Slava Kolpakov is an author, osteopathic and neuromuscular bodyworker, yoga philosophy teacher, and Functional Medicine health coach.
Health Coaching - Yogic Lifestyle and Functional Medicine
Vedanta Philosophy for Yoga Teacher Trainings
Thai Massage and Neuromuscular Therapy Certifications and Private Treatments
Slava has worked with thousands of people, elite and Olympic athletes, in Boston and San Diego.
He specializes in the treatment and prevention of:
Latest Top of Mind ... Bubbling Up from the Heart
June 29, 2022
A life lesson from a flower
Every morning I go outside into the hills near our house. I pick a spot in the shade and practice breathwork and meditation. In the beginning of spring, the hillside blooms with flowers of every color. Bees and hummingbirds buzz all around me. It’s a meditation on the nature just to be there in the early hours of the day.
As I sit, I notice a tall green stalk with a flower bud. I wonder what color this flower will be and how large it will grow. In a few days, the stalk has grown taller. It grows every day and sways gently in the wind, almost too heavy to stand upright. I wedge it between the leaves of a bush that grows around it so the stalk does not break under its own weight.
The flower blooms. It’s a brilliant lilac with borders of deep purple. I don’t know what kind of flower it is. It’s tiny, about the size of an average thumbnail. Hummers sit on the bush to drink its nectar. It emanates a lifeforce – a radiant beauty. I worry that it may be plucked by a hiker.
But it survives all spring.
As the rains stop, and the sun gets hotter, the hillside turns brown. The flower fades day after day. It happens slowly but I see it because I share my meditation with the flower every morning. Its stalk starts to dry up. One day, the stalk is bent, and the flower droops its head, its petals had fallen into the crunchy family of dry leaves, twigs, and dirt under the bush.
I go away for a week to Boston, and when I come back, the stalk is still there, all pale yellow, its flower head is gone. I pick it up. It comes right out no longer attached to its roots. It’s weightless and hollow. It’s a skeleton. Where is the lifeforce that I saw every day for so many weeks? The radiant beauty. The flower has joined the earth, but it has given its life to a good cause. Its nectar to the hummingbirds. Its beauty to those who can reflect upon its beauty. Its body to the soil. It spread its fragrance to the wind. Perhaps, that fragrance is still being carried by the wind somewhere like a tiny bit of spice in a giant endless universal swirl of stew of knowledge and beauty and love.
How is anything different from this flower?
We all come and shine, give of ourselves, make a difference in other people’s lives, for good or for bad, and then we grow old and hollow, and join the earth too, because this body was never ours to keep. What is the essence of a living thing? Is it that which passes through the seasons unchanged, undisturbed? Where does it go when the body pales and falls?
I guess it joins the giant endless universal stew of all things.
May 22, 2022
About the battle between our conscious mind and our Subconscious
Which one has more wisdom?
Our brain contains 100 trillion neural connections. This number is incomprehensible to the mind. We have a hard time remembering 10 things in a row, let alone 100 trillion. However, our mind (our conscious everyday mind) contradicts the brain all the time, assuming it knows better.
According to brain researchers, our subconsciousness can make a "snap judgment" decision on a person or a situation that is often more accurate than lengthy conscious analysis of the same person or situation. Our snap judgments are often extremely accurate even though we cannot consciously explain how we arrive at the right decision. You know how you can walk into a convenience store and have a sense of discomfort (without any conscious rational explanation) only to learn later than the store was robbed right after you left. The subconscious brain collects and analyzes a massive amount of information beyond the conscious awareness.
Lesson: trust the sixth sense - the subconsciousness. It's coming from an infinitely-wise source.
Your body has on average 50-70 trillion cells. Each one of these cells contains more genetic information that your conscious mind is able to hold. These cells work together, mostly in harmony, and contain deep knowledge that is inaccessible to your conscious mind. We don't have to know how to digest our food, how to beat our heart, or circulate our blood, or grow hair, or even how to be conscious. We never learned how to do it consciously. But we just do it. Effortlessly. Our cells contain the infinite intelligence.
If you wake up in the morning and your back feels tight. Do you stretch it?
Most of you will say "yes."
However, the right question may be: "why does my infinitely-wise subconscious has tightened these muscles?"
Often, the tension is there to protect you - to support and protect a coming injury, or weakness.
Instead, we do not listen to that voice of wisdom and stretch. Because the mind decided that stretching is the solution to every problem.
I am not saying that stretching is generally bad. But when your body is tightening the area, maybe allow that tension to occur without messing with it. In other words, trust your body more and trust the sixth sense of the subconsciousness to guide you.
These examples underlie the basic conflict between our conscious mind and our deeper subconscious brain.
February 15, 2022
A Zen student is washing dishes in the community kitchen as the master walks in.
The student waves at the large pile of plates and complains how much work it is:
“Look, master, there are so many plates to wash!”
“How could you wash all the plates?” asks the master.
“Well, look,” says the student.
The teacher shakes his head and says, “You can only wash one plate – this one.”
Similarly, when we have a big project, we get tired just thinking about the amount of work required to accomplish it. In reality, we can only do one thing at any moment. Building a house is a huge project, but one can only focus on placing one brick at a time.
February 5, 2022
The Inner Gaze
When yogis and meditation masters talk about "inner gaze," what does that really mean?
No, it's not the 3rd Eye. Neither is it your mental awareness.
When you decide to look at something, like your foot, you give it your visual attention - you look at it - with your eyes.
Suppose I told you that your foot has a life of it own - it's alive, unpredictable, dynamic, and you must watch it carefully. After a concerned look at me, you would curiously examine your foot. You would watch it for a few long seconds: Does it really have a life of its own?
This is visual attention.
You can also be mentally aware of your foot without actually looking at it.
When you combine your visual attention AND mental awareness, this is the kind of uninterrupted focus you would need to generate in meditation.
But how can you look at your meditation object with your eyes closed?
Suppose you repeat a mantra, or meditate on your breath, how can you look at your mantra or at your breath?
Amazingly, you can!
With your eyes closed, you can direct your eyes to your breath.
Where does the breath flow? You can "watch it" in your nose, in your throat, the chest and the adbomen.
The same with the mantra. Where in your body do you feel the mantra? Where does the silent mantra resonate?
Focus your inner gaze there.Combine it with mental focus.
December 24, 2021
Why do some people get so drawn to extreme sports?
Like sky diving, BASE jumping, rock climbing, extreme skiing, car racing and bike racing.
There seems to be a certain maniacal compulsion to return to an activity where you may quite possibly get hurt.
At the cellular level, your body must experience the possibility of extreme danger or even death, but your mind is psyched to go through with it anyway.
Or, you may be coerced to have a life-or-death experience as in military combat or a street fight.
I heard a former street fighter once describe his street-fighting compulsion as spiritual.
After a fight, he knew he was not his body. He felt it.
He knew that his body was only a vessel of the Spirit, the Light within that shines through the body.
When the Light withdraws, the body is gone, like a lightbulb without electric current.
When there is a real possibility of losing your body, you realize that you are not your body.
Not just the body.
When the body is gone, the Light does not disappear, even though it may be invisible to the physical sight.
Your Self shows up more brilliantly in extreme moments.
I am not trying to suggest that you put yourself in dangerous straits.
But this insight provides the knowledge to who and what we are.
Shamans induce such states of self-knowledge by other methods. However, it may be too dangerous to attempt without guidance.
Thankfully, we can orchestrate something a little milder.
Not dangerous but challenging enough that your mental resolve must win over the weakness of the body (Warning: Proper Training and Guidance is Still Advisable):
Jumping into the ocean in the winter (or an ice bath).
Running a marathon (with training).
Fasting on water for more than 36 hours.
Going on a vision quest in nature (as in hiking the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail).
Climbing the Kilimanjaro or the Everest.
You come away with a deeper understanding of your Self - the knowledge of what life is – of Consciousness that is present even after the physical experience of life.
Such an experience is what many Ancient Masters had had. Self-Realization.
On this note, Happy Holiday Season to You and Your Loved Ones!
November 25, 2021 - Thanksgiving
Program Your Own Mind ... or Else.
We may think we have control of our thoughts and our choices.
But where do our thoughts and choices come from?
From our culture - the news, the stories, teachers, preachers, and scientists.
The choices are not yours. They come from those other sources.
The only way to have freedom of choice and therefore free will is to step outside of all conditioning and programming that is not your own.
The mind works by repetition and memory. What you see and hear the most is what you remember and what you believe. Even if you do not believe something, after hearing it a few dozen times, it will start to resonate as "truth." Your subconscious mind will accept it.
In other words, if you do not consciously choose what you see and hear, your mind is conditioned and programmed without your knowing. Advertising and political campaigns are built around this unsuspecting feature of our subconscious mind.
One way or another, the mind runs on various programs and conditioned circuits.
In a sense, we operate like computer programs, running down familiar paths - neuropathways.
If you wish to have free will, you must program your own mind on purpose. Otherwise, it will be done for you.
To be kind,
To show compassion,
To hear something without criticism,
To see someone without judgement,
To be selfless in your actions,
Is to practice the highest form of Yoga.
Yet, this practice doesn't just happen. It must be deliberately chosen.
Every day, in the morning (ideally upon waking), whether it is part of your prayer or meditation, you can choose to program your mind to be more compassionate on this very day, to be less reactive and less judgemental, and to make an effort to do something selfless.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Did you know that Yoga is often defined as a science?
Yoga is a science of being happy.
Yoga is a methodical approach to the infinite source of happiness and inner peace.
As a yogi, you are a scientist in a laboratory of your life.
Always exploring. Experimenting.
What works for someone may not work for you.
Truth is known through experience, not belief.
Even meditation is uniquely yours.
You can practice a technique, or follow a program, but still you must make it your own to understand it.
A Parrot in a Loop (a meditative insight)
The mind is like a parrot – it repeats what it hears.
Repetition is how we learn. It is how we build the neuropathways of skills and habits.
Our mind is also very loopy. Think about your day. We follow a lot of routines. Our thought patterns are extremely similar day to day, thinking the same thoughts over and over, repeating the same words and phrases over and over.
“What needs to be done today?” - This is a phrase we say to ourselves daily.
“I like this, I don’t like that. This is nice/great/cool. This is OK/terrible/boring.” And on and on. Same words, same phrases, all day.
When you hear a word out of the ordinary, like “heliotrope” or “permutation” or “ambrosia”, it jumps out because it is not part of your everyday speech. Those new words we tend to notice, and … guess what else… repeat, of course. “Heliotrope… heliotrope… I like it … I don’t like.” And on and on. That’s how we put those interesting words in the loop.
The mind is “a parrot in a loop.”
This basically means two main things:
1. The mind can be subtly conditioned or trained, enticed by “interesting words”, and thereby duped. This in turn means that we should not take our mind’s chatter seriously. It’s a parrot after all.
2. It’s not original. Originality is a rare quality for the mind. In fact, original ideas usually arise when we get our minds to stop – when we get out of the loop.
Conflicting streams of information come to us all day every day.
There are so many agendas acting upon our choices.
Whom do you trust?
How do we know what is truth, and what is "fake news?"
In today's world, any scientific study can be paid-for and slanted in anyone's favor.
The issue here is not with trying to sort out all the information. That is quite impossible.
The mind gets overwhelmed.
The mind gets easily conditioned and swayed this way or that way.
If the information is filtered through the mind, there is no way of knowing the truth. As we say in yoga, the mind gets "scattered, distorted, and confused."
However, there is a way to know the truth.
We have a build-in truth censor or sensor. An inner guide. A teacher of the Truth.
It is called the Heart.
I don't mean the physical beating heart, although that is also a powerful electomagentic force. I mean the Heart Center, the inner knower that by-passes the mind.
When you connect to your Heart Center, the truth is experienced directly as a "it-just-feels-right" kind of feeling.
Anything that doesn't have integrity or wholeness is experienced as a "hole" or a "drain."
How to connect to this Inner Knower - the Heart?
Become present to the sensations in your heart.
Breathe in and out from the area of your heart.
Bring your mental energy (thinking, analizing, critisizing) down from your head to your heart. Imagine the busy buzzing energy of the mind flowing like streams down toward the heart.
Bring your inner gaze to the area of your heart.
Knowing the Truth is not a mental thing.
It just feels right.
So many people are concerned about the future today. What's happening? What's the best thing to do? How is this going to end?
Yogic wisdom may not have all the answers, but it certainly provides clear answers to timeless questions.
Allow me to philosophize for a bit.
First, it helps to zoom out and get a broader perspective. A much much broader perspective.
And that is: Who are we? and What is the purpose of life?
In Vedanta (the philosophy of Yoga), each one of us is a manifestation of Brahman.
Brahman is Consciousness in its purest form.
Cosmic Consciousness, or Universal Consciousness, it is also known by many names in different religions.
Brahman is inexplicable, incomprehensible, untouchable by the mind = we cannot understand it, because our mind is too limited, too scattered, and too impure.
Yoga masters say that we are Brahman. Each one of us.
Brahman in Sanskrit means "that which expands."
As such, Brahman chooses to expand = to come into existence, or manifest, in an infinite variety of ways. It does so when it manifests as you.
You are unique and unlike any other human being, or any being for that matter, that has ever existed.
But Brahman is a lot more than human beings. It is the world, the space, and all the universes that exist or have the potential to exist. It is this world with all of our cultures and our differences, our values and stories, our troubles and sufferings, and our current world situation. It is simply Brahman that has decided to manifest in this unique way.
What would you do if you were God?
You'd try this and that. Over lifetimes and eons. Try everything. Try every possible scenario of existence. With love and pain, peace and war, beauty and darkness. How about a global pandemic?
So what is the purpose of life?
As far as Brahman is concerned, it is to expand, to burgeon, to spring forth, to manifest in as many ways as infinitely possible.
As an individual human being, conscious of yourself as separate from others, you may have a different idea of your own purpose of life. Yet, your purpose is completely unique (even if you do not think so), and it is yours alone to manifest. Now, in this moment, in the midst of a global pandemic. There is no wrong action that you can possibly take. Whatever you choose to do in this moment in history is perfect because it is one way that has never been done, and that is precisely the point.
Here's a story from my book of yoga stories that may brighten your outlook.
There once was a farmer who owned a horse and had one son. One day, his horse ran away. The neighbors came to express their concern: "Oh, that's too bad. How are you going to work the fields now?"
The farmer replied: "Good thing, bad thing, who knows?"
In a few days, his horse came back and brought another horse with her. Now, the neighbors were glad: "Oh, how lucky! Now you can do twice as much work as before!"
The farmer replied: "Good thing, bad thing, who knows?"
The next day, the farmer's son fell off the new horse and broke his leg. The neighbors came again: "Now that he is incapacitated, he cannot help you around. That's too bad."
The farmer replied: "Good thing, bad thing, who knows?"
Soon, the news came that a war broke out, and all the young men in the country were required to join the army. The villagers were sad because they knew that many of their young men would not return. The farmer's son, however, could not be drafted because of his broken leg. His neighbors were envious: "How lucky! You get to keep your only son."
The farmer replied: "Good thing, bad thing, who knows?"
The story illustrates ancient wisdom to reserve judgement, practice non-attachment to outcomes, and remain in the present moment to avoid stress and worry.