Friday, 21 December 2018

Happy Winter Solstice

Source: Museum of Fine Art, Boston
Best wishes for enlightenment, outside and in!

I pray that you are well, navigating the darkness with courage and cheer, getting the rest you've earned, and time for the introspection that awakens inner wisdom.

If you're looking for ways to celebrate, here are some simple ideas:  8 Winter Solstice Traditions

If you're seeking revelations read this CBC 2018 Winter Solstice Horoscope.

Recognizing that this is a challenging time of year, to say the least, know that if you're grieving, there is help.  For a supportive yoga practice, contact Sandy:  Yoga for Grief Support

And if you would like some uplifting music for the longest night of the year here is a short YouTube playlist to get you started:

Yule (Winter Solstice) Song
Solstice Night
Wyrd Sisters - Solstice Carole
Ravens - Solstice Carole
Ring Out Solstice Bells - Jethro Tull
Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Longest Night of the Year

Tomorrow, the light begins its slow return.  Until then:
Go merry met, my gentle friends, let nothing you dismay The bright Son of our Lady comes birthing with the day To free us all from winter's grasp and mind us all of May Oh tidings of comfort and joy... Source

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Yoga and Origami Workshop

"Under the Rain" by Oriland
A great big thanks to all of you who joined Satwinder and me at Yoga Within on the weekend for Yoga and Origami.

It was peaceful and uplifting spending time with you folding and unfolding the energy and crafting pretty things from paper.

Many of you showed an interest in learning more paper folding so here are a few of my favorite sites for you to browse:

Origami Club is my favorite site for beginners and children.  They have great diagrams and even an animated diagram feature that makes it easier to understand transitions.

You can find the instructions for the cup we folded here and a slightly simpler variation of the lotus with optional leaves here.

Origami Spirit is a beautiful blog for artistic inspiration and soothing instructional videos.  Author Leyla Torres and her sweet kitty Corazon just added this beautiful post about Origami for stress relief and building community.  So Yogic!

Oriland is an absolutely charming Canadian site.  Authors Katrin and Yuri Shumakov have done considerable research on the brain benefits of Origami and their paper flower arrangements like the one pictured above are each more beautiful than the last!

Last but not least, I'm very fond of Paper Kawaii. Chrissy's video tutorials are clear and uncluttered.  Her photography and choices of paper are so creative and inspiring!

There are so many other amazing Origami artists and sites out there, but I'll save them for another workshop and post.

Do you have a favorite Origami site?  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Happy folding!

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Happy 150th Birthday, Gandhi

Gandhi: Image Source
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas K. Gandhi, also known as Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi dedicated his life to truth (satya) and is well known for his policy of Satyagraha, a form of non-violent civil resistance which led to the independence of India in 1947 and inspired civil rights movements around the world.

To honor this special anniversary, the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs has released a medley of Gandhi's Favourite Bhajan featuring artists from 124 countries.

You can read the beautiful lyrics of this 15th-century Gujarati song, called Vaishnava Jan To here.

And listen to Gandhi's translation of the Bhagavad Gita here.

Music for Reading the Mahabharat

Shantanu woos Satyavati: Image Source
I've really been enjoying rereading the stories of the Mahabharat lately.

I used to call the Mahabharat "the original soap opera", but a more relatable example these days is the original "Game of Thrones". (Looks like I'm not the only one to see the parallels! Mahabharata meets Game of Thrones)

It is full of fascinating and dynamic characters, beautiful landscapes, suspense, intrigue, love, lust, riddles, revenge, virtue, vice, curses, and boons.  In other words, everything you could possibly want in a story!

It is the longest poem in the world, originally attributed to the sage Vyasa, son of Satyavati (pictured left) and has been retold countless times since it was composed thousands of years ago.

But every reading needs a soundtrack, right?  So here are a few Krishna songs that feel like they fit the bill.  Jai!!!

Panduranga Yere, by Theo Bharathwaj

He Natha Narayana by Karnamrita Dasi

Theme from Mahabharat TV Serial

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Thank You, MacEwan University

Om Symbol at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat, Bahamas

Here are a few links, charts and tips to support today's guest lecture on The Language and Literature of Yoga.  

Feel free to browse around Kali's Kitchen.  It's a cozy place to explore the paths of Yoga and allow your own realizations, musings, and practice to "cook".


We began today's class with the chant Om Sahana Vavatu in the call-and-response style of a traditional ashram or gurukulam.

The main topics introduced were:

The Language of Yoga:

The Foundational Literature of Yoga:

The Vedas
The Upanishads
The Mahabharata including the famous chapter The Bhagavad Gita
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

*Although we didn't discuss it in class, I also recommend the highly influential 15th-century text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika for a deeper understanding of the foundations of the path of Hatha Yoga specifically.

Key Definitions of Yoga:

The Vedas and the Upanishads: Aham Brahmasmi or "The microcosm (individual self) and the macrocosm (universal Self) are one and the same."

The Bhagavad Gita: Yoga karmasu kaushalam or "Yoga is skill in action"

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:  PYS 1.2 Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah or "Yoga is the stopping of the fluctuations of consciousness/the stilling of the mind."

Note* If you are in need of source materials for papers or your own personal study, I highly recommend, a non-profit digital library of millions of scanned documents and texts.

Final Chant:  Asato Ma Sadgamaya

Best wishes in your studies.  May your learning be brilliant and may it bring peace of mind, peace in the world and peace in your life.

Om Shanti,

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Gordon Ramsay Goes to an Ashram

Paper Dosa, Savoy South Indian Kitchen, Edmonton
Have you seen this? 

It's from 2013 but I only encountered it a short while ago. 

If you can tune out the swearing it's hilarious and educational, and refreshing to see Gordon Ramsay a tiny bit calmer and perhaps even slightly humbled...

Gordon's Great Escape India - Part 1

Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape India - Part 2

Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape India - Part 3

The "Proper Guru" Gordon meets in Part Three is Sadhguru, founder of Isha whom I featured in the previous post.

If you don't have time for the whole series, here are some choice highlights:

Highlights: Gordon Ramsay Meets Sadhguru

Anybody feel like going for dosas?

Saturday, 24 November 2018

The Birth of the Pandavas and the Kauravas

I love stories.  Especially Yoga stories.  Especially when they're told by really good storytellers.

Here are a couple of videos if you like Yoga stories too.  They come from the Mahabharat, or the Story of India which is the setting for the jewel-like 18th chapter, the Bhagavad Gita, or Song of God.

Many people bristle at the setting of the Bhagavad Gita, a tense battleground where God Himself (Krishna) urges a young Prince (Arjuna) to fight against family, friends, and teachers.  I did too until I actually read the Mahabharat.

Learning more about the two sets of warring cousins, the Pandavas, and the Kauravas, their exploits and their ancestors helped me relate to the "inevitability" and "righteousness" of the war.  It illuminated the need for action, even when there was no positive outcome in sight.

Sadhguru, founder of Isha is a gifted storyteller.  In these two videos, he really brings the background of the Bhagavad Gita to life. 

I hope they will help you in your study of Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita, and your Self. 

Sadhguru Reveals the Mystery Behind the Birth of the Pandavas

Sadhguru Reveals the Mystery Behind the Birth of the Kauravas

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Saturday, December 8: Yoga and Origami

Origami Lotus Candle Holder
I'm excited to be co-teaching at Yoga Within with Kundalini Yogini, Satwinder Sran of Yoga of Self Mastery just in time for Christmas!  It's the first time we've presented Yoga and Origami together and I'm confident that you will enjoy the experience.

We will be folding an easy Cup/treat pocket, the Lotus Candle Holder above and a pretty Jewel Box/ornament.  Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus!  Om Mani Padme Hum!

Please contact Yoga Within to register.

Yoga & Origami with Satwinder Sran & Tara Woltjen

Saturday, December 8 2:00pm - 3:30pm

$20/Adult $10/Child *Children must be accompanied by an adult
Yoga and Origami are peaceful, meditative arts of alignment and transformation.  Both enhance functional fitness at any age and encourage creativity and joy in the process.  In the folding of our bodies or a simple piece of paper, limitless possibilities unfold.
  • Relax with soothing live music and sound
  • Practice Kundalini Yoga for "Folding and Unfolding the Energy"
  • Learn mudras that bring the heart into the hands
  • Create your own origami treasures for holiday decorating and gift giving
 You do not need previous experience in Yoga or Origami to attend this family-friendly workshop.  All are welcome.  Supplies are included.  Additional paper and giftable items available for purchase.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Give Me Love, George Harrison

George Harrison, Give Me Love is my mantra today.  Hope it lifts your spirits too. 

Seven Practices for Peacemakers

Image Source: Wikipedia
Are you on the lookout for practical ways to embody peace?

Psychological peace, or peace of mind, is widely considered to be a necessary precursor to peace in the world.

That was one of the main reasons Swami Vishnudevananda began the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Program.

Even if you're not currently taking a Yoga Teacher Training course, here is a link to seven practices, one for each day of the week, to encourage and support you starting now:

Seven Practices for Peace

Lest We Forget

Image Source: Canadian War Museum
It's time once again, to salute all the men and women worldwide, who have given, and are giving their hearts, minds, and bodies for peace.

May peace be their respite, may peace be their legacy, may peace be our purpose, for all beings in all worlds, always.

Om Shanti

Here's a true story of Canadian Indigenous Veterans you may not have heard before:

The Cree Code Talkers

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Two Simple Guides to Sanskrit

Need a simple guide to Sanskrit for Yoginis?

These two short documents have some very helpful hints:

Guide to Sanskrit Pronunciation

Sanskrit Made Simple

Yoga Within, TTP Homework

Source: Hindustan Times (Shutterstock)
Namaste Hatha Yoga Teacher Trainees,

It was great spending time with you today introducing the Language and Literature of Yoga.

Next time we meet, we will be examining two of the foundational texts of Yoga in greater depth:

  • The Bhagavad Gita
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

To prepare, please select one translation of each of the aforementioned texts and answer the following twelve questions for each:

1) What type of source is it?
2) Who authored or created it?
3) What year was it written or created?
4) What historical events were taking place at the time?
5) Who was the intended audience?
6) What point of view does the author/creator represent?
7) How does the point of view shape the source?
8) What does the source contribute to Yoga as we know it?
9) Is this source historically convincing? Why or why not?
10) Why did you choose this source?
11) Would you recommend this source to others?  If so, who?
12) How did this source translate the key definition of yoga? (BG 2.50 and PYS 1.2)

This set of questions has been adapted from The Historical Thinking Project, Primary Source Evidence template.  The Historical Thinking Project is a non-profit educational initiative, funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, which promotes critical historical literacy for the 21st Century.

Om Shanti

Friday, 26 October 2018

Mantra Sangha with Sparrow

*Please note the change of venues below!
If you had a chance to attend a screening of the movie Mantra - Sounds into Silence recently, you may be as excited as I am to participate in a sangha or community of healing sound lovers.

Luckily, if you live in the Edmonton area, here is your opportunity!

Along with local music therapist, yogini and songwriter Sparrow (Tiffany Brulotte), I'm thrilled to be participating in a new project we call Mantra Sangha.

Weaving various forms of Japa, Kirtan, Meditation and Chanting into a tapestry of sound, silence, and spirit, Sparrow and I welcome you to experience for yourself the healing benefits of Mantra.

Currently, the dates are as follows:  October 19, November 2, November 30 and December 14, all at Shanti Yoga (10459 145 St) starting at 7 pm

Please note* We are adding and updating events so to confirm accurate dates, times and venues, you can check back here at Kali's Kitchen or visit Sparrow's Facebook page.

If you would like to book an event in your space, please contact either of us.  We will be happy to discuss it with you.

In the spirit of inclusivity and cultivating generosity, the fee for the events is based on Daana or "pay what you can".  We hope this will inspire you to come and bring your friends to share in the resonance of unity and harmony.

You do not need to be a singer or experienced meditator to join in.

"Come, come, whoever you are... Come, yet again, come." - Rumi

Turn up the Volume of Love

Image Source:  NDTV
Its been 50 years since The Beatles made their world famous trip to an ashram in Rishikesh, India.

Here are two short-but-sweet videos from UPLIFT TV highlighting the power of Love and the influence The Beatles had on Yoga in the west.

All You Need is Love

The Beatles and Mantra with Miten

Thursday Night Yoga at South Cooking Lake Starts Nov. 1

Tara in Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Wow, things are coming full circle. 

In the last twenty years, my yoga classes have grown from my own backyard, out into the world, and now, they are returning home.

I'm excited to announce I'll be teaching the Thursday evening Beginner/Intermediate Hatha Yoga class at South Cooking Lake Community Hall beginning November 1st.

Please connect with the South Cooking Lake Community League Facebook Page to register.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Pavamana Mantra, the Chant for Enlightenment

At the end of every Yoga class, together we chant the Pavamana Mantra, from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Despite being chanted in Sanskrit, it is relatively easy for most beginners to pronounce, with a universal, non-denominational appeal in the form of a simple imperative:

"May I be inspired to keep moving from the untruth (or misunderstanding) into the truth, from darkness (ignorance or fear) into the light, transforming suffering into bliss."

Please note that this is my liberal translation.  Feel free to compare with others to enhance your own interpretation.

We chant it very simply, in the style I learned in my Yoga Teacher Training at the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.

In my classes, we chant it accompanied only by the peaceful drone of the Shruti Box, but there are many other more orchestral versions which you may enjoy listening to or chanting along with.

Here are a couple to get you started:

The first version is an epic musical performance, most famous for appearing in the end credits of The Matrix and the second is a gentler, more traditional rendition from Ravi Shankar and George Harrison.


Summary, PAC 156 Guest Lecture

Hanuman, by Betsy Schott
Namaste University of Alberta, PAC 156!

Thank you for inviting me to your class on Monday to present a brief "Introduction to the Language and Literature of Yoga".

In addition to this post from 2016 which I mentioned in class, you may like to check out this post from my lecture in 2015 which includes links to both of the chants we sang, a little bit about how yoga became popular in the west, and further explanations of the main paths of yoga.

If you have time, also check out this recording and transcription of Swami Satchidananda at Woodstock!

And to elaborate on the example I gave in class, of how the theory of yoga can enhance your practice, take a look at this new post about Hanuman and the asana that mimics his great leap to Lanka.

In summary, Yoga offers a whole tapestry of methods to enhance physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Aside from the well recognised physical benefits of Hatha Yoga, the Sanskrit language and foundational literature of yoga present numerous threads of insight into how we can live peacefully in a stressful world by developing our strength, flexibility, and resilience.

Songs, stories, myths and legends engage us in the lively timelessness of the oral tradition, and yoga's theory/practice continuum.

I encourage you to stay curious in your yoga practice.  You never know what will resonate with you until you experience it. 

As they say in India, "Sab kuch milega!", "Everything is possible!".

Om Shanti,

Shruti Box Drone, in C

Many of you have expressed appreciation for the soothing sound of the Shruti Box I play during Yoga classes.

In the key of C, the drone is said to mimic the sound of Om or Pranava, the highest sound vibration, promoting feelings of peace, relaxation, harmony and unity, a valuable tool for overcoming suffering and the sense of limitation or maya.

While there is no substitute for live music, this recording on YouTube is a pretty good substitute.  It is a high quality recording, and long enough to use for meditation, chanting or overtone singing.

One of my students even suggested using it instead of an alarm clock in the morning.  What a great way to get up on the "right side of the bed"!

Hanumanasana, Leaping Beyond Limits

Tara Woltjen in Hanumanasana
Some things in life don't come easy.

Hanumanasana is one of them.

Known in English as "the splits" Hanumanasana requires considerable flexibility in the legs and back.

It is a posture that demands your complete physical attention and yet may only become an asana when you bring more to it than mere physical effort.

Hanuman is a popular character in Hindu mythology.  In the epic Ramayana, it is Hanuman the monkey who locates the kidnapped princess Sita and leaps across the ocean between the southern tip of India and the island of Lanka to deliver a message of encouragement and hope along with her husband's ring.

Similarly, on the mat, the posture that mimics Hanuman's giant leap demands patience, persistence, steady breathing, truthfulness and positive intention.

"To start the journey, I needed firm intention." Hanuman said. "To make the leap I needed strength and courage.  To overcome the obstacles along the way, I needed flexibility and cunning.  To find you, I needed perseverance.  To speak with you and win your trust, I needed patience and discrimination.  Through Lord Rama's grace, I found all these qualities within myself, and was able to complete this journey." Quote from "Hanuman's Great Leap"

You can learn more about the mythology behind Hanumanasana here.

If you would like to experience this exhilarating posture for yourself, please check out this blog post first, for some great tips and warm ups.