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.
One of the ironies of our current state of busy-ness is that, for all the stimulation we are exposed to on a daily basis, it doesn’t seem to give us energy. Instead, the way we navigate our days leaves us exhausted and depleted. We seem to operate at two speeds—full on or asleep. Read more
The yoga tradition gives us theories of mind and consciousness. One idea is that whatever comes through your awareness leaves an imprint. There’s even a Sanskrit word for this, “samskara,” which roughly means “conditioning” in English, and refers to the processes by which the human mind is imprinted by information and experience. Assuming this, feeding your mind fearful food creates deeper and stronger impressions of fright and anxiety. One can potentially progress out of this samskaric state by feeding the mind creative and even transgressive content, i.e. reading the writings of the great saints and thinkers, feasting the eyes on art, engaging in more than surface level conversation. Read more
Being in your body is a powerful and tender thing.
Being disconnected from your body is a powerful and disastrous thing.
Reconnecting to your senses, feeling your body, living from your bones, from your heart, from your lungs is an act of innocent bravery.
Even though we sometimes think of control as a negative quality (What a control freak!), and we often have a great aversion to control's close cousin, discipline, is it possible to see these qualities as strengths? When you step onto the mat, control and discipline are the willingness to practice intelligently, with structure and with respect for all the teachings you have gained. Read more
Because we are biologically wired to be constantly scanning our environment for threat, the mind will tend to entertain fear, judgement, and even hatred when left to its own devices. We are always aware, at some level, of protecting and sustaining the physical body and of discovering our place in the hierarchy of the pack. Who is strong, who is weak, and where do we fit in? Read more
Sadly, it is all too common in the yoga world to hear people bemoan their failings at their practice. They feel self-conscious about their yoga abilities; they compare themselves to others; they find themselves lacking; they feel the need to "improve" their performance in asana. For many, yoga has just become another way to beat ourselves up. Another way to practice failing at perfection. This is such a tragic mis-understanding and misuse of the yoga tradition. Read more
Celebrate your body this February at SYA! 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" throughout the month and we invite you to join them in a minimum of eight practices between February 1 and 28, 2018. Read more
There is a wonderful word in Sanskrit – "kula" – which means community. In a yoga class, we have a deep inner experience of body, breath, spirit, and at the same time, we are in a room with others; we practice in community. As a teacher, I have observed that individuals have particular energies on any given day, but the community as a whole has an energetic vibe. The class could be tired, silly, friendly, internal. Whatever we start with, there is always the possibility for energetic and physical transformation and shift. We support one another, without words, with our presence. Read more
What, after all, is our practice but an extended ceremony to discover our true place in the world? It's a ceremony because we acknowledge that there's something to learn that we cannot figure out in the usual ways, that there is a wisdom underneath what our habitual opinions and daily compromises with our own lives can give us. Read more
Consider this small piece of writing an homage to the quality of softness. Consider it an antidote to the worldwide power of aggression. Consider that when you step onto your yoga mat, you are experiencing all of humanity in the form of yourself, and that your time spent in self-investigation and self-development has important ramifications for you, your family, you community and the world. Read more
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 with others.
We're incredibly proud to announce the return of our Pay Yoga Forward Program, our participation in the Yoga Behind Bars Gratitude in Motion Campaign and our support of Street Yoga as their Studio of the Month for November. Read more
Allen Ginsberg once said "We're born in bodies, and that in itself is a vulnerable situation. And a situation to be explored again and again, every day of life. All of our accomp-lishments, our responsibilities, our joys and sorrows, come back to living in this body, with whatever particular challenges it gives us.
Yoga is the most sacred way I know to honor, appreciate, and fully experience this body. It's possible to live in a body for many years and not be at home. The exploration of embodiment is one of the great adventures of life. Read more
In the therapy world much is being discovered about the conversation between the way we imagine ourselves and our physical bodies, and how we intentionally or unintentionally use our imagination and inner language to create a sense of self.
We tend to carry fairly concretized images of our body selves and tend toward a defensive history of our body capacities. It is a "habitual way of thinking about ourselves that may not have any relation to who we are at the core; it may be called our self-image. There is a familiar, repetitive, somewhat stale quality to the words or images used to label and evaluate experiences." Read more
Watch an infant breathing as it sleeps. You will see the movement of their breath in a soft, expansive belly and in a gentle undulation of the spine. Now watch a stressed out computer worker sitting at a desk. You will see breath that is short, very high in the chest, and you might see this person sighing or yawning a lot, trying to "catch up" on the oxygen their body is craving.
How did we get from the healthy breath of an infant to the distorted, unsatisfying breathing of most adults? More importantly, how do we return to that natural and fulfilling "baby breath" that we all deserve?" Read more
The dictionary says that vitality means "the power to live or grow" and "the capacity for continuation of a meaningful or purposeful existence." I have always thought of vitality as an exuberance of physical strength and energy, but it is even more intriguing to consider that the ability to be vital can affect the very nature of our existence.
How is vitality, or life force, freed by the practice of yoga? On a physiological level, yoga liberates energy because it moves fluids. The deep, focused movements of yoga allow muscles to expand and the nervous system to quiet. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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.
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?"