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Yoga makes my soul shine and it’s mostly off the mat…

Taozi Tree yoga is proud to present…

“Adventures Abroad” with special guest writer, Ingrid Schroder.

Yoga makes my soul shine and it’s mostly off the mat…IS-TaoziTreeYoga-Blog_280413_0016

If there are but 4 things yoga teaches me daily:

Be present

Accept yourself

This too shall pass

Love conquers fear

But it hasn’t always been so. My definition of yoga has changed over the years. What started as hot-sweaty-bikram-workout-competition has gradually become being at one with myself, slowing down, completely present and in the moment… whether there’s a yoga mat involved or not.


These days yoga to me is whenever I’m totally wrapped up in what’s happening here and now. Whether it’s photography, being with those I love, floating in the ocean, travelling or simply sitting somewhere peaceful in nature – being present is key.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a daily asana practice, I love it, but it’s less about doing and more about listening to my body, letting my breath lead me, and moving however feels right at the time.


One of many turning points came for me during my 200 hour yoga teacher training in Bali (where my path first crossed that of the beautiful Miss Theresa Pauline) and the concept of forgetting about achieving and striving – especially with asana – was first brought to my attention. Accept that you are already perfect, everything in this moment is exactly how it is meant to be. Don’t pay attention to what anyone else around you is up to. It has nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with you.

I started to find that what you become aware of on the mat, more often than not, transfers into the your life.


This, amongst many other pearls of wisdom I picked up during these studies, had me yearning to learn more, and this journey took me to my level 2 teacher training in India.

India. India. A place of colour, spirituality and challenge. It was here that meditation became a regular fixture of my yoga practice. I’d dabbled with it before but nothing beyond a few minutes at a time. With our philosophy teacher, zen Buddhist monk, Hamid Ebadi, as our guide, we learned to be with that which makes us most uncomfortable. And what better place to deal with this than in noisy, dusty, sometimes smelly and uncomfortable India. What helped me most break through this barrier was the thought ‘this too shall pass’, even though I’m far apart from my loved ones, sitting for an hour at a time with my noisy mind, it won’t always be. Just as the happy times together also are indefinite. Nothing lasts forever.


After all the yoga camps were said and done, I realised that what I was searching for was with me all along. No one else but me could carry these lessons into everyday city life. But I couldn’t get it by doing what I’d always done. My heart became louder than my mind and I had no choice but to listen. I quit my job, started my own business and before long I was living the life i’d always dreamt of. Free, happy and in the moment.

You don’t need me to tell you that what you’re looking for is within you. Not on the other side of the earth, not by practicing hours of asana. You have gifts to give the world, but you must be brave. It can be a scary road looking so closely at yourself. But take comfort in knowing that ultimately love conquers fear. Love for yourself. Love for everyone around you, even your worst enemies. Love every challenge, don’t be afraid, if you just let go and trust your heart…


Presence, acceptance, patience and love… with these on your side your soul will surely shine.

This has been a special guest post by my dear friend, Ingrid Schroder. She is the editor of blog Cohabitare.com and a graphic designer/photographer/owner of freelance creative company Be Visual


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“Adventures Abroad” at Taozi Tree Yoga is proud to present…





Structured Improv!

…That’s my ‘life theme’ these days. To use structures (of thought, practices, groups) that facilitate a deeper insight and experience. And then to improvise within those structures to make them one’s own.  Active and Receptive.  Force and Form.  And out of this dance of seemingly opposing complementarities emerges a movement that is truly unique, in the moment and creative.

An example  of how I apply it  in my yoga practice &  teaching  is to  work with standard  sequences and postures like Ashtanga Vinyasa and Hatha asanas and then to slowly give  space for  the body to improvise and express itself. Any yogic practice is a conversation – listening and talking. And the yogic postures are like beautiful words with deep meaning and energetic connotations that facilitate a deeper conversation. So we ‘talk’ using the asanas and recite beautiful ‘poems’ of the sequences but many times forget the listening aspect. To listen IN while the body is doing a posture/ kriya/ chant and to be receptive and open to what it has to say. Once a feedback loop is established and the activity feeds the receptivity feeds the activity and so on…. That’s when the creative rhythm takes over and makes every  session juicy and deep.

Acro Yoga

Acro Yoga


Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be a tourist or an explorer? Do  you  have a fixed set of ‘sights’ that you  want to visit or are you more enthused by journey itself, moving and flowing and finding your way as you go along, allowing the journey to shape  your map? If you are a ‘yogic  tourist’ life can often be stressful and chances are that many times you  will  find  yourself in places where you feel  stuck; using maps that  are  static and not your own, always running  towards the next destination.

 On the other hand if your main focus is on being a skillful traveler and engaging in a creative conversation with your inner self; your body and your mind, chances are that you will enjoy the journey much more.  And then the practice will take you to places you couldn’t have imagined or aimed for before. The goal is not the achievement of pre set markers but the progressive deepening of awareness.

In Dubai

While thinking about writing this piece I was wondering what structure I could employ to improv.  in? I finally settled for the seven elements/ chakras in our body.  Here I mainly focus on beliefs or conventions that in my opinion should be questioned and reevaluated. I’ve improvised with sentence construction and grammar at a few places, to convey the meaning more clearly. Hope you derive some form of value from the discussion…

EARTH/ Mooladhara: the Body-

…It is in vogue in spiritual/ yogic circles to urge one to go ‘beyond the body’.

“You are not the body.”, “This  body will die eventually.”,“All this is impermanent and will  have to be left behind.”, “Senses lead to delusion. “, “Go beyond the  senses.” … and so  on.

I find that such statements are not helpful at all! Mostly they just tend to cause confusion, disconnect and act as fodder for useless mental gymnastics. What is your experience RIGHT NOW? Are you the body? Do you connect with the world through the senses? No matter what someone says and advises, staying true to one’s own experiences is always the key.

My experience is that I AM the body and I live fully in my senses. This human body is an amazing gift, so rich and juicy and intricate and perceptive. In Vedic mythology it is said that the even the all powerful Celestial beings from the ‘higher planes’ need to take a human birth if they want enlightenment. Body is the door. Body is the key. Body is the temple. Tantric philosophy talks of the microcosm of the body reflecting the macrocosm of the universe. All gods and goddesses (archetypes of energy and intelligence) are mapped on this very body. This body is the ultimate place of worship.  So before talking about going ‘beyond’ the body, let’s first get IN it  fully!

One way of going into deeper states of awareness in the body is to always ‘play on the edge’. In asana practice, always look for the ‘edge’ (of both strength and flexibility) and then play around it.  The edge will vary from day to day and will move over time. As long as you are playing on the edge in the moment, while maintaining full awareness of breath and body sensations, you are deriving full benefits from the practice. In my opinion, this should be the criterion for judging a practice session. Not the external  aesthetics of ‘achieving’ a pose or the ‘feeling’ one gets during and after the session but the ability  to find and stay on the edge and the quality of  awareness throughout the session.

This is not to discount the impetus for achievement and new learning. It is a reminder not to sacrifice depth for breadth.

fun in class

WATER/ Swadisthana:  Emotions-

…are the fuels that run our engines … that move and flow and push and pull and throw and stick and press and propel and project and absorb. Generally we have a tendency  to favour ‘positive’ emotions and avoid ‘negative’ ones.  I also find that sometimes the language and ‘tone’ in the yoga community seems to subtly favour brighter emotions over the darker ones. In my experience all seemingly ‘opposite’ emotions are two extremes of the same continuum. We can feel happiness only to the extent that we have come to terms with our own sadness.   Pleasure is deep when pain is real.

It is not the emotions themselves but our thoughts about these emotions that keep us stuck. If you allow yourself to be open to all emotions and have a willingness to feel deeply, you will be surprised how the ‘real thing’ is very different from the warning on the label!

We come to the mat with our emotions and it will be foolish to  deny them in the quest for a picture perfect, ideal  session. If we acknowledge and let the emotions seep in and fuel our practice, it is surprising how much energy is freed up in the process. Instead of fighting with them, acknowledge them and go on with the practice. Don’t let the thoughts ‘about’ them distract your attention or change the basic structure of the practice but let the feelings themselves  run free and allow them to bring some element of  improvisation into the  practice. It maybe the speed, transitions and ‘mood’ of  a flow, the choice and duration of  holding asanas or doing breath work or the choice, volume and tone of a  chant. If you let emotions overpower you and let them  dictate  your practice (interfering with the technique, depth of attention or making you skip steps) it  is  a problem. Equally problematic is when you completely deny their existence and aim at a ‘consistent’ practice that does not  reflect  your present state of being.

FIRE/ Manipura:  Ego-

…the favorite whipping boy of all  spiritual talk. Fixing, removing, suppressing, ‘dealing with’, sublimating….. all the nasty  things  that  we want  to do to this poor friend! In my experience a healthy, fully formed Ego is the first step towards real growth and wisdom.

It is not possible to lose something if you don’t HAVE it!  In Indian tradition it is said that when the Ego is  Ripe,  it  falls off on its own accord, like a  ripe fruit.  So the emphasis  should be on working towards a healthy  Ego , fully self  aware  and  working  consciously  towards  its  self  interest. In the process you  may realize that the  highest good  for  you  is in actions that also bring about  the highest  good  for  others.  That’s when our sense of personal self  acts as a  doorway  for  a more intuitive sense of the universal.

Another way in which a healthy attitude towards the Ego can find expression is having a sense of personal style. A point of view that is true and unique for  your  personality. I often find that yoga practitioners get  lost in the sea of quotations and ‘wisdom teachings’, always aware of the ‘correct, spiritual answer’  to all questions. Then the spiritual journey is just a task that needs to be completed, a burden. This also applies to more tangible  practices. An unquestioned adherence to any style or recommendation is never helpful. Questioning, being creative and having a point of view are  all essential  perquisites for  making a teaching one’s own.

certification 1

I am often  surprised by how often yoga practitioners talk about , “ How should  I feel right  now?”, “ Where should I feel this?” , “How am I  supposed to deal with this?” and so on. Some pointers with regards to safety are understandable, but too much doubt with little self awareness does not leave any room for exploration or new insights.   In some tantric traditions it  is  said  that, “ The only sin is lack of awareness.” I agree.   If the main focus  is on deepening self awareness, all peripheral questions get answered by and by.

Why do you do yoga? I do it because I feel it is beautiful. It is poetic and puts me in a state of flow. Healing, growth,  wisdom etc.  are  all outcomes of being able  to  access that beautiful  place. That’s my point  of  view and that’s what I share in my style  of facilitation. What is yours?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

by  the  Ganga

***This has been a special guest post by Faraaz Tanveer. He was one of my yoga teachers at Rishikesh Yog Peeth, in Rishikesh, India, in November-December 2012. He is truly an amazing teacher, so full of wisdom. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness in this post, we can’t wait for Part 2!

faraaz 2

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An Inuit’s Path to Ignorance



“Do you live in snow houses?”

Living abroad since 2008, I’ve met countless people that are interested in my home country, Iceland. I’ve gotten many questions like: “Do you have polar bears?”, ” Are you an Es Es Es….Sorry Inuit?” (Not PC to say Eskimo). “Do you have pet penguins?” (seriously!?)

I remember one girl that asked me, “Do you live in snow houses?” I had heard this question before but this girl was from France. Yes! France! I always remember thinking the same thing after hearing these questions, “ignorance”.  But was it ignorance according to Patanjali?

Ignorance (avidya) is of four types:

1) regarding that which is transient as eternal

2) mistaking the impure for pure

3) thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness

 4) taking that which is not-self to be self.

According to Patanjali the people asking me about igloos and penguins were not necessarily ignorant. Though they might not have been the smartest things to say, they were not ignorance.

Actually, I’m not here to talk about other people’s ignorance. I am going to talk about my own path to ignorance.



 My path to ignorance started back when I was 21 years old… roughly 10 years ago.

 Before that age I had no notion of anything being smarter, better or higher then my own thoughts, but suffering sparked a fire in me to go searching for the truth. I spent hours and hours reading endless self-help books, attending 12 step programs, meditation seminars, examining everything from Jesus to Buddha, Krishnamurti to the Dalai Lama, Reiki to the Tao Te Ching………

Finally, in 2008, at the age of 25, I packed my bags and went on a journey from Iceland to New York City to study yoga. I got initiated into Kriya Yoga and while living with my teacher in New York my eyes were opened, I had mystical experiences, and I experienced a divine love and truly found the answer to life. Or did I?

No…unfortunately I did not. After my experience in New York, I’ve continued on my spiritual journey and it wasn’t until a year ago, when I met my Baba from India, at which time I hit a wall and realized my own ignorance. It was probably the biggest blessing I’ve ever had because it was crucial for me to realize self-ignorance with total sincerity  in order to gain spiritual growth.



 With this realization as my foundation, things started to change. How I looked at the world changed. Instead of swallowing everything that had “self help”, “yoga” or “spiritual” written on it, weather it was spiritual books, meditation seminars, yoga teacher trainings or one of these social media quote posters stating the “truth”, I became more and more skeptical about the teachings around me. I began questioning everything, as to whether or not it was actually pure teaching.

I am aware that there are a lot of things out there to learn. What I used to consider to be pure and what used to bring me happiness, I now believe was actually harming me by blocking me from the path to self realization. This past year I have examined my past teachings from former teachers, family, and friends. It might all have been well-intended teachings but what I’ve discovered is that these teachings may not have necessarily been the truth. I’ve been slowly understanding why yogi’s talk about the “dark-ages” and their references towards their own ignorance.



Many people have asked me “What is Yoga?”

So what is Yoga for an ignorant Inuit? What I do know is that Yoga is an oral tradition that has been passed down from one guru to one disciple for centuries.  Yoga is not “new-age” yoga, it is in-fact very “old-school”. I also know that Yoga is not merely physical exercises (as is commonly misconsrtued).

“What book can I read about yoga?”

… this is a question I get quite frequently from people. I smile, because I used to be the same way. I now understand that Yoga cannot be learnt solely by reading books. Patanjali’s sutras, the Bhagavad Gita or any other yogic scriptures are not yoga. Although they are indeed important to study as they can provide the necessary tools that can help you on the path of yoga.

“Where can I learn yoga?” is another common question I get. Well, I won’t learn yoga in a 200hr YTT, a 500hr YTT or any other school either…but again, it is an experience that might provide me with more tools to purify my mind from greed, aversion and ignorance.

“What is Yoga?” is another question I often hear.  Again, stating my own ignorance, I will admit, that I have tried to answer this question myself and I have always struggled with the answers. I say, “Yoga is purifying your mind”, or, “ It’s realizing your true self” or, “it’s to separate the see-er from the seen.”

So… what exactly does all of this mean for an ignorant Inuit like myself? The girl from France (the one that thought people from Iceland live in snow houses) actually has no idea what it is to live in a snow houses. Similarly, I have no idea what it means to be enlightened, or what it is like to have a pure mind or to experience the true self. I have never meditated in a cave for 30 years (or lived in snow houses for that matter), the experience is not there and until that goal is reached I remain ignorant.



 One of the first teachings from my Baba was, “We grow through different experiences in life, so practice non- attachment and seek the true self, the pure, the eternal and happiness. Become a spy with a discriminative knowledge.”

So for me, yoga has been growing into experiences with a spy kit to train my mind, in order to develop discriminative knowledge. One of the tools I was taught, is to use the sutra above, on ignorance. I try to ask myself, “Is it pure? Is it eternal? Is it the self? Is it happiness?”

1. Is it pure? Mistaking the impure for the pure:

For example, I constantly believe that my thoughts, emotions, or intention regarding myself and the world around me is pure, healthy, and spiritual, when they are actually a mixture of tendencies and impurities of the mind.

2. Is it eternal? Regarding that which is transient as eternal:

For example, I tend to look at the earth, sun, things, family, possessions, girlfriends, friends, and the air I breathe as something permanent. I’m grasping and not remembering that all these things will eventually go.

3. Is it the self? Taking that which is not-self to be self:

For example, I constantly identify myself to ideas and think that I am Icelandic, I am my body,  I am my profession, I am an artist, I’m not an artist, but only confusing these with who I really am at the deepest level. Even the notion that I am a male is eventually an illusion according to tantric teachings. It’s a strong illusion, but still an illusion.

4. Thinking that which brings misery to bring happiness:

For example, I often take actions that seem to bring happiness in the moment, but later I discover that it can be hurtful to others or me.



When I asked my Baba if he wanted to teach me yoga (yes I had to ask him many many times and that was his way to teach me Bhakti). His answer was “go wash dishes for 12 years, study Yama and Niyama and then come talk to me”.

I was shocked! My proud little “spiritual” ego was crushed. I was devastated.

 I’d been spiritually searching for 10 years and this is what I got! Later I found out that my Baba was trying to teach me that…

a) Yoga involves practice and detachment


B) Yoga is slow, not fast.



Patanjali talks about non-attachment and practice in one of his sutras (in my case it was washing dishes for 12 years) as essential tools towards yoga. After realizing my ignorance through working with my Baba, I started practicing non-attachment, externally and internally. I didn’t just try to detach from people, places and things; I rather started a process of detaching from old ideas, desires, habits and thought patterns… all with help from my Baba. It’s like he was popping thought balloons that were filled with wrong views, crappy teachings, and old beliefs about myself and the world. One of the balloons he popped was my balloon that said mystical experiences were the path to enlightenment… instead he replaced it with washing dishes, detachment and slow practice.

Some guy playing a guitar, Cambodia 2013

Some guy playing a guitar, Cambodia 2013

 This past year has been like swimming through illusions..

…trying to see myself and the world around with the practice of yoga. I am slowly realizing that I live in an illusion, caused by my ignorance and with help from my senses.

So to end this on a new-age fluffy note, I can truly say that working with my Baba this year has been an amazing and rewarding spiritual experience. It’s slow, it’s going back to the basics (Yama and Niyama), it’s practical, and it has been about continuing to realize my own ignorance. It has been about continuing to strive to eradicate greed, aversion, and delusion out of my life. It has been about developing a discriminative knowledge and about continueing to seek the true self, the pure, the eternal, and happiness.


 David Rafn

***This was a special post by Guest writer David Rafn Kristjansson. He is a dear friend of mine who I met in Beijing, China, in 2010. He is always trying to push himself to be a better human being, he isn’t afraid of being human, and for this I admire him deeply. Thank you so much Deebo for this amazing piece!***



Sex. Money. Gandhi.


“How did Hanuman become powerful? It is with this weapon of Brahmacharya that he acquired unsurpassable strength and velour.”

Sri Swami Sivananda

Brahmacharya=Don’t have sex.

This is a common misconception. Gaining the strength and vigor to the likes of the monkey god Hanuman is all about restraining our physical (human) urges. Sex is a large part of this, but not the only part. Here starts our discussion on Patanjali’s 4th social restraint BRAHMACHARYA.

It is not all about sex…money, beer, cigarettes, television, the sofa bed, lolly pops, fast cars… high heels. All things that we may lust over. Brahmacharya can be practiced around anything we may be overly attached to in the physical realm. These things all take away our potential energy to achieve the INCREDIBLE.  I personally believe that the things we struggle with most as individuals are the areas that have the greatest capacity to create change. For example, an alcoholic that gives up the drink will see a tremendous change in their life. An over eater who learns to eat right and live healthily will become a different person. You may be thinking, “But I don’t have any of those problems.” Well… think again. Make the road narrower. Just because you may not have any obvious problems doesn’t mean you don’t have unhealthy attachments to the material world. You know what your thing is. Maybe it’s your kindle, Facebook, or your crockpot. I don’t know… but you do. Anything that takes away your capacity to reaching your MAXIMUM potential. I am guilty of falling victim to plenty of material things. Trust me. My point is that Brahmacharya is not only about sex. It is about anything in the physical realm that takes up too much of our energy, ultimately taking away our ability to transcend—

worldly things

The following comes from http://www.yoga108.org

Brahmacharya has two main meanings. In the broad sense it means control of the senses or indriyas. More specifically it refers to celibacy or chastity. Like all traditional spiritual traditions, yoga advocates restraining from indulging in sensual gratification. One of the many reasons is that practicing the higher limbs of ashtanga yoga – dharana, dhyana, samadhi – requires a tremendous amount of energy or prana. This energy is built up through the practices of yoga such as asanas, pranayama and japa but is dissipated during sensual enjoyment. Of all the sensual activities, sex is the one that will be the most depleting to the psychic and nervous system. Most people don’t like to hear this but, like the other yamas, everyone should practice brahmacharya to the best of their ability. It is a fact that the more people gratify their senses, the less energy they have and the less ability they have to meditate on the absolute.
The more broad definition of brahmacharya also includes conduct that leads to the realisation of the Self, or Brahman, study of the Vedas and scriptures, and contemplation on Brahman.

Practice of Brahmacharya gives good health, inner strength, peace of mind and long life. It invigorates the mind and nerves. It helps to conserve physical and mental energy. It augments memory, will force and brain power. It bestows tremendous strength, vigour and vitality. Strength and fortitude are obtained… He who is established in Brahmacharya will have lustrous eyes, a sweet voice and a beautiful complexion.

Swami Sivananda

Brachmacharya is considered one of the cornerstones of a serious yoga practice. The conservation of energy that comes from practicing celibacy is converted into Ojas and Tejas (spiritual energy). Eventually yogic powers can also manifest by the perfect practice of brahmacharya. There are many famous yogis and spiritual leaders who were established in this yama. Some of them are Sankara, Jesus, Gandhi, Hanuman, Lakshmana, and Bhishma from the Mahabharata. From their practice of brahmacharya they had incredible amounts of energy, will-power and thought-power to do great works for the world.


Many people mistakenly believe that practicing brahmacharya means suppression of the natural sexual instincts. Suppression is not what is wanted, because anything that is suppressed will eventually be released with redoubled force when an opportunity arises, the will becomes weak or when sadhana slackens.

*** Let me intervene here for a moment if I may. While discussing this subject at Tattvaa Yoga Shala in Rishikesh India and also at Rishikesh Yog Peeth we discovered a disconcerting pattern. Why is it there seems to be so many problems among certain groups of powerful people (priests, rabbis, even yogi brahmins?) It is possible that it is because they are held to the  standard of suppressing their sexuality, the energy becomes distorted and malformed eventually coming out in horrific ways. For some practicing sexual brahmacharya is too spiritually advanced, and for some it isn’t….***

The proper way to practice brahmacharya is to sublimate these natural urges into Ojas by a strong yoga practice that includes meditation, asanas, pranayama, japa, kirtan, satsang, and reading of scriptures or yogic texts. Contrary to some popular ideas and incorrect psychological beliefs, celibacy improves health and all aspects of life when practiced in the proper context.

*PLAY, sing, PRACTICE, LOVE, meditate, READ…*

This is a good begining.


Brahmacharya for Householders (Normal People)

Swami Sivananda recommends that for householders moderation should be practiced. He recommends self-control in order to have one or two children who are healthy and strong. He advocates living a more selfless life of charity, goodness and kindness, including worship of God. Marriage should lead the husband and wife upwards in the spiritual path towards a life of spiritual partnership. When this is accomplished, much spiritual progress can be gained.

It is beyond all doubt that a life of Brahmacharya is glorious and marvellous. At the same time, a life of moderation in the household life is equally good and helpful for spiritual growth. Both have their own advantages. You must have great strength to tread the path either way.

Swami Sivananda


for more on this subject see also: