Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival – Sat. & Sun., October 3rd & 4th at Windham Mountain Resort

ahimsa yoga festival

Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival

Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival

Sat. & Sun., October 3rd & 4th

Windham Mountain Resort, Windham, NY

Does an entire of weekend of yoga, wellness and music sound appealing to you? Join Leigha & Jacqui for their second appearance at the Ahimsa Yoga & Music Festival 2015. Between the two of them, there will be SEVEN offerings from The Yoga House throughout the weekend. Take classes and workshops with Leigha, Jacqui and many other gifted yogis and yoginis from the Hudson Valley and far beyond.

Explore the offerings and sign up here. Feel free to ask us any questions you have about the festival.

March Focus of the Month – Developing a Home Practice

The Obstacles are Many, But the Path Is Worth Taking!

SONY DSCImagine rolling out your yoga mat in a tidy corner of your home just minutes before the sun peeks over the horizon. Stepping onto the mat, you honor the stiffness of your morning muscles by moving slowly and softly, enjoying a long inhale as you lift your arms above your head. On the exhale, you drape your body over deeply bent knees and then sway to and fro for a few moments before beginning your practice in earnest.

For today’s session, you’re kind to yourself. You stretch more than you strengthen because you sense that is what your body needs. The practice lasts about 30 minutes, and that satisfies you completely. As you roll your mat back up, the other members of your house begin to stir. You’ve logged your alone time, and it was a wonderful way to begin the day. Next up: a warm cup to sip on and breakfast.

If it sounds a little luxurious that’s because it is. It’s not every day that we can claim a quiet, early moment before everyone in the house is abuzz. Sometimes there isn’t even a clear, uncluttered corner to be found. The hurdles to developing a home practice are plentiful. Luckily, though, they’re not impossible to overcome, and—trust us—they’re worth hopping over! This month, we share some of the most common obstacles to developing a home practice and offer advice and tips for overcoming them.

Over the years, you’ve shared with us many reasons why a home practice is just plain tough to commit to. Here are some of the most frequently cited problems and their potential solutions:

 

I can’t wake up that early.

Then don’t! It’s certainly not written in stone that a yoga practice must be done in the A.M. Although it is true that Iyengar and others describe the pre-dawn hours as the ideal time to practice, the fact is, if you’re a night owl aiming to practice as the sun rises, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you have been up all night caring for or worrying about others, then sleep is your first yoga priority.

Start by squeezing in a practice where you can. It could be a five-minute practice in the afternoon or ten minutes before bed. By beginning with these small, manageable increments, your goal of developing a home practice will be an achievable one.

 

I wouldn’t know how to move. I need the guidance of a teacher.

If you can stretch your body as you’re waking up in bed, you can practice yoga asana. Nevermind the Sanskrit terminology or precision alignment cues. Tap into your body as it is in this moment. Where is it stiff? What could use a little strengthening? Be guided by your internal wisdom, and allow your breath to lead the way.

Many have written on this subject, and among our favorites is Eric Schiffmann who wrote Moving Into Stillness. He reminds us that our breath and intuition are a powerful pair. Inhales generally bring us into expansive stretches, making your spine as long as it can be, for instance, and exhales permit a deepening as in forward fold or in twists. We needn’t know the name of a pose to move our bodies. Think of yoga as your personal dance. One that revitalizes your body and feeds your soul. No one is watching, so no movement is wrong.

Yoga is a process of deep listening. It can be helpful to remember that the yoga poses as we know them were developed quite late along the timeline of yogic history. Get out of your own way to let your best self shine forth. Shed your layers of doubt, and trust the wisdom already inside you. Get breathing. Get moving.

 

But seriously, I don’t know any of the poses.

California yoga teacher Jason Crandell wrote a lovely article not too long ago in Yoga Journal. In addition to offering insights and motivation for beginning a home practice, he offers short sequences that will help you structure a complete-feeling home session.

We’ve also found Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual by David Swenson an invaluable reference for go-to sequencing. We haven’t found a clearer, easier-to-follow instruction manual, and the spiral binding makes it perfect for resting on the ground and viewing as you practice.

 

Yoga with kidI don’t have the time.

Neither do we! No one does. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get all we want done done. You’ve heard this advice before: It’s a matter of priority. But don’t stop reading there. If family and career and everything else come first, we are doing family and career and everything else a disservice. When you invest time, even little spurts of time, in yourself–your peace of mind, your wellness, your happiness, your health–you have more to give and everyone is better off.

Maybe it’s unrealistic to begin with 90-minute or even 60-minute practice sessions, but two minutes here and ten minutes there are a perfectly good place to begin. When ten minutes becomes habit, you’ll want to bump it up to fifteen and then maybe twenty. Before you know it, you’ll be immersed in yoga for 30 or 40 minutes. Start small. Forgive yourself if it’s not happening the way you imagined. Keep rolling out that mat.

One of our students shared a tip that has worked for her: Keep your mat rolled out! After a while, you won’t be able to ignore its call.

 

I have four little children, two German Shepherds, and too much furniture in the way.

Then yoga is your medicine, and it is especially essential for you! We’re not strangers to these types of “distractions,” ourselves. There are a few things you can do.

Approach #1: Insist on finding time in those late-night or early morning hours when the house is relatively quiet. If this doesn’t work, don’t be discouraged. Read on!

yoga_mind_bodyApproach #2: Re-envision what you think of as a yoga practice. I kid you not when I tell you that half of my yoga is practiced with an eight-year-old clinging to my torso. So what that these sessions aren’t the stuff of Google Images: I’m not wearing white or sitting in front of a waterfall as the heavens bestow a rapturous light upon my countenance. Life is messy and chaotic, and true yoga helps us to find the calm amidst the storm. If I didn’t open up to this re-envisioning, I wouldn’t have known that yoga can make me giggle until I fall over and bring me closer to the ones I love.

Approach #3: Just as you would insist on privacy in the bathroom or in your home office, insist on designating time and space if you’d really like to practice by yourself. Respect your own requirements and enlist everyone else’s respect too. If you’re the parent of a toddler or an infant, see Approach #4.

Approach #4: Nap time is the golden hour if you’re home alone with bebe. Of course, it doesn’t always go as planned, does it? If Approach #2 isn’t cuttin’ it, the best you can do is reach out, reach out, reach out. Develop a support network! Trade babysitting time with other parents who need a moment to themselves. Find a Mama & Me class (like ours at 12:30 every Tuesday), or ask someone to watch the little one while you find your way to the studio. Sometimes your best home practice is found at your home away from home. 😉

 

Your home practice can become your most valuable course in the Self. Since each day is different, you’ll be able to tailor your session so that it suits your mood and energy level today. Some days you’ll invert and contort. Some days you’ll simply sit to clear your mind.  Let us know how your home practice is going, and do share any of the obstacles holding you back if we haven’t addressed them here!

 

Stay in touch and see you at the studio.

 

Leigha & Jacqui

Core Anatomy & Movement Workshop–Saturday, May 23rd, 2:30-4:30pm

Core Anatomy & Movement

An Experiential Workshop with Michael Stein

Saturday, May 23rd, 2:30-4:30pm

 

This intensive workshop will focus on the anatomy of the 3 primary cores: the torso, hip & shoulder.  You will learn how to use yoga asanas and short sequences to isolate these muscles and create more length and strength during your yoga practice. We will break up the class with sun salutes, asana sequences as well as anatomy of the core muscles for better understanding. This workshop is perfect for any yogi, from the newcomer to the experienced practitioner, who is interested in learning more about the core anatomy and its relation to yoga asana movement.


Core Anatomy & Movement Workshop



Michael Stein is the Director of Ashtanga Yoga of New Paltz.  He has led fourteen yoga teacher training programs as well as a variety of workshops on Anatomy and Physiology.

Ashtanga Yoga, A Sacred Practice

Ashtanga Yoga, A Sacred Practicemeditation, drishti, focus

As yogis, we know that there are countless reasons why we incorporate a yoga practice into our lives. The calm, the meditation, the stress relief, the strength, the flexibility, the energy….we could recite an endless list with a blissful grin on our lips. And we can’t deny that many of us are creatures of habit; we enjoy the discipline and the routine that a regular practice adds to our lives.

There isn’t quite a more disciplined yoga practice than that of Ashtanga Yoga. There is very often a cloud of mystery around the meditative practice that might make some uneasy at the site of its listing on a studio’s schedule. To most it seems more physically demanding and rigid than other yoga practices. And the truth is, well, it can be, but in reality Ashtanga yoga is the very foundation for all styles of hatha yoga. Based on a systematic series of asanas, or postures, the Ashtanga format and postures are the building blocks for the different yoga practices that each of us know and love.

K. Pattabhi Jois, padmasana

K. Pattabhi Jois in Padmasasa

Developed by the father of Hatha Yoga, T. Krishnamacharya in the early 20th century and popularized by his student, K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India, the practice was named for the eight-limbed (literally, ashta-anga) path outlined in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali in the second century CE. It is through this committed hatha yoga practice of Ashtanga Yoga that each limb can eventually blossom and unfold, leading to Self liberation.

What should you expect when you come to the mat for an Ashtanga practice? You will do the same exact postures every time, beginning with Sun Salutations A & B, then standing postures, then seated postures (if you’re doing the primary series. There are actually six series, with the last series including mind-blowing displays of what the human body may be capable of) and last are inversions and finishing postures. Sound boring? Well this practice is anything but that. Filled with numerous vinyasas, or flows, challenging binds, arm balances, hip openers, and most importantly an emphasis on pranayama and drishtis, or focal points, the practice can challenge your focus and commitment like no other practice.

While it’s definitely fun to notice how your body evolves as you do the same asanas at every practice, one can easily forget that we should not be fulfilled by the feats of body contortion and physical strength. The practice offers a myriad of postures from accessible to challenging, from the ones we love to the ones we aren’t too hot on. We cannot avoid running into ourselves—our frustrations, our elations, our falls, our accomplishments—and it takes a concentrated mind to not get caught up in the emotions that might accompany the development of your physical practice. Pattabhi Jois said it best: “It would be a shame to lose the precious jewel of liberation in the mud of ignorant body building.”

It’s hard to believe that Pattabhi Jois didn’t place any emphasis on the physical body when he, as a teacher, would not allow a student to advance beyond the posture that he/she was not able to get completely into. What does that mean? Basically, if you couldn’t quite meet the demands of a physical posture, that’s where your practice ended that day. Seems counterintuitive to the previously mentioned quote from the master, however, he wanted to emphasize that the limitations we inevitably encounter in our body are actually a mirror of the personal limitations and mental blocks that stop us from experiencing real freedom and personal contentment. As we move past these physical blocks through our practice the higher consciousness is revealed so we can eventually separate our ego from that being.

Studnets practice Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, India.

Studnets practice Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore, India.

To help keep our focus on our inner development and not the external, there is the deliberate incorporation of what student of Pattabhi Jois, David Swenson, calls “The Internal World,” which consists of breath, locks, flow and gaze, or prana, bandha, vinyasa and drishti, to guide us through this moving meditation. The sound of the breath is your mantra, the rhythm that keeps a single pointed focus for the mind. The locks and bandhas assimilate the prana or life force and help feed the subtle body and balance the gross nervous system. Flowing through the postures becomes a physical dance that connects our body with the music of the breath. And while the drishti connotes the fixation of our vision on an external point, it reaffirms our attention to the subtle or internal aspects of our practice.

As a rapidly increasing number of people are drawn to the practice of yoga, different styles will continue to emerge to meet the growing demands of the “yoga marketplace.” Although we can appreciate how accommodating this entire practice of yoga is, it’s comforting to know that the direct Krishnamacharya lineage will not be forgotten through the Ashtanga Yoga practice. Yes, the postures and the flow are mesmerizing and visually stimulating to a passer-by, but the progression of the mind and ultimately the spiritual path can be life-changing to the practitioner. Like the postures themselves, the deep benefit of this authentic yogic process may not reveal its extent all at once. It is through repetition, discipline, focus and compassion that all will be revealed.

We invite you to try out this sacred practice each Sunday morning at 8:00am & Thursday evenings at 5:45pm. Come explore the challenges of the body, but most importantly, the mind.

Krishnamacharya, Utthita Parsvakonasana

T. Krishnamacharya in Utthita Parsvakonasana

Ashtanga Opening Chant

om
vande gurunam charanaravinde
sandarsita svatmasukhava bodhe
nihsreyase jangalikayamane
samsara halahala mohasantyai
abahu purusakaram
sankhacakrasi dharinam
sahasra sirasam svetam
pranamami patanjalim
om

Translation

I bow to the lotus feet of the Gurus
The awakening happiness of one’s own Self revealed
Beyond better, acting like the Jungle physician
Pacifying delusion, the poison of Samsara
Taking the form of a man to the shoulders
Holding a conch, a discus, and a sword
One thousand heads white
To Pantanjali, I salute.

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