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  • 01/14/2021 6:38 AM | Anonymous


    It's 4:30 am on Monday morning, and I am sitting in LAX International Airport after a whirlwind experience at the first  annual Accessible Yoga Conference (AYC). I am blissfully  exhausted, relieved, and proud to have been invited to contribute to such an amazing event.  

    Only a few short weeks ago, I traveled from my hometown of  Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to the sunny and gorgeous city of  Santa Barbara, California. As I arrived at the Accessible Yoga Conference, I was greeted by my colleagues from the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, and together we embarked on an incredible journey that would expand my awareness of how yoga and diversity appear on the mat.

    As the founder of the Yoga For All movement, my vision has always been to make the yoga world more inclusive. Yoga For All is aimed at creating a brave space for people in larger bodies, the LGBTQ community, people of every race and socioeconomic  status, and those in differently abled bodies. Whether or not they are struggling with barriers in asana, these individuals all deserve to feel safe, included, and supported within the global yoga community. The founding principles of Yoga For All have evolved alongside my experience leading and teaching physical yoga practices within my local community and abroad. I've realized that there are many different barriers preventing people with large bodies, those of color, and other marginalized  populations from practicing and embracing yoga. The barriers include financial accessibility, able-ism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and geographical availability. In response, Yoga For All began to focus on changing attitudes toward how we see ourselves, how we see each other, our ideas about what yoga is, and what yoga means to people on the margins of dominant culture. I believed we needed to demystify yoga and make it  possible for all to feel welcome.  

    While at the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting Matthew Sanford, a man I have long admired for his role in creating environments of inclusivity in yoga. His teachings focus on the connection between the body and mind, regardless of what body you have. His message is that your body isn’t something that needs to be overcome. In hearing Sanford speak, I realized that I'd never heard his story in its entirety before, and I found myself profoundly moved. I felt connected to the power of his experience and what it means to feel like you don't belong. Matthew became a paraplegic at the age of 13, and I realized that many of his  experiences mirrored my own experiences as a person of color living in North America. I had felt different too. His story also shed light on how our lives are often determined by how others view our differences as a burden, limitation, disability, or an "unfortunate" set of circumstances. It reminded me that we must consciously choose how we view our circumstances, and we must advocate for ourselves.  

    It reinforced for me the idea that we all want many of the same things. We want love and acceptance, and we want to feel our lives matter. We all feel love, anger, and disappointment, and we all have insecurities about ourselves and our bodies (regardless of what bodies we occupy). Our light comes from the same source. It is our bodies, external influences, and our experiences  that make us seem different. At the end of the day, we all want to believe in something, be it science, God, or the power of the universe. We desire to connect to the miracle of this existence, even if we view it through different lenses.  

    At this conference, I felt included. I felt that I belonged. The Accessible Yoga Conference was a one-of-a-kind experience.  It was about offering yoga to bodies with varying abilities and disabilities, and I was thrilled to witness a full range of bodies that we don't often see at mainstream yoga conferences. It also seemed that many of the people who attended had a deeper connection to the spiritual practices of yoga, letting asana take a back seat. For me, this was both new and refreshing. From my previous experiences at yoga conferences, I had grown accustomed to seeing mostly young, thin, and flexible Lululemon-clad yogis drinking fancy coffee and exploring advanced asana practices. Because I don't fit that cultural mold, I often feel like an observer at mainstream conferences. But at this conference, I felt included. I felt that I belonged. And it seemed to me that others  would be open to a new perspective on yoga teachings. When I first spoke with Jivana, the conference’s founder and visionary, I explained that I wanted to share a Yoga For All class that was full of positive and playful energy. I also wanted to create a supportive environment where everyone could share their personal practice experiences. And while my intention to be as inclusive as possible at the AYC (and as a yoga teacher in general) had long been set, the more practitioners I met and the more I listened to their stories, the more I began to feel that my initial understanding of what "accessible yoga" looked and felt like was changing (and drastically) since first pitching my class to Jivana.  

    My class was billed as Yoga For All. But as my time to teach approached, I started to ask myself: Was it really for all? Was I ready and equipped to offer something for someone in a wheelchair? Fortunately, I got the opportunity to find out. Rev Rudra, a powerful human being in a wheelchair, arrived willing and ready to share his authentic self as a participant in my first AYC workshop. Rev is a self-realized yoga practitioner, which means that he knows his body better than I (or any other yoga  teacher), and he is not afraid to make his yoga experience individual and unique for himself. He connected with his wheels as an extension of his body. His forward folds included a bolster on his lap. He moved with grace and awareness from his chair to  the floor. It was amazing to watch this person so connected to his body in a way that was hard for an able-bodied person to truly understand. I was excited to see him enter my space. He did his  practice, and he added dimension to class. His poses were beautiful and made me see asana in an entirely different way. Whenever I share a yoga class with students, be it in a local studio or at a large yoga conference, the most important thing I ask them to do is to create their own experiences. It is important to me that students come as they are, use what they have, and do what they can. I never want to single out anyone, or to use a student as an example without their permission. My goal is simply to allow each and every individual to feel included and free to explore their experience of yoga as it unfolds.  

    I want to create an inclusive space for all. I want to encourage fellow yoga teachers, and our students, to look at our yoga spaces and begin asking: "Why is there a lack of diversity here, and how do we create more? Why are we so afraid to take different approaches to teaching yoga? How can we create classes that help people feel safe? How can we make yoga more  socioeconomically and geographically accessible? How do we create classes that invite and celebrate different cultures? Can we be okay with offering a brave space for people of color to practice?" The recent backlash in Seattle around POC classes shows that we are not willing to listen or help people when they tell us what they need. We have yoga for large bodies, women-only spaces, men-only spaces, yoga for children, prenatal yoga, and yoga for older adults. Why are classes for POC so threatening? I have watched people build their confidence in specialized classes, and my experience is that they do move outward to other classes once they feel empowered by the practice. When more people feel more comfortable with yoga, the more specialized classes won’t be needed any longer.

    We need to create space and time for the difficult but important conversation on yoga and diversity. Growth happens outside of  comfort zones. Engaging in a meaningful way with people who  are different from us changes our perceptions of each other and the world. As individuals who practice mindfulness, we simply must walk our walk.  

    So, as I sit here and reflect on my experiences and all of the insights I gathered during my time at the AYC, I have begun to realize that Yoga For All isn’t just a progressive asana class. Instead, it is a conversation about how we each step into our personal power—as we do a little asana along the way! Yoga For All is about making yoga more of an internal practice, rather than an external one. It happens by confronting and accepting change, supporting each other in the practice of yoga, and embracing the  power that comes from sharing our personal stories.  

    I want to thank all the practitioners, supporters, and conference organizers behind the Accessible Yoga Conference for being true game-changers. Thank you for allowing me to share my vision of accessible yoga and for teaching me about the lessons all around me as we venture to create a yoga experience that is truly accessible for all.  

    Growth continues, for all of us.
  • 01/02/2021 7:27 AM | Anonymous

    Nature possesses a qualitative energy through which we can either expand into wisdom or contract into ignorance.
    —David Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind


    Seasonal rituals are created to aid our bodies in adjusting to seasonal shifts in temperature, moisture, sunshine, and diet to make these periodic transitions smooth. We achieve this by shoring up the immune system through a combination of nourishing practices that are individually applied based on deficiencies or excesses in any of the five elements in the body. The five elements are earth, water, fire, air, and space.
    • Earth (prithivi) rules the lower body. The primary areas are the feet, thighs, and knees with relationship to the hips and sciatic nerve. Connecting to the Earth through the four corners of the feet honors the four directions, thereby setting a strong foundation.
    • Water (apas) rules the hips. The area of focus is the hips, sacrum, and psoas, and water is seen in the secretions and digestive juices, mucous, and plasma. When aligned in this area, it brings fluidity and flow to the body. Without fluidity, this area promotes “stuckness” and uncoordinated movements.
    • Fire (agni) rules the navel. The primary areas in practice are the core, lower back, and diaphragm. Itlies in the grey matter of the brain, retina (perceives light), digestive fire, metabolism, and enzyme systems. The organs of transformation can be transformed by heat, metabolism, digestion, and assimilation. Fire can give you the power to direct, power to change, ability to absorb, take in, and let go. Alignment of the torso is essential for enhancing the effectiveness of this element.
    • Air (vayu) rules the chest. The affected areas are the shoulders, lungs, and heart. Air can be seen in the pulsation of the heart and breath in the lungs, sensory movements, and nervous system. The area of contraction and expansion allows for the ability to freely express oneself.  Tightness in the neck affects this ability, therefore the application of good shoulder alignment promotes the freedom of air through the throat.
    • Ether (akasha; space) rules the neck. The affected areas are the throat, forehead, and mental field and the spaces in our bodies, for example, the mouth and inner ear. Space governs the idea of creating space in the body and mind, personal space, and boundaries. It controls the regulation of our emotions and passions. It is the primary area of governing spiritual progress. In physical practice, we enhance the efficiency of the element ether through the application of skull alignment.

    Balancing the five elements in yoga is called Tattva Shruddhi, which is the process of integrating our felt experience. Creating balance between these five elements brings the body back to harmony.

    Ayurveda is the overarching structure by which specific yoga asana is prescribed. Ayurveda is the tradition from which the art and science of sequencing and breath practices are informed. Both meditation and yoga asana are key aspects in Ayurvedic lifestyle practices.

    While meditation has the ultimate goal of enlightenment, for the everyday householder meditation has additional goals of increasing sexual vitality, mental acuity, and overall radiance. Life force (prana), radiance (tejas), and vitality (ojas) are the measuring sticks by which Ayurveda assesses physical and mental well-being.

    Prana is the vital force that maintains the respiration of the cell and is the flow of intelligence in the cell. Prana governs all higher cerebral activity and the biological functions of the other two essences. Prana is carried by the fluids in the body and is the vital energy we take in not only through foods but through liquids and breathing. It is responsible for enthusiasm and expression in the psyche without which we suffer from stagnation and depression.

    Tejas is the intelligence of the cell. It is the essence of the heat we absorb, not only through our food but also through the skin, where we absorb sunlight. Tejas is fed through visual impressions. It governs mental digestion and absorption, without which we lack clarity and determination. Tejas has subtle energy and heat; we rise because of tejas. It helps us get to a transcendental state; without it there is no awakening. Tejas unfolds the intelligence to burn past life karma. It is the light of your true nature that burns brightly.

    Ojas is the essence related to vitality and immunity. The pure essence of the bodily tissues (dhatus), ojas is a protoplasmic, biological substance—not a romantic concept.  It is our natural resistance to fight infection. Ojas must be strong to avoid invaders or chronic illness. It is influenced by the power of agni, which determines digestion and the quality of assimilation. Ojas is fed through the sensory impressions of taste and smell. It provides psychological stability and endurance, without which we experience mental fatigue and anxiety.

    An experienced practitioner will examine an individual through the Ashtavidha Pariksha, which includes the examination of pulse, eyes, urine, stool, skin, tongue, voice, and build to determine the state of prana, ojas, tejas, and the distribution of the five elements.

    Yoga asana has the goal of creating physical health and mental equilibrium. Ayurveda seeks to nurture physical vitality and mental clarity to allow for living life to the fullest.

    Ayurveda, like all good medicine, is both an art and a science. Science is based on laws and requires scientific uniformity of symptoms and treatments. Ayurveda looks to uncover the deeper causes of disease, including but not limited to thoughts and behavior. Thoughts and behaviors can solidify into bad habits and lead toward preventable illness. Ayurveda assists in uprooting them at their cause. 

    Because the habits and behaviors that lead to illness vary from person to person, treatment in Ayurveda differs from person to person. Though there may be uniformity in certain treatments, dosage and carrier substances will vary by constitution. The prescriptions consider the following variables: time of life, time of year, state of imbalance, individual constitution, and ability. 

    For example, fall is a challenging time for people of a vata (air + ether) nature, but harmonizing for people of a kapha (water + earth) constitution. Individuals will benefit from practices that consider nature (dosha) and other variables. Generally, we can apply seasonal recommendations to suit the needs of the larger majority of practitioners then work individually in more complicated situations.    

    Fall and winter govern the elements air and ether, in winter most people benefit from a slower more grounded yoga practice that emphasizes rhythm and support. The diet should be oily, nutritionally dense, fresh, and warm. Extra sleep and a longer savasana are essential to supporting vata. Scents should be grounding such as sandalwood and rose, as well as daily abhyanga self-massage with appropriate oils and herbs. 

    Seasonal practices incorporated into a routine provide immeasurable support that becomes undeniable overtime.

    For more information about the five elements and Colleen’s teaching offerings, visit colleenlilayoga.com.

  • 11/18/2020 7:23 AM | Anonymous

    Nature is replete with various rhythms and cycles—day follows night, night follows day, seasons come and go. Similarly, there are biological rhythms to our bodies, minds, and emotions. When our inner world is in sync with the natural cycles around us, we feel a sense of harmony and well-being. When we are disconnected in this way, our stress and discomfort increases, we grow discontent, and our vitality diminishes. Yoga and Ayurveda offer us an array of simple tools to help keep us healthy and at peace through honoring and connecting us with the wisdom of the season.

    Winter is nature’s time of hibernation, retreat, and contraction. As winter’s cold, wet, dark, and heavy qualities increase around us, they grow within us as well.

    Winter demands that we move inward for rest and replenishment, just as the earth stops producing in order to build a new reserve and be bountiful again in spring.

    However, balancing with the winter cycle is an art that usually requires some extra loving care as these shorter darker days can leave us feeling a little "heavier." Even the most stable of us can experience the winter doldrums or the all-out blues. Many healing systems look at this normal reaction to the season as helpful and healthy, as it helps us stay put long enough to more deeply recuperate all of our systems. However, while honoring this down time, we need to ensure we don't grow listless in our body or mind. A main tenet of yoga and Ayurveda is that "like increases like.” Therefore, to prevent winter’s contracting elements from "weighing us down," we need to equalize by creating warmth, lightness, and openness in our yoga practice and lifestyle.

    Slow-flow yoga and expanding restorative postures (think goddess pose) are a great way to warm the body, create circulation, encourage elimination, and cultivate inward awareness and receptivity—without expending unnecessary energy or depleting ourselves. We can work deeply and mindfully with while not "spending" precious energy reserves. Personally, at this time of year, while keeping up with a morning mindful movement practice and evening restorative, I also draw a bit more on my Metta practices to create a feeling of emotional warmth and wellness.

    Lastly, while most of us are experiencing less movement "out and about" in general during these current pandemic conditions—and even while we may be feeling a bit of cabin fever—keep in mind that overexerting, overstimulating, or any kind of over-effort in a yoga practice or physical exercise is not in harmony with a winter healing routine. Think more like the qualities of cinnamon rather than hot sauce right now—keep things steadily warm rather than kicking up temporary spikes of fiery hot. When you take good care of yourself in the cold season, you’re creating benefits for both present and future. How you nurture yourself throughout the winter will dictate how you bloom in the spring.

    Winter is a slow, inward, quiet season, not a time of expansion or energy spending.

    Chogyam Trungpa reminds that this cycle of down-time is essential: 

    There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally of course, there are times that are cold, and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. Those rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are.

    Register for Jillian's December 12 workshop here.

  • 10/21/2020 7:19 AM | Anonymous

    The marvelous world of mudras is a mysterious one at first glance. Yet with a bit of guidance and information, the mystery is unraveled and their powerful gifts for health and healing become clear. 

    Mudra (/muˈdrɑː/ [listen]; Sanskrit: मुद्रा, IAST: mudra) is defined as a "seal," "mark," or “gesture" and originated in India. It is used in the ritual of yoga, uniting body, mind, and spirit. This article references the mudras created with one or both hands, yet there are mudras that involve the whole body (asana)

    Let’s see how mudras work and how they can open a path for personal healing. It is my intent that yoga instructors become aware of how mudras support the teachings of yoga asana and meditation.

    To begin, it may help to think of a mudra as a recipe, and as with all recipes, there are ingredients, instructions, and outcomes. The ingredients are elements of matter: earth, water, fire, air, and space. Just as the natural elements are present in mudras, so are the physical elements present in our bodies. For example, earth expresses as bones, muscles, tissues, and organs; water expresses as blood, tears, urine, synovial fluid, and lymphatic fluid; fire is your temperature of 98.6ish, which fuels the process of metabolism; air is the breath; and space … well, it is there in your cells, your joints, and hopefully, on occasion, between your thoughts. 

    Additionally, there is the ingredient of prana, delivered to us through breath as expression and movement of the life force. This movement is known as the prana vayus. Prana’s movement reflects the five directions: north, south, east, west, and center. 

    In any recipe, once you have the ingredients, you must follow the directions, usually in a sequence and with specific times needed to produce the desired outcome. These aspects are as important as the ingredients themselves. Anyone who has attempted to bake a cake from scratch knows that just having the ingredients, even organic ones, doesn’t guarantee that what comes out of the oven will be light, fluffy, and moist. So too with mudras.

    An example: Let’s imagine that you’d like to learn a mudra that could help you digest information, food, and emotion and calm your nervous system at the same time. While that is a tall order, there is a mudra that delivers those outcomes. 

    page1image30026512-filtered.jpeg

    Achala Agni Mudra: the gesture of steady fire for optimal digestion

    Source: Joseph and Lilian Le Page

    Let’s first look at the ingredients. The natural elements, discussed earlier, need to express in such a way that the fire element is not too high and not too low. Therefore, in order for this to happen, the air and earth elements need to supply the fire with steady and reliable fuel. Water also needs to be on hand to balance this dynamic. Plus, there needs to be space for all this to take place. The Achala Agni Mudra does just that.

    Then there are the instructions: How does the prana need to flow to deliver and support an effective and safe fire? 


    In this mudra, the hands, fingers, spine, and breath work in unison and focus fire, the great metabolizer, providing heat for transformation and purification. It may sound too good and too easy, and yet I am confident that with skillful use and respect, anyone can learn this mudra and produce this outcome.

    So how does this mudra also soothe the nervous system? Well, it’s all in the prana. A safe, effective fire is one that is contained and centered in a designated place, for example, a fire pit or oven. In the human body, fire’s locale is the center of the body, between the rib cage and pelvis. Its heat metabolizes food, its warmth is circulated through the blood, and its light glows upward to the eyes and brain, producing discernment and clarity. Think of it this way: If the elements are not in balance—the air (wind) moves too fast and is undirected (air pushing fire around) and water is deficient causing dryness—then our bodies would align with a fire gone rogue. (Millions of acres and thousands of people are living the devastation of fire uncontrolled.) Yet when fire is contained, we are mesmerized by it and we gather around and relax and settle. Our nervous systems are calmed.

    Mudras are powerful tools for health and healing. While this article hopefully provides a light introduction, mudras require respect. They are not picked up willy-nilly and applied on the run.

    For more about this mudra and several other mudras that can support a life that is responsive, compassionate, and purposeful, please join me for my YTA workshop on November 14. 

  • 06/01/2020 6:48 PM | Anonymous

    Let us will ourselves to live our life, not by empty words, but the radiance of meaning them and believing them. Our smile lights up our body with health.

    ~Tao Porchon-Lynch

    No matter how old you are, let nature be your encyclopedia. Recycle yourself. The same thing will happen to us as we breathe in the breath of life; as with the four seasons, in winter everything looks dead, but the life force is in the midst of reactivating nature and spring returns. Your mind doesn't tire with mental thoughts of what you can't do, but take a break and breathe and the renewal season will respond to it and start a new cycle.

    Know there is no such thing as "age." Tune in to the power of the eternal and feel the beauty of life. Nothing is impossible. You revitalize yourself with every breath you take.

    Don't be submerged with tons of thoughts you never do. When you wake up in the morning, start the day and know it's going to be a good one. Don't get involved with anything negative. 

    Believe the power within you can be felt in the way you think and see life. There is always a positive answer to the way we live. Believe that all the power in the universe is right inside you. Don't procrastinate. Don't live for tomorrow. 

    Tomorrow never comes. One minute after midnight is already today. Don't let fear clog your thoughts or negative thoughts to invade the mind. Know that even in the worst calamity something good will come of it. Don't say I can't do something. The verb can or cannot doesn't exist. There is no such thing as can or cannot, only the verb to be able. Know that all the power in the universe is right inside of you. It is the doer and you are the instrument. So know there is nothing you cannot do. 

    Know that with each day the sun brings the dawn of recycling and renewal into the world. Let nature be your guide, your encyclopedia, and feel the wonder of living as you breathe the breath of life...the breath of the eternal.

    People talk so much about getting older and they allow it to affect them. I don’t think about age at all. There’s not enough time to think about it with all that I accomplish in a day. Live and know that tomorrow never comes. Live for the moment!

    I search within myself for the power of creation and inner energy radiates the eternal life force, and I don’t get tired. 

    Know whatever you put in your mind materializes. Do not think negative thoughts. Stagnant muscles cause stagnant minds. Don’t procrastinate. 

    Know the secret of life dwells within every breath we take. Live, live, live. Don’t waste your life restricting it. As dawn awakens nature and makes the darkness and ignorance of night fade away, let your body feel the freshness of the energy of a new day. There are so many wonderful things to do and so little time to do them!

    Much of the development of my own life has been in experiencing the wonder of nature. Know that it gives us the clues to living. As for my own life, I have used these wonderful laws of nature to recycle my body. Then spring bursts forth and the dawn of new life appears throughout the world, bringing the new fruits of food, life, and energy into our lives. As I listen to my heartbeat, a new journey brings into my life a higher level of consciousness. The joy of living each day. I feel the dance of life. 

    Dawn awakens nature and makes the darkness and ignorance of night fade away. Let your body feel the freshness of the energy of a new day. There are so many wonderful things to do and so little time to do them!

    One feels the life force alive within us and we know everything makes us believe in the renewal force inside of us. Dance, for it will open up the door of freedom from fear and the fun of knowing that we can do things we thought were impossible.

    Reprinted from the June 2016 YTA newsletter

  • 05/31/2020 6:32 PM | Anonymous

    Tao passed away peacefully at the age of 101 on February 21 of this year, surrounded by loving friends. She did not have immediate family or blood relatives, but she had a very large organically grown family that grew from her communities of yoga, ballroom dance, the Wine Society of Westchester, and the Rotary Club of Hartsdale. The Yoga Teachers Association is part of that large family. 

    She did not want a funeral or burial ceremony of any kind. It was painful for all of us, set adrift in a sea of grief and loss with no place to mourn together or celebrate her extraordinary life and contribution to the world. Then COVID-19 came to town shortly after, and we were awash in a blur of incomprehensible circumstances. 

    I feel tremendous gratitude for the YTA in making this tribute to Tao possible. There couldn’t be a better time to gather together to find joy and inspiration. It will be a joyous afternoon honoring her life and also the formation of the YTA a little over 40 years ago, when Tao joined a group of bold pioneering women who galvanized and began this organization. 

    Tao’s life story is astonishing, from the unusual circumstances of her birth and her childhood growing up in Pondicherry, India, accompanying Gandhi in the Salt March, to her aunt’s vineyard in Provence, France, where she participated in helping the Jews escape from the Nazis, to her work with the French Resistance and wartime in London during the Blitz bombings, and finally arriving in Paris after the war to become a couture model. She had not yet reached 25! 

    Her life course from Europe to America, from Hollywood to Hartsdale, to her later years receiving Guinness World Record awards (two!), along with numerous international honors and worldwide acclaim, will be presented in photographs and stories. 

    Tao never sought fame or glory for any of the ways she served in the world. Her simple life as a yoga teacher is equally as impressive as anything she has done in her life for its humility and selflessness. Tao was, above all else, a humanitarian. 

    And so we gather on Saturday, June 13, to honor Tao for her achievements and inspiration and for reminding us that the selfless path we have all chosen as yoga teachers is a prodigious one. 

    Following the audiovisual presentation, we will have a yoga practice following Tao’s methodology and beliefs and highlighted by one of her beautiful meditations from her Reflections recording. 

  • 04/15/2020 6:00 AM | Anonymous
    Do you or your yoga students struggle with tight hamstrings, sore knees, back pain, or hips that won’t open? Is your stress making you sick? Do you feel anxious and find it difficult to relax and be calm? Is there an effective way to deal with these conditions through yoga? There sure is.

    The focus of this class is yoga practice for well-being and pain relief using modern yoga.

    The ancient yogis believed that a regular yoga practice could help with all aspects of one’s being. Since our lifestyles today are quite different from that of the ancient yogis, we will benefit by culling the traditional yoga practices that will most benefit our needs in the twenty-first century. The information I present is suitable for those new to yoga and for those who have been practicing for many years, both students and teachers. This material is for those who want to be able to achieve even better results from their yoga practice and for those who are struggling with certain poses and conditions. It is suitable for all body types.

    In the May workshop hosted by the YTA, we will discuss the powerful benefits of asana (stretching), pranayama (breathing), and meditation, especially as they apply to neuromuscular conditions and the general health of the body, mind, and spirit. These tools of the ancient yogis are making resurgence in our modern world as science is confirming their many benefits.

    In the final analysis, most pain is foundational, resulting from imbalances in the musculoskeletal system. We are in pain because we are misaligned, or “crooked.” We have poor posture as a result. Even if you think you have good posture, you probably don’t, as misalignments are often not obvious to the untrained eye. This class will teach you how to identify the most common misalignments and to develop a quick and simple approach to better posture and muscle balance which will help with many painful conditions in the body.

    By incorporating this information into your practice and teaching, you will be able to more precisely choose the poses best suited for your current body conditions and those of your students. Yoga should not be about performing poses but rather selecting the poses that will most benefit current body conditions. Not all yoga postures are suitable for all individuals. Depending on postural imbalances, one might need to avoid certain poses until the body is back in balance. The information I am presenting will help identify these imbalances, explain how current poses might be causing or contributing to pain, and show you how to develop a yoga practice that can achieve the right balance for yourself or your students. The result will be less pain and more vitality.

    Western medicine has few interventions for the musculoskeletal pain and stress often caused by our modern lifestyles. Typically, doctors prescribe painkillers, muscle relaxers, and anti-anxiety drugs. These can often bring some relief, but they are only treating the symptoms rather than the root problem.

    Selecting the correct asanas (poses) for your particular musculoskeletal condition requires some knowledge of anatomy and muscle imbalances. Knowing how to deal with the stress and anxiety in our daily lives requires some knowledge of the mind and body. These yoga solutions will help you alleviate the root causes of your conditions.

    I have trained thousands of people in my workshops, including MDs, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and lay people. They have all learned how easy it is to reduce or eliminate pain. They all have learned how to achieve a greater sense of well-being when following my protocols.

    This class will take you on a journey so you can discover:

    • the roots of yoga, and how traditional yoga differs from what we practice today 
    • the miraculous mechanics of your musculoskeletal system
    • the cause of most aches and pains
    • how to reduce pain and achieve better results from your practice
    • how to select the correct asanas for your and your students’ conditions 
    • why people get hurt practicing yoga and how to avoid injury
    • how to stretch
    • specific yoga flows for pain relief
    • guidelines for achieving superior results
    • the many benefits of pranayama and meditation  
    • how to quickly reduce or eliminate stress and anxiety
    • how to integrate yoga into everyday life
  • 03/18/2020 6:30 AM | Anonymous

    As we find ourselves following the same patterns of increased social distancing due to COVID-19 that we've watched communities around the world go through, we want to be a source of support for our members and community. 

    We're posting here member studios and teachers who are offering online classes—some free, some free for now, and some paid—as well as other small businesses and organizations that are doing what they can to support their communities during this time. 

    Feel free to post in the comments other service providers and businesses that are supporting customers during this time so that customers can support them in return. We will keep adding to this list as we can.

    In addition to the below, we can try to support our local restaurants, which are still open for takeout or delivery for the time being, and gift certificates can be bought for many items and services. And remember to reach out to neighbors, friends, and family who may need help coping during this time. In addition to the scary health climate, increased social isolation can be tough for some to handle.

    Keep deep breathing and stay well!



    YTA Members offering online classes
    Birchwood Yoga Center
    PranaMoon Yoga
    Willow Tree Yoga
    Yoga Culture

    Business and organizations offering socially distanced services

    • Most libraries have digital offerings that can be checked out remotely; some, like the Ossining Library, are offering tech help by phone or e-mail. (You can also call just to chat.)
    • Feed the Birds is offering delivery service within Croton-on-Hudson for orders over $20, or back-door pickup for others.
    • The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville is offering delivery service for orders over $25 and within 10 miles.
    • Bella Maiya Day Spa in Briarcliff Manor is offering at-home massages. 
  • 03/05/2020 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Mudras were a mystery, and one I didn’t think I was “allowed” to explore. I thought they were only used by the “Grand Poobah” of yoga and, therefore, I didn’t touch them (pun intended) until … well, I am getting ahead of myself. 

    At my March YTA workshop I hope to save others from the unnecessary delay in discovering the support available in reaching for mudras in daily life. As the saying goes, having a relationship with mudras has made all the difference in my living. So, if you have any curiosity about mudras, I invite you wholeheartedly to join me! (There’s a mudra for wholeheartedness, did you know that?) 

    I first reached for the assistance of mudras as a teacher, not as a student. I was creating a curriculum for an Ayurveda and Yoga Study Group to help yoga teachers and students better understand how these ancient twin sciences can help balance our dosha and access our vital life force. As a health coach, yogi, and Ayurvedic health counselor, it is my job to support clients in creating a personalized approach to meet their individual health goals. Providing accessible and efficient tools are crucial aspects of my work and mudras help my clients and I succeed. 

    Ayurveda is the first whole medical system of our world with lifestyle as a founding principle. The study course I was designing included an assessment process to teach individuals to know their dosha and recognize the signs and symptoms of imbalances. This of course is crucial to avoid the disease process that follows chronic imbalances. Mudras are very useful tools to rebalance the elemental matrix. When we consider that in the palm of our hand we can influence our heart rate; in the tips of your fingers we can adjust our thyroid; or with a snap of our fingers ignite our digestion—the power of the mudras, while not as transformative as the breath, run a close second to the tools we carry with us. 

    No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can almost always assume a mudra to calm our anxiety, secure our boundaries, fortify our immune system, or get energized. As I designed the study course, the mudras were teaching me! I discovered they have a consciousness of their own, and like benevolent spirits guiding, they taught me to reach for them. I don’t like to say use them, because just like a friend, we don’t want to use anyone, but rather I appreciate them and relate to their qualities.

    In my daily living, I balance my dosha, which usually means keeping vata in check with kurma mudra. This reduces vata’s forces of wind so that my systems don’t dry up or whip my thoughts around hither and thither like leaves on a windy day. I also engage samana vayu mudra before every meal to optimize digestion; I reach for pala mudra before a difficult conversation to calm anxiety; and I always seek pruna jnanam for discernment when making important decisions. I have a holy host of powerful forces at the ready to assist me in meeting life with a stable and confident posture. Until of course I can’t, as Dr. Suess says in Oh the places you’ll go, “…you’ll move mountains kid, except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t!” And then there’s a mudra for that—despair and depression can be met with nonjudgmental support and the uplifting qualities of vajraprandama mudra.

    As the practice and teaching of yoga evolves, She, our beloved Mother Yoga, remains steadfast and true. Her yamas and niyamas are our anchors while her sister, Ayurveda—the first lifestyle medicine—offers her tridoshic philosophy to guide our daily bread and breath. Yoga teachers are more sophisticated and are exploring beyond the physical stretch of asana and into the subtle body. We are hungry to understand how asana, pranayama, kriya, mantra, mudra, and meditation influence our subtle bodies; and how the subtle doshic forces of prana, tejas, and ojas guide the expression of their physical counterparts of vata, pitta, and kapha. These biological forces govern all life on earth; the wind, the rain, and the fire. Our ability to respect and cooperate with them is a great need. 

    We’ve seen how the forces of vata (wind) blow the fire element to devastating effect, for example, in Australia, California, and Brazil most recently. And we’ve seen how the earth’s instability (150 earthquakes across the globe in 2019) threatens our most fundamental needs of shelter, food, and a sense of belonging. While I can’t guarantee mudras will save the world, I can provide a comprehensive overview of them. Perhaps with this introduction the living gifts of mudra can enter your life, offering their handy access. And while you may not love them as I do, you will certainly come to appreciate them and one day may even find yourself telling a family member, friend, or student, “You know, there is a mudra that could help you.”

    Learn more about Deirdre at deirdrebreen.info

  • 01/20/2020 1:34 PM | Anonymous

    What Exactly Is Yoga Nidra?

    I was first introduced to yoga nidra as a teenager in Mumbai, India, and the stillness it led me into had a profound impact on my practice and my teaching.

    Yoga Nidra is a guided auditory meditation technique practiced lying down in savasana. In Sanskrit, nidra means sleep. Yoga nidra is often referred to as the sleepless sleep because it induces a state between being awake and being asleep known as the hypnogogic state in which the mind and body deeply relax. This powerful state on the threshold of being asleep and being awake can be used for many purposes that include deep relaxation, releasing memories locked in the subconscious and unconscious, and creating an expanded state of consciousness.

    Yoga Nidra’s roots lie in an ancient tantric technique called nyasa in which practitioners held their awareness on different parts of the body and through concentration and the chanting of mantas were able to bring more consciousness to different parts of the body. We use a variation of nyasa in yoga nidra to move our awareness through the body in a particular order and to create a circuit of energy through the brain that allows us to enter the hypnogogic state.

    Yoga nidra is highly adaptable both in length and purpose. It can range from just a few minutes to an hour-long practice depending on the purpose and time available. Most practices are between 15 and 40 minutes.

    Why I Love Restorative

    The impact restorative yoga has had in releasing stress and tension for me is very personal. 

    About fourteen years ago I had a bout of serious asthma attacks that were life-changing. I was continually in and out of the hospital and put on high levels of cortisone for an extended period that created extreme anxiety and panic attacks. 

    I started practicing restorative yoga, which was an integral part of my recovery. Restorative calmed my nervous system, relaxed my body, and released tension from my breath. The effects of this practice released the fear of future attacks. 

    No amount of trying to talk myself out of the situation helped because my whole system was stuck in a heightened state of tension and anxiety. I needed to learn to bypass my mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is exactly what restorative yoga does. 

    Why Restorative Is So Powerful 

    Modern life is fast-paced and filled with stressors that contribute to a constant level of low-grade stress that we're often unaware of. This continuous state of sympathetic nervous system arousal has led to many modern-day illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and stress disorders.

    Restorative yoga provides the prefect antidote to stress because it creates a supported pause. By completely supporting the body and being still for extended periods, the breath, the mind, and the nervous system begin to calm. 

    Different restorative poses can be used for different purposes, though they all help to calm and quiet the nervous system. There are poses that open the breath and lift our spirits when we're feeling depressed, poses that are supportive and nurturing when we're feeling anxious, and poses that target specific parts of the body where tension accumulates. 

    Restorative yoga releases tensions on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Since our bodies store all our past experiences, when we let go of the holding in the physical body we often have strong emotional releases. The suppressed emotions and past experiences locked in the body bubble up to the surface and are then released. 

    One of the advantages of a restorative practice is that it can be applied universally to everyone. People who aren't physically able to practice asana, such as the elderly and physically challenged can reap the benefits of deep relaxation and energetic rebalancing. 

    Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra

    When I started teaching adults I included yoga nidra at the end of every class. Most students didn’t know what it was at the time but they kept coming back for more. One of my fellow teachers advised me not to include yoga nidra in classes in New York City. My colleague said students would get frustrated and leave because New Yorkers couldn’t slow down, but the opposite happened and people came back for more. It’s exactly what we need in NYC but we often don’t know it. I found that adding yoga nidra at the end of the practice was very powerful because the restorative postures led students into a place of deep stillness which when followed by yoga nidra induced an even deeper state of surrender enabling the release of past experiences locked in the subconscious and unconscious. 

    I’ve now been teaching my restorative/yoga nidra workshops for the past 12 years. I've worked with Alan Finger to develop a nine-step approach to yoga nidra called "Mona Anand's Ishta Yoga Nidra."

    I design yoga nidras for different imbalances such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. I also design yoga nidra practices for chakra and dosha imbalances, which I teach in restorative/yoga nidra workshops. I am currently writing a book with Alan Finger on yoga nidra and the chakras. 

    To learn more about Mona, visit monaanandyoga.com.

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