Yoga

Here, find insights, teachings, and explorations into all things yoga.

Posted on October 8th, 2012 by in Yoga

The Alchemy of a Dirty Yogini

Dirt · y [adj.] Appearing as if soiled; dark-colored; dingy; murky.

Pu · ri · fied [verb] 1. To rid of impurities; cleanse. 2. To rid of foreign of objectionable elements. 3. To free from sin, guilt, or other defilement.

Mud surrounded the house where I grew up in a small village in Singapore. I spent many hours walking, playing, and daydreaming along dirt roads. My mom used to make me wash my hands and feet before I could eat or sleep and often yelled when I got myself dirty again. So at a young age, I began to form a judgment about being dirty and clean. Later, in my adult life, that judgment transformed into an invisible quest to be pure, to be good, and to be rid of stains in character.

I was always fascinated with martial arts. Growing up with two brothers and three other cousin-brothers, I watched a lot of kung fu films from Hong Kong where heros and heroines flew through the trees, defeating villains and restoring justice. I loved seeing how the body could quickly assume delicate yet powerful postures and defy gravity with leaps and somersaults. I especially admired the power and beauty that the women possessed. It seemed as though their diligent practices purified their characters—from weakness and doubt to strength and confidence.

When I was 14, I stumbled across a book filled with yoga poses. Fascinated by how flexible the people in the pictures looked, I began imitating them. Fusing martial arts and yoga, I improvised movement flows to demonstrate the sharpness and flexibility of my body. Through the flow, I would relive the feelings that I had when I watched kung fu movies—a sense of accomplishment, transformation, and purification.

read →
Posted on October 6th, 2012 by in Ayurveda, Yoga

The Connection Between Yoga and Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda are two “sister” practices that originated in India thousands of years ago. Now, a lot of us are familiar with yoga, and have experienced firsthand—through postures, breathwork, and self-inquiry—its profound benefits. Yet many of us are not as familiar with Ayurveda. We might have heard about it in conjunction with yoga, but are not quite sure how, exactly. In her R&R retreat workshop Yoga and Ayurveda, Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Jurian Hughes points out that yoga means union in Sanskrit, and a definition of Ayurveda is the wisdom of life. Explored together, these complementary practices can offer us transformative tools that foster greater health and vitality.  And as Jurian also explains, integrating Ayurvedic principles into your yoga practice can create a deeper, richer experience on the mat that you can take with you off the mat as well.

“Ayurveda isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy,” Jurian says. “We’re constantly in flux throughout the day: our energy level and our mood, for example, are different first thing in the morning than they are at noon.” Ayurveda, then, is a personalized, intuitive health philosophy. According to Ayurvedic principles, each of us has a unique constitution governed by our physical and emotional makeup, as well as our lifestyle—the foods we eat, what time we go to sleep. These constitutions are called doshas, and they are linked to the elements. The doshas are vata (air and ether), pitta (fire and water), and kapha (earth and water).

read →
Posted on October 3rd, 2012 by in Yoga

40 Years of Kripalu Yoga in the West: Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training

In this monthly series running through 2012, community members recall milestone moments to commemorate and reflect on Kripalu Yoga.

In 1972, a small residential yoga retreat called Kripalu Center was founded in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, by Amrit Desai and several of his students from the Philadelphia area. Desai had emigrated to the United States from India, where he was a close disciple of the yoga master Swami Kripalu. Over the next 40 years, Desai’s students integrated Swami Kripalu’s core teachings with psychology, science, and Western approaches to healing and self-development, creating groundbreaking programs and approaches to well-being. Today, Kripalu’s curriculum, professional training, and yoga research continue to be informed by the lineage of Kripalu Yoga. To commemorate the 40-year milestone, we asked several teachers and community members to reflect on what Kripalu Yoga means to them.

As a Kripalu Yoga teacher trainer, there is nothing quite so moving to me as getting to witness yoga-teachers-to-be at the end of their training practicing meditation in motion. At the end of an intensive, life-changing month, I get to witness a room full of souls allowing their sacred yoga prayers to unfold. Each one unique, each one a beautiful gift. In these moments, I have to pinch myself and say, “Really? I get to do this?”
Jurian Hughes, Kripalu School of Yoga teacher trainer

read →
Posted on September 29th, 2012 by in Yoga

Yoga Practice: Goddess Pose

Goddess Pose, or Deviasana, represents the feminine force that created the universe. Hara is a Japanese martial arts term meaning “center of being,” and it refers to the stomach, or solar plexus, where the body’s vital healing energy is generated. Goddess Pose, in combination with breathing from the hara, is a powerful way to revitalize and renew the body, mind, and spirit. When the body’s hara is clear and open, vital energy can freely move down through the pelvis and legs and into the earth for grounding. However, fear, pain, and anxiety can cause this energy to become blocked. Goddess pose with hara breathing opens up the hips and chest so that power, strength, and energy can circulate freely.

Ready to try it out? Here’s how:

read →
Posted on September 22nd, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Words from the Wise, Yoga

Life is Perspective

We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”—Henry David Thoreau

Do you feel stuck? Do you find that you’re always preparing for the worst? Where are you putting your attention? When we step back and examine our worldview it can lead us to question our belief systems and our perspective. Yoga often initiates this exploration: As we experience being in our body, being in the moment, and fully feeling our experiences, we open to the possibility of being comfortable in the uncomfortable. How do we integrate this practice into our daily lives?

In her R&R retreat workshop Life Is Perspective, Kripalu Yoga teacher and life coach Coby Kozlowski, explores the gift of perspective and how yoga can impact our experiences. Discussing tenets from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, specifically, yoga as “the cessation of the modifications of the mind,” Coby notes that we can approach our experiences as “the observer, the witness, and open to seeing the way we frame our own experience in the belief systems that we’ve codified in our perspective.”

read →
Posted on September 19th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide for the Journey of Your True Calling

Excerpt from the Book, The Great Work of Your Life by Stephen Cope.

I see my own concerns about fulfillment played out nearly every day of my professional life. I work at one of the biggest holistic retreat centers in America—Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. We see more than 35,000 people a year here in our sprawling, former-Jesuit monastery perched high up in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Our guests come for various kinds of retreats: yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, couples’ work, healthy living. And almost every single one of them comes here in some phase of the mission to find this secret, hidden inner possibility spoken of in the Gospel of Thomas.

read →
Posted on September 17th, 2012 by in Yoga

Freeing the Joy Within

As a veteran police lieutenant living in Philadelphia, I’m not your typical yogi. About a decade ago, while looking to add stretching to my exercise routine, I discovered Bikram Yoga. I quickly found that incorporating yoga into my life made me feel radically different—less worried, more grounded. Even doing a 20-minute routine before work left me feeling at peace with myself and better able to handle people with grace. I also found that yoga helped dissipate the low-level anxiety I’d lived with for so long.

Yoga soon took on a central role in my life, and, five years ago, I decided to become a teacher so I could share what I’d learned with others. I’d been teaching in Philadelphia for about a year when I flipped through the Kripalu catalog and was intrigued by a program with Shiva Rea. It seemed to have an element of flow to it that I hadn’t experienced in other classes I’d taken.

Her program was my first opportunity to take yoga all day long, and the experience was supernatural. When I came out of the class the next day, I felt like I was flying. It was as if someone had unleashed a sense of joy in my body; I felt so light and exhilarated. I couldn’t believe I could feel that good. I thought to myself, “I need to learn how to bring this feeling into my teaching.”

read →
Posted on September 10th, 2012 by in Outside Our Walls, Yoga

Yoga Everywhere: Building Community in a Circle of Chairs

Terri Young, guest blogger

One morning each month, from October through May, about 10 students arrive at Poland Spring Yoga, the small yoga studio in Poland Spring, Maine, that I own with my husband, Steve. Their ages range from 65 to 85 years old. During the next hour, we sit in chairs in a circle and explore cultivating awareness through stillness, poetry reading, breathing techniques, and a range of gentle movements and stretches. After class, we move to the living room for chatting, laughter, and fellowship.

This is my favorite class to teach. The openness, joy, and deep sense of community that we all receive from this experience are nothing short of miraculous.

“I never realized yoga was for me—I always thought it was for the younger generation,” one student told me after the first class. Another student confided, with complete amazement, “I never knew I could feel this way!”

read →