Keeping Vigorous Hot Yoga Practice Authentic
to the Values of Yoga
In the last twenty years hot yoga practice in America has trended toward emphasizing a sweat-infused heart-pounding cardio challenging workout. Believe it or not. that’s not how yoga used to be. Before sticky mats and stretchy skin-tight gear, the emphasis of yoga was about removing impurities as the veils of illusion in order to uncover the atman (soul).
Back in the early ‘90s I lived in a celibate ashram where yogis woke up at 6am to two hours of hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation as a standard way to greet the day. Our evenings ended with kirtan, teachings and aarti (light ceremony of surrender to God and guru) as a standard way to complete the day.
Now I confess to loving hot yoga practice so much I created my own style: HotCore Yoga. Yet sometimes I ask myself. Have I abandoned the essence of yoga in order to attract customers to my yoga studio? Is HotCore Yoga just a workout with slow-breathing techniques?
Personally I find the answer in the same place I found it back in the early 90’s. On my own yoga mat. Actually back then I rolled out a Mexican blanket cuz yoga mats didn’t exist. But you know what I mean. In my own practice I discover a yearning to merge the me who is human with the me who is eternal. In my sadhana I fuel the yearning with my breath and the emotions of fury, wraith, sadness, fear, shame and whatever else collects in my sub-conscious mind.
I move my body in ways to harness my physicality as a vehicle into devotion. In my studio we have floor-to-ceiling mirrors which I like because my facial expressions reveal so much about my present state of consciousness. In other words, I can’t hide. Again and again … there I am. And I see the opportunity to peel away vestiges of self-identity which remind me of my humanity and yet fail to capture the fullness of who I am.
Recently I phoned fellow yogi Beryl Bender Birch to ask her to read my yoga romance novel ‘The Secret of Enduring Love’ and she was reminiscing about the days when yogis would sit around woodstoves and read yogic scriptures and stories. Now all the yogis are writing their own books, creating dvds and fancy workshops. She and I laughed about it. Cuz it’s true. Those of us who have been in the game are extremely busy. But it’s a wonderful state of busy. And the devotion is real when we discover it in our practice. And the yoga remains true to its roots when we devote our bodies, hearts and minds to the one eternal essence. Meet me there. And it’ll be super sweaty … fiercely challenging … and playfully wild!
Peter Sklivas – Creator of HotCore Yoga & author of the novel ‘The Secret of Enduring Love: Yoga Romance of Damayanti & Nala.’ Located in Beverly Farms, MA, Peter teaches classes in his yoga studio & leads workshops on Tantra and HotCore Yoga. www.hotcoreyoga.com
Shakti: The Cosmic Party Girl
What’s at the Core of HotCore?
Yogis tap into the cosmic pulse which Obiwan, from Star Wars, called “The Force”. In yoga we call this energy by the name of a goddess named Shakti. It is said Shakti has no body, because she dissolved her essence into the core of every single particle of creation.
Think of it. As a fundamental building block of sentience, Shakti: The Cosmic Party Girl rouses all beings from the slumber of inertia. In other words, Shakti’s job is to poke us in the ribs … kick us in the ass … tickle our hearts. She gives us her turbo-octane rocket fuel energy as a catalytic spark inspiring us to embrace our souls for the purpose of infusing this universe with consciousness and love.
Shakti is the cosmic lover bestowing blessings to her beloved over and over again. Each time you roll out your yoga mat, you become her beloved. Actually Shakti is going to bestow her gifts regardless of whether we engage in a regular spiritual discipline or not. In every moment of existence she is calling out, “Here is the all the energy and intelligence you could ever need. Please take it freely into your body. Feed your mind. Dance with me. Life is a cosmic festival. Let’s play!”
In the absence of Shakti: The Cosmic Party Girl, this life will always feel hollow. When we ignore the beckoning to dance in the cosmic playground … whether it’s ignoring the call of Shakti or other divine messengers … we will suffer. Our true nature awakens when we trust that a cooperative approach to celebrating life is part of who we are. The practice of HotCore Yoga will help you to heal your body and much more. Just as the source of physical and emotional imbalances will inevitably trace back to the thoughts passing through our minds, so too is the awakening of love. The trick is to expand the boundaries of our minds just large enough to invite in Shakti: The Cosmic Party Girl. Her promise is that she’ll take care of everything else. At it’s core … HotCore Yoga is a practice of surrendering to the pulse of life. Wanna play?
Discover your Shakti: The Cosmic Party Girl at the HotCore Yoga playground!
Om Shakti Om… Om Shiva Om Peter Sklivas
To Drink or Not to Drink?
The Hot Yoga Question
Recently a studio member forwarded a blog written by the esteemed San Francisco Bikram Yoga teacher Mary Jarvis in which she describes drinking water during class as a an unnecessary distraction.
Okay, I’m going to go way on a limb & say Mary’s position is extreme. First, a little perspective for folks who’ve never practiced Bikram or other HY variety. By its nature, Hot Yoga is meant to kick your ass. Read More
New Year’s Resolutions can work – The key is to focus on a goal & make a realistic commitment. Every year human beings across this planet mark the passing into the New Year by declaring Resolutions with the hope of making positive changes in their lives. Do these resolutions work?
During my tenure at Kripalu in the early 90’s I participated with the rest of the community in chanting Om Namah Shivaya for 3 days non-stop. Read More
Hopping on the Super-highway to Vitality Hot Yoga is a physical challenge … no doubt about it … our classes teach you how to rediscover vectors of energy that flow through you. How? Applying whatever strength you possess in subtle but vigorous extensions of movements. In most of the postures it might apply to a casual observer that nothing much is happening. That is because this individual is not experiencing the vectors of energy. Why bother tapping these subtle vectors of energy? Read More
This week I observed several studio members grousing about low back pain. Hmmmm. I thought to myself … I wonder if these individuals are rounding their upper lumbar/thoracic spine (low to mid back) when pulling in forward bends … well, if you were to cast a vote on this one, do you think the yoga was healing or aggravating their back pain? One individual has been practicing at Yoga Passion off and on for 18 months. Read More
Today Wendy Hahn mentioned that she was feeling nauseated before Kapal Bhati. I advised her to blow with more intensity … get her tummy flopping … moving air in & out of her body with more force. Why was she experiencing nausea? Bikram yoga is designed to stir up and release toxins from deep hidden recesses within the cellular level. If a person has spent weeks, months, years, maybe decades packing toxins in their body … physical toxins by imbibing junk foods & chemicals … Read More
Before class the other day I asked if anyone had a yoga question & Susan Van Note posed this one. What’s the best stance to use between postures? During the standing series I have discovered through much trial & error that by gazing motionlessly straight ahead with my palms facing outward & directing ALL my attention to the breath that the yoga experience of ease and grace flows effortlessly … even in the most challenging classes. I cannot stress enough how incredibly self-empowering it is … Read More
Falling arches, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, and other foot problems seem to be common ailments for many individuals. Periodically I experience pain along the middle line of my feet. What helps them more than anything else is … not sole inserts … not expensive shoes … not regular massage … but, yes, you guessed it: Bikram HotCore Yoga practiced in a hot room with the intensity of igniting my own inner heat. Read More
Day in & day out over the course of years I have been privileged to observe how the bodies of studio members transform as a result of regular yoga practice. Often the individuals themselves fail to notice the changes … perhaps because they feel uncomfortable recognizing life-enhancing shifts within their own bodies. Sounds strange? Doesn’t it? Why wouldn’t we want to take note of positive actions that nourish the nucleus of our own lives? Read More
Here it goes: Sometimes I play it safe and keep my hands on my heels. Why? Due to chronic weakness in my kidneys/adrenals … which daily yoga practice has improved tremendously … but occasionally this instability creates irritation in my lower back. Of course the yoga helps me to clear this irritation/weakness. Sometimes, though, the prudent thing to do is to simply keep my hands on my hips, press my knees into the carpet, lift my chest/heart/solar plexus up and drop my head/shoulders back Read More
How often have placed your hands on your hips in preparation for camel & heard these words careening from somewhere in the depths of your mind? Well, if you have done Bikram HotCore Yoga with any regularity, chances are real good you’ve pondered this question. For long-term health and unfoldment in the practice of yoga, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that the human body is ever-changing … some days the hips/lower back may permit a fully cranked Camel Read More
Have you ever experienced difficulty directing a spacious full-body breath into your lungs? If so, right now, try this exercise. If you’re sitting in a chair, place the soles of your feet firmly into floor. Sit with a straight spine, pressing your sits bones into the chair. Now draw up (squeeze) the perineum, which is a tiny diamond-shaped muscle just below the base of your spine. Surrounded by my much larger muscles, a well-toned perineum is crucial to developing core strength in your gut and spine. Read More
Temperatures have been soaring at Yoga Passion which is translating into accelerated purification for lots of sweaty bodies. In yoga we have a term (tapas) which refers to the internal heat generated by the regular practice of hatha yoga. This tapas creates an ideal internal climate for breakthroughs in mental, emotional, physical, and (even) spiritual wellbeing. Do you think these sort of breakthroughs happen with ease and grace? Well? How much work did it take to create these internal roadblocks? Read More
Earlier this week one of our regular studio members went into the hospital for surgery. She told me that she was anxious because she would be unable to practice yoga for a couple weeks until tubes were removed. Her yoga practice of about 6 months has transformed her life. New strength, better posture & breathing, emotional alertness & balance, overall happiness from the inside out. These qualities describe what I have seen in this woman & what she has repeatedly shared as her yoga experience. Read More
Yesterday Mary Conti taught her first class at Yoga Passion. I think it’s safe to say that everyone was impressed. Clearly this woman knows her yoga…from the inside out…as someone who drops many pools of sweat…and allowed Shakti (the Divine feminine energy of transformation) to rearrange the interior mindscape into deeper heart balance & love. Read More
Last night while watching Duke defeat Arizona in the NCAA basketball championship game, Lauren asked me if I could design a game with the excitement of fullcourt basketball in which no one would lose. Even though she is not an avid sports fan, Lauren appreciated the passion, brute athleticism, and the beauty of these young men pitting their skills against one another. It was a close exciting game. Read More
This evening I witnessed a studio member reach for her lower back after coming out of camel. Her body language & emotions were so transparent that it was easy to read her mind. She was terrified that she had injured herself. I advised her to turn around, relax in Savasana, & reminded her that she had stretched her spine in one direction in camel and that we were about to stretch it in the other direction in rabbit….to relax and breathe in preparation for rabbit. Read More
Due to the blistering pace (do you like the pun?) of articulating the necessary instructions for 90-minute Bikram class, the details in some postures receive short shrift. One such posture is the sit-up. Often students view the sit-up as a transitional annoyance. What I have noticed as a teacher is that students frequently forget to do the following: Read More
Happy Valentine’s Day! May all hearts experience the fullness of love for Self & Source!
New Yoga Posture called: Tickling heart
Sometimes it is convenient to confine the scope of our yoga practice to a mechanic manipulation of body parts to achieve tangible physical results. Inevitably, though, there is one body part which throws a monkey wrench into this approach…it’s called the heart. Read More
This week I spoke with one of the top yoga teachers on the planet. Her name is Mary Jarvis & she runs Global Yoga out of San Francisco with 3,000+ members. Her experience has demonstrated the effectiveness of Bikram yoga in so many instances that she tells everyone “miracles happen here every day!” Mary believes Bikram Yoga helps individuals reconnect their original DNA Blueprint. Combined with the heat, this yoga brings people into perfect and normal condition as specified by the highest vibration of this DNA Blueprint. Read More
Bikram is excited to hear about Yoga Passion.
I picked up the telephone & dialed Bikram’s home number in Beverly Hills. Secretly I was hoping to speak with Rajashri (his wife). Bikram and I had not spoken since the completion of my certification training 7 months ago. In case you don’t know it yet, Bikram can sometimes be an intimidating presence. It took several minutes before Bikram remembered who I was. When I said, “You remember, the guy you called an Asshole in front of all 100 trainees.” Read More
Smoothies are a great way to start the day. I don’t drink coffee. I’m not that big on tea. I don’t enjoy breakfast foods that weigh me down. So I have come to cherish my morning smoothies. Because I’m fortunate enough to have access to a Vitamix, I can blend ingredients such as pineapple slices with skin, whole lemons with skin peeled, egg with washed shell. The Vitamix is a fantastic kitchen appliance. But you can stick make great smoothies with an ordinary blender. Read More
Several studio members have voiced confusion about this posture.
Here is sample of their comments: “My neck hurts…I don’t know where I’m supposed to feel it…Where are my hips supposed to go?”
Here are simple solutions. While you regularly hear these comments in class, it may be helpful to visualize these posture tips from the comfort of your home. Read More
Recently I’ve heard so many incredible testimonials concerning the effectiveness of Bikram HotCore Yoga that I feel compelled to invite you to make your own personal inquiry. What miracles are happening in your body? Mind? Spirit? Often times we get stingy about recognizing miracles even when they’re staring us in the face. And then we miss something very important such as a precious relationship or a business opportunity or a shard of self. Much of my own life journey has been devoted to re-collecting those scattered shards. Read More
One of my most influential teachers Cynthia Barnard (whom many of you know as shamanic healer/teacher) has underscored the importance of giving lavishly the very qualities of life for which I most yearn. When I met Cynthia as part of a meditation group which met weekly in Boxford from ’94 – ’99, I was earning just enough money to pay for gas, food & rent share on a house in Richmond, MA. Read More
In recent years I’ve noticed that the holiday season has become an increasing stressful time of year for many people. Here are some eYoga tips to make this time special in a spiritual way (which is what this month is supposed to be about…right?)
1. Driving in the car – learn how to press your sits bones down & stretch your spine up. Read More
Happy Fall Equinox 2000 – After Wednesday night’s Kripalu yoga class I asked a 12 year-old girl named Kristine, “How was your first yoga class?” “It hurt,” she said without the slightest hesitation. One of the elder studio regulars chimed in, saying, “Well, at least she’s being honest.” Then this studio member turned to Kristine and added, “Honey, it hurts every time I come to class. But it hurts more if I just stay at home.” Read More
For 35 years+ Bikram has repeated over and over that the way to heal most spinal problems is by doing proper backbends in hot room mixed in with a proper compliment of other yoga postures. In part he designed his 26-posture sequence to correct skeleton misalignments. Bikram’s Hot Yoga has worked for so well that Bikram yoga studios are opening up throughout the country and Europe. Yet there are individuals who fear doing backbends for seemingly good reasons … such as… Read More
Vigorous styles of yoga … namely Bikram & Power … inspire an outward “yang” or masculine expression of movement. Quite frankly practicing these styles of yoga is intense & creates impressive cardio-spiritual results when balanced with an inward “yin” or feminine expression of breath. The intensity of the heat & challenging postures is most effectively integrated through a nervous system which is calm & centered. Read More
It may surprise some of you to know that I am something of a sports fan junkie. As a graduate of a Big 10 School (Northwestern) I always feel a stirring in gut when the NCAA basketball Tournament’s March Madness begins. 64 college teams play in a single elimination tournament for the privilege of being crowned the national champions. Part of the magic is that each year Cinderella teams defy the odds by defeating schools with much higher rankings. Read More
This morning Lauren and I drove over to the studio like every day. But the power was out on Rt.1 and our building. Sooooooooooooo….I guess that means no yoga today. Blizzard Yoga Posture – Perhaps you can practice an advanced posture called “Smileasana.” This posture will open up energy portals along the palate of the mouth and aligns glandular functioning throughout the entire body. Precision of breath and tongue placement are crucial. Read More
As a small child the Holiday Season was magical. I always looked forward to my Aunt (Thea) Penny taking the train up from Boston (which seemed like a big deal) and staying with us for 2 or 3 days. There were presents, delicious Greek Desserts (my mom rarely served us sweets the rest of the year), family gatherings and lots of excitement. Read More
In my late twenties my body had stiffened from years as a gym rat … playing pick-up basketball or running every day (including Sundays) and weightlifting … the result of maintaining my regular workout-fix was a seemingly fit body … tone, low body fat, great second wind, decent stamina, stiff brittle hamstrings & a lower back screaming for change … every morning was a Sisyphean struggle to get out of bed. Read More
Today is a sobering day. By now all of you have heard about the terrorist attacks on NYC Trade Center, Washington, and other locations. It is a shock. How is one to respond? On the one hand I feel a tremendous ripple of sadness pulsating through myself and collective field of humanity. Symbols of the global establishment of power have been attacked. Tens of thousands of human beings have transitioned to the other side en masse. Our blanket of invulnerability has been pierced with seeming ease. Read More
How often have you heard “Give and you shall receive”? Christ and every authentic mystic has walked the talk of these eternal words. Give away something precious to someone who truly needs it & the universe will naturally reward you in kind. But how can any of us extend ourselves to give if our gas tanks are always running on E? Enter yoga … commitment to a regular practice will fill the human gas tank … and not with that cheap watered-down stuff … Read More
Increasingly I have noticed a brisk attitude with which many strangers address one another in grocery store checkout lines, passersby in the street, and other public locations. It seems people frequently fail to recognize any value in expressing courtesy or friendliness. Are we too busy? Have we become so goal-oriented that we’ve forgotten basic rules of etiquette? Or have we yielded so much our personal authority to media-hyped threats Read More
This morning I’m feeling inspired by Gary Zukav’s book “Seat of the Soul.” I’d like to share a section on reverence:
What is reverence? Reverence is engaging in a form and a depth of contact with Life that is well beyond the shell of form and into essence. Reverence is contact with the essence of each thing and person and plant and bird and animal. It is contact with the interior of its beingness. Read More
This morning a dedicated Yoga Passion studio member mentioned feeling depressed after looking at YouTube videos of Bikram’s Advanced Series. She was wondering if she could still think of herself as a yogi even though she would never be able to contort her body like these so-called elite yogis. This is precisely why competition has no place in yoga. 99.9999% of our human population will never be able to wrap our legs around the back of our heads. Read More
At age eight my neighborhood chums and I were fascinated with scavenging Mr. Peterson’s dilapidated chicken coop for planks to build our first tree fort. Using hammers and screwdrivers we yanked out and straightened old nails so we could reuse them. On the third day of our efforts toting our booty into the forest, I stepped on a long rusty nail that penetrated deep into my foot. Put yourself in my shoes. What do you think I did next? Screaming at the top of my lungs, I sprinted the half mile home and dove into my mother’s arms. Read More
Dubbed The Yogi’s Healer, Tumeric is a yellow root widely used for 5,000 years by yogis to increase flexibility in muscles, joints & heal injuries. In Ayurvedic & Chinese Medicine this root is used to improve digestion, strengthen immunity, decrease inflammation, add luster to skin & instill mental balance. As a food supplement it can be purchased online or at health food stores loose or in capsule. Most health benefits of tumeric are linked to its volatile oil pigment called curcumin. Trust me, there’s no missing curcumin. Read More
The Gloucester docks for the whale watching tours are a short drive from my house. While the reviews for watching whales sound magnificent, the tours that float my boat are the ones discovered on my yoga mat. In the heightened states of relaxation which occur regularly in vigorous hot sweaty yoga practice, I encounter my body, mind and spirit communing one with the other. What I am noticing is a choice to drink deeply from the well of life. Read More
One year ago on the day of my departure from New Dehli Grace and I were blessed to receive the private darshan (being in presence) of The Honorable Esteemed 12th Tai Situpa Rinpoche. Within Tibetan Buddhism this man is cherished as an illumined wayshower for millions of devotees. So to sit alone with him for a half hour was a precious capstone to our India trip. After introductions were made, he asked us what country we were from. Read More
Two famous Greek philosophers were hanging out at the beach. The older one Heraclitus was digging a hole in the sand with a wooden spoon. After a solid day of excavation he rose to his feet and walked to the water’s edge. Here he dipped the same wooden spoon into the ocean. Carefully Heraclitus transported the spoon back to the hole where he deposited its contents. From sunrise to sunset he went back to the shoreline for weeks without interruption dipping the spoon then pouring the salty water into the hole. Read More
Part 1 in Series: Pros & Cons of Bikram Yoga – In the early 70’s Bikram Choudhury launched a yoga revolution. Using a specific sequence of 26 postures & 2 breathing exercises, the flamboyant Beverly Hills yogi created a methodology that’s still growing in popularity worldwide. Below are 8 elements which set Bikram Yoga apart as a radical departure from styles of yoga that dominated before his arrival. Read More
1. Bikram Teachers are Obsessed with Pushing the Kneecap Back!
It’s such a HUGE deal that I know expert yogis who’ve been handed their money back after taking class & told never to return because they were micro-bending their knee in standing postures. In the fitness world you’d be hard pressed to find a professional trainer who guides clients to repeatedly hyper-extend their knees. What Bikram teachers claim is that by engaging the quadriceps & locking the knee, you strengthen the leg. Read More
This slender powerful muscle is easily the most under-valued muscle in yoga instruction. For many teachers talking about the tongue is taboo. The tongue is sexual especially if that pink thing is moving. It should remain hidden. Heaven forbid if anyone expose his or her tongue in a yoga class! Cuz you know what that means. Don’t you? Some perv is trawling for sex.
Is Your Tongue Supple Enough to Rouse Yogic Energies? Read More
Yesterday I shoveled a mountain of wet goopy snow out of my driveway, sidewalks & cleared off the West Street for fun. My driveway is the snowdrift magnet for the entire Eastern Seaboard. This morning I got more of the same over here + digging out my mom. How ’bout you? What I’m noticing is how imperative it is to treat each shovel load motion as though it’s a yoga posture. Deep bend in the knees. Use the legs. Avoid hurky-jerky sudden motions when lifting extra heavy loads or finishing the toss. Engage strength throughout the body. Get long slow breath digging the shovel into the snow. Exhale with the snow toss. Read More
The moments of greatest possibility on a yoga mat tend to happen at two points in the breath cycle. The first happens at the vacuum point when the exhale has been completely exhausted but before the next inhale starts. For newbies this level of instruction might sound arcane. But if you’ve been rolling out your mat for more than a month, WANT QUICK BREAKTHRUs? Check it out.
Don’t Panic! It’s just an opportunity to practice breathing at the Vacuum Point! Read More
Recently I happened onto a Huffington Post blog about The Harvard Psychedelic Club. As part of a 1950’s Harvard experiment, check out this self-acclaimed normal housewife who’s amazed to observe molecules of air moving around her after drinking water spiked with LSD. When the interviewer asks her to describe the particles, she exclaims it’s impossible to put into words what she is seeing. And she is surprised the interviewer can’t see. She reports being completely free and connected to everything as one living organism. Watch her facial expressions for their genuine innocence & wonder. Read More
Charismatic gurus operate as spiritual lightening rods for extreme controversy & devotion. Inevitably cynics will try to defrock such leaders as unscrupulous charlatans while disciples will stridently declare them as illuminated avatars destined to lead all humanity into the New Age. No guru stood longer in this seemingly crazy making swirl of highly charged intense points of view than Sathya Sai Baba. At age 13 when he announced that he was in the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, one of India’s most beloved saints, this youngster was propping himself up onto the fast track to public scrutiny. Read More
Life is very short my friends…
But it is long enough if you live with all your heart.
So, go on, break the rules.
Forgive quickly … Kiss slowly,
Love truly … Laugh uncontrollably,
And never regret anything that made you smile. Read More
What does it mean to have active feet on a yoga mat? When properly grounded in standing asanas, the feet connect the spine to the flow of energy from the earth. Here are a few tips to check whether you’re getting maximum energy moving through your feet & body. In any standing asana, such as Pranayama Deep Breathing & Half Moon (Bikram’s 1st & 2nd postures), visualize 4 corners of your feet as setting roots through the floor. Not 3 corners. Not 2 corners. Read More
A year ago, during an early round in a Stanley Cup playoffs, James Duthie jumped into a broadcast of a Montreal Canadians vs. Washington Capitals game with the update that Mark Recchi has just scored his third goal of the postseason—giving the Boston Bruins a 2 – 1 lead over the Buffalo Sabres. Read More