About nativeyoga

I love Ashtanga Yoga and co-direct Native Yoga Center in Juno Beach, Florida with my wife Tamara.


Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

What is freedom? According to the dictionary freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. While this explanation can suffice there is so much more to freedom in my opinion.

Freedom is to exist with absence of fear. Freedom is not whether the body is confined to a small or large space but the ability to feel free from fear regardless. Freedom is a state of mind. We can be in the most majestic forrest devoid of all hindrance and distraction and still be worried about the sound of snapping branches from just behind an area we can’t see. Freedom comes from within. It is the careful and delicate cultivation of preservation while at the same time throwing all caution into the wind. Freedom comes at a price. The greatest sacrifice we can offer is the appreciation for another and the ability to give one’s freedom in the hopes that our future generations will experience more of it. 

Can freedom be enjoyed if we had to steal it? The answer is obviously no. The way forward seems to be that we need to try to give freedom to others instead of trying to get freedom for ourselves. The more we attempt to grasp at freedom the more it slips through our fingertips. The more we investigate freedom we find that it is elusive and mysterious and not as simple a subject as once thought. Fear has a way of bringing freedom to light. When looking for freedom it may be better to find fear first. Wherever fear resides is where freedom is busting down the door to embrace it. 

The process of going into our fears is where we are going to find our freedom. Seeking out freedom can be a very nerve shattering and earth quaking experience. Because it requires us to stand bold and stare directly into the perceived threat. The warrior on the edge of battle realizes that freedom is just on the other side of staying alive. This is why some charge forward and others run back. Who is to judge which is correct when we even have enough time to compare the two?

There is hardly any other topic worth considering. Now is the the most important time to offer our love and appreciation to our neighbors than ever before. Freedom isn’t just around the corner for some other day to explore. The opportunity to envelope it is right in front of us here and now. If I attempt to answer the question of what freedom is myself I come to this conclusion? The time I experienced the greatest sense of freedom was when I was at my lowest and someone offered me a hand. I feel the solution most important to focus on today is to just chill out and try to help others and to find freedom in offering simple acts of kindness wherever we can.

Check out our new podcast with Jade Skinner about Freedom and overcoming fear through yoga and paddling.

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Yoga, Song & Transformation

Yoga, Song & Transformation

Throughout life there are songs that we connect with. Each time we hear them it brings us to a place that recognizes the emotion we felt upon first hearing them. Song can transport us beyond our suffering to a place of peace. Although music may not take away the obstacles we face it can help pad the sometimes rough surfaces of the journey we walk upon. Yoga shares with song a similar attribute of being a tool to transport us into the challenges we face with courage instead of avoiding them with fear.

Many Rivers to Cross by Jimmy Cliff is one of those songs that has helped me smooth my troubles. I remember the first time I heard it, I was in high school experiencing some awkward growing pains. I so resonated with the Jamaican art and culture, and the power that emanated from Reggae music. I was moved by the sweet sounds that had a very deep message. The music gave a voice to those struggling with the challenges they faced.I felt that somehow, although my troubles may have looked different, that voice helped me face my own angst. I identified with the struggles felt in the words and tones expressed in an individual and universal level.

“Many rivers to cross

And it’s only my will that keeps me alive

I’ve been licked, washed up for years

And I merely survive because of my pride”

Yoga has had a similar effect on me as does song. While at one time I had hoped yoga practice could take me beyond my suffering to a place that was free from any troubles. I now realize yoga takes me into my troubles and creates a space that allows me to really see how my actions and beliefs create my reality. The solution lies in facing what is in front of me and navigating a course that acknowledges the past and is also willing to take a deep look at reality. 

“Many rivers to cross

But just where to begin, I’m playing for time

There are times I find myself 

Thinking of committing some dreadful crime”

Honesty is a powerful expression. It takes courage and guts to express one’s true feelings. This is where I feel yoga and song has a very deep connection. The very essence of what made me feel a connection upon hearing this was based in hearing the raw emotion of a man taken to the brink of despair and admitting that he was in a dark place. By being bold and voicing this feeling serves as the very tool for overcoming the feeling itself. Deep yoga practice involves addressing pain and turmoil by being strong enough to express personal truth even though it puts us in a place of vulnerability.

I believe we all have “Many Rivers to Cross.” The same way a song can give us strength and pull our emotions to the surface, yoga can serve as a vehicle to process these emotions and create a foundation of peace and acceptance. The journey of life requires the use of many tools to help direct our raw and intense emotion toward a positive place. I encourage you to be willing to go there. I spur you to practice yoga in a way that brings you some solace. I also rally you to sing the songs that hurt. The reason being being it can make you feel a whole lot better.

“Yes, I’ve got many rivers to cross

But I can’t seem to find my way over

Wandering I am lost

As I travel along the white cliffs of Dover”

*Many Rivers To Cross lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group by Jimmy Cliff

Visit Native Yoga Center for In Studio, Livestream & Online Courses

Swim or Sink

Photo by David Scarola

Today is Tuesday, June 16th, 2020 and the beginning of week four since the reopening of Native Yoga Center. It was quite the experience to go from being really busy and having big plans on the horizon to stopping dead in our tracks and putting everything on hold. As you know! Yet the process of moving back again into the mechanics of an operating yoga studio is proving to more interesting than I anticipated.

When we shut down we immediately implemented the use of Livestream classes. In the beginning I kept all of our classes on our personal calendar with the the thought that we would just open up right where we left off. As the weeks and months continued to go by it became obvious that that was not going to happen. I swiped my whole calendar clean. That was monumental. We have been operating for the past 14 years on a schedule that slowly grew from 10 classes a week to over 30 classes a week. The process of clearing all of that out was nerve wracking and liberating. We had switched back to two class times a day, one at 10am and another at 4pm. We went back to the gold old days of just my wife and I running the entire show and never taking a day off together. Bitter sweet. Humbling. Refreshing. Challenging. These are just a few words to sum up the experience of tightening the belt.

Well along comes the day that the restrictions are lifted and we are allowed to reopen. I had this grand vision in my mind that every one would be so excited to come back in and get right back to practicing. That is not really the way it is going. We are currently running public classes limited to 9 in number so that everyone has 6 feet between them as per the guidelines. We are also filming the classes on zoom so people can join at home. We also record the class so that it can be accessed on our online site. The majority of our students are sticking with practicing on zoom. Slowly people are trickling in but when I say slowly, I mean sloooooowly.

I am truly beginning to realize that this is really going to be an endurance event. I really believe that as a small business this is going to push all of us, yoga studios, restaurants, salons and pretty much all service industry related professionals into a place where we are going to have to keep our heads up and just dig in really deep. I do believe that those of us that are passionate about what we do and have committed our lives to our craft are going to get through this. I do think though that it is way bigger than I originally understood.

I found a bit of solace today. I texted a friend who I often confide in and mentioned my beleaguered outlook and she said, “we need to pull up our spiritual boot straps.” Not exactly sure why that was the catalyst I needed but sometimes it is a simple perspective shift that can make all the difference. I think my expectations weren’t matching up with reality and this equation always dishes out a good bit of humble pie. My solution today is to reevaluate my assumptions. Maybe I need to realign what I think should happen and just accept it as it is. Pretty much the recipe that always in necessary when things don’t go as planned. So there we have it. Who knows how this is all going to go? Instead of thinking I do I am going to resign myself to admitting that I don’t.

My last good endurance challenge was a triathlon and at the beginning during the swim I looked up and saw how much further I had to go. I had thought the swim was going to be easy which I quickly surmised was just the opposite. In the flash of a moment I came to a conclusion. It’s time to swim because we all know what the alternative is.

5 Tips for Reemerging from Retreat

Meditation retreats can be an amazing way to gain an introspective experience and learn about one’s self. I have had the opportunity to participate in several 10 day silent meditation retreats in the past years. (https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index) Each time I have come to the end of a silent retreat I found the reemerging process to be interesting and at times, quite challenging. I am observing a lot of parallels and similarities to the “stay at home” orders that the majority of countries around the world are now experiencing and the participation of sitting in silent meditation retreats. I have come up with 5 tips that I have implemented in past retreat experiences that you can apply to this unique experience of getting back out “into the world.”

  1. Take as long as you need as well as take as long as you can. Often after coming out of a silent retreat we don’t feel ready to face the busyness of the “real” world. It is common to feel that we may need a little time to return to our normal routines. It can be a good idea to keep a lighter than normal schedule once resuming your normal work and domestic duties. If you don’t have any tasks to return to that can often be just as much as a problem as coming back to “too much.” Start off with a steady but lighter pace and slowly ramp back up to where you were before. If you need more structure or motivation to get things going now is the perfect time to pursue your goals.
  1. If you’re inclined toward introversion – try to come out a bit. If you are inclined toward extroversion – try to stay in a bit. Some of us gravitate toward solitude. We feel much happier being by ourselves and would prefer to not interact much in society. Others of us are very social and can hardly stand being alone. If you lean heavy toward one side or the other try to implement strategies for engaging the side of yourself that is deficient. Healthy social relationships take time to cultivate and are worth the work and effort. Learning to be comfortable alone and in solitude brings peace of mind and can strengthen our appreciation for simplicity. A way to help ease this amplification of opposites can be to exercise our deficiencies.
  1. Appreciate that no two experiences are the same. Everybody has a very personal and unique experience during a retreat. Some good and others bad. I have noticed that sometimes at the end of retreat people are very eager to talk about their experience and sometimes I feel like I need a little more time to process my own challenges before taking on other’s. It is okay to let someone know respectfully that you are not ready to join in the conversation it that is the case. I mention this because if someone had or is having a really tough time they may be seeking your council. Often we feel its our responsibility to want to try to fix other people’s problems through offering advice. Be aware of this and tread lightly. This can be one of the more challenging areas to navigate. Time will heal this and being supportive yet protective can ease this difficult transition.
  1. Respect the time it may take others to emerge. Sometimes at the end of a retreat we may want to be social but other’s around us do not. It is important to not take this personal. Some people take longer than others to process and it can be a good idea to allow them the time they need and be aware that just because we may be ready doesn’t mean they should or will.
  1. Go on retreat as often as you like and are able. When you feel the need to reconnect take another retreat. Something miraculous happens during retreats. In the beginning it seems like the most horrible thing a person can do to one’s self. It is often painful to be sitting in quiet for so many days in a row. The lack of stimulation causes all the neurosis of the mind to become very apparent. Yet, something switches and by the end of the retreat it is possible to feel as if a major transformation has occurred. Upon reentering the world we can often become distracted again. You can always take retreat as many times as you need to help the digestion and assimilation process of the techniques learned in meditation become a part of your day to day existence. The benefits of meditation can help achieve a balanced approach to being active in the world and help when observing silence.

Due to the pandemic we have witnessed a radical shift in our society. We have all had to take “retreat” for quite some time now. As we reemerge, for better or for worse, we will begin to rebuild our societal structure. Utilize these tips as if you were coming out of a meditation retreat and let’s see if we can support and give space for one and another in this unique time.

Listen to 5 Tips for Reemerging from Retreat on Native Yoga Toddcast here.

Visit Native Yoga Center website here to learn more about In Studio and Livestream classes here.

Interview with Greg Nardi

It is with great pleasure that in this episode I have the privilege to interview Greg Nardi. Greg Nardi is the owner of Ashtanga Yoga Worldwide where he teaches a Mysore program almost daily as well as an internationally renowned teacher of workshops in yoga practice and theory. Greg’s classes and workshops draw on his experience in the oral tradition of yoga that he participated in on numerous trips to study in Mysore, India and with teachers in N. America and Europe, his years of practice, and his ongoing self-study of academic research in contemporary and traditional yoga. Visit Greg online here. In this episode Greg weighs in on his thoughts about Yoga practice, the COVID-19 pandemic and the future of yoga as a teacher and practitioner. We hope you enjoy!

Listen here

Native Hour Livestream Yoga class

We are pleased to be able to offer free and donation based livestream yoga classes to help you get through this difficult time. Join Todd and Tamara of nativeyogacenter.com each day as they lead you through online classes ranging from beginner to advanced. We hope you will join us. You can sign up for classes this week here.


Ashtanga and Ayurveda w/ Kate ODonnell at Native Yoga Center

I am really excited that Kate O’Donnell will be returning to Native Yoga Center this week. Kate has a long history of Yoga and Ayurveda practice. She has a relaxed and welcoming nature in her ability to convey information to her students. Kate is very patient and enjoys taking the time to answer questions. Last time I had the chance to practice to study with her I found I left the sessions feeling really inspired to apply the ideas she presented to my own practice and lifestyle. I find that the combined study of Ayurveda in conjunction with Yoga practice brings a tremendous amount of depth to embracing a healthy lifestyle. Kate has done the research and study to help make these “sister sciences” come to life. Please join her this weekend at Native Yoga Center in Juno Beach. You can view details about the event on our website by clicking here. If you would like to visit Kate’s website you can click here.