September Focus of the Month – Cultivating Calm in a Chaotic World

Cultivating Calm in a Chaotic World

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States today. It doesn’t take a diagnosis to feel the impact. Whether it’s your own occasional suffering or a loved one’s persistent condition, anxiety crops up everywhere — draining life of its color, leaving exhausted humans in its wake.

This month we bring you tools to address the anxiety in your life, taught by yogis for millennia. While not a replacement for therapy or medication, yoga offers its practitioners many resources to access calm and peace even when these feel far away.

Some of the many tools of yoga:

  • Breath awareness, or pranayama practices. Ranging from the simple to the adventurous, yoga’s breath practices offer a way to become grounded and embodied, pulling the practitioner out of head space and into body space.
    • This month your teachers will guide you through breath awareness and breath techniques.
  • Gaze points, or drishti. Yoga is very concerned with focusing the mind. Its underlying assumption is that each of us has the power to tame the mind as a charioteer might tame horses. Focusing the eyes on a single spot is just one way to reign in the mind and to bring it under conscious control.
    • Notice when your instructor suggests where you should gaze.
  • Movement, or asana. Not everyone feels relaxed or at ease when they sit down, for instance to meditate. Agitating thoughts, like memories and worries, can sometimes be more noisy when all is still. Physical movement provides a way to lull and vitalize the mind and body, bringing them into better connection, stimulating happiness hormones and elevating mood.
    • The hearty part of any yoga class, consider how breath, gaze, mind and body come into balance when you’re doing asana.
  • Meditation. Anxiety and related disorders can have the effect of tightening and constricting consciousness. Sometimes done prior to movement, sometimes done afterward, meditation has the power to give you access to a wider field of awareness, bringing stressful thoughts into perspective, calming the nervous system, and kicking on the restorative centers of the brain.
    • Even a single minute of meditation can have a powerful effect. Your teachers can point you to more opportunities to learn how to meditate, if that interests you.
  • Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep. Yoga nidra is a restorative practice wherein the instructor guides you into a rested waking state while your body is positioned comfortably. The usual brain centers get a break and the healing centers work their magic.
    • TYH teacher Susan DeRyder and her partner Shawn are offering Asana and Sound Healing with yoga nidra this month, Friday, Sept. 28th, 7:30-9:30pm.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and yoga’s true impact comes when it is practiced regularly and over the long term as a lifestyle. Tune in to your teachers’ suggestions all month long. Balanced, peaceful, calm and joyful people are especially needed right now, and all the work you do to embody these qualities has a ripple effect “out there.”

Thanks for your commitment to the practice. See you on the mat <3.

 

In gratitude and service,

 

Leigha & Jacquelyn

August Focus – The 4 Aspects of Mind

Where Is My Mind?

Yogis have long sought to understand the cause of human suffering. As in many spiritual traditions, the aim has been to minimize suffering and maximize fulfillment. At the core of most needless suffering, argues this lineage, are habits of the mind, which, when left unexamined and untrained, can leave us in a state of lack, isolation, and anxiety.

The upshot is that each of us can learn which aspects of the mind tend to cause our superfluous pain. Armed with this information, we can stop painful thought habits in their tracks.

The mind, in Patanjalian terms, is comprised of four basic components:

Chitta, the storehouse of memories;
Manas, sensory processing;
Buddhi, discernment; and
Ahamkara, the notion of “I.”

The categories may appear to simplify what goes on in the ol’ noggin, but upon closer examination they’re pretty darn comprehensive. What follows is just a taste and, truthfully, an oversimplification.

So Where Do you Get Stuck?

Chitta
If you tend to get caught in chitta, you may have a habit of recalling the past and dwelling there a bit more than feels good. Do you play your own embarrassing moments on the screen of your mind? Do you tend to ruminate about past hurts to the detriment of your enjoyment now? A certain amount of this is unavoidable and even necessary, but catch yourself if these habits lead you to any shade of misery.

Or, you may spend your mental resources envisioning and perhaps worrying about future events. This is another way chitta strikes, most often subconsciously. Again, we need a little bit of prior planning to function at our best, but watch out when your time spent in the imagined future eclipses your time spent in the eternal now.

Manas
Manas, or the lower mind, is that which keeps us bound to sensory experience. On the positive (and essential) side, it facilitates our interaction with the world around us and puts us in touch with our senses. It processes information coming through the visual and other sensory centers, helping us to understand the environment and our relationship to it.

At its worst, it binds us to passing whims and gruff desires as though the cerebral cortex weren’t a thing. It’s what guides a guilty dog. Akin to the Freudian Id, “Me see x. Me like x,” might be its reductionist essence. To keep manas in its rightful position, we develop the layer of awareness that deciphers incoming stimuli with any eye toward consequences — that’s buddhi.

Buddhi
Buddhi is thought to be the most sattvic (or pure) aspect of mind. It’s our ability to discern and decipher, helping us for instance to understand the difference between a painful option and a desirable one. But when buddhi has led you down a path of suffering, it often looks like “analysis paralysis.” Have you ever caught yourself considering something — anything! a person, a situation, a decision — from a thousand and one angles? What begins as enjoyable consideration becomes a quagmire of speculation, indecision and prolonged over-analysis.

If you’re an over-analyzer, or if judgment and criticism tend to be your oft-tread avenues for emotional affliction, hey, the first step is admitting it! Rather than be ruled by your mind, yoga teaches that you can bring your mind into balance with focused practice (Hello, gaze points, breath work, asana, self study, and meditation).

Ahamkara
Finally, ahamkara, or ego, is that which holds us in a perpetual state of “I-ness” and therefore, too easily, isolation and alienation. Although totally necessary for healthy functioning, ahamkara is the self-same aspect of mind that will tell you things like: I am better than he is. Or, I don’t measure up to her because. Or, I deserve this more than they do because. I was slighted the other day when—. I feel insulted because.

Ahamkara’s most clever work is its subtlest. It doesn’t always show up as a pompous, egregious, “me, me, me” sort of state. It’s more likely to operate just underneath conscious awareness, offering little subliminal messages that tear you down or build you up but ultimately keep you from feeling connected to and at one with the life forms who make up your earthly family.

May this model of the mind-field help you to catch yourself in unnecessary suffering, and may your time on the mat shed light on what it feels like to tend to a mindscape in harmony and at peace.

In gratitude & service,

Leigha & Jacquelyn

October Focus – Building Partnerships: An Inquiry into Ego

Building Partnerships:
An Inquiry into Ego

 

 

We knew when we opened the studio that we were signing ourselves up to meet a lot of people, and we have to admit, we didn’t give this aspect of the enterprise a ton of thought. We figured we would meet many nice people, many hardworking people, perhaps (just the universe’s way of keeping things interesting…) a rare ornery sort. But on the whole we expected to be interacting with mostly warm, well-meaning fellow humans. The matter took up very little brain space, and we had no way of anticipating the substance, nuance, reality, and boon, of participating in so many relationships over the years.

It’s difficult not to use superlative language when we consider how many people have simply floored us by their level of commitment to service work or by the creativity and accomplishments they’re often keeping secret. Obviously you don’t have to be harboring some surreptitious superpower to be an amazing person, but so many of you are dedicating your lives to life-affirming projects that we want to say a few words about it.

Here’s a quick portrait of the sort of lives converging in the yoga rooms on Broadway and Crown Street:

  • Craftspeople and artists who are seriously — like, intimidatingly — good at what they do: digital designers, muralists, sculptors, clothing-makers, interactive space builders, writers, filmmakers, and photographers — just to get started.
  • Leaders running mission-driven, non-profit organizations dedicated to serving the underserved in the U.S. and in developing countries.
  • Unsung parents and single parents running the show for their children at the same time that they maintain a career and a personal practice.
  • Angel-style selfless servants who perform (often anonymously) time-consuming, labor-intensive acts of succor, requesting exactly nothing in return.
  • Activists and involved citizens expending heroic personal resources to organize and raise awareness in various spheres.
Clearly, we could go on. But our aim is not to celebrate individual accomplishments. We want to point out that each of us has an opportunity to join collaborative arms with the many competent, incredible people in our midst. And doing so has more to do with the yoga practice than meets the eye.
If you are at all interested in inquiring into the workings of ego (in Sanskrit it’s ahamkara, the notorious “I-maker”), there is perhaps no better way than to work closely with another person. Wow oh wow, does such a partnership reflect back in crystal clarity our blind spots. If we are willing to see our defensiveness, our conceit, our excuses, our self-defeating tendencies, our inner bully or inner victim presented before us on a platter to confront — we’ll want to partner up.

 

Working with someone on a project that demands our functioning at full capacity is like being put through emotional maturity boot camp. If you see a chance to do it, seize it! And then do two more things, quickly:
  1. Establish a gratitude practice that speaks louder than any interpersonal griping;
  2. Understand and embrace the precept that most of the disappointments, criticisms, or irritations you have involving the other party are actually an invaluable schooling in your own unexamined (let’s call it…) stuff.

krishnamurti

 

The payoffs: Uniting consciousness with someone else’s to become a more expansive locus of awareness. Removing the layers of personhood that have kept us in separation and delusion, moving closer to citta vrtti nirodhah, a lucid head, open and untied to disturbances. Perceiving how our very energy impacts other beings. Discerning which energies facilitate our joy and growth and which to keep at arm’s length. Knowing when our own energy body needs a little caressing before it’s presented to others. Developing self trust and sturdy confidence as we understand our strengths and gifts. Grounding ourselves in the reality beyond our own container. Recognizing ourselves as a vital piece of the cosmic unity.

 

There is so much inner seeing to be had by, as a friend says, “bouncing our molecules off of other people.” And there is so much light to be spread when brilliant minds with genuine hearts plug into one another.
‘Cause we can work around the clock by ourselves, but when we link our efforts to someone else’s, the results really are greater than the sum of their parts. It’s been a gift to collaborate on partner projects with so many of you, and we are optimistic when we consider the many fruitful shifts that can take place when we are co-creating a future.With love,Leigha & Jacqui

 

Yin Yoga Intensive Training — May 19-21 — with Bobbie Marchand — For Teachers & Students

Yin Yoga Intensive Weekend

With Bobbie Marchand

One Weekend, May 19-21

Friday, 7:00-9:30pm; Saturday & Sunday, 11:30-4:30pm

Held at the Midtown location, 474 Broadway Ave., Kingston

 

Come explore the depths of Yin Yoga and the philosophy behind teaching this practice with Bobbie Marchand of Prema Yoga in Brooklyn, NY. This course will meet the guidelines for a 30-hour Yin Certification for Continuing Education with the Yoga Alliance. The Yin training is open to both teachers who want to add this to their set of teaching skills and to those students who want to deepen their knowledge of the Yin practice.

In this training student will explore:

  • a deeper place of connection and understanding of your own practice (that’s where your teaching voice comes from)
  • Yin Yoga history & philosophy
  • Connective Tissue: the star of the show in this method and how is relates to the physical, mental/emotional and subtle bodies
  • how to set the ‘mood’ of the practice; evoking and maintaining the space of quiet, thoughtful attention
  • Support: the appropriate use of props, touch and language
For those interested in teaching, a separate, final teaching examination will be scheduled.
Outside practice and study time is strongly encouraged.

 

2017 Training Dates & Times:

Weekend 1–May 18-21
Friday, 7-9:30pm; Saturday 11:30-4:30pm, Sunday 11:30-4:30 pm

 

Required Text:

The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga: The Philosophy and Practice of Yin Yoga, Bernie Clark. 2012.

Tuition:

Tuition is $300 or $275 for graduates of The Yoga House’s 200-hour Yoga teacher Training programs. A non-refundable $75 deposit is due by May 5th, 2017, to secure a place in the intensive. The remaining balance is due the first night of the weekend (May 19, 2017). Payment plans available for additional fee. Tuition does not include the required text.

Yin Weekend Intensive




bobbie marchandBobbie Marchand, in pursuing her love of dance, moved from her native Toronto to NY in 2005. Though the transition of dancer to yoga teacher is a common one, it was an illness that tuned her in to the power of a daily, dedicated practice. Bobbie’s Vinyasa classes are creative, challenging and fun. Drawing on her dance background, the sequencing is expressive and fluid while encouraging alignment (and a healthy use of props!). Her yin/stretch/restorative classes are an invitation to pause, yield to the sense of support, turn inward and take the practice to a quiet, nourishing place away from the external stress of our busy lives. Endless gratitude to teachers Diana Lockett, Amanda Harding and Raghunath for their encouragement, support and loving guidance on this incredible journey.

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May Focus: Meditation & The Last Three Limbs of Yoga

May Focus of the Month

Meditation & The Last Three Limbs

meditation focus the yoga house kingston new york yoga hudson valley

The first yogis aimed to solve a problem that still pervades today. It’s called the “monkey mind,” and it refers to the ever-firing, overly anxious human brainscape that has added a layer of frazzle and fret to our already-fraught condition. A complete yoga practice is designed to give us enough clarity to see our experiences for what they are rather than through the carnival mirror-style distortion of emotionally reactive, memory-attached consciousness. If you were to crack open the Yoga Sutras, you would not have to get very far to see how important a meditation practice is as part of the yogi’s journey. Sutra #1 says, essentially, “Following are the teachings of yoga….” Sutra #2 goes on to say, “The purpose of yoga is to still our thoughts. If you master this sutra, you need not read on to the rest.”

Meditation occupies some significant territory on yoga’s eight-limbed ladder, taking up three of the last three rungs on the climb toward enlightenment. The breakdown is fascinating:

Dharana, the 6th limb, has to do with concentration. The suggestion is to fix your mind upon an object until you become so absorbed that there is little room for the mind to do much needless worrying or past/future travel as it is wont to do. A funny fable tells us of an acolyte meditator who once shut his door and fixed his mind upon a bull until he barreled out of the room with horns and hooves himself. The take-home is twofold: Be as focused as this acolyte, but be wary of where you place your attention.

From the recommendation to concentrate upon a single object spring many forms of modern-day meditation: from mantra and japam meditation, or repetition of a significant sound; to guided visualizations; to the use of a talisman; to the use of a drishti, or focal point; to the tuning in to a single sense, such as hearing or touch; to the holding in mind of a spiritual figure. Dharana is an essential practice that prepares the mind for deeper states of contemplation.

Dhyana, yoga’s 7th limb, comes closer to the definition of meditation as we think of it, the suggestion being to sustain concentration for a prolonged period of time, fixing the mind upon a single object while quelling the tendency to name, categorize, judge, or assign value to that which is in focus. To sit in this style of meditation is to see reality with perfect clarity, leading to an awareness unstained by the ego’s preferences or priorities. Eventually, the yogi’s subject becomes the Self that dwells within the self, and he/she abides in sacred, nondual reality.

Eight Limbs of Yoga

When the mind succeeds in accurately reflecting reality, the yogi perceives her true nature in which self and other are unified. To sustain this clarity of consciousness is to live in Samadhi, or liberation, the 8th limb. A meditation practice helps us to collect more and more moments of pure awareness so that we may finally reside around the clock in “bliss that defies description.” Those who have experienced samadhi describe it as a coming home or as an experience of sweetness and peace that cannot be conveyed in words. Paramahansa Yogananda offers as vivid an account of samadhi as is available, describing it over the course of many paragraphs in Autobiography of a Yogi:

Soul and mind instantly lost their physical bondage and streamed out like a fluid light from my every pore…  My sense of identity was no longer narrowly confined to a body but embraced the circumambient atoms…My ordinary frontal vision was now changed to a vast spherical sight, simultaneously all-perceptive… An oceanic joy broke upon calm endless shores of my soul. The entire cosmos, gently luminous, like a city seen afar at night, glimmered within the infinitude of my being….

Brain & Meditation

Excitingly, scientists have discovered that meditation really does help keep ego in check, increase empathy, and provide mental clarity, affirming the claims yogis have been making for millennia. Neuroscientists have identified the portions of the brain responsible for emotional reactivity, autobiographical memory (or ego) creation, self/other distinctions, present-centered attention, and time/space awareness. Interestingly, these locations in the brain become markedly restful during deep states of meditation, and a regular meditation practice increases gray matter in many of these regions, helping us to function optimally even when the meditation session has concluded.

Although we often begin and end class with a brief meditation, we will place special emphasis this May on listening to the silence beneath the sound and to heeding the call of highest consciousness. We look forward to sharing these sweet moments on the mat!

In peace,

 

Leigha & Jacqui