A perfect yoga break in the midst of the holiday season….
Saturday, Dec. 9th, 2:30-5:30pm
at our Midtown Studio
$35 to prereg/$40 day-of
During RESTorative yoga, periods of deliberate stillness create a safe space to explore letting go. Often the greatest challenge of this practice is allowing that stillness. Acknowledging that reality, RESTorative first uses gentle movement to help release excess energy and physical tension. Props such as blankets, bolsters and blocks are then used to create a cradle of support into which the body can let go. While in supported poses, engaging the mind with conscious breath work and guided relaxation encourages deep physical and emotional release. Through discussion and practice, we will explore what RESTorative is, why it’s beneficial and how to incorporate supported postures into your home or teaching practice. Workshop includes a 90-minute RESTorative class. No experience necessary, just a desire to find greater ease in the body/mind.
After many years of sporadic practice, Mel recommitted to yoga after moving to Saugerties in 2011 and discovering Shakti Yoga’s sanctuary classes. Two years later, she completed Shakti’s 200 hour teacher training and has been teaching yoga to students of all ages ever since. An educator since 1998, Mel has taught 4th grade, co-authored a strategy book for teachers and served as a tutor and Director of Education for several NY learning centers. Mel’s varied educational experiences have taught her to remain flexible in the face of teaching and learning challenges and receptive to new ways of sharing and receiving information.
Her classes focus on understanding the fundamentals of asana (poses) through the use of props (blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, bolsters) and movement exploration, while emphasizing the discovery of personal alignment, balance and relaxation. After many years of chronic injuries and pain related to scoliosis (curvature of the spine), Mel has found great relief through the practice of gentle and restorative poses and is passionate about incorporating both into her classes. By encouraging students to respect their physical limitations while exploring what’s possible, Mel aims to help each individual learn how to serve the unique needs of the body. She is forever grateful to her first yoga teacher, Jill Gnassi, whose expert Iyengar instruction taught her how attending to small details could make a huge difference in life.
The principles of the traditional practice of Ashtanga Yoga can bring a deeper sense of awareness and connection to your practice no matter what style of of yoga you practice. Join E-RYT and The Yoga House co-owner Jacqui Nash to learn about the systems of energies, breath and focus established in the Ashtanga lineage which help create a stronger practice, both physically and spiritually. We’ll dive into the incorporation of these elements to bring you into a fuller awareness of the self while practicing any style of yoga. We’ll also go over some sticking points in the Ashtanga practice in order to feel comfortable with where your body is in the asanas and to find your full potential every time you practice, whether it be Ashtanga or Vinyasa Yoga. All practitioners, new and experienced, welcome.
*3 Continuing Education credits earned for existing RYTs with the Yoga Alliance.
We’re excited to announce that beginning Monday, Oct. 3, The Yoga House will be hosting Monday Night Chant Sessions led by the studio co-owner, Jacqui Nash, at 8:15pm (after the 7pm House Flow class). Each week, we’ll explore the use of music and the vibration of our voices with traditional chants and mantras and the accompaniment of the harmonium as an extension of meditation and of connection to our practice. The sessions will be about 30 minutes, and attendance at the 7pm is not necessary. We hope that you will join us! These sessions are free of charge.
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.
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….
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!
Discover the meditation technique that suits your disposition
Learn the BRAIN SCIENCE behind meditation’s healing and
Its impact on your parasympathetic nervous system
How it restructures your brain
Its mechanism for quieting the egoic mind
Acquire concrete tools to start & maintain a regular HOME MEDITATION PRACTICE
Connect with accountability partners, if that is your desire
Journal to work through the obstacles that stand between you and meditation
Get answers to your questions about the why, how & how long…
Take home a log & worksheet to facilitate your personal practice
Hillary Hoffman Photography
Leigha Butler E-RYT, MA, is co-owner of The Yoga House in Kingston, NY where she co- directs a Yoga Alliance registered 200-hour teacher training program. She has studied Tantra-influenced meditation with Lorin Roche, PhD and the science of meditation and egolessness with Richard Miller, PhD. Her own practice borrows from many traditions including that of the eight-limbed yogic path and Zen Buddhism. She leads meditative movement workshops called “Consciousness in Flight.”