The Yoga of Love: Bhakti Yoga and Kirtan

Alameda Yoga Classes

The Sanskrit word Bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which translates as “to adore or worship the divine.” Of the four paths of yoga, this yogic path is one that focuses on union through pure love and devotion. It is a path of self-realization, that leads to having an experience of oneness with everything, shedding judgement and separation.

Bhakti yoga takes shape in many ways that often lead the yogi to practices off of the mat. Here are a few examples of ways that you could explore and experience this beautiful limb of yoga:

Creating a home altar – Gather images or objects that inspire you and awaken your heart. Set them up with care and devotion and take time each day to connect to the quality and energy they invoke in you.

Seva or acts of selfless service – Find a group that could use your helping heart and hands and selflessly offer your service.

Contemplation – Explore the nature of being or invoke the energy and quality of a particular deity.

Reciting Mantras – Repeat words, sounds, names of the deities or an affirmation. This will aid concentration in meditation and invoke certain qualities. Work with a mantra that resonates with you. You could use a mala or prayer beads to count the repetitions.

Chanting – alone or in a group at a kirtan. This is one of the methods most used by devotees.

What is a Kirtan?

A Kirtan is when a Sangha (spiritual community) gathers and joins their voices to chant the names of the deities and mantras in call and response fashion. Regardless of ones experience with singing this environment lends anyone to join voices in a safe setting where the shared experience and devotion is the focus, rather than the refinement of the music itself. It’s a beautiful outlet for those that might have fear of using their voices to feel strength and comfort through blending with the voices around them.

Regardless of what shape the Bhakti takes for you, the ultimate goal is to see and serve yourself and everyone else as a manifestation of the Divine.

If you are intrigued and interested in exploring Bhakti yoga I recommend checking out our upcoming Kirtan at Symmetry Yoga on March 31st !

As a long time yogi and musician, I find that Bhakti Yoga has been a natural joining of two of the greatest passions of my heart. As I write this blog post, I’m actually getting ready to embark into a Bhakti Yoga immersion in New Orleans! I am grateful for the new learning that I’ll be able to bring back to the Symmetry Yoga Studio and community. I look forward to sharing more goodies with you upon my return!

This blog post was written by Nikki Borodi who teaches Vinyasa Flow on Mondays and our Monthly Friday Night Flow class with live music!
To practice with Nikki sign up for classes now!

FEEL GOOD with Morning Yoga Classes and Bicycle Coffee!

Coffee Yoga Alameda

We are excited to announce the expansion of our morning class schedule, and a new collaboration with one of our favorite neighbors. Kick start your day in a fantastic way!

Join us for a Vinyasa Flow on Tuesdays & Thursdays 8:30-9:45 AM.

Patsy Hutchison who teaches the Lotus Flow style will be teaching on Tuesdays and the lovely Ellisa Sun will offer her high energy Vinyasa on Thursdays.

For our extra early risers we have early morning classes on Mondays & Wednesdays: 6:00-7:00 AM • Early Bird Flow and 7:15-8:30 AM Mindful Vinyasa with Jessica Dugan.

There’s many benefits to starting your day with a Yoga practice, read more here.

We’re also thrilled to announce that we’ve recently connected with Feel Good Bakery located in the Alameda Marketplace across the street. They serve up hot and delicious Bicycle Coffee daily and are offering our morning Yogis $1.00 off coffee or tea drinks between the hours of 7:00-11:00 AM Monday-Friday. (You will need to show that you attended a morning class on your MindBody or Symmetry Yoga app).

Here’s to Yoga, Neighbors and Yummy beverages!

See you in class!

What is Lotus Flow?

YogaLotus Flow is a common style taught by several teachers here at Symmetry Yoga so we thought it would be helpful to break down what Lotus Flow is.

What is Lotus Flow?

  • Lotus Flow is considered a type of vinyasa styled yoga.
  • It is an outline that works with the chakra system.
  • Each class moves up the chakras always beginning with the 1st chakra energies and ending with the 7th chakra.
  • The beginning of each class starts with a dharma talk and mantra.
  • Dharma talk is a way of linking the philosophical aspects of the yoga practice to everyday life.
  • The mantra aspect of the class can be as simple as singing an “OM” or a more complicated mantra like the Gayatri mantra.
  • The flow should balance the student regardless of what she/he is coming in with. (If you are nervous before class you should feel a sense of ease when you emerge from it. If you are feeling lethargic, you should feel more energized.)
  • There should be creative sequencing and music. The music can range from hip hop to kirtan (devotional mantra music).

The idea with Lotus flow is that you move up the chakras (energy system) in order during the class. Here is an outline of the postures associated with each chakra.

Lotus Flow Outline

  • First chakra: simple, warming postures
  • Second chakra: open hip and warming postures
  • Third chakra: core work/twists, beginning to sweat
  • Fourth chakra: back-bending, warming postures
  • Fifth chakra: inversions, neutral warming
  • Sixth chakra: forward folding, beginning to cool
  • Savasana

There are some styles of teaching asana that will concentrate only on one area of the body, but with Lotus flow it should feel a bit more like a balanced diet. There should be arm and leg strengthening, some back bending, some stretching. Some classes with Lotus Flow may be focused on one particular chakra that may color the whole practice—for example in a predominately third chakra class, there may be more core work and arm balances than in a fourth chakra influenced class that would involve more back bending.

Lotus Flow is a very holistic outline that usually makes everyBODY in the space feel balanced. If you are showing up to class because you are feeling deeply lethargic, then the class should make you feel energized. If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, the practice should help support you to feel grounded and more calm.

This blog post was written by Patsy Hutchison. Join Patsy for Vinyasa Flow on Tuesdays 8:30-9:45am and Thursdays at 5:00-6:00pm. Sign up now!

Take Advantage of our Happy Holiday Sale!

Yoga in Alameda CAGrab a 10 Class Yoga Card for Only $108!

108 has long been considered a sacred and auspicious number in Hinduism and yoga. Renowned Vedic mathematicians viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence that connects us to our place in the cosmic order.

This is why you will find that malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads. Also, according to yogic tradition, there are 108 sacred sites throughout India. There are also 108 Upanishads (ancient yogic texts) and 108 marma points, or sacred points of the body.

This number appears again and again in Vedic astrology and similarly to the mantra AUM, connects us to the whole.

Buy Now! Offer ends 1/15/18.

4 Poses for the Holidays That Will Keep You Connected

Yoga Meditation OaklandWe often hear our students express their assumption that a longer yoga practice is the most beneficial. We actually think that sometimes it’s the shorter practices that have the most profound and long-lasting effects. To encourage you to stay connected to your practice through this holiday season, we challenge you to invest just a small amount of time each day in your practice. Do you have 10 minutes to spare? Great. Lets get you started in embracing these 4 poses as a way to a more healthy, happy and relaxed you over this holiday season. Think of them as your friendly go-to holiday yoga poses that can help you connect to your body, mind and spirit anytime and anywhere.

1. Bitilasana (Cat/Cow)– A grounding foundational pose for any yoga practice. It gently warms up the spine while opening up the whole back body- thereby releasing stiffness and tension that can accumulate in tight muscles. The more we begin to move in between these two shapes, the more we notice how medicinal they feel as we mindfully open and close the more active front body, and the more receptive back body. Spend 2 minutes here, and notice the appreciation that will inevitably rise up.

2. Vrikshasana (Tree)– Excellent for strengthening the ankles and calves while also toning the abdominal muscles. Try spending 5-10 breaths on each leg while working and definitely using the wall as a steadying prop if you want to feel extra supported. Tree pose is made more accessible when the phrase “root to rise” is applied. As you ground down evenly through the sole of your foot, you’ll also begin to lengthen your torso, lifting up through your heart, melting your shoulders down your back and lifting your gaze. Begin to cultivate one-pointed focus by letting your drishti (gaze point) land on an object in front of your. As you feel into your balance, you’ll notice your thoughts slow down and elevation in your spirits that let your know your securely connected to the earth.

3. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist)– Twists are nourishing for the kidneys which help keep us energized. Twists are also great for digestion and can be therapeutic for low back pain- just make sure you keep your navel engaged. From a comfortable seated position cross your right leg over your left, so that your right foot steps just outside your left thigh. On an inhale, lengthen your right arm up and plant your finger tips near your right hip. Use your left arms to draw your right knee in, and your spine up. Stay for a minute, with eyes half-closed and focusing on lengthening your inhales and exhales. Repeat on the other side.

4. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall)– Here’s a decadent closing to any yoga practice. Legs up the wall is a restorative pose that helps relieves headaches, brings fresh blood to the head & heart, lowers blood pressure, relives low back pain and leaves you feeling refreshed. This is a great pose to try when traveling in airports, before bed or in the afternoon in replacement of a nap. Start by putting a folded blanket a foot away from the wall. Roll onto the blanket- hip first and slowly roll onto your back so that your legs go on the wall. Place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly to help tune you into the rhythm of your body. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

This blog post was written by Grey Marcoux who teaches Hatha Flow on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We’d love to have you come in and practice with Grey and all of our lovely teachers and community this holiday season.
Check out our holiday schedule and sign up for classes now!

The Benefits of Keeping Up a Yoga Practice Over the Holidays

Yoga Meditation OaklandWe all know that the holidays can bring much excitement in to our lives. We probably have also all experienced some of the stress, over indulgence and exhaustion that can come from with this celebratory time of year. Some of this stress or exhaustion might have to do with the lengths in which we go to see loved ones – like traveling long distances or getting stuck in holiday traffic, while other ways of not feeling our best over the holidays have to do with excessive drinking, eating or spending. But what if there was something we could do that would align into equilibrium with ourselves so that our holidays become a time where we can rest, restore, have fun and feel our best in our bodies and minds? Yoga is an ideal practice to help us care for ourselves over the holidays. The benefits of a holiday practice begin by carving out a little personal time each day for the physical asana practice and also some time to devote to meditation. As we begin to move, stretch and strengthen, endorphins get released so we almost immediately begin to experience positive emotions like joy, happiness and gratitude. These positive emotions that can arise during the yoga practice, are in many ways what the holidays boil down to: gratitude, peace and joy. It’s an ideal time to commit to a yoga practice to help cultivate these benefits a little bit more.

A specific part of the yoga practice that can help to profoundly shift our awareness into the gifts of the present is meditation. The meditation practice literally begins to refocus our brains so we become much more aware of what’s arising, and then are able to consciously choose whether or not we want to engage with that emotion/thought. Meditation is a powerful tool that lets us choose our thoughts and how we want to feel- letting us transform negative emotions into ones like joy, wisdom and compassion- beautiful lenses to wear during the season of giving. Another benefit of a keeping up a yoga practice over the holidays is the healthy, happy glow you’ll have from the more active parts of the practice-you’ll sweat, burn calories and work up an appetite to help you enjoy the delectable food you’ll be savoring. You’ll be happier- and since energy is often times contagious- those around you will feel happier too.

Last, but not least, is that yoga is an inspiring way to take care of yourself! Self-care is a radical act of self-love. Self-care helps us to cultivate feelings of love towards ourselves, which can go hand and hand with happiness. When someone is happy, others are more likely to feel happy too- because energy is contagious. One thing for sure, is that there can never be too much happiness and love in this world. Let’s take extra good care of ourselves this holiday season by committing to showing up on our mats, and in doing so, commit to taking good care of others.

This blog post was written by Grey Marcoux who teaches Hatha Flow on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.

We’d love to have you come in and practice with Grey and all of our lovely teachers and community this holiday season.
Check out our holiday schedule and sign up for classes now!

Hatha Flow Now Offered Three Days a Week with Grey Marcoux!

Yoga AlamedaTuesdays + Thursdays 3:00pm
Saturdays 8:00am

Almost all forms of yoga that are taught in the West can be defined as Hatha Yoga. Hatha is the practice of the physical postures of yoga and can be translated as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha)- which is meant to be thought of as balancing the resting and active energies of the body.

In general, Hatha Yoga classes are designed to be slower and more stabilizing to help calm the mind, and ensure the student is learning proper alignment so they can settle into a meditative state. In a typical Vinyasa class, one’s movement is linked with the breath so that the student can “flow” between postures cued by each inhale and exhale.

While Vinyasa Yoga offers the opportunity to link a breath to a movement, and Hatha invites the yogi to stay in the pose for a longer period of time, a Hatha Flow class fuses the two modalities-aiming to strike a balance between flow and stillness. In Grey Marcoux’s Hatha Flow classes, the student will have ample time to settle into a pose so that they can become familiar with the proper safe alignment that is best suited for their body’s unique needs. Once the alignment has been found and embodied for a few rounds of deep breath, the student will then learn to move in a graceful and mindful way to the next posture, all the while being asked to stay present through focusing on breath.

Through coming back to the breath, students are then able to foster more spaciousness in their mind and bodies helping them to find deeper ways to explore the postures which can lead to a more advanced expression of a pose, deeper experiences of peaceful states and somatic healing. Each class will begin with a few minutes of seated meditation and end with a restorative pose to encourage physical and energetic synthesis of the yoga class. SIGN UP HERE!


Deep Healing with YOGA NIDRA

Yoga Nidra AlamedaSundays 4:00-5:15pm with Radha Rodriguez
Sign Up Here!

Yoga Nidra is usually translated as Yogic Sleep. Typically, the conclusion of a class, it is an opportunity to integrate the previous physical postures, develop body awareness, cultivate mindfulness, and experience deep healing.

Yoga Nidra is an accessible practice that is suitable for all practitioners, regardless of experience or personal history. It brings us into a delicious state of rest, after which you may experience a sense of joy, ease, and wholeness. It is also one of the most advanced practices in our yoga toolbox.

How to Practice
Similar to a guided meditation, Yoga Nidra is a journey inward, progressively leading practitioners to the deep, quiet layers of the Self.

From a comfortable position on the back such as Savasana, we begin with sequentially squeezing and releasing each muscle of the body. In this way, we identify holding patterns in the body and learn to consciously release tension.

Having encouraged ease in the body, we develop our capacity to witness our experience. Again, moving sequentially, we take time to observe body, breath, and mind. This moves us away from identifying with our experience and toward equanimity. Over time and with continuous practice, we bring this ability to observe experience into our daily lives such that our minds remain steady and undisturbed.

After these preparatory steps, we move to the core of Yoga Nidra. Here we are directed to our highest Self, our true Self, where we have the opportunity to rest. Yoga Nidra can allow us a glimpse into the peace and serenity that is the heart of all Yoga practice.

While it is common for practitioners to fall into a brief sleep, the essence of the practice is to maintain conscious awareness or resting wakefulness. In this way, practitioners are able to access their innate capacity for healing.

Make The Practice Yours
Lying on the back doesn’t work for everyone. Some of us are more comfortable sitting in a chair, leaning against a wall, or lying on the side.

Don’t be shy, take advantage of props! Would a pillow make the neck more comfortable? Would some knee support bring ease to the low back? Would the protection of a blanket bring a sense of comfort? What about an eye pillow? Does lying on the back cause you to cough or feel congested? Try laying against a raised bolster. Can’t make it to class? Lead yourself through the process in a chair or lying on your bed!

Why Practice Yoga Nidra?
The benefits of Yoga Nidra are so varied that it can benefit just about anyone. These benefits include

  • Stress reduction
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Ability to consciously release physical tension
  • Improved mental focus and concentration
  • Increased mind-body connection
  • Develop ease and comfort in body
  • Resolve trauma
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced depression
  • Learn to be present
  • Tool for spiritual inquiry


Reiki and Restorative Now Offered Tuesday Evenings with Inbal Meron!

Yoga Studio in East BayTuesdays 7:30 and 8:45pm
Sign Up Here!

We’re excited to introduce one of our newest additions to the Symmetry Yoga teaching team! Meet Inbal Meron! Inbal, has been teaching yoga in the Bay Area since 2012 and specializes in Yoga Therapeutics.

In addition to teaching Yoga, Inbal is also a Reiki Master and a Tarot reader and teacher. She loves to travel and study, but these days, she spends most of her time outside in nature with her adorable toddler. You can join her for a Reiki & Restorative class on Tuesdays from 7:30-8:45 p.m.

This class is the perfect opportunity to slow down and take a deep meditative rest. The practice is passive and supported by props. During class you only actually do about 2-3 poses. This gives you the time and space to truly drop in to a deep and restful state. While resting in the poses, Inbal will be coming around and offering Reiki to each student.

Reiki is a vibrational healing modality that is transferred through touch. Reiki is a perfect complement to a restorative practice as it assists in calming and healing while working on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies simultaneously.  This class is not to be missed!

Sign up here!

Symmetry is Excited to Announce Early Morning Yoga with Mary Mailhot!

Alameda Yoga StudioMondays + Wednesdays 6:00 and 7:15am
Sign Up Here!

Mary is thrilled to start teaching at Symmetry Yoga. She comes from a long career in dance, music and theater. She brings her creativity, open heart and joy to each class.

In 2008 Mary majored in Dance and Literature at The New School University, Eugene Lang College in NYC. In 2007 while in college, she started her yoga practice in New York and Brooklyn. She immediately noticed how good she felt after yoga. Yoga started to deeply calm and center her mind, body and spirit.

In 2009, she moved to Sydney, Australia where she studied Mysore, Ashtanga yoga. This helped her build a daily practice. She also took up meditation and Qi Gong practices with her teacher and dear spirit sister Emma Jean Bridge. From this point, she decided it was time for her 200-hr training.

In 2011, she received her 200-hr from The Kripalu Yoga School, in the Berkshire MA, where she lived for a month and dove deep into her yoga practice. Her teachers Devarshi Hartman and Jovinna Chan are so dear to her heart. This training taught her so much about Compassion and the foundations of having a rich spiritual practice. She then went on to teach in Brooklyn. Soon thereafter, she decided it was time to move out west. In 2012, she moved to Oakland, CA to pursue her teaching and her art (i.e. dance, and music).

In 2013, she trained with Kimber Simpkins in her Anusara Immersion, where she learned many new mediation techniques, tantric yoga, the universal principles of alignment, and deep love of her body. Mary also is a Reiki Master and trained intensely with her teacher Genevieve Mcclendon. She fell in love with this healing modality and gives Reiki sessions at the health center on request. Inquire within for more details! Also, Mary is avidly pursing her career as a musician/singer, dancer and performing artist. She has her own band called, Honey and The Emperor. She is deeply inspired by this practice and artful and healthful living. Namaste.