yoga for body/mind harmony

Yoga’s Mental Health Benefits

Guest Blogger, Meera Watts, shares her list of yoga’s mental health benefits. 

If you think yoga is all about getting fit and toned muscles, it’s probably the right time to get the facts straight. Most people who engage in yoga aren’t really after the physical benefits of the practice. A lot of them are actually looking for a way to reduce their stress, anxiety, depression, and mood. And if you’re still in doubt about that, here’s a list of yoga’s mental health benefits to convince you.

Eight Examples of Yoga’s Mental Health Benefits

yoga helps concentration1. It improves concentration

With each yoga pose you do, you’re improving your brain function by training your mind to focus and concentrate. The practice stimulates both your nervous system and brain so you can process information faster and more efficiently.

2. It makes you more mindful

Yoga is all about what’s happening in the present. It teaches you to be more connected with your body and what it’s currently experiencing. It syncs your emotions so you can have better social relationships and connection with your mind. Once you are able to achieve those things, you’ll be able to focus on the present without being judgemental.

3. It eases depression

Yoga has a unique way of lowering the level of depression in a person. One way it’s able to do that is by increasing the production and release of certain happy hormones in the body while lowering specific stress hormones.

4. It makes you sleep better

Having a hard time falling and staying asleep can be troublesome. It can affect your productivity, mood, appetite, concentration, and problem-solving skills.

By reducing stress and encouraging relaxation, yoga can help address certain sleep disorders such as insomnia. It can make you feel well-rested and energized that you won’t have a hard time powering through your day.

Take note, however, that although yoga can help you get better sleep, you should also consider what you eat, drink, and do before you get to bed. For example, drinking caffeinated drinks and doing really heavy exercises a few minutes or hours before bedtime can make it hard for you to get to sleep. 

yoga helps concentration5. It enhances your decision-making skills

When your mind is cloudy and you’re having a hard time thinking straight, coming up with a good decision won’t be easy. In fact, you can end up making the wrong move if you force yourself.

Yoga strengthens the part of your brain responsible for making decisions. It improves your brain’s clarity so you’ll have a better ability to deal with situations and decide properly.

6. It lessens the effects of traumatic experiences

People who develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorders typically have flashbacks and nightmares that can negatively affect their lives. While there are medications and treatments that can help address such mental health issue, yoga is proven to be as effective and safer in reducing PTSD symptoms. It requires no strong medications that can harm the body eventually.

Yoga’s Mental Health Benefits are Preventative, too

yoga helps concentration

7. It delays the onset of mental health problems

Yoga is seen as an effective approach for enhancing breathing, promoting relaxation and meditation, improving moods, and controlling anger. These things play a huge role in making the mind stronger and more resilient to psychological conditions, particularly among teenagers.

8. It reduces the risk for migraines

Yoga is known for its ability to reduce pain and promote comfort. With specific yoga poses, it can also prevent or alleviate migraine and headaches. Yoga can restore the balance in your autonomic nervous system and circulatory system which can reduce your likelihood of going through another migraine episode.

Summing Up Yoga’s Mental Health Benefits

While effective, yoga doesn’t really work like magic. It won’t give you results overnight.

For you to experience all those mental benefits, you need to be consistent and dedicated to incorporating yoga into your daily routine. You don’t necessarily have to spend hours performing poses after poses. A few minutes each day can be enough to create positive changes in your mental well-being.

About the Author

Meera Watts‘ has written articles on yoga and holistic health for Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Additionally, Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India and Indonesia.

Intention Attracts Divine Energy: Shakti at The Western Wall

The Western Waldivine energy at the Western Wall in Jerusaleml is considered one of the holiest places. It attracts people from all over the world, of different faiths, to pray here. During my first visit, the meaning and history behind the stones and traditions didn’t really resonate. My second trip was not the same. The divine energy was visible and palpable. I attribute the difference to many things. In part, I was in a different place in my life, and spiritual path.  

A few months ago, I watched hundreds of women* filled with their own divine energy (shakti). They purposefully approached the wall. Fingers touched and caressed the wall. The ladies reflected all ages, religions, races, and corners of the world. With great intent, connected to divine energy, they found a space for their carefully written prayers to be sent to heaven.  

Whether it was my personal prayer, intuition, current events, or the shirts worn by dozens of Brazilian Christians, I felt we were all one. Joining in prayer for world peace. Peace for Jerusalem. An end to conflicts.

After their time directly at the wall, the women slowly placed one foot behind the other, maintaining their hearts and eyes facing the divine energy at the wall**. Rows of females continued their reflections, sitting facing the sacred stones. Others entered a covered prayer galley. The sincerity was apparent in the faces, body language and respectful clothing of all.

Two trips over a span of about ten years. Same wall and same traditions. Same passport I was carrying. But, not the same person. Neither my mind, body or spirit grasped any of the divine energy in my first trip. Perhaps, I had built up my own wall of protection.

Energy Follows Intention

divine energy at the Western Wall in JerusalemPennsylvania-based pranic healer, Andrew Chapoy-Garza, explains part of the phenomena of the divine energy that people feel at the Wailing Wall. 

“When I was trained as a pranic healer a number of years ago, I learned that energy follows intention. When someone writes a prayer on a paper that is placed in the Western Wall, the intention in it attracts the divine energy and vibrations from the Divine Source. This happens so much at a number of different holy sites around the world that portals of light are created in the midst of this present darkness.”

That energy is not confined to the Western Wall. I learned the same concept in my Reiki trainings that spanned nearly ten years. Just like the Wall, my Reiki atunements didn’t give me automatic entry to divine energy. What I felt in my hands after my first Reiki training, was similar to what I felt at the Wall on my first visit. However, by the time I reached Reiki Master, likely, I allowed myself to connect to the divine energy.  Long ago I was taught each one of us has the same powers. What we do with them is the difference.

Andrew further shares, “In the spiritual world, I believe we experience this (divine energy) within ourselves every time we meditate, chant or pray. These are wonderful powerful ways to reconnect with the Divine Source. The Western Wall is one of these places of spiritual energy exchange just like the Kaaba in Mecca for all our devout Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Generations of Humans Have Prayed at the Wall

divine energy at the Western Wall in JerusalemFellow yoga instructor, Steve Rubin, of Orlando, Florida was far better attuned than I was during his first visit to the Wall. He spent two hours watching, praying and crying.

“It was a very special/charged place,” he recalls. “All the prayers that have been shared there for so long made it a very tangible feeling — very strong — at least for me.  I could feel the timelessness of humans and our prayers. It brought me to tears instantly, as soon as I laid my hands and head on it, which is not something that happens so quickly for me.”

Furthermore, it was an instant humbling for Steve, who is a very well travelled spiritual yogi.  He attributes the divine energy, in part, to “the generations of Humans for so long pouring sincerity and prayers into the wall.” Additionally, he  felt a connection to his own Jewish roots that he had not felt before while in Israel. 

The Western Wall is the most sacred construction for the Jews. But, what made an impact for me was seeing the large number of non-Jews sharing in the practice of prayer at this holy site. A kids’ brochure, simply, with lots of color, explained how “Jerusalem is the city that brings everyone together.  Adults and children from around the world come here to visit, to touch, to feel and to pray.” The same Creator, whatever one may call it.

Where God Created the World

divine energy at the Western Wall in JerusalemThis area (Temple Mount or Mount Moriah) is where Herod declared, “whomever has not seen the temple, hasn’t seen a true beauty in his life.” 

Even more impactful, some believe that Mount Moriah is where God created the world.

Certainly, it’s hard to imagine man building this wall without a whole lot of divine energy.  The entire wall extends 488 meters, and was at one time up to 60 meters high. Much of the wall is under ground, so what is visible is just a part of the enormous structure. Then, consider that part of the wall is comprised of massive meter-deep stone frames. Each weighs 570 tons, measures 40 feet wide. With today’s technology, the best crane in Israel can’t move these stones. Furthermore, each piece is carved perfectly, and set in place with no mortar. 

Prayers at The Western Wall, JerusalemIsaiah called the temple “a home for all nations,” or a spiritual gathering place, regardless of one’s chosen religion. That’s what one sees today, thousands of years later. Albeit one wall that has withstood earthquakes, ransacking, fires, and destruction by the Romans, Moors and Babylonians. It was covered up by the Muslim quarter built on top of the ancient temple. Then, politics attempted to obliterate the wall. 

In 1948, with the emergence of the State of Israel, this part of Jerusalem was occupied by Jordan. No Jews were allowed here. When Israel took over in 1967, the wall was made accessible to all, and the area was consecrated as a temple with space for 60,000.  

Not surprisingly, today, it is the most visited place in all Israel.  

* Not unlike traditions at many Indian temples, men and women pray at separate areas at the Kotel. 

** Again, as in Hindu traditions, when one’s back is not to face the deities, the same etiquette is practiced at the wall.  

Protected by Divine Energy 

As I left, I took a a Spanish-language.

Todos son iguales frente al Muro. El tocar sus piedras nos vincula a nuestra nación y legado…lo insignificante se desvanece. El Muro ha sido testigo de épocas de guerra y épocas de paz, de destrucción y renacimiento.

Everyone is equal in front of the wall. Touching its stones connects us to a nation and a legacy. What’s not important disappears. The wall has witnessed times of war and times of peace, destruction and rebirth.

 

Shabbat as part of dinacharya; sunset to sunset

Add Shabbat to Your Dinacharya

For more than three years, I’ve been following an Ayurvedic dinacharya, as prescribed by my Ayurvedic doctor. I try to adhere to my daily routine as closely as possible. Even when I’m traveling around the world, without access to hot water, or other elements that are part of my Rx, I try to maintain my dinacharya.

On my last visit to my Ayurvedic doctor, as was to be expected, he made a few tweaks to my dinacharya. He  simplified some, and then added on more layers to my routine. With just a slight sense of humor, I told my partner, “Now my dinacharya includes Shabbat.”  

Disconnect for a Spiritual Reboot

Shabbat to disconnect and reconnectAs much as I think I disconnect from stressors all around, my doctor  wants me to have a cleaner break. Once a week, I should turn off all devices for 24 hours. 

For many years, I’ve understood the benefits of shutting down a few hours before bedtime. TVs went to Goodwill. Same with the stereo. I cut back considerably on the time spent on my laptop. However, my smart phone is my lifeline. It is my everything. Messenger. Alarm clock. Timer. CD player.  Guided meditation source. Camera. Calculator. Flashlight.  Newsroom. Social network.  And, it’s even a telephone sometimes. 

I totally get the importance of disconnecting. While I have never honored the sabbath, I appreciate the benefits it has on your body, mind, and soul. However, for most of us that have never followed the traditional Jewish rules of sabbath, it can be difficult to adopt, or accept.Shabbat at Jafo beach

Saturdays in Israel often mean beach time, so, who am I to say turn that down. 

Haddassah Mendoza-Elias lived in Jerusalem when she was in her 20s. The Chicago-area resident returns as frequently as she can. She wasn’t raised in a family that turned off electronics and turned in the car keys on sabbath. Haddassah admits it’s very hard to shut down in the States. But, she relishes honoring the day of rest, and her family always had Shabbat meals. 

“I observe (Shabbat) when I’m in Israel because of the peace that I get.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Jewish guide for living, the Torah, has built in recharge time. There is space to relax and almost a societal requirement to participate in Shabbat in one way or another. Keeping Shabbat is helpful for keeping things in perspective, because you have to prioritize things. What can wait for 24 hours, and what cannot?  It’s refreshing to discover that most things can wait.”

Disconnect to Connect your Body and Soul

Estee is a dynamo of a Zumba teacher at the Jerusalem YMCA. She exudes passion and a Type A personality. Just as she moves to the fast beats in Zumba, so does she speak and think at techno dance speed. Estee, like Haddassah, says it’s rare that something can’t wait. The mother of eight, talks about why disconnecting on Sabbath is so beneficial. Even her non-religious adult children respect and relax during Shabbat.  

Shabbat in Tel Aviv“When they walk into my home on Shabbat, everything is turned off. It’s family time. It really makes a giant difference in their lives. Even for the non-religious ones. It’s more than connecting with other people. It’s connecting with yourself. We have to be important to ourselves. Sometimes you need you.” Estee admits that while it may not have been easy to keep the rules going in her household, now, her kids “wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her remarks strike a chord with me. Much of my daily dinacharya is precisely so that I can connect with myself, rather than the fast-paced world around me. In fact, the purpose of breath work, meditation and yoga is about disconnecting from the outside world and re-connecting with the inner being. Many studies have confirmed this. But just maybe, Shabbat can take you further.  After all, the rituals of Shabbat have been going on for about the same time as yoga and meditation. Just like with yoga and Ayurveda, the benefits of these practices have been proven over thousands of years.

Shabbat in Tel Aviv

Estee’s 13-year-old daughter, Ora Leah, speaks like an old yogi. Her words relay her wise soul.  She explains how she is more centered and grounded with the practice of Shabbat. You listen to your body and your soul. “There’s no clock or alarm on Shabbat.  You eat when you’re hungry. Sleep when you want. For as long as you want. Also, it’s quality time. It’s a beautiful thing. Even to get together with friends.”   

No wonder I enjoy the peace and quiet of blackouts. The beach to the city. A lack of artificial sounds and sights amplifies the benefits of my daily dinacharya.

Ora Leah recounts an experiment in Asia. In an attempt to increase productivity, they initiated ten day work weeks. Employees were given a day of rest every ten days. However, the “brilliant” theory backfired. Illnesses rose.  “Your body needs to rest,” underscores Ora Leah.

We need to prioritize ourselves. Our bodies. Our minds. Even more importantly, our spirits. Each of which is certainly far more important than any post on Facebook, the urge to get in your car and go shopping, or checking your unending string of emails. Disconnect from the artificial. Connect to the natural.  Add Shabbat to your dinacharya. Sunset to sunset, any day of the week. 

Yoga at YMCA Tripoint, San Antonio

Jerusalem Sangha: Muslims, Christians and Jews at the YMCA

YMCA Three Arches JerusalemFor as long as I’ve been a yoga teacher, I’ve been affiliated with the YMCA.

Frequently, I mention to my students why I enjoy being a part of the YMCA family.

First, it not about the facilities.

Second, it’s not about the pay.

Neither, is it about the location.

Rather, it’s all about the sangha. Community.

Additionally, the “judeo-christian principles” that we try to instill everywhere at the YMCA jive with my Eastern (Hindu and Buddhist) yogic philosophy and lifestyle.

Those Judeo-Christian values, and sangha, shot up to the sky after my visit to the Jerusalem YMCA.  Coincidentally, it was just a few weeks before the U.S. embassy moved to this holy city, which resulted in major uprisings OUTSIDE of Israel. Based on my experiences in Jerusalem, I’ve always seen co-existence between the Arabs and the Jews. But, no sangha.  So, imagine a place in Jerusalem where hijabs and head coverings are removed, and you can’t tell the difference between a, Jew, Muslim or Christian. And, the only thing that matters is that they get their game on, and enjoy themselves. 

Welcome to the YMCA Three Arches

TYMCA Three Arches Jerusalemhe YMCA in Jerusalem is a landmark. Its bell tower is visible from afar, making it a beacon and focal point.  Opened in 1933, it was established as a place “…whose atmosphere is peace, where political and religious jealousies can be forgotten and international unity be fostered and developed.” 

Arthur Loomis Harmon designed the Three Arches. He was an architect with the firm responsible for the Empire State Building. Twelve cyprus trees at the entrance to Three Arches acknowledge the 12 tribes of Israel.  In fact, Three Arches, refers to the three related religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam.

Throughout its history, it has aimed to unite and coalesce the different communities in Jerusalem. In other words, create sangha. The YMCA’s preschool was the first bilingual school in Israel. Its Jerusalem Youth Chorus encourages the youth from the three religions to become leaders for peace in their communities. The Youth Department, with free youth programs, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, apparently for far more than traditional daycare.

As a fine four-star hotel, many of the guests from around the world appreciate the YMCA’s swimming pool. In fact, it is one of the largest in the country. Guests, and members, relish the workout facilities at the sports center, considered to be the largest in the Middle East. 

Christian Values in a Non-Christian City 

YMCA Three Arches JerusalemYes, Three Arches offers the finest in facilities. Among the 50 weekly classes are usuals like Zumba, pilates, spinning and yoga. However, this YMCA offers Feldenkreis, Osteofit, Aquacise, Commando, Barre, pre-natal yoga, and Gyrokinesis. But that’s not about what management and staff are cheering loudest. Rather, this is viewed as a place for people of the three Mohammadan religions to gather, work out or socialize together.

The goal of this YMCA is to have a membership that is 40 percent Jewish, 40 percent Arab (Muslim and Christian), and 20 percent other (i.e. European, Asian, American). That balance isn’t all that easy to attain considering the overall population of Jerusalem is about 64 percent Jewish, 34 percent Muslim and just two percent Christian. Perhaps the hotel guests help balance out the diversity at the YMCA.

The mission of the YMCA Three Arches is to follow, and promote, Christian values. Interesting, considering the Christian population in Jerusalem is very low. Yet, not surprising when you accept that Christian, Jewish and Muslim values are the same. Again, the three arches representing the three religions that evolved from the same roots.

The YMCA’s mission works beautifully, in Jerusalem, according to Estee, a Zumba teacher here.

A Microcosm of Jerusalem

YMCA Three Arches JerusalemThe YMCA staff is continuously tasked with encouraging a meshing of the subsets of Jerusalem residents. According to Estee, that may sound nice, but in reality, there’s no need for it. “Here, it’s already happening.” 

“There are no differences in this building. This whole place is based on that. Prejudices aren’t allowed. My goal is to look like I don’t belong to any group,” says Estee, who in fact has long bright blonde hair and pale skin.  “I cannot tell the difference between the Arabs and the Jews. Cultural differences don’t exist here. Rather, differences are seen by how high can they jump, or twerk. They’re having fun, and get to know everyone on a different level.” 

Estee’s words aren’t empty. The Mayor of Jerusalem, commenting on her Zumba class, saying it was a “microcosm of Jerusalem.” Pretty cool for the YMCA — and Zumba, under Estee’s leadership and positivity, to be able to achieve this.

Estee is proud of the unity among staff, members and guests at the YMCA. She says the YMCA dissolves all differences. Especially on the basketball court, yoga mat, or dancing to the beats of hip hop, salsa or Arabic music. “It gives me so much happiness to see them (interact and mesh).” Again, it’s all about that sangha at the YMCA.

Three Arches YMCA Tailored for All

YMCA Three Arches JerusalemOk. So, let’s accept that there are no differences in the way Arabs and Jews dance, jump or lift weights. But, visitors may notice other differences.

One. While the YMCA is open seven days a week, observant Jews will not be present on Shabbat (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday).

Two. The Muslim day of rest is Friday.

Three.  Sunday is traditionally considered a day of worship for Christians. 

So, attendance among the different groups of religions will vary from one day to the next.

Furthermore, to respect both observant Jews and Muslims, almost all group exercise classes are segregated. Men one hour, women another. Even the non-observant seem to prefer it this way. 

Plan a visit: The cost of membership at the YMCA Three Arches is about half that of other fitness facilities in the vicinity. YMCA members from the U.S. are eligible for a free week at the Three Arches YMCA if they bring a letter confirming their membership from their home YMCA. 

 

yoga with Deborah Charnes of The Namaste Counsel

Yogi Bhajan: Yoga for a Meditative, Neutral, Intuitive Mind

The meditative mind is the neutral mind that runs your destiny. There are three ways to conduct your destiny. Through the law of karma-action and reaction you can tune into the magnetic field of the Earth and just float with it as a freeloader, or your life can be run by that magnetic, attractive creative, meditative Neutral Mind. That way you do very well. —Yogi Bhajan

paschim namaskarasana reverse prayerGurucharan Singh Khalsa, PhD, rubs elbows with geniuses like Yakir Aharonov. He’s a psychotherapist, and professor at MIT, with a penchant for quantum physics. At the core of all his passions are the teachings of Yogi Bhajan.  He collaborated with the Kundalini spiritual guru on many a publication, thus becoming one of the leading teachers of this form of yoga. So much so that Gurucharan Singh Khalsa was international director of training for Kundalini Yoga for 40 years.  He recently led weekend workshops at Yoga Yoga in Austin. His primary topic was how yoga can build your intuitive senses, something I was taught by one of my first spiritual leaders many years ago.

Your system of intuition is the source of your happiness. It is the source of your victory. It is the source that can make you invincible. —Yogi Bhajan

“Most instincts are pretty useful,” he says. Think running away from a bear, or, dropping a hot plate. The third chakra, is the foundation of instinct, he explains, and it often shows up with somatic feelings of the body.  For example, recall the way you felt the first time you laid eyes on your partner. Conversely, think back to when you spot someone who just doesn’t seem to jive with you.

kapalabhati ego eradicator breath of fire, as taught by Yogi Bhajan“We want to have strong instincts,” he adds. And one of the staples of Kundalini Yoga, breath of fire, is helpful in that area. Interestingly enough, that technique of breathwork, kapalabhati, was part of my twice daily routine where I studied with the swami who suggested intuitive powers are built through a sincere, steady practice. While I’m not running on intuitive overdrive, I recognize that my gut feelings have strengthened significantly since I became a devoted yoga practitioner.  

“Breath of fire is very useful in aligning with instincts,” says Dr. Singh Khalsa.  But, he pointedly differentiates between instincts and intuition. “If you have instinct, intelligence and intuition, you can reduce your errors.”  

Wise choices bring about a balance in life, he explains. Yoga, of course, is all about bringing balance to the body, mind and spirit. Furthermore, yogis traditionally adhere to an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle, and minimize use of prescription drugs. Dr. Singh Khalsa asserts that consuming any kind of drug will alter one’s instincts. As such, drugs can pollute your ability to hone your instincts. In the Ayurvedic world, we talk about leading a pure sattvic life, avoiding what are rajassic or tamassic. Mood alterers, alcohol is very tamassic, whereas caffeine is rajassic. Think uppers and downers. Both bring about problems.  Driving while intoxicated is a perfect example that Dr. Singh Khalsa uses to paint the picture of how substances can alter your mind. In some instances, causing fatalities.

When you are in the state of the neutral mind, the soul is like a chandelier switched on over you. Communication of the soul is just that light; you are lit up by it. —Yogi Bhajan 

dhyana mudra tibetan meditation mudraKundalini, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, represents a capacity for awareness.  Just as the snake represents your kundalini rising, a snake sheds its skin to grow. You’re shedding skin, expanding. Making the infinite more intimate. Bringing about a birth of consciousness at the heart center, he says. However, if you’re purely instinctual, you may shut everything out…and be lonely. Beliefs have their own immune system. A lot of people never believe anything. Additionally, he says “bias is often from self-dialogue.”

Possibly, that’s why one of my favorite yoga practices is chanting, especially group chanting, or sankirtan, which to me is so powerful. In the Kundalini Yoga tradition, mantras are just as much a part of the yoga experience as is breath or body work,. While my yogic foundations are not from Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini lineage, chanting was integral to my yogic formation.   I incorporate chanting, or mantras, in my personal practice at least once, daily. When needed, I’ve called upon mantra meditation for hours at a time. 

Man without intuitive mind is a car without brakes. An intuitive mind cannot be achieved without a meditative mind.The meditative mind is a process to the intuitive mind. —Yogi Bhajan

Finally, Dr. Singh Khalsa notes that nothing is perfect. “We all face decisions, and each has an impact.” Even a “wise decision” can get you in trouble, as it did for Nelson Mandela. Not that the “trouble” didn’t have a positive outcome, in the end. But you have to have self-forgiveness. And above all, patience.

 

spiritual practices of Bhakti and kirtan

Bhakti and Self-Love Spiritual Practices

The topic of spiritual practices is by guest author, Pranada Comtois. Her book, Wise-Love: Bhakti and the Search for the Soul of Consciousness is newly published.

The Magic of Bhakti’s Self Love Spiritual Practices

Wise Love: Bhakti and Self-LoveWe are driven for love and by love. We must feel loved to feel whole. But do you feel lovable or loved? Sometimes? All the time? Almost never?

You may have a life companion, family, and friends and not feel loved or worthy of love. Or you may be a loner without significant relationships but feel lovable and loved.

Loving relationships can go a long way in confirming our worth, countering negative self talk, and making us feel lovable. But they aren’t what make us feel lovable. If we don’t love ourselves – truly, deeply, fully, and with clarity – we won’t feel loved.

Even if we surround ourselves with a community of loving people we may still feel unworthy of love. After all, those who purportedly love us can make us feel unloved or unlovable. Their style of relating to us, as well as their own needs and shortcomings, combined with our misperceptions and misconceptions can create untenable situations.

Neither can our inner lack of love be resolved by affirmations, creative visualizations, mindfulness, or meditation. We can look ourselves in the mirror in the morning and repeat, “I love you. You’re worthy of love” and still feel unlovable. That’s because we often miss the distinction between mundane love of the false self and divine love of the genuine self.

Only in realizing my real self can I experience real love because I’m not the body, mind, or emotions — or the illusory identities associated with this temporary frame I inhabit. Love of the body-mind won’t make me feel whole and satisfied. I require love for myself as a spiritual being.

And how can I love our self unless I know my self?

Spiritual Practices Can Uncover Our True Self

spiritual practices of Bhakti and Self Love

But, not all practices simultaneous endow us with self love. This is the promise of bhakti’s divine love, or wise-love.

As a spark of spirit, a unit of consciousness, we are a most beloved subject of love. We must be loved to be whole, and we are givers-lovers. Feeling unlovable or unloved is only an imagined state of mind without truth in reality. When we wake to our eternal self we awaken to our enduring nature as lovers who are supremely lovable.

The ancient Bhagavata, the sequel to the Bhagavad Gita, says, “Sometimes we suffer because we see a tiger in a dream or a snake in a vision, but actually there is neither a tiger nor a snake. Thus we create some situation in a subtle form and suffer the consequences. These sufferings cannot be mitigated unless we are awakened from our dream.” (Bhag. 4.29.35)

Credible and Daily Spiritual Practices Break the Deep Dream  That Grips Us

Spiritual practices of Bhakti and Self Love: Radha and KrishnaWhen we awaken and see the self, we naturally see the Source from where we are generated, just as when I see a spark of fire, I will also see the fire-source. As a spark of our Divine Other, our nature reflects his. As he is a lover, we are lovers. As he is lovable, we are lovable. We don’t need the confirmation of the world, or current relationships, to validate the existential truth of our lovability; we experience it when we awaken to the self.

And more, just as our Divine Other cannot be moved by conditional love, the love of this world cannot fill us. We must have the most exalted, pure love, or wise-love: the unconditional love the self knows for itself and its Source.

We easily progress in the art of self awakening by bhakti’s simple method of hearing about and chanting about our Divine Friend. In kirtan or japa (solitary chanting with prayer beads), we can chant the sacred great mantra, the maha-mantra Hare Krishna.

Kirtan is the beginning of an amazing journey to the self and wise-love. By associating with our Infallible Lover, our infallible lovability is reflected to us and our love fully reciprocated. The magic of bhakti reveals the lover and her lovability, the Beloved, and their mutual wise-love. Even the beginning experiences of this relationship can alleviate, forever, our feelings of being unloved or unlovable.

About the Guest Author

Pranada Comtois is a devoted pilgrim and teacher. Her writing sheds light on bhakti’s wisdom school of heartfulness. She shares her love for spiritual practices with a focus on how to culture wise-love in our lives and relationships. She hopes others can experience the inherent, unbounded joy of the self. The wisdom of her teaching and spiritual practices grows from living 20 years as a contemplative in bhakti ashrams.

For more on Bhakti, click on the Kirtan and Bhakti button at The Namaste Counsel archives

the purpose of yoga: awareness

The Purpose of Yoga

the purpose of yogaAs a yoga instructor and yoga therapist, I often hear excuses for people not wanting to try yoga. One of the most common, is “I’m not flexible enough.” Of course, to me, that’s just a self-imposed barrier. People with a wide array of physical impediments can practice yoga. And, just last week, one of my students was 96-years-old. No. He didn’t have the flexibility of a 26-year-old. But that’s not the purpose of yoga. 

I like to think of yoga as generating increased balance, flexibility and strength. But, not just the physical aspects of those characteristics. The purpose of yoga is to unite, or create a balance between one’s mind, body and spirit. Additionally, when our attitudes are inflexible, we tend to have more negative physical outcomes. Finally, in addition to having strong muscles, don’t we all want a stronger mind and spirit? One of my teachers, long ago, said that with continued dedication to yoga, one should have a much higher degree of intuition. Listen to the gut (or heart) rather than being over-analytical. 

Periodically, I ask my students to share what got them into their first yoga class, or, what they like most about yoga. There are always so many different responses which I relish hearing. For some, the purpose of yoga may be a specific physical concern. For example, high blood pressure, stress relief, back problems or chronic pain.

Following are testimonials from two of my students that attest to the physical improvements achieved with yoga. 

The purpose of yoga, first the physical

the purpose of yoga:beyond the physical“I stumbled into yoga. Within three to four months, my chronic hip pain improved, and I feel great. I love it.”

“It was eye opening how out of shape I was. Now, I can’t imagine life without it.”

Those are the common threads in our society. In an age where it is normal to be overstressed, many of us are looking for the fountain of youth. Others may want to fit into skinny jeans. Possibly the lion’s share enter yoga to ease some sort of physical discomfort. Although they may take their first dip with yoga for the physical benefits, the non-physical purpose of yoga shines through after a while. 

Many of us older yogis recognize that the deepest benefits of yoga have nothing to do with mastering a challenging pose.

Several of my students beautiful express the purpose of yoga, for themselves.

The purpose of yoga, next, the mind and soul

the purpose of yoga: awareness“I was going through hard times. I needed to slow down my thoughts. Yoga is so freeing and life changing.”

“The breathing was hard for me when I first started. The more I try, the more I find I use in in my other life challenges.”

“As the mother of four, for 17 years, I always put others first. After my first yoga class, I was hooked.” 

“As an artist, I do yoga because it’s visually very beautiful.”

Those last four statements reflect how one’s spirit —and life— is touched through yoga. To sum it up, the purpose of yoga is to reach and heal the inner self. Interestingly enough, while yoga can be a way to nurture oneself, and an act of self-care, it is also an act of freeing oneself of the ego.

Saul David Raye is a yogi that teaches all over the world. I’ve been fortunate to have attended a few intensives with him. He says, “The whole practice of yoga is to move away from the ego.” 

The purpose of yoga, to set aside the ego

the purpose of yoga: selflessness Yet, he asserts, if he put a sign on the door saying, “ego-releasing class,” chances are the room would be empty.

Raye adds, “We’re good at practice. What we do we become.” However, the examples he gives are not about quieting the mind, but worrying and eating. 

“We play ego games. ‘Oh she’s evil. He’s a jerk.’ The ego wants to take credit for everything.”

“What we do, we become,” says Raye. “We spend most of our waking time at work, so we become — or identify ourselves — as an accountant, or a landscaper, or an engineer.  Rather than looking into our hearts to say, I’m a lover of the color blue, or respectful of all living beings.” 

“Overriding the practice of our life has to be the heart,” says Raye. “It can’t be ego. We’re all trying to get rid of this ‘I’ that’s choking us.”

How to put the ego in its place

  • Beyond the Kundalini “ego eradicator” exercise, there are many ways to keep your ego at bay.
  • Whether you meditate, or just sink in a quieting pose for several minutes a day can help.
  • Surround yourself with positive minded people (sangha).
  • Find teachers who can help you to expand your consciousness.
  • Try chanting or japa (mala beads) meditation. Incorporate breath work in your routine.
  • Focus on breath work first thing in the morning to clear your mind and invigorate you.
  • Likewise, in the evening, avoid what Raye calls the “cable neurotic network” (CNN). Turn off all lights and electronic devices. Just focus on your breath to calm and settle you before you go to sleep. And, hey, counting sheep isn’t too bad, either.
  • Finally, remember the sutras. Read another yogi’s Sutras Simplified here
Seva_YogaforSight

Seva Unites Yogis Worldwide for the Gift of Sight

Yoga is a very introspective practice. As such, in my personal practice, I tend to keep my eyes closed. In my group classes, when indoors, I lower the lights.  However, imagine going through life in total darkness. As a young child, I remember visiting a relative. He was completely sightless. He lived alone. Within his studio apartment, he could fend for himself. But, I always wondered how he managed beyond his front door. He had no guide dog. No close family or friends. That lasting impression is why I’m endorsing Seva Foundation’s Fifth Annual Yoga for Sight

Yoga for Sight Unites Yogis Worldwide

Seva_YogaforSightMy childhood memories of one blind man’s challenges remain. They have, in part, spurred me to do my own seva (self-less service) for the Berkeley-based Seva Foundation.  The fundraising promotion takes place in April. Around the world, yoga studios and instructors will encourage students to reflect upon the sense of sight. As such, I will be mentioning this worthy charity during my group classes. Additionally, when you book two private sessions* with me, I will donate the full amount of the second class to Seva.

“We tend to take for granted the things that are always there for us, and sight is one of those things,” said Andy Sharkey, Donor Engagement at Seva. “Through yoga we can open up to seeing people’s struggles and understanding them.”

Seva_YogaforSightYoga guides you to connect your body and your mind. It should also teach you to be more respectful and considerate of others. My yoga foundations teach that seva, or karma yoga, is just as important as our breathwork or sun salutations. I try to practice seva in many ways.

For many years, I’ve recognized Seva’s contributions. Since 1978, Seva has worked with local communities to help people live healthier more productive, happy lives. Vision is a precious gift that Seva has given to across the globe.  In fact, Seva, very cost-effectively, has provided critical eye care to 4 million in underserved communities. 

“Nowhere do I know of another group of people who have come so far in their efforts to deliver high quantity, low cost, conscious and compassionate service to their fellow beings,” said Ram Dass, Seva co-founder and honorary lifetime board member.  

Seva_YogaforSightFor example, Seva’s programs have reduced the cost of cataract surgery to just $50, making eye care available to the global poor. Additionally, Seva services include training, technology and techniques for local doctors and community outreach personnel to provide services regardless of one’s ability to pay.

This past year, alone, Seva provided vital eye care services to 1.3 million people in 21 countries. Nearly 70,000 had their eyesight restored, more than 118,000 received medical treatments, and 106,00 received eye glasses.

I invite you to participate in Yoga for Sight with me. Or donate directly. Here are more reasons why your dollar will go so far with Seva.

Seva’s Vision: a World Free of Blindness

  • 36 million people in the world are blind. That number is projected to triple by 2050. Given access to appropriate eye care, 75 percent of them could see again. 
  • Globally, 19 million children are visually impaired or blind. Lack of vision often blocks them from an adequate education and prevents them from escaping poverty. 
  • More than half of sight-impaired people are women and girls. Seva seeks to provide outreach and education, community screenings, transportation, and affordable care to women and girls.
  • Restoring sight is one of the most effective ways to relieve suffering and reduce poverty.
  • The World Bank ranked a 15-minute cataract surgery as one of the most cost-effective health interventions for low and middle income countries.
  • Most eye care treatments change lives right away. 
  • Medication for eye infections prevents decades of blindness and suffering. 
  • Moreover, high-quality eye care creates an immediate and lasting impact.
  • Seva’s long-time partner in India, the Aravind Eye Care System, exemplifies how cost recovery can be turned into financial self-sufficiency. That model is being used around the globe.

seva foundationThere are multiple ways you can contribute.

1) Register for a Yoga for Sight charitable session*, before April 15, with The Namaste Counsel.

2) Find a studio conducting special events for Seva.

3) Donate directly.

Embrace Spirituality with Radhanath Swami in India

Embrace Spirituality: Journey to Divine India

Embrace Spirituality in India with Deborah Charnes of The Namaste Counsel and Radhanath Swamiby Deborah Charnes

I’ve always been enthralled with India. In 2011, I spent a month there. That wasn’t enough. In the last few years, I wrote about many tours to India, all with people I know and respect. There wasn’t a one that didn’t pull at my soul. So, how can you choose between so many wonderful options to embrace spirituality?   Now I’m ready to open my heart to embrace spirituality through Embrace the Grace: Sacred Journey to Divine India

If you want to embrace spirituality, join me on a very intimate tour.  January 19-31, 2019. I’ll be both a participant, and the resident yoga teacher.  

Here’s why I chose to embrace spirituality on this Sacred Journey to Divine India. 

Embrace Local Culture and Hospitality

Embrace Spirituality with Shivani and Shivangi in IndiaFirst, Embrace the Grace allows participants to experience the depths of India. See the real India. Through your eyes. But also through the lens of your heart and soul.

Large chain hotels and oversized tour buses turn me off. One of my fondest experiences in India was what should have been a short road trip. It was 14 hours. My tuk tuk driver spoke no English. But I understood him.  When he offered me a chai, that meant we were stranded.  I showed little grace when I  got to my “resort” after wading through mud with my suitcase. Yet, the next morning I recognized the journey was unforgettable. 

Furthermore, Embrace the Grace is led by two women that I have known for several years. They are positive, vibrant, spirited twins that want to share their love for the culture and spirituality of their homeland. As part of the tour, participants visit the twins’ parents in their Delhi home.

Embrace Spirituality with Shivani and Shivangi in India

“Spending time with family is one of the most important elements in the trip because it gives people the warmth of being genuinely loved and personally cared,” says Shivani one of the twins.

“100 percent of people/friends we talk to or meet are struggling/looking for some personal attention, happiness and solace…when our friends have stayed or spent time with our parents, they experienced the true joy, love, gratitude, experiencing the need of making immense sacrifices for a higher principle. It is very eye opening for them to feel the need of selflessly caring for someone without any expectations or rewards. People in the west are more into Give and Take; Use and Throw, what is in there for Me? But when they experience someone opening their doors to welcoming them with genuine feelings, their hearts are transformed.” 

Embrace Spirituality–Regardless of Your Religious Affiliation 

India is a highly spiritual land — for people of all faiths. Embrace the Grace takes you to a majestic Baha’i temple and the mosque complex of Qutar Minar. Among sacred Hindu sites are, Vrindavan/Mathura and the Yamuna River. 

“We will explore yoga’s timeless philosophy which can be applied to all religions and belief systems, bringing us all to a place of unity within diversity,” explains Shivani.

Embrace Spirituality with Radhanath Swami in IndiaOne of the magnets for me is four days at the International Bhakti Yoga Retreat. Bhakti is the branch of yoga I can’t live without. I travel every year to Bhakti festivals. In 2019, I’ll go a bit further. What better place for Bhakti than an award winning eco retreat center in India inspired by Radhanath Swami.   

Radhanath Swami is a native Chicagoan, like me. I’ve written a number of articles based on his workshops.  His extraordinary autobiography, “The Journey Home,” about his becoming a Swami in India, reads like an Indiana  Jones story. Not surprisingly, it was made into a feature film

One of last year’s attendees called the twins’ tour a once-in-a-lifetime trip. She was “humbled to experience Radhanath Swami’s daily classes for hours, followed by dancing in bliss in kirtans. The amount of spiritual growth that came from this trip was unparalleled.” 

Embrace Seva or Karma Yoga

Food For Life Vrindavan

Moreover, Karma Yoga is essential for me. It was engrained in me many years ago. Karma Yoga, or seva, is selfless service. Giving, expecting nothing in return. However, I still get so much in return. In fact, for the last eight years, I’ve practiced karma yoga in Mexico and Central America. That’s one of the things that turns me on about this trip.

Embrace the Grace includes three seva opportunities. One is at a school. Another, a hospital. The third is a free meal program. All are non-profits I whole-heartedly support.  

Sandipani Muni School in Vrindavan provides free education, books, supplies and uniforms for underprivileged girls. Educating the families and communities on the merit of education versus child marriage is also part of the school’s role, since only one in 100 girls in rural India completes school.   

For 25 years, Food For Life Vrindavan  has focused on providing free meals, education and skill training and medical help to thousands of young girls.  School children are fed clean, nutritious meals, free of charge, and there are also programs to serve needy families, widows and the blind. 

The third entity for service will be the Bhaktivedanta hospital in Mumbai. Its aim is to provide high quality holistic medical and spiritual health care to people, regardless of their financial situation. Among the free services offered, Bhaktivedanta conducts health care screening of more than 12,000 children annually. A mobile eye camp served 45,564 patients and performed 4,650 cataract surgeries in one year, alone. In rural communities, 200 hospital health camps screened 50,000 people and treated 10,000.

Embrace Spirituality via Colorful Customs

Embrace The Grace features a beautiful celebration at which hundreds gather to pluck petals from 2,300 pounds of flowers. 

Radhanath Swami explains that people from around the world are “sitting around the same little baskets of flowers, plucking petals, irrespective of what status, caste, sex or economic bracket we came from. Despite our incredibly amazing differences we are one in our love for God, in our compassion for each other, and in our appreciation for each other.”

In the evening the petals are showered upon temple deities as the crowds sing devotional music (kirtan). Then, for the finale, guests deluge each other with the flower petals. 

Embrace Transformation

Taj Mahal on the agenda to embrace spirituality on Sacred Journey to Divine India

“This is going to be very intimate and transformative,” says Shivani. While there may be hundreds at the festival and the retreat, this spiritual tour will be for a very small group. 

The twins will share their knowledge and passion, non-stop. Plus, morning sessions of breathwork, meditation and hatha yoga can be tailored for the participants needs and preferences. 

“We will have fun, long-lasting relationships/friendships and simultaneously explore the true wealth and potential that lies within all of us. This journey is meant to expose us to a newer dimension of reality beyond the myriad of roles that we play in our day-to-day lives. This journey will provide us with a strong foundational rhythm that connects us beyond the mind, the materialism, and the distractions.”

Embrace a Superb ROI

yoga with Deborah Charnes of The Namaste CounselFinally, this all inclusive trip costs what some pay for airfare, alone. It’s so affordable because it’s built upon seva. You get airfare, meals, accommodations, ground and regional air transportation, two full-time guides, plenty of workshops, and hatha and Bhakti yoga for about $1,500.

Plus, there’s plenty of time to save up your money. This incredible journey designed to awaken you to embrace spirituality isn’t until January of 2019, but spaces are almost full.  

Weigh the benefits of a ski trip in the mountains, museum hopping or sunning on the beach, versus a spiritual tour.  This is a no brainer.  Embrace spirituality. Transform your heart, and your life. The value is immeasurable.

In closing, Shivani says, “You will dive deep into the culture and lifestyle of the path of yoga that guides us towards God through love, devotion, prayers and meditation.”

Local Food movement at http://argusfarmstop.com

NON-VIOLENCE: LOCAL FOOD. FARM TO TABLE 

Honoring Ahimsa (Non-Violence) and Mindful Eating

Today, most Americans are disconnected from what may be one of the most natural parts of life: planting and harvesting. Local food. People tend to surf the internet, or stroll through unending lines of shelves in a big box store, to find their favorite food products. All this has a detrimental impact on our health, and the environment. We are committing himsa (violence), most often mindlessly. Yogis are taught to be mindful, and ahimsa (non-violence) is our first commandment. 

Before the advent of all the jet, TV or Internet, people were closer to nature. The connection between harvest and sustenance was clear. One ate what was available on their own, or  surrounding, lands. As Gandhi urged, progress starts with one’s self. “Be the change.”  When it comes to mindful eating, we must honor and respect what we consume. Likewise, we should refrain from needless slaying and torture of animals, and destroying of our environment, all of which are examples of himsa

I recently spent a few days in Ann Arbor, in part, to learn about its vegan-friendly, mindful farm to table movement. Michigan is a major agricultural state. In fact, it is the second most diverse state for farming, after California. Plus, there is a resurgence in getting back to the farm to table basics. Real food. Slow food. Local food. Non-violence. 

Local Food

 A Michigan non-profit is encouraging local food for many reasons.

Local Food movement at http://argusfarmstop.com—First, more than a million acres of U.S. farmland is lost each year due to residential and commercial development.

—Second, a typical American meal travels an average of 1,500 miles before it gets to your table, or car seat.

—Third, conventional food distribution uses at least four times more fuel than local and regional systems.

— Fourth, each dollar spent at independent local businesses returns three times more money to your community.

—Plus, if every Michigan household spent $10 per week on local food, $1.6 billion would be added to the state’s economy.

Ann Arbor Farm to Table Restaurants

Local Food at Argus Farm StopIn Ann Arbor, and neighboring Ypsilanti, there are a number of farm to table establishments. 

Brandon Johns opened Grange Kitchen and Bar in 2009. “We are essentially a true local restaurant. We spend 90 cents on the dollar on local food. In the dead of winter we fall down to about 70 percent. There’s a ton of greenhouses here that extend our seasons. It’s amazing what Michigan produces because of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. It’s not just cars.”

Travis Schuster is head chef at Ollie of Ypsilanti.  He believes in putting money back into the community by supporting local farmers. 

“My main goal with Ollie is to make locally and sustainably sourced food accessible to the entire community. I think that people respond positively to our sourcing practices because they want to feel that they are making a responsible decision when they chose to dine at Ollie. I hope that they are choosing to dine with us because they realize that we are taking their dollars and putting them right back into our community: whether it’s our staff who all live within walking distance of the restaurant, the farmers in our community, or the producers and artisans that are helping to shape and fortify sustainable Michigan foodways.”

Furthermore, Travis knows the farmers. He says the younger farmers tend to be well educated and idealistic. “There’s kind of a disconnect with the previous generation. The young farmers have longer-term goals. Not just the money.”

Local Food at Argus Farm Stop

Lisa McDonald is the owner of a bakery and TeaHaus. She agrees with Travis’ statement about the new breed of farmers. She has hired several farmers in their off season.  One, had a degree in philosophy.  

Lisa not only hires local farmers, but she buys from them. She recognizes the many hurdles small farm owners encounter. “It’s very expensive for small farmers to get the certified organic label. And, just because it’s stamped organic doesn’t mean they are. I’d rather know the small farmer. You know their practices, and what they’re selling.”

As Lisa mentions the hurdles local farmers have to go through, Brandon says it’s nearly impossible for small businesses to get national marks of approval. Case in point, USDA requires producers to have a dedicated bathroom for the USDA inspectors. While bureaucracy is working against these small businesses, the University of Michigan, is on the local food band wagon. The UM Campus Farm was established in 2012. The initiative is part of a plan to source food locally, or sustainably, by 2025. In addition to providing food for campus dining, the UM farm sells its produce at Argus Farm Stop, year-round. 

Ann Arbor Farm to Table Supporters and Suppliers

Local Food at Argus Farm StopArgus is a business enterprise that was established to support local farmers, 12 months a year. Kathy Sample opened Argus*, a unique direct-to-consumer farmers’ market, inside an abandoned gas station. She’s well aware of the challenges small farmers have today, and recognizes that most can’t make sufficient profits at the markets. Her business was launched to boost the local economy and give local farmers a practical way to survive and thrive.

More than 75 local farmers drop off their fresh crops. Kathy and her crew manage everything so that the farmers can get back to their lands. The farmers set their own prices, and the store only takes a 20 percent share. Since Argus is in business to help the farmers, a comfortable coffee house inside the Farm Stop is what keeps Argus afloat. And, twice weekly, the local food bank picks up food that hasn’t sold, so that it can be consumed by needy families.

Argus Farm Stop for Local Food in Ann Arbor“We started (in 2014) because we saw 93 percent of our local farms were gone. We thought what if we started a real grocery store…and nice coffee bar,” Kathy recalls. “We hope to impact the agricultural community…The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 57. Most are telling their kids to get a job at GM. There’s a lot of reasons why we need to help farmers find a better way.”

As her fellow farm to table mindful restaurateurs noted, USDA doesn’t support small farmers. “Most slaughterhouses are gross and inaccessible for small farms. The big houses wrote the rules…same for eggs. We need to see a resurgence of small processing plants that do it humanely. If you’re going to eat meat you should care about how it got onto your plate.”

Everything is geared to industrialized farming, she says. American farm land just isn’t making enough profits. “The only way a young person can get land is if their parents give them money. Or getting people to loan you land.” And yet, there’s a continuing interest by the younger generation of idealists in the heartland. 

Mindful Sourcing Beyond Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti

Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are great examples of the slow, local food movement in Washtenaw County. There are 14 farmers’ markets, although most are not year round. Additionally, there are 18 farms that allow public access to pick and take home produce like blueberries, apples and pumpkins. Considering the county population is under 359,000, that’s a pretty good score card. 

Local Food at Argus Farm Stop

Most of us are aware of Flint, Michigan. Though not for their local food initiative. In addition to your traditional farmers’ markets, Flint has a mobile unit to take produce to underserved neighborhoods. Of course, like any local food campaign, it’s a win-win situation. Producers get more income to continue their hard work, and consumers get better quality fresh food at fair prices without the middle man taking all the profits. 

Surprisingly, Detroit has become a world leader in urban agriculture.  Wayne County, of which Detroit is a part, has 29 farmers’ markets, 1,400 community gardens and urban farms in the area. In fact, the Eastern market is one of the oldest in the U.S. and has helped to buoy the growth of others in Wayne County. In some respects, Detroit is just going back to its pre-automotive roots.  

For example, one co-op  began six years ago. Seven participating Detroit farmers refrain from using synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, and their soil is free of contaminants. In 2016, the co-op supplied more than 10,000 pounds of produce to local families. 

In the meantime, the Michigan Farmers Market Association, now represents 140 farmers markets and 220 farmers. Residents can pay with SNAP and WIC. 

Finally, as Kathy says about the local food movement, “A rising tide floats all boats. It’s got to happen.”

*All images on this page were taken at Argus Farm Stop.