Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

 

Meet Your Kula: Mel Douglas

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we’ll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

This month, meet Mel Douglas, our Karuna Yogi.

Tell us about yourself!

My name is Mel Douglas and I’m a Brooklyn, NY native currently living in Los Angeles with my pup Kenji. I’m a plant mom, black coffee lover, and outdoor adventurer. I spend much of my time advocating for wellness in my community by sharing my journey with mental health, wellness, and yoga. In 2018 I founded the Black Women's Yoga Collective (BWYC), a community organization focused on increasing accessibility to wellness and generating true safe spaces that offer intersectional wellness practices.

What started your yoga journey?

I like to say that yoga found me because it turned out to be such a huge part of my life pretty unexpectedly. I was bored of going to the gym, so I started trying out the different classes offered there instead. I ended up in a power vinyasa class, got my butt kicked by a deceptively gentle voiced lady, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become an instructor about 6 months into developing my personal practice. Something clicked for me right away and I knew I wanted to teach, to share what I was learning with my community. I recognized the impact that having teachers who looked like me had on how I was able to connect in class and felt that I could foster that sort of connection for others through teaching.

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

I mostly teach different styles of vinyasa yoga because I love the way flowing leaves me feeling grounded and connected. The styles range from gentle restorative vinyasa to hot power vinyasa, and everything in between. I believe that we can practice flowing through life much the way we do a vinyasa class.

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Practicing yoga has changed my life completely. As a person with a mood and anxiety disorder, the practices I’ve learned on this journey have allowed me to begin to navigate life in much healthier ways. Yoga has helped me better my relationships, feel empowered in my abilities, and deepen my capacity for joy.

Tell us more about BWYC! What led you to create this space?

I created BWYC because I noticed a lack of resources and representation as a Black woman starting my own journey with yoga. When I stopped attending yoga classes at my gym in Crenshaw and branched out to actual yoga studios, I was disappointed to often find myself the only Black student in class. It also became apparent that finding other Black instructors was going to be a challenge.

I knew that a part of what helped me connect with yoga when I did was the comfort I felt being surrounded by my community. I had practiced before a few times throughout my life but had never felt like it was truly for me, until I experienced yoga in an environment that was for me. So I decided to create a space for more of that and it’s bloomed beautifully over the last few years.

How do you incorporate what you've learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I do my best to flow through life with ease and intention, much the way we’re taught to flow through a yoga class. A lot of the Baptiste methodology particularly is around staying in alignment with your true purpose, facing tough times with ease, doing what you can and knowing it’s enough. In a class I use those things to remind myself to be kind to my body, in life I use those things as a reminder to be kind to my whole self.

What would you share with a beginner?

I would say don’t be afraid to explore all of the different styles of yoga to find the style that fits you best. A lot of people think “yoga” is just one thing but there are so many different ways to practice.

How has your understanding of Karuna grown and changed over the years?

Before I started practicing yoga, I believed that compassion was something I only gave to others. Over the years and through practice, I’ve come to understand that it starts with me. I’ve come to understand that when I am compassionate to myself, it is much easier to be compassionate to others. When I’m kind to myself, it’s much easier to share kindness with others. When I heal myself, I create space for others to heal themselves.

You can follow Mel's journey and connect with her on Instagram at @meldouglasyoga. You can support her work at Black Women's Yoga Collective on Instagram at @blackwomensyogaco. You can also practice alongside Mel this month with our Karuna Heart-Opening Asana with our mantra:

I extend deep and unconditional compassion with each breath. I find presence and happiness through boundless, abundant compassion for all living creature


Meet Your Kula: Whitney Davis

Meet Your Kula: Whitney Davis

 

Part of what makes us so unique are the amazing members of our Yogi community, our kula. Each month, we'll feature one member of our yogi community, chat with them about their practice, learn more about what draws them to yoga, and get to know each other a little more.

This month, meet Whitney Davis, our Ahimsa Yogi.

blonde female in purple yoga clothes
Tell us about yourself!

I'm Whitney! I'm a yogi living in Florida with my husband and one-year-old son named Bodhi!

What started your yoga journey?

I started my yoga journey in my freshmen dorm room. I started yoga to find relief from anxiety and to increase my flexibility and strength.

When did you decide to become a yoga instructor?

I decided to become a yoga teacher after leaving a career in social work. I loved the idea of helping individuals tune into themselves and find peace and healing through the yoga practice.

blonde woman yoga on the beach

What type of yoga do you teach? What drew you to this particular form of yoga?

I am currently a stay at home mom, but when I was teaching I preferred to teach vinyasa and yin. I love those two styles of practice because they help us find balance.

What grounds you in your practice?

Meditation and my breath help me stay grounded. When I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I try to get on my mat and flow with my breath or sit in stillness.

How has the practice of yoga affected your life? Spiritually? Mentally?

Yoga has helped me stay present in all facets of my life. I’m naturally very hyper and a “type-A.” This leads to anxiety and since I’ve incorporated yoga into my daily life, I have found more moments of equanimity and peace.

blonde woman in splits

How do you incorporate what you’ve learned from your practice both on and off the mat?

I try to incorporate the breath practices I use on the mat in my life. I notice when I take those moments to go inward or breathe deeply, I am much more patient and centered.

What would you share with a beginner?

Enjoy the journey and try not to wish for what is next! It is easy to see advanced asanas and feel defeated or intimidated, but every yogi was once a beginner too and we learn the most about ourselves in the journey of our practice.

How has your understanding of Ahimsa grown and changed over the years?

At one time, I felt ahimsa was only about nonviolence to other beings. But over the years I have realized that I need to extend that nonviolence to myself and body. There were days I would teach my students to be kind to themselves, but then not extend that kindness in my own thoughts and standards towards myself.

blonde woman beach yoga

 

You can follow Whitney's yoga journey and connect with her at @whitneydavisyoga. You can also practice the Ahimsa Asana alongside Whitney this month with our Ahimsa Core Strengthening Asana with our mantra:

I offer peace, love, and compassion to all beings. I greet each moment with grace and understanding.


5 Interesting Facts You Didn't Know About Your Heart Chakra

The heart chakra is the fourth chakra in the chakra system, which represents the center of love, compassion, joy, and warmth. That might seem obvious, but the heart chakra goes far beyond just that.

Check out these five interesting facts that will help introduce you to the power of the heart chakra.

 

1. Your heart chakra is not located in your heart, but rather in the middle of your chest.

It’s easy to assume that the heart chakra is in the same place as the heart (the left side of your chest), but it’s actually located in the center of the chest, right beside the heart. The heart chakra is also the middle chakra where the three lower chakras of the solar plexus, the sacral, and the root meet the three higher chakras of the throat, third eye, and crown.

 

2. The heart chakra is associated with the color green.

Modern depictions of hearts are typically associated with the colors red and pink, but when it comes to the heart chakra, it resonates with the color green. This is because all the chakras are energy centers that vibrate at specific levels, which results in specific colors (and also musical notes—that of which is the note of F for the heart chakra).

 

3. The heart chakra’s Sanskrit word Anahata means “unstruck,” “unhurt,” and “unbeaten.”

The heart chakra governs your expression of unconditional love toward yourself and toward others. It’s also your source of compassion, helping you to cultivate love even through some of life’s most tragic events. No matter how you might have suffered in the past or what you might be going through right now, you can count on your heart chakra to radiate unconditional love through it all.

 

4. The heart chakra is not so much about romantic love as it is about unconditional love.

Many people conjure up images of fairy tales and Hollywood movies when they think of love, but this is not the type of unconditional love that the heart chakra governs. The romantic attraction that typically takes place during the beginning stages of relationships are often largely fueled by egoic desire, which may or may not transform into selfless, unconditional love via the heart chakra once the infatuation wears off.

 

5. Your heart chakra is your center for healing.

While all of the seven chakras in the chakra system are important in their own unique ways, the heart chakra plays an especially important role in healing since love is universally recognized as the highest force of healing across various religions and spiritual practices. The unconditional love of the heart chakra helps us become aware that we are all connected and expanding together with the universe in a way that inspires a sense of wholeness, harmony, and peace.

 

A balanced heart chakra will affect and enhance every part of your life—from the way you feel about yourself, to the relationships you have with others. Here are some things you can do to unblock and open your heart chakra if you suspect you might have an under active one.


3 Meditation Tips for Tapping Into Your Inner Wisdom

3 Meditation Tips for Tapping Into Your Inner Wisdom

“Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.” ~Buddha

You might have heard that the answers to all your problems and questions already lie within you. And those who make spiritual practices a priority in their lives almost always experience this to be true.

Through meditation, anyone can get deeper in touch with their own truth. Living your truth means living with unshakeable purpose, selflessly serving yourself and others simultaneously for the greater good of everyone and everything.

If you already have a meditation practice in place or are interested in starting one, there are various techniques you can use to gain clarity about your true self. Here are just three to try out.

 

1. Breathe into a place of “what is” to reach a state of non-resistance.

Oftentimes we have limiting beliefs that prevent us from getting to know our true selves. So before we do anything, we have to learn to accept who we are and where we are right now—even if we don’t like it. (Especially if we don’t like it!)

To do this, consider one aspect about yourself or a situation in your life that you can’t change and use your meditation practice to explore your relationship with it. Are you struggling to work with it, or are you trying to ignore that it exists?

As you gain awareness of your own resistance, harness the energy from your core through your breath to combat these resistant thoughts. Continuing to breathe through this process will bring you close to a state of acceptance of what is.

 

2. Meditate on simple questions related to your spiritual dharma.

Your spiritual dharma is your purpose in life. As you sit in meditation and bring yourself to the here and now by spending a few moments focusing on your breath, try asking yourself one of the following questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I want?
  • How can I serve myself and others?
  • What am I grateful for?

Now here’s the hard part: Let your heart answer rather than your logical mind. Your answers could come through in the form of bodily sensations which you might have to spend some time interpreting until they reveal themselves through the soft, subtle voice of your inner guidance (your intuition) that lies beneath the constant chatter of the monkey mind.

 

3. Call up compassion, abundance, and longevity through mantra chanting.

Mantra means sound, and it's used in meditation to activate a certain type of energy throughout parts of the body. When chanted (silently or aloud) with full awareness, mantras are powerful enough to lead to higher states of consciousness.

To nurture your inner wisdom through meditation, you can chant the Green Tara Mantra “om tare tutarre ture soha” to relieve physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. Known as “the Mother of all Buddhas,” Tara offers you protection while awakening sources of great compassion, abundance, and longevity from within.

Here’s a Green Tara Mantra video you might want to check out to familiarize yourself with the mantra or practice chanting along with through your meditation.


3 Simple Ways to Unblock and Open Your Heart Chakra

3 Simple Ways to Unblock and Open Your Heart Chakra

With the start of a new year and Valentine’s Day well on its way, it’s natural to feel a strong desire to seek out connections with other people now perhaps more than ever—even if the task seems daunting and you fear the potential risks of vulnerability, awkwardness, disappointment, and even rejection that come with getting close to someone (and letting them get close to you too).

The heart chakra is the energy center that governs your sense of love, compassion, and beauty. Signs of a blocked heart chakra include relationships that feel draining, shyness, loneliness, difficulty forgiving, and difficulty empathizing with others.

By learning to heal and open your heart chakra, you’ll slowly begin to radiate more love, compassion, and beauty from the inside out—in addition to attracting these energetic qualities back to you from the people you surround yourself with.

Here are some things you can do to start clearing those blockages and opening your heart chakra, just in time for the eventual arrival of spring!

 

1. Accept your emotions, express them, and them let go.

At the root of a blocked heart chakra is emotional repression, so if you want to learn to love freely and openly, you have to get in touch with your emotions—including the ones you don’t want to feel. Once you’ve accepted that you’re feeling a certain way, try exploring and expressing them in some of the following ways:

  • Journaling or writing a letter to yourself
  • Meditating
  • Talking out loud to yourself (and you can even cry, scream, or punch a pillow if you need to)
  • Drawing, painting, or doodling
  • Listening to music
  • Creating art

It may take many bouts of emotional expression to fully get everything out, but beware of clinging to your emotions and getting stuck in a never-ending cycle of emotional turmoil rather than choosing to let them go. If the way you’re feeling and expressing yourself starts to feel more like a bad habit than a natural healing process, it’s time to consciously choose to put your emotions behind you so you can move forward.

 

2. Show your love to yourself, another person, animal, or Mother Nature in one small way every single day.

Small daily actions account for big changes over time. If you can strive to take just one small action every day that’s an expression of love, it can become a habit that has the power to completely transform your heart energy center for the better.

Here are a few suggested small daily actions you could take:

  • Hug your partner/spouse or tell them something you love about them
  • Call your mom or other relative
  • Check in with an old friend over Facebook or text message to see how they’re doing (and maybe ask to meet and catch up)
  • Play with your dog or take him/her for a nice long walk
  • Put a bird feeder out in a safe area of your yard
  • Pick up one piece of trash in any public place and bring it to the trash or recycle bin

 

3. Practice chest opening yoga poses.

When it comes to healing and opening your heart chakra, don’t forget to integrate it with your yoga practice! Since the heart chakra is located in the center of the chest, chest opening poses are ideal for opening and strengthening this energy center.

Poses you’ll want to incorporate into your practice include:

  • Sphinx pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
  • Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Upward facing dog pose (Urdhva mukha svanasana)
  • Cow pose (Bitilasana)
  • Fish pose (Matsyasana)
  • Locust pose (Salabhasana)
  • Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Camel pose (Ustrasana)
  • Upward bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)