The Yoga Journal recently wrote an article, "LiveBe Yoga: Our 10 Favorite Stops in Detroit" which mentions our studio in response to the event tour earlier this spring. Their facts about the studio and Caren are not 100% accurate, but worth a quick read!
Yoga studios are popping up everywhere, which is amazing. We are seeing, hearing and experiencing all kinds of hybrids from acro, SUP (standup paddleboard), and hip-hop, to beer/wine tasting and even goat therapy yoga!
What are you practicing and is it yoga?
The more important question to ask yourself is do you truly want to grow and evolve on every level; physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual? How does one measure the success of their yoga practice? One of my yoga teachers years ago, who was recently featured on a yoga magazine cover, would say in class, “you measure the success of your yoga practice by the length of your breath.”
What a beautiful and untrue sentiment.
Mastering every kind of pranayama out there will never master the mind. The mind is what masters the breath. Controlled breathing temporarily calms and energizes the body, creating a more conducive environment to think clearly. If you've been told or believe that yoga practice is about deep breathing and posing, then yes it would make sense to think you are practicing yoga.
Yoga comes from the root word “yuj” which means to yoke, join, bind, unite. To join with what? Your real Self. Not the self we think of or have come to know, not our flesh and bones, perceptions, actions, emotions, thoughts, gender, religion, job, or any of the roles we play in our lives. The Self, with a capital S, refers to your higher Self within. Synonyms for the Self are divinity, light, potential, Godhood, or whatever transcendental name you prefer. The mere meaning of Yoga assumes we are separated or divorced from our true Self. Yoga brings us back home to where we belong, to the Self. The scriptures tell us that this is the point of life! Anything we take up that moves us closer to our Self is yoga, PERIOD. If goat or float yoga, straps, blocks, or swinging from silks does this, so be it. Is it though? Is our so called “yoga practice” really getting us to our higher Self or is it getting us more entangled with our material layers and caught up in the mundane world, and how can we tell? Are we going in circles as we hop around to every studio and class for a better deal, latest style, best personality, flow, or playlist, who can get us off, or the studio that can make us sweat the most? Perhaps we are just spiritual shopping, going everywhere else but inside ourselves. Spiritual growth cannot be measured physically. The only way to gain the Self, which is a state called enlightenment or Self realization, is to remove all that is in the way. What stands between us and our real Self are desires. The practice and process of eradicating desires is called yoga.
Desires veil the Self. In every religion, they are what stand between us and our Godhood. Etymologically religion and yoga have the same meaning! They both were designed to bring us back to our origin. Funny how WE humans took these practices and messed them both up.
Here is an equation: desires - human = God and God + desires = human.
The goal of yoga is to remove all our desires to get to our true Self within. If a yoga pose could get us there, that would be wonderful. But it doesn’t, and yet in our Western culture this is the main focus. The poses will aid your physical health, which is an essential prerequisite for spiritual evolution, but will never get rid of desires. We believe that a means to an end is an end itself and it’s time we wake up if we really want to grow.
This may be news to your ears, even though you have taken innumerable yoga classes and perhaps even yoga teacher training! The teacher and knowledge will appear when one truly wants it.
If you are still reading...you want to know the truth.
According to the ancient yogis, Hinduism and the scriptures, human beings came into the world from our past unfulfilled desires. We can spend our lives increasing our desires moving away from our Self or decreasing desires and moving towards our Self. The choice is ours. Enlightenment is a state of desirelessness. We are not born enlightened. Because of this we feel a void within. That void is our unknowing/ignorance of our Self. This void within causes our thoughts to flow towards the world to fill it up! The thought currents are called desires. Initially it may feel good to fulfill a desire, but no sooner fresh ones spring up. How do we get out of this cycle?
Yoga, just like everything else, seems to be slipping so far away from its roots that it has lost its meaning and has become a mockery. People sell poses and meditation as they are the easiest to communicate and make money off of. Meditation is the highest practice, top rung on the spiritual ladder, yet the masses who are not even close to being prepared for it are meditating! Just because you feel good after yoga, open up your hips, shed some tears, get in touch with various emotions, finally nail a pose after months of effort, or sit quietly ohming does not mean you are practicing yoga or meditating! There is nothing wrong or bad about any of the above. Building our bodies, increasing our awareness, confidence, patience, and compassion are beneficial but will not burn desires...
So what now?
We educate ourselves on the subject.
We have three marvelous equipments; body, mind and intellect. There is a yoga practice for all three!
- Karma yoga, yoga of action, was prescribed to the body.
- Bhakti yoga, yoga of devotion, was prescribed to the mind.
- Jnana yoga, yoga of knowledge, was prescribed to the intellect.
These three disciplines must be practiced daily in the correct proportion, according to your nature, to dissolve desires and eventually gain the Self. When desires are gone, all that is left is YOU, the Self. Physical yoga breathing and postures are meant to keep our body healthy and fit enough to do the three yogas above! Most students remain stuck in physical exercises achieving nothing more than physical gains. If that is all you want than you have no problem. But if you think you are practicing yoga, think again. You may have your yoga face on during class and after, but how long does that last? How long does it take to agitate you, for stress to build back up and to need yoga class again?
- Using our body to serve is called karma yoga. This means to be of service! If you open the door for someone or let them pass in front of you, you’re practicing karma yoga! Karma yoga has nothing to do with a pose. However, if your body is unfit you won’t be able to serve anyone so that is what asana and pranayama is for!
- Using our mind to be aware of divinity splashed everywhere is bhakti. You can practice this anywhere. While getting out of your car, take a look up at the sky and notice how incredible it is. Notice the change of seasons, humanity, everything and anything. Being in awe, followed by a feeling of gratitude is bhakti. No need to chant for inspiration, although if it works do it!
- Using our intellect to contemplate on higher values of life is called jnana yoga. Study and reflection, meaning your own thinking, on true knowledge from the scriptures. When we take the time to reflect upon, absorb, and apply eternal values of life and living directly to our lives, this is jnana!
The three yogas are a methodical way to gain the Self. How you measure your yoga practice is by measuring your desires and sanity! When you have a bundle of desires you will be agitated or stressed and your senses will run towards the world for pleasures while the world pulls you in. When your desires decrease, so do agitations. As you turn more introverted, you need less from everyone and what the world has to offer. Joy automatically increases as well as clarity of thought, objectivity, and an overall sense of peace!
This is just the beginning.
If you want to learn more check out EnSoul Yoga. Our study groups and teacher trainings help to educate on this topic. Going straight to the source is always best. For the true masters visit vedantaworld.org and vedantamidwest.org. We have a teacher right here in Detroit, Amit Kinikar.
Here’s to practicing yoga!
In order to evolve ourselves both materially and spiritually, besides following the guidelines of Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana yoga (another blog for another day), we must CHOOSE a field of activity, a JOB, that aligns with our nature/personality. In Sanskrit, the term is, svadharma, meaning one’s own nature. Activities opposing one’s nature, termed paradharma, impedes material and spiritual growth. One knows if they are following their svadharma by their material and spiritual progression.
Are you moving forward at your place of work; being paid accordingly and appropriately; gaining more peace and happiness in general; functioning at high levels; and experiencing less anxiety, stress and agitation on a daily basis? Even if you're not interested in spiritual advancement, it is still worth taking part in svadharmic actions!
Paradhamric action is akin to running up the sand dunes, which I recently tried to no avail at Sleeping Bear Dunes. You may get there eventually, but it’s harder, tiresome and frustrating! Svadharmic action is akin to running down the sand dunes; freeing, fun, and gaining momentum! A better example, from the masters on the subject, is the difference between a tailwind, and headwind… Please do not QUIT your job today because of an epiphany! However, for success, prosperity, AND spiritual growth, following svadharma is a necessary prerequisite.
We can argue about how joining the family business is your duty, an easy way to make a living; your choice to go to medical school and become a doctor because your parents encouraged you, even paid the way; perhaps you wanted to be wealthy and you’ve achieved this; you’re super intelligent and now raking in the dough; or that all humans can be anything they want and have the capacity to change themselves in any way… This all may be true. But, are you happy to go to work every day? Do you have an attitude of service and sacrifice? Are you cheerful, grateful, thriving, more peaceful, less stressed, popping out of bed ready to go, eager to start again, resting easy at night, and able to fall asleep without drugging yourself? Reflect upon these questions. Human beings are meant to progress and evolve to their greatest of heights. To ensure this happens, let’s DO that which lines up with who we are.
Who are we? Well that is a loaded question! Let’s keep it simple for the sake of this topic. We are human beings who can do a lot! We all have distinct personalities, inclinations and tendencies that have been consistent from childhood till now. What are they? These do not define us, they let us know our nature. We can utilize this information to lead us into a proper work category and environment for our life’s development.
From childhood on I was artistic, creative, introverted, athletic, coordinated, and had a big stage presence. In high school I fell in love with yoga because it calmed my anxiety, felt good, and made me think about myself and life on a deeper level. My growth was stunted in my first year at Michigan State University. It’s vastness ate me up. I was lost, became depressed, gained weight, and my grades went south. An art class saved me. It was quiet with one-on-one instruction and I was good at it:) This awareness lead me straight to art school. At least I knew enough to attend a smaller school and study a subject that aligned with my nature! At Ringling School of Art and Design, in Florida, I reconnected with myself, and excelled. Next was Otis College of Art and Design in California, where I obtained my BFA. Smaller was better! Because of this, I found my way back to yoga, and took it to another level.
While living in Los Angeles for four years, I discovered a new love and gift that came effortlessly; teaching yoga. Coincidentally my brother, Eric Paskel, also discovered the same gift! When he opened up a yoga studio in Michigan, I moved back home and began my yoga career! It started off great for my material and spiritual maturation. When one studio turned into two, three, four and more, my role drastically changed. I did not fully understand or accept why I felt so overwhelmed and disconnected, nor that I pushed myself into too many paradharmic actions.
This leads to the second tier of svadharma; that not only what we DO, but WHERE and WHO we do it with, is just as important. A disagreement amongst owners and a huge shift in the company's direction woke my ass up! Once their vision took a 180 degree turn, it forced me to exit. Actually I was fired. They knew I wouldn't roll over and do as they wanted. I’m a team player when the team stands for something I believe in, otherwise not so much. There is nothing wrong with company x. There was something wrong with me working for it, as it no longer lined up with my beliefs, morals, values or higher goals in life. Time to do the right thing.
I opened EnSoul Yoga in Ferndale, Oct. 8th, 2016. In one month of being open the studio already feels like home, not just for me, but that is the word on the street! A student wrote, “EnSoul Yoga studio feels like I am walking into a giant hug”. I’ve created and built conducive job and environment to ensure my material and spiritual growth with the higher intention of generating a space for others to realize their truth and potential within.
My connection with my staff and students is on a whole new level in such a short time! Why? Because for me, bigger isn’t always better. Yes, I may open more EnSoul Yoga studios. Yes, I want to expand. EnSoul’s mission is much bigger than me. Now I know where I stand; what I stand for; my boundaries; and my nature!
Sometimes we do not know that we are stuck or involved in actions and environments that are paradharmic, until we get out of them... If we are not rising up, up, and up, something's not right. If we are more agitated, something's not right. If we are devolving on ANY level, something’s not right. Are we moving toward greater heights or away from them? Are we initiating more peace and harmony within and around, or less?
If we are not going upwards on every level, be it material or spiritual as human beings are meant to do, then what are we doing? Let’s support our evolution by honoring our nature, CHOOSING what is best for us, and going for it!
WHO eats the WRAPPER?!
Yoga without philosophy is like eating a Hershey kiss with the wrapper still on. It just isn't right and tastes like crap! Who would eat the foil? Right?! Who wouldn’t take the time to unwrap the kiss to get to the sweetness? Only someone who doesn’t know better… Anyone who knows the chocolate is inside unwraps the candy!
When I began practicing yoga, I did not know the treat that was inside of myself. My body was just a covering, a foil. I thought the poses were the chocolate. So, I kept doing them over and over while my mind remained the same. I was full of agitation until I discovered the philosophical teachings from sacred ancient scriptures, the eternal truths of life laid down in Vedanta.
Without a doubt the physical yoga was and continues to be valuable. However, the purpose of asanas is to wake us up, get us thinking, and inspire a further investigation of ourselves and life. A strong and healthy body is essential for optimal function and a prerequisite for spiritual evolution. Without higher knowledge, we are just posing. We won’t get to experience, or taste, the most delicious part of yoga -- our soul!
I worked at a company for over eleven years. They chose to continue chewing on the wrapped candy. And, this is why I left and am opening my yoga studio. Now that I know what is within the foil, I recognize the value of the wrapper but more importantly the sweetness of the candy within.
I know where I stand and where the truth is found. I know what not to throw away. Vedanta philosophy has saved my life many times over. It continues to do so as I study, reflect and live by those principles. I vow to carry this message!
you deserve the tasty treat
My intention is to spread the knowledge, keep teaching in this manner and give the knowledge away. Otherwise, you can visit most any studio to just get the foil. Don’t you feel that? YOU deserve the tasty treat inside?
Rest assured, all our classes are fun, juicy, and a great workout. But, they also have food for thought to further develop our self and to help us work through our life challenges and changes. Remember: the most important part of yoga is that everything we need is, has always been, and forever will be inside of us. Yoga is merely a process to get acquainted and connected with that treat: the spirit, soul, within. ENSOUL!
Due to legal entanglements, I had to change the name of my yoga studio. The why does not matter. There is a long story that is unnecessary information to disclose at this time. The new name has deep meaning and hopefully resonates with you as much as with me, as we are in this together. The studio is just a conduit for a community to build up, grow, and have a home to practice and share love, spiritual education, and inspiring classes led by qualified, compassionate, and honest teachers.
Ensoul Yoga, formerly known as Electric Soul Yoga MI, is our new name. Ensoul means to place, receive or cherish within the soul. The soul is the real treat--the only piece in you, me, and one-and-all that persists.
Layers upon layers envelop our soul. These layers are always changing while the soul survives. As Ensoul Yogis, we are survivors, electric, energetic, awake, aware, active, soulful, silly, intense, and driven. We stand for the higher eternal truths of life upon which yoga is founded. These values are tried and true; they are the real deal. The name is a reminder and a representation that everything is changing except the true light within us. This is our pursuit, our yoga, our soul, and the true treat.
Our SOUL is who we are. ENSOUL YOGA is a place where we practice. Here’s to rising above a name and unwrapping the true treat to find the sweetness inside.
Aho & namaste!
When we come to a roadblock do we give up or find another way? We are equipped with a body, mind, intellect, past knowledge, experience, information, and intelligence. Most likely we have access to a phone, support system, map, Google, or a navigation system. How the heck could we truly be blocked? There is always another way through, around or out. It is up to us.
A building for my yoga studio location fell through. (Is that so?) While there were some tears, fears, and refunds, I carried on, stayed the course, and took the right actions that landed in a better building and location. “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” Alexander Graham Bell.
I'mma Die Tryin'
Yoga philosophy, particularly Vedanta, taught me to pitch up a higher goal in life beyond my selfish interest. The goal should be in line with one’s nature/personality/tendencies, take into account the greater good, and must be seen through to the very end. Falling short is not failure; it is progress. Like CeeLo Green sings, “I'd ever stop now, I'mma die tryin', I'mma die tryin' And sometimes I get weak from walking the road I'm on, But I'mma keep on, I'mma die tryin'....” What we think is a block might just be an opportunity to build ourselves up, use our resources within and around us, gain strength, steadfastness, perseverance and to rise above!
Doing what is right, to attain higher goals in life, is bittersweet. It is much easier to fold and take the easy route, staying in what seems to be comfortable, safe and provides a steady paycheck. I made a good living, I had many offers thereafter, but the consequences were too grave. It would mean sacrificing who I am, what I stand for, and my own evolution as a human being. Life changes every moment and so do we. How we change is in our own hands, for the better or the worse. Transitions can be quite sticky but we do not have to get stuck! Move forward, do the right thing, it will always be the best move.
The Secret of Change
“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Socrates. I have grown leaps and bounds, become more at peace, less agitated and stressed. Along the way, I found out who’s who, what I am truly made of, and that I am much better off! I won’t stop until I get there. A building that falls through is not the universe telling me that I should go backwards, or cave in. It was a problematic building, landlord and management company that created a roadblock. When life gives us a roadblock, it is what we make of it that matters. We thrive by choosing to focus on what we can change rather than what we cannot. It takes wisdom to know the difference.
The true roadblocks are our own fears, laziness, inability to handle our own emotions, take the pressure or criticism, let our pride get the best of us, throwing in the towel when things get tough, things become harder than we thought, someone says no to us, cuts us off, disappoints or threatens us, or more money is needed... Whatever be the case, my gurus taught me to stay the course and I will get where I need to go. Swamiji says, "Just be in the struggle… Do what you ought to do in life. Go about it in an independent spirit, Work then becomes a pleasure." Roadblocks and building blocks are just openings and opportunities for us to step up to the plate to keep going! .
The community of Electric Soul Yoga has already begun to come together within my own soul and the souls of others… Our electricity is glowing and growing… However, we also need a studio to plug it in and a space to lay our mats down and gather. That location is now in the making! Electric Soul Yoga studio has landed at 210 W 9 mile Rd. right in the heart of downtown Ferndale! A lease has been signed and we are in the process of opening the doors to you!
June 18 - Yoga Gives to St Judes Children Hospital - @ West Bloomfield Sports Club Registration: http://bit.ly/stjudeyogaMI
August 30-September 7 - Life & Teacher Training w/ Eric Paskel - Camp Tamarack Registration: http://bit.ly/1Y3NBtj
Plug in and stay tuned,
At first I was in shock. Nothing life threatening or anything like that, but for me it was a big deal. An eleven year job over. In a blink of an eye, all my relationships changed. Yes, I am one of those who truly believe that people are honest. It has taken me 37 years to learn how to trust myself instead. Not many are honest and it does not matter. My guru, Swami Parthasarathy, taught me to lead the way; do what you are supposed to do, and don’t worry about who is full of shit, (my words not his). Our job in life is to become the best version of ourselves, and not by kissing the you know whats of others. Because that is a full time job leading nowhere, ending up in disappointment.
My release, we will call it ;) was a blessing in disguise. Although work was a mess for a long time, I held on because of my role, my love of what I do, and the people involved. It was comfortable and I was making a decent living. The point is, we are meant to grow and evolve. We are not made to get stuck in muck. When we do, it is hard to get out of it. I went from being totally shocked in a pile of muck to being fully grateful, rising above the swamp, like a lotus leaf! How? Well, for one thing, I stopped taking everything so darn personal. Sheesh, it is not all about ME, and thank God for that!
When Swamji says, “attach you lose, detach you gain”, I did not truly understand its full meaning until I actually applied it. This break up was the perfect chance to set myself free. Because of my attachment to what I did, where I did it, and who I did it with, I lost. When it was over, I felt betrayed by so many who I believed had my back, were my friends, and close colleagues. How could they? I knew these feelings were on me, that nobody controls others. But damnit, I still felt that way and could not believe the fall out and reactions of those I thought I knew and knew me. The shock shook me. I was deeply hurt. My hurt took me to some dark places, but that just did not seem right. So I lifted myself up, dug myself out of a hole and rose above. Restoring my vision and higher goal in life is what pulled me out of the mud. Looking back, I say thank you so much. I now can move forward, and I know who has my back. If, for some reason I am wrong, it is ok. I’ve got my own back!
When something big happens, whatever the magnitude, we can go from initial shock to gratitude. Where there is attachment, there will be pain. This does not mean we have to protect ourselves from everyone and everything and live in a bubble. This means have an understanding of changes, turns, fluctuations, and never depend on any job, person, place, or thing for our own happiness. Nobody can possibly be responsible for that, only we can. How many times did I say, “I cannot believe he or she said that, or did that, or did not respond, or lied, or took advantage… or, or, or, or... “? I suggest not going there. It is a dead end.
What are we feeding; shock or gratitude? Let us be thankful to all those who have betrayed, abused, misused, miscommunicated and misguided us, and not take it personal. Even if it was meant to hurt, it is up to us to control how much we are affected. We have a choice in this! Every hurdle we jump over, our legs become stronger. Sometimes we do not make it over, and we fall. Get back up and train again, jump again. Then look back and say thank you, what a freaking gift!
My shock was selfish as it was all about me, poor me. This attitude got me nowhere. As soon as I stopped thinking about myself and started thinking about how best to serve others, my shock transformed into immense gratitude. This powerful and positive force catapulted me out of where I was and into where I am. The fact of the matter is that we cannot thrive with negativity surrounding us. When we get to see anyone’s true colors, we should be jumping for joy. Usually it takes something pretty horrible for this to happen. When it does, smile and wait. Sit back and watch. You will be able to see everything crystal clear.
There was a shock. It shook me up. I woke up from my slumber. I regained my confidence. An ideal was put in place; people came; a team was formed; gratitude took over, with no regrets, staying true to higher goals. Whoever wants to be a part of it, will. No force is needed. “Nothing forced is ever forceful”. Swamiji