As much as we’d like the world to be fair and for people to be honest and honorable there are some truly awful people out there. In ayurveda and yoga we speak of the “gunas” (qualities) of the mind, Sattva (clarity, light, balance), Rajas (tumult, agitation, movement in one direction or another), and Tamas (darkness, heaviness, immobility). We all show tendencies – we may mostly display Sattva and this shows up as service to others, happiness, and a tendency to do the right thing; we may be Rajasic, wavering about our direction or about WHAT is right or perhaps sometimes doing right and sometimes doing wrong; or perhaps we are Tamasic, chronically depressed or even mostly “evil” – doing wrong and never thinking about the consequences for ourselves, our loved ones, or others. Each action we perform (karma) creates an equal and often opposite reaction from others (more karma); our spiritual practice should be guiding us in learning how to perform in the world without creating karma (good OR bad)…



Grace Her Many Horses has dedicated many years of her life to law enforcement. After this article was published she was removed from her position at Rosebud and has since returned to work on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Article is reprinted with permission from The Sicangu Eyapaha (Rosebud Sioux) tribal newspaper.(Courtesy Photo)


By Damon Buckley
Communications Director, Rosebud Sioux Tribe


ROSEBUD, SD – Former Rosebud Sioux Tribe Police Chief Grace Her Many Horses took a temporary job working in the Bakken Region near Newtown, North Dakota. This Bakken Basin stretches from Montana to North Dakota and it is rich in shale oil supplies. She began work in June of last year until October of the same year. It was her first experience with Man Camps. She seen them before while driving past on the way to pow-wows but this was going to be the very first time…

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just remember not to ascribe every ache and pain to aging! sometimes it’s a physical or energetic imbalance that could be eased by a visit to a manual physical therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, or maybe even a naturapath or osteopathic doctor!

Writing Yoga with Bruce Black

It’s almost time to drive to my yoga class, but I’m debating if I should go or skip the energetic 90-minute session and stay home to practice a few easy, restorative poses on my own.

It isn’t that I’ve grown tired of class or upset with my teacher or other students. On the contrary, I look forward to the weekly class. It’s one of the few times during the week when I feel unencumbered by the stresses of work and life.

But for the past few weeks I’ve nursed a sore right quad muscle and an aching left knee. They are, I suppose, the aches and pains of aging, and, luckily, they haven’t yet kept me off my practice mat. Yet I hesitate to go to class, unsure if I’ll be able to keep up with the pace of the other students.

At the last minute, though, I decide to take my…

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very insightful – in a way one could say that America has both ruined AND rescued yoga. Yes, there are cheapened mashups of Yoga-and-insert your other modality here, but also much attention given to a practice that is greatly needed in our incredibly unbalanced “civilization”. At least people are setting foot to mat to help heal their bodies and minds, and those who truly embrace the “path” of Yoga will be inspired to continue looking deeper inside themselves, and perhaps find a more traditional teacher who can guide them further on that path…

I have been practicing Shadow Yoga since 2009 – I have now moved into the form called Nritta Sadhana (which I LOVE) but will be reconnecting with the Prelude forms next year so I can relearn from the very beginning. Like this blogger, I have experienced tremendous transformative healing from this practice and STILL things are being stirred up that I must digest and assimilate. It’s a challenge, but in my future work as a Yoga Therapist (graduating from MUIH’s MS in Yoga Therapy program in 2015 barring any disasters) this will most likely be not only my grounding practice but seed for my clients’ practice as well!

Svasti: A Journey From Assault To Wholeness

True story: If my shoulder could’ve had an orgasm in yoga class tonight, it WOULD’VE!!

Sure, I hear what you’re saying – that’s possibly way too much information for some of you, and certainly for the opening line of a post, right? Okay, okay! Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

BUT seriously folks, this injured shoulder of mine has not had the sort of release it got this evening in the entire time it’s been injured. I’ve tried all kinds of yoga and stretching of course, massage, acupuncture and physio. Truly, I’ve tried a lot of things. And tonight oh, tonight… I found the asana that makes all the difference – the rehab manoeuvre that brings incredible relief (it is of course, still mangled but this REALLY helps). And riding my bike home, so happy was I that I cried and I screamed and hence the opening line of…

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great insights here – how do YOU breathe?

Writing Yoga with Bruce Black

Something magical happens when I start my yoga practice. I can feel a change in the way that I breathe.

As I inhale, I’ll raise my arms slowly—“as if lifting them through the thickest oil or the sweetest honey,” says my teacher, Jaye—and then I’ll lower them at the same pace and repeat the movement.

In moments I’ll notice how my shoulders loosen, how the muscles around my lower ribs let go, and how my upper chest relaxes and my breathing slows.

With each breath I’ll feel a sense of peace fill my body.

As long as I follow my breath, as long as I move with care through the poses of our class or in my home practice, I can feel this sense of peace filling each muscle, each pore of skin.

But the moment that I become distracted and forget my breath, I’ll lose track of the connection…

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NSAIDS & Ashtanga. Do they belong together?.

I don’t use NSAIDS – I usually take turmeric! It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that you can add to your food or take as a supplement. Ginger also works well, and both turmeric and ginger together are quite powerful!
I’ve also learned (sorta) how to take things a bit easier during my practice since I am a menopausal woman – recovery takes longer…

Training in the Ashtanga Vinyasa system as taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (and now by his grandson Sharath) is very physical as only with daily physical practice would the other seven limbs (Anga) of Ashtanga (Ashta = eight, Anga = limb) become apparent.  Sri Jois always called his system “Patanjali’s Yoga” after the legendary ancient sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras in which these eight limbs (Yama Niyama Asana Pranayama Pratyahara Dharana Dhyana Samadhayo ‘Stavangani:  II-29) appear.  Slowly over time with daily practice (Abyasa Vairagyabhyam Tannirodhah:  I-12;  the mind reaches the state of yoga through practice and detachment) the yogi cultivates awareness of the first two limbs – Yama (restraints) and Niyama (observances) which are the Ten Commandments of Yoga – which support the third limb of Asana (the physical postures) and lead by natural progression to the other limbs of Pranayama (breath/energy control), Pratyahara (restraint of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dyana (meditation), and Samadhi (equilibrium, union with the Divine, state of bliss.  

How can a physical practice lead to good behavior, healthy lifestyle, meditation, and even enlightenment?  The concept of “tristhana”, the three parts of the practice, involve yoking the posture, the breath, and the gaze to train the mind to focus on the practice itself and withdraw for a time from the frenetic pace of daily life.   At first the mind may wander, become bored or distracted, or even rebel against the performance of a fixed series of postures six days per week with only full and new moons, Saturdays, and major religious holidays off.  Continuing to practice through these challenges develops fortitude, determination, “tapas” (one of the Niyamas, from the root word for fire or heat) and eventually the mind becomes trained and disciplined rather than scattered and distractible while the body becomes strong, supple, and balanced.

When one becomes immersed in yoga practice, it becomes easier over time to reduce and eliminate habits which interfere with that practice.  The Yamas (Ahimsa/non-harming, Satya/truth, Asteya/non-stealing, Brahmacharya/moderation, Aparigraha/non-greed) and Niyamas (Shaucha/purity, Santosha/contentment, Tapas/dedication, Svadhyaya/study of the Self, Ishwaripranidhana/surrender to the Divine) slowly evolve from seemingly austere and difficult to follow “laws” to guidelines for healthy living to a seamlessly integrated and easily practiced lifestyle.  Once the body is no longer plagued by frequent illness, injury, or disease the mind then naturally begins to turn inward via the other limbs.

So what do these Yamas and Niyamas mean for the modern human (yogi or non yogi)?  For example, Ahimsa, non-harming or non-violence, is usually taken to mean that the yogi’s diet must be vegetarian but what if that body seems to require meat or other animal products and declines with a strictly vegan regimen?  Simply switching from an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian or vegan one “cold turkey” (pun intended) might cause harm to that body if the primary replacement involves large amounts of improperly prepared soy protein.  Many cultures in Southeast Asia have traditionally followed a more vegetarian diet which included some sea foods or dairy products and so have over time found a balanced approach which provides enough nutrients to sustain life (even then, most vegetarians become deficient in B12 which is most easily assimilated from animal foods);  Sri Jois lived into his 90’s and his guru, Sri T. Krishnamacharya, both vegetarians from birth, died at the ripe old age of 101.  But those whose ancestors regularly consumed animal products (ie European, some African, or Native American descent) including meat, may have different dietary requirements but those following their traditional diets also often lived long and healthy lives.  

 Yoga’s “sister science” of Ayurveda provides some insight into these differences using the theory of the “doshas”:  Kapha dosha being a combination of the heaviest of the Five Great Elements (Pancha Mahabhuta) would be most benefitted by the lighter vegetarian or vegan diet as they need to balance their tendencies towards gaining weight when consuming heavier animal foods.  Vata dosha, being a combination of the lightest of the Elements would be depleted by that same diet and would most benefit from the heavier animal foods (though well cooked as Vata digestion can be irregular or weak).  Pitta dosha, being high in Fire Element which relates to digestion, can often eat anything (lucky Pitta!) but must be careful not to aggravate that same Fire or suffer consequences like acid reflux.

A body in balance with balanced digestion will experience good health, and more important than whether the diet is vegetarian (or not) is whether the diet is “clean” – the first of the Niyamas, Shaucha, requires purity of food, speech, and even thought.  A vegan who consumes conventional soy and other plant foods is possibly ingesting pesticides and herbicides applied to the crop while in the field;  if that soy is also genetically engineered (ie “RoundUp Ready”) the crop may have had higher amounts of toxic chemicals applied plus there may be evidence that the gene inserted into the soybean (which “tells” the plant to create pesticides to kill the pests) just might transfer to human gut flora, ie the microbes that help us digest our food may now be creating pesticides in our gut instead (thus driving an increasing epidemic of serious gut disorders like Crohn’s Disease).  Even more disturbing is the fact that industrial production of soy to feed consumer demand is causing devastating changes in ecosystems where it is farmed;  our very quest to consume a “clean” diet free of harming animals while promoting our physical health is causing harm to the planet and thus violates that first Yama of Ahimsa!

If the animal destined to become food lives a happy life eating its natural diet and allowed its normal behaviors, then is dispatched quickly so it feels no pain or fear, would that meat be a cleaner, more compassionate food than the chemically saturated mono-cropped rainforest-destroying plant food?  If the human eats a diet that keeps his body healthy and mind happy and practices in a way that minimizes harm to himself and others while not being “perfect”, is he not the better yogi than the one who is consuming a diet that is not supportive to his practice because of a lack of nutrients or inability to digest them in addition to destroying the environment in which it’s grown?

As a teacher of yoga rooted in the tradition of Ashtanga Yoga I strive to help my own students find their own path most suitable for their growth and development which may change over time and with practice.  It may be that at this moment some students feel no need to eliminate animal foods while others feel compelled by their beliefs to become vegan;  perhaps their nutritional requirements change over time as the vegan begins to crave animal foods as their bodies become depleted while the omnivore is gradually able to eat more “veggie” most of the time.  As one who has tried to be a “good yogi” for over 20 years it has become a part of my practice to follow Ahimsa by not judging myself for my own shortcomings while remaining understanding of others’ attempts to do the same.

“Without practice, theory is useless;  with practice, theory is obvious.”  David Williams, early student of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois



3 Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Translation and Commentary by DKV Desikachar pg 43

4 ibid pg7










Be Present to all
who need compassion and love
wear it on your sleeve….

The more you (think) you know the greater the importance of learning to let go of what you (think) you know so that you can open to the deeper knowledge already within every cell of your being. Ancestral wisdom is encoded in our DNA, dimly remembered as the habits and routines passed down to us from our parents, grandparents, and our partner’s family.

As we learn and grow, often we are taught what we are led to believe is true due to “scientific” methods of testing and observation. But how many times are we convinced (often for years) that we are doing the right things, eating healthy foods only to learn that later research (sometimes confirming much older research) is showing these “true facts” are in fact completely wrong? Dr. Dwight Lundell came to a difficult realization that everything he know was wrong…

“We physicians with all our training, knowledge and authority often acquire a rather large ego that tends to make it difficult to admit we are wrong. So, here it is. I freely admit to being wrong. As a heart surgeon with 25 years experience, having performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries, today is my day to right the wrong with medical and scientific fact.

I trained for many years with other prominent physicians labelled “opinion makers.” Bombarded with scientific literature, continually attending education seminars, we opinion makers insisted heart disease resulted from the simple fact of elevated blood cholesterol.

The only accepted therapy was prescribing medications to lower cholesterol and a diet that severely restricted fat intake. The latter of course we insisted would lower cholesterol and heart disease. Deviations from these recommendations were considered heresy and could quite possibly result in malpractice.”

It takes true courage to let go of years of training and allow one’s own intelligence and powers of observation to shine through. Since the 1980’s, when the USDA first began making recommendations for a low-fat low-cholesterol diet, the levels of chronic disease have skyrocketed. Americans are sicker than ever, often taking multiple prescriptions for issues that are diet and lifestyle related (which should make one wonder, why not fix the root cause? Diet and Lifestyle!).

“While we savor the tantalizing taste of a sweet roll, our bodies respond alarmingly as if a foreign invader arrived declaring war. Foods loaded with sugars and simple carbohydrates, or processed with omega-6 oils for long shelf life have been the mainstay of the American diet for six decades. These foods have been slowly poisoning everyone.” Dr. Lundell and other physicians are finally speaking out against our over-reliance on highly processed and refined foods of convenience which create widespread inflammation in our bodies. This inflammation results in the blocked arteries, NOT the cholesterol that has been demonized for years – “The cholesterol theory led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that in turn created the very foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation. Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake when it advised people to avoid saturated fat in favor of foods high in omega-6 fats. We now have an epidemic of arterial inflammation leading to heart disease and other silent killers.”

So what do we do? The diseases of “modern” humans originally were rare, occurring most commonly in city dwellers and the wealthy, those who were more likely to consume processed refined “foods”. The common farmers and laborers ate closer to the land because those foods were cheaper (but also fresher and more nutrient dense). So eat like your grandparents ate, if they were farmers! Fresh, whole foods are packed with nutrients. Simple preparation with traditional fats and oils will convey rich flavors and using spices (ideally freshly ground but hey, let’s start small) like turmeric, coriander, cumin, black pepper, mineralized salt, and grass fed butter (or ghee) and cream will not only taste better but stick to your ribs so you’re not constantly hungry and looking for snacks.

Then we must try to get active – our sedentary lifestyles are stiffening our joints and allowing what we eat to be stored on our hips, waists, and in our blood vessels. We don’t need to sweat profusely or crawl out of the gym to get a “good” workout. Differing constitutions have different needs – someone who really needs to lose a few pounds (or has difficulty with weight) needs more vigorous exercise than someone who is naturally slim and lean. One who is under a great deal of emotional or physical stress should not exercise the same way as one who is calm and serene.

To learn more about how to awaken our body’s innate wisdom we need to pay attention to how we react to everything we do – what effect does our food have on us? What effect does our physical activity (or lack of it) have on our aches and pains and our energy level? The practice of Yoga, specifically designed to teach us how to be self-aware, can be applied to other areas of our lives as we learn to tune into ourselves more deeply. You don’t need to be flexible or coordinated or thin; try different styles and even different teachers within a style which appeals to you. Once you begin to recognize themes as well as specific postures which feel beneficial you may feel ready to do some practicing on your own; when you go to class you recharge your creativity and learn new things you can then incorporate into your home practice. And while classes may range from 60 – 120 minutes your personal practice need not last more than 5 – 10 minutes at first. Make a little time (traditionally in the morning before breakfast, but you can also unwind with gentler yoga in the evening before bed) every day and reap the benefits the longer you practice.

Well, the world didn’t end (again) and once again we find ourselves another year older.  What have we accomplished so far?   What do we intend to accomplish this year?  How do intend to FEEL about what we’ve accomplished and hope to accomplish?

We can remain mired in feelings of self-doubt, so easy to do during this period of rapid change. We can choose to feel insulted by imagined slights, so easy when we project our feelings and emotions onto others.  We can demonize those who are different from us, who have differing opinions from ours,  We can even run away from our feelings by avoiding anyone or anything that challenges our worldview, our carefully constructed vision of how the world should be.

Even in a simple yoga class we can run away from understanding ourselves.  The teacher might urge us to strive a little harder, stretch a little deeper, let go a little bit more than we are ready for.  Instead of reflexively thinking or saying “I can’t do that because….” why not, starting this New Year, put a little SOUL into our practice?

Stay with those difficult sensations and face the obstacles before you.  Every time we run away from difficulty we weaken ourselves;  when true adversity faces us, will we have the strength to stand up to it?

Observe what arises in the mind;  what feelings are there?  Have we felt that way before?  What happened then?  Try not doing anything right away – simply watch your mind, notice if there is something deeper, below the surface.  Who is the Watcher, watching the mind race?

Understand over time how this process of observation can help lead us to freedom from the tyranny of our unwanted thoughts.  This won’t happen overnight, the deepest transformations happen slowly and imperceptibly.  We don’t need to direct this process.  Every time we step onto our yoga mat our physical practice, yoked to our breath, will take care of that.  The postures themselves unlock stored tensions, blocked sensations, hidden experiences and emotions and transform them without our conscious awareness.

Let go of your judgement, your expectations!  Life is full of ups and downs;  we can do everything right and still things go south, we can do everything wrong and have things turn our alright.  If we set our expectations too high we are bound to be disappointed.  Set them too low and perhaps we cheat ourselves of the joy of working towards something truly rewarding despite the struggle!

The SOUL of yoga is not in the asana, not in the “perfection” of the poses, not even in the process of daily practice.  The next time you take a class or begin your personal practice, or even when you aren’t even “doing yoga” take a metaphorical step back.  Find the SOUL in whatever you are doing.


April 2019
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