Sunday, December 30, 2012

Teacher of the Month - Rachel Page

Teacher of the Month Questionnaire
Rachel Page
By April Evans

Join Rachel at the Hot Studio
Mondays 5:15-6:30pm All Levels

In addition to being one of New York Yoga's stellar class instructors, Rachel is also a member of the Teacher Training staff, responsible for giving the portion on Yogic Philosophy, Ancient Texts, and the Subtle Body.  Her passion for these elements of Yoga is evident in her teaching style, as well as in her gorgeous tattoos.  She has travelled the world and done multiple teacher trainings, making her point of view very inclusive. Rachel is confident in speaking her own voice, but she does so while creating the space for her students to discover and inhabit their own. 

When did you first discover yoga?
I first discovered yoga in 2000 while I was working out at the Y.  I happened to take a class - I had heard of it but never tried it and I thought "I might as well do it."  After the first time I thought "This is something somewhat athletic that I can actually do!"  I tried everything when I was younger; softball, basketball, and was never really good at them.  Yoga was something I could actually do.

How long have you been teaching? 
For about 10 years, a little over 10 years.  I've done several trainings, but my main training has been through Integral Yoga.  I studied at the ashram Yogaville in Virginia.

What makes your class unique?
I don’t find them particularly unique; they're just a blend of everything I’ve learned, everything that’s been passed down from my teachers.  I feel like everything’s already been done in yoga class. What I’m doing is just putting my spin on what my teachers have taught me. I do a blend of all my teachings, based in Integral Yoga and Jivamukti Yoga namely.

What is your favorite pose to teach?
I’d have to say just sitting in sukhasana for meditation.  I feel like that’s the reason we practice yoga: to find a place where we can be comfortable in the body so that we can sit for longer periods of time. Hopefully eventually we can reach the state of yoga, the state of enlightenment.

What is you favorite pose to practice?
I love savasana, because it’s so challenging. It's harder than the inversions or arm balances, it's when you truly get to test how yogic you really are and if your yoga practice is working in the way it’s supposed to work.  I think it’s easy to stand on one leg for a minute or stand upside down for a couple minutes.  I think being able to be still is really challenging.  It’s the most important asana out there in my opinion.

Best advice for beginners?
Just don’t give up, stick with it.  Don’t get frustrated and don’t compare yourself to anyone. Just be open to whatever comes up emotionally, spiritually, physically.  Stay open.

Best advice for more advanced yogis?
Stop considering yourself an advanced yogi.  If you are really truly an advanced yogi you are an enlightened being.  I don’t think too many of us that come to our mat, even on a daily basis have come to that point yet.  There's a Buddhist quote I really like that I'll paraphrase: “A spoon full of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable, but a spoon full of a salt in a lake makes little difference.”  The point is, just keep an open mind.

What is your biggest yoga pet peeve?
I would say leaving in the middle of savasana, but my biggest one has to do with teachers.  That's yoga teachers who don’t practice ahimsa and who eat meat.  I’m sure a lot of people aren’t going to like that answer, but I have to be honest. 
How do you incorporate yoga into your daily life?
Yoga is my daily life.  I live in an ashram and I’ve lived here for over 4 years. So I am on the mat practicing everyday and meditating everyday.  I’m living in a spiritual community so I really can’t separate yoga from my daily life.  It’s part of it.

Passions besides yoga?
Animal rights, riding my bike, spending my time with my friends, and vegan cooking and eating.  I’m really passionate about just working on myself, improving myself everyday and just trying to be a better person, and then accepting if I’m not a good person one day.  Because I'm a work in progress.  I’m not perfect.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pose of the Month - Malasana

Pose of the Month
Malasana – Garland Pose
By April Evans

The holiday season is filled with excitement of many varieties.  We all feel the buzz in the air brought on by the twinkly lights, bustling streets, and busy stores.  We anticipate parties and presents, food and friends, travel and transition.  These feelings are exciting at first, but can soon turn to anxiety as our to-do lists grow and our time to complete them shrinks.  In the hustle and bustle inherent in this season, Malasana, or Garland Pose, takes one of our favorite seasonal decorations and turns it into a wonderful tool for grounding.  This pose is considered by many to be one of the most beneficial poses in the entire asana practice.  It is a perfect pose to open the hips and lower back after you’ve been sitting in a car or on a plane.  It is equally useful a shape for simply feeling the feet root down after you’ve been running all over trying to get your shopping done.  This season give yourself the gift of a few breaths a day in Malasana.

Opens the hips, groins, low back, and ankles
Strengthens the thighs and the abdomen

How to:
If possible, practice this pose with a mirror to your right or left.  This will enable you to check the alignment of the spine.

1. Stand on the mat and separate the feet about mat’s distance apart.  Turn the toes out slightly.
2. Bring the palms to press together at the center of the chest in Anjali Mudra.
3. Anchor the tailbone down and feel the abdomen pull in.  Notice the long line from the tailbone to the crown of the head.
4.  Keep this line intact and hinge the hips back into a low squat, the elbows coming to the insides of the knees. 
5.  Press the elbows into the knees and feel the chest brighten forward and shoulder blades draw together, making the upper spine as straight as possible.
6.  This is where the mirror comes in handy.  If you are very flexible in your hips and legs, it is likely that the low back is rounding.  Lift the hips up a couple inches and tip the chest slightly forward to bring work back into the legs.  If you are tighter in your legs, it is possible that your heels have popped off the floor.  You can place a blanket underneath them or separate the feet a little more and lift the hips a little higher.  If you have any issues with your knees, do not lower all the way down into the low squat.  Instead, take the feet very wide and stay in a high-squat.
7. Ease the back of the neck and the face, take 10 deep, full breaths as the spine lengthens, the legs and feet ground, and the hips open up.

Happy Holidays!