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  • 10/17/2018 6:29 AM | Anonymous

    It's 1957. The 6-year-old boy is outside in the dead of winter looking at the Orion nebula with his new telescope. He is alone, as no one else wants to come out into the Chicago winter wind. He can’t look for too long at a time as the freezing metal eyepiece burns his skin. He pulls back from the telescope and gazes into the magnificently clear night sky. He is drawn to the red shoulder star in Orion, Betelgeuse. He feels a pull up and towards this star and feels at the same time joy and pain in his heart. He feels his connection to all things but also his confusion around the sadness in the eyes and face of one of his classmates. In this moment he sees the boy’s face and feels not only his pain but the pain of humans in the world. Tears start to flow from his eyes, freezing as they stream down his face. He gazes into the soul of Betelgeuse and asks out loud, “Why can’t all people be happy?” And then wishes for the happiness of all beings. His first memory of the Oneness in both joy and sorrow.

    It is now 1971. I’m outside on a cool autumn evening. I instinctively look up and see a group of stars, including a reddish star at the upper left. I feel a connection to these stars and a long lost memory begins to float into my awareness. What are these stars? What is this longing feeling? I have a fleeting image of a young boy looking at these stars in wonder and deep connection. “Was this me, was it in a dream?”

    The next night I walk outside late at night to look at these stars again, and I begin to hear the words Orion, then Betelgeuse. “That’s a strange word,” I thought, and then a rush of memories flooded into my being. I was that boy gazing at the stars, loving Orion, the cosmos, living so fully and praying for all people to be happy. What had happened to that full experience? Where had it gone all these years? Where had I gone?

    These questions reopened me to my inner self and connection to life on a deeper level. The connection I had until I was 7 years old, when I became embarrassed to be free in my actions and thoughts and constricted myself into a typical American boy. Here I was 14 years later, reconnecting to that freedom of thought and wonder and connection to life, activated by my recent delving into the science and practice of yoga. I had discovered and read a copy of the Bhagavad Gita at the college library. I had gone to the library with a friend and was magically drawn to the yoga philosophy section. The wisdom of the Gita felt so profound as it touched my soul. As if I had read these words hundreds of times before, the wisdom of the Enlightened Self guiding the ego mind, the connection of all things within ourselves.

    Yoga practice—yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and the depths of meditation—taught so clearly in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, has brought such presence, richness, and openness into my life. It has led me to connect with wonderful people, find deep relationships and friendships, given me the confidence and clarity to spend my life earning a living practicing what I love: energy medicine, Reiki, and teaching all aspects of yoga all due to the knowing that the prana flow is real, more real than my mental concepts and judgments. It led me to living for 15 years at Kripalu ashram, where every day was a deep journey into life within and around me and to transition to day-to-day life in our cynical, materialistic culture. Through yoga workshops I have traveled all around the world, meeting people of many different cultures and connecting to yoga aspirants in an open clear way.

    I have deep gratitude for the practice of yoga and philosophy and the profound effects it has had on my life and the life of many of those I have touched—family, friends, colleagues, students. It’s the vibration that is opened through the practice of yoga/union that not only vibrates throughout my being but affects the world around me. The energy of light/love/presence that resounds and travels is palpable and has been a true blessing in my life.


    Jeff Migdow will be presenting "The Practical Wisdom of the Yogic Scriptures" on November 10, 2018.

  • 10/01/2018 6:38 AM | Anonymous

    Tension is who we think we should be. Relaxation is who we are.
    —Unknown

    Tension is the underlying cause of so many pesky things: headaches, pain, injury, prolapsed organs, cardiovascular disease, crabbiness, low self-esteem, hamstring tightness, inability to feel, and collapsed arches—to name just a few!

    The lucky among us discover yoga and meditation, which shifts our relationship with tension. The unlucky among us might find themselves in the above paragraph. 

    Take note: Unattended tension becomes pain.

    As a professional figure skater doing four shows a day, five on weekends, seven days a week, I know a bit about tension. With years of that skating schedule, the tension turned to pain. I loved skating and performing so much that I ignored the pain.

    Until I couldn’t.

    After nine years of professional skating, I discovered yoga. Sometimes yoga helped relieve tension. Sometimes it made the pain worse. I couldn't understand why.

    My own experience, mixed with the opposing information on poses and body position, coalesced into a search to understand the body. That search lead to modalities such as SomaticsPilates, and finally the Franklin Method Imagery.

    In the Franklin Method, we picture our own anatomy through “embodiment.” This practice causes tension to melt away and pain to disappear. It completely changed my neck, shoulders, hips, sense of myself, and in turn what I teach.

    I begin every yoga class with a tension-relieving embodiment. This helps students feel more connected to their bodies. Tension melts away as they move through poses. The Franklin Method helps students move with more ease.

    It is tension hidden in the deeper layers of the body that often cause the most pain. When the tension is released, the benefits ripple outward: reduced pain, ease of movement, and emotionally expanded sense of self.

    Here are two warm-ups for deep muscles. Please practice them and share with your students.

    Hanging Psoas Release

    Obterator Internus Stretch

    In Pelvic Power, my workshop with the YTA on October 13, we’ll use embodiment to picture and feel the bones of the pelvis. Tuning into bone rhythms is the fastest way to relieve tension and make pain disappear. The tension is replaced by vitality and pain-free living.

    The format of the workshop is embody, practice, teach, repeat. You will leave the workshop with a clear picture of posture, felt alignment, practical tools, and pelvic empowerment. I look forward to being with you at Pelvic Power!

     Learn more about Christa at intelligentbody.net.

  • 08/18/2018 6:14 PM | Anonymous

    The goal of all humanity is to free ourselves from the self-created prison of the mind.
    ~ Albert Einstein


    Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, is the most widely known and worshipped deity in the pantheon of deities of India. Ganesha has the head of an elephant, the body of a boy, and rides around on a mouse. He represents the lord of auspicious beginnings and is the great remover of obstacles. With belly-breaking humor, he reminds us not to take life so seriously. Ganesha's name is chanted at the beginning of new ventures to invoke blessings of grace and remove the obstacles to bring forth the most benevolent outcome. 

    The mouse is Ganesha's vahana (vehicle). It's what he rides around on. All of the Hindu deities have a vehicle, which serves as a metaphor specific to that deity. Ganesha's vahana is particularly important with respect to obstacles because have you ever tried to catch a mouse? If you have, you know it's impossible. Mice can squeeze through very narrow openings. They seem to disappear into thin air. Their skeletons are extremely elastic, which allows them to slip through cracks in the wall or floor without you ever noticing. 

    Ganesha rides around on a mouse for several reasons. The first of which is humor. I find it ridiculous and humorous that one of the largest animals on the planet rides on one of the smallest animals. Ganesha just wants to make sure you are laughing. Life is too short to be serious all the time. As a teacher of mine used to say, "Seriousness is the highest crime in the court of God." A great way to find your way back to your heart is through humor. 

    On a recent family visit, my sister and I were with my mom, my dad, and his wife. My mom just had back surgery and is recovering nicely. My dad is hard of hearing. It's always a stretch to be in a room with him and several people sitting around a dinner table. He has hearing aids, but he still can't hear that well. After yelling a communication to my dad three times, my sister broke out into hysterical laughter. Maybe it was frustration or perhaps exhaustion from trying to get through to my dad. Then she whipped out her iPhone and told us all about a “Saturday Night Live” skit about Alexa, the digital device that responds to your questions, similar to Siri on iPhone. Except this Alexa is programmed for "the Greatest Generation"—seniors. Alexa includes special features including the ability to respond to any name remotely close to Alexa, like Amanda, Odessa, and Anita. It also has an "ah ha" feature for rambling conversations. If you want to laugh, please watch this skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvT_gqs5ETk 

    Ganesha's choice to ride on the mouse also represents humility. A mouse is considered one of the most lowly creatures. So why would such a great being as Ganesh ride on a mouse? Humility is a virtue of the heart. With humility, all egoism and the need to prove yourself or the need to be right is released. Your burden is much lighter. Also, Ganesha tells us that when you're humble, you'll always have friends. 

    The reason I like the most about why Ganesha rides on a mouse is because mice can always get out of tight places. Whenever you feel trapped by life or out of options, you remember that, through grace, there's always another way. Because Ganesha rides around on a mouse, he is never in his own way. The biggest obstacle most of us have is between our ears. You need to release self-limiting beliefs such as fear, anxiety, and doubt. This is what gets in our way most often. 

    What Ganesha is telling us is that no matter how big you think your obstacle is, you can always rely on the still small voice inside, the voice of your heart, to get you out of tight places. 

    Come join me in listening to your heart in this workshop and discover that the power to remove obstacles is already within you. 

    Namaste, 
    Todd 

    Todd Norian is the founder of Ashaya Yoga. Learn more at ashayayoga.com.

  • 07/06/2018 11:51 AM | Anonymous

    YTA’s 2017-2018 season ended on a high note with the celebration of Tao Porchon-Lynch’s 100th birthday. In her inimitable style she took us through Sun Salutations and some of her signature poses. We celebrated her soon-to-be 100th birthday with snacks and refreshments and, of course, cake, as she graciously posed for photos and signed copies of her books. Even with the large group, Tao got to speak with everyone and offer her wisdom. She’s looking forward to next year when she will be back for another workshop. Hope to see you there!




  • 05/21/2018 9:35 PM | Anonymous

    The inner reality is expressed in the breath of life.

    It opens up a vision and we experience a conscious pulsating in our heart.

    We experience the essence of yoga.

    As we turn inwards, it sparks the life force moving it throughout the journey of our passage in this world.

    We become aware of the eternal oneness between all mankind and all creatures on this planet, as the song of peace reigns throughout creation.

    There is no place where it is not part of the universe and beyond.

    From the smallest insect to a blade of grass.

    In every atom reveals itself at one.

    Part of all living creatures and nature until when the breath leaves the body and we return to the soil.

    Physical activity no matter how great, does not bring this awareness.

    But when we become tuned into this power, the breath of life, we are no longer divided.

    No longer foreign thoughts or frontiers divide us.

    No longer do we need passports.

    We can share the wisdom of the Gods and know and believe we can live in oneness and peace, for it reigns in the hearts of all.

    Don’t try to be on this or that pendulum, but feel the wonder bring it into your heart.

    Alive, it furnishes this page of my life with the renewal of spring.

    A tiny star in a night sky sparks an aura of life.

    A truth without fences makes me tumble out of the past and opens the door to this wonderful energy. It spreads it within my innermost self and manifests peace throughout the whole world.

    Reprinted by permission from Reflections: The Yogic Journey of Life (2d ed.) © 2011, 2015 Tao Porchon-Lynch.

  • 05/04/2018 5:02 PM | Anonymous

    Q: Can you recommend some alignment cues for Warrior I? I have a hard time finding the right positioning for my hips—I feel awkward trying to square off and face forward while also being slightly twisted in my stance. 


    A: The beauty of yoga is its intention to focus on the body as a whole unit while drawing your attention into the present moment. There’s permission and space to explore what’s right for your specific anatomy. As a teacher, I’ve seen many thousands of bodies practicing, and not everyone’s body is designed to be in the same alignment. 

    Warrior I can be practiced with the heel down or up (with the heel up, it’s called High Lunge in some traditions). In Kripalu Yoga, Warrior I is practiced with the heel up, so the feet are parallel and hip-width apart, allowing the hips to square forward more easily. The hips, pelvis, ribs, and shoulder girdle are all aligned, facing forward. Warrior I with the heel up is a bit more of a balancing posture, so you can put a rolled blanket under the heel to help with stability and balance. 

    If you practice Warrior I with the heel down, keeping your hips facing front, be aware of the torque in the back knee and ankle. Be careful not to force the back hip forward at the expense of an unhealthy torque in the knee. The ribs and thoracic cavity can rotate gently forward, even if the hips are not facing entirely square to the front of the mat. 

    Q: Can you recommend postures to improve flexibility in the hip joints? 

    A: In the hips, as opposed to the shoulder girdle, for example, the range of motion is less, because we need stability in order to walk, run, and bear weight. There are a myriad of ligaments and muscles surrounding the pelvic girdle, and these all need to be intelligently relaxed and opened in order to create flexibility in the hips. Think of the hips in all dimensions: anterior, posterior, lateral (front, back, sides), as well as all the surrounding areas: superior (above) and inferior (below) the pelvic region. 

    When we’re tight in the hips, it’s important to not only address that specific musculature by assessing weakness and imbalances in the hip flexors and hip rotator muscles, but also to examine the low-back muscles, abductors, and hamstrings. All areas affect the range of motion and flexibility in the hip joints. Sometimes one area is tight and another area is weak, so it’s important to strengthen as well as stretch the muscles in various postures to address specific issues. 

    You can explore Pigeon along with its modifications (supine and double) to open the hip flexors and hip rotator muscles. The Butterfly helps open the inner thighs and groin, and Low Warrior I stretches the hip flexors by gently pressing the top front thigh of the back extended leg forward. Postures that explore internal rotation can be helpful as well. Ultimately, exploring the full range of motion in your practice and addressing the body as a whole unit is the most effective way to address tightness in the hips, or any area of imbalance. 

    Q: When heading into Savasana, I have a hard time relaxing all my muscles. Any tips for the best alignment in what some call the hardest posture? 

    A: It’s good to understand that Savasana is a posture, not just an act of relaxation, so there are specific alignment cues that are used to support the body to begin to let go and relax. Classically, the legs are about 12 inches apart, with the hips naturally rolled open. The shoulder blades are relaxed down the back body, the shoulders relaxed down away from the ears, and the back ribs relax and broaden. The arms are about 10 inches away from the torso and turned outward to create a soft lateral rotation and opening of the chest and shoulders. The back of your neck is elongated and the weight of the head is released. You can use props to support your body—for example, a low, folded blanket under your head or a support under your neck, or a rolled blanket or pillow under the knees to soften the low back. You can place eye bags gently over your eyes to block out light and help you fully surrender. 

    The level of activity in class may determine how easy it is to relax into Savasana. A vigorous class lends itself to ending with a deeper rest for the physical body. When the physical body is relaxed, the breath and the mind will follow. In a gentle or moderate class, the teacher may need to guide relaxation a bit more. It’s also important that the teacher create an environment that lends itself to letting go, with comfortable room temperature, low lighting, and perhaps neutral relaxing music. You can do this for yourself if you’re practicing at home. 

    There are many relaxation techniques that can be guided to help you surrender into Savasana. A full body scan encourages each body part to become heavy and relaxed into the earth; in a progressive relaxation, you tense and release your muscles one by one. Or send your breath awareness throughout your body—inhale into your heart, then exhale down your arms and out your fingertips. Inhale into your belly, then exhale down your legs and out through your toes, letting your whole body sink into the floor with each exhalation as you let go with a soft sigh...feeling relaxed yet? 

    (Reprinted from Ask the Expert. Kripalu/Thrive: Explore Yoga, Health and Wellness, February 12, 2014.http://kripalu.org/blog/thrive/2014/02/12/ask-the-expert-alignment-and-surrender/ Accessed April 18, 2015.)

    For Priti's blog post about the koshas, click here.

    Learn more about Priti at LifeAsYoga.com

  • 05/01/2018 6:17 AM | Anonymous

    Dear All, 

    I think the month of May is portentous because it gives permission. We may enjoy more of nature; we may be more likely to energize with increased outdoor activities; we may lighten our spirits as we lighten our outerwear; and we may experience the burgeoning of mood and joy as we observe our landscapes, inside and out, burgeon with new life and growth, blossoming and blooming.

    Our yoga practice gives us an added ability to experience and appreciate these life-enhancing subtleties. As our awareness deepens, we grow more astute to the feelings we encounter in the deepest places of our being, courtesy of the breath. We may also become aware of how our sincere practice can help us transition through the feelings, moods, and negative energies foisted on us by outside conditions, whether it be by the weather, work, or relatives. With this practice we can center ourselves, stand on our own two feet, take our space, stand our ground, and plant ourselves firmly in our own truth and light—just as we do when we introduce new growth into our gardens, whether they be in a pot on the windowsill or in the yard.

    Yoga recognizes, as does every creative endeavor, the important need for grounding as the first step toward reaching any goal and the sense of fulfillment made possible from the strength of this support. It is critical if we are to extend our safe boundaries and expand to open ourselves to the unknown beyond our safe borders, to face fear with trust and courage. Yoga offers us a MAP (Mindfulness, Authenticity, Purposefulness) that we can use on this journey through transitions toward transformation.

    May we all stand together and take to heart the permission May encourages for our greater good and attend YTA on the second Saturday of each month, through all seasons and regardless of any conditions. You may benefit from the investment made in those three hours.

    Yours In Yoga,
    Paula Renuka Heitzner

  • 04/22/2018 1:45 PM | Anonymous

    We are looking forward to welcoming back Priti Robyn Ross, who will take us on a magical mystery tour of yoga through the koshas. Here is some information about the koshas from Priti to whet your appetite.

    On May 12th, I have the sacred opportunity to share my passion about the Ancient Prana Kosha system, an in-depth exploration of yoga as the holistic system it was designed to be. Using this approach provides a practical yet profound map to navigate the odyssey of yoga.

    The powerful Koshas provide a multidimensional tool for teachers to craft a comprehensive class design to guide their students though a universal journey of yoga as well as a potent map for students to find their way into the soul of their practice.

    By utilizing the Koshas, the teacher and student can create a transformational experience that brings the practitioner into a dynamic equilibrium that results in vital health and awakening on all levels of their being.

    Each layer becomes a doorway to support and direct the student to enter into a dialogue and communion with each layer of the Self. The teacher can then make a conscious choice as to which Kosha to emphasize during any stage of the class and provide an engaging awareness, focus, and language into a selected dimension to provide an experience that is needed to support wholeness in the moment.

    For example, in Annamaya Kosha, the direction of attention is physical sensations. In Pranamaya Kosha, we begin to harmonize breath and movement, and in Manomaya we direct the thoughts. When when the first three layers syncopate, the spirit of the pose begins to emerge within Vijnanamaya, the witness consciousness. As we evolve, through deep self-observation we can begin to experience our practice through the lens of Anandamaya, where the posture dissolves into the experience of the moment, into pure soul presence.

    Using the Koshas as a framework can be a practical and profound teaching tool. With this method, the teacher has a powerful system to direct the attention of the student by utilizing these five lenses. Then by designing a yoga practice with the Koshas as an approach, it becomes a powerful laboratory in which to discover, awaken, and transform habitual patterns and bring light and awareness that can lead to freedom, liberation, and self-mastery.

    It’s important to note that the Koshas are not a linear system, but occur simultaneously, interweaving, feeding, and informing each layer of the  the multidimensional Self.

    True alignment happens when all Koshas are in communion, unity, and harmony. 

    When all our Koshas, or layers of the multidimensional self, are present and in communication with each other, we experience true inner alignment, union, yoga. Then we are in pure presence, listening to all layers of our being—body, breath, mind, witness, and soul—the Koshas.

    Adapted from the Pranotthan Yoga Teacher Training Manual
    Cofounders: Priti Robyn Ross and Devarshi Steven Hartman
    © 2014; edited 2018 by Priti for the YTA newsletter. All rights reserved.
    LifeAsYoga.com

  • 04/08/2018 5:52 PM | Anonymous

    The Question of the Month:

    What Is Your Response to the Controversy 

    Over Proper Yoga Attire and Appropriate
     Age Guidelines for Yoga Pants?

    These are 2 questions, relating to the same issue: 

    1. Do yoga pants and tops create an immodest or a sexually suggestive climate, or are they comfortable for the practitioner and helpful to the teacher?

    2. Are they only appropriate for the younger student? 

    A yoga practice is a sensual experience, bringing the practitioner closer to full sensory (all 5) awareness, a gift of yoga. Hopefully, one knows the difference between sensual and sexual. Sorting that out, our yoga apparel design has been refined to provide comfort and freedom to move in every way the asanas command—reaching, bending, twisting, and lengthening in every direction as in splits on the floor and with inversions in the air. The materials used offer light, smooth, stretching textures that embrace the body, eliminating the need to fuss and fidget with extraneous fabric that clumps and bunches up during the practice. And yes, it makes viewing the kinetics and the dynamics of the body in motion more visible to the teacher, so muscular overuse and abuse can be more readily detected and corrected.

    Pertaining to the propriety guidelines for the older and perhaps heavier practitioner, only our own aesthetics and comfort should be considered. People are well into their golden years and doing yoga, and if yoga pants are providing the necessary freedom of movement and comfort to practice, go for it! The secular population, regardless of age, rely on tights, stretch jeans, and stretch pants to complete their wardrobe, and I'm sure they don't wear them as well as a fit, toned, flexible yoga body, of any age.

    Every month we answer your questions about yoga, as a student or as a teacher. Share your thoughts about this month's question in the comments or on our Facebook page. Send your questions to ytaeditor@gmail.com.

  • 04/01/2018 5:43 PM | Anonymous

    Dear All, 

    As we evolve through our yoga practice, we heighten awareness of and appreciation for all aspects of life, within and without. Our seasons, by their very nature, help us to understand what this means, and how we become more attuned, not only to the self, but to all things universal.

    The summer season radiates the full power of regeneration that is engendered by increased daylight and hospitable weather conditions, both of which encourage expansion within the body as well as in the garden, where we can clearly see the outer effects of this expansion and light. We can safely assume our yoga practice gives us these internal benefits with our breathing, stretching, and meditating, diffusing us with expansive light.  

    Fall follows and recognizes the zeal and energy expended by summer and realizes the need to create a universal balance. Fall slows down this frenetic flow of luxurious growth, and as the climate cools everything and everyone, the Earth prepares to rest, repair, and reclaim its expended energy, much as we do in savasana, the asana of rest and closure in our yoga practice.

    Winter brings in the “big sleep," a time to go within, much like our vegetation and certain species of wildlife that hibernate. This time is used to deepen the rest and repair process.

    Although these 3 seasons mirror their diverse attributes and can be astutely understood within the yogic concept, I think spring epitomizes yoga's greatest gifts. Sensory awareness is promoted by the coming-to-life activities, both in the body and the garden. The gift of surrender is so obvious as the winter energy weakens and the senses begin to strengthen, encouraging the gift of unfoldment. Slowly, but surely and strongly, the sap of life, in our trees and in our beings begins to flow, returning us to full sensory awareness of the cycles of all life on the planet.

    Our yoga practice offers us a way to better identify, understand, and appreciate our moods, seasons, and cycles. The awareness awakened by our practice goes a long way to make our lives more fruitful, abundant, and purposeful. This month of April, the beginning of spring, reminds us of the importance of the senses and their impact on our well-being. We too unfold, strengthen, and develop as we respond to the increasing light. The gift of surrender slows us down, resulting in greater appreciation of the hum of our inner voice of consciousness, the flow of the sap of life, and to take the time "to smell the roses."

    Our YTA workshop, held monthly on the second Saturday, offers presentations by awesome presenters to add energy and light to our work, be it teaching or seriously practicing. Spring into action and join us. 

    Yours In Yoga,
    Paula Renuka Heitzner

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