Snake Oil Exists!

Posted by Cora Wen Wednesday, November 25, 2009 1 comments

OK folks...I have seen a Lot of weird things in my travels, but this one is pretty WILD!

A trip to the sacred Pak Ou caves up the river where locals have brought buddhas (4000+) for 100s of years is an awesome sight. Full of prayer and well wishes, these caves guard over the majestic Mekong and the Naga (mystical water snakes) protects the villagers.



In fact the villages near these caves believe in the magical power of the Naga so much that thy even make a whiskey that includes the venom of local snakes...this whiskey is used for medicinal benefit and is supposed to have the power to heal many illnesses. This snake medicine is primarily used for men and the illnesses served include arthritis, skin rashes and problems, and will help keep you virile into old age!


I am not sure about you, but I will stick to my organic Dr Hauschka creams!SDC10372

Considered for a nanosecond or less to get one, but then thought about it breaking in my luggage....

Of course, they did have a <3oz>

Love and laughter from Laos!

I have been dreaming of coming to Luang Prabang in North Central Laos where the Khan river flows into the Mekong. This was the former capital and until the "dark period" of communist takeover in 1975, it was the seat of government of the kingdom of Laos. The entire town was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, and opened for tourism around 2005. Luang Prabang is an wellpreseved and outstanding example of the fusion of French colonial architecture alongside traditional Lao structures. This is truly a magical romantic vision of Indochine.

With the American/Vietnam War through the 60s and 70s

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Pictures from Thailand Yoga Journal

Posted by Cora Wen Thursday, November 19, 2009 1 comments

Here's some pictures to share of the Yoga Festival in Bangkok!

Thailand Yoga Journal Festival

Posted by Cora Wen Tuesday, November 17, 2009 0 comments

Wow - what a busy weekend in Bangkok at the Yoga Festival - so many people to meet and share Yoga and connections.

The Thai people are so warm and welcoming.

There is something beautiful in receiving everyone you meet with anajali mudra (hands in prayer at the heart). Anjali means offering and as we bring our hands together in this offering at our mind centre, we connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain, unifying and yoking our active and receptive nature, nourishing us with awareness. This awareness and acknowledgement repeated as a daily salutation shifts my consciousness in a way that a simple Western wave of the hand does not.

Being surrounded by my own kind, so many Asian faces in bodies similar to mine...bendy over stable and seeking balance and sensation. I know these bodies, I live in this body. So much I want to share with my people, these beautiful, kind people...

And can you imagine being in a room full of 150+ yogis and as we begin in meditation, and come out... I am sitting in padmasana (Lotus) and fold forward and more than 80% of the people get into a quick lotus and fold forward too! That would NEVER happen in the US!! The Asian body and the Western body are very, very different, and I have been noticing and commenting about this for years. I've approached Yoga Journal and other magazines about discussing this, but we are so very PC in the US, that these types of subjects don't get discussed!

It is wild to see so many super flexible one class, a young girl folded like a piece of paper into uttanasana (standing forward fold) and I noticed her ELBOWS were resting on the FLOOR. I have been teaching for 17 years and assisted many Yoga luminaries like Erich Schiffmann, Rodney Yee and Judith Hanson Lasater; all of these teachers have taught in large forums of 100+ in conference settings so I have seen a lot of bodies over the years, and I have never seen someone rest elbows on the ground in Uttanasana!

Thailand is a predominately Buddhist country and my journey in Buddhist studies began at 8, so it is lovely to use terminology and references without having to explain or define...

Many of the well known teachers in Asia are caucasian men and as in other countries, students are predominately women. It is an honor and a privilege to be here as an Asian female teacher sharing my experience and bits of information with this audience. Perhaps I am the Yin to existing Yang...balancing the equilibrium :)

So many visuals and experiences to share in teaching and developing community around the world.

Yoga unifies. It is the community that supports and is refuge for us. Helping to create a global Yoga community is an honor and a privilege.

Namo, I bow.

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Looking for International Collaboration

Posted by Cora Wen Friday, November 13, 2009 0 comments

So, it's day 2 in Thailand and I dont know what day it is or what time or even where I am in this jet lag haze... Today was the search for international telecommunications.

Thinking I was clever, I picked up an unlocked international mobile phone a few years ago in India. India is one of the places where you can buy unlocked mobile phones and just add SIM cards and money to your account.

This has been particularly useful for my travels around the world. Even my great love for Apple products in general, and the iPhone in particular gets superseded by the need for connection. And connection at a low cost...remember I am from Hong Kong and born with the genetics of a bargain hunter!

Back to the hunt for international connections. So arriving last night in Bangkok, I discovered the iPhone didnt connect in any shape or form, and somehow, my Indian mobile had no charge at all! My iPhone had been apped up with all kinds of kool toys - currency conversions, Thai language tips, Lonely Planet guides and other fun and totally unnecessary tools for travel. In fact, I never had any of these tools or even looked at a guidebook in my backpacking days.

But now, I am lost without my connections, and that has added to my sense of being lost in space. I use the handy mobiles to keep me on time and to tell the time, and now 2 phones and a laptop later, and I have no idea what time it really is (Chicago songs singing in my ear...)

To add to this international confusion, my Indian mobile with the fancy devanagari numbers (sanskrit to you my friend), had been loaded with Euros in Ireland this summer. Indian phone with Irish money looking for power in Thailand... is this becoming an international incident?

Charged the Indian/Irish phone and went to buy a SIM at the local 7/11...Yes, I said 7/11 - isnt that where YOU would think to go for a disposable phone connection? Think they always use that in Law & Order or CSI for the bad guys. This is where Ronald MacDonald gave me Namaste smiles, and I rather smugly and unyogically had all kinds of opinions and judgements about fast food, marketing imagery, and all the other politically correct, green, Yogi reasons to be smug! Indian/Irish/Thai phone resolved.

So on to the iPhone situ... And this is how a hi/lo tech geek yogini handles it - Call home!
Had a Skype to my partner Jack who called AT&T and I talked to them over Skype/mobile/wireless. Bangkok Yogini talking to Irishman in Cali talking to AT&T rep in call centerland (India..?!) Many moments later, iPhone connection resolved.

So now I am happy as a Yogi in Bangkok could be, right? Unless you manage to blow out the hotel electricity! Plugged one more little gizmo into the wall, and suddenly there is a fizz, bang and smoke coming out of the wall! Uuuuh, I think I did something all the lights are out in the room!

Memories came flashing back of how I burned the wall socket in Delhi and blew out the entire hotel for our entire TWO hotels! Wasn't as bad this time...I am in the land of smiles after all! The electrician came and fixed everything and gave me smiles and namaste greetings. And I was not smug with him or the 2 sweet Thai women who were helping to translate what happened. I didn't tell them about the smoke. Ssssh!

Maybe I shouldn't have been so smug to the Ronald MacDonald namaste giving smile. After all, he was smiling AND wishing me to see the divine in him seeing the divine in me, right?

So lesson is...the divine is Divine, whether dressed as Ronald MacDonald or in saffron colored robes. This Yoga practice can help to change us, shift us to become better, to become ourselves, to become happy in all situations.

My life is blessed, and I am grateful for the ability to laugh on this side of the earth. It may not be as easy on the other...

Tomorrow the Yoga Festival begins, so will check in with all y'all later!

Yoga Journal My Mentor Column

Posted by Cora Wen Thursday, November 12, 2009 0 comments

One Yoga, Many Approaches

Proficiency in differing styles and approaches to yoga can deepen your understanding and enhance your teaching.
By Sage Rountree

It's easy to see why many yoga teachers focus on one style of yoga. When you immerse yourself, you get a deeper understanding and are able to communicate it effectively. However, when you broaden your skill set to encompass more than one kind of yoga, you might find that both you and your students benefit. Although styles may at first seem disparate, each approach points to yoga's ultimate goal of union. Processing, integrating, and teaching in more than one style can both serve your students and enliven your own practice.

Johanna Andersson, who teaches yoga in her native Sweden and worldwide, has a packed weekly schedule that includes classes in vinyasa yoga, Yin Yoga, Forrest Yoga, hot yoga, yoga with kettle bells, yogalates, and dance. Such varied approaches can coexist in one week—let alone in one teacher's lesson plans—because, at the core, these are all variations on a single subject. Andersson says, "To me, it's all yoga! It's just different labels. We in the West have an issue with labeling things—saying this is that and not that, creating frames and boundaries to feel safe, to strengthen our identity, and to be part of a special group. The root of this is actually very beautiful: wanting to unite, which is what yoga is all about. But instead of uniting, this labeling only creates separation."

While the trend in yoga has been toward labeled or even branded style—Ananda, Anusara, and Ashtanga begin a list that contains more items than letters of the alphabet—many teachers draw on their study in more than one area to deepen their understanding of yoga. They can then teach classes with definitive titles tied to a particular style, or they can combine their experience into an eclectic approach, bringing their students exposure to more than one style. Teacher Chris Loebsack leads AcroYoga and restorative classes as well as vinyasa classes and classes for beginners, from studios in New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In her opinion, "a multidisciplinary approach honors the styles, expertise, and knowledge of different teachers and lineages, giving respect to all."

Practical Benefits

From a practical perspective, proficiency in many styles can improve your job prospects. "The ability to teach multiple styles makes for a more valuable and marketable employee, one with the ability to teach a variety of classes and fill in on a moment's notice, regardless of the style required," Loebsack says.

Various approaches can also be combined in one class. For example, Loebsack will insert some restorative poses after a rigorous vinyasa class or incorporate AcroYoga in an alignment-focused class. "A multidisciplinary background provides for an expansive bag of tricks from which to draw and meet the specific needs of my students," she says.

Resolving Contradictions

How can you teach in many different styles without seeming like a dilettante whose knowledge is broad but not deep? By continuing your study and your own practice. Only through continued work with master teachers and through self-study (svadhyaya, outlined in the Yoga Sutra) can you truly process each approach, sorting out what is most useful for you and your students.

Cora Wen, a teacher based in the San Francisco Bay Area, suggests you listen to each teaching, then check it out for yourself. "Don't just parrot back the answer," she says. "Teach what you know, not what you don't, and know it—don't just say it, know it."

Wen has assisted many Western yoga luminaries, including Rodney Yee, Erich Schiffmann, and Judith Lasater. "They're in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, so they do fit together in one very clear, precise way," she says. But at the same time, different teachers may have different opinions about alignment. Issues of alignment in poses as basic as Tadasana (Mountain Pose) can differ widely among styles. Wen recommends digesting each style of practice, seeing how it sits in your own body, then carefully observing your students to determine what is best for their individual bodies.

Loebsack agrees that her experiences as a student deepen her understanding of her own practice, and therefore of her own teaching. "Each new style I learn, each new class I take or teach, is part of a process of self-discovery and self-correction," she says.

This ongoing process of learning is what keeps the multidisciplinary teacher from being a "jack of all trades, master of none." Through the process of resolving contradictions among various styles, the teacher comes closer to an understanding of yoga as a whole.

Stocking Your Tool Kit

Exposure to many different styles will flavor your own yoga practice; it's similarly good for students to tour various classes. "We travel to different countries and get inspiration from different cultures," Andersson says. "Then we go home and season our dinner in a new way, with a twist, and we become creative! You can have a core practice and add principles from other styles."

After tasting various styles, you might then choose to study one thoroughly. Deep study in different styles will give you broad range and versatility as a teacher. Loebsack says, "You're not going to paint a masterpiece with a single brush. The best artists use different brushes to impart beauty and grace to their creations. They may use entirely nontraditional approaches, such as sponges, or even no brush at all. Having so many tools gives them the freedom to reach the highest realization of their specific potential."

You'll know you're ready to teach in a particular style when you feel well versed in its language—and, more importantly, when you see how it relates to the other approaches you've studied. Once you reach this awareness of a particular style, you can teach it with integrity. Your teaching will further deepen your understanding, creating a cycle of enrichment that will broaden your understanding of the practice.

Ultimately, it's all yoga. "Yoga is greater than one path—many waves, one ocean," Wen says. "Yoga is greater than one way."

I am leaving for Bangkok today to go teach at 2009 Yoga Journal Thailand Festival. Yes, that's right, there is a Thai edition of Yoga Journal and they have their own conference with Yoga teachers from Thailand, Japan, India and the US!

It will be amazing to return to Thailand and teach Asian yogis! I have had an opinion about different bodies and the cultural, emotional and anatomical differences in Asians, so there will be lots of bodies to see! And will blog about my observations, opinions and what I see, do and experience over here in the "land of smiles"

Yoga Journal tells me these conferences are set up differently, and there will be 200+ in each class...wondering if there wil be a translator? Or do I hope that my physical instructions suffice?


Just got off the plane after 22 hours of travel from San Francisco to Bangkok...uuuuhhh Where am I again? SO glad I booked an extra day to rest before teaching 200+ yogis as a fernagi in a distant land! But wait... aren't I Already a ferengi in the US!! Or am I always to straddle te two worlds and have to make sense of it all..

Here in Thailand, I will be a foreigner teaching about the tradition of Yoga, and in the US, I bring in my Chinese modalities and traditional wisdom and am seen as crossing the bridge... Are we ALL strangers in our own and other lands...?

Sooooo, my thoughts tonight are about the etiquette of the shared airplane armrest, and how to live in Yogic wisdom and kindness when the businessman and grandmother next to me are both spilling into the arm rest on the 18 hours of flying.

Do I smile and say Namaste, wishing all beings kindness? Or do I say what my loud inner American wants to and say "MOVE over...please..." and then nod and say Namaste...?

As my Tibetan friend Thinlay, the thangka painter said as I was bemoaning my unenlightenment and inability to sit still under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya... "I wish happiness for all living beings....except mosquitos!"

Tomorrow is a search to find a SIM card for my unlocked Indian mobile phone...cant get my super hi tech and groovy iPhone to work here without costing too many bahts! Will catch up with all y'all in the am!

leaving on a jet plane

Posted by Cora Wen 0 comments

Getting ready this am was a bit scattered...had mostly packed and some little bits to through into my carry on and away we go....NOT

Realised I had not picked up the Yoga Dogz calendars from Dan Borris - I really wanted to bring these to the conference - they are funny and respectful, and think we all need top lighten up sometimes with Yoga - check out Anika above! If she doesnt give you a smile, hmmmmmm...?

Anyway, went for a coffee, and then realised I left my Asian phone at home, ran home to get the phone, picked up Jack getting coffee and then went to get the calendars....all this being a bit tight on California commute traffic

All I can say is the Gods were with me as there was barely any traffic, even the traffic update radio was commenting! ;)

Made the flights and got all the (heavy) bags on and am now tapping from Tokyo with an on the road update

Spent most of the time trying to get on wireless and try to ge tthe phone to work, so not much to report yet...

Lots of Asians all wearing masks to protect from the FLu - waaaaay better than when I was in Sinapore during SARS - That was wild!!

Will tap more interesting news soon - gotta run and catch this next flight and head into the land of emerald Buddhas and beautiful landscapes....

l8r g8rs!

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Yogi Imperfect = I'm perfect

Posted by Cora Wen Tuesday, November 10, 2009 0 comments

Just spell this differently...




I am definitely perfectly imperfect...

watch this vid that Jack shot of me talking about being imperfect at the Bantry House on the southern coast of Ireland...

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

Posted by Cora Wen Monday, November 9, 2009 3 comments

I love the Yoga Sutras and have over 20 different translations of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

This could be a forum to share discussions, translations, links, online resources and other commentary on the teachings

Please join in and add you thoughts....

Bend, Breathe, Bloom

Book 1 Verse 1

Atha yoga anushasanam
Now the practice of yoga begins.

This is the first of the Yoga Sutras.
It points out that everything following (the sutras) will define and explain the practice of yoga; it is the definition of yoga. It also suggests that to have the highest success with a path towards Self Realization, one has to be ready.

Listen to the Sanskrit:

Are you interested in Chinese Energy Meridians? I have been fascinated since I was a child by the idea of energy running through my body, and have been feeling this energy in my Yoga Practice since I first started practicing. I remember sitting around as a child and putting my feet on my head and thinking - is This Yoga? And if it is, how Kool. And if it isn't... why are there currents flowing through my veins? As an adult when I started to do Yoga again, I worked on Rajakapotasana when you lay on the ground on your belly and bring your feet to your head.. and, again... it is an electric current. A thrill of Joy! Now I am playing around with these energy points and seeing how I can access them through my Yoga practice. Would love to hear about some of your experiences, so share some of your stories...!

morning Yoga class

Posted by Cora Wen 3 comments

Last week @yoga_mydrishti @innerspaceyoga were tweeting about Yoga and they asked about Scorpion pose.

I gave tips on how to use a chair to practice the pose and Nancy asked for more info on how to use the chair. I decided to film a short vid this morning to help explain

The video is me in the am in my pajamas (Hindi word "paijama" - Pai = leg, jama = garment).

It is not meant as instruction, and there is lots more to teach about the pose than I am showing. Please recognise that you need to know your own limitations and capabilities.

As indicated I do recommend you have a strong headstand - 5 mins, forearm balance - 2-3 mins and be able to do handstand without help.

Hope this is helpful in some way for understanding of this pose.

Vrischikasana, Vrichikasana, Vrishchika Asana, Vischika or Vrishchik Asan, Pincha-Vrishchikasana. In Sanskrit, Vrishchikasana is scorpion

The position of the body resembles a scorpion when it gets ready to strike its victim by arching its tail above its back & and striking the victim beyond its own head. Before attempting pose you should be comfortable in holding Headstand for 5 minutes, Forearm Balance for 3 mins & and Handstand since these are ways to enter Scorpion.
  • develops sense of balance - internal and external
  • arched position of body increases flexibility and stimulates spinal nerves
  • strengthens shoulders, arms, abdominals and back muscles
  • Improves circulation and increases blood flow to brain and pituitary gland
  • Tones reproductive organs

This pose tones the spine and revitalizes all body systems and promotes balance and harmony to mind & body.

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Deep Brain Stimulation Gives Hope For Very Severe Depression

ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2009) — Thanks to a new method, there is a reason for hope for patients with very severe depression.

Physicians at the University Clinics of Bonn and Cologne have treated ten patients with deep brain stimulation. This involved implanting electrodes in the patients' nucleus accumbens. This centre has a key role in as the brains reward system, whose function may be impaired in depressive people.

Subsequent to this treatment, the patients' depression improved significantly in half of the patients. All patients had suffered from very severe depression for many years and did not respond to any other therapies.

The results of the study will be published in the journal Biological Psychiatry (doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.09.013).

In deep brain stimulation, doctors specifically target the impaired function of certain areas of the brain with an electric brain pacemaker.

For the purpose of this study, they implanted electrodes in what is known as the nucleus accumbens. That is an important part of the 'reward system' which ensures that we remember good experiences and puts us in a state of pleasant anticipation.

Without a reward system we would not forge any plans for the future as we would not be able to enjoy the fruits of these plans. Inactivity and the inability to experience pleasure are two important signs of depression.

A total of ten patients with very severe depression participated in the study. In all patients, symptoms did not improve despite many therapies using psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy.

Overall, all participants showed signy of improvement, in half of them symptoms of depression improved significantly. Initial effects could sometimes be seen just after a few days.

'Thus, inter alia we observed increasing activity of the patients,' Professor Thomas E. Schlaepfer from the Bonn Clinic of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy explains. 'This was so successful that some of them were even able to work again, after having been incapacitated for many years.

None of our patients had ever responded to any other therapy to a comparable extent before.'

Hardly any side effects

Five patients' well-being improved considerably and in a sustained fashion. Even after a year, the stimulation of the nucleus accumbens still had the same efficacy as at the beginning of the study.

During the study, the scientists also observed distinct anxiety-relieving effects which had not been observed in studies on deep brain stimulation to date.

'Severe anxiety is often an accompanying effect of depression,' the primary author of the study Dr. Bettina Bevernick explains. The overall brain function of the participants was not impaired by the treatment, some neurophysiological functions even improved.

Overall, the scientists only noticed minor side effects, e.g. as a consequence of the operation or after changing the electrical parameters of stimulation. However, these effects always wore off after short periods of time.

Stimulation changes the brain metabolism

But what is the exact effect of the stimulation of the nucleus accumbens? 'We were able to show using functional brain imaging methods that the stimulation changes metabolic rates of different areas of the brain,' Thomas Schlaepfer says.

'What is very important is that the metabolic changes do not just affect the nucleus accumbens itself but also other regions of the limbic system, where the brain processes emotions and that are known to be dysfunctional in depression.

Due to the small number of patients in this and similar studies, the scientists warn against exaggerated hopes.

Moreover, with brain surgery in psychiatric patients specific ethical issues have to be considered very carefully, not least because such an operation is always associated with risk.

'However, our study definitely shows that deep brain stimulation can help some patients with extremely severe forms of depression,' Thomas Schlaepfer stresses. 'That even goes for cases which were thought to be absolutely therapy-resistant up to now.'

Adapted from materials provided by University of Bonn, viaEurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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Seeing the world from upside down...

Posted by Cora Wen Sunday, November 8, 2009 2 comments

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Tat Tvam Asi

Posted by Cora Wen 0 comments

Tat Tvam Asi

तत् त्वम् असि or तत्त्वमसि

translates as "Thou art that" "That thou art" "You are that" or "That you are" is one of Mahāvākyas (Grand Pronouncements) in Vedantic Hinduism.

It is Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 in the dialogue between Uddālaka and his son Śvetaketu.

The Self in its original, pure, primordial state is wholly or partially identifiable with Ultimate Reality, origin of all phenomena.

This is the experience of liberation - moksha मोक्ष, मुक्ति

Vedantic interpretations of Tat (That) Tvam (You) Asi (Are):

  • Advaita - absolute equality of 'tat', the Ultimate Reality, Brahman, and 'tvam', the individual self, jiva जीव
  • Shuddhadvaita - oneness in "essence" between 'tat' and individual self; but 'tat' is the whole and self is a part.
  • Vishishtadvaita - identity of individual self as a part of the whole which is 'tat', Brahman.
  • Dvaitadvaita - equal non-difference and difference between the individual self as a part of the whole which is 'tat'.
  • Dvaita - “Sa atmaa-tat tvam asi” in Sanskrit is actually “Sa atma-atat tvam asi” or “Atman, thou art not that”.
  • Acintya Bheda Abheda - inconceivable oneness and difference between individual self as a part of the whole which is 'tat'.

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