We are Yoga Teachers, Writers, Poets, Dancers, Students of Anatomy and Bio-Mechanics, Scientists, Meditators, Anatomy Nerds and Passionate Explorers of the phenomenon of mind and embodiment.
If you're around yoga people for any length of time, you're going to hear the word "practice" coming up often. More experienced practitioners speak of their "practice" in almost reverential tones. But what is practice? As San Francisco yoga teacher Judith Lasater says, practice is doing what we don't know how to do.
If we regard yoga as a practice, as a process of uncovering what we don't know, we will see that this attitude creates the opportunity for energy, curiosity and joy in our experience of yoga.
When you hear the phrase "full expression of the pose" do you think of the cover of Yoga Journal or do you think of the shape and expression of your body in that pose?
Each of us needs to be able to identify the limits of our own flexibility and mobility, and then learn how to access, engage and strengthen our muscles so we can safely and intelligently reach beyond what we thought was possible.
When you take your seat to meditate, do you ever consider the atmosphere in which you are placing yourself? In therapy attention is paid to developing what is called a "positive holding environment," in which the client feels safe and held. When you meditate, you are in an internal environment consisting of thoughts, emotions, body sensations, your own meditation instructions, sounds, the object of your meditation, etc. You are hosting yourself.
In the last month or so, I have been calling tadasana (mountain pose) "this is what I stand for, I shall not be moved" pose. I encourage students to really light up their muscle body and let their body represent what they will not compromise on. I encourage them to sense into their natural magnetism, the cohesive and condensing force in their bodies that keeps them together and creates strength and form. When the outer world feels unreliable and constantly shifting, intentionally engaging your muscles in a magnetic way can actually be calming to the nervous system, which I imagine receives this strength as confirmation of commitment and purpose, and even of optimism.
This year's Love the One You Are challenge starts Wednesday, February 1! Join us in committing to a practice that supports the acceptance of your body... just as it is.
For many years my yoga practice was one with an agenda of self-improvement. There were things about my body and about me that I thought I needed to change: my belly wasn't flat enough, my arms weren't toned enough, my legs weren't shapely enough, I wasn't mellow enough, etc. Bringing these desires for change to my mat was motivating in a not so healthy, negative kind of way. It got me to practice out of a sense of inadequacy and even fear. My perceived shortcomings provided the fuel for me to engage in a practice that was ultimately about fulfilling an externally driven perfection that can never actually be achieved.
Please join us again this February as we invite all of our students, women and men, to commit to a practice that supports the acceptance of one's body... just as it is. All of our teachers will be focusing on the theme "Love the One You Are," and we invite you to join them in a minimum of eight (8) practices between February 1 and 28, 2017.
It's the New Year and who knows how many sit-ups and crunches are being performed today? Instead of a resolution about your body, how about a revolution toward your body? Wouldn't it be great to be liberated from the tyranny of our shame about ourselves, especially that soft center of ourselves, our belly? What is a healthy belly, anyway?
When I was a fledging yoga student, I remember that I never knew what to do with my belly in Tadasana. I didn't dare let my belly "hang out," and my yoga teacher told me not to pull it in.
No, those aren't instructions for a yoga pose. "Top-down" and "bottom-up" are phrases used in psychology to describe two ways of understanding our experiences: through sensory stimuli in the environment (bottom up), and through thought (top down).
New recognitions in neurobiology indicate that yoga may function through both top down and bottom up mechanisms to balance emotions, behaviors, and self-regulation.
What the World Needs Now is Union, November 18, 2016
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." ~ John Muir
This November it seems the world needs yoga more than ever. Yoga, by its very definition is about union: union of the heart, mind and body - union of all things. When we live with the knowledge that everything is interconnected, we can more clearly see our role in shaping the world around us. Our sensitivity to the joy and sorrows of others deepens and we realize that we can play a part in healing and unifying that which is hurt, broken and feeling disconnected. Our actions matter.
Marked by the holiday of Thanksgiving, November has become known as Gratitude Month here at SYA. It's the time of year when we are officially reminded of just how much we have to be thankful for. We open our eyes and our hearts to the many mysterious gifts of the universe and are inspired to acknowledge and share our good fortune.
We're so excited to announce the return of our Pay Yoga Forward Program and our participation in the Yoga Behind Bars Gratitude in Motion Campaign. These two wonderful programs offer us all the opportunity to share the gift of yoga with others.
Essay adapted from a tongue-in-cheek piece written by Bill Holman, my co-teacher in the 1990's - a time when yoga classes were rather rigidly scheduled and the role of guru sometimes misappropriated. Thankfully, we've come a long way...
Do you consistently come to class more than 7 times a month and attend workshops and series on a regular basis? Or maybe you've been wanting to practice more often, but didn't think you could afford additional classes? If so, a monthly membership just might be just the trick.
One of the challenges I continually set for myself as a yoga teacher is to use creativity and variety in the ways I articulate movement, alignment and anatomy. Abstraction and distraction are powerful, and our attraction to them comes pre-installed in our human brains. It takes a poetic kind of attention to continually speak body in a way that the body will understand.
This world can be confounding, beautiful, ecstatic, painful, sweet, and filled with blessings as well as pain. As one of my meditation teachers said, "It's a tough school down here." A few days ago I did a short twenty minute asana practice and the phrase came into my head, "After all these years, yoga is still magic." For me, and for many others, the magic has to do with the bond of body and feeling/emotion.
Flexibility has been venerated and even worshipped in the yoga world. In fact, one of the main reasons that people say they can't do yoga is because they're "not flexible." As yoga teaching and practice becomes more biomechanically informed, we see that extreme flexibility is a body imbalance that has serious repercussions in one's ability to maintain movement efficiency and body delight in daily life.
Our bodies are like shorelines that receive the ocean of the infinite. Every moment is a wave of aliveness, punctuated by breath, movement, and life potency. In just the way the ocean works on the shore, the infinite works on us with endless repetition and opportunity.
We are re-sculpted by every movement we make, especially those movements that are done with attention and intention.
The nervous system that developed in humans made very sure that we would survive by giving us instincts of hyper-awareness, reactive anxiety, and quick responses to danger.
Mother Nature's priority is in keeping us alive. She is not so concerned with how we feel.
"What flows through your brain sculpts your brain. Directing your attention may be the single most effective way to shape your brain, and thus your mind."
In 1979, psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin coined the term "felt sense," which refers to "an ongoing understanding of an ever-changing now. Persons are experiencing processes. We apprehend the world moment-to-moment through our experiencing of it. A flow of experiencing is always ongoing in a living human being, which you can every moment attend inwardly, if you wish."
A fruitful question to ask yourself in your yoga practice might be: What is the felt sense of my body right now?
This February at SYA we are inviting all 0f our students, women and men, to commit to a practice that supports the acceptance of one's body ... just as it is. All of our teachers will be focusing on the theme "Love the One You Are," and we will be inviting you to commit to eight practices during the month.
Ayurvedic physician and author Robert Svoboda coined the term "vata derangement" to describe the physical effects of the anxiety-ridden, over-scheduled, multi-tasking lifestyle that so many of us live. The word "vata" refers to the principle of movement in our bodies, ruled by the air element. The air element is quick and pulls energy up off the earth. When it is dominant, as when we are overly busy, we become impatient, ungrounded, and distracted...
Giving has been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. As we enter the traditional season of giving and thanksgiving, we are excited to announce several ways in which we are expressing our gratitude by sharing the gift of yoga with our local community. We hope you will join us!
"A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong." Brene Brown
In 1985, surveys showed that Americans said they had an average of three close confidantes. In 2004, that number had decreased to an average of one confidante, with one in 4 people saying they had no one to confide in. Think about that as you walk down a city street:one in four of the people you see has no close friend. Behind most of our desires is a yearning to belong, to be accepted and to connect with others. As we become ever more "social" on our devices, we are less and less in the sametime/space continuum with other human beings, where the true benefits of connection are found.
Yoga asks us to explore new patterns of being. Yet how to meet the discomfort and resistance that often accompanies change?
* Lean into the situation rather than backing away or spacing out. Use your breath to explore the textural layers of body sensation that we call "stretching" or "strength."...
Being a teacher is the center around which my days orbit. I meditate for myself, and I also meditate so I can be more creative and present with my students. I keep my body healthy for myself, and also so I can be a strong and flexible vessel for holding the yoga room. I do my own asana practice for myself, and also so that I am continually exploring the human body, its capacities, its quirks, its wise limits, and where it might move like it never has before.
Many of us in the yoga world are familiar with the fantastic gods and goddesses of the Indian tradition. We sometimes invoke them in yoga class as a rich source of inspiration and recognition. Yet we don't often turn to the goddesses that come from the western traditions.
How might the Greek goddesses serve to inspire and bring depth to our yoga and our lives in general?
I once invited participants in one of my yoga retreats at Sleeping Lady to play a poetry writing game. They were asked to complete the sentence "Yoga happens when _____." In each group, someone wrote the first line of a Sutra (teaching) and passed it to the next person. As each person wrote, the paper was folded so whoever was writing saw only the line above their own. I've done this kind of thing before and what is created is always beautifully specific to that group and that day, and unrepeatable. What is also remarkable about these writings is that not a single one refers to gaining a flatter belly, longer hamstrings, or more muscular arms. It almost seems as if yoga itself is speaking through the hearts and pens of these open souls.
Once upon a time, I was a clothing designer in New York City. It was a rough world, where they loved you one day and wouldn't "buy you" the next. I'm lucky I got out of the rag trade before it ate me up. Yet I've always been fascinated with how folks adorn themselves and it's in my DNA to watch styles change and evolve (sometimes to my dismay), even in the yoga community.
We've been teaching yoga on Capitol Hill for an unbelievable twenty-five years! In that time, we've seen the Hill change from a mellowish downtown residential area to a more and more sleek,dense, and visited dining and shopping destination. Even so, Cap Hill retains a neighborhood feeling...
Last Sunday one of my favorite events occurred at SYA--the annual graduation of our year-long Teacher Training program. We graduated 26 beautiful souls who have heartfelt intentions of bringing yoga to others... Over the year, we become a family, friendships are formed, growth happens on all levels, and lives are changed. Many of you know that I (Denise) am in grad school for psychology right now, and the SYA Immersion and Teacher Training program is on par with my grad school studies.
You have the best of intentions: you want to come to yoga class, you know how good it is for you, you want to see your yoga peeps, yet the traffic and parking are so challenging, and once you're on the couch, forget it. I've lately begun to regard the challenges of following through on the things I intend to do for myself as a form of mythological heroism. It's heroic to make it to yoga class against all the odds! And that valor (truly!) is always rewarded with more compassion and care toward yourself, more mental and physical health, less malaise and melancholy.
Many of you know that I (Denise) am in grad school studying psychology. I'm loving my program and realizing how similar it is to the way we teach our 200 and 300 hour teacher trainings at SYA. I'm also becoming more aware of what a really high standard we set in our teacher trainings. Think of these programs as yoga grad school, a place where you will be challenged, nourished, and where you will be supported in diving deep in your experience of yoga and teaching. We've trained many of the most beloved teachers in the Northwest, and LOVE teaching teachers!
Recently, two 20-something friends of mine who have been wanting to try yoga said they needed to ask me something important. They took me to the corner of the room, looked around furtively, and asked "What happens when you fart in yoga class?"