Friday, July 3, 2020

The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself, Book Review

“You are a great being who has been given a tremendous opportunity to explore beyond yourself. The whole process is very exciting, and you will have good times and bad times. All sorts of things will happen. That’s the fun of the journey.”
I chose the quote above to be the base of my report because it stood out to me while reading this book. This journey we call life is an opportunity that everyone has the chance of experiencing, but it’s truly the perspective we have on life itself that affects us day to day. Everything is a choice; at any moment you can choose to be filled with love and happiness or sadness and anger. I chose to review The Untethered Soul because this book helped to drastically broaden my perspective on life and it helped me take a baby step in aligning myself spiritually and mentally, especially during these bizarre times.

“There is nothing more important to true growth than realizing that you are not the voice of the mind – you are the one who hears it.” Simply put, you are not the thoughts/voice in your head. It is important to take a step back and observe this voice. Observe how quickly “it” can react to a situation and enhance emotions that drain your energy. 

Mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, arise from perceiving yourself as your thoughts and in an instant, you can be convinced you are your emotion. Yet, once you free yourself from this voice in your head, all stress and problems are released. 

A huge takeaway from Chaya’s yoga teacher training program is how it has taught me the importance, role and value of emotions. Emotions arise from pre-conditioned patterns from birth or developed over the years. When one appears, it shows an opportunity to embrace, feel, and release the emotion from your attention and it’s hold in the body and mind. These emotions can arise at any moment in life. You could be driving your car, journaling, practicing yoga, or even simply breathing and all of a sudden, the feeling appears. Cry, laugh, yell, dance. Let the emotion speak to you and naturally release it.

The year 2020 has been filled with an array of situations that have changed the perspective of “normal.” With a global virus pandemic and civil unrest and a revolution is occurring, and the universe itself is shifting. It has been a time to realign and truly reflect with oneself and the world. 

Change is hard and uncomfortable. It brings up anxiety and a cluster of emotions that have been waiting to be released. “The alternative is to decide not to fight with life. You realize and accept that life is not under your control. Life is continuously changing, and if you’re trying to control it, you’ll never be able to fully live it. Instead of living life, you’ll be afraid of it.” The Untethered Soul emphasizes that change is a part of life and denying it only makes life more difficult. Instead of dreading on the fact that everything around us will never be normal again, it is a time for inner growth. Change is where growth flourishes.

A powerful lesson I acknowledged from The Untethered Soul was accepting death. To this point in my life, I gratefully haven’t had to experience death of a close friend or family memeber. By all means death is inevitable and I know I will face it in the future. As stated in the book, “Learn to live as though you are facing death at all times, and you’ll become bolder and more open.” Realizing death is real helps individuals understand you truly only have the present moment, so live fully now. It is a time to reflect on what gives meaning to our lives and what we want to achieve with our experience here on Earth.

Do I want to live in a state of bliss and happiness? Do I constantly want to believe the thoughts in my mind that lead to stress and unhappiness? Everything is a choice; we as humans have the beautiful opportunity of choice. As Michael Singer stated in his book, “As you let go and willingly release the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of your being, Spirit becomes your state.” Releasing these from your mind and body ultimately leads to a state of bliss, nirvana, or enlightenment. 

There was a constant correlation between the insights I have gained from Chaya’s yoga teacher training and The Untethered Soul that truly enhanced my yoga practice, allowing me to dive deeper into understanding and working constructively with my emotions. Appreciating, loving, and accepting them as separate from myself. I choose happiness.

Reviewed by Alexis Hall
ChayaVeda Intern and Yoga Teacher Training Student

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Book Review; The Science of Breath

Science Of Breath
A Practical Guide
Swami Rama, Rudolph Ballentine M.D.,
and Alan Hymes

Reviewed by Trina Perdue
ChayaVeda YTT Student

I had so many moments of “aha!” while reading this book, For example, I've always wondered why houses seem to fall in on themselves or go into disrepair so quickly when no one lives in them. It's like they know no one is inside breathing! The answer is prana! How can we be walking, talking, laughing, growing, blinking, etc.. one minute, and boom! Something can happen that stops the  breath, and it all stops-the heart, the “animation” is gone and we decay. Prana no longer occupies that body.

This book states that “prana is the link between the body and mind”. It's what animates us and it flows through the universe. Our breath is how we connect to it.

In the very first chapter, first page, in fact it says many of the amazing “feats” a yogi can accomplish or perform are done by first controlling the breath. By the end of the book it made perfect sense!

From our western view, most of our day to day dealings are with the material things. Yoga sees us as multifaceted, beings. In this lies that “power”. Our breath is the only thing that can be either voluntary or involuntary. If we can take control of that, we can open that window to control of things we didn't know we had control over! Our breath changes with our emotions and physical condition, so doesn't it make sense that if we can take control of our breath, it will in return affect our emotions and even our physical condition?

Physically, there are so many things about how and where the breath goes that will govern what we see and feel as the outcome of  taking a breath. The nose is much more than just something to hold up glasses on our face. It has many jobs- preparing the temperature and humidity of the air are just the first things. The nose is centrally located so that new air comes into contact quickly with the brain, nervous system and pituitary gland. Then there's the first cranial nerve, which is how we process scent.  There are 3 types of breathing- clavicular, thoracic and diaphragmatic. Diaphragmatic is the most efficient. Because of gravity, the blood is already in the lower lungs. This will give the blood the highest amount of oxygen. We tend to be shallow breathers today, which is obviously not the ideal scenario. Negative emotions (fear, jealousy, rage, and sexual issues etc...) are held in the lower chakras. We tend to hold our diaphragm tight and not breath fully. We lock those emotions down and pile them up, not letting them be released through the breath.

We don't always breath the same volume of air through both nostrils. The coordination of this is called the “infradian rhythm”. We can even use this to our advantage depending on what task we are trying to accomplish. This has to do with the left/right brain, the nervous system, and the Ida, Pingala, and sushumna nadis. Here is where we get into pranayama. Ideally, with control of the breath, practicing and focusing, we can learn to let those held emotions, negative beliefs, and judgments release. We can get prana, first flowing up and down through the Ida and pingula, then up the sushumna

This book gives the processes you can use, but also warns that some of them need to be taught by experienced yogis. In getting the prana to rise through the sushumna, we are given a feeling of extreme joy. I believe also, that this leads us to genuinely see our true nature, which is being one with each other, the universe and all things. 

Once we see that, how can we not love each other?  

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Out Of Many, One

Guest contributor Sierra Kantamneni
ChayaVeda Intern and UF College of Journalism
The past few weeks have been nothing short of surreal. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and thousands of other Black Americans have changed the world. Protests internationally for Black Lives have ignited the much-needed conversations and steps to create permanent change. 

As a first-generation Indian immigrant, I have witnessed the rampant anti-blackness in my own household. From the colorist roots in the Indian caste system to the infamous Model Minority stereotype, Indian culture perpetuates anti-blackness and ignorance. The conversations I have had with my family since the inception of this movement have been poignant and visceral, and most importantly, transformative. We recognized our privileges as non-Black people of color and how we directly benefit from the systems that continue to terrorize Black Americans. Our presence in the US is thanks to the efforts of those who fought during the Civil Rights movement. The passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965; which lifted restrictions on immigration into the US, was a direct product of Black-led activism. Staying silent is complacency. We must use our privilege and voices to seek justice for the Black community.

As the protests gained momentum, my social media flooded with resources on how to aid the Black community and ensure the movement generated long-term change. It is easier than ever to educate yourself and learn about the systematic racism in the US and be an informed ally. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have not participated in the protests as my father is imuno-compromised. If you are in a similar position as me and cannot protest, do not fret! There is still much you can do. There are thousands of virtual petitions you can sign to open old cases or investigate those where the system simply failed in seeking justice. If you have the financial means, you can also donate to relief organizations, victims, Black-owned businesses, etc. Another method, and arguably the most imperative, is education. I have been reading books and watching documentaries regarding the Black experience in the United States, and the systems in place since the slavery-era that continue to oppress Black Americans. There is simply no excuse for ignorance. I urge you all to truly take the time to learn, listen, and understand the injustices rampant in our country. 

I commend those who are on the front-lines of the movement despite the risks, and for all the change these protests have brought. People from all backgrounds have united for this cause, and have already generated substantial change. Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY) recently released several reforms to the state in regards to police brutality and racism. From banning chokeholds, outlawing racial 911 calls, and only allowing independent prosecutors to represent in cases against the police to eliminate bias, Cuomo has facilitated the incentive stages of permanent change. Furthermore, several Confederate statues across the country have been toppled, the most recent being the fall of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham in Richmond, VA. Atlanta Chief of Police Erika Shields recently resigned after the murder of Rayshard Brooks, and is now evaluating methods of reform and rebuilding trust in the community, And lastly, Minneapolis has committed to dismantling its police after George Floyd’s murder. In the words of his six-year-old daughter Gianna, “Daddy changed the world.”

All in all, it would be foolish of me to say we could undo centuries of systematic racism in a week, but this is a promising start. Now more than ever, we need to unite and take a firm stand against the racism, police brutality, and flagrant oppression Black Americans face each day. We must speak up for them, and ensure that the justice our country promises to all of its citizens is served. Our country’s motto preaches inclusivity, 
E Pluribus Unum”, meaning out of many, one. Out of many states, one country. Out of many people, we are all the American people. 

Link to petitions, donation sites, and other resources:



Black-owned businesses in Gainesville:

Black-led LGBTQ+ Organizations accepting Donations:

Innocence Project:

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Innocence Project

ChayaVeda is founded upon six core values; community, empowerment, healing, respect, passion, and honesty. Now more than ever, it is important to honor our values and stand together as one as we fight for the ones whose lives were lost due to racism and years of injustice in our society.

The other night, I was watching America's Got Talent with my family. A man with the name Archie Williams performed the song "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me" by Elton John. The lyrics took on a whole new meaning as he told his heart-wrenching story. Archie spent 37 years of his life in jail due to a false accusation of rape. Archie was a poor African American kid and did not have the means to fight for justice. His fingerprints were not found at the crime scene, and three people testified that he was home, but that was not enough. He spent 37 years of his life in jail. More than half of his life was taken from him. About ten years into Archie's imprisonment, the Innocence Project took on Archie's case, and 37 years later, DNA freed him.

This story does not end with Archie. According to the Innocence Project, it is believed that 20,000 people in our nation are falsely convicted. That is 20,000 innocent people who are not able to experience the full beauty of life. To this date, the Innocence Project freed 367 lives. 61% of the wrongly accused people were African American.*

This is a problem.

We, as a nation, need to do better. We can do better.

How can you take action?

Donate to the Innocent Project:

Educate yourself on Wrongful Conviction (Movies and TV Series):

Donate to the George Floyd Memorial:

Support the National Police Accountability Project:

Donate to the Bail Fund Program:

*The demographics of the 367 people are the following:
225 (61%) African American
110 (30%) Caucasian
28 (8%) Latino
2 (1%) Asian American
1 (<1%) Native American
1 (<1%) Other

Guest Contributor: ChayaVeda Intern, Alyssa Alalouf,
UF Anatomy, Physiology and Applied Kinesiology Major

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Key To Success During Uncertain Times

People all across the world have been subjected to unprecedented circumstances amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This has created and exacerbated stress and anxiety for many people during these uncertain times. Stress and anxiety present itself differently for different people. Some may experience minor symptoms, such as discontent, racing thoughts and feelings of unease. For others, these feelings of anxiety may be more severe. Symptoms may include, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, sweating, nausea, and an impending feeling of dread or doom. 
It is important to remember that during these uncertain times, you are not suffering alone and many people across the world are experiencing exactly what you are feeling. Another important thing to remember is that there are at-home strategies you can implement. One of those strategies, which is an important aspect of holistic health and the Ayurvedic practice is mindfulness.
Awareness is the key. If with curiosity and wonder, we can become acutely aware of all of the aspects of our mind and emotions, we can develop an openness towards them, a compassion and an understanding that will allow them to rest comfortably within our wisdom mind.
Mindfulness can be defined as the practice of being present in the moment and doing it intentionally and with non-judgement. Mindfulness is a component of meditation. Mindfulness meditation refers to the deliberate act of regulating attention to the present through the observation of thoughts, emotions, and body awareness. Mindful activities include, awareness of breath, body, feelings, emotions, and thoughts, typically in a meditative state. Mindfulness works to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as make you more aware and present in your current state. It transmits the thoughts and emotions into wisdom and connects us to the ever present peace and stillness that is the background of all thoughts. As we begin to identify more with this unchanging background, without struggling against the thoughts in the foreground, intuitive wisdom emerges from that source of stillness. This intuitive wisdom allows us to understand that all thoughts are pointers back to the ground of stillness which is unity.
Chaya~Sharon Heller stated “when we are one with ourselves, we are one with the world around us”. Mindfulness allows you to become one with your thoughts, feelings and emotions, helping you become present with yourself. This, in turn, helps you become present in your environment, making you one with the world around you. 
The Ayurvedic practice emphasizes self-awareness and mindfulness as a key to meditation and living a healthy life. Five thousand years ago, in the north of India, the oldest and most sacred texts were written: the Vedas. It was in these texts that yoga and mindfulness were expounded upon. Yoga was, and still is, a spiritual experience that sought to train the mind to help alleviate suffering and achieve enlightenment, awareness or self-realization. The ancient medical system of Ayurveda was first recorded in the Vedas, that states that our thoughts heavily impact our realities. By implementing mindfulness during this time of uncertainty aids in awareness and stress relief for those suffering. 
In a recent live stream with Chaya, she demonstrated the practice of specific breathing and relaxation techniques that create the stillness for greater awareness. When we are mindful, we focus on the present moment and become aware of our feelings and thoughts. When we do this, we begin making more conscious choices that foster our greatest well-being. In Chaya’s live stream, she exhibited how to properly develop your breathing and mind for deep relaxation. Like Chaya demonstrated, implementing these practices, promotes relaxation and stress relief. 
You can introduce mindfulness in your life using several techniques. First, try to be quiet or meditate for at least five minutes a day. This allows you to distance yourself from your troubling thoughts and feelings, centering yourself in the present. Second, take a mindful stretch break. Instead of checking social media on your work break, try mindful stretching instead. Follow your body cues; slowly and intentionally stretch the parts of your body that need to be stretched. Finally, implement healthy eating practices and eat without distraction. Chaya has compiled some of her own Body Intelligence Tips (BITS) about healthy eating and lifestyle practices. Some of these include eating in a calm, settled atmosphere; never eat when you’re upset, always sit down when you eat, and sit quietly for a few minutes after your meal. Although there are more BITS Chaya has listed, these are imperative to implementing mindfulness while eating, which while improving your digestion will also improve your mindfulness practice. 
In these uncertain times, it is hard to not let anxiety and negative thoughts control you. When you do find yourself feeling this way, it is important to remember that you are not alone and practicing mindfulness can aid in relieving a large portion of the stress you endure. To help get your started, set small achievable goals, like 5 minutes a day or at a meal, making the commitment to show up for it on a regular basis, and through practice and implementation, achieving this small, achievable goal, can bring the mindfulness and stress reduction needed to continue. 
How we respond to these unprecedented times, will play a part in the next steps or outcome of our lives. Many want to escape this reality and diminish fear, however, when we attempt to remain present and mindful, we may no longer wish to escape our uncertain reality, rather, accept that life is always changing, and our present for a vehicle for growth, being grateful for what we have and what it will teach us and contribute to who we become and the legacy we create.  
By: Guest contributor, Sarah McWilliams, ChayaVeda Intern and UF College of Journalism and
Chaya~Sharon Heller

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Real Life Story

Guest contributor Sierra Kantamneni
ChayaVeda Intern and UF College of Journalism

Never in my life would I have imagined my freshman year of college ending with an international pandemic. Within days, my once loud and lively dorm floor became painfully quiet and vacant. My college experience, life, and the world as I knew it had turned upside down with no clear end in sight. 

As the virtual school year came to a close, I was blessed to receive a remote internship position at ChayaVeda for the summer. In the few weeks I have been an intern, I have already learned so much about the importance of wellness and self-care. I now practice daily yoga and meditation and have found a sense of escape from the chaos and uncertainty of the world. For the first time in a long time, I am putting myself first. From our centering activities before each meeting, to Chaya always checking in on how we are doing, ChayaVeda has become an immense source of stability and growth in my life. Here I have learned valuable lessons about professional and personal growth, and am excited for all that is to come.

Each one of us has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to some capacity. We must recognize the importance of our mental and physical health, and use this time to properly care for ourselves. Self-care is something many of us neglect in the busyness of our lives, myself included. As we navigate this time of uncertainty and fear, I encourage you all to remember the positive things in life and remind yourself that this too, one day, shall pass.