Yoga and Relationships

Discover how to move towards balanced and fulfilling relationships

Using the transformational power of Yoga to remove habitual patterns of thought and action, in this workshop we will combine a variety of yogic techniques on our journey toward balanced, joyful and loving relationships.

In this workshop we will learn how to:

  • Explore asana as a tool for reflection on our actions & thoughts
  • Move toward personal balance & integration
  • Apply mindfulness, breath, edge work and meditation to enhance the quality of our interactions with others
  • Move from mechanic action to love inspired action to enter balanced, fulfilling & life affirming relationships

Date: Saturday, February 14/2009
Time: 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Length: 3.0 hours
Cost: $35 Advanced registration/ $40 at the door
Instructor: Rubén Vásquez, registered with Yoga Alliance.
Studio: St. Petersburg Yoga –

Address: 275 16th St. N. 33705, St. Petersburg, FL – map
Phone: (727)-894-YOGA


This workshop is geared to creating personal clarity and balance and to prepare ourselves for meaningful participation in relationships. It is not required to attend as a couple. However, if both persons in a relationship are interested in attending together, their experience can be quite beneficial!


Why do I practice Yoga?

Temple reliefs/Relieve en Templo

Why do I practice Yoga?

Yoga is an empirical science, in the sense that it requires us to apply what we learn in order to observe for ourselves the results. In other words, Yoga is not an abstract exercise but a lived exploration that behooves us to bring the practice to life.

From this perspective, it seems important, perhaps essential, to direct our inquiry often to the foundation of our practice. The question “why do I practice Yoga?” is a cornerstone to our practice. Asking ourselves this question helps us examine and reflect on our practice while, at the same time, it ensures that we keep our practice from becoming a mechanical repetition of tasks.

When we ask “why do I practice Yoga?” we are interested in answering the question sincerely and wholeheartedly at all levels, especially through our actions. That is, we incorporate the question into our practice by observing if we are honoring our answer through our intentions and actions.

The answer to this question, most likely, will change over time reflecting our interests, circumstances and stage in life. However, our sincere interest in living the answer will remain unchanged.

And you, why do you practice Yoga?



Yoga: The Long View

Ancient spire in Ayutthata/Antigua Aguja en Ayutthaya

Short Attention Span

It seems undeniable that we live in times when faster is generally equated with better, at least at the surface level. Many of us feel like the pace of life has gotten too fast, even out of control. One manifestation of this mindset is our urge to save time, even just a few seconds, whenever we can. This pervasive ideology has a connection to the notion of instant gratification, which might be somewhat or quite familiar for many of us. Some people argue that civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. As a result, we often rush through our actions and activities without making time to be present. This can be called the short attention span perspective. The short attention span perspective can be characterized as a continuous movement of the mind without clear focus. In contrast to the short attention span view, we can think of the focused perspective as clear and focused attention to one moment in time. In other words, while the short attention span can drive us to rush through the present moment, the focused perspective can acts as an excellent way to prepare us for the long view.

The Long View

Obviously, all things in life have an inherent pace to them. That is, some things happen at fast speed, like lightning, others happen slower, like the rotation of the earth around the sun. The focused perspective mindset, by its own nature, concentrates our attention, if very briefly, on specific, discrete aspects of our experience, while the long view tries to deepen our understanding in terms of time.

When we favor only the focused perspective, it is difficult for us to gain perspective and notice changes, tendencies and patterns that develop, shift and transform over time. When we favor the long view approach only, it may be more difficult to relate to the specific circumstances of the present event.
Clearly, focusing on one point is the first step towards maintaining our attention over time. Thus, our focus on the present moment provides the point of access into the long view. The interplay between these two views is exemplified by the Long Now Foundation, an organization concerned with “fostering long-term responsibility” and when they say long term they mean thinking not in terms of months or years but in terms of the next 10000 years. The idea is to link our present actions to long term thinking.

Concentration and Meditation

From a Yogic point of view, we could interpret the focused perspective as the traditional limb of Yoga often translated as Concentration (Dharana), focusing our attention on one point. On the other hand, sustaining our attention on the same point over a period of time is the Meditation (Dhyana) limb of Yoga. We can think about the latter as an expression of the long view approach.

Interplay between Focused Perspective and Long View in Yoga

Yoga has been around, according to different sources, for at least a few millennia, yet its teachings are still astonishingly relevant and applicable today. Thus, it seems that even though the tradition of Yoga has been preserved and transformed over a long period of time, its application, which can only happen one moment at a time, is actualized through the focused perspective. That is, the teachings handed down over time are lived and put into practice in the realm of the focused perspective.

Moreover, for many of us, the short attention span perspective can have a dramatic impact on our Yoga practice, in any of its manifestations. For instance, sometimes, especially with practices that are challenging for us, like sitting still for a specific amount of time, breathing mindfully or moving into a specific posture, we might feel inclined to try to get our practice over quickly, so that we end up rushing through it. As a consequence, our practice betrays the very essence of Yoga, a journey of self-discovery. Rushing through our actions prevents us from experiencing the practice at all levels, particularly keeping us from learning by observing how we deal with frustration, impatience and challenging situations.

Taking the long view as the background of our experience can serve as a reminder that Yoga is a personal journey of self-discovery, by definition a lifelong process. Knowing that we have the rest of our lives to practice, can give us the patience to accept where we are today, hence enabling us to immerse in the specific practice mindfully. Not long ago I read the wise opinion of a well respected Yoga master, David Swenson, where he stated that “We must think in terms of decades when practicing and teaching yoga. The strongest trees in the forest grow the most slowly.”

Taking this long view, can foster a different approach to our practice, so that we practice intelligently, that is mindfully and at our own level so that we can continue practicing steadily over the years. Another well respected Yoga master, David Williams, provides insight into this process in his student newsletter by saying that “The key is being able to continue practicing Yoga for the rest of your life. From over 30 years of observing thousands of people practicing Yoga, I have realized that those who continue are the ones who are able to figure out how to make it enjoyable. They look forward to their daily practice and nothing can keep them from finding the time to do it. It becomes one of the most pleasant parts of their day.

Maybe we can meditate on this question: How would my practice be if I remember that I have the rest of my life to practice?


Simple guided meditation with Rubén


Special Class – Total Yoga Experience: Asana and Beyond.

Yoga is much more than physical exercises. Yoga is a complete system of practices that create a deep-rooted sense of stillness & awareness. The Total Yoga Experience is a unique class that offers students at all levels an experience of Yoga that integrates body, breath, mind & spirit. In this class we will work from the outside in, from the outer body into more subtle aspects of our being.

The Complete Yoga Experience consists of:

  • Asana- physical postures that synchronize movement & breath
  • Nidra- guided relaxation for deep release and clarity
  • Pranayama- breathing exercises for focus & concentration
  • Chanting- for breath awareness & concentration
  • Meditation- sustained focus & concentration for stillness

This practice is an integrative exploration of diverse traditional Yoga techniques. This is an excellent class for students to become more familiar with various Yoga and meditation techniques. . For more experienced practitioners, this class provides an excellent way to deepen and strengthen their practice.

Date: Saturday, August 23/2008
Time: 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Length: 3.0 horas
Cost: $35 Advanced registration/ $40 at the door
Instructor: Rubén Vásquez, registered with Yoga Alliance.
Studio: St. Petersburg Yoga –
Address: 275 16th St. N. 33705, St. Petersburg, FL – map
Phone: (727)-894-YOGA



Experiencia Total del Yoga en Bogotá

Clase Especial en Bogotá – Colombia : Experiencia Total del Yoga: Más allá de las Asanas.

La Experiencia Total del Yoga es una clase única que ofrece a los participantes de todos los niveles una experiencia de Yoga que integra el cuerpo, la respiración, la mente y el espíritu.

Esta clase usa varias técnicas de Yoga en una secuencia que relaja el cuerpo desde afuera hacia adentro, desde el nivel físico hasta los niveles más sutiles.

La Experiencia Total del Yoga incluye:

  • Asana, ejercicios físicos en los que se sincroniza el movimiento con la respiración.
  • Nidra, técnicas de relajación guiada para crear calma y claridad profundas.
  • Pranayama, ejercicios de respiración tradicionales para mejorar la respiración y ayudar a optimizar la concentración.
  • Cantos para enfocar la mente, la respiración y el cuerpo en preparación para la meditación.
  • Meditación guiada para sostener la concentración y encontrar calma y la claridad.

Esta clase está enfocada a personas interesadas en explorar diversas técnicas del Yoga de manera integral. Esta es una clase que sirve como introducción al Yoga y a la meditación. Participantes que tengan más experiencia con el Yoga pueden usar esta clase para afianzar su práctica y explorar diferentes técnicas.

Fecha: Miércoles, 6 de Agosto, 2008
Hora: 5:30pm a 9:00pm
Duración: 3.5 horas
Costo: $65000 por persona
Instructor: Rubén Vásquez, instructor registrado con la Yoga Alliance en los Estados Unidos.
Dirección: Calle 106 # 22-05, Bogotá, Colombia
Teléfonos: 2137851 – 6376903



Simplicity: Do what we are doing


Keep it simple

Frequently our minds tend to complicate things. The mind thrives creating elaborate systems of thought composed of nicely packaged concepts and ideas. This is not a bad thing; in many cases those complex systems built by the mind are quite useful. However, very often the complexity of those systems obscures what is otherwise simple and clear.

The documentary film How to Cook Your Life follows zen chef Edward Espe Brown as he guides zen practitioners in exploring the connections between cooking, zen practice and life. Among other clear and powerful messages in the movie, there was one that I enjoyed because of its utter simplicity. Espe Brown says something like: “do what you are doing; if you are chopping carrots, chop carrots, if you are kneading dough, knead the dough.” It sounds like a message that is too simple. Yet its simplicity is imbued with deep wisdom. This succinct message highlights the importance of mindful action, paying attention to what we are doing.

Doing things for real

When we are fully present, doing what we are doing, we participate and we engage in all actions for real, wholeheartedly. Consequently, all of our attention is focused on the tasks at hand. That is, we become one with the activity in which we are participating. This alignment results in mindful and meaningful actions. Our actions are instrumental to learning and, thus, mindful actions result in deeper knowledge which, in turn, enables us to continue learning and growing. Moreover, our complete participation also prepares us for future actions and circumstances, including learning to accept the outcomes, positive or negative, of our actions.


It seems quite simple to just do what we are doing. However, why is it that many of us find it difficult to accomplish this? The distractions in our daily activities seem endless. They emerge in varied shapes and guises, and what they have in common is that they manage to take our attention away from what we are doing. When we follow the source of distraction the quality of our participation diminishes and the outcome of our actions is affected.

Improving the quality of our attention

In Yoga is a practice we talked about Yoga practice as a laboratory where external sources of distraction are reduced, therefore, making it easier for us to focus and sustain our attention.

Here is a suggestion to “do what we are doing” when we are practicing Yoga.

Let go
For the first couple of minutes of your practice, allow anything that is not part of your practice to drift away with each exhalation.
Set your intention
Repeat to yourself with full attention and feeling: “I will focus my undivided attention on this practice, here and now”.
Engage your attention
Give your mind a simple task to do in order to keep it from getting distracted. For instance, ask your mind to observe the sensations at the points of contact between your body and the ground with each exhalation, or notice, to the best of your ability, what happens during the transition between each inhalation and each exhalation.
Practice according to your intention with engaged attention, and whenever your attention gets distracted, gently bring back your attention, inhale, smile and continue practicing.

Notice that these suggestions might be useful to focus while doing activities other than Yoga.

As usual, try these suggestions a few times and notice if they have any influence on the quality of your participation and on the overall quality of your practice. As you practice this way you strengthen your ability to concentrate on and off your Yoga mat.



Simple guided meditation with Rubén


Is there somebody else practicing Yoga on your mat?


Is there somebody whispering in your ear?

I recently remembered a video about Ben Zander, a truly inspirational teacher. In the video (at 3:10)

he says that, generally, a musician on stage is not alone, that there are two people on the stage, one trying to perform a musical piece and somebody else who whispers in the musician’s ear: “you didn’t practice enough….do you know how many people play this piece better than you do?…….here comes the part that you messed up the last time…” and many other disruptive words.

When we practice Yoga on the mat, we may find disruptive voices emerging in our practice. For instance, we may hear our personal assistant who continually goes over a list of phone calls, appointments and pending tasks, or the cook absorbed in planning the meal we’ll have after practice, or the competitive coach urging us to outperform ourselves or the person next to us, or the image consultant striving to bring our attention to the style, color and appropriateness of other people’s attires.

This is the most important moment

In the video, Zander underscores the importance of being present when he says: “This is the moment, this is the most important moment, right now”. I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, I feel that there are no other moments. We are here and now and we cannot be anywhere else.

In another video (2:10)

Zander says that a total transformation takes place when we see that “we have been hiding, taking ourselves away, not taking risks by sitting in the back row of our lives”.

To me, the transformation Zander talks about is activated by being fully present. Immersing ourselves in the present moment makes us realize that all the voices that try to draw us away from this moment are keeping us from seeing clearly that every moment brings with it the knowledge and resources needed to respond in a life-affirming and most appropriate way to its specific questions and challenges. Thus, it is essential that we are attentive to this moment.

Befriend your body and mind

In my opinion, Yoga practice is an appointment we create with ourselves so that we can learn more about who we are. However, our minds and bodies, with ther inclination to follow habits, may sometimes be disruptive, bringing our attention away from the present moment. Although exerting control is one possible, but not very conducive, approach to focusing our attention, I prefer Vanda Scaravelli’s approach. Vanda Scaravelli wrote in Awakening the Spine, we must give our bodies: “clear directions dictated not by ambition, duties or reactions, but by precise and lucid perception of what we feel. If we are sensitive to the requests of the body, it will responde spontaneously in an unexpected, effortless way. We must create a relationship, make friends with our bodies as well as with our minds.

Thus, instead of seeing our body and mind as potential obstacles that need to be controlled by force, we can choose to befriend our body and mind so that we can enlist their help to support our intention of learning and developing sensitivity. Paying full attention and being curious to learn is enough motivation to be fully present. As a result, our yoga practice helps us discover and integrate the myriad relationships between body, breath, mind and heart. When there is integration there is no room for distraction, there is only room for doing things for real. When this happens, even for just one second in one pose, the practice is transformative as we see the possibility of expanding this approach to everything we do. Consequently, everything we do becomes the best expression of who we are and, thereby, it will be unique, genuine, creative and innovative.

The next time you feel that there is a distracting presence sharing your mat, choose not to take a back seat in your practice and gently invite your mind and body to contribute that energy into the process of self-discovery. As we practice this more and more, we will become better at participating fully and actively in our Yoga practice and, perhaps, also in our lives.


The gift of silence

sunset in Koh Lanta/atardecer en Koh Lanta

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.” Mahatma Gandhi


Many of us associate the holidays with giving and receiving gifts. However, if you feel that you already have enough stuff, you can still give yourself a gift that is positive, transformational, free and truly priceless. The gift I am talking about is the gift of silence.
We live surrounded by numerous sources of sounds and noises. It can be argued that we live in an increasingly noisy world.

In addition to the growing number of sound and noise sources in our surroundings, the level of loudness is increasing also. Here is a brief and eloquent example of what is called loudness war:

It is not surprising that many of us feel that there is too much noise around us.


One of the limbs of Yoga is called pratyahara. Some authors, like T.K.V. Desikachar (in The Heart of Yoga), and A.G. Mohan (in Yoga for Body, Breath, and Mind) talk about pratyahara as a practice in which we withdraw our minds from processing the information perceived by the senses. Pratyahara, calls our attention to the importance of taking a break from constant processing of sensory stimuli. Most of us find that our minds are continually jumping back and forth, with external sensory information contributing to distract us even more. This is where pratyahara can be a gift that we can really appreciate. There are numerous techniques conducive to practicing pratyahara, the gift of silence is a very simple one.

The technique step by step

It is important to notice that hearing a sound is a process. The sound is emitted by an external source and is received internally by our hearing organs. Once we register the sound, we proceed to process the sound in different ways. Thus, the gift of silence is a practice that requires actions at both levels, external and internal.
First, to give yourself the gift of silence, you create a clear intention to find silence for 5 minutes a day.

  • Set your intention to allow silence to emerge for the next 5 minutes, even in the midst of seemingly uncontrollable noise.
  • Pause whatever you are doing.
  • Notice the sources of sound/noise in your immediate environment. Then you consciously turn off those sources, such as radio, TV, mobile phone, computer, ipod, etc.
  • After removing the external noises, observe if there is an internal process that continues producing “mental noises”. Often these noises are incomplete thoughts floating in our minds. Instead of trying to turn those “mental noises” off, we simply notice them and allow them to drift away. This is generally much simpler than one thinks, because the string of incomplete thoughts can be quite incoherent. Any time a new source of noise, internal or external, emerges notice it and let it fade away.
  • Notice all the different sounds that contribute to the sensation of noise. Perhaps you can start by listening for distant sounds, but do not try to identify or concentrate too much on any particular sound. Just acknowledge the sound and continue moving your attention gently from one external sound to another.
  • Notice that as you focus briefly on one sound the other sounds seem to fade away.
  • Gradually move your attention to closer sounds.
  • Eventually you notice the sounds closest to you.
  • Without changing anything notice the sound of your own breath.
  • Then open to hear all sounds at once, it seems paradoxical, but amidst all the sounds you might find that you are in perfect silence.
  • After 5 minutes, you can choose to turn on whatever sources of sound you wish to hear.

The results

It happens often that we feel a sense of tranquility and clarity as we immerse in the experience of silence. Consequently, sometimes you might feel that you want to continue the experience of silence for a little while longer. To see if this practice makes sense, and if it is useful to you, set your intention to try it everyday for 2 weeks without interruptions. Also, pay attention to any changes you notice as you continue practicing. For instance, you may find that observing silence helps you think more clearly, feel more relaxed and notice patterns of behavior that cause you to be distracted. Sometimes we find that immersing in the experience of silence can help us while we do your daily activities.
Giving yourself the gift of silence plants a seed for powerful transformation. This is a gift that does not cost anything and does not require a specific setting, instruments or equipment. This is a practice that can be done at any time and that can help us focus, reflect and relax.


Simple guided meditation with Rubén



The quality of our participation

Ancient astronomic observatory tool/Artefacto antiguo de observacion astronomica

Multitasking Required.
Although various studies indicate that multitasking slows us down, it seems that multitasking continues to be prevalent . Now it seems that we are often in multitasking mode, talking on the phone while driving, working on multiple projects at once on the computer, for instance checking e-mail and listening to a podcast while we work on a specific task. It is not surprising that multitasking does not seem conducive to learning. However, more and more, job descriptions indicate that experience with multitasking is required. But is multitasking bad in itself? Multitasking, more than working on several tasks at once, is shifting our attention from one task to another.

Multitasking and Yoga
It could be argued that practicing Yoga asanas is a form of multitasking. When we practice a Yoga pose, we continually shift our attention from what we are doing with different parts of our bodies, to our breathing and also to maintaining our awareness fully in the current experience. For instance, sometimes in Yoga classes teachers give very detailed instructions for some or many of the moves. This requires our attention to remain focused. However, keeping our focus on the actions of the breath, body and mind throughout a full practice can be quite demanding and even mentally exhausting. One way our minds deal with these demands is by tuning out some of the instructions, thus avoiding feeling overwhelmed. When our multitasking in Yoga goes well, however, all of our actions integrate, flowing harmoniously and resulting in a vibrant and energizing feeling. If we are unable to integrate all our actions, the outcome may be less felicitous, for example, our mind may get distracted thinking about something else, which may not have a fully negative outcome, unless the distraction happens while we are doing something that truly requires our full attention, like standing on our heads.

Immersing in the experience
Thus, it seems that multitasking can go both ways, depending on its effects on the final outcomes of what we are doing. We can say that multitasking is positive when it enhances the quality of our experience and negative when it detracts from it. Consequently, one possible approach for discriminating the type of multitasking we are engaged in is to observe the quality of our participation. In general, it seems that when we are wholeheartedly engaged in any activity, the multitasking that takes place helps to deepen our attention into what we are doing, thereby further enhancing the quality of our participation. On the contrary, multitasking that draws our attention away from the activity may be an indication that we are not fully immersed in the experience, and that perhaps we are looking for something more interesting or engaging. In those cases when our participation is perfunctory or mechanical, does it even make sense to participate at all? Maybe, we can use a very simple way to confirm that our multitasking is bringing our attention to the present activity. Any time we notice that we are shifting to a different task, we can pause, observe and question what our multitasking is doing, is it helping (by integrating) or hindering (by distracting) the quality of our participation. Answering this question can really help us participate fully in our actions.


Trying too hard and finding flow

Flowing on bikes/Fluyendo en bicicleta

Earlier this week I read a brief interview with Shiva Rea , a well known Yogini, teacher and activist. In the interview, Shiva Rea talks about the most common mistake that beginning Yoga practitioners make and gives advice for beginning students.

The most common mistake
Trying too hard, according to Rea is the most common mistake that beginning Yoga practitioners make. I would add that this is a challenge for other Yoga practitioners as well. Many of us live in highly competitive societies. As a result, we may bring the same competitive drive into many areas of our lives, including our Yoga practice. In my opinion, that competitiveness leads us to assume that we should be able to do more today than yesterday or last week. The competitive mindset takes us out of the present by pushing us to emulate or surpass our previous ‘accomplishments’.
Rea suggests to keep the feeling of centeredness on your own experience to overcome this common mistake.

The advice
In the interview, Rea points out that, as beginner students of Yoga, we may already be familiar with the experience of Yoga, particularly when we are fully relaxed and present in our current experience. As Rea also notes, “Yoga is just a matter of tapping into something that’s already a part of you”. I guess the underlying advice is to be open to the experience of Yoga by allowing it unfold from a state of relaxation instead of trying too hard to make something happen –which immediately takes us away from the now experience by drawing our attention to some abstract goal. In my opinion, this is related to what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life refers to as Flow, in other words, being fully immersed in the activity you are performing. From Csikszentmihalyi’s perspective the experience of Flow seems to be enabled by having clear objectives, listening to feedback and finding the balance between level of challenge and level of ability. In my opinion, these elements of the experience of ‘Flow’ are encompassed by the Vinyasa Krama approach.

Advice into practice
In a previous post I mentioned that the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali say that the state of Yoga is reached through the combination of persistence and detachment. Since trying too hard can be a sign of our attachment to the expected results of our actions, we can find a practical approach to combine persistence and detachment in our Yoga practice, and perhaps in our everyday experiences. First, since the breath happens only in the present moment, paying attention to the breath focuses our awareness on the present moment and circumstances. Second, in the Yoga Sutras persistence requires practicing sincerely. Thus, still with our awareness on the breath, we use our inhalation to clarify our motivation and intention. Third, we can use our exhalation to relax and let go of any attachment to the results of our actions. Instead, we can focus on being curious about the outcome of our actions, which serves also as feedback for the subsequent action.

To immerse ourselves in the experience of Yoga, we simply let go of our expectations, giving ourselves permission to discover, by observing attentively the feedback we receive in our body, breath, mind and spirit. Paying attention to the breath can really help us focus and participate fully into our here and now experience. Applying these ideas into something simple, like performing a Yoga position, may help us prepare for participating more fully both in the Yoga practice on mat and in any other activity.