Yoga

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

Posted on April 23rd, 2012 by in Yoga

Yoga Nidra: Power Yoga of the Mind

Susan Abbattista, Guest Blogger

One of my favorite vinyasa yoga teachers once said, “If dropping into stillness is the hardest thing for you to do, then that is what you need the most.” And so, sometime around the first frost, I came to Kripalu to try a meditative practice called yoga nidra. Translated as “yogic sleep” or “divine sleep,” this type of yoga focuses on systematic relaxation of the body while the mind enters a state of deep, meditative awareness—like dreaming while fully awake. The technique was developed by Swami Satyananda in the 1960s to make advanced, centuries-old practices of tantric meditation more accessible to everyone.

I’d never done this type of yoga before and didn’t quite know what to expect. One thing I did know: Underneath my blanket, I was an exhausted mess. Summer had passed in a hazy blur of work and play—and, admittedly, too many margaritas. Now here it was, the onset of fall, the hardest seasonal transition for me. I felt myself floating and drifting, a balloon accidentally released from the fist of a child. I needed to reel myself back in.

Over the course of five days, some unspoken guidelines (or pointers) emerged from the darkness:

read →
Posted on April 21st, 2012 by in Yoga

Get Grounded with Mountain Pose

How we stand, literally—with our feet on the ground—can have a huge impact on how we feel. When we align ourselves and ground in Mountain pose, we access the qualities of stability, balance, and strength. Reconnecting to these qualities can help us as we move through our day, meeting challenges and entering new situations. Try Mountain pose any time you need to ground yourself to find inner strength and peace.

To explore this foundational pose, stand with your feet parallel and three to five inches apart, weight evenly balanced, arms at your sides. Spread out the toes and press evenly down through the four corners of each foot. As the feet firm into the floor, the kneecaps will lift and the thighs will gently engage. Lengthen the tailbone toward the heels and lift the pubic bone toward the navel. Firm the shoulder blades onto the back and slide them down toward the waist. Gently lift the sternum and reach the fingertips toward the floor. Keeping the chin parallel to the floor, lengthen up through the crown of the head, while softening the tongue and the throat. Develop steady, smooth breaths.

read →
Posted on April 9th, 2012 by in Yoga

The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, By William J. Broad

An excerpt from The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards

Drawing from both scientific research and esoteric wisdom, William J. Broad’s The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards explores yoga’s capacity to lift moods, inspire creativity, and otherwise induce “uncommon states.” An excerpt published in the New York Times Magazine in January examining yoga’s potential for catalyzing injury ignited lively discussions online and in yoga studios around the country. This excerpt focuses on Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, a Harvard scientist who has worked with Kripalu’s Institute for Extraordinary Living on research projects tracking the effects of yoga on performers, high school students, and war veterans.

In 2005, Sat Bir Khalsa and Stephen Cope from Kripalu recruited 10 volunteers from Tanglewood’s prestigious Fellows program. The five men and five women were aged 21 to 30, the average just over 25. They included singers, as well as those who played the violin and viola, horn and cello. For two months, the 10 volunteers underwent Kripalu training. The options included morning and afternoon sessions seven days a week, a weekly evening session and early-morning meditation session, and vegetarian meals at Kripalu. The investigation also included 10 fellows recruited as controls who had no yoga training.

The results, though not earthshaking, were encouraging, as Khalsa and Cope reported in their 2006 paper.

read →
Posted on April 4th, 2012 by in Yoga

The Yoga of Burlesque

Image courtesy of Kate Drew Miller.

When I moved to the Berkshires from Brooklyn, I knew that a number of things were in store for me: my new job; plenty of opportunities for yoga; friendships honed from previous visits to Kripalu; and learning to drive. What I did not anticipate was becoming a performer in a burlesque troupe.

Actually, I take that back. People love to manifest things around the halls of Kripalu. They hope for relationships, emotional breakthroughs, job growth. The idea is that if you yearn for something in your life, set an intention to make it happen, and verbalize it, then the universe will provide. Me? I found myself telling folks left and right that one of the things I wanted to create was a co-ed burlesque troupe called Big-Girl Panties.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, burlesque is “a theatrical entertainment of a broadly humorous, often earthy character consisting of short turns, comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts”—and it usually does not involve dudes. That’s why the idea of a co-ed troupe was so innovative! I’ve always been theatrically inclined, but this would’ve been something on a whole new level, especially considering that I was starting a whole new life, and ready to explore new ventures. Sure, all my talk of Big-Girl Panties was a good-natured joke, but one that, deep in my heart, I thought might actually happen.

read →
Posted on March 28th, 2012 by in Yoga

Grounded Presence

Need a boost in your yoga practice? In her R&R retreat workshop Grounded Presence, senior Kripalu Yoga teacher Evelyn Gonzalez explores enlivening ways to bring more grounding, energy, and spaciousness each time you step onto the yoga mat. Through the natural forces of opposition, Evelyn explains, you can find your center in each pose.

Plant metaphors are a powerful way to let this concept blossom in your body. One of the keys to tapping into a sense of grounded presence in your practice is to become aware of what roots down and what branches out when you settle into a yoga posture—all the while connecting to the breath. Evelyn recommends lengthening the bones to find more space across the body, while simultaneously allowing the muscles to contract, “hugging” them into the bones for stability.

read →
Posted on March 20th, 2012 by in Yoga

Reigniting the Spark: A Hip-Hop Group Comes to Kripalu to Refuel and Reboot

I came to Kripalu for the Kundalini Yoga and Expressive Arts weekend with my New York City–based hip-hop and spoken-word group, ReadNex Poetry Squad. We were all in serious need of a rest. In 2010, our group did more than 200 shows, performances, and workshops, spending nine months of the year on the road. To put it bluntly, we were beat.

Much of our work is done with at-risk urban youth: We travel to schools and teach kids about youth empowerment. We introduce them to the concept of using performance art as a form of personal expression. But as rewarding as community work is, it can also become physically and emotionally exhausting if you don’t give yourself a chance to rest.

I got the idea to bring the ReadNex Poetry Squad to Kripalu after my fiancée visited a few times for spiritual retreats. After each visit, she came home regenerated and rejuvenated. That’s what we needed, I thought. For us to be able to continue giving back to the community, we had to take time to focus on our own spiritual development.

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

Words from the Wise: Falling into Place

Jay Karlinski, Kripalu Yoga Teacher and Guest Blogger

It’s a universal truth: We will all fall in life—all of us. Yes, you too. If you can accept this, you are on the right track. When I’m teaching asana classes, I encourage my students to play with their balance until they fall because that’s when the real teaching happens.

I believe asana holds countless lessons for how we live life. We are all going to fall in life, but it’s what happens next that matters most. If we can fall with grace and a lightness of heart, we’re serving ourselves. In class, when you fall out of a pose, notice what the first thought is that crosses your mind. If you find that you’re judging yourself or telling yourself, “I’m not strong enough” or “I can’t believe I fell, I am no good.” take a pause and recognize that you’re reinforcing limiting beliefs.

read →
Posted on March 15th, 2012 by in Yoga

Reinvigorating a Pranayama Home Practice

Need a refresher course in establishing, or reestablishing, a pranayama routine at home? Here are some practical approaches for planning a regular routine and taking this self-nurturing, transformative practice into you daily life.

Begin by creating safe and sacred space for your pranayama practice. Choose a private place free from interruption and distraction, with good air circulation. If possible, find a spot void of electronics. In good weather, consider an outdoor location (this is my favorite and most frequent choice for my personal pranayama practice). Make it welcoming. Beautify your space with bits of inspiration (fresh flowers, mala beads, statues, photos of loved ones or teachers, sentimental objects, favorite quotes). Have fresh water, tissues, and a journal handy.

Choose a time to practice daily. Pranayama is best done in the early morning and on an empty stomach, but gentle techniques-like dirgha, ujjayi, and nadi shodhana-can be practiced just about any time of day. Consistency is more important than duration, so choose the most viable time to delve into the enlivening rhythm of your home practice.

read →