Yoga

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

Posted on June 19th, 2012 by in Meditation, Yoga

Meditation in Motion

Sometimes in our yoga practice we strive so hard to “get it right”—mastering our alignment, coordinating our breath, focusing our attention—that we stifle our inner energy (prana). Meditation in motion, or, spontaneous posture flow, is a hallmark of the Kripalu Yoga approach. In this practice, the inner wisdom of prana is allowed to guide the body, as opposed to the will of the mind. By surrendering rather than striving, prana can flow freely throughout the body, allowing movement to become spontaneous and un-choreographed. Ready to try it on your own?

At the end of your next yoga practice, close your eyes for a minute. Take some long, slow, deep breaths to get in touch with prana. Then respond to what your body is asking you to do. Allow your mind to step aside so the breath can orchestrate the movement of your body. As prana begins to move, your mind can relax into witnessing and your movement may evolve into meditation in motion.

read →
Posted on June 18th, 2012 by in Life Lessons, Yoga

The Yoga of Living: Leadership, Love, and Freedom

Yoga, ultimately, is so much more than Downward-Facing Dog. Rather, it’s a process, the way in which we engage with life, with our experiences, both on and off the mat. Yoga teaches us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and with the mystery of life. It offers us a map to help us get on the path of living our lives to the fullest, and finding the leader within—the inner voice that guides us into discovering who we really are.

The yoga of living asks fundamental questions such as:

What kind of world do I want to live in?

How can I create my own existence?

How do I say yes to my life?

read →
Posted on June 14th, 2012 by in Yoga

Shop Like a Yogi—in Four Questions or Less

I’m allergic to spiritual texts; one sutra and I’m prone to wild swelling of the nap gland. But as someone who’s practiced yoga for 20 years and is a certified Kripalu Yoga instructor, I’ve managed to cram the 10 yamas and niyamas (yogic do’s and don’ts) into my head. I aim, loosely, to practice them. Mostly, this is not a hardship. For example, ahimsa, or non-violence, means taking a breath when I want to say something cutting and offering compassion instead. Bramacharya, moderation, means eating three, and not 20, double-chocolate organic Newman O’s. Satya, truthfulness, translates as being upfront in my relationships. One that kicks my yogic booty, though, is aparigraha, non-possessiveness. Or as I like to call it: non-shopping.

I’m not sure if this is because I grew up in New York City as a double-Aries only child who wants what she wants NOW, or what, but I do like to shop. I’m not proud of it—you’ll never see me with a “Born to Shop” bumper sticker—but I like pretty stuff. I like looking for it, buying it, and wearing it. Usually, it’s clothing that brings me those temporary bursts of shopper’s delight, but I get a similar rush from buying a notebook, hair tie, or a mug with a spiritual message like, “Trust the Process.” Judging by the compliments I get from my fellow yogis on my sparkly TOMS, Lulu hoodies, and Sayta lotus earrings, I’m not alone in the paradox of wanting stuff that reminds me to give back and let go.

read →
Posted on June 12th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Finding an Inner Home

I was born in Iran. The political landscape there was not something I agreed with or felt I could change. I came to the United States to go to school. I’ve met many nice people here, but after 9/11, for some people, anyone of Middle Eastern origin represented the face of the enemy. I had many unpleasant experiences. Without knowing my beliefs, people would hate me just from looking at my face or seeing my last name.

At Kripalu, I heard comments from the teachers like, “Thank yourself for being here.” There was the utmost care and compassion for yourself. That’s what I needed to heal myself, the utmost compassion. Also, having compassion for the people who hated me for things I had no responsibility for. I learned to take the seat of the observer, instead of taking the seat of the judge and saying this is right or wrong.

Before Kripalu, any kind of yoga I tried had been bittersweet. There were so many things I couldn’t do. I thought, maybe my body is not made for it. When I came to Kripalu I could see that it’s about doing what’s good for your body. I learned there is no perfect Downward Dog. I began seeing yoga as a way to grow, and it’s okay if I never have a perfect pose.

read →
Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by in Yoga

A Religious Experience

In yoga, one writer reconnects with the notion of faith.

Like most kids in my middle-class New England town, I was raised Catholic, though in my case it was something of a default option. My parents had both been brought up in religious households but, by the time I came along, they were largely non-practicing. My mother’s strict Irish-Catholic family—so devout (or stubborn) that they refused to acknowledge her secular college education—turned her away from the church, and my father, a journalist, had been trained to follow facts, not faith. While they wanted the decision of religion to be mine, they also sought to provide me with a base from which to explore, a base that would include Baptism, Confirmation, and 10 years of weekly after-school Catholic-education classes.

But while I made all the milestones, I neither connected with nor opposed their meanings. My given religion was never something to think about; it just was. Later, as a teenager, church on Sunday remained important to me mainly because to my parents it was not. (What a rebel, right?) But it wasn’t as if my friends were so pious: The annual Christmas-eve midnight mass was as much about socializing as it was about celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Throughout, no one I knew questioned what we’d been taught. We took the word of our teachers, and our priests, on “faith.” In those early years, “faith” meant believing that if you were a good person, good would surround you; that if you treated others well, you would be treated well in return; that if you followed the Catholic doctrine, you would be rewarded with peace while you lived and after you died. Faith, for the most part, did not include questioning authority. And, for a long time, I didn’t.

read →
Posted on May 21st, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Turning Point: Vandita Kate Marchesiello

Vandita Kate Marchesiello, E-RYT 500, is a senior teacher and faculty member at Kripalu Center and the recording artist on two CDs, Transform, Relax, and Rejuvenate and Yoga with Vandita. Director of Kripalu Professional Associations and Kripalu’s Teaching for Diversity program, Vandita has balanced family, self-care, and a career in yoga and health for more than 30 years.

Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.

A Practice love, patience, and kindness toward myself and others, at home, work, and play.

Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.

A When I was in my early twenties, I was headed down a path that could have been destructive to my health and happiness. A friend turned me on to yoga, and I fell in love with the physical, mental, and spiritual practices. Now, nearly 40 years later, I am still practicing and teaching, from my own experience, the depth and breath of yoga that can lead to a whole and healthy life.
Q What do you love about teaching?

read →
Posted on May 12th, 2012 by in Yoga

What is Ujjayi Breath?

Senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Jovinna Chan, E-RYT 500, teaches us how to practice ujjayi breath.

read →
Posted on April 26th, 2012 by in Yoga

Elena Brower on How to Keep Your Yoga Practice Fresh

How can we keep our yoga practice fresh during seasonal transitions?

Elena Brower, yogini extraordinaire, gives us some tips.

One of yoga’s keenest gifts, Elena notes, is that it makes us aware of life’s transitions, and how we approach our practice on the mat can guide us in how we welcome life off the mat as we open up to spring. Even when the impulse of awakening strikes, starting our practice slowly helps us find our way into greater freedom and deeper intuition as spring begins its journey toward full bloom. Backbends, with their emphasis on heart-opening, seem intuitive this time of year and, as the season starts, we can mirror nature’s journey by gently encouraging our own physical flourishing. With that in mind, she recommends opening the heart with baby backbends, such as Small Cobra. Going within and noticing the delicate balance between growth and surrender allows the process of springtime to unfurl at its natural pace.

Elena also notes that it’s important to keep the fragility of the blossoming process in mind, and to approach our yoga practice with attention to small details. “We can practice our yoga with a delicate level of care, connecting energetically to the universal pulsation, or spanda.”

Of course, nothing says “spring awakening” quite like reveling in nature, and bringing our practice outdoors can help create new perspectives. The season’s vibrant imagery—the colorful flora, bright sunshine, and hints of lush green landscapes—can act as a powerful complement to how we attune to the energy of renewal in our yoga practice.

read →