Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Common Thread

A little over a year ago I returned from three months of travel in Bali and Australia. The time spent outside of my ‘yogasphere’ proved rich and rewarding. I put a few of the nuggets I dredged out of the stream of my consciousness into my pocket to be worked smooth like my great grandmother’s worry stone. While some are still jagged with neglect, repression and hard-wired tendencies, others are showing glimmers of their True Nature. I am simultaneously the mineral and the process revealing it, distinct but not separate, layered with the mud of identification and attachment, yet essentially and irreversibly super shinny and bright. Heat (tapas), the physical and mental discipline exerted in the practice of yoga, is the seat of the alchemical fire that converts base metal into gold.

Sometimes I reel from all the hot pokers I have in the coals; my practice, my community and my family keep me putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve stopped looking for the end of the proverbial path because it’s really all about the here and now. I don’t imagine that I’ll ever stop shedding my skin and, if I do, I can trust one of you will get me with a hot poker of my own design. I am grateful.

This article was to be focused on yoga for climbers. Clearly I digress, but there truly is a connection, albeit tenuous, that led me down the above rabbit hole. Mainly, that one of the gems I took from my time Down Under was the desire to remain connected to the Earth upon my return to Seattle. Oddly enough, my re-entry was marked by a house-sitting job worlds away from the little caravan in a Eucalyptus grove outside of Gympie Australia - an ultra modern condominium on the corner of 5th & Mercer, complete with a view of the Space Needle. I don’t have much Earth in my astrological chart, I am steamy combination of fire and water. I realize now that this is why a sense of place and home has always been so important to me. Even when halfway around the world, I seek comfort in routine and foundation in the familiar. The WOOFing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) experience took this recognition a step further into the literal; a heartfelt longing to feel the place we all call home between my toes and to revel in the majesty of Her greatness. This intention has manifested several opportunities to do so via the support of my community and a willingness to say YES to the universe. Of course, whether it be the Whitewater Rafting & Yoga Trip with Winding Waters Rafting, the Yoga Day Hike with KAF Adventures or the upcoming Cycling & Yoga Tour with Bicycle Adventures, yoga is the common thread running through each meeting with the Mother Nature.

The list of yoga’s benefits have been well know and understood by yogis across the centuries. In the last decade, however, yoga’s merit has captured the attention of the general public giving it a prominence in nearly every Seattle neighborhood. Yoga’s notoriety has also caught the attention of several Olympic athletes such as Olympic Freestyle Skier Emily Cook. As a retired gymnast, and even as a retired waitress, I am acutely aware of the numerous ways that yoga complements, counters and enhances the physical demands of any form repetitive movement. The harmony of yoga with other disciplines, be it computer engineering, gardening or dancing, extend beyond the physical. In mind and spirit, yoga is especially suited for outdoor activities like backpacking, rock climbing, surfing and cycling.

Yoga Day Hike with LauraNidra Yoga & KAF Adventures

On September 12, 2009 I co-led a Yoga Day Hike with Mick Pearson of KAF Adventures. Our group trekked up Mt Rainier, beyond Comet Falls, to Van Trump Park in silence allowing a natural heightening of the senses to take place. Breath by breath, step by step, we enjoyed the journey and learned of one another through subtle body and energetic language.

Trekking in Silence - Yoga Day Hike

Attentive to how our presence affected the natural landscape, the backdrop for our yoga practice was Mt. Rainier, larger than life, piercing the clear blue sky. With Mt. Adams to the North we took our seats and began our yoga practice. Practicing on uneven ground with small eight-legged creatures paying visits to your mat adds another layer to the moving meditation. Our practice focused on countering the heat and strength generated in the legs on the uphill climb with deep outer hip, hip flexor and quadriceps stretches and countered the weight of the backpack with twists, chest and shoulder openers. As always, this class can be modified to suite the needs of individual practitioners.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose - Supta Baddha Konasana

Our practice began on the back in Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) to give the body-mind time to transition and open to the effects of both the hike and the ensuing yoga practice. Our warm up included the old standbys, Lounge Pigeon and Reclined Leg-Stretch Pose (Supta Padangusthasana). We then made our way to all fours for Cat/Cow, Thread the Needle and a chest/shoulder opener I know as Anahata Vishuddasana (referring to the energy centers/areas of the body it stimulates, the heart and throat respectively). After a long pause in Cobra (Bhujangasana) to breathe space into the hip flexors we moved into Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), an excellent pose for simultaneously strengthening and stretching the entire body.

Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana. Photo Credit: Britney Bollay Bush

A short standing sequence followed, including Crescent Lunge (Chandrasana), Revolved Crescent Lunge (Parivrtta Chandrasana), Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) Side Lunge (Skandasana).

Standing Sequence - Yoga Day Hike to Van Trump Park, Mt. Rainier, WA.

Crescent Lunge - Chandrasana. Photo Credit: Cameron Karsten Photography

Side Lunge - Skandasana (Advanced Variation). Photo Credit: Cameron Karsten Photography

At the top of the mat we took Standing Bound Forward Bend (Baddha Uttanasana) then countered the deep forward bend with Upward Facing Plank variation or Half Backbend (Ardha Urdhva Danurasana). We countered the counter with Downward Facing Frog (Ahdo Mukha Bhekasana).

Half Backbend - Ardha Urdhva Danurasana. Photo Credit: Cameron Karsten Photography.

I rarely teach a class that doesn’t include Reclined Pigeon (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana), an often intense outer hip (rotator) opener. Pigeon morphed into Seated Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirasana) on both sides and, with a jump through to our seat, we glided into Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana). We finished on our backs with a gentle Supine Twist (Jatara Parivartanasana) and took a long rest in Final Relaxation Pose (Savasana).

Final Relaxation Pose - Savasana

The sound of three OMs melding with the hum of the waterfall behind us and natural vibration of our spectacular setting broke our collective silence. Together we journeyed back down the Mountain, full of life and vigor, I myself, keenly aware that we are where we are because of where we’ve been.

Look for more Outdoor Yoga Excursions with LauraNidra Yoga and friends including Winding Waters Rafting, KAF Adventures and Bicycle Adventures by subscribing to LauraNidra News.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Trip Notes

Winding Waters Rafting & Yoga Retreat on the Salmon River, Idaho

August 17th - 21st 2009

Notes and recollections recorded by Rob Brooks (no dates or times - we’re on river time):

Day 1 – Fear, doubts, new experiences…

Put in at Pine Bar and get wet…

Matt did his first set of rapids… he was jostled, drenched, and wondered if the guide knew what he was doing

Elizabeth was petrified and exhilarated after riding the first rapid on a raft… her infectious laugh made everyone smile

Penny, the geologist, was a font of river knowledge and lore… her mantra for handling the raft is ‘face my danger and be ready to back away with my strong pull stroke

Gail let the yellow jackets eat her grape, called them her environmental friends, and enjoyed shared spirit with natural creatures, especially the mating dragonflies

Scott enjoyed watching Craig’s challenge of getting back into his kayak after the first time he fell out, and seeing a million stars in the sky at night

Christy enjoyed falling asleep and waking up under the stars

Rob (Frisbee Boy) hit the wall in the rapids and managed to push off and stay in his kayak (upright)… brought out a Frisbee and managed to get hit on the nose with it… Craig (Mother Theresa of the trip) applied bacitracin ointment for the rest of the week

Shannon had a perfect Pine Bar Rapid run, and enjoyed naming Rob ‘Frisbee Boy’

Craig had fun helping everyone do handstands on a chair and sharing his supply of Monvie with anyone who would let him pour it down their throat

Putting up tents for the first time was amusing… how does this pole go through and over there?

James did a perfect job of cooking the wild Alaskan salmon

Yvonne enjoyed the fabulous dinner and making new friends

Laura enjoy singing around the campfire (everyone knew one verse – but only one - of dozens of songs), geology lesson, and petroglyphs… she didn’t enjoy getting stung by a wasp, whose sting troubled her for the rest of the week (environmental friends???)

Penny enjoyed watching everyone get into ‘relax mode’

Day 2 - Gaining Confidence and Skill

Laura fell out of her kayak in Lorna’s Lulu rapid headed for a big wall… in less than 5 seconds, she was back in the kayak, skirted disaster with deft paddle strokes, avoided the wall, and shot on down the rapid (which was renamed ‘Laura’s Lulu’)… she celebrated by doing Upward Facing Plank on her duckie… the best Craig could do to match that was Lounge Pigeon

Elizabeth enjoyed the feeling of power on her first duckie kayak ride… like everyone, she really liked the yoga circle that Todd and Paul made, especially the rock pile at the center with seven stones representing the seven chakras

Piloting raft #1 alone while Paul and Scott were swimming a rapid, Rob lost an oar… Matt came to the rescue and retrieved the oar and Rob was able to row the raft out of a big eddy…

We spotted a beaver on a rock by the edge of the river

Day 3 - Getting Into the Groove (or out of it)

Rob’s Eveready Battery ran down and he really started to relax… always the first one up, he enjoyed watching the sun coming up over the east canyon wall, as the shadows of the night disappeared down the west canyon wall… then solo yoga on a rock above camp and by the river’s edge… there’s something special about yoga in the wild… you see the world differently… the river is always there, ever present, ever changing… the valley is the vessel that holds it, just as I am the vessel that holds my ever changing life… there are rapids and eddies, deep currents and shallow bars, and it flows on until it reaches the ocean, to be reincarnated as clouds, rain, snow, a creek, a river, a spring… it is a ‘magic carpet’day… meditating alone by the river, I fly out over the river on my magic carpet… lying in savasana after yoga, I fly down a rapid on the energy that flows from the river…

On the river it is a ‘big water’ day… class 4 rapids

Gail is the mermaid… kayaking and swimming all day… sitting on a rock in the river she is the incarnation of the mermaid statue that grace Copenhagen’s harbor

Christy has a ball in the kayak… has a class 4 rapid ‘out of boat experience’ but manages to hang onto her paddle; with help from Craig and Scott, she is back in her kayak and ready for the next rapid

Nathan discovered a new form of pranayama practice… when your kayak turns over, you stick your head up into it and breathe… ‘sub-duckie pranayama’

The weather got warmer and everyone enjoyed the ‘marination station’ at lunch…

Laura’s wasp sting got bigger

Matt spent the whole day in a kayak… it was ‘bodacious’, and Yvonne swam, swam, swam

Craig joined Todd and James on the gear boat and rowed it all morning… awesome fun, even backwards

By evening everyone was pretty worn out… we even skipped evening yoga… enjoyed solar showers and Shannon pulled out the cutest ‘little black dress’, yes, even on a river rafting trip…we enjoyed margaritas (aka riveritas) and fajitas, and especially peach cobbler out of the dutch oven… by 9PM everyone fell asleep to the roar of the river and the twinkling of the stars…

Day 4 – Old Hands on the River

James joins yoga practice for the first time… he does incredibly well for a yoga newbie…

Special breakfast… eggs benedict… mmmm…

Laura and Elizabeth set out to bring sleeping pads down to the beach to load up on the rafts, but end up making a slide down the steep sandy bank… playful otters…

Warm weather, so it’s another marination station lunch…

Rob and Matt shared the day on the Good n’ Plenty with Shannon… learned about raft housekeeping (no sand on this raft), doing the jaguar in the rapids to keep the bow of the light raft down (and have fun in the spray)… Shannon manages her raft remarkably with short efficient oar strokes… being a dancer gives her great propriocentation… but not quite enough to keep her from toppling over helping Rob get back into the raft after a swim in a rapid… the Eveready Battery showed signs of life and he flew into the raft as if the river had ejected him… then it was Rob’s turn to pull Matt in… he made sure that Matt got all the way in, and then some, and poor Matt was afraid he was going to be shoved through the bottom of the raft…

Everyone enjoyed jumping from a 30’ cliff into the river, hearts racing… even cool, calm, gymnast Laura had to step back from the edge for a moment to regain her composure before she could jump… this was the first time Shannon got to do the jump…

Craig was getting dehydrated by the end of the day, and we reached campsite just in time… Elizabeth found a little rattlesnake in the rocks by the swimming hole…

This was a special evening… great campsite at the entrance to Blue Canyon… we all started with a hike to a hilltop nearby and a great view of the canyon… hilltop was a little too small and rocky for yoga… James impressed everyone by hiking the hill barefoot… later waxed eloquent on the benefits of running barefoot…

Dinner was extra good… vegetable curry and good wine… toasts all around (great wines from Matt and Yvonne) and dutch oven brownies for dessert… finished off with shots of Jaegermeister courtesy of Nathan…

Those who stayed up late enough enjoy Todd’s late show… adult light show shadow puppets on the latrine screen… Elizabeth laughed until tears were running down her face…

Everyone slept out of tents… lots of shooting starts and the milky way was extra bright…

Day 5 – Confluence and Farewell

An early start, and the whole crew in a good mood… almost everyone has been in the water so much that they feel like they’re rocking to the waves even when they’re sitting still… the narrow canyon and rapid river flow bring on vertigo, and a sense that the river is standing still and the canyon walls are moving…

A few more fast rapids, and then the confluence with the Snake… lash the rafts together, deflate the duckies, and motor down the big river… actually, there were a few more rapids, and Paul again demonstrated his superb river skills navigating the ‘barge’ through them…

Just past the confluence with the Grand Ronde, we return to civilization… hop in the van for and back to Clarkston… quick farewells and the experience is over… or is it?

Pictures of this Retreat will be posted at LauraNidra Yoga shortly...

Underwater Love

Stepping back into life after a nourishing and transformative retreat can parallel navigating a class four rapid; scouting the run prior to putting-in is recommended. When genuinely open to the retreat experience, the ‘to-do’ lists that clutter and fill my fast- paced urban lifestyle, fade away. Attention is now free to explore the moment-to-moment unfolding of my existence. In the beats between I am succinctly aware of the awesomeness of my perfectly unique experience while humbled to the omnipotence of Mother Nature. And so it was with the Rafting & Yoga Retreat I co-lead with Winding Waters Rafting of Joseph, Oregon.

A teachers once said that energy follows attention and that attention, at its core, is Love. So hard did I fall for the majesty of the Salmon River that upon my return to Seattle I felt a stranger to my self-identified city girl reality – naked and disoriented. On the massage table a few days later I realized that I had essentially left a piece of my Self on the river. The image of a piece of my heart quite literally flying out of my body to commune in the wilderness sent ripples down my spine. And what of the vacancy sign flashing in my chest? Lyrics from the Postal Service song titled “Such Great Heights” chime in:

I am thinking it’s a sign that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images and when we kiss they perfectly align. And I have to speculate that God himself did make us into corresponding shapes like puzzle pieces from the clay.

Is that what love is? A Donnie Darko style worm flowing from my chest toward a reciprocal sized portal in another? Is that why after a break-up the clichéd, “I’ll always carry a piece of you in my heart” is universally understood, even by the cynic. One Valentine’s Day a lover sent me an anonymous story chronicling the valor of the heart’s trials and tribulations:

One day a young man was stood in the middle of the town proclaiming that he had the most beautiful heart in the whole valley. A large crowd gathered to admired his heart, for it was perfect. There was not a mark or a flaw in it. Yes, they all agreed it truly was the most beautiful heart they had ever seen. The young man was very proud and boasted more loudly.

Suddenly, an old man appeared at the front of the crowd and said, "Why your heart is not nearly as beautiful as mine."

The crowd and the young man looked at the old man's heart. It was beating strongly, but full of scars, it had places where pieces had been removed and other pieces put in, but they didn't fit quite right and there were several jagged edges. In fact, in some places there were deep gouges where whole pieces were missing.

The people stared. “How can he say that his heart is more beautiful?”

The young man looked at the state of the old man's heart and laughed. “You must be joking," he said. "Compare your heart with mine, mine is perfect and yours is a mess of scars and tears."

"Yes," said the old man, "Yours is perfect looking but I would never trade with you. You see, every scar represents a person to whom I have given my love. I tear out a piece of my heart and give it to them, and often they give me a piece of their heart which fits into the empty place in my heart, but because the pieces aren't exact, I have some rough edges, which I cherish, because they remind me of the love we shared. Sometimes I have given pieces of my heart away, and the other person hasn't returned a piece of his heart to me. These are the empty gouges . . . giving love is taking a chance. Although these gouges are painful, they stay open, reminding me of the love I have for these people too, and I hope someday they may return and fill the space I have waiting.

“So now do you see what true beauty is?"

The young man stood silently with tears running down his cheeks. He walked up to the old man, reached into his perfect young and beautiful heart and ripped a piece out. He offered it to the old man with trembling hands. The old man took his offering, placed it in his heart and then took a piece from his scarred heart and placed it in the wound of the young man's heart. It fit, but not perfectly, as there were some jagged edges.

The young man looked at his heart, not perfect anymore but more beautiful than ever, since love from the old man's heart flowed into his. They embraced and walked away side by side.

How sad it must be to go through life with a whole heart.

As a romantic, I have been know to wax poetically key lines from Baz Lurhman’s Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge but my idea of love has evolved beyond Cameron Crowe’s “You complete me.” I prefer the image of two neighboring trees, strong and rooted in and of themselves, creating a intricate canopy of multi-colored leaves and curvaceous limbs overhead. And in between, where the sky breaks through, the eternal dance of offering and receiving, the microcosm and the macrocosm and all the shades of blue along the way.

The River, a consistent and generous lover, always gives back. I would argue the same is true of all relationships of any label if we are willing to see beyond the duality of positive and negative experience and welcome what is. It is a matter of trust. Faith that we are right where we need to be and life, like scars and wrinkles, give us character.

In Greek philosophy and science water is commonly associated with emotion and intuition. In Wiccan tradition water represents wisdom, the soul and femininity. And then there is the Moon. Its no small wonder the retreat so powerfully touched my soul, honed my intuition and resulted in these ruminations on love.

In the dream realm rivers can symbolize a journey; either physical, emotional or spiritual. On the last day of our distinct, but not separate, journey down the Salmon River we eddied out at the confluence of the Snake & Salmon Rivers. Twenty plus flotilla miles later the retreat would come to an end but for the time being we were together moved to offer and give back to the River. Honoring the interconnectedness of all things we harmonized our voices and let the wind and the current take its vibration out into the universe. Our bodies and our hearts close to follow we fell back into the river, cool and cleansing, and like the swan in Rilke’s poem, content to be carried.

The laboring through what is still undone, as though, legs bound, we hobbled along the way, is like the awkward walking of the swan.

And to die - which is the letting go of the ground we stand on and cling to every day, is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down into the water, which receives him gaily and which flows joyfully under and after him,

wave after wave,

while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,

is pleased to carried, each moment more fully grown,

more like a king, further and further on.

I’ll keep floating on with a therapist of the both the physical and emotional leaning in tow to help me ground and integrate my experience and put it into these words.

Photos of this Retreat will be posted to LauraNidra Yoga shortly....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cameron Karsten Photography

Cameron Karsten Professional Photography of You and Your Business

Ever wonder where I get the exquisitely beautiful imagery used in my promotional materials - flyers, business cards, website, blog and newsletter? Cameron Karsten is my man!

Cameron Karsten Photography offers professional imagery in commercial marketing photography. With a unique eye for composition and lighting, Cameron draws excellence into any industry, specialized to help make your business shine in the light of infinite creativity. Whether updating old image archives for your website or looking to spark your new product with eye-catching advertisement, utilize Cameron Karsten Photography to professionalize your business, product or marketing material.

To view his various styles in yoga portfolios, jewlery design and Seattle's wellness community, please visit the LauraNidra Galleries, his personal website, and his updated Eye of the Photo Blog. For rates and scheduling, contact Cameron at or 206.799.9318.

Private Yoga & Yoga Nidra Instruction

Private instruction with Laura DeFreitas is an opportunity to nurture and develop your practice. It is appropriate for the beginner seeking to understandyoga fundamentals as well seasoned practitioners hoping to deepen their practice. Each lesson is tailored to the individual's lifestyle, schedule and intention. In addition to yoga postures, a session may include breath work, meditation and/or Yoga Nidra. Instruction can take place in the comfort of your own home or at a Taj Yoga.


1 hour - $70  |  1.5 hours - $95

5 - 1 hour sessions - $325 | 10 class pass - $625

Contact Laura to set up your personalized private instruction package via phone: 206.240.9254 or email:

Yoga & Chocolate Workshop

Yoga & Chocolate at Theo Chocolate. June 28th from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.

Join Laura and Theo Chocolate for an energizing morning pairing of Yoga and Chocolate. The All Levels Hatha Flow Yoga class will develop balance, build strength and increase flexibility through Laura's signature sequencing. The Chocolate Factory Tour that follows will focus on the health benefits of chocolate that facilitate the body's ability to rejuvenate and restore after any form of physical activity. No previous yoga experience required. Please bring your own yoga mat and come prepared with an empty stomach and an open mind!

$18. Space limited to 25. Contact Theo Chocolate at 206.632.5100 to reserve your space.

Sunset Yoga Series

Sunset Yoga Series. Mondays, June 15th - September 28th.
(No Class Labor Day)
7:30 - 8:45 p.m.

Join LauraNidra Yoga andCustom Smoothie for a Sunset Yoga Series. Sunset and sunrise are traditionally thought of as the most auspicious time for practice and reflection. Rain or shine, Laura will lead a 75-minute outdoor yoga and meditation class choreographed to end with the setting of the sun. These All-Level Flow Yoga classes will be structured around breath-directed movement sequences that build strength, increase flexibility and develop balance and focus. Students can expect to leave feeling centered and prepared for the week ahead. Post moving meditation enjoy a refreshing Custom Smoothie that will help replenish and restore the body. 

No yoga experience required. Please bring your own yoga mat. Classes will meet at Custom Smoothie Fremont and proceed to outdoor practice area along the Fremont cut. In the event of rain we will practice inside Custom Smoothie. 

$15 ($10 yoga/$5 smoothie) per person per class or $200 for 15 class series. Receive 10% off supplements at Custom Smoothie when you purchase full series. Payment for yoga portion ($10) in cash or check only.

Pre-Registration Required. 25 maximum participants. Contact Laura at to reserve your space today!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Laura + Nidra + Yoga = LauraNidra Yoga

I recently gave a presentation about LauraNidra Yoga to a group of business owners who knew very little about yoga. A question that came up in nearly every prior conversation with these group members was: "What type of yoga do you teach?" One answer to that question is the biography that appears on my website. Much of that biography means nothing to your average non-yoga teacher and even more of it is there to impress the masses with a list of fancy terms and qualifications. About a year ago the short answer to this question became: "I teach LauraNidra Yoga: Laura + Nidra + Yoga = LauraNidra Yoga." Suddenly my frustration with this commonly asked question was replaced by a desire to share why I'm passionate about teaching yoga and what inspires me in my practice. LauraNidra Yoga is best experienced first-hand, but you can read on and get the long answer....

Laura: I won't belabor the point by sharing my entire life story but will say that I came to yoga after 15 years of competitive gymnastic training. My body was batter and bruised but I was somehow able to ignore the pain and when denial didn't work four Advil usually did the trick. Yoga and Yoga Nidra brought me back home to my body and helped me to soften around the long held view of my body as an external object to be manipulated in space and denied at all costs, a view that was clearly no longer serving me. Learning to recognize the voice of my body and to acknowledge all of its messengers as valid certainly didn't happen over night. In fact, I maintained a gymnast mentality throughout my first years of yoga practice. I was drawn to acrobatic and challenging styles of yoga, I was secretly competitive and, looking back, yoga was still more of a performance than a meditation on body and breath. In 2005 Yoga Nidra stopped me in my tracks.

Nidra: Yoga Nidra is conscious sleep. The word yoga loosely translates as consciousness and the word nidra literally translates as sleep. It is said that one 45 minute Yoga Nidra practice is equivalent to 4 hours of regular sleep.   Yoga Nidra is an approachable form of mediation that is extremely effective in alleviating stress, resolving emotional trauma and promotes physical healing. It is a voice directed practice practice that takes students through a step-by-step progressive relaxation of physical, energetic, emotional and mental bodies or koshas. Normally, in yoga meditation one remains in the waking state and gradually allows awareness to expand into other states that are usually unconscious. In Yoga Nidra, one leaves the waking state, descends into deep sleep, and brings waking consciousness along. In this way we access the prajna level of consciousness. Prajna, translates as supreme knowledge and contains our inherent wisdom as well as the roots of behavioral and emotional patterns that are the driving force behind actions. Yoga Nidra is a practice that allows us to experience mental and emotional patterns directly in order to be albe to reduce their power to play out due to conditioning and habit.  Now energy is free to mindfully choose new patterns. The power of the practice rests in the the ability to attenuate the root causes of self-limiting patterns rather than simply cover old ones with a layer of new ones. After some years of practice, enough energy is freed for awareness to turn into itself. Often referred to as "The Sleep of the Yogi," Yoga Nidra is a play on words that reminds us that a true yogi is aware of True Nature through all states of consciousness, even sleep. The ultimate aim of Yoga and Yoga Nidra is to restore awareness to True Nature. True Nature's essential qualities are that of light, wisdom, discernment, all- sufficiency and unconditional love. This is not something that we create but something that we are and always have been.

I first experienced Yoga Nidra at the 8 Limbs Yoga Advanced Teacher Training. At the time, as far as I was concerned, it lived in a realm on the opposite side of my world of yoga. Nonetheless, it spoke to me and my initial experience changed the trajectory of my yoga practice.  I am currently in the process of becoming a Certified Integrative Restoration (iRest) or Yoga Nidra Instructor under the tutelage of Richer Miller and the Center for Timeless Being. I am one of the few working toward this certification in the greater Seattle area. The discovery of Yoga Nidra was a great blessing. On a gross level it offered a very real sense of balance to my often over zealous and extroverted schedule. On a subtler level it revealed a sense of Presence and Knowing and offered guidance in the art of being rather than doing. This in turn softened my competitive, perfectionist tendencies and allowed me to welcome the fullness of my being into the proverbial room. Fortunately, they call it yoga practice and not yoga perfection. I still swivel back and forth on the teeter totter of life but at least now, most of the time, through mindful welcoming and listening, the Seer can See that the feared hot lava below my perch is just bark.

Yoga: I teach 6 weekly yoga asana classes and bi-monthly Yoga Nidra classes at Taj Yoga on Crown Hill. Taj Yoga is run differently than most yoga studios in Seattle in that it is the home to five independent yoga professionals each operating their individual businesses. Long-time Seattle yoga teacher Theresa Elliott directs and maintains this community yoga space. This 'co-op' model, if you will, allows me to focus on the quality of my instruction in two ways: limiting the number of classes I teach each week and small class-sizes. Minimizing the number of classes I teach ensures that I can give 100% in each and every class I offer. Small class-sizes means students enjoy abundant personal attention. Since completing the Pacific Yoga Teacher Training in 2003 I have been heavily influenced by the Ashtanga and Universal Styles of Yoga. These are dynamic styles of vinyasa or flow yoga that I modify to teach adults of all ages and abilities. My classes combine the strength and accuracy of held postures with the grace of breath-directed movement sequences. Classes are structured around the sun salutation and breath awareness to build strength, increase flexibility and develop balance and focus. Each class begins and ends with a chant and brief meditation practice.

LauraNidra Yoga: My life experience coupled with my study of Yoga and Yoga Nidra create an unique classroom experience I call LauraNidra Yoga.  Yoga Nidra infuses all of my ongoing yoga asana classes.  These classes use the body as the medium to connect with emotional and mental layers of being. I encourage students to listen to the body's intuition and to trust in it's innate healing potential. Yoga means something different to everyone.  For some it is a form of physical exercise, for some it is a time for introspection and meditation, for others it is a spiritual practice and for still others it is a lifestyle. I welcome them all. I was first drawn to yoga for its obvious physical benefits but at this point in my practice it is all of the things listed and so much more. It is my intention to meet students where they are and to support them in practicing deeply wherever they are. It is my intention to be a conduit through which the teachings of yoga may reveal the fullest expression of Light and Wisdom that lives within each and every one of us. It is my intention to allow the Presence in Motion felt in asana practice to transition seamlessly into the daily happenings of life.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Salutations to the Sun Workshop. Sunday, June 21st 2009.

Heliotropes unite! Join Laura in her annual celebration of the longest day of the year. Honor the life-giving energy of the sun in this ancient form of body prayer. Surrender to the rhythm of 12 sets of 9 Sun Salutations and leave feeling cleansed, clear and ready for some sunshine. This is a form of Bhakti Yoga or the yoga of devotion. Your intention and dedication in this practice is much more important than the number of sun salutations you complete. Do as little or as much of the movement as you feel right for your body and spirit. Modify, sit, breath, be present.

Details: Sunday, June 21st from 9:30am - 12pm.

Location: Taj Yoga in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  

Cost: $35 Space is limited to 20 participants.  Pre-pay online with Pay Pal and contact Laura at prior to June 14th 2009 to register for this workshop and reserve your space.

Whitewater Rafting & Yoga Retreat on the Salmon River, Idaho.

Whitewater Rafting & Yoga Retreat on the Salmon River, Idaho.
August 16th - 21st 2009.

Join Winding Waters Rafting & Laura DeFreitas in a very special opportunity to practice yoga on the beautiful white sand beaches of the Salmon River, Idaho. The Salmon River offers a perfect setting for reconnecting with Self, Mother Nature, friends and family. Experience the calm pools, exhilarating rapids, magnificent Pacific Northwest scenery and the rich cultural history of this incredible river canyon. Daily yoga classes on this retreat will bring balance and relief to key areas involved in this outdoor adventure while cultivating the mindfulness needed to successfully and safely negotiate the river. No previous yoga or rafting experience required.

Retreat Cost: Space is limited to 12 people. $1100 if paid prior to June 1st 2009. $1250 adults/$1086 youth thereafter.
Retreat Includes: 1st night lodging in Clarkston, WA at Quality Inn, all food (vegetarian option available) beginning with breakfast at hotel and ending with lunch on last day, experienced river guides, all river equipment, tents, sleeping pads, dry bags, ground transport to and from the river, 1 or 2 yoga sessions daily.

Space is limited to 12 participants. Email Paul Arensten to register and reserve your space - Visit Winding Waters Rafting For More Information.

Yoga & Balinese Culture Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. March 4th - 17th, 2010.

Yoga & Balinese Culture Retreat in Bali, Indonesia. March 4th - 17th, 2010.

Join Danu Tours & Laura DeFreitas in an excursion into the Balinese culture through the eyes of the Balinese. This retreat is designed for those who wish to observe and appreciate such an experience while enhancing their own well being with nurturing and invigorating daily yoga classes with Laura. We begin on the coast in Candi Dasa where you will have time to relax, get your bearings, stretch out and revitalize. The trip proceeds to Ubud, the cultural and artistic heart of Bali, where you have a taste of traditional performances, local arts, crafts and shopping. This retreat encompasses one of the most important holidays on the Bali-Hindu calendar year, Nyepi, the New Year, when the entire island celebrates a ritual purification. The festivities involved with Neypi include performance, procession, meditation, and in some cases, trance dance.

Retreat Includes: *Two yoga & meditation classes most days with Laura. *A traditional massage and a body revitalization experience. *Attendance at 2 traditional dance performances. *Island tours include visits to Tenganan aboriginal village,Tampaksiring Temple, Tirtagangga Water Palace, Royal Palace of Amlapura, Kerta Gosa Hall of Justice, Petulu village heron preserve. *Visit to artists and craftspeople in their home-studios. *Volcano climb (optional). *Purification ritual at sacred springs. *Two snorkeling excursions. *Breakfast each day, lunch at Gandi Ashram Candi Dasa, dinner at Surya's family home and happy hour at the home of your guides (Note not all meals included). *Seminars on rites of passage, bargaining, history and politics, trance and sacred masks, local customs and culture, language, Hindu religion & caste system, rites of passage. *Special excursion to attned the Melasti ceremony in Sanur and the Mercaru procession in Denpasar. *Airport transfers. *Services of Madé Surya or Judy Slattum, professional guides. *5 nights at Candi Dasa Beach. *7 nights in Ubud. *Round-trip airfare via Seattle, SFO, LAX, or NYC.

Retreat Cost: $3,100 US.
Space is limited to 15 participants. $350 non-refundable deposit due by September 1st 2009 to reserve your space for this retreat. 

Contact LauraNidra at or visit Danu Tours for more information. To view photographs and daily descriptions of the 2008 Bali Retreat visit Cameron Karsten Photography Travel Blog.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Meaning of AUM

I initiate the start and end of my practice time with the sound of AUM.  What is the significance of this mantra?  What gems of meaning lie within its vibration?  The AUM mantra is said to be a direct path on the road of spiritual practice.  Chanting the AUM mantra, along with a deep feeling for the meaning of what it represents, brings both the realization of the individual Self and the removal of obstacles that normally block that realization. 

One way to understand this sacred sound is to think of it as the voice and creative source (isvara) of the entire universe (I.27).  The study of physics teaches us that everything, without exception, vibrates and that that vibration has a certain frequency or sound.  AUM is the coalescence of all the sounds in the universe.  According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the AUM mantra is a direct path to samadhi – the eighth limb of the eight-limbed path to Yoga (I.29).  Samadhi is the culmination of the Yoga practice whereby one experiences a total absorption of attention in an object.  In the state of samadhi everything in the field of consciousness falls away except the object in which the attention is absorbed (III.3).  Repetition of AUM is a direct path to samadhi because it leads to the experience of its meaning (I.28) and is away of achieving nirodaha the “cessation of the turnings or fluctuations of consciousness (I.2).”

A more specific way to practice and understand the AUM mantra is contained in the twelve terse verses of the Mandukya Upanishad, which outlines the philosophy and practices of the mantra.  It has been said that the wisdom of the ancient sages is in the four Vedas, that the juice of the Vedas is in the Upanishads, and the juice of the Upanishads is in the Mandukya Upanishad.  The statement that if one understands its teachings, no other teachings are needed is a clear comment on the strength and wisdom of this practice.

There are four main levels of consciousness outlined in the AUM mantra.  Each of these are experienced on the inner journey of meditation and contemplation.  These levels of consciousness exist universally, regardless of whether the practitioner chants the mantra or uses its visual symbol.  In either case, the underlying principles are extremely beneficial for all seekers in purifying and clearing the mind.  When chanting AUM the yogi strives to remember the four parts of the mantra, one after the other, along with their meanings.  Over time this practice brings increasing insight and eventually leads to the ultimate realization of this path – direct experience with Absolute Reality (turiya)– the state of Self Realization.

Each of the three sounds of the AUM mantra (A-U-M) symbolizes a specific state of consciousness.  After these three sounds, there is a distinct silence.  The silence symbolizes the fourth state of consciousness – consciousness or awareness itself.  Not only does the sound vibration of the mantra represent the four levels of consciousness, so too does the visual symbol.

The lower curve of the AUM symbol represents the gross, conscious, waking state called Vaishvaanara and is the “A” of the AUM mantra.  This state is experienced as actions, speech and thoughts of which we are “consciously” aware.  The unconscious processes of deeper states are also present here but generally go unnoticed.

The central curve of the AUM symbol represents the subtle, unconscious, dreaming state called Taijasa and is the “U” of the AUM mantra.  This is the state in which dreaming occurs.  It is the level where the mind can work out the unfulfilled desires, attractions and aversions not allowed to be played out in the waking, conscious state. 

The upper curve of the AUM represents the causal, subconscious, deep sleep state called Prajna and is the “M” of the AUM mantra.  The deep sleep state is where life impressions are stored in their latent form.  It contains the roots of our behavioral and emotional patterns (samskaras) that are the driving force behind actions (karma).  The desires, attractions and aversions that play themselves out in dreams or turn into action and speech originate in this level.  These latent impressions are seeds, waiting for water and fertilizer so they may grow in the field of dreams or waking life.  The Sanskrit word for the third level of consciousness, prajna, translates as supreme knowledge.  Thus, this level of consciousness harbors our inherent supreme knowledge.  It is this level we access in the practice of Yoga Nidra, conscious “yogic” sleep.  Normally, in yoga meditation one remains in the waking state and gradually allows awareness to expand into other states that are usually unconscious.  In Yoga Nidra, one leaves the waking state, descends into deep sleep, and brings waking consciousness along.  Yoga Nidra is a way in which to experience the part of the Self that has never slept a day in its life – the Presence that bears witness to all fluctuating states and levels of consciousness.  Yoga Nidra is also a practice that allows one to experience thought patterns directly and thus be able to reduce their power to play out due to conditioning and habit.  Now energy is freed to mindfully choose new habit patterns.  The power of the practice lies in the ability to burn and attenuate the route causes of self-limiting patterns and in the planting of new seeds.  This is more effective than simply pasting another layer of habits over the top of old ones.  The practice of which only creates inner conflicts and leads to “a fall from the wagon” despite the strongest of intentions. 

The dot represents the fourth state, turiya, which encompasses, permeates and is all the other three states.  This is the silence that follows the “A,” “M,” and “U” of the AUM mantra.  The arc below the dot symbolizes the distinction of the fourth state.  Turiya literally means “the fourth” and stands above, though ever a part of the other three states.  Turiya is technically a non-state as it always bears witness to the other states.  Throughout each day we move in and out of the other three states yet turiya remains.  Turiya is like to standing on the top of a three-story building.  From each of the three levels one can only see out through a window, whereas from the roof you can see panoramic view. 


Yoga Sutra Workbook: The Certainty of Freedom by Vyaas Houston, MA

Mandukya Upanishad and Yoga: Twelve Verses on OM Mantra