Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yoga Nidra Chakra Evolution


While I was in NYC, along with reuniting with beautiful friends, and taking class with my beloved teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra....I also had the chance to teach a Chakra Workshop at Yoga Nidra Studio.  Yoga Nidra Studio is an amazing space that is owned an operated by a student of mine, Stephanie Gianetti.  This place is a labor of love, and she has inspired so many people to the practice of yoga.  The space itself is beautiful, and the positive energy of the people who take regular classes is infectious.  I am so grateful to have been part of Stephanie's journey as a teacher, to witness her transformation during teacher training, and to call her friend.  Regardless of if people take Yoga Teacher Training and use it to open a studio, deepen their practice, or go on to teach at all, it is always amazing to see how the torch gets passed and inspires many others.  Stephanie has so much love in her heart, sprinkled with a dash of a quick wit, so it is no surprise how students are drawn to her center. 
Chakra Evolution @Yoga Nidra... Group Pic

This for me was a Karma Yoga experience, a chance to give back, and the beautiful part was that the entire group of participants also gave back because proceeds went to a local school (The William O'Conner School) that helps provides programs for kids with special needs, specifically autism.

Another big surprise of the day was my lovely friend, and fellow yoga sista Carissa came.  Carissa had already surprised me with one of the most beautiful mala's ever, that she created from her own heart and hands!!  The irony was, during my Yoga Teacher Training, I was silently thinking how it would be beautiful to see Carissa again.  That same day, she came in for Master Class!!!  Also, silently I wishing for an amethyst mala.  There were none for sale at Dharma's and one day I ventured with a friend to a local crystal shop, but they did not have any either.  Carissa never knew that I had a quiet hope to do Japa mala meditation on an amethyst mala, but I guess on a subconscious, cosmic level,....she did.  Thank you Universe, and thank you Carissa.  Another example of how powerful our thoughts are.  I am hoping soon Carissa will be showcasing her creations, so many others can have a crystal japa mala experience. 
Beautiful Mala made by my beautiful friend Carissa

The ladies began to line in the studio, laying out their mats.  I like to learn people's names and very soon, I realized the front row had doubles of the same name.  We laughed as one person suggested all the Kathy's and Maria's put their mats in the same line.  As the room began to fill with more eager bodies, and the aromatic fragrance of Panchavatti dhoop insence was softly spreading in the room, we began.  After Stephanie introduced me as one of her biggest influences, I was quick to say "Not sure if that is good or bad" and the laughter that erupted was so joyful, I knew this was going to be a fun afternoon.  Carissa also got a beautiful shout out, as she was another primary influence on Stephanie's early practice as well. 
More Highlights from a beautiful workshop @ Yoga Nidra
The sound of Aummmmm commenced our Yoga journey, and soon we began with chanting, and I was so touched by how joyfully people shared in the singing!  It was awesome.  While we did our chants to Ganesh, the meaning of surrendering fears and obstacles takes priority in every chant.  With the concept of an offering, we progressed with pranayama, yoga asana, bija mantra for the chakras, and concluded with a short Yoga Nidra.  At the very end, we added in one Kundalini type of Kriya for awakening the chakras.  It was a beautiful afternoon for our subtle body.  Special thanks to all the lovely ladies who shared in this Sangha, to Stephanie for inviting me, to Carissa for that beautiful mala and sharing your awesome energy in the space, and to Anthony for capturing such lovely photos of our day.  For those of you in NYC looking for a beautiful place to deepen your yoga practice, take the D Train to Dyker Heights and lay your mat in Yoga Nidra for class, your mind-body-spirit will thank you!  Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Sri Dharma Mittra path to Self-Realization

Many years ago I found a brilliant teacher named Sri Dharma Mittra while I lived in NYC.  He taught a Yoga Class that had the authentic spiritual roots that I never seemed to find in any other Yoga Center in the western world.  It was a complete 8 Limb practice, and went beyond the common physical exercises that many would teach as yoga.  As an Indian, I appreciated the authenticity, the wisdom, and I had so many spiritual awakening experiences while in his class.  While I loved taking the Master Class, I also found myself taking Gentle Level Yoga, and Level 1 classes, because I just loved being in the East Side location, surrounded by loving pictures of Spiritual Masters, and around the energy of Sri Dharma Mittra.

Over time, I wanted to take the Dharma Mittra LOAY Yoga Teacher Training Course.  I saved up money to enroll, submit my application, and paid my deposit, but wound up cancelling.  At the time I broke my toe, and a studio where I taught asked that I lead my 200Hr Yoga Teacher Training Course there.  I figured there would be another time for it to happen for me.   In my Riya Yoga Course, (previously called Zoga Yoga), it is a requirement for students to attend Master Class with Sri Dharma Mittra, and I still request this of all students.

I left NYC to embark on traveling the globe and teaching Yoga, Ayurveda, Reiki and Yoga Teacher Trainings, as well as getting certified in Ashtanga Yoga while in India.  It has been an amazing experience, and somehow I missed taking class with Sri Dharma.  He has an incredible way of bringing spirituality into yoga asana classes that would often remind me of my beloved departed mother, who was my first guru.  I had the Maha Sadhana DVD, and on occasion would practice with it, but it was not really the same.  This year after completing my P.h.D. in Alternative Medicine with the focus on Yoga and Ayurveda, I knew I wanted to enroll in another Yoga Course either in India or with Sri Dharma Mittra.  While I love to teach, and share yoga with people, I also love to be a student to the practice itself.  Just as I was considering enrolling in the LOAY program, I traveled to Europe to teach yoga and wound up breaking my toe AGAIN. Same toe, different spot.

"When we understand the laws of Karma, we will see that everything is perfect" ~ Sri Dharma Mittra


I was grateful to only have broken my toe, considering a fell down a flight of stairs, it could have been much worse, but it discouraged me from enrolling in the course.  The healing process was slower, pain was more intense and my yoga practice was on the back burner, while the Belgium chocolates inspired a more cuddle worthy body frame.  When I conjured up the courage to get back on the yoga mat, I decided to enroll in the LOAY course.  I was a late entrant, but I was accepted into the program.  I knew the physical asana would be a challenge and modifications would be necessary.  Since I have nearly broken or fractured every bone in my body, I am accustomed to modifications, and my asana practice is always a moving prayer, which is always encouraged by Sri Dharma Mittra as he often quotes from the Bhagavad Gita and reminds us to make our practice an offering.

"Fix your mind and intelligence on Me alone and ultimately you will come to Me. Of this there is no doubt." ~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12: 8

From September 7-14, I was immersed in the first module of the "Life of a Yogi" experience with 67 other Sadhakas under the guidance of Sri Dharma Mittra and brilliant mentors.  We had beautiful long days with asana classes, pranyama, dhyana, spiritual discourse, anatomy, and practice teaching sessions.  We were drenched in sweat and wrapped in bliss.  We were asked to embrace Mouna (Yogic Silence) during the training, which is something I also require of students who study with me, so I was happy to oblige as best I could.  It is amazing how much inner healing one can find in silence.  Despite choosing to be quiet, the energy of love and unity was resounding in the hearts, eyes, and smiles of my fellow yogis.

With my toe still bandaged, only recently gaining minor mobility, and a cervical spine injury that challenges my inversion practice, I was so grateful to be in the Dharma Mittra center once again.  I was home.  I released all expectations in terms of my asana practice and felt an incredible wave of gratitude.  I would lay my yoga mat in the same corner every day, with Sri Dharma and Hanuman's image on one side, and Lord Shiva on the other.

I decided to go the route of fasting for the week of training, and because the daily asana classes are challenging, I allowed myself to have water, coconut water and an apple during the day.  On 2 occasions I added a vegan health bar to my day, but I wanted to do fasting during the day as much as possible.  One night I was missing the comforting tastes of Indian cuisine, so I opted for a Palak Channa Roti (Spinach and Chick Pea), which somehow was not prepared so well and led to food poisoning the next day.  Nothing beats fever, abdominal pain, and running to the bathroom frequently while immersed in multiple intense asana classes during the day.  This truly was purification.  Every day, my heart was brimming with even more gratitude than I thought possible.

Daily spiritual discourse and Master Class with Sri Dharma Mittra, beautiful Kirtan led by Adam Frei and other Dharma yogis, Anatomy with the beautiful Jessica Crow, and daily pranyama and asana classes under the guidance of Yoshio Hama (Active Meditation), Mark Kan, Andrew Jones,  Kim Jeblick, and Lori Bebber, we were all feeling incredibly blessed with every breath during this week.  We also had a beautiful inversion workshop with Yoshio.
During the week, we spent time in small groups where we had the chance to practice teaching under the guidance of our mentor.   I am very grateful for my mentor, Benjamin Smielowitz and group members that made this first week an incredible experience.  We all learned from each other.

I am not sure what I did in a past life to have been so lucky to learn from Sri Dharma Mittra, but I am overflowing with gratitude.



अथ योगानुशासनम् ॥१॥
atha yoga-anuśāsanam ||1||
Yoga in the here and now: an introduction to the study and practice of yoga ||1|| 

With the first module complete, NOW the Life Of a Yogi path to self-realization begins, as we are required to abide by a Sattvic Diet, daily self practice of asana, meditation, pranayama, required reading and journaling.  We reunite in November, when we will be so fortunate to have a workshop/performance with Kirtan Guru, Krishna Das.  For those interested in deepening their yoga practice or enrolling in a Yoga Teacher Training, the one to learn with is no one other than Sri Dharma Mittra.  


Yoga and Hypnosis

While most of my studies in health and wellness revolve around Yoga and Ayurveda, I have always embraced other teachings of great teachers to see how they can better improve the journey to self realization.  Many modern day teachers like Dr. Emoto and his teachings on thought vibration (Dharana), Louise Hay with her concept of Affirmations (Auto Suggestion/Mantra), and many others have inspired me.  On my path of exploring health and wellness I have also found inspiration in the teachings of Erikson and Ormond McGill (Hypnosis), Richard Bandler (NLP), Maxwell Marltz (Psycho-Cybernetics).  I have found the common link to the modern teachings of hypnosis and affirmation can be easily linked to ancient yogic practices of Pratyhara, Dharana and Dhyana, Yoga Nidra, and Mantra.  Hypnosis has similarities with guided meditation.  For those who associate yoga with only the asana practice (physical exercises), please be informed that it is an 8 Limb practice designed to calm the mental fluctuations of the yoga aspirant.

While many people are skeptical about hypnosis, or associate it with "stage hypnosis", the reality is we are bombarded by hypnotic suggestions in all forms of media on a daily basis.  Hypnosis only works if the participant is willing, and it has been proven the more intelligent the subject is, the easier they are to go into trance state.  Hypnosis involves an induction that puts a person in a more relaxed state, which is when the participant is in a heightened state of suggestibility.  The participant is in full control at all times and can then use the suggestions given by the hypnotist to break through patterns of behavior and improve areas of their life. 

After reading some works by Ormond McGill, I was intrigued about hypnosis even further.  Ormond McGill has written accounts of his travels to India where he learned guided meditation, and incredible mind taming exercises taught by Yogis, and Fakirs.  It correlated to my research in the power of the mind over the body, and I have utilized self hypnosis, affirmation, and meditation in my own journey successfully, so I wanted to gain more insight and guidance with a professional.  I have already witnessed incredible yogis in deep states of meditation, how they can perform incredible tasks, and overcome the mental fluctuations with practice.  Like every synchronicity, a friend found Jo-Anne Eadie of Power of Freedom for me.  I had a session with her that was incredibly transformational.

As positive and optimistic as I am, I am a human being who has been through my own situations, and found freedom with yoga, meditation, and forgiveness.  I could honestly say that Hypnosis was like a deep prayer and instant liberation bath for me, in a shorter time frame.  It allows you to tap into your sub conscious mind, the mind chatter that is usually talking more than we are aware.  Jo-Anne invited me to be a guest speaker at her Dowsing event, and it was a beautiful chance to share yogic concepts for calming the mind and inner peace.  The same friend who suggested Jo-Anne to me later decided to have a session with Jo-Anne Eadie and Heather Masters, which like my experience was successful. This inspired me to enroll in her course this summer.  I am grateful to have more tools to help people on their path to mind-body-spirit health and wellness.

We explored hypnosis, learned how to put people into trance state, and became certified hypnotists with the NGH (National Hypnosis Guild).  I am so grateful for these two ladies (Jo-Anne Eadie and Heather Masters) for their compassionate style of teaching.  I shared this experience with three other beautiful ladies, and together we practiced on each other, and observed incredible sessions of willing participants.  We also explored EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) which is basically tapping on meridian lines while saying affirmations.  The last week of August I was unable to bend the toe I had broken, and I was very discouraged, but we did EFT and within minutes I was able to bend it for the first time.

Joanne had invited me to be a guest speaker for the Canadian National Hypnosis Conference (CHC), which takes place on October 24th, 25th and 26th.  Incredible teachers will be presenting and sharing liberating techniques for people who are looking to improve their life.  I will be teaching a class on healing with breath (pranayama), and also daily yoga classes.  Since I am a guest speaker for the conference, during the week I was interviewed on Jo-Anne and Heather's online radio show WOW FACTOR - Wizards of Wellness.

While I would recommend a person to approach life with a daily yoga asana practice and a sattvic diet, often times each individual has their own "conditions" or personal challenges, that interfere with that, which makes hypnosis an incredible option.

One of the programs I learned was the famous Virtual Gastric Band, by Sheila Granger.  This program is a four session program.  One gentleman that came in lost 5 lbs in the first week alone.  The best part is the freedom the person obtains when they establish new and healthier habits.  Aside from this, stress and smoking were two other areas we explored. 

Since completing this course, I have practiced on a number of people only to witness how their subconscious mind has created successful changes in their life with the help of hypnosis. 

For those interested in attending the Canadian Hypnosis Conference or listening to the radio interview I did, please click on the highlighted links above.  Be sure to bring your yoga mat and share in some beautiful morning yoga and meditation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yoga, Reiki and more in Europe

This summer has been a whirlwind of events, experiences and adventure.  I am always grateful for every experience, encounter and learning/teaching opportunity.  I had the honor to travel to Belgium to assist in Yoga & Ayurveda Workshops & Thai Yoga Massage with a brilliant teacher from India, Ram.  Sharing the power of this ancient practice, and guiding people to methods of incorporating it into their daily routine is a beautiful experience.  Belgium was a beautiful country with incredibly kind souls.  I quickly realized how amazing the taste of Belgium chocolate truly is!  While in teaching yoga in Belgium, I was given the chance to teach a Karma Yoga class for a beautiful cause at Sampoorna Yoga.  Thank you to Sampoorna Yoga in Brussels, and all the yogis who participated.


Sun Salutations - Bringing balance to all Ayurvedic Constitutions
While in Belgium I had the beautiful news that my P.h.D. in Alternative Medicine was approved and recognized by the University in Calcutta, and the Indian Government.  I had been secretly working on this project for quite some time, and so grateful for the chance.  This was a culmination of my research in the power of Yoga & Ayurveda, how the achievement of yogic stillness relates to total mind, body health.  When people truly embrace yoga as more that an exercise for the body, and understand the physical tension we hold is a representation/manifestation of our mental fluctuations, karmic imprints, and emotions that are stored,  that are calmed with the help of physical practice and embracing the 8 Limbs of Yoga. 
While this amazing news was so awesome to hear, I had to miss the beautiful convocation in Calcutta, because I broke my toe.  This was the 2nd time breaking my toe, but this time the pain was a bit more intense.  This injury was a beautiful lesson in patience and stillness.  I kept my grateful heart as my travels brought me to Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Paris.


"Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever." Mahatma Gandhi

After touring around the various parts of europe, the summer brought me back to Belgium and was capped off with a beautiful group of ladies who embarked on Reiki Level 1 Course with me.  This course was beautiful and so powerful. I have to share my gratitude to the teacher who guided my journey, Mary Henry of Mukti Healing, she guided me to the Reiki Master Level, and taught me Crystal Healing.  Every time I teach Reiki Courses, I am filled with gratitude to every teacher who guided me on the path of reiki, especially Mary.  For anyone in or around Ireland who wants to experience Reiki, Crystal and Angel Healing, and Singing Bowls, please click on the Mukti Healing Link above, you will be so pleased.


Congratulations these beautiful ladies, Piret, Saskia, Eva and Katariina, who embarked on Reiki Level 1, and continue to grow in their gifts and reiki practice daily.  Thank you Katariina for taking the time and effort to organize this course.  Your kindness and hospitality are much appreciated.  Thank you ladies for inviting me to be your guide in the process, keep shinning! For those who don't know, reiki is transfer of energy, a non invasive healing touch of peace modality.  To watch this group of beautiful ladies experience how powerful this practice is, to embrace their own power, and grow in self worth was an awesome experience to be part of.  Truly, every human being is born with the innate ability of healing, because we are made from the essence of love.
Congratulations Piret, Saskia, Eva and Katariina.
There are powerful modalities that teach people to go deeper into their own intuitive gifts that are beautiful tools for everyone, like yoga, reiki, crystal healing, pranic healing, qui gong, thai massage etc.  I myself practiced reiki for years, and loved the benefits of it, and loved how many people shared positive feedback.  Now more and more allopathic medical professionals are embracing holistic medicinal methods like yoga, meditation & reiki, as they have seen the benefits it brings to patients.  While I cared for my beloved aunty who passed away, often I would use Reiki on her to help her sleep, and it worked. 
Exploring Brussels, dining with fellow teacher, Ram, and enjoying Chocolate


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

ॐ Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra ॐ

Happy 75th Birthday Sri Dharma Mittra


I am filled with gratitude for this teacher.  When I lived in NYC, away from home, I found a home for my mind, body and spirit on my yoga mat in the Dharma Yoga Center.  When it was Dharma Yoga East, and I was recovering from an injured ankle amidst a sea of the most inspirational advanced yoga practitioners, Sri Dharma came over and gently adjusted me into full pigeon, and it felt amazing.  He was quick to remind me and the group, we can do more than we think.  Another memory was when a fellow yogi invited me to attend class, and we did Vasisthasana (Side Plank) into Chakrasana (wheel pose), and then back to Vasisthasana, again into Chakrasana (wheel pose), flip over and over and over and over and over and over again, It was bliss.  I stopped at one point, looked at Andrew with an expression "is this for real?", Sri Dharma charmingly reminded the entire group that he never said to stop.  Dharma encourages students to make the asana an offering, so the yoga classes leave your body drenched in blissful sweat, and your mind and heart grateful for the chance to explore closing meditations.  

I personally have a tendency to practice in the back of class, but Sri Dharma sees everything. 
One time in practice at Dharma Yoga West, the room was packed, I had my eyes closed, and on the "second time is the best" as he calls it for Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), I looked up and saw Sri Dharma Mittra, he somehow jumped off the platform, and like a yoga ninja made his way over to me.  He guided me to place one hand on the ground, change the position of my other arm, and he gently put his hands on me like a potter does to clay, adjusting me into full bow pose.  I LOVED IT!  I never realized I could do that pose, and never bothered to try.  Then he read my mind (something I am convinced he does), and joyfully said "I bet you are wondering how to get out of the pose".  My brain freeze and inability to conjure a poker face was evident, I laughed and nodded, while ironically still in the pose, and he simply told me to let go one hand at a time.  Classes with Sri Dharma feed the soul, and that is why I have encouraged my students all over the world to take his class.  When I was in NY, on many occasions I would go with my friends and students to participate in the classes.  Many people feel intimidated to take class, because they feel they are not at a certain level, but once we lose the judgement, expectation, comparison, and just surrender to our breath, it becomes an awesome experience.


There was a time I was leading my 200Hr Riya Yoga Teacher Training Course (which was then called Zoga Yoga) and while I had some unexpected personal financial stress, at the time I was also recently in a car accident.  I knew my heart and body needed some Dharma time, but I knew I would not be able to do everything.  I got over my ego and went anyways.  The platform or stage was on the right side of the Dharma Yoga West room, and the temple was full, so I placed my mat on the wall at the furthest end.  I was basically in my own row.  My neck and upper back was in extreme pain, but I surrendered to my breath, modified where needed, and let my practice be an offering.  The sun salutations, the breathing, the collective consciousness of the room made me lose awareness of any pain in my neck.  We came to headstand time, and I knew I could not do it.  I decided to go into childs pose and shed a few silent tears.  While I figured I was invisible in a sea of headstanding yogis who were all facing me in my childs pose.  Sri Dharma again like a yoga ninja, jumped off the stage and came right to me and said "you hurt your neck".....I thought how does he always know this stuff?  he then asked what happened and suggested I do shoulder stand, at least I will be inverted, I did and it actually helped the healing process in profound ways. 


 
Dharma Yoga Center is a place where yogis gather to transform their hearts with the power of yoga asana, and the wisdom of a brilliant teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra.  For me it was the only place in New York that allowed me to deepen my physical practice and spiritual practice as one experience.  This teacher embodies his practice in so many ways.  He joyfully challenges you to pursue your practice with "angry determination" and ignites excitement when approaching Surya Namaskar "Follow me now, and don't get late!", he reminds you to "be receptive" to the grace of God that dwells within your heart, he encourages you to improve your health “If you eat dead, toasted, fried or frozen food, you will feel dead, toasted, fried and frozen” and guides yogis to honor the Yamas and Niyamas “With the Ethical Rules and a little concentration, anything is possible”.  He is the teacher who guides us on our path of self-realization with encouragement "Develop a strong desire for liberation" and wisdom, "when you are quiet, you see everything with love".  My favorite quote from Sri Dharma Mittra is "Second time is the best, third time is the best....etc"  after we complete holding a physically challenging asana for what seems like an eternity of breaths.  While living in NYC, I made a point to offer my Karma Yoga at the Missionaries of Charity in the Bronx for years, and if you are in NYC, I encourage you to reach out and help the sisters as they provide meals to the homeless.  When I realized I was leaving NYC, I made a point to do some Karma Yoga at Dharma Yoga Centre, and I feel blessed for the experience to give back to the person who inspired my yoga practice in so many ways.

 
There is so much this amazing teacher has done for the yoga community.   I am inspired by his humble dedication to yoga, I am grateful that he has been my teacher, I am grateful for every life changing class I have taken, I am honored to learn from him.  Thank you Dharma ji for an incredible 75years of life, and for shinning light to yogis everywhere.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Chakras with Yogi Vishvketu

While I was in India I was exploring the possibility to spend time in Rishikesh.  One of the Yoga Ashrams that caught my attention was run by Yogi Vishvketu.  Unfortunately, I became sick and was unable to add Rishikesh to my list of adventures.  Fortunately, Yogi Vishvketu teaches half the year in Rishikesh at his centre and the other half in Canada with his beautiful family, so I was able to participate in his Chakra Workshop this weekend at the lovely Jaya Yoga Centre.  While I have taught chakra workshops many times, I also love to be a student and take class, and kundalini based exercises is something I do not always do, so I wanted to take myself out of the comfort zone.  The workshop is part of a beautiful series, and this particular afternoon we focused on the Swadhistana (Sacral) and Manipurna (Navel) chakras.  Swadhistana affects our desires, passion and creativity with lunar energy, while our manipurna chakra or city of jewels is linked to the energy of confidence, determination and self worth with a lot of solar energy.  Much of the class included kundalini kriya work, postures, mantras, pranayama, bija (seed) sounds, visualization inspired meditation, and more.

“Men of great knowledge actually found out about the chakras – their workings, their petals, their sounds, their infinity, their co-relationship, their powers.  They found that the life of a human is totally based on these chakras.  They developed into a whole science.  This total science gave birth to Kundalini Yoga.  That is how Kundalini Yoga was born.” – Yogi Bhajan

While I was filling out information forms in the entrance of the studio, Yogi Vishvketu walked in with a big smile and joyful greeting to everyone.  Upon entering the class there was lovely mantra based music playing from art of living.  I sat in meditation for 30 minutes, enjoying this beautiful music.  Once we began class the collective consciousness of 20 participants was flowing, and it felt wonderful.  Between oscillating movements, dynamic and integrative pranayama techniques, Kundalini exercises can be very intense, bringing up emotions, and target energy flow within the chakras.  Our teacher was joyful and guided us to bring the same happiness to our inhalations and exhalations.  Since it is spring, many of us needed tissues to clear our nasal passage while we explored the dynamic pranayama exercises.  The experience was meant to guide everyone through transformation.  Yogi Vishvketu has a vast knowledge of vedas, and subtle body science, so when questions were asked at the end of class he provided very accurate and indepth responses to further everyone's interest in the subject of chakras.  At the end of class when I asked Yogi Vishvketu to take a photograph, he was happy to oblige.  The lovely yogini Savitri who snapped the photo initially cut out both our heads, and Yogi Vishvketu was witty and quick to point out the camera lens was focusing on the chakras we worked on today, to which we all shared in a laugh.  I am very grateful to have met this wonderful teacher, Yogi Vishvketu, and a few other friendly yogis this weekend at Jaya Yoga Centre.  Hari Om.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Art of Adjustments in Yoga Class

On Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you), I was inspired to write a post about adjustments in Yoga Class.  While I have studied Hatha Yoga (Sivananda), Ashtanga (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois), Iyengar (B.K.S Iyengar), and Vinyasa (Sri Dharma Mittra...), I am grateful for having wonderful adjustments in class.  I have also enjoyed taking new classes, experimenting with various styles of yoga including Anusara, Hot Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Acro Yoga, all in efforts to keep a positive and open mind, taking myself outside of my comfort zone.  Like everyone, I have a preference of style and teacher that I tend to gravitate to.  While I do like to keep an open mind and support new teachers, I also know my body, and if I feel an adjustment is not what my body needs in that moment, I have gestured or whispered to the teacher while in class. 


Ultimately, we are wanting to quiet the monkey mind, so if a teacher can take me to a place where my physical body blissfully swirls in fluid movements that are devoid of distractions, I am grateful.  As a teacher, it is important to understand the body, especially when adjusting.  I have heard horror stories of people getting injured in classes, and teachers giving painful adjustments, which result in injuries.  This should not be a reality.  Since it is an inward practice, I always prefer to say that our injuries are our biggest teachers, when we study the chakra system we understand the injury is a physical manifestation of unresolved mental fluctuations.  It is easy to blame yoga, blame the teacher, blame the snow that we had to shovel, but what happens when we look inward is liberation, which is the purpose of yoga. 

As a teacher when I train new yoga teachers we spend a good amount of time on adjustments.  The reality is, as nervous as some students are to be touched or adjusted by the teacher, some new teachers are equally nervous to adjust the student.  Much like the yoga practice is a practice, it is also a practice period for new teachers to get used to adjust different people into different poses.  The main reasons we adjust students is to ensure safety & alignment in poses, to bring people deeper into the pose, and to provide support when a student may not be able to maintain balance.  It is important to note that every body is unique, with their own history of injuries, physical limitations, fears etc, therefore every adjustment should be unique to the individual.  The goal should never be to get the pose exactly like the teacher/photograph, but to be able to breathe deeply in the pose to the full extent of that individual practitioner.


Here are some helpful hints to approach the art of adjusting.
  1. Lose the nervous energy, when you are calm the student will feel that.
  2. Ground yourself so you can provide adequate support for the student.
  3. Notice their breath, Cue their breath, and move them with the breath. 
  4. Notice their face and toes for tension, adjustments should be done when face is relaxed.
  5. Notice their foundation, once they are secure....gently place your hands and adjust
  6. Stay with the student during the adjustment, and support them out (it's not a game of tag).
  7. Be gentle with your hands, (no need to make it a wrestling match)
  8. If you adjust on one side, be kind and adjust the other side too. 
  9. Keep your hands away from bathing suit regions.

The reality is, every pose has their own proper adjustment methods.  There are books and classes revolved around the concept of adjustments.  In a private class setting there is more freedom for adjustments, whereas in a group class the teacher needs to maintain the collective consciousness of the group, and still be ready to provide hands on adjustments when verbal cues are not enough.  Often times a gentle hand, accompanied with a clear verbal cue is enough to guide a student to safely get deeper or aligned into a pose.

This inspiration came from a recent post on Facebook where a video of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was posted in the early days, that depicted some very intense hands on adjustments.  There were different opinions of the adjustments based off the footage, and everyone is entitled to their own view.  While I would say Ashtanga Yoga is one of the most intense approach to asana practice out there, I feel like it has evolved and grown like many forms of yoga.  I have not had the honor to practice with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, but I have practiced with incredible teachers who learned from him, and respect the fact that he was one of the yoga masters who brought yoga to the western world, and inspired what we popularly refer to as Vinyasa yoga, Flow Classes, Power Yoga etc..  While some teachers get certified, open studios and have the honor to guide people to the practice of yoga, it is important to respect the Gurus of India who started a worldwide movement that is truly a spiritual practice.  When we get to that place of undisturbed mind stuff, we embody the eight limbs of yoga, we see all things with beauty, understanding and gratitude which as teachers, should be our ultimate goal. While I practice ashtanga and vinyasa, I do it because my body enjoys the challenge, yet I do not recommend it for everyone.  I enjoy taking Iyengar classes, because an entire class that focuses on my trochanter forces me to quiet the monkey mind like nothing else.  Stay positive and grateful with every breath.