Between yoga teacher training, work, our upcoming move to CA and personal life – I’ve forgotten to post. Here’s what my April looked like in pictures.
The hubby and I visited the Rubin Museum to view their Bodies in Balance exhibit. It was cool to see ancient Tibetan charkra maps and prayer beads made out of snake spines. Dr. hubby loved seeing ancient Tibetan medicine practices.
We escaped the city life for a 3-day vacay living on a farm in Accord, NY. Practicing asana early morning with the chirping birds as my soundtrack was just what my soul needed. The dogs loved the fresh air and green space, even though they almost died crazily chasing after a horse.
We hiked around Minnewaska State Park
I attended NYC’s Yoga Journal Conference – attending sessions about the business of yoga and randomly was able to try out Acro Yoga.
Saturday was the first time I have ever cried during savasana (corpse pose). I’ve heard of people having emotional experiences during asana. From a technical perspective it made sense to me how this could happen. We store a lot of stress and emotions in our bodies and this can be released during practice. Also thoughts might come up that you’ve been ignoring/suppressing. But another part of me rolled my eyes when instructors talked about hip openers like a therapy session.
Saturday at Yoga Teacher Training the focus was inversions and arm balances. Dana (co-founder of Laughing Lotus) first took us through a 2 hour class to demonstrate how these poses can be incorporated into a vinyasa flow. Some of the arm-balances and inversions I couldn’t even get into, some I could get into but couldn’t hold for more then a few seconds and others I nailed – soaring high. I loved every minute of it. I didn’t see any of the attempts as failure or success, just exploring what my body can currently do. The pace of the class was so intense I was literally “sweating glitter” (LL studio loves having glitter yoga parties so my mat has lingering specks of glitter that sweat off my body).
When we laid down for savasana I felt deliriously happy, exhausted and high on life. Then a feeling of overwhelming gratefulness overcame me. I was so thankful for my practice, my faith, my yoga teachers, my ganas (fellow yogis), my life, my health and my loving husband. The more I meditated on all the blessings in my life the more overwhelming my gratitude until I felt tears streaming down the sides of my face.
“Inversions give us new perspective. When we see the world upside down, we glean new understandings. …Our view is a more intimate as we gaze deep down into our own hearts. When you take the time to look, what secrets does you heart want to share with you? In Inversions, we put our heart above our heads. Can you imagine how our lives – how the world would change – if we put our heart above our heads more often!” ~ Miriam Austin
Part of the course work for my yoga teacher training program is to pick a mantra and chant it 108 times a day for 40 days. True to my over-analytical brain I spent 5+ hours this week rereading sections of Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras, researching and picking a mantra. I was looking for a mantra related to a specific struggle I’m dealing with now. However, I also wanted one that aligned with my spiritual/Baha’i beliefs and spoke to my heart. I believe that certain sounds/words/names have power when said with intention – I’ve felt that power while praying or singing Baha’i/Gospel songs.
Mantra (Sanskrit मन्त्र) loosely translates to ‘mind protector’, ‘to set free from the mind’ or ‘thought instrument’. A mantra can be a sound, word or phrase that one repeats with intention. Sufi master Vilayat Inyayat Khan states “The practice of mantra actually kneads the flesh of the body with sound. The delicate cells of the elaborate bundles of nerves are subjected to a constant hammering, a seizure of the flesh by vibrations of divine sound.”
After my 5+ hour search, I chose this healing mantra:
Om Shri Dhanvantre Namaha
Salutations to the being and power of the Celestial Physician: this mantra works to promote healing on all levels – physical, mental and emotional.
I highly recommend Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras and give it ***** (5 out of 5 stars). Healing Mantras is a great how-to guide on understanding and using mantras. The books includes ~50+ mantras and translations/explanations. I also enjoyed the scientific and religious examples on the power of sound. For those interested in how various chakras and planetary aspects come into play there are interesting chapters on those as well.
How to use your mantra for a 40-day discipline (adapted from Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s Healing Mantras)
- Write your intention or worldly problem on a paper and place somewhere in your home (hidden or displayed)
- Set a place to say mantra, 1-2x a day
- Set a time (traditionally performed at “sandhya” period of 2 hours before dawn until dawn or two hours before sunset until sunset)
- Complete one round of 108 without interruptions
- Use prayer beads like mala beads if helpful. If using mala beads, do not count using your point finger as that finger symbolizes the ego. Also don’t crossover the meru (mountain) bead – continue by pulling the beads and going backwards until you again end at the meru and continue until you have done 108 repetitions, or multiples of 108.
- If you miss a day restart your count
Less than two weeks until my yoga teacher training course begins at Laughing Lotus! I’ve been chipping away at the pre-reading assignments for the course (various chapters from the five required texts). So far I am in love with part I from Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. This book is often called the “Bible of modern Yoga” and now I understand why. In 2008 a friend gave me his copy to borrow but I could not get into it. I had skipped the first 55 pages of the introduction and went straight to the poses – VITAL MISTAKE. Part I contains so many gems and beautiful explanations on everything in the “what is yoga?” category. I found myself pausing to reflect and highlight something on every page, * * * * * (5 out of 5 stars). I’m beginning to understand why there’s a campaign to nominate BKS Iyengar for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Yoga is “chitta vritti nirodhah” (Yoga Sutra 1.2, Patanjali): A method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels. ~ BKS Iyengar
My favorite BKS Iyengar quotes from Light on Yoga:
- [The Yogi] starts to realize that all creation is meant for bhakti (devotion/adoration) rather than for bhoga (enjoyment)”
- The Yogi conquers the body and renders it a fit vehicle for the soul
- To win a battle, a general surveys the terrain and the enemy and plans counter measures. In a similar way the Yogi plans the conquest of the Self.
- The Yogi shares his strength with the weak until they become strong.
- The impurities of the mind are washed off in the waters of bhakti (devotion)
- [Food] should be eaten with the feeling that with each morsel one can gain strength to serve the Lord
- Yoga is not a religion by itself. It is the science of religions
- The sacred books of the world are for all to read. They are not meant for the members of one particular faith alone. As bees savour the nectar in various flowers, so the sadhaka (seeker) absorbs things in other faiths which will enable him to appreciate his own faith better.
- Emptying the mind of the whole of its illusion is the true rechaka (exhalation). The realization that “I am Atma (spirit)” is the true puraka (inhalation). And the steady sustenance of the mind on this conviction is the true kumbhaka (rentention).
- A Path with Heart, by Jack Kornfield
- The Heart of Yoga, by TKV Desikachar
- Light on Yoga, by BKS Iyengar
- Healing Mantras, by Thomas-Ashley Farrand
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Swami Satchidanada
It’s official!!!!!! After a 3-month tour of yoga studios in NYC, having coffee meetings with instructors, emailing past trainees and general online research….then doing some soul searching/praying/reflecting on what I truly wanted to gain from the training….. then filling out a fairly long and therapy like application….. I’m officially enrolled in Laughing Lotus’ Yoga Teacher Training Program! Classes start Feb 7.
It took me so long to make a final decision because there are lots of great programs in NYC. In the end, Laughing Lotus was the only YTTP that met all the items on my “wish list” – a “be yourself” / “find your own voice” vibe, good nationwide/global reputation, rigor of training, emphasis on alignment, allows for authentic exploration of the Yoga Sutras, incorporates Ayurveda and Kirtan, yoga studios in more than 1 state, community classes (where recent 200-hour graduates can teach a full yoga class), assigned senior teacher mentor and Yoga Alliance certified.
Looking to expand my yoga practice and wanting to explore possible yoga teacher training programs (YTTP), I’ve spent the last 2 months touring various yoga studios. I am an over organized type-A so I first researched over 20 studios online before determining which 5 to try out based on their YTTP schedule, curriculum and pricing. Read my recap on Yoga to the People, Mang’Oh Yoga Studio, Yoga Works, Joschi Yoga Institute, Laughing Lotus and Integral Yoga Institute.
Yoga to the People (12 Saint Marks Place, 2R; Class – Power Vinyasa Flow)
- Economically friendly -> Donation based class means it was crowded/sweaty but open to all
- Diversity -> I have yet to see more diversity than in this yoga class. The group ranged from the lululemon type to men wearing jeans and all the average workout gear in between. Plus it was a good mix of black, white, Hispanic and Asian yogis all united in Om.
- Ego-free yoga -> The teacher created a lovely ego-free atmosphere by reminding us throughout the practice not to compare ourselves to others and to joyfully challenge ourselves – “The person in front of you doesn’t have your life story. They didn’t eat your breakfast.” …. “Your toes will still be there whether you touch them or not”
- Smart changing room -> They have curtains on the side walls to allow you to quickly change then use the same space for more yoga mats
- Singing bowl -> Loved the focus meditation that was guided by a singing bowl
Mang’Oh Yoga Studio (322 East 39th Street; My favorite teacher – Chintamani Kansas; Class – Vinyasa Level 2)
- Peaceful oasis -> I entered stressed by NYC traffic and within moments of speaking to the co-founder felt at peace and ready to practice. Plus the waiting area smells great.
- Truly balanced -> One of the best classes I’ve taken in terms of creating a balance between challenging poses, yoga theory/principles and meditation. I was able to try out a few new variations like Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Crow) along with the staple poses.
- Curtain changing rooms in the waiting area
Yoga Works (Soho – 474 Broadway; My favorite teacher – Sherman Morris; Class – Vinyasa Level 3)
- Challenge yourself! -> This was my first time taking a level 3 class and I’m hooked. Even though I can’t do all the variations offered, I enjoyed struggling and progressing into them. Even the poses I can do were put to the test…. Think you can do a headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)? Well, try holding it for 2 minutes with your eyes closed as Sherman requests and see. But luckily Sherman encourages everyone to not be afraid to try/fail/try/succeed.
- Note: If you want more meditation/spiritual aspects this class is not for you. Also NOT for beginners.
- Full scale gym -> Showers, locker rooms, towel service, tea and a boutique are all available at the Soho location
- Costly -> I had a free trial week. But overall this studio is by far the most expensive and only offers a monthly membership. Which I guess makes sense given the amenities available.
Joschi Yoga Institute (163 West 23rd Street)
- Note: I didn’t take a class; I only toured the studio and spoke with one of the instructors. They have two large studio rooms with lots of mirrors and cool mood lighting from the ceilings (various colored lights)
Integral Yoga Institute (227 West 13th Street; Teacher – Barry Hanuman Denny; Class – Integral Level I/II)
- Restorative yoga -> If you are looking to take a yoga class that provides you with more than 20 minutes of combined meditation, chanting and breathing exercises and leaves you relaxed and limber than go here now. Although the class wasn’t the type I personally could take weekly, IYI will forever hold a special place in my heart because I took their class just when I was about to have a nervous breakdown as my personal and professional life was erupting. Barry’s class literally saved me.
- Institute in every sense of the word -> They offer great seminars, trainings and kirtans sessions. Plus they have a great book store on the first floor.
- Community based -> They have 2 dorms in their building. You can do a work exchange program to take classes in exchange for service. IYI also owns a health food store next door to their institute and a wellness spa across the street.
Laughing Lotus Yoga ( 636 Sixth Avenue, 3rd Floor entrance on W 19 street; Teachers, in order of the classes I took: Mary Dana Abbott, Emily Stone, Alison Cramer, Sheri Celentano, Dana Flynn, Essence Walls)
- Invigorating Vinyasa -> Their signature “Lotus Flow” means you gracefully transition from one pose to the next creating a sense of spiritual dancing in most classes
- Diversity -> Great mix of students and yoga teachers – in most classes every race is represented. The studio screams “be yourself” so you can feel free to come as you are.
- Great events and on-going study -> They frequently have Kirtans, 50-hour advance trainings, fundraisers for Africa Yoga Project and Women for Women
- Live music & DJs -> Some of their classes have a live DJ or Kirtan band performing during the practice. If you want a quieter yoga be sure to read the class description (read about one of their New Year’s Eve yoga classes here)
- Some classes get packed!
- Freshly made tea and water available in the seating area
- Tiny 1 person shower and dressing room