Thursday, June 30, 2011

Let the Sunshine in with Surya Namaskar

Pose of the Month: Surya Namaskar
By Rebecca Merritt

In honor of the partial Solar Eclipse on the first of July, instead of offering one pose of the month, we encourage you to take on twelve! Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutations, workout the entire body and help focus the mind. Going deeper, they help us to surrender and take on each day. By saluting the sun we welcome good health and strength into our lives.

Sri K. Parrabhi Jois says, "... let me repeat that no asana practice is complete without sun worship. Without its focusing of mental energies, yoga practice amounts to little more than gymnastics and, as such, loses meaning and proves fruitless. Indeed the Surya Namaskara should never be mistaken for mere physical exercise --for something incidental, that is, that simply precedes the asanas of yoga. Therefore, it is necessary, before beginning the sun salutations, to pray to Surya [...] to bestow upon us the good fortune of having only good thoughts, of hearing and speaking only good words, and of attaining a sound and strong body, so that we may have a long life and, one day, achieve oneness with God."

If you have taken class at New York Yoga you are familiar with this powerful flow. Here is your chance to try it at home on your own step by step. You’ve been waiting for the right moment to start a daily yoga practice, right? Well, today is your day!

1. Begin in Tadasana, Mountain Pose.

2. Next, inhale and raise your arms overhead into Urdhva Hastasana, Upward Hand Pose. Reach your heart and arms to the sun.

3. As you exhale, fold forward into Uttanasana, Standing Forward Bend.

4. Inhale and lengthen your spine forward into Ardha Uttanasana, Half Standing Forward Bend, and lift the gaze. Extend the spine.

5. Exhale and step or hop your feet back behind you into Plank Pose. Hands are shoulder width apart, and feet are at hip distance.

6. Exhale and lower to Chaturanga Dandasana. Elbows are bent at 90 degrees; hold the body in one long line, pressing back through the heels.

7. Inhale your heart and chest forward into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Upward-Facing Dog, pulling the shoulders back and opening the collarbones.

8. Exhale, tuck or roll over the toes, coming into Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-Facing Dog. Ground down through your hands and feet, lengthening the spine, drawing the hips back. Take five breaths here.

9. On your exhale, bend your knees and peek forward between your hands. At the bottom of your exhale hop or step your feet between your hands and inhale lift the heart to Ardha Uttanasana.

10. Exhale back to Uttanasana.

11. Inhale, reverse swan dive arms out and up overhead coming to Urdhva Hastasana.

12. Exhale and bring hands to heart center, Anjali Mudra. Remain here for a few breaths and then continue on to your next round of Surya Namaskar.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Science Loves Yoga

We know that yoga makes us feel refreshed and even uncrumpled, but did you ever know why? In her article series "Penetrating Postures: The Science of Yoga", writer Alice Walton explores how the scientific phenomena brought out by yoga positively affects our health. For example, yoga has the potential to boost immune function, reduce levels of the stressor cortisol, reduce inflammation in the body and also increase endorphin levels. Check out Part I and Part II of the article to learn more!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What To Know When Moving to the Upper East

Recently transplanted to the Upper East Side - blogger Martha Pierce emarks on her quest to find 'the best of the Upper East'.

In her article, "What To Know When Moving to the Upper East", let's all New Yorkers know where she spends her down time in her new hood:

'Fitness centers aren’t too common, but there are a couple New York Sports Clubs and a Road Runners Club that meets at 9 E. 89th Street. For yogis — I’m not an extremist, but I love my down time — New York Yoga is the only way to go!'

Thanks, Martha, for sharing the yoga love. Upper East Siders - Where are your 'Best of the Upper East Side' hot spots?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sounds Like Yoga, Volume 5

This week's playlist is a from New York Yoga instructor Danielle Sheather's Heart Opening Vinyasa class. Practice your asanas to the likes of Ben Harper, Sheryl Crow, Tom Petty, Queen Latifah, and more! Catch Danielle's 90 Minute Hot Vinyasa All Levels class on Thursdays from 9:30-11 am at the Hot Studio on 85th and Lexington.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Yoga Won't Bring Sanity to Your Crazy Life

What? How is that possible? Doesn't that go against everything we believe as yogis?

In her essay "Why Yoga Won't Bring Sanity to Your Crazy Life," Elephant Journal blogger and traveling yogini Sadie Nardini says it's not so:

 "As teachers, we say, and hope that with regular practice, you will learn to still the mind in the face of chaos, whether it’s gale-force wind during your much-needed retreat, the raw unknown of falling into (or out of) love, or simply the cacophony that’s ever-present as rolling commentary from other people, your own fears, and the background noise of random thoughts.

The fact that many people actually experience this relief is something they equate with the poses, or consistency, or a sitting meditation practice. And it’s true, eking out a cozy, livable place within the crazy can, and perhaps must include any or all of these things. But they are not the first, most pivotal and deciding factor in whether or not you will be able to do anything you wish, from chillaxing the mental chatter, to dropping a few pounds or cutting loose another kind of weight: Mr. or Ms. Kind-of-Right-but-Mostly-Wrong over there."

According to Nardini, the primary factor that enables us to accomplish our goals is focus. Yes, yoga helps us focus, but it isn't necessarily the guiding light at the end of the tunnel. Check out the rest of Nardini's article and tell us what you think!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sounds Like Yoga, Volume 4

Hey there, New York Yogis! It's that time of the week again: your latest yoga class playlist is here with a great selection by York Studio Manager Rebecca Merritt! Realign your chakras to the sounds of Bela Fleck, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, The Beatles, and more. Namaste.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teacher of the Month: Jimmy Burgio

By Rebecca Merritt
If you visit Jimmy Burgio’s website you will notice a theme right away. Is that the Bat-signal with an Om sign inside!? It sure is! “I love superheroes. Batman was an ordinary guy that does extraordinary things,” Jimmy tells me during our interview. “I feel like that’s who we are as yoga teachers. You discover that you are your own hero. You’re the one you’ve been waiting for.” Jimmy helps mold yoga superheroes of the future as part of New York Yoga’s Teacher Training staff. When you take his class, you will quickly learn that you are in the hands of an extraordinary teacher and yogi. You will also discover that he encourages you to trust yourself, be adventurous, laugh and try a crazy pose or two. Follow his lead and you may just fly.

Jimmy’s classes are made up of heart and devotion – and of course the dynamite sequencing doesn’t hurt. He will teach you to fuel your practice with love and inspire you to take your yoga off the mat and into your everyday life. Come join Jimmy for class at New York Yoga Hot: Mondays at 6:35pm, Wednesdays at 5:15pm, Saturdays at 9:15am or 2:45pm and Sundays at 5:00pm. Do not miss Jimmy’s Midnight Summer Solstice Hot Vinyasa class on Tuesday, June 21st – it is sure to be out of this world!

When did you first discover yoga?
Eight or nine years ago, through dance. I danced with a modern company in Virginia and one of my teachers used yoga as part of the warm ups. I just really loved it. I was also reading a lot about world religions and reincarnation and was just really interested. I started taking classes at My Yoga Spirit, with Rachel Page and Lisa Asha Rapp, and then joined the teacher training program there because I just had a moment of knowing this is it.

How long have you been teaching?Five years. First in Virginia, and now it’s been four years in NYC. When I first started teaching, I was just doing community, donation-based yoga classes. And then when I was in the city for school I decided I had this great skill so I needed to teach. New York Yoga was the first to hire me full time.
What makes your class unique?
I think that having a dancer’s sensibility – I feel like I am really in tune with how the body wants to move and what feels good. That coupled with full on devotion. I want my classes to be like moving prayer meditations. I want them to be life affirming. I want a student to leave and think, “Yes, I just did something crazy – this is my life!”
What is your favorite pose to teach?Visvamitrasana! I love that it’s a pose that has everything in it. It has hamstrings, it’s an arm balance and it is just so poetic because it balances earth and sky. You have one foot on the ground and the other is reaching up to heaven.

What is your favorite pose to practice?
Yoga Dandasana. I love the sacred geometry of the pose. It looks like it’s about strength but really if you place your elbow over your wrist and your foot over your elbow you will stay balanced. It’s like cooking – it’s methodical.

Best advice for beginners?Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. It is okay to be in there and feel like the teacher is speaking a foreign language – they probably are! Yoga is like being a foreign traveler; you strive to learn the language, the culture, and the traditions but it’s best to keep an adventurous spirit. Eventually you will become a native but don’t be afraid to fall, laugh or cry first.

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Never take your oar out of the water. Even when you are taking break or wiping sweat you should stay connected to the source – your whole life should be yoga. Figure out what you can do to bring your yoga everywhere. I think devotion is the easiest way to do that.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
Cell phones, cell phones, cell phones – nothing disrupts the scared space of a yoga studio like the ringtone of a text message.

Reader questions…

How do you incorporate yoga into your life off the mat?
I try to make my life a loving thing. I believe you should do everything not because you have to, but because you love to.

On your website you are Jimmy Nataraj Burgio, why?
Nataraj was given to me by my teacher. It is Shiva’s incarnation as the cosmic dancer. When Shiva dances the world is destroyed so it can begin anew. I don’t think they knew what a loaded thing they had given to me. Dancing has been a recurring motif in my life. Also after I was hit by a car I couldn’t dance anymore but that’s why I teach yoga. You are always in the dance and beginning again.

What is the most unusual thing you have done in the name of yoga?
Skinny dipping. When I was in teacher training I would leave feeling exhausted and frazzled – so I would drive my van onto the beach with a friend. She and I would run, peel off our clothes, and jump into the Chesapeake Bay! After we would listen to music and dance under the bridge. It reminded me why I was doing what I was doing. It was a moment I felt really connected. When you’re feeling overwhelmed you have to find a light in the dark.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sounds Like Yoga, Volume 3

Check out the latest installment of our Sounds Like Yoga series, with a playlist from New York Yoga teacher Courtney Scarff. Max and relax to the tunes of Alexi Murdoch, Sufjan Stevens, and many more! Give it a listen here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Finding Courage in Crow

June Pose of the Month: Bakasana
By Rebecca Merritt

Bakasana, also known as Crow or Crane pose, is at the root of many an arm balancing practice. Those who have played in crow know that it is challenging and fun, but you just can’t get anywhere without a little courage. This pose is about balance, strength and using your core. This month we encourage you to hit the mat, take a chance and fly with bakasana.

 Benefits of this pose include but are not limited to:
  • Strengthening arms and wrists
  • Stretching the upper back
  • Strengthening and toning abdominal muscles
  • Opening the groin
  • Improving balance
  • Helping build a strong foundation for future arm balances

How to:

1. Come to malasana or squat pose at the top of your mat. Bring your tip-toes to touch and your knees wider than your hips. Lean forward and plant your hands on the floor or mat.

2. Allow the backs of your arms to keep contact with your knees or shins, and bend the elbows. Squeeze up through your core and midline, come to the balls of your feet as you lift your hips and start to shift your weight forward. Allow your knees or shins to rest on the shelf you have created with your arms.

3. With an exhalation, lean forward even more onto the backs of your upper arms. Slowly lift one foot off the floor at a time, eventually bringing your toes to touch behind you.

4. Once steady, begin to find a fuller expression of the pose by straightening the arms - continue to squeeze the knees on either side and round the spine by engage the abdominals. Your gaze should be at the floor a few inches in front of you.

5. Stay in the pose as long as is comfortable. To release, slowly lower your feet to the floor, and return to squat pose.