Thursday, December 1, 2016

December's Theme: "UNDERSTAND"

UNDERSTAND. This is the theme for December. This is also the energy of the 7th Chakra - the thousandfold lotus at the crown of the head. What does it mean to understand? As Einstein says, this is different than knowing. In class I like to remind students to drop what we know...and what we think we know. This is because knowing is a formation of thoughts that come through the mind, while true understanding is cosmic knowledge that is, was and always will be true. The biggest question really is, "how do we know the difference?"

I've had a lot of conversations lately with people about the mind-stuff. Yoga teaches us that it is all maya or illusion. But we live in a world and a culture that praises people on their intellect and teaches how to reason and think with the mind. Yet, ancient philosophies all agree that this is pointless because it only keeps us further away from the truth. So does this mean we should all stop thinking? Well, not fully. I mean, we have to function in the world that we created, don't we? We have to reason to a certain degree. But, quite often I find that this can also confuse us very much. We start to ask lots of questions when our lives aren't what they thought they would or should be...and we think about things - A LOT. In fact, we think about things TOO MUCH until we begin to obsess about it. And that constant thinking keep us stuck in that loop of misunderstanding

To Understand is to move energy upward - from the lower chakras associated with the body and the mind - to the upper chakras associated with freedom and expansion. There is more to the Universe than what we know. We must make room for all the possibilities. Meditation is the best tool that we have for doing this work. Creating a clean, safe environment in which to unplug, be still and breathe is so important. We should all be carving out a little peace of time every day for this. Meditation does not have to be a long, grueling process of sitting in an uncomfortable position "trying" not to think of anything. Meditation can be lying down focusing on deep breathing. Meditation can be crocheting or gardening or skiing, quietly and mindfully. Mediation can be chanting or focusing on sacred sounds or mantras or positive affirmations. Mediation can be taking a silent walk. You see, it really doesn't matter the avenue you take, the idea is to release your brain, let it get quiet, and breathe and be. It is only from a place of calm and peace that we can enter the realm of Understanding. 

In the business of the holiday season, don't forget to make time for yourself to get to the heart of the matters. Take time for unplugging and getting true and you will be closer to Understanding.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff


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I remember a time in my life when I often used the phrase, "I don't understand." This was before I practiced yoga and at a time when I walked through my life like a zombie, unaware that I was able to steer my life in the direction that I wanted. But I also had no idea what I wanted back then either, so even if I knew that I could direct energy, I wouldn't have had a clue as to where I should direct it to.

I had years of insomnia. For as long as I could remember I lived in my head. I created stories upon stories up there and always felt that my imagination was a safe place of retreat from the realities of life. But I would obsess and worry about the littlest things. Instead of taking any type of action, I would think about all the possible outcomes - usually dwelling on the worst case scenarios.  I was compelled to believe that my mind ruled me and when I first heard that I actually could control my mind I couldn't actually fathom how. 

Flash forward twenty years and now I Understand. And as much as I may want to go back and talk to my younger self, I don't believe that she would have listened anyway - because I simply wasn't at a place where I was ready to truly Understand. Maturity, time, life lessons and the myriad of experiences that we traverse throughout our life gives us the ability to unlock the potential to Understand. Of course, I do believe that a more awakened person can certainly Understand at an earlier age, but there certainly is something to the connection of age and wisdom. 

One of my favorite quotes has always been from Aristotle: "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." That sums up where I am now - where I have been since discovering yoga. The vastness of what is out there is unfathomable. Every time science thinks they've locked something up, they split it open and discover a deeper dimension. We, as a species, are constantly learning how little we actually know. And yet I am often astounded by the assuredness in which some people speak. I'm the first person to tell you that I don't have all the answers and I don't know everything. I realize that some people look to be for guidance, but ultimately all that I can do is point you back to yourself. You see, we do have all the answers that we seek already within us. We, the beings created from stardust, are all a piece of this amazing ONE consciousness. It is omnipotent.  It Understands all that there is in the Universe to Understand. We already have the capability...yet, we often look for external validation. While on the road to discovery this is often something we should seek, yet we should be very careful in whom or what we look to for this guidance.  

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

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Closing Comments...

There has been an ongoing argument between Science and Religion for ages about the origins of the Universe and evolution. Each side believes they know the truth. As we learn more about Quantum Physics and we get closer to Understanding the nature of our Universe, we continue to be surprised by how little we previously understood. This always reminds me of an old Friends episode where Phoebe and Ross argue about Evolution. I thought it might be fun to offer a link to that scene where Phoebe gives quite a persuasive argument to Ross about this. In the spirit of being truly open and having a sense of humor with ourselves, please click on the link below. And continue to leave space for the unknown this month as you work through our theme! Namaste.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post-Election - Raising our Vibrations Together

I awoke yesterday, November 8th with a headache. I do not usually have headaches and at first couldn't understand where this discomfort was coming from. As I began to awaken to my day I realized it was election day and the sudden urgency that I was supposed to vote struck me - hard. I am not one to talk politics, and I sincerely will try not push a party or agenda here. I did as good a job as I could with listening to all the sides that were up for election through their debates and rallies while abstaining from listening to any news media. I listened quietly to friends and family talk of both sides - the left and the right - and I honestly thought that when the time came, I would know what to do.

I took my shower and sat down to create mala prayer beads. My dogs wanted to play. My headache raged on. I drank some water and I ate some breakfast. I stayed off of social media for a while and I did my best to think about work and what was to come later. My headache remained. Then I realized I had to leave my house in about an hour to meet my husband to go vote. And I started to freak out a little. What was going on? What was I feeling?

I reached out to one of my friends and teachers to talk about how I was feeling. I felt useless - hopeless. I felt like Arjuna from the Bhagavad Gita and I wanted to just throw down my bow and take no action at all. Because there didn't seem to be an action that felt right to me.

I went back upstairs and changed up all of my jewelry and mala beads. I took off all of the usual crystals that I had been wearing and changed them to a simple rose quartz mala and a very special rose quartz pendant that I purchased many, many years ago and I keep in a very special heart-shaped box with red velvet lining. I only take this out on special occasions - and it certainly seemed to be one of those days.

I didn't think about it because it was just something I felt compelled to do, but I was surrounding myself with loving energy. 

I took the dogs for a walk and got out in nature and found a beautiful open field right on the edge of my neighborhood that I hadn't seen in the past 13 years. I needed to plant my feet in the earth and feel. But what I was feeling was continued discord, unfortunately. So I left to meet my husband and when I got there told him that I did not think that I could vote. I knew that this idea would not go over well with him, so I was kind of on the defensive. But this was where I was. I was not like so many other people who had a firm stance on what they were doing. A vote for Trump is a vote against the system. A vote for Hillary is a vote for women. You know what? I didn't like being told that if I was this or that then I needed to vote this way or that way. None of it felt real to me. I was deeply conflicted.

I started to chant under my breath as my husband drove to the polls. I began chanting one of my favorite all time chants, that funny enough I never really chant myself: "Radhe Govinda." Maybe it was all the reading of the Bhagavad Gita I'd been doing. Maybe it was instinct. Either way, this sacred chant of the lover and the beloved came to me and I continued to chant it over and over until my husband pulled over, got out and went in to vote. With him out of the car my chant got louder and I continued to chant with Deva Premal and her enchanted version booming from my iPhone. 

I chanted for love. I chanted to raise the vibrations. And I watched person by person pull up and walk in to vote. I watched a severely overweight woman who had obvious bad knees limp in slowly. I watched a young woman with scrubs run in and out. I watched a middle aged black couple walk in hand in hand and a young blue collar worker bounce in solo. But it wasn't until I watched the old war vet walk in that it hit me. With cane in hand and his veteran's hat adorned with pins, he walked slowly in, one step at a time, half hunched over. His clothes were battered and dirty. He did his best to look ahead while walking even though his body was leaning downward. It was a painstakingly long walk, but one that he did with conviction. 

I chanted and chanted: "Radhe, Radhe, Radhe Govinda" as tears ran down my face. 

And in a flash, I knew what I must do. In one swift moment I realized that I needed to walk in and take action and vote. That regardless of the despair I was feeling or discord I was tapping into - that I needed to vote and I knew how. And so I walked in and I voted. And my headache ceased. And I felt contentment so much that I decided to offer my 6pm yoga class at no class that evening, and to simply hold the vibrations of overwhelming loving action for our community.



I stayed up with many others watching the results pour in, thinking firmly, that no matter what the results were going to be, that it was going to be a changing point in our history - one way or another. And as I woke up and saw the continued discord and apathy, I was not surprised. It was truly going to be this way no matter who won, wasn't it?

Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase." 

I have faith. I have faith that this is going to be the catalyst for a new coming - one way or another. I have faith that we can all come together - one way or another. I have faith that this will eventually lead to the highest good - one way or another. 

Those who are hurting, feel those emotions today. Because tomorrow, we need to act out of a place of love and come together to build the world that we truly need. A world that stands in love and unity. A world of light and Oneness. 

na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam ahah param

"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be."- Lord Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 

This ancient text tells us all that we really need to know and understand. Life goes on. No matter who rules the land, life goes on. And the only reality that we will ever know is that life will go on. It may change form and it may not be the type of "life" in the form of matter that we imagine now. But it will never cease to be. We are Divine. We are Energy. We are Light. 

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November's Theme: "TRUST"

For November we have the theme of "TRUST" put upon us. Wow, another incredible synchronistic theme I pulled from my "OM Cards" as we are about to come together as a nation and put our trust in someone to govern us. Or are we? Have we, as a nation, completely lost the ability to trust? And perhaps should we be more careful of who we put our trust in than some of the chosen ones in the past? Whatever does happen on November 8th, it is sure to be an interesting theme to look at for this month.

According to yogi Sally Kempton, "one of the deepest, mind, body, heart, transforming words is the word trust. Because so many of us don't quite trust. We don't trust ourselves, in others, in the universe, or in a higher power. We of course have many good reasons for not trusting. Most of us have experienced some form of betrayal in our life that has affected our ability to trust. But in order to enter into the experience of union, of oneness, of interconnectedness, of fearlessness, one of the core recognitions that we have to open up to is our capacity to trust."

Take a look at all the facets that Sally mentions above and ask yourself, in truth, Do I trust myself - to make the best decisions for me and for the greater good? Do I trust in others to always do the same? Do I trust that the Universe has a greater plan for me that is one of love and light and ascension? Do I trust in a higher power that has my back throughout all of life's journeys?

Most likely there are some issues related to trust that affect your everyday life. And if we do not truly trust, does that mean that we are disconnected from the union (yoga) of Oneness? 

It is interesting that the first chakra (Muldahara), which is the foundation upon which all of the other energy centers are aligned to eventually bring us to Oneness and Bliss, is anchored in the concept of trust. Well known key words for the 1st chakra are: Foundation, Grounding, Nourishment and Trust. So, in reality, if we do not work on this concept, we inevitably form the rest of our world on an unstable foundation. 

As you explore the word "trust" this month, let's see if we can work to heal some old wounds and create a more solid foundation for not only ourselves, but our country and our planet.
In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff


* * * * * * *

I have been told that I am too trusting. Truth is that I tend to see the best in people, and am sometimes let down by that - some times extremely let down. I do not see trusting as a fault or negative thing, as some people say. I do not view it as naivety either. In fact, I think of trust as a highly developed concept. It takes a lot of courage and much of being grounded to trust. 

I trust that there is a divine plan and even when things aren't seemingly going right or "good" as defined by some, I see the silver lining that there was a lesson or a reason that the event needed to occur to propel me to the next stage of my life. I also trust that I am a part of this consciousness and so the choices that I make are ultimately the right ones at that time and that place that I needed to make. 

I used to struggle a lot more with trusting others. When I was in corporate I didn't trust that anyone would get a job done as good as I would, so I burned myself out doing everything. It took a while to learn how to delegate, but also that by delegating I had to teach someone else the right way to do something and not assume that they would naturally do it as I would. This was a great lesson, and ultimately helped catapult me to a place where I could actually manage the staff that I had do the work that they should be doing - and not me doing it for them. In earlier relationships with boyfriends and even girl friends, I found myself doing all of the work too. I would be the one to initiate contact, make plans, and ensure that all parties knew what was happening where and when. Fact is that I still do a lot of that because I enjoy it. But, I have loosened up the reigns and now leave it to other people to sometimes contact me. And when they don't, I go about my day doing other things. And when we do get together, it is always magical. 

Trusting others is a highly developed thing. And I have found that one key is to surround myself with positive energy and light at all times. This way I attract more positivity. I've cleansed myself of the many people who I allowed to betray me and created a more supportive network of people so that I feel good about trusting them. I realize this does not make me impervious to potential issues, but I don't dwell on it or live in it. I simply do not have the time. I choose instead to develop a sense of trust in all things...and look at the silver linings throughout.

This past September on our trip to Peru, we found ourselves in the middle of a potential situation with a strike. We were bound to our hotel one day that we were supposed to be visiting power places and were not sure if we would be able to leave and gain access to the train to Machu Picchu the next day either. I wasn't worried about it, though. I knew that we were all in the right places, doing what we all needed to do. And, as it turned out, we had a lovely day and made it to Machu Picchu earlier than anticipated the following day, avoiding a lot of issues involved in the strike. I am a firm believer in trusting. And I have found that in more cases than not, it has brought me some very unexpected and wonderful things.  
In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Yoga Practice - it may not be what you may think

In what seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I had a very active and powerful yoga practice. After taking my teacher training with Baron Baptiste I was on a power yoga trip that inflated my ego and had me pushing my students in crazy ways on the mat - which reflected what I was doing for myself. People seemed to like it and that made me feel even more powerful about how I was teaching and practicing. My body was the strongest it had ever been in my entire life and postures like arm balances and fancy twists seemed to come very easy to me. Around this time I lost some people very close to me unexpectedly, and I began to make some very poor choices. I was not living a yogic life at all. I was living a life based out of fear that it may not be there the next moment - and I was determined to do whatever I wanted.
Me...back in the day...

And then my appendix burst.

My body literally said, "stop this shit right now, or I'm gonna kill you."

Recovery time was slow. I couldn't even sit up out of a chair, let alone get on my yoga mat. People were telling me that I should practice Restorative Yoga, but that wasn't what I wanted to hear. So I did nothing. When I went back to teaching, I taught off the mat primarily, and struggled to find the right voice because something felt off about what I was teaching. I wasn't feeling very powerful any more, how could I teach a powerful practice? Nothing was jiving, although most of my students were thrilled that I was back and still loving my classes. But I wasn't.

At home I could barely stretch and forget about any core or uddiyana bandha for the postures that required it. I'm not sure what it was that jolted me awake or moved me forward, but one day I broke down and purchased a bolster and humbly threw down my body into Restorative postures. At first I was bored. But just like after the first power vinyasa class that I took, I did it again. And soon I was falling asleep in Restorative poses.

I had some other health scares at this time too, so I started eating better. I stopped drinking alcohol. I started to take care of myself. And, in turn, I started to see how I had been taking care of (or not taking care of) others. I didn't like what I saw. And when I was doing my yoga teacher training and talking about what it was to be a yogi, I realized I had not been practicing what I preached.

First you must understand that "yoga" is not just an asana practice. That is a but a limb or a part of yoga. And yes, it is important and needed, but not necessarily even the most important aspect of the practice. As most yoga practitioners know (conceptually) there are 8 limbs of yoga:
1. Yamas (ethical practices)
2. Niyamas (disciplines)
3. Asana (postures)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (withdraw of the senses)
6. Dharana (orienting the mind to a single point)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (merging/ becoming one being)

Together, when practiced, we cultivate yoga or union. So if a person only practices asana, they still are not practicing yoga. Yoga is practiced by cultivating all of these things - sometimes one at a time and other times together. But ultimately it is through a consistent practice that true yoga is gained. I had been focusing on two of the branches. In fact, I had been a very bad yogi. I was breaking nearly every yama and niyama in the book. Sure, my asana practice had been strong, but it was not nurturing nor mindful. And I had pretty much skipped the upper limbs entirely, thinking they might come at some time if I kept up my asana practice.

From the time I allowed myself to nurture and be more mindful of my body, my yoga practice changed. It finally became what it was intended to be: a yoga practice! I started practicing all of the limbs to the best of my ability - every day.

When I am driving to work or from work (which is an hour in each direction) I have a lot of open time. Of course I have to focus on driving, but I often find myself doing pranayama or chanting (a form of dhyana). The case for practicing the first yama - ahimsa; which is non-violence, can be made for every encounter on the road. When someone cuts me off, drives slowly in the left lane blocking traffic, or pushes up on my bumper I could react very poorly...and sometimes I still do...I never try to pretend that I am perfect. But practicing ahimsa means stopping the negative patterns of behavior (be it thoughts, words or actions) and replacing them with kind and loving ones. So whenever I can I often watch to see how changing my own energy may affect the traffic patterns and people on the road that I encounter each way. And it often does align to my own patterns of consciousness. I even wrote a story for "Elephant Journal" online a few years back about creating a meditation around driving. I find that I often do this and find myself completely absorbed in the action of driving to the point that everything else fades away and I arrive at my destination unharmed and in time as if divinely guided there.

At home I find more time to practice the yamas and niyamas - both with my family and by myself. My husband and I have been working on Satya, or truthfulness, (one of the niyamas) for years. It is something that I try to point out all the time as we discuss certain aspects of our life and if we are being completely honest and truthful in them. And there are many, many more examples of how this comes to play at home for each of the practices and disciplines.

It is said that yoga is both a natural and cultivated state. For me, Pratyahara, Dhyarana and Dhyana have all begun to happen spontaneously. In fact, the first time I actually had a connection to these was in the hospital when I was waiting to be seen by the doctors the time my appendix burst. The pain was so bad at one point that I began a deep breathing technique and gentle rocking spontaneously. This took me to a place I had never been where the pain, time, space and everything was gone - or merged - or something. Everything was white and then I "woke up" when it was time to be moved into a room. I am told this took somewhere around 45 minutes or so but it felt like just a moment to me.

By slowing my breath and becoming truly present and true, I have found that I can repeat this experience and take it even further. It only happens when I am completely present and natural - when I have let go of my mind-stuff and the moment that I am in is completely true. But I have found recently that I can do this even while talking to someone. It is really fantastic!

As for my asana practice, this has become much less aggressive. I have found tremendous power in gentle yoga practices. And it took me about five years before I could again begin to use my core for stronger Hatha practices. Now I can finally do more vinyasa and I am back to some arm balances and bigger twists, but I am coming to these poses with a different mindset. I am not doing it to prove anything - to myself or anyone else. I am not even trying to get better at them or when I am teaching to even try to encourage others to push themselves further. My asana practice is a very natural thing. I can naturally move into asanas throughout the day and often do. When I have time to roll out my mat, I do whatever feels right. There is no script and I do not try to do anything. I clear my mind and move naturally. Some times this is very gentle and other times there is more fire to the practice. But it is always an organic and natural state. And my teaching has changed to reflect this more mindful and integrated practice as well.

There are many days when my yoga practice is simply being mindful at what I am doing. Even when walking the dogs I now leave my cell phone home so that I can be present for them and the walk. I have found the walks to be much more pleasant these days.

So when people ask me how often I practice yoga, the simple answer is "every day and all the time." But the yoga that I practice is not always asana based. Although I never say "never," I cannot see myself doing a set practice every day. That just doesn't work for me and it doesn't feel natural. Every moment energy shifts and changes. So why not shift and change with it? For me, this natural state has helped me to find a deeper connection to my practice. It may not be what you think of as a practice, but it is a much stronger and more powerful one than I ever knew existed.

Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.
Tracey

Saturday, October 1, 2016

October's Theme: "HOPE"

"Hope" is our theme for October. Last month was National Recovery Month and as many of you know, we offer Yoga4Sobriety classes and teacher trainings to help those in their ongoing battle with recovery. We also offer Yoga 4 Cancer - classes that offer those healing from cancer in whatever way. Our hope is to continue to offer special classes for those suffering in any way - be it from illness or addiction - or anything else. 

The whole of the human frame, according to yoga, is about liberation from suffering, although all humans suffer in one way or another. Some yogis advise that hope only inspires more suffering, and so to give up hope means that we can move past our attachments and thus suffering. But other yogis say to never give up hope and to keep a positive attitude for tomorrow by using various yogic techniques in which to help guide us along the way. Either way, yoga gives us methods of alleviating our suffering and it is certainly up to the individual to define his/her own path.

According to the Father of Yoga, Patanjali, "Change, longing, habits, and the activity of the gunas can all cause suffering. In fact, even the wise suffer, for suffering is everywhere." Yoga Sutra II.15.

To ease suffering, yoga says to respond with equanimity to changing circumstances, longings not met and patterns that may not be serving you. It is about clearing our perception and being more connected to a quiet place of inner Self. We can do this by bringing our awareness to breath and regulating it so that it is even and smooth. While we are there, reflect on the situation that has you agitated and experience your feelings. Once you pinpoint what you are feeling, ask if you have control or not. And when you realize that you don't, practice letting go.

This type of self-awareness takes time and patience, but can be done. We are all suffering, but it really is about stopping, taking a breath, and recognizing that what matters is how we react mentally, emotionally and physically to the situation that matters. So for this month, let's all surround ourselves with positive energy and focus on the energies of hope. 
(Source: Yoga Journal: "Life HappensL the Yoga Sutras Take on Suffering").

In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff


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I wish that I could say that Hope is something that I've always had and been connected to. The truth is that like most people when I was dealing with a very challenging time, I sometimes battled with giving up on it. I often found myself wondering why something was happening to me or why God had forsaken me. It was; in fact;  a lot of "poor me." I remember one day in particular when my father told me I had to stop feeling sorry for myself because life was hard and I had to find a way to deal with it. I didn't like what he said and I certainly didn't want to hear it, but it was what I needed to hear and it stuck with me ever since. 

Of course I still have moments or days when I struggle with keeping my faith up. So I do my best to keep quiet those days and wait until it passes...which it inevitably always does. Yoga has become such a powerful tool for me to keep a positive attitude and cultivate an attitude of hope with. Before yoga I actually had no tools. With yoga, I find a place to be still and reflect without reacting. It's a way to get in touch with my "shit" and move through it intelligently and non-reactively. 

I know that many yogis talk about hope being just more attachments, but I'm not talking about hoping for a sugar-daddy to pay your bills. I'm talking about keeping a positive attitude and knowing that the moment will pass and tomorrow will be a better day. I know a lot of friends and family who literally live one day at a time - one moment at a time. They have to for their own health. That takes inner strength, self-love and hope to happen. And so I never underestimate the power of being hopeful.

I truly hope that you all have a wonderful month. Harvest season is upon us, so let's relish in all that we are grateful for cultivating and hope for a restful and nurturing winter ahead.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Knowing Your Truth

One of the themes that we discuss in all yoga trainings, workshops and practices is knowing your truth. And the biggest question that I am always asked is, "how do I know my truth."

What a very good and difficult question to answer. Each time someone asks me this I ask myself if I really know my own truth? How do I define my truth? And am I living in my truth? And in the vein of truthfulness, I must confess that I often get mixed results with the answers.

The problem with knowing our truth is that it is clouded by ego and illusion. First of all: the ego. It is defined by its separateness from Oneness. It creates our identity of singularity and the whole "I, Me, Mine" thinking. There are times in our life - as in life threatening situations - when the ego has been good for us. We needed it for survival and safety. But there are many other times when it simply gets in the way of our Understanding. Coming from ego is a very small way of thinking and being. And in a big way it often causes us many problems.



Next: Illusion. This is the demon of the 6th Chakra (third-eye). When the 3rd-eye center is closed, what we see is out of using the two physical eyes of through the ego's view. It is not based in truth because we aren't looking at the full scope of the situation. It is mired in incomplete data and therefore cannot ever show us the truth.

So what are we to do in our quest for finding our truth?

One way is by learning what is NOT true. The old method of kissing a lot of frogs before you find your prince is one way. This is a difficult method and often full of strife and drama. Its the usual method that most people begin their life with. But certainly not the methodology that one would want to continue using throughout adulthood.

Another method is by learning to connect to the body and know what FEELS either right or wrong. The saying, "I had a gut feeling," is true. THE BODY NEVER LIES. The 3rd Chakra is located in the solar plexus (abdomen) and is open when we are in balance with our ego-state. This means that we have managed to determine the difference between when we need to stand in our ego and when to let it go and honor Oneness. It is a very tricky place to be because the ego is like a strong spice: a little goes a long way, and before you know it, you've ruined the broth with too much. But if you can focus on the sensations in the gut when something arises, then with mindfulness and openness you can learn to know when something feels wrong or right. Usually knowing when something feels wrong comes first with sensations of nausea or queasiness or general unease. Then over time, you begin to identify with the lightness of the right things.

Flow is another measure of truth. You know, when you are trying so hard to make something work, but it just keeps hitting one bump after another? So, this is the absence of flow. Things are not moving naturally, but rather they are stuck or stagnated. No flow means the person, place or situation is not aligning with your greater truth. Once we can move this issue out or change it in a more positive way, then things start flowing again. And that's when you know you are back in your truth.

For many years I wondered if I was really in my truth. Some times things went well - or at least for some time. But then something would happen and things would stall, fail or worse, move backwards! And even though I try to remain positive, grounded and move from a good place - a place of love - things don't always run smoothly. In those times when I ask if I am in my truth, I sometimes encounter confusion and hesitation. My first thought is to check and see if Mercury (my ruling planet and the planet responsible for aligning the energies of communication) is in retrograde. If yes, then I blame it on that. If no, then I am forced with looking at myself. And even if it is yes, when Mercury goes direct and things still aren't aligning then guess what? Yup, back to taking personal accountability.

I have been quite fortunate recently to have encountered certain people and places that have helped me reaffirm my truth. Certain synchronistic events, happenings, and energies simply cannot be ignored for they are bigger than I. I love teaching yoga, but most of all I love helping people. Helping them feel better mentally and physically and also helping them find their light and their truth. If true yoga is self-awareness and yoking or joining together the ego with One-Consciousness, then it certainly aligns with my path and truth. But even yoga is full of rules or paths. And I can honestly say that as soon as I am told that something has to be done this way or that way, - even in order to achieve liberation and bliss - I immediately feel that gut-wrenching truth of illusion. Yes, absolutely, yoga can assist you in finding your truth. But as soon as someone tells you that there is only one true way, then you can be sure it is full of ego and illusion and has the potential to take you away instead of towards your truth. ..that is, unless that way aligns with your truth!

My step daughter recently told my husband and I that we are problem solvers. Yes! I love to put the pieces of puzzles together. In my life I have gathered pieces from everywhere: a dash of this, a sprinkle of that, and a little hocus-pocus too. Just like any nurturing concoction, I continue to gather the pieces of my own puzzle and let them marinate together. And what I am finding is that my puzzle is our puzzle. The truth behind each and every one of us is that we are limited in human form. We will only ever know the pieces. But we can conceptualize the wholeness and vastness of Reality. Many people are talking about it. Since the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, the rise of the Age of Aquarius, the awareness of the 11:11 Energies, and more, more and more people are opening up to the energies of Consciousness/Wholeness. And it is through those doorways that we will encounter our truth.

So what to do for now? For now, continue to listen to your body's wisdom and know when the ego is firing out of turn. Catch a situation that is not flowing and with courage and honesty, move the blocks that impede the flow out of the way. Slow down and start learning more about these new energies and how to unlock our truth. I'm still learning myself, but I am here to guide others. And I'll give you one simple key: at any given moment, time or situation, ask yourself when you are reacting if it is coming from a place of LOVE or FEAR. Guess what? LOVE is the path to truth. If it's not coming from that place, then it's wrong. And if it's wrong, then you can redirect the energy with mindfulness.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey


Thursday, September 1, 2016

September's Theme: " LEARN"

The month of September brings teachers back to teaching and children back to learning as schools reopen for a new school year. So our theme for September is "LEARN."

We should never stop learning. The only way we continue to grow as human beings is to learn new things. Whether you read a new book, take a course on a subject, immerse yourself into a lifestyle or learn from making mistakes, it's all a part of this process.

Since September is also National Yoga Month, maybe you can immerse yourself into a fresh yoga practice with a new perspective. When on the mat, we encourage you to try new things. Perhaps you engage different muscles while in a posture, and learn how that feels. Maybe you'll go back to a beginner mindset and take gentler classes and learn to let go and relax. In fact, one of the biggest and most important things to try and accomplish on the mat is that beginner's mindset - to let go of all that you think you know and be open to learning. The more "stuff" you hold on to, the less room you have for anything new to come in anyway.

So, for those returning to the school system for a new year of education, we say, "have a wonderful school year!" And to those who are not, seek another way to learn something new. And on our part, we will continue to teach you new aspects of yoga throughout the classes at One Yoga Center.

In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff


When I sit down to write the monthly newsletter I pull an "OM" card which has one word on it for our theme. I made the cards myself, which gives them more energy and intuition. So, when I sat down to write for September and "Learn" came up, it was another continued validation of these energies.

Of course it makes sense that September is about learning - it's when schools reopen. In my mind, September begins a new year. It feels more appropriate to me than January ever did, but that's probably because most of us grew up going back to school then and everything changes in a big way. This year marks my 30th High School reunion, if you can believe it! Wow, the time flown by!

I never really enjoyed learning in high school or college. I was an average student who didn't try really hard either. I just did what I had to to get by. Now as an adult, I crave learning new things. I am currently enrolled in an online program by Sanskrit scholar Christopher Tompkins on the Tantric Origins of Hatha Yoga, and finding some new and exciting information that I will soon be able to share with my students. Once I found something I was truly interested and excited about, then learning became less of a chore and more of a wonderful gift to give myself. I admit, I do not always have an open amount of time to dedicate to learning something, but I try to do something for my education once a year - whether it is taking other yoga classes or workshops, traveling somewhere new or learning something online.  

When we stop learning - we stop growing as human beings. I, for one, do not want to let that happen to me. So, cheers to continued learning - even for old folks like me.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

Monday, August 1, 2016

August Theme: SURRENDER

"You surrender to a lot of things which are not worthy of you. I wish you would surrender to your RADIENCE...your INTEGRITY...your beautiful human GRACE.
- Yogi Bhajan

I am a control freak. There it is. It's out there and I've released it to you all. I try to organize, manage, coordinate, and control everything because for most of my life everyone has allowed me to. How's it all working out for me? Not so great, really. Relative successes are usually followed by monumental failures. I know this and I'm working on it. Maybe you can relate (especially if you are a woman...or a Gemini).

When I first came to the path of yoga and learned about Surrender, it went against almost everything in my life that I'd been working on. I was a single, young female in a management position, fighting for a place of respect amongst the men (and women) of the company who just simply didn't give women the same level as men. I moved out on my own and was paying all my bills and coordinating social events and managing most of my friend's lives as well. "Surrender?" I questioned. "What kind of crap is that!?" Ah, but then I started to realize that the control that I thought I had was really all an illusion. I had no real control. Just when I thought I had things covered the Universe would pull the rug out from under me. Just when I had all my ducks in order, one would fly off somewhere to parts unknown. And I would chase it. I would run it down, even, trying to get it back. But alas, that never worked out very well either. No, I was starting to realize that there was great wisdom in this surrender idea. And so I started to go with it...well, a little bit anyway. 

I've come to realize that when my life is flowing it is when I am in alignment with my truth and thus the greater Consciousness of the Universe. When things are not flowing, usually I am forcing something unnatural or untrue to happen. So, here I am, a control freak working on surrender, with some success and some failures. Maybe one day I can tell you I've let that go too...work in progress!
In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

* * * * * * *

This month we invite you to dive into our theme of "Surrender."

For those of you on summer break this may seem like a peace of cake, but perhaps really allow yourself to digest the concept of full surrender - what it means when you give up your ego's need to control any situation or outcome, and relish in the Divine, knowing that the Universe has your back and wants you to be happy, and as long as you align to your truth with integrity that this One Consciousness that you are a great part of will align to conspire to allow energy to flow with grace into and through your life. 

Some people perceive surrender as giving up your personal power. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Surrender is empowerment. Surrender is aligning fully with the greater consciousness and knowing that everything that is happening is happening at the right time and the right place and in the right way. And when we find this alignment, this is truly powerful.

Think of something in your life that is not working out so good. How are you fighting against it? How are you unknowingly putting out negative energy and waisting valuable time working against the natural energies around you? How could you better serve yourself to surrender...detach...let go? As you walk through this month keep asking these questions. This is also the final niyama in Patanjali's Yoga SutrasIshvara-Pranidhana, so practice brings you closer on the path of yoga.

Some of us have a lot to think about and work on this month...

In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

Closing Comments...

"We can call it Inspiration, Source, God, Spirit, Oneness, Creative Force or Love. The Divine is both manifest in all things material and unmanifest as pure Consciousness. Ultimately it does not matter what we choose to call it. What matters is that we become so immersed in it that we know ourselves as it. Our love simply becomes love. Our light simply becomes light. And our dedication becomes wholehearted devotion by recognizing the sacred in all that is within and around us...When we attune to the energy of love and walk through the world seeing everything and everyone as part of the One, we experience unparalleled levels of well-being and joy." - Jennie Lee "True Yoga"

What is not flowing in your life at this moment?

Where are you fighting to keep an old energy that so much wants to release?

How can you connect with the Creative Force and fully Surrender?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guru Purnima 2016 - Honoring Your Teacher(s)

Back in 2013 I wrote a short blog about Guru Purnima, inspired by my recent visit with Amma, most commonly known as the "hugging mother." When we are in the close proximity of a truly great teacher we can feel their compassion, love and empathy. This was my case in the brief moment that I met Amma (link to the blog here: http://oneyogaandwellnesscenter.blogspot.com/2013/07/guru-purnima-celebrating-your-guru.html). But that feeling of being around a wise being is like no other. Finding the right words to describe that feeling is a challenge and often I find that I cannot write about it truly because no words will give it the true understanding.

Last March while in Bali I read Krishna Das' book Chants of a Lifetime. His devotion to his guru, Sri Neem Karoli Baba, continues today long after his guru's death and he writes so profoundly of what it is like being in the presence of these great teachers:

"We want to be near these great beings because of the love, but anything inside us that can burn will start burning. Everything that is hidden is going to show. Being around him, I became more aware of the stuff that took me out of the love; my thoughts, desires and emotions, which were running totally out of control, came between us. Drawn by the power of his love, like moths to a flame, the other devotees and I were purified by that fire. There was nowhere to get away from it. And we didn't want to get away. We wanted to be in that love, but in order to be in that love, our stuff had to burn away. The process still continues in a different way"(pg. 36).

I'm sure that not everyone has felt this deep devotion to a teacher. My brief encounter with Amma showed me that it was possible, but I still could not say that I am devoted to her as a disciple.

When I think back of my many teachers: school teachers, work mentors, and yoga teachers, I have learned so many little things from so many people that when I honor Guru Purnima, I honor every soul that has ever touched me, really. Because there is not one that I can say did not teach me something in some way.

Blessings on Guru Purnima. Who is the teacher that you honor today?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Building Community - Your Extended Family

When I found the current location of One Yoga Center in the center of Hightstown Borough, one of my first thoughts was that of excitement over building and belonging to a community. Even though East Windsor had been a welcoming and wonderful home for so many years, the neighborhood feel of our current location was one that I welcomed. Fast forward six months in the studio and with the warmer weather allowing me to create a beautiful, inviting porch for folks to sit and chat on before and after classes, we are slowly building that community feel. The addition to the various groups such as: Book Club, Goddess Gatherings, and Drum Circles has allowed us to offer special free, by donation or at a low fee to the community and I continue to look for ways in which to build upon those efforts.

With life being as busy as it seems to have gotten for everyone, I know that I do not get to see my own family very much. In June we took our yearly family vacation with my husband and two daughters and it was such a nice week of re-connecting through some seriously needed down time (although we did do 108 Sun Salutations together on the Summer Solstice and trekked to the top of a pyramid for a meditation in releasing unwanted energy - so I guess I was still "working" a little). Then last week I got the chance to have my youngest niece with me for the week since she is off for the summer. While it was more work than I'm used to, it was great having more time with my family and brought me together with other members in different ways that week as well.

One Yoga Center has been my extended family since inception. All of the students, practitioners and friends who have come through the door and made OYC their home and me a part of their family has fulfilled me in so many ways that I continue to look for ways in which to repay you back. And I have realized, as you may have too, that even though I love my immediate family deeply, that we do not all have the same interests and hobbies, and having an extended family in which to provide more support in my endeavors has come to mean the world to me. I feel like I may be saying the same thing over again in different ways, but that is because I truly feel blessed for the friends and extended family that I have made through the years of teaching yoga, doing massage, and offering other workshops on energy and positive intentions.

I believe that we all need to build our extended family support groups. Whether you are close with your immediate family or blood relatives or not, you need friends and like-minded individuals to support your spiritual and emotional growth...because God knows, our immediates sure know how to push our buttons (but then, we allow them to).

If you are looking for a support group or are interested in guiding one at OYC, contact me to discuss the possibilities. We usually need to have one of our teachers there representing the studio, but we have a lot already involved in some activities that we offer now. Maybe you aren't familiar with the various groups or special classes that we have - so here is a short list of our ever growing support groups for our extended family:

Book Club - Once a month or every other month, we host a free book club meeting. Our books are spiritual in nature, but not necessarily related to yoga. All have positive and inspiring themes. Led by Barbara Galluci and Donna Aleckna, these meet from time to time and anyone is welcome to attend and discuss the book.

"Community" Hatha - we offer two yoga classes a week for those on a budget in the local community. For $5 you can take a 60-minute yoga classes guided by our various teachers or teacher trainees. Check the regular class schedule, but right now we offer them on Monday evening at 7:30pm and Friday at 5:45 pm.

Drum Circles - We are trying to host a monthly drumming circle. You do not need to be a drummer or have any experience drumming. This is a great way to come together learning tribal rhythms. Build upon our tribe and join us. Cost: $25 Instructed by Vincent Pierce-Smith

Goddess Gatherings - Once a month we host a Goddess Gathering where women come to gather and support each other in their life cycles. Together we create sacred space, share our stories, then bring in various "Goddess" energies to invoke to support us on our path to Spiritual and Emotional health and well being. These are by donation to offer something to the studio. Hosted by Tracey L. Ulshafer, founder OYC.

Yoga 4 Cancer - this disease affects so many that we offer a special class Wednesdays at 11:30 pm for anyone involved in treatment or recovery of cancer or who may be dealing with a loved one going through or who had been through cancer treatment. These classes are $8 and instructed by Barbara Galluci and Suzette Stoddard.

Yoga 4 Sobriety - we host special classes for those involved in any 12-step programs. These are usually $8 classes and can be found on our regular class schedule. Right now we offer them Wednesday 6 am and Saturday 8 am. The yoga classes are aligned to the 12 steps of recovery and can be taken by anyone. Instructed by Gwen Rebbeck & Joe Scarola.

Most of the special group gatherings can be found on the "Calendar" page on our website:
http://oneyogacenter.net/calendar.php

If you are interested in seeing another special community event, please let me know by emailing me at Info@oneyogacenter.net.

Thank you for continuing to support the growing community at One Yoga Center. And look for even more things coming in 2017!!!
In Love & Light.
Tracey

Friday, July 1, 2016

July Theme: FREEDOM

"Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known even existed." 
- B.K.S. Iyengar
Freedom to me is having the ability to wake up late, drink a hot cup of chai in my meditation garden as my dogs meander about licking the dew off the grass, and make my own choices on how my day is going to unfold...knowing the sometimes, the Universe will have its own set of plans for my day.

While my schedule is jam packed with work related activities, I am blessed in the job that I have and the ability to create the hours that I am willing to spend doing it. This past month I was plagued with great fatigue that I just couldn't shake. I began taking supplements, started eating more veggies and getting more sleep. But I just couldn't shake it. Something was "off." I finally came to the realization that some of the commitments to my time that I have made, were not in my best interest. And this forced me to look at my schedule and make some changes. After that and performing some energy clearings, I am back to feeling more vital and charged...and energetically more free.

Finding that balance is often challenging and I usually find myself overdoing it - that's what freedom allows me to do - too much! So I have started to embrace not filling up my time as much and enjoying the free moments that I have. Maybe this month you can do the same and create more freedom and space for yourself to just be.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center

* * * * * * *

July 4th may have become synonymous with BBQ's, trips to the shore and having a day off of work, but like most "holidays" there is a deeper and richer meaning behind the day. 

I think that we all know that July 4th is our Independence Day. This date in 1776 the first continental congress adopted the Decoration of Independence and our country has been celebrating that day and our independence over England ever since. But this month we want to dig a little bit deeper into the true essence of the word "Freedom." 

What does it mean to truly be free? Are you really free? How could you create more freedom in your life? More freedom in your body? More freedom in your mind? More freedom to truly express who you are and what you are born to be? Have you created your own limitations to this freedom? The questions can go on and on.

In your yoga practices this month, consider where you can find more freedom - how you can become more light. And we will be here to guide you through the experience.

In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

* * * * * * *

Closing Comments...

Have you become a slave to your job? Your family? Your world? Have you created your own prison that limits your ability to truly be free? 

In the immortal words of Tyler Durden (Fight Club), "The things you own end up owning you."

Or for you more determined yogis out there, "Those whose consciousness is unified abandon all attachment to the result of action and attain supreme peace. But those whose desires are fragmented, who are selfishly attached to the result of their work, are bound in everything they do." - Bhagavad Gita.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Int'l Yoga Day - June 21: What Does Yoga Mean to You?

Tuesday June 21 is International Yoga Day. It was declared so by the Indian Prime Minister, the Honorable Mr. Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014. At the address he stated, "Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition." Well, this has certainly been the case, hasn't it?

The debate over the age of yoga goes on. Some say it is 6,000 years old. Others say that the type of yoga most practiced today, Hatha Yoga, has origins from about 1000 A.D. through various tantric texts. Whether you believe its origins predate any written knowledge or that it was created relatively recently, doesn't really matter. Either way you slice it, yoga is the oldest form of self-development in the world, and it continues to grow in popularity today because even after all the time that it has been around - it still works.

Most yoga teachers agree that the "goal" of yoga is that of Self-Realization: that yoga is not an exercise or a means of creating a healthy body, but; rather, it is a path to God that ultimately leads you back to your own Divine presence. Yet today there is an overwhelming focus on the physical aspects of yoga. And that is a shame, because the real growth that one achieves through the practice comes from a deeper understanding of the philosophies and the ability in which to actively bring them to life in your own world. 

Yes, I began my yoga journal through the physical practice. As many of my students know, it was to help alleviate the daily pain of a compression fracture that I have in my spine. But it did not take too long for me to start incorporating the many other facets of yoga into my life. And today, while I do practice asana, it is not the main focus of my yoga practice. I have moved my focus to many of the other limbs of yoga and to the subtler aspects of Prana. And I have to say, it is a very challenging daily practice. Part of the change of focus has stemmed from an initial drive to understand more about the practice of yoga and also in an effort to restore my body from various traumas and physical issues. Again, either way I slice it, yoga is the main daily focus of my life.

My day begins with my own morning mantras to establish the energy that I want to create that day. I sit and do breathing techniques, chant, and meditate for as long as my dogs will allow me to! (not kidding). Then due to my crazy schedule, I may head straight to work to teach a morning Hatha yoga class, or I may work around the house before heading in to teach a later class. I usually only have one or two days off work a week, and even on those days I am creating yoga classes, workshops and trainings. If I have time I read during the day in my Buddha room (this should have been the formal living room, but I couldn't see a use for that so I put some comfy chairs in a room with a ton of Buddha statues and that's where I like to read, meditate, and relax). Most of the books that I read are yoga or mindfulness related. So I continue to educate myself to the aspects of yoga through the eyes and interpretations of others. The rest of my time usually goes towards taking my dogs on a nice, long walk without my phone and then returning to my home office for marketing for the studio. So, yoga, yoga, and more yoga. My down time from yoga occurs pretty much when my husband comes home and we catch up with each other, have dinner, and sit down to relax for the evening. Other than that, yoga is pretty much my life and I couldn't even imagine a day without it in some way.

I am interested in knowing what yoga means to you. Because what yoga means to me is everything. Yoga is my way of managing life. Yoga helps my body stay flexible and strong - even when I cannot do some of the things that I would really like to. At least I know that without it, I would be a lot worse off. Yoga keeps my mind clear and focused so that I can keep working on more ways to share the practice with my students but also so that I can enjoy my life with family and friends by continuing to focus not he positive aspects of life. Through yoga I have gained a clear interconnectedness with Spirit, and through that connection, I have found a path of love and light. But enough about me...what does yoga mean to you?

Namaste.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June's Theme: AWAKEN

When I pulled the "Awaken" card for this month's theme I thought, "Of course!" This is a process that I have been moving through rapidly this past year, as I listen more to my higher self and less to my ego. And man, it is not always that easy!

When I first started teaching yoga I came across a quote from Thomas Paine, "The mind, one enlightened, cannot again become dark." And this explains exactly the nature of why ignorance can present as bliss. But the truth of the matter is that true bliss comes from enlightenment. And that means, we all have a lot of work to do! And thus: Awaken! becomes the mantra of the month.

I wouldn't expect it to happen overnight, however. I would just start being more open to the fact that you don't know it all. Or, as another great man once said, "The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing." Socrates said that but, I learned it from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, like most people who grew up on 80's movies.

And that brings me to my last point: Have Fun. It is easy to get overwhelmed when on the process of Awakening. But that goes against Universal laws...like your right to party. I learned that from the Beastie Boys...or was that Abraham Lincoln? Oh well, I'm getting old and I am trying to Awaken here! Peace out.

In Love, Service & Wisdom.
Tracey L. Ulshafer,
Founder/Director, One Yoga Center 

* * * * * * *

What does it mean to "Awaken?" Well it's pretty simple, actually: it means to rouse or activate. In basic terms, think of every night when you fall asleep. At some point you wake-up and are suddenly aware that there is life in you and happening all around you. On a deeper level, it means to activate the higher levels of consciousness available to you. 

Yes, some of us are walking around in a fog of duality, completely unaware that there is a deeper, more resonate vibration in which to feel and become one with. Through this vibration we can tap into our unlimited potential and move into the new reality, which transcends time, space, ego and duality. 

Now if that seems just way too "new agey" and "out there" for you, then think of this: the Universe and all that is with in, including you, are One. One Consciousness vibrating (OM) together in light and for positive good. Yes, the Universe wants you to be happy and fruitful and vibrant. Yet we can sometimes get weighed down by the ego and stuck in our ruts. When life stops moving forward in a positive direction, then you are in this rut. And nobody wants to live in that rut! So, this month we challenge you to AWAKEN! 

Release all the negativity that does not serve your spirit. Reduce time spent with negative vibrations (including people, places and things). Replace fear with love. Pause before you react to anything. And always ask, "Am I coming from a place of love?" Awaken to the unlimited potential within and without.

In Love & Light.
OYC Founder, Tracey L. Ulshafer & your OYC Teaching Staff

* * * * * * *

Closing Comments...

To Awaken there has to be a willingness to let go...
to let go of who you are, who you were, who they tell you that you are, and who you think you are...
To Awaken you need to be willing to become who you were truly meant to be.