Yoga Service Unity

Yoga Service Unity

Yoga for Trauma Workshop led by Hala Khouri at the Samarya Center in Seattle! We’re representing Off the Mat Into the World, Street Yoga, Yoga Behind Bars, and YogaVotes!


Pixie Retreat: We Deserve to be Nourished

Lil Puddin Cups- my absolute fav!!

Lil Puddin cups- my absolute fav!!

I first met the luminous pixies of Pixie Retreat at the Yogi Roots Festival back in November, 2013 as they opened up their raw food goodness to the yoga community of Portland. Since my first nourishing experience with their Kale salad with Mac-Nut Cheese many months ago I have grown into a total vegan, working to understand the relationship that my body has with food. It was only right that I learn the story of these super chill yogi raw food leaders, and share it to spread the love…

When I arrived at Pixie Retreat- Willow, Pixie Retreat co-artiste, welcomed me warmly with a jug of coconut water while she finished up a few things. Next I met Natai, resident astrologer and pixie prep cook who was busy slicing up organic tomatoes from a local farm. Yes, this felt like raw food heaven already. Teresa, the other half of this Aries-Capricorn raw food duo later rolled through the door with stack of fresh produce, they had a busy night of prep ahead of them!

Sondra: Tell me about how you came to the raw food world?

Willow: We were both living ego-driven lifestyles. Teresa was coming out of the music business, and me from vintage fashion. We both had different relationships with food. Teresa grew up cooking, and I was growing out of an eating disorder where I just wouldn’t eat. Then there was a shift. One summer when we were living in San Diego were doing a lot of yoga, the yoga inspired what was next. A summer of yoga, meditating, and doin raw food.

One day I was sitting in virasana in the backyard and I heard a calling- there are no shortcuts Willow.

Teresa: Then we knew we had to back out of other projects we were doing, to focus on our own Food Subscription.

Willow: We started cooking out of our home for people, testing the market. Then we grew out of that and needed more space. So now we’re doing it all wholesale.

Sondra: How did you approach going raw?

Willow: You have to open yourself up to food- seeing what your body actually wants you to be. The journey to raw bliss doesn’t want to be contained it wants to share. We lure people in with our Millet Burger, and the BLT is the Rawr- naturally you start letting go after you try it.

There is a synergy in execution of raw food to satisfy fat sweet and salt – something we all deserve.

Sondra: What is the vision for Pixie Retreat?

Teresa: There is a growing demand for vegan. We are now able to share our food in the take out sections of heart coffee shop. We want to streamline that groove where whole sale becomes raw fast food. Starting with a small store front here with fresh food to go. Everything from scratch. Then we’d like to have a small shop somewhere in North Portland with the same idea. We also hope to sell nut milks, and make instructional videos to share with community.

Willow: It’s about getting to the next generation, of fat guys. We know the skinny bitches will come, it’s the fat guys that we have to connect.

Sondra: What are some tools of the raw food trade you’d like to share with the community?

Willow: Ix-nay with the agave- use maple syrup instead. It’s a whole food with minerals and it’s sustainable. Agave is full of high fructose that goes straight to our bellies.

Teresa: Be conscious, even with store bought nut milks, they often use binders instead of whole natural ingredients.

Sondra: What is your mantra:

Willow/Teresa: We deserve organic, We deserve nutrient dense food, We deserve to be nourished.

Willow: It’s about reconnecting to food and stepping into the making of ourselves. If you eat this kind of food, you don’t get tired.

Sondra: What do are your go to raw foods when your busy?

Willow/Teresa: Kale salads and coconut water.

Sondra: Who inspires your work:

Teresa: Dr. Gabriel Cousens

I had the opportunity of trying some of their hand-crafted & artisanal foods, using the finest local & organic goods possible. Among my top favorites are the Millet Burger, Kale Salad, and Lil Puddin cups…and any of their handmade chocolates- pure raw food brilliance! It was all raw food that is ALIVE, with enzymes intact, dehydrated at a temperature no higher than 108 degrees. Nuts, seeds, minimal grains, vegetables, fruits, basically food from the great mother. Made with love and intention.

Get your Pixie Retreat fix at any of these local spots:

Alberta Food Co-Op
Peoples Food Co-Op
Food Front Cooperative Grocery
Food Fight!
New Seasons (Hawthorne, Seven Corners, Arbor Lodge, Concordia)

You can find out more about the awesome, raw, vegan, local, organic, soy free, gluten free goods of Pixie Retreat by visiting Pixie Retreat RAW’r Laboratorie & Makery online and liking their Facebook.

P.S. Pixie Retreat wants to be near you. They are happy to take on new accounts in grocery, restaurants, cafes, coffee & tea houses, yoga studios, pretty much anywhere that is looking to offer up specialty wholesome foods that nourish and satisfy. Just let them know if you ever would like to carry Pixie Retreat!

Thank you ♥ Get Ya Some

~ Sondra

2013 Yoga Challenge hosted by Yogi Leader Rachel Brathen!


How it works from our inspiring leader in recommitting to our practice via Rachel Brathen:

Kick start 2013 by challenging yourself to practice yoga every day of the first month of 2013!

#yogaeverydamnday – make it your New Year’s Resolution to practice daily for all of January. Practicing daily does not mean you have to take a full sweaty 90-minute class every single day (if you can make that happen, great!) but can be a 30 minute gentle stretch before bed or sun salutes in the morning… Whatever counts as a practice to you. As long as you make time to breathe and move (or not move – meditation is yoga too!) every day!

This is not a challenge where you take a picture of yourself in a yoga pose once a day, but a real challenge of making a commitment to your body, soul and mind. Make 2013 a year for YOU! Practice self-love by giving yourself the gift of yoga, every damn day.

Enter the challenge and log your practices here by leaving a comment or posting a photo.

To add some spice and keep you guys motivated I’ve decided to add a beautiful, beautiful prize to one challenge winner! The challenge starts January 1 and ends January 31, so when the month is over I will pick a winner who will get an awesome goodie bag full of yoga love!

Sponsors include YogaEarth, Drop Of Mindfulness, LuvMat and Blooming Lotus Jewelry (so yoga apparel, yoga mat, yoga jewelry – all love). To win the prize you need to log at least 8 practice times during the month. I will keep track of all participants who completed the challenge and pick a winner at random.

And don’t forget – share pictures of your practice on Instagram! Tag me (@yoga_girl) and the challenge hashtag is #YOGAEVERYDAMNDAY

Ayurveda: The Sister Science of Yoga

ahara rasaAs you start sifting through all the omazing events and resources that lie within the 80+ yoga studios in the city, you’ll find there are many studios that have incorporated wellness centers as a part of their space and offerings. It was through the wellness center at Yoga Pearl and a workshop I attended at Yogiroots Fest, that I began to learn more about the sister science of yoga: Ayurveda.

I was especially excited to learn that among the Ayurvedic resources spread across the community, there grows an Ayurvedic center unlike anything in Oregon, Ahara Rasa! This incredible center is set to open in February 2013 at 5505 SE Woodstock Blvd. in Portland. It and will be the first Women/Family/Yogic lifestyle focused Ayurvedic Center in the Pacific Northwest!! Their community-based approach will involve donating 3% of the profits from their retail to disadvantaged postpartum women and families to give them the healthiest and most balanced start possible.

In a recent meeting with Andrea Shuman, Ayuredic Practitioner and co-founder of Ahara Rasa, I learned more about some of the wonderful things in store for our growing Ayurveda community. Andrea spoke to filling the need for an ayurvedic home that meets the yoga culture, so that the physical body can sustain a physical path. Ahara Rasa will have a full herbal pharmacy, whole medicinal and culinary bulk herbs and spices, Ayurvedic hygiene products and yes, Ayurvedic massage treatments!

I had the opportunity of experiencing a nourishing 4-handed Abhyanga Massage by Andrea and co-ower Amita Magid as well. In this cold wet season of winter it was exactly what my Vata/Pitta doshas needed 🙂

Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old comprehensive medical system of yoga, taking root in our own backyard! It truly takes everything into consideration when meeting all yogic and wellness needs. Please take a look at their Indiegogo Campaign and contribute anything you can to help them bring this incredible resource to the community!

To keep up with the launch of Ahara Rasa follow them on Facebook and Twitter here!

For more information on Ayurveda, check out some of the pioneers in field that have inspired the work of the Ahara Rasa ladies:

Dr. Claudia Welch- Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life

Dr. Sarita Shredtha- An Ayurvedic Perspective on Women’s Health

Health Activists Near and Far

We call them Health Activists but they are really heros. They are the environmental organizer, the Ayurvedic practitioner, the healer, the yoga teacher, the yoga student, the voter, the nutritionist, the holistic supporter, the women’s health advocate, the leaders united to improve the lives of others. Any member of the community who serves as a voice of reason when it comes to wellness, is health activist.

There is a movement in health activism that doesn’t sleep. One so deep that it fills mind body and soul with compassion for others. We bind together in times of challenge and celebration. We make waves to raise awareness and engage others in dialogue and action. More than anything else, health activists, grassroots, giving, enlightened advocates, strive only to help others.

There is so much they do for us. It’s only fitting that we thank them for their tireless work and passion as health activists.

An organization working to connect dedicated health advocates through social media platforms called WEGO Health, has developed a campaign to call forth and honor all of our health leaders. The 2012 WEGO Health Activists Awards creates space for our health spokespeople through a number of different awards and anyone can nominate!

Take a few minutes and nominate the wellness ambassadors that inspire you!! There’s no limit to how many amazing souls we nominate. If you would like to get more involved take a deeper look here: Get Involved with WEGO

So much gratitude,


Teacher and Apprentice: Sianna Sherman and Chris Calarco

(Sianna Sherman with Chris Calarco after Deepening Your Practice Workshop Series, Yoga Union, Portland, OR)

After spending my weekend immersed in a series of deepening workshops with Sianna Sherman and her student Chris Calarco, I was able to speak with them on the wonderful dynamics of the Teacher-Apprentice relationship. It was such a fun, inspiring conversation that encourages opening the heart to understanding the greatest teacher, ourselves, and the physical teacher that is the reflection of ourselves in the universe. Read on 🙂

Sondra: Throughout the weekend you have mentioned some of your greatest teachers that have influenced you in your pilgrimage: John Friend, Paul Mueller-Ortega, Richard Freeman, Douglas Brooks and a few others. Could you define what it was that drew you to them?

Sianna: Definitely. I have had a lot of teachers along the way for yoga and also in the shamanic world and in the herbal world; a lot of nature based teachers as well as the yoga teachers. Really it’s all kind of one spectrum for me, so I think the main thing that I listen for (because my teachers have all been very different from each other) is that when I feel the space in my heart, an aching longing feeling to want to be near them and a recognition opens inside of me, than I know it’s my teacher. I meet them in all different ways, sometimes I even meet them in the dream world first before I meet them in the physical world. It’s where my whole being swells with a knowing, and I know that I have met a teacher for my path at this time. Sometimes those teachers are for many years or just a day, it doesn’t take away from the impact that happens. Even if it’s just for a short time, that teachers lives with me always.

Sondra: Chris, you have been apprenticing with Sianna for some time now, I would love to hear how that unfolded; did you know in that moment that you first met her that she was your teacher?

Chris: Well, the way it unfolded was me studying at Yoga Union with some of Sianna’s students. Annie and Todd, the owners of Yoga Union, had been with Sianna for 4-5 years already. So I was in many ways studying with Sianna before I was studying with Sianna. She had come to Portland for a couple workshops and then announced that she would be doing an Anusara immersion in San Francisco, and that was something that I really wanted to do. So I was like “I’m going to go down to San Francisco and I’m doing this”. That is how we met. Then we got to know each other over the course of that time and towards the end of that time, we were talking about music actually..

Sianna: Haha music leads to everything!

Chris: I was giving her different music and we were sitting down at lunch and she asked me kind of like, what my deal was? She was like, “so tell me who you are”? When I was explaining it to her, she asked me if I wanted to work with her. I was expecting that we were meeting about music and it suddenly turned into a question of: Did I want to apprentice with her? I was totally shocked and blown away. I didn’t have to think twice about it and said yes immediately. That was the impotence of that.

Sianna: And it was spontaneous. It wasn’t anything I was thinking about, it was just in the moment. I just looked and I knew.

Chris: That’s how she rolls, haha!

Sondra: That’s wonderful! So Chris how has your practice has grown just from studying with Sianna?

Chris: It’s grown exponentially but the main way that I knew that it was meant to happen was; the thing I needed to work on the most in my practice, Sianna embodies every moment of her life. It’s sort of just the idea that to grow in our practice sometimes we have to work smarter rather than harder. My tendency is to overwork. I came from an athletic background and it was like the harder I worked the more I got. It worked for me to a degree in the physical practice of yoga for sure. Then when I met Sianna. I got so excited to study with her, I think it was literally the next day when I began to work with her I was like “OK, so next time when I come back, what do you want me to work on, every time I’m with you I want to work on something, every time we are together you’re going to tell me to work on something” and she was like “alright buddy just calm down a little bit”.

She texted me the next say saying “Just breath like soft moonlight” and that was the only instruction I got, and honestly that was the only thing I tried to work on for the first 6 months of our work together. And then one day out of the blue she texted me and said “Ok you have got the breathing, now you can work on hanuman thigh stretches”. But for 6 months it was just breathing. That’s what I mean by working smarter and softer in my practice. I needed to do it, I needed to breathe, rather than strain and struggle and push my way through the practice.

Her practice physically is so amazingly strong, but she is never straining, Sianna may be working but you never see an external moment of strain. We were practicing together the other night in Istanbul at her friends house, and I was watching her practice. She was doing ardha chandrasana bound, and she was hardly making a sound. I was almost not breathing because I didn’t want to make a sound the whole time, I was just trying to soften. That has been my whole practice with Sianna, softening.

Sondra: In that same vein, Sianna how has your teaching grown by guiding Chris?

Sianna: Chris has been with me in my biggest threshold of my yoga career since I began teaching in 1993. I have had lots of challenges and growing pains along the way, it has been a great journey. The last 15 years I’ve been in a pretty steady service with Anusara yoga and so right at the beginning of our time together much was collapsing and dissolving. Chris showed up right at that divine timing and just held solid ground for me. As the world was sort of being completely challenged and confronted in my inner personal spheres of teaching, because he has been so steady and so grounded and so clear of a space holder, it allowed me as a teacher through probably toughest time, being out there knowing people saying whats going on what do you teach, what style; and its like what am I actually offering? Because of his steadiness it allowed me to grow as a more clear channel. of being a channel for yoga as it wants to move through it, exactly as it wants to move through me regardless of outer stucture, organization, or what anyone else even thinks.

There was certainly quite a lot from the outer world at this time about who I was, and who I wasn’t. Chris got to see a lot of that, and seeing me challenged to my utmost degree, and just staying really steady. It was because he was staying steady that it allowed me to be at each edge of my teaching and to actually take the seat again and again even in the times when I didn’t want to.

Even recently we were at a big conference where I was invited to teach, it was with some extraordinary beings, teachers who I revere personally, would study with every single one of them the rest of my life. I was invited to this when Anusara was still at its peak a year and a half ago. When I showed up, I wasn’t even sure what I had to offer because I was like “well why would they choose me, I dont have this whole backing of this system anymore that I represent”. Chris just kept saying you just do what you do, and he just kept holding that steady ground so even when I got afraid or hesitated, I kept moving forward and holding the solid ground inside myself and being ok with the unknown.

There have been lots of times this year where people have asked: “So what to do you teach?” and we kind of just look at each other and laugh because I don’t even have the answer necessarily I teach YOGA as the mahashakti wants to move through. I respect all traditions. I don’t have a certain name or form, and i may never, again. It will just be the one family of Yoga, and that is what I stand for. Being in that together has been intense and fierce and great and probably some of my most extraordinary growth as a teacher.

Sondra: What do you think would be the most vulnerable thing about the relationship between teacher and apprentice?

Chris: Taking photos of me in my euro speedo?

Sianna: Haha! All of it is about the practice, he is my teacher completely. It is such an intense reflection of each other. We are around each other a lot and when you walk through a tumultuous time that fire kind of polished the relationship to a very intense degree. It has been everything this year from total loss, to my getting married; we have shared everything. I think what we do for each other even when we feel really shaken, is that we are the reminder to each other to go to our practices, and practice, and we really do that. I’m holding space for you go do your practice.

Chris: For me, its when I do things that I think Sianna is going to be disappointed in. How she responds to that is full of love and full of grace. So when I do things that make me feel vulnerable, for my own stuff, she responds by holding me. That to me in the most vulnerable thing.

Sondra: What helps you to feel most connected in your relationship, where you just need to feel more grounded together?

Chris: When Sianna asked me to apprentice with her, she said “If you travel around with me you have to have a meditation practice.”. So I went and studied with her mediation teacher and that has been a huge factor in this whole year for me, is me committing like I never had before to meditation. It is what I always hear from Sianna. She is on the road 80% of the time, and that is the only thing that keeps her sane.

Sianna: That’s the big glue. I love the feeling of the practices and an integrated whole, but the big big glue is mediation. Just sitting and letting myself see from inside out. A lot of times, even if we are not physically together I will sit in meditation and actually see Chris sitting too, like I can just see him through the other field.

Chris: Then I will text her about something, and she will respond with: I know.

Sondra: So great! You traveling a lot together, what is your favorite things about traveling together?

Sianna: Haha, Coffee in Berlin?

Chris: Honestly the people we are around are my favorite part because you get to see yoga from a different angle; people that have these big open hearts, just the people. They can be joyful, struggling, funny, all these different people from all these different countries. It has been unique to be in a room full of German people learning yoga and it’s great!

Sianna: And being asked to show up in different ways. It’s like in Berlin, they really wanted us to do an all day teacher training about helping their teachers to speak from the heart which for them, they felt was very challenging. They like to go with the technique a lot, which we of also love. It was just a fun day to move through the space and the continuum of just being with different cultures, and everyone having the yearnings for their happiness, for love, for clear expression in a way that’s meaningful, then finding the ways of connection.

When we went to Istanbul we brought different communities together that normally don’t have much collaboration or connection, and maybe sometimes even a little resistance to each other. We made an offering like “what if we all come together”? So Seane Corn was being hosted by one studio, I was being hosted by another. Through our conversations we all decided to do it together and the studios then joined. We shared the teaching and Chris was there through the whole thing. To see things like that, to be able to bring hope and new possibility where the mind would say “well this is mine, this is yours” and even in the yoga world to be curious about opening the conversation up was amazing. We wanted to see if we could encounter a collaboration in this way, we are willing if you are willing.

Chris: There was a moment where one of the studios was a larger and the other a smaller studio, and to see the two just kind of doing what ever needed to be done in that moment to make sure the event came off was just really sweet. It seemed to be real big evidence of the lack of ego.

Sianna; And all the big festival events, and small intimate events, and the pulsation of every sort of thing that we go on the road with. It’s how to hold the space and bring the teachings through depending on what the event is, and who is showing up. It’s being able to move our own technique, the way that Chris will assist people, and the way that I will bring the teachings through depending on the event. We have to be connected in ourselves so that we hold the space together in a way that lets people come forward rather than us having an agenda to put on. We are listening to how we can facilitate opening in that moment.

Sondra: What would you say to the students that are curious about finding their teacher and exploring that part of growing their practice?

Sianna: I think ultimately the greatest teachers are going to point every student back into themselves as the source and the teacher really lives inside. Even if a student doesn’t feel like they really have a teacher they actually do because they are their own teacher. If they really want a physical teacher, I would say go in and listen. Start calling for that teacher to appear, and really open your mind to how that teacher might appear. Every single thing that happens in our life is a teacher, every person is a teacher so be super open to how the teacher feels. Its the great old adage that when the student is ready the teacher appears And if a student takes a step towards that teacher, than the teacher will take two steps towards that student.

Chris: If students are really desiring an external physical teacher, I can only say what I did’ which is follow the practice My practice was leading me deeper here at Yoga Union, and then Sianna was here, so my practice led me to her. The opportunity to practice more deeply showed up in my life, so i was following the steps of my practice. If that’s something that you desire, follow the path of the practice, you know? Where is it taking you? Is it taking you to one teachers class over and over again, is it taking you down the direction of mediation, whose name do you keep hearing, where is the practice leading you? Follow the path of the practice.

Next stops on the pilgrimage..

Sianna and Chris will also be continuing their pilgrimage by traveling to Tulum, Mexico on December 2-9th for a Alcehemy of Elements Retreat along side Shakti Sunfire, Saul David Raye, Theodore Kyrakios, and Devine Harmony. A wonderful opportunity to stir your soul on the waters of the Mayan Riviera!

For more About Chris: Chris Calarco Yoga

For more About Sianna: Sianna Sherman and Open to Grace

So much Gratitude,


Yoga-Recess Day, January 25th!


After an amazing movement of National Yoga Month with the Yoga Health Foundation I can say the momentum in yoga advocacy is additive! Now with Yoga-Recess Day approaching on January 25th, the yogic energy is expanding to the youth, focusing on the benefits of yoga for kids.

Yoga-Recess in Schools is a national campaign to bring yoga into classrooms. Thousands of school teachers, parents, and yogis alike have reached out in support of yoga-recess already! We all want to help our future leaders to be healthy, what better way than through using yoga movements, breathing exercises and stretching!!

Movement, breath and stretching have tremendous benefits for youth starting with physical fitness, mental clarity and focus. Every time I have witnessed kids yoga or been a part of a class with my son, the energy is like nothing else. It’s an innocent energy that feeds off of the entire yoga practice, like it has already been instilled in the minds of our youth that this is not a physical practice.

Of course for yogis that are also parents, it can be natural to guide your kids down the yogic path early. Even for moms and dads that haven’t dabbled in yoga have quickly noticed what it does for their little ones. Kids after all, are natural yogis.

There are a number of resources out there in terms of kids yoga offered at local studios, as well as in some schools and community centers. In the Portland area Yoga Calm, Little Lotus Yoga, Imagination Yoga, Move Yoga, and Street Yoga are just a few of the amazing organizations that make up the web of kids yoga within our reach.

Advocate for kids yoga by practicing with your kids and students on Yoga Recess Day, and every day! Help spread the word about Yoga Recess, it’s up to us to provide that opportunity for connection, for grounding, to provide an experience that will be serve our youth.  And don’t forget to check out where kids yoga is offered in your community 🙂


Blessings to Everyone,