yoga

Q. Who or what brought you into yoga to begin with? How did you get started and what got you hooked?

A. My parents were both into yoga before I was born. My father told me his first girlfriend, when he was twenty years old, was a yoga teacher, and he met Swami Muktananda in New York City when he was in his early twenties. My mother was a very spiritual, psychic, shamanic type of woman. She was born and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and she frequently meditated and had altars everywhere in our house when I was a young girl. We lived in a rural area, and I’d spend hours outside in nature meditating and reading books. When we went to visit my grandparents, who lived at the beach in Boca Raton, Florida, I fell in love and got hooked on the ocean. Now that I’m older I can see how both yoga and the ocean have been instrumental in my life from the very start. As a young girl, my parents taught me some basic postures like headstand, full wheel pose, mermaid, and the splits. They tried to keep it fun for me back then. That was my first introduction to yoga.

My mother lost her mind when I was seven, and I was sent to live in foster homes for many years after that; it was a difficult time for me growing up. Later, in middle and high school I was involved in many sports and was always elected to be the stretch leader for the teams. So I guess I was teaching yoga from a young age, which was healing for me. Back then it wasn’t known as yoga, we just called it stretching. Many of the kids didn’t like it because it was painful after a long running practice, but I made them do it. It helped everyone’s performance on the team, so the coaches were also supportive. I was hooked from day one, since it felt like an essential and necessary part of life. Like breathing and eating, I feel stretching and moving my body in fluid motion have been absolutely essential to my evolution, to feeling good, and to shifting energy and emotions that arise, as they often do.

Q. What about surfing? How did that happen? Who, what, when, where, and why did you start and what has that journey been like?

A. I started surfing very young, but back then I was just bodysurfing or my other favoriate way, which is to surf beneath and through the waves. I tried surfing on a surfboard for the first time back in 2007, in Nosara, Costa Rica. I was a guest teacher at my friend Leslie Glickman’s yoga retreat, and for one of the excursions we got to try surfing lessons with the local Tico pro surfers. That was a challeng-ing time for me. I recall the surfboard seemed ten feet long and was very heavy; I couldn’t carry it and had to drag it down to the water. I had used some BullFrog sunblock and when my face got wet, the toxins from that product leaked into my eyes and I felt like I was going blind. After a few hours my torso and belly were rashed up from the board. I didn’t give up, though, and kept trying to surf that day. I remember how beautiful it was out on the ocean, and the instructor was a great coach. He gave me great confidence and I did catch a few waves that first day. I came away feeling accomplished, but I had only just touched the feeling of the flow state through surfing for a few seconds. It gave me even greater respect for the incredible pro surfers who can catch and surf massive waves all day. It’s a physically challenging and incredibly beautiful sport.

Since then I’ve surfed a bit in many oceans, including in Bali, Hawaii, Florida, California, and Spain. I got more into paddleboard yoga in 2009 and fell in love with that, since you can do it when there are no waves. we have another option called SUP surfing that is becoming popular now, where you can surf on a pad-dleboard designed for surfing waves, but you have the paddle with you so you stay standing the whole time. Laird Hamilton had originally made SUP surfing famous with his big wave surfing in Hawaii. I like that a bit better than getting up and down all the time, but just being on the ocean is always the best feeling in the world for me.

Q. Can you describe your first or most transcendent experience with yoga?

A. My first yoga teacher training, back in 2005, ushered me into that experience in the most unexpected way. I had always been a hyperactive person with loads of energy. In India they have a word for it—pitta—and another word they use is raja-sic, which is to have too much energy and not know what to do with it. During my first yoga teacher training, to balance the doshas, they required us to stop eating all spices, even garlic, onions, and all pepper, for example. We were allowed to eat only satvic foods, which means pure, simple, and holy foods. I had been addicted to caffeine before that, so this alone started to change my life. Then, since it was a traditional style of yoga, called sivananda yoga, they required us to take a five-minute savasana meditation between each pose. This was a huge breakthrough for me, since I had not been able to meditate much in my life, due to my hyperactivity. As a teenager I even had a hyperactive thyroid disorder, which for years made me feel as if I were burning alive from the inside out. That later resulted in the removal of my thyroid, so I had faced this hyperactive energy most of my life.

During the training we had to meditate between each pose in the yoga classes every day for ten weeks and listen to their very calming music, which felt like it put me into a trance state. I later learned that the music was mantra music, holy music from India. I remember specifically one song, the “Devi Mantra,” changed my life. As I went through the yoga classes and workshops each day for the train-ing and laid there in the meditation pose in between each asana, many times I would cry as the layers of old pain and stuck energy were being peeled away. After a few weeks I started to notice a real change in my mind state. The mental fluctuations were calming down, and I was starting to experience stillness inside for the first time. We chanted mantras and meditated in silence each morning from 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. for those ten weeks, and that also changed my life. I didn’t really understand how it was working at the time, but all of these subtle things we were doing were changing my life. It changed my brain, my energy, and my whole perspective on life, and I was never the same again.

I remember walking along the beach one afternoon during those ten weeks of training and realizing there had been absolutely no thoughts inside my mind for several hours. I felt interconnected with everything. The ocean, the tide, the whole universe, and I were one, and I only heard the low hum of the mantra “Om” in the back of my consciousness. It brought a stillness to my body and heart and a sense of liberation. It felt as if I had merged completely with eternity, that time had stopped, yet there was a knowing that I was present in that experience, and my observer witness consciousness was aware that this was a turning point in my life. Before that teacher training I was just practicing yoga a few times a week as part of my fitness routine along with weight training, kickboxing, running, and many other modalities. After that experience on the beach, something changed inside me, and I fully committed my life to spreading the miracle of yoga.

Q. What about surfing? Was there an experience that stands out more than the rest, and can you describe it in words? Where were you?

A. As a young girl, I always felt like a fish in the water. Even though I wasn’t surfing on a surfboard back then, we would bodysurf for hours in and under the ocean waves. I remember one experience when I was around eight years old, at the beach house where my grandparents lived in Boca Raton. I had been surfing under the waves for hours and hours when suddenly a massive manta ray swam directly under me, about five to ten feet away. In that moment everything stopped, and the universe and all of existence went to complete stillness as I encountered this massive and majestic divine creature. Later in life I researched the meaning of the manta ray spirit animal, which, according to spirit animal science, symbolizes the flow state. That made so much sense, and since then I have experienced the same feeling in the presence of wild dolphins and whales in the wild ocean while swim-ming, paddleboarding, underwater yoga, surfing, or bodysurfing. The combination of ocean, majestic sea animals, and surfing, which immediately invokes a feeling of complete awe and wonder, the feeling of oneness and interconnection with all that exists, is the flow state in its most primal form and experience for me.

Q. Are there specific places on earth where you feel most connected to this energy or flow state of consciousness, whether you are practicing yoga, surf-ing, both, or just being?

A. I feel a strong connection to places with dense jungle and tropical rainforests that meet the ocean. Some of my favorite vortexes on earth are Bali, Hawaii, and Costa Rica. In these environments I feel many layers of stress start to melt away and I can more easily access the flow state, as it is the pure essence in the vortex of these natural environments. Anywhere I am in the ocean, I feel it, but even some oceans and beaches on earth carry more powerful energy than others. Hawaii is one of the top places for me in the world. There is a very unique energy the natives say comes from the goddess Pele, the goddess of the volcano that gave birth to the islands. Her power comes from a very deep place, the core magma lava of earth, and you can actually feel this when you are in Hawaii and especially while swimming or surfing in the ocean there. When there are waves, this gives the ocean even greater power and energy. And combined with pristine fresh air, sunshine, and even some wind, it’s very invigorating and enlivening.

Q. Where and how did you start out in yoga? What was your first introduction to the practice and how do you suggest people start if they are considering getting into yoga? What is your favorite style to practice? Do you teach yoga? If so, what style?

A. As I mentioned earlier, my parents introduced me to yoga at an early age. I’m so grateful for that, since it really helped me through the hard times over my lifetime. It took me many years to discover the depth of the practice and path of yoga, however, since it is not obvious at first how deep yoga can take you, by simply seeing some photos or taking a class at the gym. I suggest people who are seeking to start a yoga practice try a variety of styles to discover what res-onates best with their needs, goals, and energy. There are literally hundreds of styles, and they are all very different. I suggest you try local classes, online classes, workshops, or retreats. I have online classes, workshops, and even online yoga teacher trainings as well as the live trainings and retreats that I lead worldwide. You can learn more about that on my website at pranashama.com or at my per-sonal site at dashama.com. I teach a fusion style called Pranashama yoga, which is an open system based on vinyasa yoga to help people access the flow state of consciousness through movement, meditation energy, and breath. Pranashama incorporates many techniques from ancient lineages with powerful life-changing practices such as kundalini, kriyas, meditation, mantras, bhakti, yin yoga, tantra, thai yoga massage, dance, and even qi gong and tai chi. The open system allows for the evolution of the practice as we are always learning, growing, and expanding our understanding and awareness of the infinite nature of source energy that streams to us and through us at all times. Through yoga, we are able to access that energy, channel it to heal, restore, awaken, and transcend anything that is not in alignment and harmony with our true and divine nature.

Q. Do you feel a beginner can access the feeling of the flow state either in yoga or surfing, or would you say it’s more of an advanced practice that they can work their way up to with consistent dedicated practice?

A. Anyone can tap into the flow state at any stage of development or life experi-ence, such as how Eckhart Tolle or Sadhguru both explained they simply fell into the experience of the now and decided to stay there permanently. Although those are rare and powerful examples, based on one’s prior experience with music, movement, breath work, spiritual practices, and other factors, it may be easier to access this state with some practice over time. I like to think of it like a lotus flower unfolding and blossoming. It takes time for all of the petals to unfold. To access the flow state, you must dedicate time and energy toward the inner expe-rience and train your mind to concentrate and focus, to let go of thoughts, and to simply be present with whatever is arising in each moment. It’s a state of divine surrender into presence. Some people are born with this ability; it may take many years for others. It’s not so much a skill as it is a surrendering. We must surrender all that we think we know, since all thoughts are generally just blocking the flow. The true flow state is beyond thoughts. The miracle is that when we let go of all rational mind activity, we can actually access an infinite well of understanding, wisdom, and knowledge that comes directly from the source of life itself. As long as we realize we are just channels for the universe to work and flow through us, we can truly be the embodiment of the miraculous, beyond anything we could have possibly dreamed. Human potential is far beyond anything our minds can fathom. To access the flow state is to tap into the realm beyond the thinking mind and connect to the wisdom and intelligence of the eternal source of life itself.

Q. Can you share some tips/keys to help the reader get more out of the prac-tice of yoga and/or surfing?

A. I suggest you make a commitment to the specific practice that brings you the greatest joy. Life is too short; there’s no sense in suffering unnecessarily.