ourselves. Like any master of difficult work, we must continually be working on how best to use those skills. We must trust that they are only as powerful as our willingness to use them.

When my husband died suddenly 10 years after the rape, I experienced the second major trauma of my life. At first, I was very angry and sad that I would have to do all this recovery work again. I doubted my ability to move through this without him. I was misunderstanding where the healing I had already seen had come from. It wasn’t from outside of me. I was my own white knight.

One of the powerful gifts of that loss was that I was able to clearly see how incredibly powerful it is to have a skill set for mindfulness. My journey hasn’t been easy. My mind roams to self-pity and victimhood often, like any other person, but I am able to more clearly see the options I have to choose another perspective.

When we can create the space required to see what is true here now, we almost always have the space to choose a better way of perceiving what is happening. As I miss my husband’s physical presence, I can make space for the tremendous gift it is to have known and been loved by him. To have so enjoyed our relationship that my heart does feel a profound sense of sadness and loss, but more than anything else my heart if full of gratitude and joy for what we had.

It’s my hope that anyone who reads this will understand that this applies to all of the difficult things that we go through as humans. Our journeys are all different and all equally as difficult. Never underestimate your difficulty or your ability to work through it. Remember that what is true here now, is the most powerful way to end your own suffering.


The fact is, so few moments in life have actual suffering involved. How we experience the moments that follow is up to us to choose.

Seeking a Yogic Life in the Modern World – revisited

by LauraLynn Jansen

Fog lifts off the Up Northlake revealing my aunt Janice sitting cross-legged at the end of the dock. Her long blonde hair lies on her relaxed shoulders, as her head rests perfectly on top of her completely upright trunk.  I register not a single movement of her body, as I creep quietly cross the dew-draped grass. Each soggy step toward her my gaze fixates to see if she moves. I followed her here after footsteps passed my head nestled into a black and white art deco sleeping bag. All the kids sleep on the lake house’s living room floor. While the adults claim the two small bedrooms and pull out couch bed. Awoken by the quiet creep I become curious of where she was going, when the sun has barely light the sky. I arise from my resting place, once she has stepped outside. My yellow cotton summer pajamas, with little white flowers, hold in my body warmth as I head out into northern Wisconsin summer morning. As I wipe the morning crusties from my eyes I span the surrounding woods for her, eventually they land one her silhouette down by the water. What is she doing perched on the lake dock so early in the morning before anyone is awake?

I walk close enough to observe without being heard. She just keeps sitting there, no movement, so I creep closer in case I am missing something.  Still no movement, I wait. Occasionally my gaze shifts from her to the sky as it lightens with the day’s start. A noise from the woods quickly draws my head to see if a deer of a bear is rustling about before redirecting my gaze again on my aunt. Finally she stirs and stands after taking a deep bow. I turn and run back up the hill to the house, throw open the screen door, slip into the door in hopes of not waking anyone else, and slide back into my sleeping bag pretending to be asleep when she returns.

This image of her peacefulness still remains in my mind’s eye. I remember thinking about her often as a child and wondering about her quiet rituals. I always admired her peaceful nature and knew one day I wanted to possess what she had.


Somewhere around two decades later, I sit on a well-worn mattress upon a wooden bed frame. The smell of dried clay permeates the room where my friend’s father, a sculptor, has spent many hours shaping images out of earthen materials. This room is my temporary sanctuary. It is where I allow many hours of lip silence to pass as I explore thought wormholes and mind trappings, a.k.a. I am learning to “meditate.”

I find inner passages where I begin to learn about myself. I am beyond any frontier previously known to me within these moments of deeply focused concentration.

I discover how my being goes from silence to cacophony within the flash of a moment.

I learn I am way more than the shell of my body…

and for this I am deeply relieved.

I use concentration practices, also known as pratyhara, to get me through the painful hours of having a needle pumping toxic chemicals into my body.  These hours of medical treatment aim to rid my cells of a disease that has overtaken the upper part of my physical body. Later when I am alone in the potter studio, post chemo infusion, I use the quiet alone moments to explore the deeper inner passage I am discovering. I visit this place and uncover ways to remain calm amidst the fact I feel absolutely horrible and may be dying. I am learning yogic practices of the mind and soul.

I am unknowingly finding my way onto a path that will serve the rest of my life.


Fast forward almost another decade, I am sitting on a gym floor waiting for my first asāna class at San Francisco State University to begin. This is my fifth and final college, for the completion of my undergraduate degree. I’ve finally decided (after changing somewhere near nine times) on a major in Women’s Studies with an emphasis in health. A gentle-man with long, gray hair enters the large space where we all sit in one corner on top of blankets (yoga mats were just coming onto the scene and still quite expensive).

My first official asāna practice led by Mr. Lar Caughlan, in the early 90s, became the next layer of my pursuit of the path of Yoga. Once my class with Lar ended I sought out asāna classes across the city of San Francisco dappling into – Ashtanga, pure Iyengar, Integral Yoga styles plus a few others. I was beginning to embrace and learn yet another branch of the yogic tree.


Fast forward to 1999, the sun has yet to rise and I sit with other students, from all over the world, in new white outfits. A banana leaf is cupped in my hands holding a traditional offering of fruit, symbolic items of devotion and a small monetary donation. I am partaking in a day long ritual where I am being initiated into a mantra from the Sivananda lineage. Around us the surrounding jungle of Southern India is awakening – birds calling to each other, lions stir across the lake, and the large green leaves in the trees above us rustle slightly. I am living on an ashram; a spur of the moment decision amongst the loose plans of travel through Nepal and India. (Intrigued? Obtain more info. about this decision in my memoir.) Today I will receive a mantra to be used the rest of my life as a prayer for my cultivation within and as a blessing to the world without me. This day takes me further into the discovery of all Yoga truly is. At the end of this month of deep study I will be a certified Yoga teacher. At this moment I believe this is exploration is just about personal growth and nothing more. I have no idea if I will ever teach.


I do teach. I’m actually offered an opportunity to do so the moment I return to the states. My first experience melds all my worlds as I offer what I know of this thing called Yogato individuals surviving and actively being treated for cancers of all types.

The next decade and a half is filled with multiple teaching venues and a wide range of students from those facing threatening illnesses to youth living in uncertain situations to military members.

I still have so many questions when I hear of new forms of “yoga” emerging.

I feel/hear inquiries within myself still emerging to understand what Yoga is.

I waiver between my confidence in knowing Yoga and then thinking I know nothing.

There is a continual cultivation of my own teaching style, while I discover other forms of Yogasāna. I add to my repertoire of comprehension and skill through the study and practice of Anusara, Yin, and Restorative asāna styles, along with classes on aerial hammocks, in and on the water (aqua and stand up paddleboard). I teach across the country and even venture into opening a studio where I teach amongst the multiple elements of earth, air and water.

This year I came back to India, this time to the north. A deepening of Yoga’s vastness continues through the ancient practices known as nāda Yoga (sound and vibration based practice). This trip is amidst my third year of deep focus into Sanskrit, mantra and other sound-based practices. Post this second two hundred training and after thirty years post encountering the practices of this vast world called Yoga… finally I beginning to feel like I am getting a grip on what it means to live these ancient ways in this modern life. I finally feel comfortable, saying out loud, I am a Yoga teacher.

NOTE: This post is an adaptation and update to a prior post done on this blog many years back


Is Yoga Real?

By Joe Charsagua

As we near the completion of the first twenty years of the 21stcentury, the adoption of the practice of yoga increased dramatically since its first appearances in the mid-twentieth century in the Western world. In many places and cities, it is common to jokingly describe the prevalence of yoga studios to be as common as Starbucks coffee stores. Yoga is inculcated increasingly into the common vernacular of society reflecting an increased acceptance of yoga in daily life. Additionally, medical professionals now advise their patients to practice yoga as part of holistic measures to treat intractable chronic pain issues. In our commercialized society, many name-brand stores and locations offer items for yoga practice such as mats, blocks, and yoga pants as part of their merchandise. With the increased adoption and presence of yoga in society, we should ask if yoga is real?

To answer the question, we can ask what we can discern of the practice of yoga over time. When we compare the modern-day perceptions of yoga with how it was practiced in its early days (classical yoga), a stark contrast exists between the two. First, classical yoga was only practiced by men. Today, women more than men are commonly identified with the practice of yoga. Classical yoga was practiced as a means to deepen a sense of spirituality and to enhance a journey toward a spiritual ideal. Nowadays, most yoga practitioners seek the physical aspects of yoga with a paramount focus on the poses. In classical yoga, the poses were referred to by their original names in Sanskrit, whereas today many yoga teachers announce poses using the modern translation in English (or their common language), sometimes along with the Sanskrit name. Yoga was practiced mostly in India for many years prior to its global expansion in the Twentieth Century, particularly in the Western world. Finally, whereas classical yoga was practiced in whatever physical location available to them, the yoga mat today is the where we go to practice yoga. A consequence of the ubiquitous nature of the yoga mat is the spawning of a commercial market of yoga accessories that includes a variety of mat types, yoga props, and most especially, yoga attire. So, recognizing the new aspects of yoga today, is yoga still real?

It is the yoga mat that is a commonality among yoga practitioners. The “experience of yoga” on the “common” yoga mat naturally leads to a common shared experience between yoga practitioners, particularly among those who practice different styles of yoga. In our society, we constantly compare our yoga belongings and our yoga experience. For example, when we talk about our mat, we often ask what color do you have? What types of designs do you have? Who made it? Is it a sticky mat? Do you like your mat? A nice conversation can ensue from just these few questions. Similarly, the same questioning happens with other yoga accessories and yoga clothing such as yoga pants. Such conversations describe the totality of our yoga experiences on our mats with each other and contributes to our understanding of what is real.

But is there more to yoga than what we experience on our mats, that makes it real? Why, yes, of course. There is yoga that is off the mat! As we practice our yoga on the mat, we can take the micro-experiences we have on the mat and recall them when we are engaged in the parts of our lives that that forms our reality not on the mat such as at work, at home, or in our community. These micro-experiences include the encouraging feelings of strength we get when we are able to master a pose that has challenged us or the feeling of rejuvenation while in Savasana after completing the more arduous parts of the class. They, and others, are a resource we can tap into to help us endure or overcome situations that challenge our sense of security and being. Yoga provides us the opportunities to learn about ourselves and to help ourselves become a better person in spite of the challenges of life. We do this when we take our yoga off the mat. Every Day. Every Moment.


So, is yoga real? The answer to this question varies. We have perceptions formed by our experiences and beliefs. As we live through our life, our understanding of what is real will continue to change as we gain new experiences. As yogis, we have been blessed with a time-lasting discipline that allows us to gain new experiences through the practice of yoga. When we come to our mat and practice, in every moment of that practice the experience is real. Why? Because all that matters as we practice is what we are experiencing when it is “now.” Similarly, if we can relive those experiences on the mat in the parts of our lives that are off the mat, then we can bring that sense of “real” to those new moments of “now.” So, it is simple. Be present, experience the “now” not only the mat, but off the mat. Then, we can say true reality is both on and off the mat, regardless of origin or style. And so, when we next come back to our mat, and we will find yoga is real.

Bhakti: Yogic Devotion

by LauraLynn Jansen


Both my granny Grace and the grand-Jansens were devoted to their faith. Their devotion was demonstrated by saying prayers before meals, a cross or two hanging on the walls of their home, speaking about their faith in God to others unabashedly, and by going to church each Sunday.

I recall feeling a devotional connection, as a child, though my devoutness seemed much stronger during the quiet times alone in my room, with childhood dogs, or lying underneath the giant pines in the backyard. I created personal rituals, to honor my personal connection to this unseeable energy the priest called God. One in particular involved taking my grandpa Ben’s (died when I was 6 weeks old) wood cross. The face portion of slid off the back side of the cross and fit into a cutout on the inside (of the bottom portion). An oblong hole, on the inside of the back piece was cut out for storage. I placed the small, white candles stored in the oblong hole into additional circular holes carved into the inside of the back piece, as well. I believe I would honor the setup by mumbling a prayer and dabbing a bit of holy water on my forehead. The bottle was replenished with each time I would go to church.

Various regiments of certain organized religions such as Catholicism (which I grew up practicing) often made me pause and question their intention. Was it truly a portrayal of a grander love? A devotional practice with restrictions never quite fit for me, so ultimately I declined to be confirmed as a Catholic, to my grand Jansen’s dismay. Since that time I’ve delved into many different religious-based offerings form those of Judaism to Buddhism (my aunt has been a Buddhist since the 70s). None of them quite fit the feeling of God/the Divine I experienced on my own. The capacity to connect with the Divine source was put into hyper-important mode as I faced a terminal illness at the end of my teenage years.

When you are told you may die, your whole world shifts. The details of that journey are another story and detailed in my memoir, Inspired to Live: The Story of an Unlikely Rebel. Attentiveness to personal faith and devotional connections cracked wide open at this point in my life. It is when Yoga(the meditative and mindful aspects) entered my life.

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back its old dimensions.”

Living life through a Yogic philosophical lens allows this Divine connection to remain alive for me pretty much every day. As most of you know I spent two months this spring in India. For the last three years svādhyāya(self study) has been deepening my experience and understanding of the marga ( Yogic path) of bhakti.

image of Bhakti Sanskrit necklace


Devotion is the literal translation of bhakti. This most recent trip to India culminated a formal  training in the elements of bhakti – mantra, Sanskrit, instrumentation, non-violent communication, and other subtle practices. Upon arriving home and taking time to reflect I feel fully reunited with the excitement and wonder of my childhood ponderings on the Divine. I am grateful deeply grateful for this devotional portion of Yoga, and all the others. I appreciate how they all continue to be a force enticing me to keep exploring, experiencing, and enlivening my connection with the Divine Spirit amongst and within us all.

Namaste, LL

Would you like to know a bit more about bhakti from different perspectives? Take a gander here.