ALTERED SPACE // I GO TO WORK

Last week I was talking to a group of teacher trainees at DY about business, and I found myself saying what I always say when asked how I’ve managed to build a successful business : “I go to work.”

I joked about trying to write this article for weeks now, and having a block because my big secret is : “I go to work.” End of story. Publish. Share.

My husband and I have another joke about how we are people just made to work. We come from hard-working stock. My mother’s family was from Baja, Mexico and worked hard not only to get to Los Angeles, but to survive there. I am actually more Mexicana by blood than Italiana, but my driven father who raised me is Italian and he instilled in me a gut wrenching work ethic which he himself had to develop at a young age in order to put himself through school. When I am happy, I go to work. When I am sad, I go to work. When I am tired, I go to work. When I am scared, I go to work. When I am depressed, I go to work. When I am excited, I go to work. It’s this weird reflex I have… I go to work.

If you could see the table I am sitting out now, I have my computer in front of me so I can do this work. To my right is my journal and some scribbled notes I just used to work on an update of my Bio for the website. To my left is a stack of colored paper and beads and goo to work on some crafts when the baby wakes up from her nap. Off to the side a pile of Italian grammar and vocabulary books tugs my eyes their way and whispers, “don’t forget to do your homework!”

When I am on the mat, it’s hard work. Nothing comes easily to me in Yoga. You might find it funny that I am not particularly good at Yoga asana. But I persist, 25 years into practice, and when I have that great blessing for all the stars and planets and things in my busy life to align that allows me to actually get on the mat these days, I am just happy to do my work there. I know other people are more graceful and accomplished and playful than me on that mat, and that looks nice. But it’s not what happens for me. When I practice, I have to work. Oh sure, you’ll see me smiling here and there at something the teacher may have said, or laughing when I splat out of a hand balance, but then, it’s back to work!

Work sustains me. It makes my heart feel full. I love my work. It’s never about the pay, either. You could be getting a huge paycheck and be miserable, and be getting a little check and be happy. That happiness has more value than ANY paycheck. I happen to get an effervescent feeling from doing a good job at all things big and small. I enjoy contract negotiations as much as cleaning out the fruit bins in the fridge. I sit back and look at the paperwork or sparkly drawer when I’m done and marvel at the job well done! If I am not satisfied with my work, it’s just not finished, so I get back to it. No biggie. To me, that’s the nature of work, do your best, wait for some feedback, and plan your next step. Adjust. Get creative. Maybe you are done. Maybe you need a toothbrush to get into the murky corners, or maybe you need to let go. It’s all part of the process.

One of the verses from the Bhagavad Gita that has always struck a chord with me is, “Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. Therefore fight, O Bharata.” (2.18) Krishna is advising us to do our Dharma, the “fight” is a metaphor for the task at hand. The good work we do is infinity being channeled through us, and the deeds we leave in our wake are a legacy of energy that we ride until our own finite body turns to dust, and that all of those thereafter will inherit. In other words, you’re here for a short while, why not leave something nice behind?

I’m just going to call this the “Preface” to future installments on how I started Dhyana Yoga and things that I learned along the way, and I will definitely address the great questions people have specifically asked, especially the ones that you can’t find out through a Google search. But for now, the baby is rustling around, so it’s time for me to… ah, probably PLAY for awhile!

Make shapes that create Harmony, Peace, and Love in your life!

Sat Namaste!

Diana

ALTERED SPACE // I’m The Poster Girl for “Hang in there”

April 18, 2012. The best day of my life. At 9:23am in a very baby friendly hospital in Elmer, New Jersey, John and I welcomed Lorraine Devi Vitarelli into the world. My Dad once told me that after my Mom had me, she said it was as if something had always been missing from her life but she didn’t know it until I arrived. That’s exactly how I felt. Raine was our little puzzle piece, the one that brings the picture into focus.

Rainey Pants, just minutes old

Rainey Pants, just minutes old

It surprises people when I tell them I had a C section. Since we are both Yoga teachers and all about being natural, everyone expects that I had my baby in our living room. I wish! But the process of pregnancy and childbirth is the first lesson in parenting in that it lets you know you are no longer in control of timelines and planning. You do your best and surrender to reality.

Around my 40th birthday, I went in for a regular visit to my OB/GYN and mentioned that we were trying to get pregnant. She said, “don’t waste any time, I’m referring you to a fertility specialist.” I rushed to the fertility clinic immediately and met this great doctor, Dr. Jain, who has since moved to Ohio, and they checked to see if I was ovulating. Good news! They saw that I had 11 eggs, 7 in one ovary and 4 in the other — great for any age they said, but especially for a 40 year old! The doctor explained all the possible procedures we would go through to get pregnant with his help, but basically sent us home with instructions to have sex, and then call the office on the 3rd day of my next period so they could start the blood work they needed to do to advise us on next steps. We happily went home…and I never had to make that call. Instead, I called a few weeks later to tell them I had missed my expected period date and tested positive on an at home test. John and I were positively giddy! We had been wanting to get pregnant for a year, and finally, we were! The power of a little attention and intention, right?

The follow up blood work confirmed my pregnancy but then, to my surprise, it was recommended that I remain at the fertility doctor’s office for my check ups due to my “Advanced Maternal Age.” Advanced Maternal Age was a phrase I would hear over and over again for my entire pregnancy. Every sentence seemed to begin with, “Due to your Advanced Maternal Age, we recommend…” or end with “…so exercise caution, you are of an Advanced Maternal Age.” Oh my god. Am I old? Have I been living in a bubble? A Yes. And another Yes.

I’ve been doing yoga for awhile, and for the past 11 years my whole life has been centered around Dhyana Yoga, which is a really fun place to be! We’re just a bunch of big kids rolling around on Yoga mats in our pajamas laughing and farting and then laying down for a nap. I didn’t notice the years going by. This week a student in my Restorative class asked me how long the Haddonfield studio has been open and I said, “let me think, well, it’ll be 3 years on December 3rd…” and she looked at me funny and replied, “that’s today!” I had to laugh at myself, I’m aware of time but it passes in a weird sort of elastic way. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago that John opened that studio, it feels like we’re just getting started! And I couldn’t believe I was of an Advanced Maternal Age… but the calendar is a thing people make a silent contract with the rest of the world to agree upon.

Photo by Joe Longo (you can see the baby kicking here!)

Photo by Joe Longo of me at about 7 months pregnant (you can see the baby kicking here!)

I often say I’m the Poster Girl for “Hang In There Ladies!” because I was such a late bloomer. It always felt like everyone else had life figured out except me. I was 31 when I listened to the little voice inside me that said “open a yoga studio” (and it was mainly because I was so tired of running around from place to place teaching. I remember thinking it would be so great to just be able to leave all my CDs in one place…I already told you my age so I don’t mind how that dates me!), I got engaged at 37 and married at 39, and in a blink, I was of an Advanced Maternal Age.

The really cool thing about having an Advanced Maternal Age is that you get lots and lots of extra sonograms, which equal a visit with your baby when you’re pregnant. I was excited every week to go see the baby’s progress and John came to every appointment. As we approached my final trimester, the doctor (and our midwife) started getting concerned that the baby wasn’t flipping over. First it was just a comment, then it was a bit of an issue, then it became a THING. We thought for sure she’d flip! We did everything to encourage her to flip around. John and I are pretty weird on a regular day, you can image what we tried doing to rotate this baby. Headstands, inversion tables, music and mantras, moxibustion, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, pellets, talking to her, meditating, warm baths with a pack of frozen peas on my belly… she moved around a lot, but she would not flip. The doctors encouraged us to schedule a C section. One day they almost forced us to schedule it. We just really believed she would dive when the time came. Finally we went to another special doctor called, “The Baby Flipper.” He’s famous. He goes in and manually flips the baby over and he has a very high success rate. When we arrived for our flip, they did a preliminary ultrasound before the procedure to give the doctor a clear view of what he was working with and, upon doing so, found that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the baby’s neck like a scarf. I was 39 and a half weeks. The little bun in my oven was fully baked and the timer was sounding. We had to get her out.

And so we ended up in a cold, bright operating room in the South Jersey Hospital instead of the warm, water filled tub we had reserved in the birthing suite. A nurse let me lean on her while the anesthesiologist worked behind me. I felt really alone at that moment. Then I felt nothing! I was laid out in a T shape on a table with both of my arms and my legs strapped down and a drape across my chest so I couldn’t see my body. John came in the room looking like a hot doctor but bawling his eyes out. A nice lady I had never met said she was my doctor. My midwife, Karen Shields, was there, and everyone else was named Tracey. I was floating! The doctor said, “my goodness, I’ve never seen such strong abdominal muscles! You must tell me your secret!” as she sawed away at my body and I can’t remember if I answered but John and I laugh about that all the time. There was lots of tugging and pulling and talking and I think the midwife leaned on my belly to help move the baby. John and I kept eye contact and repeated “Om Ganesha Sharanam” over and over and then suddenly, angels sang, everything else went out of focus, and all I saw flying in the air was a beautiful baby! She was here, she was healthy, she was gorgeous, she was making cute sounds, and she was perfectly clean! I thought they must have had a stunt baby waiting on the side to show me or something, but within seconds that very same little baby was placed on my neck and John held her to my cheek while it felt like a horse sat on my torso and the nice lady put my guts back inside of me.

It was the best. It was not what we planned. It was not what you’d expect. But it was perfection. It was the most epic, operatic moment of my life. And then life, redefined, began. In my new life, at my even more advanced age, I “Hang in There” a lot. Through the painful recovery from that abdominal surgery, through the shifts and negotiations (and fights) in my changing relationship with my husband, through the post pregnancy hormonal weirdness and hair loss, through the feeling that the walls of my house are closing in on me, through the confusion about whether to work or not and if so how much, through the attempts to get back on the mat, through the probably well meaning but often offensive comments from others about our parenting choices, through the feeling that I need to keep cleaning but nothing is ever going to be clean enough, through the nagging shoulder pain and the sleepless nights of early parenthood, through the baby’s first cold…I’m hanging in there.

There’s a great saying, “Bean by bean, the bag gets filled,” that runs through my head a lot. Life isn’t about gobbling everything, every pose, every relationship, every job, every experience up. You can go at your own pace, take detours, circle back, climb mountains, admit mistakes along the way, you can pause and start again. It’s not about going fast, it’s just about going. It doesn’t matter when you bloom, you’ll bloom when it’s your time. I’m glad I learned how to stay the course in life. Yoga taught me that. No matter what’s happening, or not happening, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking one breath after another, reminding yourself that you’re doing everything right, and surrounding yourself with good hearted, inspiring people who love and support you. After all, life is happening, so Enjoy the Hang!

Hangin' and Hoopin' on a Yoga retreat at 5 months pregnant

Hangin’ and Hoopin’ on a Yoga retreat at 5 months pregnant

ALTERED SPACE // WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU WEAR

My husband, John Vitarelli, is about the most drama-free person you could ever meet. Nothing sticks to this guy, he just has a good vibe inside and out and because of that, drama doesn’t get too close to him. So last week when John said, “Send the letter,” I knew it was time to finally send the letter.

John V Bakasana

John pictured here in a pretty fantastic parsva bakasana wearing a Patagonia shirt he still has and a pair of pants he wore so much I did eventually make him get rid of them. Oh wait, he just told me he still has them. They’re Patagonia, too. Photo taken at Yogawood in Collingswood, NJ

Our letter asking Lululemon to consider us “Ambassadors No More” (coined via Jennifer Kries) was a simple one, opening with “This letter comes after a long time of consideration regarding our personal affiliation with your company, Lululemon, for which we served as “Ambassadors” in 2011.  We do not feel aligned with Lululemon, and are sending this letter as a request for Lululemon to cease using our images in any way and to remove us from all contact lists.”

Now I should back up and mention that when Lululemon first came to the Philadelphia market many years ago, the manager of the showroom at that time asked to me to lunch. She brought a bag of clothes and was talking about this “Ambassador” thing, which I didn’t quite understand. The whole Brand Ambassador title wasn’t part of the Yoga culture lexicon as of yet, or at least, it hadn’t hit Philly. I took the clothes home and tried them on. They didn’t fit and were too athletic looking for me (I’m more Bohemian swirls than sporty stripes) and a few days later I returned the bag to an absolutely stunned looking Lululemon representative and just said, “thanks, but I’ll never wear these. Maybe try giving them to some other girls at the studio.” That store manager was never nice to me again. I was just being truthful and not taking a bunch of clothes that I wouldn’t wear just because they were “free.”

I should have stuck to my gut. But when Lululemon approached my husband and I to be “Co-Ambassadors” many years later, we agreed. I have to say, John probably could have cared less. He practices in what is reasonably clean and won’t get in his way in Marichasana D. But I thought it would be fun to do together, and that having him by my side would make me feel more comfortable doing whatever we had to do. I don’t know what they do everywhere, but here, the Lululemon staff comes to your class and brings you a big bouquet of flowers or a giant plant and makes a big fuss over you in front of people when they ask you to be an Ambassador. It’s kind of like being asked to the prom in the middle of the High School pep rally. They don’t tell you what the “job” entails or educate you about their company and product, they just ask you out and then everyone hugs and takes pictures. Then you get invited to the store for a New Ambassador meeting where you meet the other Ambassadors, and they give you a bunch of self help books to read, and a folder of papers explaining what a “goal” is and how to crush one! Yay! Usually the person coaching you on how to “goal crush” is half your age. One of our teachers tells a hilarious story about this happening to them and it ends with the Yoga teacher saying, “Look, there are no goals in Yoga.”

As the months went by, we were required as Ambassadors to offer free classes to Lululemon shoppers. This is pretty standard fare, and basically your payment is the gift card they give you to pick out “free” clothes in the store. John and I did what we agreed to do, but as I got increasingly pregnant and dealt with an extreme case of morning sickness that lasted 3 months, John taught more of the classes alone. One thing you will notice in these free classes is that there are A LOT of people. Sounds great, right? Lots of people doing Yoga. The next thing you will notice, though, is that there is one teacher sprinting from one end of the room to the other trying to adjust people. A large majority of the people are just trying Yoga out and many even show up in shoes and jeans, so a lot of adjusting is needed to keep things safe. Also, you are either in a Lululemon store with all the clothing rounders pushed somewhat out of the way or you may be outside which presents all kinds of other complications, like people cranking their necks to see what’s going on because they can’t hear the teacher. Put simply, it might be a fun time, but in our opinion, these classes are generally unsafe. After our year tenure was up, Lululemon continued to ask us to teach these classes, and still does to this day. We politely decline.

You might ask, if it’s so bad, why are there so many Ambassadors? I might answer by asking, why are there so many Ambassadors? It’s not really even a special thing to be asked, eventually they get around to almost everyone in a market. But there’s another side to this that no one is really talking about, and that’s what we, as Yoga teachers, are getting out of the whole deal. Yoga teachers get what they see as “free promotion” by having a huge photograph of themselves in their local Lululemon store and by the store employees supposedly referring shoppers to their Ambassdor’s classes. This is going to take some radical honesty from Yoga teachers, like us. I have personally heard something along the lines of, “just take the free clothes and the free promo” from Ambassadors I know. Which is why an important part of our letter to Lululemon reads, “In our experience, teachers bash Lululemon in general conversation but can’t seem to sacrifice what they perceive to be free promotion from the local store by being open and honest about it. This is akin to being in an unhealthy relationship. Both sides, yoga teachers seeking promotion and Lululemon stores seeking advertising by outfitting those teachers, are being opportunistic and parasitic. It is our aim as not only yoga teachers, but as parents, and as people seeking to better ourselves, to not engage in what we find to be inauthentic relationships.”

If you are one of those “Ambassadors,” one of those teachers taking the free gear but making snarky remarks about the Lululemon brand in general conversation or even in your head, then you should not be an Ambassador. If you look at your colorful pile of Luon pants differently now that you know more about the company, then you should not be an Ambassador. If you have thought about how to cover up the little reflective logo so you can keep wearing the one piece you really like, then you should not be an Ambassador. I’m not trying to rally an “Ambassador No More” movement, but I am saying if you don’t love it and live it, if you don’t defend it when other people are trashing it, if you aren’t proud to walk down the street in your head to toe Lululemon outfit, if you can’t stand behind their marketing campaigns and public statements, then you have no business using them for promotion.

In fact, I don’t think Yoga teachers should sell out and be “Ambassadors” of or be “Sponsored By” anyone at all. If you like something, wear it, use it, share it, promote it, go actually work for the company! If it’s really what you use and suggest, let people know in your blog or on Facebook. But I think it’s kind of gross for teachers to get all free-geared up by any one brand, and that it’s a distracting goal for so many young teachers to nab these “Ambassador” titles be it for shoes, jewelry, or clothing. We regretted it from the beginning, but we really liked some of the Lululemon staff people and managers, so we never made  a big deal out of how we felt. I did personally meet with one of those staffers and pass on our feedback along with complaints I had heard from other local teachers as well (at the Lulu staff’s request for such “feedback”). We quietly gave away all our free clothing, much of it with the tags still on. Like I said, John is drama free. Until recently, and I think the Steven Colbert piece was the tipping point, he has encouraged me to just chill on it and enjoy my sabbatical.

I want Yoga teachers and studios to know that it’s ok to say no. Our local Lululemon store recently asked to make the Dhyana Yoga Seva Center, a studio set up as a charitable foundation with the goal of donating all profits back into our community, the “Studio of the Quarter.” This is another one of these free class scenarios Lululemon promotes, wherein you open your studio up to a weekly, complimentary class for Lululemon shoppers and they write your studio name on the big chalkboard in their store and presumably promote your studio above others during the months that you have this honor. John and I had already talked at length about disassociating from Lululemon, and so we did the only thing that felt right. Regardless of the fact that we would be sacrificing their promotion of the Seva Center, we said no to Lululemon. It really is ok.

Lululemon, by the way, is an athletic company with a clothing store. It’s not even necessarily a “yoga clothing store.” A “Yoga Brand” would very likely appeal more to the sensibilities of a person actually dedicated to Yoga by offering organic cotton tops and bottoms and items that you can wash and dry for years and still look great like Prana and Patagonia do. Lululemon is just an athletic clothing company that focused on the yoga population because there was a need in the market for brightly colored leggings and matching tops with thumb holes in them. My overall feeling is plainly that they should keep to their business in their stores and stay out of Yoga studios and stop trying to subtly advertise in those studios by giving the teachers who stand in front of the rooms free clothing. A lot of those teachers are poor and struggling. They are going to take the free clothes because they are broke and probably need them. They cannot afford to actually shop in Lululemon though, and given a choice even if they could afford to they might choose another brand, like Athleta, Zobha, Hyde, Teeki, Liquido, Be Present, or Hard Tail.

And it’s not just the teachers in the studios that are being influenced. I was surprised at how Lululemon seemed to be running the Philadelphia Wanderlust Festival earlier this year and you guessed it, they offered every teacher on the bill that day a free Lululemon outfit to wear the day of the festival in front of all the attendees. A friend even texted me, “(Lululemon store employee name) from Lulu asked me to teach at Wanderlust,” to which I responded, “Really? The Wanderlust people aren’t making those calls? Is it a Wanderlust event or a Lululemon event?” John and I were not on the advertised roster of teachers, but instead our friend Simon Park, who showed up to headline the event in Be Present pants and a “No Corporate Yoga” tee shirt from what I remember, secretly invited us to “surprise” guest teach the last class of the day with him. I’ve always loved Simon’s renegade spirit.

Did you know that Lululemon also pays for Ambassadors to go on special trips where they all meet up to “Create Awesome”? One “Ambassador No More” gives a well written peek into her experience in a brainstorming session on one of those trips in her recent Huffington Post article. I remember another Ambassador telling me, “Lululemon is flying me to Hawaii!” and me saying, “for what?” and getting the response, “Some festival or something, who cares, it’s Hawaii!” Do people have to pay $98 for a pair of pants in order to cover the expenses from these trips? It almost feels like the “Pay for Play” technique record companies used to employ to get radio stations to play certain bands…before that became illegal.

We closed our letter with the following statement : “Quite simply, what we learned from our time spent as “Ambassadors” is that we don’t wear Lululemon clothing and we don’t represent the Lululemon brand… A clothing store, it’s owner’s antics and politics, and it’s advertising and marketing campaigns have no place in the yoga room. Yoga teachers do. Yoga students do. All that matters when you practice is THAT you practice, not what you wear when you do it.”

John and I know first hand what being criticized publicly feels like and because of that I can tell you with certainty that if you can shoulder it, if you can accept that you made mistakes and not try to blame everyone else, and if you can put your ego aside for a bit, it is really there for your own benefit. If you are willing to let it be a catalyst for change, you will transform into an even higher version of yourself and you will make better choices moving forward. It’s not easy to take, I know, but everyone who puts themselves out there garners a few critics along the way. Criticism is feedback from the universe about what you have done, how that worked out, and how you can do better in the future. I think a lot of brands, and a lot of teachers, can do better. “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World” is not just a slick slogan to print on a bag, Gandhi knew what he was talking about!

Overall, we don’t care what you wear, we are just Yoga teachers striving to make better choices for ourselves, our daughter, and for all the people of all shapes and sizes that get on the mat to heal, not to be made to feel like it’s another place where they just don’t “fit” in.

Me smiling my way into a little tittibasana with my little sweetheart guiding me! She's wearing a romper her Nonna gave her and I'm in my favorite Hyde bottoms and my most comfy old tank, it's threadbare and I love it! Photo by YuJean Park

Me smiling my way into a little tittibasana with my sweetheart guiding me! She’s wearing a romper her Nonna gave her and I’m in my favorite Hyde bottoms and my most comfy old tank, it’s threadbare and I love it! Photo by YuJean Park

 

ALTERED SPACE // What We Eat

Most of the time I prefer to eat at home. I like the experience of going out to restaurants, and communing over a meal with a big group of friends or catching up with someone I haven’t seen for awhile over lunch, but I’m always left wondering about the quality of the ingredients and the way what I ate was cooked. When you cook, you’re putting your Shakti (primordial energy) into the food you make and whoever eats it, is also integrating that energy. So it’s really important to get yourself into a good mood before you start cooking! You can also say mantras while you prepare meals, think loving and peaceful thoughts, and stay relaxed by being aware of your breath. According to Ayurveda, the highest level of nourishment is achieved when you also take such environmental factors into consideration when you eat. Here are some helpful tips to bring more awareness into your regular eating routine:

1. Eat in a quiet, calm environment, 2. Eat only when you are hungry, 3. Do not eat when you are upset, 4. Eat at a comfortable pace, 5. Don’t overeat; leave 1/4 to 1/3 of your stomach empty to aid digestion, 6. Eat freshly prepared foods, 7. Eat what is in season and local.

This week I had a really profound conversation with a friend about how the most important thing is that we have a good, healthy relationship with food. So many people are chasing the “ideal weight” or trying another weight loss fad, and end up sacrificing not only nutrition, but the sheer joy of delicious food! During the following week, I encourage you to take a few extra moments when you eat to really taste and appreciate the food you are blessed with, and if you feel old Samskaras (patterns) of emotions like guilt or shame arising, allow them to subside by taking a breath and becoming more present in the moment. After all, as Hafiz said, it’s a gift!

Impressive Beet Risotto

Ingredients: 1/2 stick unsalted butter OR 4 tablespoons of EVOO, 1 jalepeno, 1 small yellow onion, 3-5 small to medium beets, 1/4 cup Parmesean cheese, 4 cups warm water, 2 cups Arborio rice

Preparation:

1. Dice onion and jalepeno and sautee on medium/high heat on the stove until coated and soft (in your oil or butter) in a big pan or wok. Stir gently as it cooks, 3-5 minutes.

2. Dice beets and stir them in. Mix completely and slowly add in the rice as you continue mixing. Get the rice all coated in the mixture.

3. Slowly add in water about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until absorbed and only then add more. It’s going to increase in volume a lot! Take your time and enjoy this part.

4. After you have mixed all the water in, turn down the heat to medium/low and cover it up. Cook covered until rice is tender, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Lift lid and stir in the grated Parmesean cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

*If you use red beets, this dish looks BEAUTIFUL on a plate! Bright, vibrant red offsets pretty much anything else you plate up next to it, or if served solo, this risotto is plenty filling and looks nice with a little sprig of greens in the middle of the bowl.

*If you use golden beets, no one will guess it’s BEET risotto! Astound your friends and surprise your kids…and husband…by letting them know afterward!

If you get a beet the size of your baby's head, you'll only need one!

If you get a beet the size of your baby’s head, you’ll only need one!

This yields 6-8 moderate portions or 4-6 big portions.

OM,

Diana

ALTERED SPACE // QUICK QUESTION!

My friend Cindi is one of the coolest people ever. If you know her and agree, shout a little “Jai Ma!” right now — she’ll get the message. She’s just that tuned in! Cindi is the guardian of the most amazing temple. It’s called RUKA (www.ruka.com) and there’s a door to it on 19th between Chestnut and Sansom Streets in Philly, but RUKA really exists in all the homes, businesses, offices, yoga studios, and on all the altars that have been blessed by one of the treasures gotten by stepping through that door.

Cindi

Cindi finds a treasure!

Cindi travels the world to hand select the beautiful murtis, textiles, decor, and jewelry offered at RUKA. She even leads tours of India and Thailand for those who want a personal peek behind the veil of these exotic lands! When I had the chance to ask her a “Quick Question” to share here, I wanted to dig a little bit into her travel secrets.

QUICK QUESTION FOR YOU… When you travel, what things from home do you bring along that you just can’t be without?

“My amulets! On my travel journal I have a holographic OM sticker, on my backpack, my bag, my phone, my passport, my wallet – well, practically everything else – I have 3D stickerts of the Turkish God’s Eye Amulet (all infused with mantra, thoughts, and intentions of protection)!

My gold and silver Nepali Ganesha box pendant on a gold chain grace my neck, and on a longer sacred thread I have my Tibetan coral charms with 100 year old silver temple amulets – A circular one with the warrior goddess and a house shaped one with the feet of Shiva. Around my left wrist I have a sai sin – the white, un-spun thread blessed by the Buddhist Monks in Thailand, which I received on my last journey to Thailand earlier this year. I look forward to being blessed with a new one when I arrive in Thailand in early 2014!

As I move around throughout my day, on the other side of the world, I look at my amulets and I breathe deeper with inspiration that I am always safe and always home.”

Cindi also does beautiful Mendhi, henna designs that are beyond compare. She has covered practically my whole body over the years between doing the designs for my wedding and a pregnancy design and even a beautiful one for an anniversary. You can see some of the wedding Mendhi she did in the photo below! If you are interested in traveling with an experienced, fun, and thoughtful guide, Click Here — adventure awaits!

A Mendhi Heart with the groom's name hidden in the design!

A Mendhi Heart with the groom’s name hidden in the design!

  • Find out first about our special offers and events!

    Every month Dhyana Yoga offers a sale, discount, or freebie -- don't miss out! Email us at dhyana.staff@gmail.com to start getting our newsletters.