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Q) The news can be so intense! How do I not sink into heart break? How do I remain engaged?

I think that in the last few days and weeks, at some point or another, we’ve all asked ourselves this question.

First, anyone interested in practicing at our studio certainly should know that whatever your political, cultural, religious, or sexual affiliation, all humans are welcome. We are human beings first.

I’ve written before about this life being designed to not only break our hearts, but break our hearts open. Many of us have faced huge challenges. Some of us have had to care for loved ones who have been sick. Some have come back from grave illnesses. Some have fled war-torn countries. Incredibly resilient people practice among us.

There are guidelines at the heart of this yoga practice that inform how we navigate life: non-violence & compassion, truth spoken kindly, an interest in making a situation better than we found it, using our energy well, and being present to life and to (all) others to the very best of our ability. These values inform how we move through life.

What characterizes those that can live with their hearts broken open is the quality of resilience. Resilience is the result of using one’s energy well.

One reason our practice is so valuable is that it provides the space to get quiet and “rest the mind,” or as I’ve been saying lately, “drop the mind to the ground.” Through practice, we learn to let the busy and often anxious mind pause at a moment’s notice. In the practice of yoga, a distinction is drawn between two minds: the busy mind which can get us where we’re going when well directed, but also can run us amuck (especially during times of uncertainty or conflict), and the mind of wisdom and discernment.

When we come to our mat, or sit on our cushion, and “let the mind drop to the floor,” to return to the innate awareness we all share as a function of being human, we’re developing the ability for discernment. We lay down what we think, and what we know, and what we think we know, and we listen inside. We befriend silence. This is how we cultivate the discernment that knows best where to place our energies, that knows how we can be useful. Meditation teaches us how to be vehicles for our greater good.

One of our favorite teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche, advises that rather than a long period of time once a day to sit in meditation, stop to sit five times a day, two minutes a piece, so as to slowly change the chemistry of the brain (by now I don’t need to site all of the studies that point to the physical and emotional benefits of meditation – I think you know). Internal navigation is a capacity we all have available to us with some training. This is one essential reason to practice. So that when life offers us more than we think we can handle, we go inside and with “unbearable compassion” a great term by Ram Dass, meet whatever is there. When we find heart break or any emotion we just assume not feel, best to wrap our awareness around it like a mother for her child, like a hug. Internally embrace all that is there. This way, heartbreak has the chance to become the heart breaking open. And this is good news. Because we can use the compassion we’ve generated for ourselves towards others the world around us. It sounds like a strange practice, certainly one we didn’t learn in school. This is the love that February offers disguised as romantic love. What we’re learning how to do is BE LOVE, not as a function of what someone did or didn’t do for us, but because we can. This practice brings freedom and enables us to meet the moment as it is and meet people wherever they are.

It is good to know that we always have the mat and the cushion to return to, to go inside into the best friend of our own breath and silence, to rest and to listen.

Jennifer


We have no evidence

of not being able to handle
anything life brings us.
How do we know that?
We’ve handled
everything
so
far.
~ Cheri Huber

During our last trip to India in April, we visited Clement Town, a small Tibetan enclave in northern India and the home of Tibetan refugees who settled there after they were exiled from their country. A number of people at BTY have sponsored children through TCEF and they had the chance to meet the children they sponsor. It was a moving experience that none of us will forget.

I learned on this trip that the Tibetans have been incredibly successful at building and educating children. Their goals now are to improve the quality of education so our kids can thrive as adults.

I’ve been working to sponsor Tibetan children’s education. The Tibetan culture has contributed to my understanding of our yoga practice. Through the Tibetans, I have learned fundamental principles that are simply part of their daily lives, such as loving kindness, compassion and mindfulness.

Every few years we take on a project to improve the lives of these kids, step by step. What we learned this trip is that their science program is run by Rekha Gupta, who has been teaching inside these walls for thirty years. She has no equipment whatsoever to teach science. She teaches scientific principles by telling stories. Her dream is to have an actual lab.

Because we have such a strong affiliation with TCEF and we are in Silicon Valley, I’d like to build a science program. I can see taking groups from our home to theirs, contributing first hand to their education.

The school has assembled a thorough list of supplies, which includes shelves and counters, that in total, comes to $6,000. If you feel moved, would you consider donating to TCEF? You can help in a number of ways.

  1. Write a check directly to the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation or contact Karma@tibetchild.org to make a tax-deductible contribution.
  2. Make a cash donation of any amount you like at the front desk. We have a big bowl out.
  3. Sponsor a child’s education. It’s incredibly fulfilling, it costs $45 a month, and Karma Tensum will match you up with your child.

Thanks to those who have over the years, supported this mission and changed the lives of these children and their families.

Love,
Jennifer

How did “Right Thought, Right Speech and Right Action,” the phrase that you say at the end of all of your classes, come about?

 

I heard the Kent Bond of Willow Glen Yoga say “Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action” in the late nineties when I was attending his classes very regularly. That phrase felt essential to my personal practice. Upon a little research, I learned that the words encompass three main ideas inherent in the very useful Buddhist Noble Eight Fold Path (which you can look up for further elaboration). I added the phrases below over a period of several years.

“Right Thought. May we be steady, present and joyful.”

Stirham, Sukham Asanam (YS 2.46). The posture must be steady and grounded in comfort, ease, or in some translations, joy. In order for those two to be possible, we must be present. Every moment of every day we’re in a posture, or shape, of some sort, whether we’re aware of it or not. So the yoga practice is about being present for this moment and for the next. It’s about being really here, and rooting ourselves to the present (since there is, in essence, very little to hold onto) as a means of establishing steadiness. Being present to the the ridiculous odds of being alive right now at this very moment is a simple means of experiencing joy.

“Right Speech. May our words improve upon the silence.”

They say that silence is golden. And if you’ve been on a silent retreat, you know this to be true. We’re often afraid of silence, but that space is precious to a yoga practitioner. Out of it arises everything. Thought is incessant. Thoughts so easily leads to words. Words are the pillars upon which actions are built. Before we know it, we’ve created a world largely of our own making. We know how easy it is to slip into talk that does more harm than good. I use this phrase to remind myself daily to use words well, because it’s so easy to forget. Words are energy. Restraint of opinion, gossip, judgement and small talk is a powerful expression of non-violence and a tenet of the practice.

“Right Action. May we be the change we wish to see.” 

On the way home from India in 2007, while in the airport in Delhi, there was a billboard with one of Gandhi’s most famous phrases, “Be the change you wish to see.” Right action means acting with kindness and compassion, telling the truth, being as non-violent as possible, and leaving every proverbial room cleaner than we found it. And each infinitesimal action counts. Being useful in whatever seemingly tiny way is method of meeting the sometimes overwhelming suffering of the world.

I’ve been saying these words at the end of each and every practice to remind myself daily ever since.  Thank you for asking.

Jennifer

I met Lorien Neargarder in 2009 as her much gentler yoga class followed a vinyasa I was teaching at Willow Glen Yoga. As we passed each other at the door, she was always so friendly and welcoming, and she quite obviously had a sense of humor. Her students would wait patiently in droves at the door. They loved her.

When it was time to open our studio, my business partner, Rob, and I had put cancer recovery at the center of all programming, because our studio was built upon that mission. We needed someone who would tirelessly and graciously give themselves to providing cancer support. When I spoke with Lorien, she was enthusiastic and dedicated right from the get-go (and I learned that she was oddly tied to our location in so much that she used to teach aerobics in the building that our studio is in now when it was a ladies-only gym in the late 70s).

This studio is built upon relationship. Everyone who works at BTY has an integral part in the greater workings. Whether they are a staff member, wellness professional, or teacher, they care deeply about their work and constantly and intelligently look at how they can even be even more effective. Lorien represents the best of us. Since 2011, Lorien Neargarder has served thousands of people with cancer at our studio, provided thousands of students classes in yin/restorative and pranayama, run three festivals to support cancer care through Cancer CAREpoint, and trained dozens of teachers to offer cancer support in order to make her important work more accessible to those who need it.

Lorien is moving to Florida with her family to begin a new adventure. Her last Yoga for Cancer Survivorship class will be June 27th (yes, chances are excellent that we’ll continue to see her, albeit in a more limited capacity, through workshops and trainings).

We are fortunate that the brilliant and kind Lindsey Kolb will step into Lorien’s big shoes and begin teaching Yoga for Cancer Survivorship beginning July 3.

On behalf of all of us, we thank you, Lorien, for being everything one could hope for in a teacher and a colleague.

Jennifer and everyone at Breathe Together.

Join our Summer Instagram Challenge from June 3 – August 25.

Follow our Instagram (@breathetogetheryoga) and Jennifer Prugh (@jennprugh).

Yoga- asana has a long standing history of creating systems of 84 postures. But historically, most systems are of seated postures. So Jennifer Prugh weighed the history of yoga with yoga-asana of today and created a system of 84 postures that address the body of a modern yoga practitioner while still retaining a connection to early yoga. Learn the system, learn how to safely sequence your practice, deepen your understanding of yoga, share what you are learning with others and have fun doing it!

Each week we will post seven postures for the week. You post yourself in the posture, or a variation or modification of that posture each day. Hashtag us so we can find you!

Post daily for prizes or a chance to be featured!

To win the grand prize of a gift box full of items totaling $500, complete all 84 postures within June 3 through August 25. Be creative, show us whatever expression or modification that you wish. Let’s play!

Hashtags

#breathetogetheryoga
#BTY84
#JennPrughYoga

Take at least one business class. Be sure you can run the business the way you want within the letter of current state, local, and federal laws. You don’t have to like all laws, but if you can’t abide by them, owning a business will cause you a great deal of suffering.

Make a business plan. Then assume reality will be different than the plan.  Prepare for any and every possible scenario. Have all your agreements in writing before you open the business. Know that whatever you hope never happens probably will happen because that is often how life works.


Hire a good lawyer, be sure you’ve trademarked and copyrighted your business and programs. If you hate the idea of “owning” a trademark or copyright, the fact is that you work in the United States of America. Someone else may very well legally lay claim on the name of your business or program and it can be pulled out from under you.

Know what you are good at. If you are not good at accounting or book keeping, don’t do the books. 

If you are running a yoga business or a business where you want to make a difference to others, “people skills” are essential. 

You must be able to make hard decisions, decisions that others may not be able to understand and decisions that because of confidentiality, you can’t explain. Caring about being liked all the time will be your demise.

There are times you will have to go to battle to defend what you believe is right or the business itself. People in our line of work tend to not like confrontation. Do so intelligently and with the intention of doing no harm.

Develop a strong spiritual relationship with the God of your own Understanding. Meditate, Pray often. Maintain your practice and self care rituals. 

Do not act on your first emotional impulse ever. Develop a practice where you “sit with” any circumstance or feeling that comes up before speaking or taking action.

Get used to making mistakes every day. And someone said to me, “if you are the best in the room, you are in the wrong room.” Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Know the difference between co-workers, colleagues, students and friends. Have a few trusted friends who are not part of your business and with whom you can confide.

Things will not turn out the way you planned, people will not come through the way you thought. Learn to “go with the flow” and trust that your business, like life, will unfold as it should. Your business won’t ever run itself perfectly because you can’t control it into perfect submission, especially if it involves “moving parts,” as in, other people. Think of it more as a living, breathing creature. Your work is to lovingly attend to what it needs.

Too many business owners get into a habit of not paying themselves or not taking care of themselves in other ways, and end up suffering as a result. Martyrdom is not sustainable.

Keep a pulse on those you are serving. You may have one idea of what your business will be about, but the people who are interested in what you have to offer inform your direction. Listen to your students or clients.

Get comfortable with apologizing often. Ultimately, you alone are responsible for everything that happens in your business. Always seek mutual understanding whenever possible, and give up the need to be right.

Question your own conclusions often. Especially snap judgments. The question, “is this thought I just had true?” comes in especially handy.

Seek wise counsel. Listen to their ideas. But at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with your decisions. Once you have weighed in, trust your gut. Act from your own center.

Live ethically. Use the Yamas and Niyamas or any tried and true ethical guidelines and refer to them often. The cleaner you are in your dealings with others, the more likely you are to attract people with integrity. 

Truth and trust are your best friends. Surround yourself with people you can trust. Do the work on the inside so that when you communicate the truth, you do so with love or at the very least, don’t hurt people with your words. Even the difficult people.

Keep excellent records. Be able to pull up any file you may need in a moment’s notice.

If you hire people, remember that eventually they will leave and “institutional memory” will be compromised. Who will be left is you. Be certain that anything significant is written down.

You will likely become very close with those you work with because you will be working all the time. Personal and professional lines can get blurred. The fact is that close relationships are a function of the working relationship. The mother ship enables close relationships. Take care of the mother ship. 

Manage your time well. There is always something to worry about. You can work yourself to near death every single day. Create working hours and stick to them. If you are able to live without your phone during hours of the day, all the power to you.

Keep inspiration around you. Web casts. recordings, apps, books, read and listen to people that inspire you to keep your head out of minutia. Walk in nature.

Do not be a “helicopter boss.” When you trust the people you hire, you empower them.

Address issues directly as they arise. Anything you ignore or are confused by will later return as a larger issue. 

If you are working with a group, treat issues that arise as policy issues not personal issues. What looks personal often is really a result of unclear or undeveloped policies. Kindly communicated clear boundaries make professional and personal life so much easier.

You are always surrounded by everything and everyone you need. Every answer will be right in front of you and your work is to get out of your own way. A consistent practice supports this ongoing realization.

Everyone and everything is a teacher.

Get a dog. When you come home after a day of things you couldn’t control or can’t tell anyone about, your dog will always love you. If you aren’t into dogs, keep love close. Love supports proper perspective. What an opportunity we have in this precious human life to contribute to shaping a world of our own making, to grow people around us.

xoxo Jennifer