Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.

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Oo-ee-oo-aa-aa-ching-chang yama-yama ding dong!


REVIEWING the 5 “SUGGESTIONS” from the yoga master on how to function properly in society…

Living life as best we can is important. So. Live LIFE as BEST we can.    PLEASE. Lets stop faff-ing around and making excuses for why we can’t put a little more effort into our daily lives to make changes. We can all use some more change. Have you reached your absolute potential? Hmmmm… I know I  haven’t.  It is true that we are exactly where we are supposed to be today. However if we don’t set the intention to be our better selves and put it out in the universe while making a deliberate effort… it isn’t going to happen. We need to reach for it ourselves. We can’t become better though osmosis, not on planet EARTH at least.   BE the good. Create it. You can be the beginning!  Little steps at a time. This is why I am here, on this blog… to a) remind myself of this simple truth and b)remind you of this simple truth. We can all be better people one step at a time.

This is why we have been discussing Patanjali. He is the yoga man. He wrote down all the “highlights” from HUGE volumes of Vedic texts and oral verses that had been passed down generation to generation for centuries. He did this so we could all benefit from what the ancient Brahmins were told by the cosmos on how to live the life most fulfilling. The composition he put together, the Yoga Sutra is GOLD. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist or Agnostic, there are so many valuable things to be taken (and SHARED) out of the sutras. He clearly outlines eight steps to enlightenment (the discovery of our own true nature). Eight. The first branch of action steps are called “the YAMAS”. Moral restraints, they explain how to live in harmony with society. We have already discussed them in detail, and now we will review and re-iterate.

1. Ahmisa: Non-Violence

Don’t hurt any living things, including yourself. Try being NICE to yourself. Also, avoid eating poorly treated animals. Or animals at all, up to you to think about it and to practice, please at least think about your relationship with meat… no good avoiding an issue because it is uncomfortable for you.






2. Satya: Truthfulness

Don’t lie to others. But also, don’t hurt them. That means, don’t go around “being honest” if it is going to hurt others. Unless you are a reporter for an entertainment magazine, avoid telling “truths” that are going to cause pain. Ahimsa trumps satya. At the same time, don’t run around lying to people to make them feel  good about themselves, a nice gesture, but wrong none the less… also don’t fib to make yourself look better then you are. Be right sized. Honest. Satya.





3. Asteya: Non-Stealing

Non-Stealing seems pretty obvious but we might be thieves without knowing it. Just because we aren’t “bad” people, doesnt’ mean we are the best we can be, thus robbing others of our own best selves… this can be changed by 4 simple actions…

1)not taking advantage of people, at all

2) really listening to people when they are talking to you and giving well thought out, helpful feedback (or just a genuine pair of ears)

3) SMILE at those around you in life, the people on the street, the road, the train, the grocery store… where ever. And lastly…

4) Stop comparing yourself to others and be NICE to yourself. Use the voice in your head to create joy, not to kill it.




4: Brahmacharya: Harness your Desires

It’s not ALL about sex, but sex is a large part of it. Brahmacharya is about resisting in a spiritual genuine fashion, 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.




5: Aparigraha: Non-Hoarding…or LET GO

Let it go, let it go, let it go. Live life with open palms so all things enter and exist effortlessly. The post “Live with Open Palms” is a must read, and a must DO to really live a fulfilling, happy, life…




*All photos came from Pinterest 🙂

So, those are the yamas. 5 behaviors suggested by Patanjali to maintain a balanced society. 5 concepts that make sense and can create magic in our lives, and our relationships when practiced diligently. The good news is its only the beginning. Only the 1st of 8 steps! For now, be the best that you can be (forgive the cheesy-ness, but please…do it!) Next up… the Niyamas…

be your best



“Does my butt look big?” A yogi responds.

big butt

TRUTHFULNESS. According to Patanjali (the author of the Yoga Sutras) truthfulness, or satya,  is the second most important attribute to maintain in society. It is well known that telling the truth is common sense. However, the line gets foggy when the truth could potentially hurt someone, going against Patanjali’s first and most important attribute, ahimsa/non-harming.  These attributes, otherwise known as yamas, are in order for a reason and it is always most important to uphold any yama coming before the other. Thus… non-harming is always the priority over truth. So, do we always need to tell the truth? Yes. UNLESS  it is going to hurt someone.

This leads us to the age-old scenario of the uncomfortable question…  “Does my butt look big?”  (substitute any of the following questions here…“Do I look fat?” Do you like/did you notice… my hair cut?” “How do you feel about my parents?” “Is she/he prettier then me?” (DONT EVER ASK THIS) “Is this delicious?” add infinitum…)


Donna Farhi* says:

The yamas are broken down into five “wise characteristics.” Rather than a list of dos and don’ts, “they tell us that our fundamental nature is compassionate, generous, honest and peaceful.” 

Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness 
Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. This precept is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others. 

Hmmmm…..    Really? While studying in India with Rishikesh Yog Peeth, my class was flabbergasted when we heard this come seriously from Bhaskar’s (our philosophy teacher’s) mouth. He said, “Don’t tell the truth if it is going to hurt someone… ever.” We all looked around quizzically… puzzled by our gurus meaning.

“Soooo, you want us…to lie?”  This obviously seemed like a huge no-no in yogic tradition.

No. You don’t lie. You say this….”My eyes cannot speak, my ears cannot see, my lips cannot hear.”                  Got it? One more time. The correct answer to the question “Do I look fat in this dress?” Is either…. “NO. You do NOT look fat. You look BEAUTIFUL!” Unless of course, she doesn’t.

If it is after the holidays and she has put on a few pounds and you DON’T think she looks beautiful, you should not tell her this… because that would hurt her feelings (duh).  SO what you say is….


“My eyes cannot speak, my ears cannot see, my lips cannot hear.”

If this brings on a surge of questions, simply reply the same awkward sentence again and perhaps again until she backs off. THIS approach is the most yogic. 😉

After fully believing most of my life that honesty is the best approach, no matter what… I find this hard to believe. I’d like to say that as a women, I want to hear the truth. On the other hand I want the truth to be that my man thinks I look beautiful. How do you want to be treated? With the truth no matter what? With a little white lie? Or would silence or the response “My eyes cannot speak, my ears cannot see, my lips cannot hear “ suffice?


*Donna Farhi. Yoga Mind, Body, Spirit.  pg 7, 9


Yoga B-i-t-c-%

The last couple of weeks, the first 2 weeks of 2013, I have been trying to reflect on ahimsa. The first Yama in Patanjali’s eight-limb path toward enlightenment means non-violence or non-harming. What if you encounter a vicious cobra or a total b-i-t-c-h (as my sisters and I did last week at a YOGA studio?) Ahimsa. Always… non-harming.

Yesterday I was reminded of this lesson with some beautiful words from Osho:

“The world is an Echo-ing place. What ever we put into the world is what will come back to us.”


We have contemplated Ahimsa in terms of being kind to OURSELVES, and with being kind towards ANIMALS, but what is the primary function of this Yama? To be kind to those around us… to be kind to the world. No matter what.

In his book Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda asks Mahatma Gandhi about the definition of ahimsa. Gandhi said, “The avoidance of harm to any living creature in thought or deed.” Yogananda asked him if it was alright to kill a vicious cobra in order to protect an innocent child. Gandhi said that he would practice ahimsa, non-harming… but he then added, “I must confess that I could not serenely carry on this conversation were I faced by a cobra.”

autobiography of a yogi

The reason for not harming anything seems simple enough- it is the Godly/Spiritual thing to do. Is it anymore complex then that?

In the book Shantaram, the protagonist Linbaba is taught by his teacher Abdel Khader Khan, that sometimes it is necessary to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Would you kill a cobra of it meant saving a child?  My guess is that most people would. This is a great example of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Bhaskar, our yoga teacher in Rishikesh, would say as Gandhi did  and suggest we should ALWAYS practice ahimsa.



It is the first Yama listed for a reason. It serves as the backbone for all the other life suggestions made in Vedic texts, therefore, a must. Bhaskar would also probably argue that one should not get involved with the will of the universe. Attacking cobra or not… What do you think?


Here in the west…we probably won’t be encountering any cobras in the near future, the closest thing we might meet is the “Yoga Bitch” (THEY EXIST!) This is where AHIMSA is an absolute MUST.

The Yoga Bitc%.

Last week I visited a local studio with my two sisters Andrea and Leah along with a young Ugandan man, Haril, who had NEVER practiced yoga before. We wanted to try out the studio* with a 7 day special priced package. We were greeted by a fiery, abrasively honest, hot yoga teacher. The first couple of days we were astounded by her gruffness and a couple of times we left the studio wanting to say, “Excuse me! Do you realize you are an expletive expletive expletive!?” We prayed. We were KIND. We did NOT cause harm to the yoga cobra…we kept our mouths shut. This provided us with a small miracle. We were given the opportunity days 3,4, 5 and 6 to see that she was a FANTASTIC teacher (especially for the intense type of yoga she was teaching) despite her harshness. She motivated her students, and she was the same with EVERYONE. Her attitude, personality, wasn’t personal, it was a part of her plan to motivate and inspire… and we ended up enjoying (loving) the classes.

Sometimes HUGE lessons can be learned from the cobras in our lives by not doing anything!

ACTION STEP: Be kind towards others always. 


My gorgeous sisters Leah and Andrea, my yoga companions… and my mom on the far right…

*The studio was The Hot Room in South Denver. We recommend it 😉


Meet your meat.


The most common reason that people state for why they are vegetarian is animal cruelty. They are probably the breed of person that loves animals. This type of person has an affinity for the living spirit. They look at a pig or a cow in the eyes and think “hey there little guy!”… And the returning “oink” or “moo” is seen as a “hello there mister you!”… ahhhh so cute! This is the way some of us operate. This is how I have always felt- raised to love animals by our psychotic mother. We always had birds, bunnies, cats, dogs, a fish pond. We loved animals! We still love animals! So why are we eating them?

 Animal Cruelty: Many vegetarians will go on and on and on about the treatment of animals in the food industry. Horrific. I came home from class one day in college to find my roommate, Jeff Hunter, sitting on the couch watching a grotesque documentary on the butchering of animals in a slaughterhouse. He didn’t eat meat for a week and after the haze of the memory faded, swore he would just never watch the documentary again. Many of us simply don’t want to know the truth. The threat of actually having to do something differently is too much. I believe many vegetarians would agree, that it isn’t “wrong” to eat meat.

“Some groups suggest that it is immoral to eat meat, for it necessitates destroying life. However, this implies that the law of nature is wrong; that lions, tigers and other carnivorous animals are committing, sin. This opinion cannot be correct, for it is a rule of physical existence that certain forms of life sustain themselves by killing and eating other forms of life. It is not immoral when a lion kills and eats a zebra; it is designed to act this way.” Yoga and Kriya   pg 213.


I think that if a person feels they should eat meat, thats great. It is in the way that the animals are raised and killed. Unfortunately for most western shoppers, 99% of the animals are factory farmed in hellish conditions (Foer). It is because of this cruelty that many western yogis decide to simply put meat down altogether and opt for the veggies. They are practicing the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence. This is the first Yama in Patanjali’s eight-fold path. In many of the worlds leading religions, cruelty to animals is considered to be a sin. Sri Swami Sivananda states:

“Killing of animals is a great sin. Ahimsa is the first virtue that a spiritual aspirant should try to possess. You should have reverence for life. Lord Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall attain mercy.’ Mahavira shouted in a trumpet like voice, “Regard every living thing as thyself and harm no one.”


However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a person shouldn’t eat meat if they feel compelled to do so. Just as a tiger eats meat and isn’t a villain, neither should the person who eats a hamburger feel like a villain. HOWEVER, where did the meat come from? How was the cow raised? How was it treated in its last moments? These are all incredibly important things to consider.


In order for factory farming to change, we as a species have to stop eating factory farmed meat. This doesn’t mean stop eating meat altogether! There are free range, organic options (but even then, don’t always believe what it says on the label). The most obvious down side to these options are that they are expensive. Unless you live in Uganda where ‘real’ chickens and goats run around free, finding happy animals to eat might be difficult, but not impossible. It’s a matter of searching out the alternatives and making a commitment to stick with them. For incentive on why to do this, read Eating Animals by Jonathen Safran Foer, or watch the short film, “Meet your Meat”, narrated by Alec Baldwin, which shows how different types of factory farmed animals are born, raised, and slaughtered. After investigating the situation perhaps it will be easier to buy the more expensive free-range meat (or perhaps not eat meat at all).


*Do your research on the meat you decide to buy to make sure it is really free range and that the animals are treated well during their brief existence. There are so many loop holes in the industry now it is extremely hard to find wholesome and humanely treated animal product. Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, or my personal favorite, Two Mile Ranch, is the best bet (if you are in Colorado)…Find out who your nearest farm to market retailer is and support them!



ACTION STEP: Meet your meat. If you are going to eat it… go with healthy, happy cows, pigs, and chickens. Start supporting locally owned, operated and GROWN markets. This is one way that you personally can start making a change in the industry.