Brendan Lentz Yoga

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Make the Most of Your Next Yoga Class

I've been attending yoga classes for about 10 years now. Here are some things I've learned through trial and error going to all those classes. This is mostly for newbies but veterans may still find a nugget in there. This weekend I'm heading to Tucson, Arizona for an Acroyoga weekend with the AcroVan. Look for a post on that next week. Have a great weekend!

Photo: Fabio Filippi

Photo: Fabio Filippi

1. Register in advance online. Preferably the day before. The further out you commit to something the more likely you are to follow through with it. You'll also likely save time when you arrive by signing up in advance.

2. Do some research. Read the teacher's bio. If you don't have your own mat find out if you can rent one.  Some studios have specific etiquette listed on their website - check that out too. If you've never been there - find out about the parking situation in advance. Some have dedicated parking, some use a paid lot where you can get validated, some only have on street parking with meters.

3. Plan to arrive early. You will feel more relaxed going into class if you allow extra time for things like getting caught in traffic. Use the extra time to get warmed up, relax in savasana or meditate.

4. Plan to stay a little longer.  It's not uncommon that classes will go over the allotted time and you don't want to feel rushed leaving. Also this will give you some extra time to ask the teacher a question at the end of class or get to know other students.

5. Arrive on an empty stomach. Deep twists and bow poses are really not fun if you haven't fully digested your last meal. How long is long enough? Start with about 4 hours after eating solid food and experiment from there. Find what works for you.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any rituals or tips you follow before heading into a class?

5 Reasons To Stock Your Kitchen with Ball Jars

I like preparing food at home. The more I do it the more I learn about preparing healthy, tasty food in an economical way. One thing I've done over the last few years is upgrade from plastic tupperware to glass storage containers. Most recently - glass Ball jars. Why? Read on to find out.

Some of the staples currently on hand in our kitchen. walnuts, oat bran, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Hawaiian sea salt, garbanzo beans, rolled oats.  (Clockwise from top)

Some of the staples currently on hand in our kitchen. walnuts, oat bran, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, Hawaiian sea salt, garbanzo beans, rolled oats.  (Clockwise from top)

1. They are so easy to open and close. Use the white plastic lids. Now you have an easy twist off and on any time you want to access your ingredients. By having one simple, consistent and secure way to get at the majority of your ingredients you are making your life easier. This does mean you may have to transfer things from it's original packing but it's worth it.

2. You can quickly assess what you have on hand.  At a glance you can open your cabinets and see everything you have, what you don't have and what you are running low on. Why? Because everything is stored in clear glass and not obscured by opaque packaging.  Now you are prepared when you go shopping - you don't end up buying what you don't need.

3. They make measuring easier. The Ball jars I use all have a measuring guide in cups, ounces, and ML. If I'm making quinoa - I don't need to use a measure scoop or cup to get 1 cup of quinoa out of the jar.  I just use the guide built into the jar. It saves a step.

4. They show off the color and texture of the food.  This is just my opinion but I think its nicer to open a cabinet and see the food itself instead of all the packages. I like seeing the different colors and textures of the food - cacao nibs, oats, quiona, rice, chickpeas, dates, etc. When it looks nicer I feel like I'm more conscious of eating whole food in it's natural form. Let the food speak for itself - it doesn't need all the marketing on the packaging!

5. It's better for the environment.  Buy in bulk, store in glass jars and reduce unnecessary packing that ends up in landfills.

Do you use ball jars? What are your food storage tips?

The Pioneer of Emotional Intelligence and the Dalai Lama

In the mid 2000s I attended a life changing 3 day course. I was just getting into practicing yoga more regularly and learning about mindfulness. So it felt like an extra bonus when my then employer allowed me to enroll in a course on Emotional Intelligence. It came highly recommended from a few other colleagues so I jumped at the chance. I was fascinated to learn much of the science behind the ways our brains, glands, genetics, and hormones all interact to influence our behavior. We learned all about emotional hijacking, fight or flight, and techniques to control our emotions. I put this knowledge to good use immediately and still reference much of it to this day.

I also learned during the course that Daniel Goleman is the pioneer of this field.  I didn't know at that time he had something in common with some of the other yoga teachers that I was learning about: they had all traveled to India and met a great Indian Saint - Neem Karoli Baba. I was pleasantly surprised years later when I made the connection. It turns out emotional intelligence and yoga have much in common.

Knowing this I was all the more inclined to read A Force For Good - The Dalai Lama's Vision for Our World written by Daniel Goleman. It is his way of sharing the Dalai Lama's message that we all have a responsibility to take action for the good of everyone on the planet. The book is filled with inspiring stories of the Dalai Lama traveling the world, meeting with individuals and groups who are making positive changes despite a steady stream of negativity from most news outlets. One striking example is highlighted in the book - two men from Northern Ireland (one Protestant and one Catholic) give speeches to groups on the power of forgiveness. The two men had reconciled with each other after a tragic encounter. One had shot the other with a rubber bullet in a conflict and blinded him permanently.

There is a campaign to go with the book that echoes the Dalai Lama's message: "Everyone can find a context where they can make a difference. The human community is nothing but individuals combined." If you are looking for inspiration to continue to take positive action then this is the book for you.

I highly recommend watching the 5 minute campaign film to go along with the book below. Have you read the book ? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.

This short film shows the universal power of compassion and how all of our small acts can add up to a big impact.

External Links:

http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/246980/

http://www.joinaforce4good.org/join

http://www.danielgoleman.info/

 

Life of a Yogi as a Military Veteran

As I sit here on the eve of Veterans Day 2015, I can’t help but notice all these old memories and emotions creeping their way out of the deepest darkest cracks of my mind. They immediately flash me back to the long days suffering though boot camp, long months working with little to no sleep over in Middle East and more than half of the last 10 years away from my family and loved ones.

My memories also flash me back to some of my deepest most beautiful meditations I remember.  I was on the roofs of mud huts in eastern Afghanistan, covered in snow in the middle of the night. Under the most beautiful ceiling of stars and galaxies that felt closer to me than anywhere else in the world.

How is it that I found my deepest most beautiful mediations half way across the world, covered in snow, in freezing temperatures, and in the middle of a war-zone?

I remember the days after getting out of the Marine Corps when I was 24 years, what felt like decades ago. I was scared, confused and didn’t know exactly what I was meant to do in this life time.  So, I took a job as a communication engineer with guaranteed travel of 50-70% of the year to hazardous duty areas. I was young, excited to continue to serve my country, and filled with anger to help root out the terrorists that did what they did to our country on 9-11.

From 2004 to 2008, I travelled over twenty times to hazardous duty areas, spending 70% of four years in a very high stress job, working 12-20 hour days, seven days a week. I was young and full of drive and energy, but my tank was starting to get empty and the stress had taken its toll on me. 

After a few injuries I no longer could find my stress relief through running. After several failed attempts by my roommate I finally took her up on taking a yoga class with her. Being a stubborn Marine, of course I made her take me to the hardest class on the schedule with expectations of it still being easy and full of hippies. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t full of hippies. It was very hard, very humbling and very full of nice amazing people. It was in savasana during that class where I got my first taste of something I had never experienced.  It was that “sweetness”, that I later discovered to be bliss, that sparked an amber of light that would soon grow into a flame of a spiritual practice.

Fast forward six month and roughly 100 plus yoga classes, I found myself having a daily yoga practice and searching for a teacher training that would fit into my crazy work travel schedule. I found that the only vacation time I had that year was in October and it was only for two weeks. I had just returned from another work trip where I would take my “hazardous duty” pay and put it a separate savings account. Searching the internet I found this 10-day immersion 200 hour Life of Yogi Teacher training. I had no idea who Sri Dharma Mittra or what type of yoga he taught but I looked at it anyway. When I looked at the schedule and price it all fit into my vacation days and budget but there was something funny about the cost of the training. I had seen that exact same number very recently. I clicked on webpage I had up with my bank statement open and there staring me in the face was the same exact dollar amount of the teacher training. I remember having a surge of unfamiliar emotions surge through my body and like I had no control of my physical body, I filled out the essay and paid in full right then and there. What did I just do?

That next weekend I traveled NYC to see this person I just spent thousands of dollars on without knowing anything about except a “feeling” deep inside I had no control over.  I found myself at the bottom of a long set of stairs to a small yoga studio on 3rd Avenue in New York City. I was about a half hour early for class, as us Marines always are, and I remember walking into this small humble studio, smelling like incense, and seeing a older gentleman on a ladder fixing a light. As I stood there I felt this deep warming in my heart that I’ve never felt before and then this little old man said to me, “I’ve been waiting for you…….now come her and help me with this ladder”. It was at the very moment I knew I had found home.

Since that beautiful fall day back in 2008, I’ve since taken Sri Dharma Mittra’s Life of a Yogi 200, 500 and 800 hour programs and spent countless days in the 3rd Avenue studio and 23rd Street temple. Dharma Yoga Center has become my home and Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings have changed my life so deeply leading from the dark cloud I was once under into the beautiful world full of light that we live in.

It was these teachings that change my life and put me on a path to spread Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings to other veterans like myself that were or are in these dark moments in life. We still have 22 veterans a day that committee suicide here in the United States. It has been these teaching of yoga that have prevented me from spiraling down this hole of depression, darkness and worse. It was just this year that I realized why I went through what I did and why I had found myself at door step of the Dharma Yoga Center. I was meant to share this teaching to others that have been or are going through the darkness I had been through.

In May of 2015 I founded VETOGA Incorporated. A Washington D.C. based non-profit organization whose mission is to provide yoga, meditation, and healing arts to military, veterans, their families, and communities. The vision of VETOGA is to build sustainable communities by bringing the healing aspects of yoga to veterans, their families, and communities. VETOGA provide access to a range of healing modalities to facilitate healthy minds, bodies and spirits. VETOGA will also host the first veteran specific 200-Hour Teacher Training in 2016 to equip veterans with the holistic tools and teachings to continue to pass on the healing power of yoga. This 200-Hour Teacher Training will be deeply based on the teaching of Sri Dharma Mittra teachings and will be the cultivation of everything I’ve learned from my beloved guru.

In loving service of Sri Dharma Mittra,

Yogi Hanuman (Justin Blazejewski) 

 

About Justin

Justin’s introduction to yoga began in 2007 while he was searching for different exercises that would help with a back injury he sustained while serving in the Marine Corps. Soon after his first class he dove into a daily yoga practice, quickly realizing the physical benefits of yoga when his back pain began to disappear after only a couple of weeks.

Since 2008 he has completed his 200, 500, and 800 hour Dharma Mittra Yoga, Amrit Method of Yoga Nidra, and Acro Yoga teacher training's.

His mission is to help others and share the powerful healing benefits of yoga and meditation. He strives to share yoga to those who need it most in life, especially his brothers and sisters of the armed services and veterans who still carry the encumbrance of war with them every day.