Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Vrksasana 'Em, Cowboy!

According to Yoga Journal, a recent article in Texas's Fort Worth Star-Telegram profiled professional bull rider Tate Stratton on his use of yoga and ballet to maintain control while riding the massive, bucking animal. Apparently the calmness of yoga rubs off on the animal, too, which, as Yoga Journal says, "we can only assume is extremely important when you’re trying to stay aboard a bucking bull for 8 seconds." Check out more of the article on Yoga Journal here, and here's the original article by writer Susan McFarland in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Saddle up, yogis!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Upcoming Events at New York Yoga!

Our last Yoga Virgins Workshop for January is 1/28, but they start up again on February 8!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Teacher of the Month: Sara Clark

by Rebecca Merritt

Sara Clark teaches with joy, kind words, and a go-with-the-flow attitude.  She has a smile you want to share, and is a teacher who will instantly inspire you to take more classes.  Sara teaches a vibrant vinyasa flow class and creates a space where every student can begin to find awareness on their mat. She is a teacher for all levels, letting students work where they are while encouraging them to try something new.

During the interview Sara mentions falling in love with yoga. This is a love that is easy to note, and one that she passes to anyone taking her classes. Join Sara for some yoga love at the York studio on Thursdays at 9:35am and Sundays at 11:35am, or at the Hot studio on Tuesdays at 8:15pm and Sundays at 2:45pm.

When did you first discover yoga?
In high school my sister took me to my very first vinyasa class and I immediately fell in love with it. It just made sense to me. Tennis was once my first love. Yoga has officially taken over.

How long have you been teaching?
For a year and a half. I got my 200 hour certification through Yoga to the People and I am going to be getting my 500 hour certification at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.

What makes your classes unique?
Even though my class at times might be challenging, my sequences are meant to encourage and inspire. My classes are about enjoying where you are in the present moment, and setting all judgments aside. If you fall, remember that you are not alone. Get right back into the pose and begin where you left off. We are on our mats to practice. Exploration is encouraged.
What is your favorite pose to teach?
Headstand – because helping someone conquer their fear of being upside down is priceless. For most adults, the idea of being upside down on their head in no way sounds appealing. However the benefits of headstand are immense! And so is the victory. The first step is believing you can do it.

What is your favorite pose to practice?
At the moment, handstand; it deals with strength, courage, focus, control, and curiosity. Floating right into handstand is a phenomenal feeling but still often fall. However I’m baffled and amazed at my growth. Each time I practice this pose I understand more about my body and its alignment. It has been a humbling journey and my practice has deepened because of it.

Best advice for beginners?
Enjoy the capabilities of your body. Take it step by step. Enjoy exactly where you are and never feel rushed to get it right. Yoga is for all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. And by no means do you have to be flexible.

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Don’t let your ego get in the way. Try to still enjoy the nuts and bolts of the poses and continue to approach every pose like it’s your first time doing it.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
I don’t think I have a pet peeve. We all come to our mats for different reasons. Just be mindful of your fellow yogis if you’re in a classroom environment. We all have different sensitivities, I just ask all students to be aware and respectful.

Reader questions…

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution?
This year I wrote down what I wanted to happen in my life during this year. Continued good health is at the top.

Do you have any words of encouragement for those trying to incorporate yoga into their routine this year?
Remember that yoga can be done anywhere. One class a week is better than not moving your body at all. During your lunch break or while the kids are sleeping you can practice one pose. Or maybe put in your planner, “At 1pm I will sit quietly, close my eyes, relax my shoulders, my jaw, my tongue, and breathe deeply for two minutes.”  You can incorporate yoga into your life in many ways. No need to stress!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Pose of the Month – Yogi’s Choice!

A New Year’s Resolution Challenge

By Rebecca Merritt

The author in Pigeon
It is your turn to pick the pose! This January, why not give yourself a bonus, yoga asana, resolution? When students participate in a yoga teacher training program they are often asked to give themselves one particular peak pose to explore along the way. The student picks a pose they find challenging or even frustrating.

When I did my 200-hour Teacher Training at New York Yoga, my peak pose was Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – One-Legged King Pigeon. First, I will confess that I am still no pigeon king. But I am much further along in my exploration and it is no longer a pose I get frustrated with.

Now it’s your turn!

Pick a peak pose to explore this year! Pick something you struggle with, or something you are intrigued by. It can even be a pose you think you will never be able to do – you will be amazed at how far your practice advances over time.

The point of the exercise is not to do the pose perfectly at the end of the year, but to try to focus on deepening where you are in your practice. Working on one pose helps you to notice how much you can achieve on your mat – physical and mental. This goal may also a useful tool to help motivate you to practice, practice, practice since returning to your mat again and again is the only way to move forward.

Who knows, by the end of the year you may not even remember what pose you picked, or you may already be working on something new. But perhaps your peak pose will help you see it’s all about the journey and encourage you to explore along the way.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Yoga Can Lead to Pure Happiness

By Lisa Dawn Angerame


The yoga world is abuzz about the recent NY Times article: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, by William Broad, published January 5, 2012.  It is an excerpt from the book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, which will be published on February 7th. 

When I got to New York Yoga last Thursday morning to teach the 8:25 am class, general manager LeighAnn asked me if I had seen the article.  I did but had only skimmed it because I could hardly get passed the photograph of three members of cast of the Broadway show “Godspell” who were all in some version of a yoga pose.  They all looked kind of silly, in silly outfits, with silly expressions on their faces, and not really in a recognizable pose. 

By Saturday, the yoga world was on fire.  Links to the article were popping up on the Facebook pages of many of my yoga teacher friends.  Finally, I sat down to read it and, honestly, found it difficult to get through.  Not because it was talking about injuries and trying to scare me, but because it appeared to be a profile of one yoga teacher and that yoga teacher’s opinion.  My jaw dropped at this line, “’the vast majority of people’ should give up yoga altogether.”  What? 

About the scare tactics, the author cites several extreme examples of people getting injured at yoga like, for example, a woman having a stroke while doing the upward bow pose (urdhva dhanurasana.)  This sounds pretty bad, but so does skiing into a tree or crashing a bike into a ditch.  The author also cites “statistically significant” trends in the number of people showing up at emergency rooms with yoga-related injuries.  The interesting thing to note, as any good statistician knows, that numbers out of context can make a good argument or prove something totally wrong. The author says that ER-related injuries from yoga more than doubled from 2001 to 2002.  But what he doesn’t say is what percentage that is of the number of people practicing yoga.  So while it seems like a high number, did the percentage double as well?

By Monday, not only was the article the most emailed piece from the Times, but also yoga teachers were reacting.  They took to the blogs and starting discussing the article with students before, during, and after class.  Mostly everyone has been saying that this article is “wrecking yoga” and that yoga is about taking responsibility for your own practice.  People are also lamenting the business of yoga. This may all be true, but let’s not forget why we all practice in the first place: to attain yoga.  What is yoga? 

Yoga is one of the six orthodox philosophical systems of the ancient Indus civilization that was codified by Sage Patanjali some time around 2500 BC. The entire yoga philosophy is summed up in 196 short statements, the Yoga Sutras, that describe techniques as to how to attain the state of yoga, a state of being when the mind is still and silent by arresting its modifications.  This leads to freedom from unhappiness. Using specific, technical terms, Sage Patanjali describes the transcendental experience that is yoga.  The rest of the Yoga Sutras are there to give tools and techniques at how to arrive at this state.

This book speaks of the physical postures of asana, the practice that is most widespread today, in a total of three sutras. These sutras are actually referring to the seat of mediation and not downward-facing dog, warrior poses, or any others that are so familiar today.  Where did these come from and how do they help us in attaining a state of freedom and happiness?

The asana portion of the yoga practice was codified in three main texts that are believed to haven been written during medieval times: The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15th century), the Gheranda Samhita (17th century), and the Shiva Samhita (17th century).   The Gheranda Samhita, as translated by James Mallinson, says there are  “8,400,000 [asanas] of these, 84 are preeminent, of which 32 are useful in the world of mortals” (that’s us!).  The Shiva Samhita describes four asanas and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, as translated by Brian Dana Akers, says that asanas “give steadiness, health and lightness of body.”   

But in 1919, Sri Krishnamacharya, a scholar and the father of modern yoga, went to learn from a teacher who lived in a cave in the Himalayas.  He was made to memorize a now extant text called the Yoga Karunta which is most likely the basis for all of the physical postures we call yoga asana today.  Krishnamacharya is the teacher of the four main teachers responsible for spreading yoga worldwide including Indra Devi, K. Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga), BKS Iyengar, and TKV Desikachar (Viniyoga). 

Fast-forward 50 years.  Now, there thousands of teachers and millions of students practicing yoga.  Why?  Because it feels good! Moving the body into different positions stimulates our connective tissues as well as the endocrine system, affecting a physical, physiological, and psychological experience.  Moving energy, excreting hormones, and working with the thoughts that come up while this is going on, teaches us how to concentrate which in turn helps us silent the rush of thoughts in our minds.    

We all come to yoga classes seeking out like-minded people to practice with.  We could just as easily practice alone at home. But we set up our mats next to friends and strangers and move together with the same desire. But this is where injuries happen. A group setting can breed competition. Check out his handstand. Look at her crow. We get pulled out of our own experience on the mat and covet what others have. We push ourselves beyond our limits, stop listening to instructions and, when not interested or afraid of the pose that is being taught, we do something completely different.

Pay attention!  Most of the time, teachers are teaching from their own experience as a yoga student. This means that each teacher brings something to the mat in a group class. Listen. Test it out. See what you can do with it. 

But, the most important thing about practicing yoga is that, just like any other activity, whether it is playing tennis or golf, running, playing piano or violin, being a journalist, designing websites, investing in the stock market, speaking a foreign language, it requires practice and familiarity with the fundamentals of that activity.  Therefore, it is the job of the yoga student to become a teacher. That does not mean everybody has to go to a teacher’s training. It means that every student needs to find the teacher within, the teacher who is determined, who is clear about what they are doing, who is organized, who listens, who pays attention to what is going on around and inside them. 

Does this mean we will be seeing fewer injuries? Maybe, maybe not. Practice, pay attention, and allow the asana portion of the practice to give you steadiness and lightness in your body. Then work on attaining the stillness between the thoughts and the experience, the state of yoga, pure happiness.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Connecticut yogi Anne Anderson has brought yoga to the slopes in the form of SNOWGA. Anderson, who is a certified Kripalu yogi and a certified ski instructor, combines her love of the two activities at Connecticut's Mohawk Mountain. According to Steve Grant at the Hartford Courant, SNOWGA is "intended to enhance snow sport performance and enjoyment with proper stretching poses, breathing techniques and meditation." Are you headed to Mohawk Mountain this winter? Stop by Anderson's SNOWGA class and tell us what you thought! Check out the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sh*t Yogis Say

Based on the hilarious Sh*t Girls Say web series from Toronto comedians Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey, Lululemon brings us a video sending up the life of the yogi.

"I drank wayyy too much kombucha last night."
"I've got total yoga hair."
"My chakras are so aligned."
"Wanna see where I can put my leg? You want to see where I can put my leg."

We're laughing our asanas off.