Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cut The Fat: An Open Letter To The Yoga Community

Dear Students, Teachers, and Friends!

This season, I have one wish for all of us: Nourishment.

For too long, I have heard (and even been a part of) a rhetoric of unhealthy reciprocal speak about exercise and eating behaviors during the holiday season. Do we really need to do more asana to “burn off” those holidays? I think not!

I’ve privately struggled to see how this type of communication serves anyone. At best, I feel that these commentaries are cheap motivators. Sadly, I fear that perpetuating a dialogue like this is actually a type of passive violence that is antithetical to our code of yamas and niyamas. For the health and happiness of our spirits, we can and need to make a change. This is why I am bringing this conversation to our beautiful community.

I know that yoga is not infallible. Nothing is. Yoga is a living practice and we are all a part of it. I also know that not all of us speak like this. And, surely, few of us speak like this intentionally. But still, we CAN listen and improve! As teachers and students, we CAN raise a consciousness around how we speak about food, exercise, and nourishment. And, I’m certain that it’s time we did.

Every time we speak in terms that portray food, exercise, reward, even love(!) as part of an economy of exchange, we are latently affirming a message of: you are not good enough as you are. Every time we permit this language of hierarchical conditionality, we allow for the continuation of the belief: you are not enough. Every time we employ a rhetoric of action-consequence we effectively say: you are not enough. Simply, this is not yoga. We must be mindful of this. We are SO much more than conditional thinking.

On a more personal note, as a recovered anorexic/bulimic and eating disorder (ED) recovery advocate, I feel that this language is not only maladaptive, but that it also reinforces a dangerous ideal. Both from my personal practices and my work in the ED recovery field, I’ve encountered how the negative conditioning an exercise-exchange economy adversely affects people. It is often tantamount to verbal abuse. This is ironic, because as yogis, we are committed to ahimsa.

So, this season, I am committing to nourishment. I am committing to nourishment not just through physical food, but through language and action. I and my studio (The Grinning Yogi) promise to offer a message of acceptance and nourishment starting NOW. We are pledging the following:
  • We will NOT teach from a voice rooted in an exchange economy of food, guilt, calories, indulgence, or anything related to not “being enough” as you are.

  • We will create a safe-haven for our friends to feel empowered so they can take effective steps in promoting their own self-care and overall wellness.

  • We will open a dialogue about what real nourishment is.

  • We will remind our friends that food is food, love is love, and yoga… yoga is a GIFT!
Please join us in this commitment.

We are sharing this letter with friends, students, teachers and studios in the area. We will be posting our commitment publicly in the studio and on social media as well. We will be honored if you join us in making this a powerful, communal statement, grounded in love and health. Please feel free to share this and post this letter as you see fit.

We can do this, together!!! I leave you with gratitude and this: And love says: I will. I will take care. To everything that is near. —Hafiz

Thank you for your nourishment,

Jamie Silverstein and The Grinning Yogi

For more information about the BEyoga project, visit the BEyoga project website or their page on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Practicing Yoga at Home w/ Emma

When I think back to the development of my home yoga practice, two pivotal times in my life come to mind.  The first was when I am under ten years old. My family and I lived too far in the woods to get anything good on our incredibly old television (manual VHF/UHF dial, anyone?) so I had to get creative. One of my favorite activities was snooping around my parent’s personal belongings, which was how I found my mother’s book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnudeananda. My yoga practice started on the floor of my parent’s living room, when I would flip through the pages of the book until I came to a picture, and then I would try and mimic it. For years, this was my entire yoga practice. Curiosity may have not worked out so well for the cat, but it introduced me to yoga, and led me onto the path I’m still traveling.

For the other pivotal moment, we need to fast forward more than a decade. People often ask me how I became a yoga teacher. The simplified answer is that I had a long, high-stress, serious-commute job that I hated. Although I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, I would have to fly to Philadelphia two or three times a month and live in a hotel while I worked.  I would get back to the hotel room late at night when there was no way I was going out to a yoga class. I would order room service and while I waited for it to arrive, I would put one of the hotel towels on the floor in front of the television (which now, lucky for me, came with a remote control) and do Sun Salutations. I would do as many Sun Salutations as I could fit in until the porter knocked on my door. When I realized that the happiest part of my day was the 15-30 minutes of frantic Sun Salutations before my dinner alone in front of a television, I knew that my life needed a major shift.

In both of those times, and again and again throughout my yoga practice, major realizations have come from doing yoga by myself. While nothing beats the amazing energy and connection that we feel from practicing in a room filled with other dedicated yogis, often our greatest moments of growth arrive when we are alone on our mats. You’d be surprised at what you can learn about yourself, and not just about your yoga asana practice, when you develop your home yoga practice. While the hardest part can be to start, I promise you'll be glad that you did!

Check out Emma’s workshop later this month on developing your own home practice to suit your life!

Developing a Home Yoga Practice
w/ Emma Silverman
Saturday, Nov. 16 | 1-3pm
Before 11/8, $25/$23 students
After 11/8, $30/$28 students

Saturday, October 26, 2013

O Sacred Season of Autumn...

"O sacred season of Autumn, be my teacher, for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment. As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty, I sense all about you an at-homeness with your amber riches. 
You are the season of retirement, of full barns and harvested fields. The cycle of growth has ceased, and the busy work of giving life is now completed. I sense in you no regrets: you’ve lived a full life. 
I live in a society that is ever-restless, always eager for more mountains to climb, seeing happiness through more and more possessions. As a child of my culture, I am seldom truly at peace with what I have. Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received, may I know that it’s enough, that my striving can cease in the abundance of God’s grace. May I know the contentment that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower. May I know that like you I am rich beyond measure. 
As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty, let me also take delight in the abundance of the simple things in life which are the true source of joy. With the golden glow of peaceful contentment may I truly appreciate this autumn day."
                                                            -Edward Hayes

Friday, September 27, 2013

What deepening your yoga practice means to Zainab

By Zainab Zakari

The phrase “deepen your practice” is tossed around yoga classes a lot (my own included).  It can sound like a rather lofty aim, but I believe it’s only meant to alert us to that moment when we realize yoga is not just a bunch of physical poses strung together, but it can evolve into a multi-nuanced path that goes underneath the surface layer and into the proverbial rabbit hole.  You might wonder why one needs to go into the hole, to find what? Well, it’s not what actually, but who, and that who is you. 

Yoga invites us to develop greater self-awareness to more wisely navigate life and all its curveballs. Among the skills the Yoga Sutras offer to cultivate this self-knowledge is through the practice of svadhyaya, translated as self-study.  When we study anything that engages and enriches our minds about ourselves—from exploring our personal histories to observing our current tendencies—we also gain greater understanding about how we fit into the world. In its most literal translation, svadhyaya often refers to reading spiritual texts or scriptures to learn about oneself, but that definition can expand to include any practice that encourages the practitioner to more deeply reflect upon the layers within his or her life, whether it comes through meditation, journaling or asanas on the yoga mat. With time this continuous self-inquiry can not only offer a broader sense of self, but it can also help us make more mindful decisions, and perhaps chart a path we can consistently be nurtured by.

In my classes, I strive to offer multiple ways to deepen your practice, whether it’s by physically trying a challenging variation of a pose or if it’s sharpening your awareness of your breath in a familiar pose or movement or if it is staying still to meet any of your inner critics head on.  All are ways of challenging what you know by being willing to dive a teensy bit into the unknown, and all can help you deepen your connection to, you guessed it, you.

Deepening your practice is not limited to just these methods, of course, and I encourage you to chart your pathways as you see most fit and effective for you.  The other Mighty teachers and I are here to support.  And I’m honored to be a part of a couple of upcoming workshops that encourage you to deepen your practice your way, from an invigorating Grace & Strength workshop  with Liz on Oct. 19th to the six-week wellness program (i.e. challenge) with Gina called Living Yoga, starting Oct. 20th.  Plus we’ve also got Huck’s Power, Breathe and Flow on Oct. 5th and Liz’ 3-class Intermediate Yoga Series starting Oct. 26th.  All of these special offerings kick off this month (what a month, right?!), and we hope you’ll explore some of them to get to know yourself all the more.   Happy self-study time!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Introducing our newest Mighty Teacher! Meet Kat Loeck

We’re super excited to be introducing our newest teacher who’s already been sharing her love for yoga with us during our Saturday Community class at 6pm. Kat hails from Nebraska, then took a detour in Boston before she could call Ithaca her home. We couldn’t be more grateful for the sweet and powerful flair that she brings to her classes! Meet her in class on Saturdays at 6pm. Here’s a little from Kat:

How did you come to yoga?
I suppose that yoga found me in Kansas. About five years ago, I walked into a yoga studio completely by accident. (I don’t remember what I was looking for at the time, but it definitely was not yoga). The woman at the desk invited me to stay for the class that was about to start. 

What do you like about Power Yoga? 
It teaches me to tend the sacred fire.

How has your yoga changed since the first time you practiced?
Oh, wow. I started off practicing a very different style of yoga. When I started to understand the energetics of yoga and the subtle body, I discovered that vinyasa flow was a much better fit for my constitution. More than anything, I’ve learned how to breathe.

Why did you decide to teach yoga?
Through my travels and cycles, I’ve been blessed to know amazing teachers who have inspired me to be a stronger woman. I hope to pass this gift forward. 

Any tips for someone new to yoga? 
Keep a yoga mat open on the floor next to your bed. First thing in the morning, roll onto that mat and take
a few quiet minutes to start your day with fluid/creative movement.

What is your favorite pose or poses? Why? 
This changes each week. ☺ Half moon because I feel radiant. Skandasana because I feel like a tiger.  

What do you like to do off the yoga mat?
I’m a farmer ... and farming is what I love. When field work ends this winter, I look forward to making music, rock climbing and knitting. 

What fuels you?
Sun, soil and water.

What makes you Mighty?
Knowing when to be gentle and when to be fierce. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Emma’s Favorite Outdoor Yoga Pose is…..

By Emma Silverman

If you've taken my Yoga in the Park class at all this summer, you might have gotten used to a similar occurrence. Instead of moving quickly through Downward Facing Dog onto the next pose, it's likely that we spent some extra time upside-down. The reason is simple: Downward Facing Dog is my favorite outdoor yoga pose.

In Downward Facing Dog we press our hands and feet into the earth (quite literally!) and are rewarded with a totally new outlook on the world. The sky looks beautiful when we're upside-down; in Downward Facing Dog we're stable enough to appreciate the outstanding view!

The next time you find yourself practicing outside, I encourage you to take some extra time in this posture with your eyes open. Bring your awareness to the sky, the underside of the trees, and the people in the distance. See if you notice anything new by seeing it with a completely changed perspective. Your perspective off the mat might change, too.

This summer Mighty currently offered a Community Class at Dewitt Park Fridays at noon.  All donations from these Yoga in the Park classes have benefited Cayuga Pure Organics and Hospicare. We’re aiming to keep those classes at the park, until Mother Nature kicks us back inside this fall.  In the meantime, check out our Facebook for updates on our park class.  And come play with us in Dewitt Park!  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Liz wants you to take off in The Rocket!

By Liz Falk (dare we say it, our local Rocketeer?)

If you're a fan of Vinyasa Flow yoga or you're an Ashtangi but sometimes crave a little spice, Rocket Yoga will suit your fancy - more accurately it will blow your mind! :)  After my first Rocket class, I experienced a Savasana euphoria. Perhaps you've had this experience… where your body, mind and being feel so complete that if you weren't a yogi, you'd think it was an out of body experience. Yet because you're a yogi, you realize it's actually the most humble and refreshing in-body realization you've ever had. You're present.  You're alive.  And you realize it more than ever.  In my experience this euphoria is a known, yet somewhat rare phenomenon, at the end of yoga classes, and The Rocket sequence seems to be ingeniously designed to facilitate this feeling every class.

To me, The Rocket is the best of Vinyasa and Ashtanga combined into one awesome class. Originally designed by Larry Shultz, a student of K. Pattabhi Jois and traditional Ashtanga Yoga, Larry created the Rocket as a more accessible alternative to traditional Ashtanga by encouraging students to try full or modified poses from 1st-3rd series (in traditional Ashtanga teachers were authorized to give a student a new pose to practice after the teacher felt the student had mastered the previous one.) Schultz was a yoga teacher for the Grateful Dead, and Bob Weir named the sequence The Rocket because "it gets you there faster".

The combination of the two styles creates "a feel good" routine that is challenging, fun, energizing and yet still, utterly restorative. The sequence includes arm balance and inversion options within the standing and seated portions of the sequence, back bends and counter forward folds, twists and more. Most intermediate yogis will recognize most of the asanas of the Rocket, and the style of sequencing calls for numerous poses done in a row on the right side before repeating them all on the left side. This style of sequencing will be new for Ashtanga students, yet still feel familiar and meditative.  And Vinyasa Flow students will find the numerous seated poses with a Vinyasa in between (i.e. the lift-up, jump back, chaturanga, up dog, down dog, jump through to a seat) to be new and challenging.

Warning - Rocket Yoga is likely to have the following side effects: unexplained happiness, sense of freedom, physical tiredness, restlessness of the mind, cleaning of organs (detox), a new love for yoga, a desire to do handstands all the time, ability to focus and relax.

Want a taste of The Rocket? I'm teaching it at Mighty Yoga during our Anniversary Week, Sunday, Aug 25 @ 1:30pm.  Join us for an awesome flow at the bargain price of only $4!

And I'm psyched that my teacher and Rocket master, David Kyle, is visiting Ithaca and Syracuse yoga studios next month as part of a Rocket Science Yoga Weekend organized by the Finger Lakes Yoga Alliance.  Mighty Yoga is hosting a $10 community class w/ David, Friday night, Sept. 6 @ 6:30pm.  We're calling it Rocket III Happy Hour.  This class sold out last year, so you don’t want to miss this!

For more info about the weekend and to sign up online visit FLYA’s website like now!

Rocket Science Yoga Weekend
w/ David Kyle
September 5 - 8, 2013
Ithaca & Syracuse Yoga Studios
Visit and Register here!