When I was pregnant with my second daughter Ava, I thought I had learned the lessons of unconditional love. I would lose sleep, just watching my two-year-old Xenia slumber. I thought my life was so blessed; I thought I was truly living my life’s journey. But when I found myself crying, praying for guidance, I could feel a calling for additional changes and shifts. I could feel that deeper healing was needed.
From time to time, in those months, I would drive from Corona to Santa Monica to practice with one of my teachers, Saul David Raye. Being a weekend, the class was packed, yet with my unborn enlightened being in my belly; I would roll out our mat, set up our bolster, and drop in to the space. Class, of course, was amazing, as Yoga always is. But what is especially amazing about Saul is his ability to nurture, to infuse the practice with a powerful feminine energy, and to evoke the healing aspects of Yoga — the healing that may be crying out from any of us, the way it was crying out in me.
A few years later, when my children were four and seven, I enrolled in Saul’s yoga teacher training and embarked on an even deeper journey of healing, Yoga, consciousness, and the depths of the journey called Life.
In each and every one of his classes, Saul calls upon the elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether. As he expresses, “In Yoga, the maha bhutas (great elements) contain the essence of life from the cosmic to the microcosmic.” He is always encouraging people to connect viscerally with these forces and states that the means to do so is found throughout all of the world’s sacred teachings. “We are all alive inside a living field of intelligence that expresses itself through the elements.”
Saul’s approach is not based on accomplishing handstand in the middle of the room, holding chaturanga, or analyzing the precise geometrics of a pose. Instead, he is interested in teaching students about energy, reminding us that we are each comprised of energy.
I remember something Saul frequently said in class: “We often hear our friends say things like, ‘I am so stressed out; I need to go work out or take an intense class’.” Saul would pleasantly, humbly remind us of the real energetic option, “We go to work IN.” In class, the “working in” comes from moments of spontaneous meditation, a constant encouragement to be in the space of the heart. As Saul often quotes the sage Sri Aurobindo, “All of life is yoga.”
Saul reminds students to connect and listen to the inner guru and he insists we are all teachers. To support this, he offers tools within the teacher training in subtle doses that continue to make sense over time. They have informed my own teaching. Throughout the past 11 years of owning a yoga studio in Corona, I have seen how many people come to yoga with expectations, searching for answers, longing for healing. Learning to hold this space is a profound practice, one that comes from a connection to love and continued inspiration of one’s own teachers. Saul models this, acknowledging the teachers who have inspired him throughout his life and whom he honors frequently for their constant influence. He insists that they have taught him the essential message of love, of the fact that we are all one.
Fully understanding love sometimes comes with some pain, or the necessity to go through some serious healing of our own. On this path, working with energy is vitally important. In my case, Saul offered techniques and teachings along with sharing ancient wisdom from variety of sacred mystical paths.
While some people enroll in a teacher training course with a purpose in mind, Saul, on the other hand, didn’t necessarily set out to become a teacher. He stood in front of the room for his very first class as many do—when his teacher asked him to teach. Although he felt he wasn’t quite ready, he trusted his mentor. “He told me to share what I know,” Saul recollects. “I still follow that and begin teacher trainings with that message… For me, a true teacher doesn’t try to teach, they allow what is inside them to flow and inspire others to their own greatness.”
In his own life, he is continually a student sharing his own life’s journey with humility while reminding others to keep their childlike mind. He constantly reminds us to soften, to operate more from the feminine energy as he says the collective energy on the planet now is a bit too masculine. When we do drop into this space, we are doing our part to enhance the “oneness.” Saul reminds us to look around and, “notice now more than ever more people are doing Yoga all over the world.”
The key now, according to Saul, is for yoga practitioners to connect to the living being of Mother Earth, to literally get grounded. He speaks from experience, as he lives in the mountains as part of his own effort to maintain balance. That connection with nature as well spending time in the ocean, with his family, in his own practice of yoga, and making music—these are the things that keep him grounded.
Saul’s love of music is demonstrated often, he finds that combined with yoga it creates magic. Whether he is leading a chant or a full-on kirtan, inviting musicians to play in his class, or taking the stage at Bhakti Fest, the tremendous power of the universal language to heal and transform is a frequent part of Saul’s teaching. He grew up in the music business, left it, and then came back to it through yoga, encouraging many of the kirtan musicians within the community, and even co-producing Dave Stringer’s first two kirtan albums, Japa and Mala. “There is tremendous power in conscious music to uplift, heal, and transform,” Saul says.
Music helps us get out of our heads and into our hearts. “Being in the energy field of the heart is deeply healing. Science tells us that the heart is over 5,000 times stronger energetically than any other part of our bodies.” This space of the heart, reminds us, as Saul says, “There is no finish line, no enlightenment to attain outside of ourselves. There is only Love.”
For more information about Saul David Raye, visit: sauldavidraye.com
Photos taken at Bhakti Fest by Kristina Clemens and LJ LoMurray of Fluid Frame Photography
Leeza Villagomez is a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, wife, student of yoga, and entrepreneur who is the director/owner of Yoga Den Health Spa, a holistic healing center in Corona, California. Leeza loves sharing yoga and all its paths to finding balance in family, health, happiness and joy: www.yogadenhealthspa.com.