yoga journal march 2008
pain-free practice I next-generation teachers I caregivers
health fitness food travel home work nature relationships spirituality values
yogajournal.com march 2008
Learn the art
Taking care of
protect your knees,
back & hamstrings
veganism goes gourmet
Home spa day
Naturally sweet treats
home practice essentials
> your best Down Dog
> personalized Sun Salutes
yoga journal march 2008
pain-free practice I next-generation teachers I caregivers
health fitness food travel home work nature relationships spirituality values
yogajournal.com march 2008
Learn the art
Taking care of
protect your knees,
back & hamstrings
veganism goes gourmet
Home spa day
Naturally sweet treats
home practice essentials
> your best Down Dog
> personalized Sun Salutes
images (clockwise from top left): katrine naleid; Dave Kamm; pierre mornet
78 yoga shouldn’t hurt
Avoid injuries on the mat with this practical guide to caring for your knees, hamstrings, and sacrum. By Roger Cole
86 because you care
You imagine yourself as a loving caregiver
but then come up short of time, money,
and patience. What do you do?
By Katherine Griffin
90 21 under 40
These talented young teachers are shaping yoga’s future with innovation and with a
passion for sharing its gifts in today’s world.
cover credits Sara Brennan in Vasisthasana,
shot on location in Carefree, Arizona, at The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa; stylist: Lyn Heineken;
hair/makeup: Betten Chaston; clothing: oxumwear.
Photographed by david martinez
on the cover
home practice essentials 54,73
pain-free practice 78
Learn the art of balancing 101
7 stages of transformation 61
Taking care of the caregiver 86
Next generation 90
veganism goes gourmet 37
Home spa day 26
Naturally sweet treats 30
editor’s letter 12
bringing your practice to life
For the love of elephants; Eckhart Tolle on the importance of pets; home spa; greener bed and bath.
A review of Anne Cushman’s
new novel, Enlightenment for
Idiots. By Hillari Dowdle
+ book, video, & audio reviews
A kids’ museum showcases yoga; classes for the deaf; Santa Fe tour.
152 the yj interview
Quiet Connection Richard
Freeman finds mindfulness
everywhere, even on a dog’s nose. By Lauren Ladoceour
37 eating wisely
Sublime Dining Top chefs celebrate elegant vegetarian cuisine.
By Victoria Abbott Riccardi
45 well being
Pampering with Purpose A spa vacation can be truly rejuvenating with treatments tailored just for you. By Hillari Dowdle
Teacher’s Pet In Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), discover all that yoga has to
offer. By Natasha Rizopoulos
73 home practice
Ray of Light Your practice will shine when you adapt Sun Salutations to your mood, energy level, and schedule. By Richard Rosen
101 master class
On Your Toes Refine your awareness as you master the dynamic Samatvamasana (Toe Balance Pose). By Ganga White
Love Triangle How to protect your neck in Trikonasana.
By Julie Gudmestad
114 ask the expert
Protect a cervical curve; neck pain in headstand; yoga after a brain injury. By Timothy mccall, md
Waking Life True transformation is a radical process. Here’s how
to navigate the shift gracefully.
By Sally Kempton
ad finder 140
yoga pages 141
living well 147
photos (from top): david martinez; sheri giblin; jeffery cross
yogajournal.com march 2008
Editor in chief
deputy editors Andrea Ferretti, Katherine Grifﬁn
managing Editor Kelle Walsh
senior Editor Diane Anderson
associate editor Lauren Ladoceour
editor at large Kathryn Arnold
Contributing Medical editor Timothy McCall, MD
Copy editor Patricia Hammond
Proofreaders Linda Rahm-Crites, Jennifer Rodrigue
Researchers Amy Weaver Dorning, Sarah Drew,
Halima Kazen, Laura Perkins
Editorial Intern Kelley Lugea
Editorial advisory board Stephen Cope, John Friend,
Judith Hanson Lasater,
Dean Ornish, MD, Aadil Palkhivala,
Patricia Walden, Rodney Yee
contributing editors Jason Crandell, Hillari Dowdle,
Nora Isaacs, Todd Jones,
Sally Kempton, Richard Rosen
art Director Alexandra Zeigler
associate art Director Ron Escobar
photo assistant Shay Harrington
Production designers Paolo Asuncion, Maureen Spuhler
art intern Lauren Piazza
Production director Claudia Smukler
senior production manager Jane Tarver
Production coordinator Paige Ferguson-Tritt
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Senior conference manager Renée LaRose
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yogajournal.com march 2008
Patricia B. Fox
Vice President, Group Publisher
John B. Abbott
Publisher, international editions
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chairman & CEO Efrem Zimbalist III
Group Publisher & COO Andrew W. Clurman
Senior Vice President & CFO Brian Sellstrom
senior vice president, operations Patricia B. Fox
What do you need
to know to stay
free of injuries?
During a yoga workshop a few years ago, I had the euphoric experience of binding Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose). I hadn’t been working toward clasping the hands in my regular practice and hadn’t been dissatisfied with a modified version of the seated twist. But that day, in the sweet heat of
a hot room and after a great vinyasa sequence,
I simply did it—with a little help from the teacher’s assistant. I was amazed.
Shortly after class, though, my euphoria faded and a searing pain took its place. Years earlier I had torn my rotator cuff during an ill-timed move on a
flying trapeze, and now the assistant’s seemingly innocuous adjustment in
class had reignited the fury in that delicate joint. For months afterward most asana was off-limits for me, as it made my shoulder cry in pain.
I’ve experienced how yoga can heal—how a hamstring stretch can relieve lower back pain or how the inner calm cultivated in balancing poses (and described so eloquently by Ganga White in “On Your Toes” on page 101) can resolve the mental anguish I sometimes find myself spinning in. But I’ve also experienced how yoga can hurt—and I’ve heard the same from plenty of other yogis. (One highly respected teacher of therapeutic yoga says that he now makes a living healing people who’ve injured themselves in yoga class.)
Thank goodness, then, that Roger Cole, an Iyengar Yoga teacher with a talent for explaining anatomy, has deconstructed a few of the most common yoga injuries for us in “Yoga Shouldn’t Hurt” (page 78). Imbibe his detailed instructions and the rationale behind them, and you may save yourself from injury.
YJ’s medical editor, Timothy McCall, MD, also offers some sage safety-
in-asana advice (see Ask the Expert, page 114), while reminding us that as we develop our inner awareness, we’ll be better able to discern what is right for
us, even when it conflicts with a teacher’s instruction.
Self-awareness is, of course, what the practice of yoga is really all about.
And though it sounds counterintuitive, a good teacher can help you amplify that awareness. Check out “21 Under 40” (page 90) to learn about some of the most talented young teachers out there. Armed with anatomical understanding and increased self-awareness, you’ll not only be safer, but able to tap into ever greater wisdom and joy through your practice. n
photo: David martinez; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makup: betten chaston; top: minawear; pants: elisabetta rogiani
yogajournal.com march 2008
Two years ago this issue’s cover model, Sara Brennan, fulfilled a longtime goal when she enrolled in teacher training in vinyasa flow. “I love the fluid grace of allowing the breath to lead my body through challenging sequences of arm balances and standing postures,” she says. The breath was a steady guide for her during this month’s photo shoot, as she perched on a boulder high above the Arizona desert in various poses. “It was amazing,” she says. A yoga instructor with At One Yoga in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Brennan is working toward a degree in holistic nutrition.
San Francisco photographer Rory Earnshaw experienced the beauty of—dare we say?—perfect poses, while shooting model Kishan Shah for this issue’s Basics column. “Yoga has the fun and spontaneity of a fashion shoot, but it’s very specific,” he says. “There’s a lot of attention to detail.” Earnshaw’s work has appeared in both Time and Newsweek as well as in numerous home-décor advertising campaigns.
“Every pose I’m describing is a pose that I see people practicing in ways that are often harmful or in ways that show they just aren’t getting it,” says Natasha Rizopoulos, speaking about Yoga Journal’s Basics column, which she will write for a year beginning with this issue (see “Teacher’s Pet,” page 54). Helping students practice what she calls “intelligent, conscious yoga” is a passion for Rizopoulos, who is a featured teacher in YJ’s Step-by-Step video series and is a senior teacher at Yoga Works in Los Angeles. “My interest is that [students] practice yoga that is not harmful to them,” she says, “and practice it so they are getting the fullest benefit—physically and mentally.”
When she agreed to look after an elderly relative, Deputy Editor Katherine Griffin envisioned herself as a wise and compassionate decision maker in this woman’s last days. She never imagined how complicated the role would become or that conflicting emotions would betray the benevolent image she had of herself. In “Because You Care” (page 96), Griffin explores the often rocky emotional terrain faced by millions of Americans who take care of ailing or aging loved ones. “It was really therapeutic writing the story,” she says. “It felt good to convey how difficult this situation can be and to know that other people are also trying to figure it out.”
photos (from top): Tom brennan; rory earnshaw; Kris Dickinson; king kryger
Back Story Checks Out
I really appreciated Hillari Dowdle’s article “Watch Your Back” (Dec. ’07). I injured my lower back in 1995 and didn’t find real relief from the pain until I started practicing yoga in 2005. I am medication free, able to work through most poses (sometimes with props), and forever grateful for my yoga practice and teachers. I am joyful for not just the pain relief, but the emotional support. I look forward to trying Gary Kraftsow’s sequence in my home practice.
Los Angeles, California
How unfortunate that the key element to healing back pain, according to Gary Kraftsow, lay buried in the article. In the second-to-last paragraph, Kraftsow says, “Yoga is not about anything external to you.” Let’s celebrate the internal journey and process of change that Kraftsow points to. That is yoga.
matthew j. taylor
What great ideas for wrapping gifts with eco-friendly materials (“That’s a Wrap,” Dec. ’07)! I really appreciate Yoga Journal filling us in on this. I never thought that a bandana could be used instead of conventional wrapping paper, but now this makes a lot of sense. Thanks for all the tips. I hope to save a lot of paper and money this year.
anna victoria reich
A Little Support
I really liked Diana Reynolds Roome’s “Lit from Within” (Dec. ’07). Her personal story about visiting Tibetan nuns was both vivid and moving. I would love to help support and donate something to the nuns.
San Mateo, California
editor’s note You can sponsor a nun;
make a donation to provide education, medical care, and basic living expenses for the nuns;
or support the building of Dolma Ling and a
new home for the nuns at Shugsep through
the Tibetan Nuns Project website (tnp.org).
In “Share the Wealth” (Dec. ’07), Nora Isaacs recounts receiving unwanted or useless gifts during the holiday. She later asked family members to donate to charities instead of giving her presents. When one receives a present, the humble and polite response is to say “thank you.” To look down upon a present from a loved one borders on rudeness and merely elevates one’s ego. Instead, you could thank the giver for the kindness and donate presents you don’t want to charity.
Charlotte, North Carolina
I’ve read many issues of Yoga Journal and am impressed with the overall content of the magazine. I’d like to suggest that you do one issue focusing on the youth around the world who want to share their experience of practicing yoga. I met a boy who expressed how yoga saved his life. These are the kind of stories the magazine should share with the world. Also, I find it somewhat boring to always have adults pictured on the cover.
guru amrit khalsa
Coming to Terms
In his Basics column (“Dive In,” Dec. ’07), Richard Rosen uses the term inner groins, but I’m not sure what he’s referring to. Does this mean that there are outer groins? As a yoga teacher and personal trainer who has studied anatomy and physiology in great depth, I find this all very misleading. Do inner groins refer to deeper adductor inner thigh muscles as opposed to the more superficial adductor inner thigh muscles? Or do they refer to adductor muscles closer to either side of the pubic bone as opposed to the longer adductor muscles that descend to the knee? I’m assuming he means that the five adductor muscles can be categorized as inner or outer groins. A brief anatomical explanation would be appreciated.
Pennington, New Jersey
Writer’s response The groin area
surrounds the crease where the leg joins the
pelvis—a more or less imaginary line drawn diagonally from the hip joint down to the
pubis. Within this area are the inner groins—
in other words, the creases on either side of the perineum. The inner groins have two actions: They lift into the pelvis and feed into the energetic front spine, and they spread outward, away from the perineum. These actions create
a feeling of spaciousness inside the pelvis and charge the front spine to lengthen upward through the crown. Although I don’t refer to outer groins in my classes, there are teachers who do. You might even hear mention of a back groin, which is where the crease below the buttocks meets the thigh. Since teachers refer to the groins differently, it’s a good idea to ask them
to explain their definition if it comes up in class. Terms like these are intended as points of reference that bring awareness to certain areas and help you move or enliven those areas in an integrated way. Ultimately these references can enhance and refine your yoga practice.
For the past few years, I’ve devoured the pages of your magazine. But when I saw my teacher Kenny Graham modeling the poses in “Turning Point” (Dec. ’07) and couldn’t find a clear mention of his name in the article, I was sad. Of course, his name is in fine print on the edge of page 107. I hope your readers don’t think that the sequence creator, Charles Matkin, is demonstrating these poses.
Los Altos, California
Less Is More
As a yoga teacher, I find Yoga Journal to be an invaluable tool, and I thank you for providing so much information. In the December 2007 issue, the first several editorials focus on the importance of giving in a less tangible, or at least less consumer-oriented, manner. It was inspirational up until I was met with jarring advertisements. The editorial message of “giving outside the box” juxtaposed with the marketing message of “getting stuff” was disappointing. I know I’m asking for the practically impossible, but please allow your editorial content to shine more and your advertising less.
Ihave been a Yoga Journal subscriber for more than 20 years. The October 2007 issue’s articles, photos, illustrations were all truly outstanding. Everything hit home for me.
CORRECTION In the recipe “Almond- and Herb-Stuffed Mushrooms” (Eating Wisely, Dec. ’07, page 42), 1 cup of water is listed in the ingredients. In fact, you should use only ½ cup of water. We apologize for the error.
The exercise instructions and advice presented in this magazine are designed for people who are in good health and physically fit. They are not intended to substitute for medical counseling. The creators, producers, participants, and distributors of Yoga Journal disclaim any liability for loss or injury in connection with the exercises shown or the instruction and advice expressed herein.
photo (top): jeffery cross
send feedback to Letters, Yoga Journal, 475 Sansome Street, Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94111; email: email@example.com;
fax: (415) 591-0733. Include your name, city, state, and phone number. Letters and emails may be edited for length and clarity.
photo: tamara reynolds photography
INSIDE: wellness herbs relationships gifts food beauty people
sanctuary, thanks to a yogini’s efforts.
“If I didn’t do yoga, I would keep zooming toward tomorrow instead of living for today,” says Carol Buckley, the 53-year-old cofounder and director of the Elephant Sanctuary, in Hohenwald, Tennessee. “Yoga helps me remember that every minute of every day is precious.” Her once-a-week practice is less than she’d like, but her story shows that she lives her yoga, though in an unusual way.
In 1976 when Buckley was a 22-year-old student at the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College near Simi Valley, California, she met Tarra, a six-month-old elephant who was being exhibited at a tire store. Troubled by Tarra’s situation, Buckley volunteered to care for and train the baby elephant, and ultimately purchased Tarra from her owner—an act that has shaped Buckley’s life ever since.
For a decade, she and Tarra lived in Ojai, California, performing in circuses and giving elephant rides at zoos. In time, though, Buckley wanted a change. “I wasn’t satisfied with options available to captive elephants,” she says. Her experiences led her to build a refuge for old, sick, and needy elephants. The nonprofit Elephant Sanctuary, now in Hohenwald, Tennessee, occupies 2,700 acres and is
home to 19 female elephants.
“My greatest challenge came when I tried to rescue eight circus elephants.
I wasn’t accustomed to dealing with politics. My philosophy is to be open and honest, but that wasn’t working. My yoga reminded me to breathe, to let go of needing things to go my way, to allow others to help. In the end, I succeeded in bringing the elephants to the sanctuary.”
But Buckley doesn’t take all the credit. “The sanctuary is a result of Tarra,” she says. “This is her gift to her sisters in America.” Of difficulties, Buckley says: “When you set your mind to do something, you don’t stop and say, ‘This is too hard.’ You do it. So what if it’s hard?” Which sounds a lot like yoga.
To view a video of Tarra greeting the
Elephant Sanctuary’s newest arrival, visit
bringing your practice to life
Make a difference
with acts of animal compassion.
a whole lotta love
yogajournal.com march 2008
Like the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, The Marine Mammal Center (TMMC) in Sausalito, California, helps give animals a second chance at a better life. Here, the emphasis is on rescuing sick and injured animals and returning them to the wild. As a TMMC volunteer, I’ve bottle-fed a baby sea otter, monitored the heart rate of a four-week-old harbor porpoise, and taught an elephant seal how to fish (all three were orphans suffering from malnutrition). I’ve felt the joy of watching sea lions I’d helped nurse back to health return to the ocean, and I’ve known the heartache of watching others die. My weekly shift is a vital part of my yoga sadhana, or “practice.” Touching wild animals has given me a direct experience of what Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh calls “interbeing.” It’s also taught me what Theravada Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein means by “Compassion is awareness in action.” K.A.
The mere presence of a dog or a cat is already a teaching of present-moment living. That’s why a pet greatly improves the energy field of any home. Most pets are playful, so when we play with or touch them, we can join them in that state of playfulness, which is ultimately one of the only sane ways to live.
Playfulness, joy, and a sense of aliveness are intrinsic to present-moment living. Interact with your pets and spend time observing them. Watch without judgment as they move, rest, and sleep. Tune in to their energy, and their uncomplicated presence becomes yours, with the added dimension of awareness. When you tune in to animals, you sense their original state—that is, rootedness in Being—and sense it in yourself. In a world gone astray, pets have become guardians of Being. ECKHART TOLLE/eckharttolle.com
real world yoga
Numerous nonprofit wild-animal rescue organizations, as well as zoos and aquariums, rely on volunteers. If you’re interested in becoming involved, the following online resources can help you find opportunities:
✦ University of Minnesota’s directory
✦ National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
✦ The Marine Mammal Center
How does a relationship with
a pet help you stay in the Now?
photo: courtesy of the marine mammal center
Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha
(Om Guhm Guh-nuh-puh-tah-yei
Salutations to the Lord of the Hosts
within and without, who removes
obstacles from our life.
Ganesha is often called the Lord of the Hosts.
Gum is Ganesha’s seed sound. Gana means either “power” or “group” and pathi means “spouse of.”
So Ganapati is the spouse of power and the
group. Yei is a shakti-activating sound.
This mantra can help resolve many problems
and difficulties by bringing about unity
between our desire and the object of that desire. Chanting it can help to remove a barrier.
author of healing mantras
and chakra mantras.
For more information, visit
A New Jersey chef heals his pain
and finds his focus through yoga.
I came to yoga four years ago for purely physical reasons—I had a back injury caused by hours of standing incorrectly in the kitchen. Doctors wanted to shoot me up with cortisone. Instead, I gave yoga a try and was immediately captivated by Ashtanga.
I did it 35 days in a row; I loved the challenge that much.
Now my motivation is internal. Yoga’s given me a path in life, taught me patience, and helped me see the bigger picture—both in and out of the kitchen. Every morning I do at least a few Sun Salutations before I travel to work. My wife, Nancy, notices that I have a relaxed “yoga face” after I practice. When I get to my restaurant, I feel energetic and positive, with a clear mind that lets me focus on the tasks at hand. The clarity I’ve gained, especially through Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath), helps me to slow down and organize my day. Thanks to yoga, I’m much more at ease physically. Even during a busy Saturday night dinner service, I can stand for 12 hours straight without any pain. I also have greater patience for teaching, which is
a big part of my job.
Cooking and yoga are similar: No matter how good you are, you still practice the basics. Each pose and each cooking technique builds on the last. Like becoming a chef, going deeper into yoga takes time and discipline. It happens only if you’re open to letting it happen. I believe that I’ve mastered cooking. What I love about yoga is that I don’t think I’ll ever master it; it’s an ongoing journey. James Laird
illustration: sarah wilkins; photo: nancy sheridan laird
The winter months can take a toll on your spirits—and your face. With spring on the horizon, the time is right to reawaken parched, dull skin and create a sunny sheen.
According to Stephanie Tourles, author of Organic Body Care Recipes, warm, moist heat encourages the pores to breathe and perspire. It also brings moisture to deeper skin layers, relaxes muscle tissue, plumps wrinkles, and moves
oxygenated blood to the surface of the skin.
Facial steams can be used up to two times per week unless your skin is damaged or if you have active acne. Make sure you use purified water and organic ingredients for your steam mixture.
Add dried herbs to three cups boiled water. Create a tent with a large towel and hold your face 10 to 12 inches above the water. Close your eyes and steam for up to 10 minutes. When finished, splash your face and neck—first with tepid water, then cool water. Kelle Walsh
Get all the benefits of a spa day without leaving home.
A day at the spa is a fine antidote to the sense of imbalance that we all experience from time to time. But you don’t have to wait for a windfall to indulge yourself. You can create many of the same benefits at home.
The most important element for your home-spa day is uninterrupted time. Take a personal day from work, send the kids and husband out for some bonding time, turn off your phones. “Creating a home-spa day is a lot about just taking time for yourself,” says herbalist Brigitte Mars, author of Beauty by Nature.
Mars believes that the most pampering thing a person can do for themself is to take a bath. “When you shower, you have to stand up; that’s not relaxing,” she says. Fill the tub with hot water and let the steam fill the room. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil or create a “bath tea” by filling a cotton sock with a mixture of dried herbs, tying it at the top, and letting it soak in the water. While you wait for the water to cool a bit, exfoliate your skin with a natural-bristle body brush, using circular motions.
When you’re done wrap up in a comfy robe or some loungewear, and make a cup of your favorite herbal tea.
Now that you are scrubbed, relaxed, and warm, prepare an herbal facial steam and take time to nourish your soul
as well as your body. Read uplifting words—poetry, yoga
philosophy—or write in your journal.
Whatever else you do today, go slowly and gently. Letting a sense of peace and relaxation settle deep into your bones may be the most pampering thing of all. Kelle Walsh
Basic Steam Herbal Mix
Soothing, healing, and astringent
herbs help balance and firm skin.
1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons dried raspberry,
blackberry, or strawberry leaves
1 teaspoon dried peppermint
Recipe used with permission
from Organic Body Care Recipes, by Stephanie Tourles (Storey Publishing, 2007).
photo: thomas barwick/workbook stock
Your question illuminates the dualistic way in which so many of us have learned to hold our spiritual practices and our financial lives separately. But the two needn’t be separate. In fact, practicing self-observation, an essential element of yoga, can transform not just your physical life, but your financial life.
Self-observation is the key to transforming money-related stress and worry into freedom. When I asked the Dalai Lama why so many Westerners were unhappy despite their apparent affluence, he advised that we should look within. While we may have the courage to apply self-
observation to our grasping and avoidance in Triangle Pose, we’re generally not as keenly aware of what’s happening internally with respect to our time and money. Doing a self-observation practice will help you to cultivate more alignment between your ideals and your actual expenditures of time and money.You will probably
see that while things could be better, you may actually have what you need.
Examine your life to reclaim some practice time by backing off from a less fulfilling activity. If finances are truly holding you back, forgo certain expenditures. Some people opt for a more modest lifestyle—with fewer possessions, vacations, and the like—so that they can spend less time working and more time practicing. Others might keep the big-time job but make yoga more of a priority in their free time. Practicing self-observation will help you determine what’s keeping you from what you most yearn to do in life. It will help you make adjustments so that you can practice more.
Brent Kessel is the author of It’s Not About the Money, published by HarperOne. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I want to dedicate myself to my
practice, but my job leaves me little time or energy. How can I support myself and still do yoga?
“Trying to find the answers from outside yourself is nonsense. You need to look inward.”
—The Dalai Lama
Look inward and list the top five things you truly want to spend your time on (include work and other obligations that may not be pleasurable but are necessary). Next to each item, write down the percentage of time you’d optimally invest in that activity. Then write down the top five activities you actually spent your time on during the past month; weigh each activity as a percentage of your total (waking) time. How much overlap exists? Once you’ve accounted for your time, apply the exercise to your money. Is the amount of money you really spend aligned with your stated ideals? For some of us, this practice leads only to mere fine-tuning. For others, the chasm between ideal and reality is so wide that it sparks major lifestyle changes.
illustration: greg clarke
Homemade cookies, decadent cakes, warm muffins: Baked goods are temptingly sweet thanks to their high refined sugar content. Unfortunately sweetness comes at a cost. Evidence suggests that the more refined the sugar, the more energy and resources go into processing the cane. The less-refined and organic alternatives, however, require less processing and offer more-nuanced flavors.
For baking, the best substitutes for refined sugar are other granulated sweeteners: Maple sugar will give blueberry muffins a maple undertone; date sugar has an intensely sweet, rich flavor and is great in scones; and dehydrated fruit sugars add a light, clean- tasting sweetness to most anything. There are also less-refined and organic cane sugars that retain slightly more of the cane’s nutrients. These coarse grains include pure dehydrated cane juice (like Sucanat and Rapadura), which tends to be a bit dry in texture but works well in gingerbread cookies, and raw sugar, which gives goodies a delicious, rich boost. Liquid sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, brown-rice syrup, barley-malt syrup, agave nectar, and fruit juice concentrates, and can be used to sweeten cakes, muffins, and quick breads. You can substitute a three-quarter cup of a liquid sweetener for every cup of white sugar, and then decrease the amount of other liquids in the recipe by about half the amount of liquid sweetener.
To sweeten and reduce fat, try using fruit purées in your baking. Mashed ripe bananas and even canned pumpkin can be used this way by substituting for the same volume of sugar and reducing the fat by up to half. Because baking is an exact science, expect some trial and error when adapting recipes formulated for white sugar. Still, chances are good that even your less-than-perfect attempts will be sweet. Charity Ferreira
Alternatives to refined sugar make
this banana bread sweet and healthful.
1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup walnuts, toasted and
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
(2 or 3 should do)
¼ cup light vegetable oil
¼ cup brown-rice malt syrup
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1½ teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
²⁄³ cup plain soy milk
1 In a medium bowl, mix flour,
baking powder, salt, and walnuts.
2 In a separate bowl, whisk bananas, oil, syrups, vanilla, zest, and a few tablespoons of soy milk—enough to fully incorporate the ingredients into a batter. The softer your bananas, the less soy milk you’ll need.
3 Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients to form a thick batter. Add more soy milk as needed.
4 Bake at 350˚F for 45 to 60 minutes
in a 9-by-5-by-3–inch loaf pan lined
on the bottom with parchment paper and oiled on the sides. Turn loaf out
of the pan and onto a rack to cool.
Recipe adapted with permission from Meredith McCarty’s Sweet and Natural (St. Martin’s Griffin, 1999).
photo: dana gallagher/foodpix
4 Take a luxurious soak using Jurlique Tranquil Bubble Bath ($18). Lavender gives a comforting fragrance, while the bubbles help to hydrate, soothe, and brighten skin. jurlique.com
5 Finish your day by sealing in your skin’s natural
moisture with Terralina Fragrance-Free Body
Lotion ($28). It contains shea butter, so it’s great
for self-massages. terralina.com
1 Start by applying a thin layer of Juice Beauty Green Apple Body Peel ($39) on your body for exfoliation
and an energizing tingling sensation. juicebeauty.com
2 Continue your at-home spa treatment with an easy
do-it-yourself manicure from Yes to Carrots Feel the
C Pampering Hand and Nail Spa ($16.99).
3 While treating your nails and cuticles, let Exhale Spa GRN Bearberry and White Tea Mask ($22) soak up impurities and leave your face bright and hydrated. exhalespa.com
You don’t need to travel far to find spa-quality relaxation. Soothing at-home treatments can transform your bathroom into an oasis.
photo: jean-louis bellurget/stock image
Earth-friendly bedding, towels, and robes are comfy and beautiful. Towel off with and snuggle up to fabrics that are good for you and
1 Green and Clean (top to bottom) Bamboo hand towel ($32/set of 2),
vivaterra.com; organic cotton hand towel ($12), underthecanopy.com; organic cotton bath towel ($30), looporganic.com; organic cotton bath towel ($28), underthecanopy.com; bamboo bath towel ($69/set of 2), vivaterra.com; organic cotton/linen bath sheet ($48), eileenfisher.com
2 Cuddles (top to bottom) Organic cotton blanket ($120), looporganic.com; bamboo and cotton blanket ($79),
thecompanystore.com; organic cotton blanket ($168), gaiam.com
3 Natural Sleep (top to bottom) Organic cotton duvet cover ($320/queen size), amenityhome.com; organic
cotton sateen flat sheet ($82.50/queen size), looporganic.com; organic cotton sateen flat sheet ($70/queen size),
gaiam.com; organic cotton duvet cover ($98/queen size), eileenfisher.com;
bamboo sheet set ($189/queen size),
4 Royal Robes (left to right) Bamboo and organic cotton spa robe ($179),
vivaterra.com; green cotton rose bower robe ($98), deuxamiesinc.com
photos: rory earnshaw/sandbox studio; stylist; heidi erick
photos: sheri giblin; stylist: dan becker
Grilled vegetable napoleon (recipe on page 40)
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
Top chefs celebrate the
nuances and elegance
of vegetarian cuisine.
Somewhere between the honey-mustard chow-fun noodles tangled with Chinese broccoli and the arrival of seven-vegetable tagine to our table at Green Zebra restaurant in downtown Chicago, my husband turned to me and asked, “Who needs meat?” Although he adores vegetables, he’s the first to declare that almost anything tastes better with a little bacon. And yet, there we were—at a hip vegetarian eatery, oohing and aahing over the deep flavors of vegetables served in ways we had never seen or tasted. Fragrant with garlic, cumin, and coriander, the Moroccan stew brimmed with chunky root vegetables, fat olives, and soft Medjool dates. The flavors—pure, sophisticated, and multilayered—ricocheted around our mouths like pinballs.
The cool thing is that such a creative, nuanced meal is no longer a rarity for vegetarians. In fact, it’s never been a better time to be a vegetarian or enjoy meat-free fare. In the past, eating out vegetarian meant going to small hangouts to eat hummus, salads, or fake “cheeseburgers.” Most fine-dining establishments had few, if any, worthwhile meatless options. If you were lucky, the menu would offer a token pasta or risotto with vegetables.
Now, thanks to a long-overdue epiphany, vegetarian cuisine has gone gourmet and upscale. Chefs have begun to realize the glory of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, celebrating the ingredients’ tastes, textures, and colors. And an increasing number of white-tablecloth restaurants dedicated to fine meat-free dishes are springing up across the country. “We’re not catering to the meat analogue market,” says chef Magdiale Wolmark, who, with his wife, opened Dragonfly, a vegan restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. “We’re using vegetables as a construct to create fabulous food.”
The happy result is, if you’re vegetarian or vegan—or if you eat a plant-based diet—you can dine out like your omnivore friends: In style. You can sip a cocktail, enjoy a glamorous setting, and relish the kind of adventurous, complex gourmet cuisine found in the hottest eateries.
Dubbed “neo-v,” Dragonfly’s modern, animal-free cuisine consists of dishes based on what’s ripe and ready to pick in Wolmark’s kitchen garden. Using French techniques, such as reducing vegetable stocks for sauces, and flavors from South America and China, the chef creates a four-star menu that offers sashimi-style matsutake mushrooms with Chinese long beans, amaranth, and pumpkin-seed oil. Another favorite is heirloom-tomato-sauced ravioli stuffed with “cheese” made from pistachio nuts softened in water and then puréed with seasonings such as miso, garlic, lemon juice, and chiles. Diners begin and end their meal with an amuse bouche (a mini appetizer from the chef) and a small dessert, such as a chocolate-huckleberry truffle. “It’s a high-concept, highly evolved cuisine,” says Wolmark. “People often say, ‘I never imagined it could be like this.’”
This disbelief is not surprising, given that most diners—omnivores as well as vegetarians—remain stuck in a vegetarian mind-set in which rice and beans reign. “When we opened, people thought we were crazy,” says Shawn McClain, a business partner and chef at Green Zebra. “When I worked at restaurants that served meat, I got a fair amount of vegetarian requests, so we provided a vegetarian tasting menu that was equal to the regular tasting menu. People were blown away—really grateful. So when we opened Green Zebra in 2004, it wasn’t to make a political statement, but to say, ‘Hey, here is a kind of cuisine that’s not featured at your typical vegetarian restaurant.’”
In Los Angeles, chef David Anderson is creating a similar style of new-world vegan cuisine. He and his wife opened Madeleine Bistro in 2005, with a vision to go upscale. “I met Charlie Trotter in Chicago in 1996, and his style of cooking blew me away,” says Anderson, referring to the Chicago chef famed for his intricate seasonal dishes and interest in raw-food cuisine. “He had these amazing flavor combinations and ideas with vegetables, and I thought, ‘I need to be doing what he’s doing, only with no animal products.’”
Taking a no-boundaries philosophy, Anderson woos his diners with such dishes as artichoke and sun-dried tomato risotto with roasted garlic and crispy black kale, and house-smoked portobello mushrooms with cucumber-dill sauce, Yukon Gold potato blini, and wasabi “caviar,” made from tiny gelled balls. To make “cream” from cashews, Anderson whips water-soaked nuts in a blender until liquidy, white, and smooth. “Part of my vision,” he says, “is to communicate that this cuisine has arrived by bringing it to a level where people will respect it.”
Toast to health
That respect is now earned on the palate, but the nutritional merits are something to laud, too. Whether or not you choose vegetarianism, a plant-based diet is considered optimum for good health. A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association compared eight popular weight-loss plans, including the Ornish Diet developed by Dean Ornish, MD, to gauge their effectiveness in helping people reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease. Ornish’s diet—one that aims to reverse and prevent heart disease—proved the most effective. The mainly vegetarian regimen excludes most animal products except egg whites and nonfat dairy products, and strictly limits cholesterol and saturated fat.
Making this sort of vegetarian diet more readily available is what prompted Joy Pierson and her husband, Bart Potenza, to create two vegan restaurants in Manhattan: Candle Café and the more upscale Candle 79. “Our vision,” says Pierson, a nutritionist, “was to create a communal place where we could heal the world, beginning in the kitchen.”
Using locally grown, organic ingredients, Candle 79 offers ethnically inspired cuisine, such as Pad Thai made with “noodles” of young coconut tossed with marinated vegetables, spicy cashews, and lemongrass-tamarind cream, as well as paella with grilled vegetables, smoked seitan sausage, and saffron–red pepper sauce. “I believe that food is medicine, and medicine is food,” says Pierson.
go vegan at home
At Millennium, a vegan restaurant in San Francisco, health has been on the menu since 1994. But many people also come for the beautiful, exquisitely prepared food. “About 50 percent of our clients are not strict vegetarians or vegans, but people who love what we do,” says Erick Tucker, executive chef and co-owner. “Our focus is on the quality of the ingredients and creating a finished product that appeals to an educated foodie palate.”
In a votive-lit room with burgundy curtains and black-and-white marble floors, diners enjoy crispy fried oyster mushrooms with sweet pepper jam; white-bean-stuffed phyllo purses with porcini-Zinfandel sauce; and desserts such as avocado semifreddo with lemon custard and candied rosemary.
Although these dishes sound complicated, most can be replicated at home. In fact, Tucker has written two cookbooks as evidence—Millenium Cookbook and The Artful Vegan. He also offers hands-on vegan cooking classes once a month, beginning with a trip to the farmers’ market to inspire the recipes.
Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza also have a cookbook, The Candle Café Cookbook: More Than 100 Enlightened Recipes from New York’s Renowned Vegan Restaurant. And so does Sarma Melngailis, the owner of Pure Food & Wine, a posh raw-food salon in downtown New York, which opened in June 2004. With sexy sake cocktails and spicy Thai vegetable wraps appearing on the menu and in her cookbook called Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow, Melngailis’s (and coauthor Matthew Kenney’s) cuisine is bewitching yet approachable, healthy, and innovative.
Which is the bottom line—these restaurants are presenting exciting alternatives to your stereotypical vegetarian and vegan fare. Using wholesome ingredients found at farm stands, health food stores, and supermarkets, these chefs are showing delectable new ways to enjoy mushrooms, tofu, cashews, and more. And with the recipes (see page 40), you can do the same—and never miss the bacon. n
Victoria Abbott Riccardi is the author of the book Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto.
by Victoria Abbott Riccardi
Chefs have begun to realize the
glory of vegetables, celebrating the
ingredients’ tastes, textures, and colors.
continued on page
Candle 79 Taking culinary cues from Thailand, Spain, and Italy, Candle 79 delivers an organic vegan dining experience in an elegant, relaxing space. It also offers gluten-free and live-food dishes. 154 East 79th St., New York, NY 10021, (212) 537-7179. candlecafe.com
Dragonfly The menu changes daily, but you can always expect sophisticated vegan fare here. Attached to the restaurant is a gallery displaying emerging artists’ work and a small market offering Dragonfly meals to go. 247 King Ave., Columbus, OH 43201, (614) 298-9986. dragonflyneov.com
Green Zebra This sleek restaurant on Chicago’s south side focuses on seasonal small plates that are sure to please. Also check out the five-course vegetarian tasting menu. 1460 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60622, (312) 243-7100. greenzebrachicago.com
Madeleine Bistro French-inspired vegan dishes and a romantic setting make Madeleine Bistro a perfect date-night destination. 18621 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, CA 91356, (818) 758-6971. madeleinebistro.com
Millennium California vegan cuisine, a grand dining room, and an eclectic, young crowd come together at Millennium in downtown San Francisco. Be sure to check out the tempting desserts, too. 580 Geary St., San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 345-3900. millenniumrestaurant.com
Pure Food & Wine Vegans will delight in the creative offerings at this raw-food spot. Diners can take their meals on the patio or get cozy inside on plush red chairs. 54 Irving Pl., New York, NY 10003, (212) 477-1010. purefoodandwine.com
Exotic Mushroom “Ceviche”
Makes 8 servings
8 ounces maitake mushrooms,
cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces oyster mushrooms
4 ounces cremini or button
mushrooms, cut in halves
Juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
1⁄2 small red onion, peeled and diced
1 to 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
8 lime wedges
1 Toss the mushrooms, juice from 2 limes, olive oil, and salt in a medium bowl. Cover and marinate for 2 hours at room temperature.
2 Gently stir together the tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, onion, chiles, garlic, orange zest and juice, cilantro, oregano, and remaining lime juice in a large bowl. Add salt to taste.
3 Add the marinated mushrooms to the salsa mixture and combine.
4 To serve, divide the ceviche mixture among 8 small dishes and garnish with a lime wedge.
Recipe adapted with permission from The Artful Vegan, by Erick Tucker, Bruce Enloe, Renee Comet, and Amy Pearce (Ten Speed Press, 2003).
Grilled Vegetable Napoleons with Red Pepper Coulis
Makes 6 servings
For the Vegetables
2 medium eggplants, sliced into
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄2 teaspoon dried basil
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large zucchini, sliced diagonally
into 1⁄2-inch rounds
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into
For the Red Pepper Coulis
2 red bell peppers
1⁄2 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound polenta, cut into 1⁄2-inch rounds
Fresh parsley for garnish
1 Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle sea salt over it. Let stand for 20 minutes. Drain the eggplant and pat dry with paper towels.
2 In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and onion. Toss, then let stand for 1 hour.
3 To prepare the coulis, place the peppers on the open flame of a gas burner or on a baking sheet under a broiler and char, turning the peppers occasionally, until the skin is blackened. Let them rest for 10 minutes. Then use paper towels to gently wipe off the burnt skin.
4 Remove the peppers’ stems and seeds, and chop the flesh coarsely. Mix in a blender with the water, garlic, salt, rosemary, and olive oil until smooth.
5 On an oiled grill over medium-high heat, cook polenta 7 to 10 minutes, turning once, until rounds are golden brown and heated through. Set rounds aside.
6 On an oiled grill over medium heat, cook the eggplant, zucchini, and onion until soft, about 10 minutes per side.
7 Spoon a bit of coulis onto a plate, top with an eggplant slice, polenta round, zucchini slice, onion slice, and parsley.
Recipe adapted with permission from The Candle Café Cookbook, by Joy Pierson,
Bart Potenza, and Barbara Scott-Goodman (Clarkson Potter, 2003).
delight vegans and omnivores alike with a refreshing “ceviche.”
yogajournal.com march 2008
continued from page
Whether or not you choose to be a
vegetarian, a plant-based diet is
considered optimum for good health.
photos: david martinez; model: Johanna epps; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makeup: betten chaston; swimsuit: shakti activewear
For a spa experience
that’s truly rejuvenating,
surrender to treatments
tailored just for you.
Here’s my true confession: I do not choose to relax. I like to imagine what it would be like to live a life of leisure, lounging around by the pool, sipping on cucumber-infused water, biding my time until my next spa appointment. I admire the people who can do it. But in truth, that’s not me.
No, I like to work. I like long hours and extreme effort and as much tension as I can possibly build up. I may like to think about relaxing, but given the option to actually do it, I’d rather sit in front of my computer for hours on end, spinning away on whatever project I happen to have on hand.
Even my vacations tend to be effort oriented, if you can call them vacations at all. For one thing, I don’t take many, and they’re usually short. And for another, they always happen for a reason: to further my career (think story research, job interviews); to better my body (yoga conferences, detox intensives). Work, in other words, must be getting done.
And so it was, two years ago, that I found myself at the Chopra Center at Southern California’s elegant La Costa Resort and Spa. At the time, I was the editor of a magazine dedicated to the merits of leading a healthy, balanced life. Ironically, I had been working 12-hour days for months. My staff was begging for me to take a few days off; my boss kindly, then rather firmly, suggested that I do so.
I decided that at Chopra I could work on my yoga, do a little detox, log some meditation hours, and maybe even get a future story out of the mix (et voilà!). What’s more, I would deepen the typical spa experience by getting treatments based in the ancient Indian healing art of Ayurveda. I would take a little vacation, yes, but I would not waste my time. I’d sign up for a crash course in the Perfect Health program (normally a five-day program; I would do it in three), then get back on the job—informed, rejuvenated, and acceptably refreshed.
Situated in Carlsbad, California, just north of San Diego, the La Costa Resort and Spa is breathtaking and luxurious. Surrounded by glowing, clearly affluent families in their matching golf attire, I had never felt so out of place. But when I set foot through the door of the Chopra Center, I knew I was at home. It was slightly darker and a little funkier...still lovely, but with the signs and symbols of yoga all around. There was Ganesha smiling down on me. It would be OK—I could make effort here; I could have ease.
The yoga, meditation, and cooking classes offered at the center confirmed this hunch. It was during one of these group sessions that I had an “Aha!” moment that would change my attitude toward relaxation—if not forever, at least for the course of this particular vacation. We’d all just had our dosha makeup diagnosed and now knew whether we were an airy, creative, changeable vata; a driven, intense, fiery pitta; an earthy, loving, steady kapha; or some mix of the above. (Most of us are made up of a combination of doshas, with one or possibly two that are predominant. To learn more about your dosha mix, take the quiz at yogajournal.com/ayurveda.) David Greenspan, a former corporate executive who’s now Chopra’s lead educator in Ayurveda and meditation, was giving a talk on the interplay of the doshas within each of us when someone in the class asked, “What dosha type do you see most often at the Chopra Center?”
Greenspan didn’t have to think for long. “Vata types,” he answered. “Vatas go out of balance very quickly, and they are the quickest to take action. Generally when vatas go out of whack, they start to feel anxious and overwhelmed, and they want to do something about it. Vata types come here saying they need to slow down so they can think clearly.”
The least likely to show up, he said, were kapha types. “Imbalanced kaphas feel withdrawn and sluggish, and they don’t do much of anything unless they really feel inspired,” he explained. “It’s a rare couch potato who will leap up and say, ‘I need to get to the spa!’” Instead, kaphas tended to show up because a concerned family member sent them.
And right in the middle were pittas. “Pittas come in because they have been burning the candle at both ends—they’ve been running at such a high level of execution that they are literally fried,” Greenspan said. “They are working all the time, barking at people, causing and getting headaches. They’re not taking any time off for anything. They end up getting so overheated everyone around them gets burned. I call it scorching the village.”
Huh. I myself am a pitta type, and something about this scenario sounded...familiar. My ears pricked up as he outlined the cure: “Pittas need to be soothed; they are inflamed. You can only get so inflamed before you incinerate yourself. You’re like an engine running, running, running. You have to shut off so you can cool down.”
I know the truth when I hear it. I was a pitta out of control. I needed to do what people come to spas to do: let go, unwind, and turn myself over to someone else to manage for a little while. Create space. Surrender. See what would happen.
And so I did. I stopped, just for my two remaining days, striving and angling for control. I let the Chopra Center recommend my treatments and enjoyed a balancing shirodhara treatment, a soothing abhyanga massage, and a completely blissful sound-therapy/massage hybrid treatment called Gandharva, with glorious crystal singing bowls—something I would have never selected for myself—too frivolous.
I had the great fortune to meet with David Simon, the neurologist who’s the medical director, CEO, and cofounder of the Chopra Center. He recommended that I simply create some space in my schedule every day—five-minute “buffer zones” before and after each of my many meetings and endless tasks. That would, he said, go a long way toward creating balance and helping me tap into my own compassionate heart.
For the next two days, I ate well; I drank tea. Between spa appointments, I did—amazingly—nothing. I sat by the pool. I sipped cucumber water. My head began to clear. I felt a little better. But though I was relinquishing control, I was still soaking up information. The best mind-body spas (see “10 Mind-Body Spas to Try,” page 52) send you home with the tools you need to balance your life outside their rarified walls. I was learning what I needed to know about how to eat, sleep, exercise, and keep a cool head even as I kept a warm heart.
And that, says Robert MacDonald, an acupuncturist and massage therapist who is director of healing for the Exhale Mind Body Spa (with facilities in New York City and four other locations around the country), is what makes a visit to the spa transformational. “When you embrace therapies like yoga or acupuncture or even bodywork, you’re really reaching for tools that can elevate you to a higher level of functionality,” he says. “If you go off to a spa and you just have treatments and don’t learn anything, it’s like going on the Atkins diet. It’s great when you’re using it, but when you get back to your regular life, it all falls apart. But a good spa is about sus-
For Seane Corn, an occasional spa visit is part of her ongoing pitta-management plan. Corn is a busy yoga instructor, DVD star (her latest video is Yoga from the Heart), and an ambassador for the nonprofit organization YouthAIDS. “I’m a type A personality, and my pattern is go-go-go-go, crash,” she says. “When I go to the spa, there’s a reason for it—I need an environment geared to relaxation, feeling, and introspection. It allows me space to let go and receive.”
An occasional spa excursion fits right in with Corn’s yoga. “I think that anything that helps bring you back into the present is a valid form of practice,” she says. “It is a luxury and a privilege—and optional—don’t get me wrong. A $95 herbal wrap is not going to get you any closer to God. But we live in a culture of stress, and you should do everything you can to bring yourself into alignment.”
For most of us, that means slowing down. We are overscheduled multitaskers, addicted to doing and not so big on just being. Natasha Korshak is the director of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness training at the storied Miraval Resort, in Catalina, Arizona. “We see all types here at Miraval, but I think of it as a playground for pittas,” she says. “Many of our guests have high-level positions and are very driven. They come here and are ambitious with their agenda. I encourage them to slow down, to decide from moment to moment what they want to do. To think deeply about what they need now and going forward. The message at Miraval is: This is fun, but we’re asking you to be present for every moment of it.”
Indeed, for overtaxed Americans—particularly those who don’t pursue a daily yoga or meditation practice—a trip to the spa can be a spiritual experience, says Jonathan Ellerby, spiritual programs director at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. “There is so much that stands between us and our spiritual selves—our minds, habits, disappointments, kids, jobs, taxes,” he says. “People come here and they slow down and nurture themselves, sometimes for the first time ever. They may be having a shirodhara treatment or a massage and find that the mind relaxes and something else emerges. They can connect to a profound sense of peace, open-mindedness, and present-moment awareness. They say, ‘How come I couldn’t do this on my own?’ I say, ‘How come you thought you could?’ We all need support sometimes.”
And so I took a deep breath. I got some perspective, and I realized I was angry all the time. And then, I wasn’t. I began to see how my life could be a little bit sweeter for me and for everyone else around me if only I’d chill out just a little. I would move forward with a commitment to take better care of myself, knowing that my life could be not only happier and healthier, but also more efficient and productive! And suddenly—from my positively pitta perspective—an occasional trip to the spa began to seem very worthwhile indeed. n
For a list of yogi-friendly destination
spas, turn the page.
Hillari Dowdle, former editor of Yoga Journal, is a freelance writer in Knoxville, Tennessee.
by Hillari Dowdle
touch that soothes
“I love to see the vatas coming, because they are so much fun,” says Natasha Korshak, director of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness training at Miraval. “They’re the ones having wild rides! With them, we are always talking about grounding.”
When in balance, vata types are characterized by high energy, creativity, and an inspiring fluidity. When out of balance, they tend to be nervous, restless, confused, and exhausted. “They are the kind of people who can turn up lots of opportunity; when they’re in balance, that’s great,” says David Greenspan, lead Ayurvedic educator
at the Chopra Center. “But when they’re facing 30 choices and feeling overwhelmed, they start to suffer anxiety, they don’t eat well, and they feed on themselves until they’re totally imbalanced.”
The keys to balancing
vata, Greenspan says, are warmth, touch, and repetition. This makes gentle massage (think Swedish
or abhyanga), body wraps, bathing rituals, and all sorts of warming hydrotherapies particularly good choices. Sweet almond, sesame, and safflower oils can balance vata, as does the scent of patchouli essential oil.
Treatment to try
A body wrap combines the best of warmth and touch, slathering the body with clay straight from the earth. What could be more grounding? “A good body wrap is an amazing cocoonlike experience,” says Korshak. “It makes you feel safe and swaddled and completely centered. Plus, there are some interesting opportunities for self-discovery.” The Turquoise Wrap at The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa, in Scottsdale, Arizona, begins with a cornmeal scrub, ends
with a steam and a full-body honey mask, and in between enrobes the body in turquoise clay, which is believed by Native Americans to have powerful
the quiz at yogajournal
.com/ayurveda, then try the treatments recommended for your type.
being covered in clay is grounding—literally.
calm for the mind
“We see a lot of stressed-out pittas at Exhale in New York,” says Robert MacDonald, the spa’s director of healing. “They are the people who are ultrasuccessful on Wall Street. They literally thrive on stress. But the body can’t tell the difference between stress you love and stress you don’t. So you have to work to offset the impact.”
Pittas have a lot of stamina, says Greenspan, which is both good and bad. They can push themselves right up to the point of collapse. “They need to learn cooling techniques so they don’t scorch the earth around them—so they can be compassionate and loving instead of so pointed and direct,” he says. The greatest cooling tool in
the arsenal? Meditation.
“Meditation soothes and calms; it allows you to have stillness and silence instead of reactive responses,” Greenspan
says. “It can allow a pitta
to live life with great grace and ease. It can create a huge shift.”
At the spa, good choices include treatments aimed at healing (pittas benefit enormously from creating the intention to heal) and that address heat-related complaints. Cool-water therapies are good choices, as are Reiki and other gentle forms of energy work, massages, and facials. Choose avocado or coconut oils for a massage, and work with essential oils of sandalwood, jasmine, or rose.
Treatment to try
Shirodhara is the classical soothing Ayurvedic treatment in which a continuous stream of therapeutic oil is applied to the head. It’s the perfect antidote to the pitta tendency to think too much—it cools down an overheated head quickly. As a bonus, shirodhara also brings down excess vata, thereby reducing any winds that might be fanning your flames. (“If you have a fire going and you add a lot of wind, suddenly it’s a bonfire,” Greenspan explains. “You often need to address vata and pitta.”) If you’re angry, irritable, or agitated, indulge in a shirodhara treatment and say goodbye to those little puffs of smoke that have been blowing out of your ears.
warm oil soothes an overheated brain.
moves that energize
A balanced kapha is a beautiful thing: strong, loving, kind, earthy, grounded. “The constitutions all have their upside and their downside,” says Jonathan Ellerby, spiritual programs director at Canyon Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona. “Someone may be a kapha, and
it may help them to be steady and patient at work. But perhaps in a relationship where there is a crisis, they’re absent, maybe sleeping a lot.”
The kapha dosha is composed of earth and water, which makes it solid, yes, but also slow. “When a kapha goes out of balance, the person becomes very sluggish and the imbalance is much deeper than with vata or pitta,” explains Greenspan. “When kaphas are overwhelmed, they often just shut down. You have to break that cycle
of inertia. The way you do that is by invigorating the body through yoga and diet and treatments that bring blood to the skin
and get the body moving.”
Kapha types who have been on the couch for a while should get moving gradually. “Kaphas need stimulation, but you have to go gently or they’ll get scared off,” says Korshak. “You have to help them see the benefit of more-vigorous efforts.” The challenge for out-of-balance kaphas? Weight loss.
To invigorate stagnant kapha, select body scrubs, deep massage such as Rolfing, lymphatic drainage, detox facials, vishesh (an Ayurvedic deep-tissue friction massage), or udvartna (an Ayurvedic treatment in which an herbal paste is used to draw out excess fluids and toxins). Dry heat saunas and any kind of moving massage therapy are also helpful. Choose safflower or sesame oils for massage, and add aromatic frankincense, peppermint, or rosemary.
Treatment to try
The perfect marriage of movement and massage, Thai massage invigorates stagnant kapha types without overwhelming them. A blend of assisted stretching and acupressure treatment, it has often been described as passive yoga. The therapist uses his or her weight to take muscles and joints through a wide range of motion. It’s both energizing and relaxing—and moreover, it’s fun.
a thai yoga massage invigorates gently.
her shirt: city lights; pants: hyde
The photos for this story were shot on location
in Scottsdale, Arizona,
at The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa, which is nestled alongside boulder-topped hills in the Sonoran Desert. The spa’s services range from classic Ayurvedic treatments like abhyanga and shirodhara to Native American-inspired adobe clay wraps and shamanic healing. Johanna Epps, who modeled here, teaches flow-style classes at At One Yoga in Phoenix.
The Boulders Resort
and Golden Door Spa
Sages and sadhus have always known that the desert heals.
Spa goers can tap into that same power—sans the asceticism—
at the uber-relaxing Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Resort. With an emphasis on life enhancement and emotional balance, it offers something special for every dosha. Acne-prone pittas can revel in the Golden Door Tranquillity Facial; vatas can indulge in the Japanese Red Flower Ritual bath; kaphas can get things moving with the Detox Cellulite Treatment. And everyone can benefit from the menu of healing treatments from around the world.
Tucson, Arizona; Lenox, Massachusetts
If healing is a top priority, consider Canyon Ranch, a leader in integrative medicine as well as indulgence. The staff at both spa locations includes board-certified physicians, acupuncturists, herbalists, behavioral therapists, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and healing-touch practitioners. Try Prescription for Yoga, a two-part personalized yoga therapy session designed to find your dosha type and energetic imbalances, and devise a personalized practice for balance in your life.
Located in the heart of the luxurious La Costa Resort and Spa, the Chopra Center offers a unique lineup of truly transformational wellness programs based on the work of founders Deepak Chopra, MD, and David Simon, MD. Health consultations are available, as
are signature therapies such as Gandharva (a mix of massage and sound therapy using enormous singing bowls) and Primordial Sound Meditation (in which a seed mantra is prescribed based on your time and place of birth). Choose your focus: health, relationships, spiritual life, karma, heart health, weight loss, meditation, or enlightenment. You’ll leave relaxed and revitalized—and holding a workable plan
for the rest of your life.
Exhale Mind Body Spa
Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles area, New York
With locations in several major cities, this yoga-oriented day spa succeeds in creating sanctuaries of calm amid the urban madness. Walk through the door, and your world is transformed—at least
for an hour. The spa’s signature Exhale Fusion Massage uses aromatherapy and vigorous rhythmic movement to uplift and detox stagnant kapha. The four-handed Body Enlightening yoga contact work is guaranteed to bring
even the most spun-out vata right back down to earth.
If you’re looking for a spa to heat up cool kapha or cool down hot pitta, this might be the answer. The residential Fat Flush Plan combines diet, exercise, and detoxifying spa treatments with yoga and meditation to help kapha-challenged guests boost metabolism and bliss. Burned-out pittas can relax with a Soothing Cool Leg Gel Treatment or recharge in a Color Energy Bath.
Green Valley Spa
St. George, Utah
You can invigorate mind, body, and spirit with this spa’s signature weight-loss program, which includes an MD-administered
thyroid-function test, a full lipid panel, a complete hormonal analysis, seven private yoga sessions, meditation instruction, and—oh yes—five 50-minute spa treatments (a Sugar and Spice Body Sculpting rubdown can make up for a lot of Krispy Kremes).
Mayflower Inn and Spa
The blueblood name may convey post-tennis rubdowns, but yoga and meditation take center stage at Mayflower. There’s an emphasis on breathwork, meditation, labyrinth walking, and other interior arts (tea rituals, journaling). Treatments are perfect for calming scattered, frazzled vata types—five different ritual baths are offered, as is an array of warming body wraps and gentle massage techniques. Insomniacs will want to try the Mayflower Sweet Surrender, a mix of craniosacral therapy, lymphatic drainage, and acupressure designed
to induce deep relaxation.
“Life in balance” is the tag line of this resort, but “mindfulness in motion” is more like it. From sunrise to sunset, there’s something to do, see, learn, eat, play—and every moment of it is a new opportunity to be present. The spa is renowned for its Miraval Equine Experience, in which specially trained horses help guests uncover and heal their patterns
of stress and discomfort. The Sacred Journey massage creates emotional grounding by balancing the energies of hot and cold.
New Age Health Spa
Neversink, New York
An easy drive from many of the Northeast’s most stresscentric cities, this spa is the antidote to urban burnout. It embraces seekers of all spiritual stripes; you can book a private yoga session followed by a tarot consultation
to map your path for the day. A water Pilates program is perfect for pittas about to go up in flames. A juice fasting program coupled with outdoor eco-adventures make New Age a good choice for kaphas needing invigoration.
The Raj is a wellness spa with a mission: to detoxify your mind, body, and soul through the weeklong purification known as panchakarma. This is a hard-core Ayurvedic resort; show up here to get some deep inner work done. If you have a chronic health issue, it’s likely that The Raj has
a program to help. Core components usually include nutritional and lifestyle counseling, meditation and yoga instruction, herbal therapies, and Ayurvedic body therapies such as shirodhara.
spas to try
Approached with an open heart and an intention to create balance, even the smallest strip-mall day spa can become a refuge of healing. But when life gets seriously out of control, a trip to a full-service spa is especially nice. Here are a few of our favorite spas—great places to restore, rejuvenate, and recover from life’s demands.
adho mukha svanasana
by Natasha Rizopoulos
Press hands to mat
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) was the first asana I fell in love with, and it remains my desert island pose. Down Dog offers many benefits. When you’re tired, staying in this pose for a spell will restore your energy. It can also help strengthen and shape your legs, ease shoulder stiffness, and slow your heartbeat. I find it the perfect microcosm of yoga practice: It requires both strength and flexibility; it teaches you to appreciate alignment, and thus prepares you for doing inversions, backbends, and forward bends; and it offers philosophical lessons, such as the cultivation of stability and spaciousness, that will carry over into the rest of your life.
Most of us come to the yoga mat with a predisposition toward either bendiness or stiffness. Whichever end of the spectrum you swing toward, you can begin to balance your body by practicing Down Dog. If you’re stiff, the pose will feel challenging because of tightness in the shoulders and hamstrings. If you’re flexible, you’re likely to collapse in your lower back and shoulders. Unfortunately, bendy types might not feel the effects of the collapse until years later, when they begin to sustain injuries in their lumbar disks or rotator cuff muscles. But whether you are stiff or bendy, a wonderful modification that I call Puppy Dog can teach you the actions and alignment that allow you to experience a Down Dog that feels spacious and open but is also stable and strong.
To begin, stand facing a wall. Place both of your hands on the wall at about the height of your frontal hipbones. Your hands should be shoulder-distance apart, with the creases of your wrists forming a horizontal line and your index fingers pointing straight up. Keeping this alignment in your hands, step back so that your arms and torso are parallel to the floor, feet are hip-distance apart and parallel, and hips are stacked over your feet.
Firmly connect to the wall with the whole of each hand and use the energy from this contact to help you elongate your spine as you press your hips away from the wall (see figure 1). Creating this length is one of the central goals in Down Dog, but tightness in the shoulders can interfere with your ability to find this extension. Because the hands and arms in Puppy Dog are not weight bearing (but are in Down Dog), the effect of tight shoulders is mitigated, allowing you to extend out of your shoulders and move most of your weight back into your legs.
As you breathe here and continue to lengthen your spine, notice if you’ve created congestion around your neck, which can happen by narrowing across your upper back or by sinking your front ribs toward the floor. Pay attention to the position of your head in relation to your upper arms: If you are more flexible, you will have a tendency to sink through your armpits, poke the front ribs toward the floor, and overarch the spine. But remember that over time this can injure the shoulders and lower back.
If your ears are lower than your upper arms, lift your head slightly, soften your front ribs, and rotate your shoulders away from your ears as you firm your triceps (outer arms). This external rotation should help bring your ears back in line with your biceps. As you align your shoulders, you are establishing the quality of sthira (strength or steadiness). You can then use this sthira to create sukha (ease or spaciousness). A posture needs both attributes to have integrity and balance. Maintaining these stabilizing actions, press your hips away from the wall to create length through your spine, and then spread your shoulder blades away from your spine to create breadth across your upper back. Emphasize the spaciousness in your torso by engaging your quadriceps and pressing the tops of your thighs back, creating even more space in your lower back and waist area.
To set up for the next variation, place a pair of blocks flat and lengthwise toward the front of your mat, and arrange them so that they are shoulder-distance apart and parallel. Come to all fours, with your hands on the blocks and your hips stacked above your knees. Adjust the blocks so that your hands are an inch or so in front of your shoulders, with the fleshy part of your palm just over the edge for traction (as opposed to having your hands on the center of the blocks). This is the most stable position for your hands and is a way to make sure that the creases of your wrists form a straight line rather than tilting in diagonally—a common misalignment that hampers shoulder opening. Once you’ve organized your hands, set your feet hip-distance apart, lift your hips, and straighten your legs (see figure 2).
Remember the actions and alignment from Puppy Dog. Extend your front and back body equally and emphasize the external rotation in the shoulders so that you don’t collapse your armpits or create tension in your upper back. With your hands elevated on the blocks, you will be able to extend out of your shoulders more actively, transferring some of the weight of the pose from your arms to your legs. As you do this, engage your quadriceps and press them back, reaching your heels toward the floor. In Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar writes that Adho Mukha Svanasana promotes shapely legs, but that will happen only if the legs become an integral part of the posture. If your hamstrings are tight, straightening your legs will be challenging, but notice how the blocks help you to move in this direction. If your lower back rounds, bend your knees a little bit. As you energize your legs, imagine someone standing behind you with their hands at the tops of your thighs and pulling back so that your pelvis is drawn further away from your waist.
To come into the classical pose, begin in Balasana (Child’s Pose) with your arms extended in front of you. Have your hands shoulder-distance apart, creases of the wrists parallel to the front edge of the mat. You can turn your hands out slightly to help you extend out of your shoulders. As you press down with your hands, try to lift your forearms away from the ground; this is an important intention and will stabilize your shoulders once you move into the full pose.
Next, incorporate the actions that you learned in the earlier variations: Externally rotate your shoulders, then firm your outer upper-arm muscles in toward the bone. On an inhalation, draw yourself up to your hands and knees, feet hip-
distance apart. On an exhalation, press your hips back and up. Glance at your feet to make sure they are parallel, then let your head hang, observing the relationship of your head to your upper arms.
If your ears are below your biceps, recommit to the actions from Puppy Dog. Work to create sthira so that all of your limbs can work together to obtain length along the spine. As you find the alignment of this pose, see if you can find alertness and relaxation in the rest of your life. Too often in our daily lives these two qualities exist in opposition. On the yoga mat, however, we can learn to inhabit them simultaneously. n
Natasha Rizopoulos is living a bicoastal life, teaching yoga in Los Angeles and Boston.
Master this favorite pose and feel all that yoga has to offer.
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
Lift sitting bones
Figure 2 (version of Downward-Facing Dog) is described on page 58.
Photos: rory earnshaw; model: kishan shah; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makeup: veronica sjoen/artist untied; top: american apparel; shorts: shakti activewear; blocks: barefoot yoga co.; mat: hugger mugger
In the Yoga Sutra, the sage Patanjali writes, “Sthira sukham asanam,” or “the posture should be steady
and easy.” Our asanas should be equally alert and relaxed.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose balances opposites and can be
practiced myriad ways. Various yoga traditions approach the
posture differently. Here’s a look at a few different dogs.
Anusara This approach emphasizes the connection between the physical practice and the spiritual heart. Specific instructions often focus on lifting the undersides of the arms to allow a deeper connection of the shoulder blades into the back of the heart, then softening the heart and extending energy back out through the entire body.
Ashtanga This tradition uses
a short stance and spends five breaths in the pose, which makes sense for the heat-building flow
that is central to this method. The gazing point is the navel. Students engage the bandhas and “jump”
or “float” from Downward-Facing Dog to Dandasana in the Ashtanga primary series.
Bikram The 26-pose Bikram sequence does not include Downward-Facing Dog.
Iyengar Down Dog is considered a neutralizing pose that is held for a long period of time
(up to five minutes or more!) to
establish alignment principles, generate heat, and build strength. This pose is a great preparation for the inversions that are a big part of this tradition.
Kundalini (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) In certain Kundalini sequence sets, or kriyas, the
pose is practiced, but it is called Triangle. And the pose you might know as Trikonasana is not practiced in the Kundalini tradition.
illustration: sarah wilkins
During a meditation last year, Doug, a longtime yoga student, had a profound spiritual awakening that was accompanied by the recognition that there was something inauthentic about the life he was leading. Among other things, he saw that his medical practice had gone dead and that he desperately needed to take a sabbatical to contemplate his path in life. His wife didn’t agree, and Doug’s decision to follow his heart quickly exposed the many fault lines in their 20-year marriage.
Now they’re discussing divorce, while Doug studies yoga therapeutics and spends hours every day meditating and writing. He tells me that he cries several times a week and feels as though he were swimming in a fast, hot river of emotions—his own and other people’s. Even more unsettling is the fact that he doesn’t know where all this is taking him.
Doug’s experience of radical uncertainty is typical for someone who’s deep inside a transformational process. In one of Rumi’s poems, a boiling chickpea speaks up from out of the stewpot, complaining about the heat of the fire and the blows of the cook’s spoon. The cook basically tells the chickpea, “Just let yourself be cooked! In the end, you’ll be a delicious morsel!”
Over the years, when the fire of yoga has felt especially hot, I’ve reread that poem and appreciated how well it describes the psychic cooking that takes place during certain phases of transformation—a process in which you literally allow yourself to be softened, opened, even broken apart, in order to expand your sense of who you are. When you are in the midst of the process, you might feel like that overheated chickpea, or like cookie dough—raw and unformed. It’s hard to keep your cool. You say things that other people find weird or embarrassing. Even more dislocating, you don’t know exactly who you are. Yet that uncertainty—the feeling that you’re in between an old self and an unknown new one—is a sign that you’re in a true transformative process.
The Dance of Transformation
Transformation is different from spiritual awakening or enlightenment. The contemporary philosopher Yasuhiko Kimura defines transformation as a dance between Being and Becoming. By Being, Kimura means the changeless Source of all that is—the formless ground where words and categories dissolve, a ground that you may have touched while practicing meditation or Savasana. Becoming is the part of you that grows, changes, shifts. It is the realm where inspiration becomes actualized in the world. Being is your still center, your Source; Becoming is your personality, your body, and your interactions with the world.
When you have a spiritual awakening or even a deep experience of stillness in meditation, you are returning to pure Being, an immersion in the love and freedom of undying essence. Transformation, on the other hand, is what happens when the insights and experiences that emerge out of pure Being meet your ordinary human personality and your day-to-day reality and begin to infuse your choices and relationships.
Doug’s transformative process began when he realized that the insight he’d had in meditation was demanding to be lived. An old friend of mine described a similar moment in his life. He’d spent a month in retreat with his teacher and found that his capacity for loving had increased exponentially. But back in the stream of ordinary life, he’d watched love evaporate under the daily pressure of making a living and dealing with the minutia of life.
For him the process of transformation arose from the tension between the love and wisdom of pure Being that he experienced while on retreat and the real-life habits and feelings that characterized his previous self. It’s that tension that births change. In fact, the tension is part of the process—a sign that transformation is imminent or in development. There are also other signs that you can learn to recognize, because, for most of us, real transformation happens in stages that can be tracked.
Every transformative process starts with a wake-up call. For some, the wake-up arrives like Doug’s—as a sudden, intuitive recognition. But just as often a wake-up call comes as the result of an unexpected external crisis. Francesco, a young actor, says that his transformative journey began when a director fired him from a film, saying that he didn’t know how to express “real” emotions. For Dale, the triggering event was the early death of her husband. Andrew, a teacher of yoga and spirituality, heard the alarm bell when a student left him, saying that Andrew’s life didn’t reflect what he was teaching. Each event was heartbreaking—it shattered not only the external framework of these people’s lives but their very beliefs about themselves and their path.
Evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris has written that stress is what creates evolution in nature: Plants grow through pruning, and human beings grow the same way. When we’re faced with a situation that we can’t control or change with our current level of understanding and skill, evolutionary stress arises. The stress impels us to question the situation, seek guidance and answers, practice what we’ve learned, and eventually take a leap out of our comfort zone into a higher level of awareness.
For most of us the stress is uncomfortable and disturbing. But in science and in spiritual life, important breakthroughs are often preceded by a period of intense frustration or impasse. The scientist has assembled his data and performed innumerable experiments, but he is unable to crack the problem; the answers aren’t coming. His passionate quest for answers and his frustration about not receiving them build to a white-hot intensity. In this impasse, frequently while he is resting or taking a walk, the answer emerges from his momentarily still mind. Often it takes the form of an insight, like a download from the Source.
Spiritual breakthroughs may follow a similar pattern. You search for answers with steadfast curiosity and intention. The great teachers on the path of self-inquiry, Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj, sought the answer to the question “Who am I really?” For Doug, the question is “How should I live?”
The period following a wake-up call often involves letting yourself live in the stress of unanswered questions and unsolved problems. It’s a time of longing for wisdom and change, and of intense effort and practice. The stress of the questioning, combined with the effort of practice, creates tapas, or transformative heat, which in turn creates an alchemical cauldron that allows you to refine your vessel and open the psyche for revelation and insight.
Asking for Help
This questing stage of the transformative journey requires practice and patience. Spiritual effort is crucial; without it, most people won’t develop a vessel to hold the shift or insight. But it isn’t enough to practice. You also need the help of a teacher or counselor and the help of grace, which one of my teachers defined as that which returns things to the Source. Returning to the Source is necessary, because true shifts of consciousness emerge from Being itself. I’ve found that the most direct way to ask for help from Being is through prayer.
Some may dismiss prayer as wimpy—a confession that your practice is weak or that you lack self-reliance. It could also be said that all you need to do is practice intensely and aspire passionately, and breakthrough will come on its own. While that may be true for some people, most of my major breakthroughs have followed intense prayer. Depending on the mood of the moment, I pray to God, to the field of consciousness, to my own higher Self. I believe that it’s important to pray only for things that will benefit others as well as oneself. But I also know that any transformation in an individual’s consciousness is beneficial to all, so I have no hesitation about asking for help when I come across inner obstructions. Praying also helps me let go of my pride about being in control, because I’ve found the most effective form of prayer to be the kind in which you start by saying, “I can’t do this myself. Grace will have to help me.” There’s something about the conviction of our essential helplessness that seems to attract grace.
Grace, Insight, and Awakening
You can always tell when grace has rushed in. For one thing, it’s exhilarating and often miraculous. You read a book, and the exact words you need to hear leap out at you. You’re drawn to take a class with a particular teacher, and she is the one who gives you the insight that helps change your entire psychic structure. You hear yourself saying exactly the right thing to a friend and yet know that “you” didn’t say it. Often at this stage your life seems filled with synchronicities, meaningful coincidences, inspirations that carry you forward almost effortlessly.
This part of the transformation cycle can be incredibly exciting, often because it feels as though you’re learning how to open to the wisdom that comes from Being itself. A Kabbalah teacher named Marc Gafni, who has himself experienced many cycles of transformation, says that it requires rewriting our source code—the deep internal programming that determines the way we experience the situations in our lives. Since we don’t know how to get to the source code on our own, that deep shifting has to come from insight, or the intuitive awareness that arises from within Being itself.
One sign that you’re truly experiencing that level of insight is when a truth you’ve been reading about or hearing of for years suddenly becomes an actual realization, not just a useful teaching. You hear yourself saying, “Oh my god—I’m really NOT my thoughts!” or “Love is real!” or “Wow, I can change my experience by changing my perception!” Everything feels different, and you know that the world will never be the same again.
The phase that begins with the ascent of grace, with its synchronicities and seemingly miraculous realizations, is like falling in love and discovering that your beloved loves you, too. It’s often called the honeymoon phase of the inner life, and it can last for years. When you’re in that honeymoon phase, it can feel as though all of your struggles are gone. Spiritual power runs through you—sometimes so strongly that others catch it. You may feel a euphoria that comes from your sense of the presence of grace. For many people, that sense creates a subtle (or not so subtle) feeling of spiritual superiority—a feeling that you’re being guided or shown the way, along with a slight disdain for people who haven’t yet gotten it. This is often the moment when you decide to leave your old life behind and go off to India or to quit your day job and open a yoga studio. Sometimes that is the right decision. Sometimes, it isn’t.
The danger of the honeymoon period is having overconfidence. In the euphoria of your love affair with transformation, you can overstep boundaries and make the kind of professional mistakes that come from the belief that you can do no wrong, or from blindly following intuitive guidance without discernment.
The Fall from Grace
For this reason, the honeymoon of grace will almost inevitably be followed by some kind of fall, or at least by a feeling of having fallen. Sometimes this feels like dryness, as though you are being cut off from the flow that you’d experienced. The fall might happen as a result of your own missteps: In the euphoria or confidence of the honeymoon period, you might make a big mistake professionally; fall in love with someone inappropriate; quarrel with your best friend, your family, or your teacher; ditch your marriage; or by the complications involved in making a significant life change. Just as often, what feels like a fall is actually a deep purification—an emotional detox—during which time psychological issues and vulnerabilities that you may not have processed emerge to be looked at and worked through.
Why does this happen? Usually because our psychological vessel is not quite strong enough to hold the power of our spiritual insight. Here’s an example. Years ago a friend of mine attended a meditation retreat with a prominent teacher from India. During one of the meditation sessions, my friend saw a beautiful golden light inside herself and realized that many of her beliefs about herself—her feelings of guilt, unworthiness, emptiness—were completely unreal. “More than seeing a light,” she said, “I saw my own beauty and goodness.” The experience left her in a state of almost operatic bliss, accompanied by a new gift of psychic insight that convinced her she was being guided from within. Following both the bliss and the guidance, she left her professional career and went to study and practice at the teacher’s ashram.
She began to practice with great discipline, while following the intuitive “hits” that came from inside. She used to say, with unmistakable pride, “I’m so fortunate: I never have to worry about what to do, because I always have this internal knowing.” After a while, her intuition began guiding her food choices. More often than not, the guidance would tell her to eat little—often less than a handful of food at meals. She began losing weight. Her teacher told her she was too thin and strongly warned her to eat more. But since her inner guidance was telling her otherwise, she kept on eating less and less. It was only when her weight got extremely low that it became clear she was exhibiting all the symptoms of anorexia and clearly had some psychological issues that needed attention.
She left India, got a job and a therapist, worked through her eating disorder, and came back to her practice on a much firmer footing. But for a long time she believed that she had failed on the spiritual path, fallen from grace, and been counted out of the game. In fact, what she had needed was to find some sort of balance in her physical body and her psychological world before she could move forward in her inner life.
This is an extreme example, for sure, but it illustrates one of the laws of the inner life: Even when you’re given a glimpse of who you can be, it usually takes work to bring the separate strands of your Being into alignment with the awakening vision. Some of this entails fine-tuning, but some of it can be quite radical, especially when shadowy aspects of your personality surface. During this part of the process, you may feel the kind of confusion that Doug reports, as you oscillate between the new self and the old.
However, the fall is actually an important part of the journey—not only because it is humbling, but because it underscores the need for integration and initiates the integrative process.
In the integration phase, you may find yourself, like Doug, managing contradictions. Your inner developmental process may seem to demand radical freedom to practice, travel, or renegotiate the terms of your life. At the same time, you are still called on to honor commitments to a family or career, not to mention to the realities of survival in the 21st-century world.
Integrating spiritual change happens only when you take the insights or inner experiences of your awakenings and radically apply them to your life, allowing them to percolate within you and change the way you express yourself in your actions and relationships. It’s one thing, for instance, to recognize in yoga class that you are one with the earth. It’s quite another to alter your life to bring it in line with that recognition. It may involve modifications in your diet, changes in the way you use your body or consume goods and services, and shifts in your inner attitudes. The integration process is what grounds your transformative experiences, making them real ways of living and moving in the world.
The process of integration demands that you make efforts to consciously bring insights into action. Yet—and here is the inherent mystery in the process of transformation—the integration stage of the transformative process also happens beneath the surface of your consciousness. True transformation is a natural process that affects the way you think, act, and feel in every situation. That means you cannot control the pace of transformation any more than you can control the process by which an apple tree flowers and bears fruit. Ripening must take place, both in fruit trees and in human beings.
Recently a longtime practitioner friend of mine went through a deep process of inner and outer shifting. For several years she had longed for intimate connection, which was missing in her life. Then, her world was blown apart by a sudden love affair, which seemed to embody the intimate communion she’d yearned for. The relationship was too intense to last, and when it ended she found herself in a period of confusion and uncertainty much like Doug’s. Yet she knew enough not to try to make any quick decisions, but rather to sit in the uncertainty and let the situation unfold. She committed herself to working with a therapist and began to meditate for long periods each day.
As the insights of therapy meshed with the insights of meditation, she started to experience her kinship with the living energy in the natural world. Over a period of months, as though she’d stepped through a kind of threshold, more and more of her encounters with others were informed by her growing sense of the shared energy of life. Very naturally, her ways of relating to other people began to deepen. She stopped needing to fill silences with social chatter; she stopped feeling anxious about connecting with others. Instead, she knew that the connections were already, and would always be, present. She had integrated her longing for intimacy so that, instead of feeling driven to play it out in a passionate relationship, she could recognize that intimacy is always available to those who are truly intimate with their own hearts.
staying on the path
Listening to her and remembering conversations we’d had over the years, I realized that she was modeling the stages of real transformation. She had been willing to inhabit uncertainty, to remain on the threshold where she didn’t know what the outcome of her journey would be. She had practiced, dipping again and again into pure Being, asking for help, and bringing her insights into her encounters with others. And at some point, the mysterious energy of Being had created a shift, a change in her source code that then shifted her perceptions of the world and her sense of self. Deep inner and outer change had taken place.
And here’s the point: When we enter the gates of the transformative process—and yoga is, in its essence, a vortex for transformation—we can never predict how the journey will go. What we can say is that it will involve a dance between insight and application, between practice and grace, between Being and Becoming. After we’ve been through a few transformative cycles, we start to be able to navigate. We can recognize a period of insight and awakening and enjoy the honeymoon stage. We can remember that our falls are not signs of failure, but rather are invitations to recognize where work is necessary. We begin to welcome opportunities to integrate our highest, deepest levels of awareness with the untransformed parts of ourselves. And we celebrate the process even during times when it seems difficult, because we know that it is a process. n
Sally Kempton, also known as Durgananda, is an author, a meditation teacher, and the founder of the Dharana Institute. For more information, visit sallykempton.com.
True transformation is a radical process.
Here’s how to navigate the shift gracefully.
by Sally Kempton
Wake-up Call You realize that something needs to change.
Holding Uncertainty You search for methods that will
help you to change, you explore the teachings, and all the while you’re willing to live with the insecurity of being in a process
of identity shifting.
Asking for Help You approach teachers and mentors, and you strongly appeal to the power of grace itself.
Grace, Insight, and
Awakening Grace opens the situation, creating a breakthrough
—an inner shift—that may manifest as new gifts or insights.
Honeymoon Enjoying the new situation, you live in the breakthrough. It may feel somewhat
like being in love.
Fall from Grace You lose touch with the new gifts and experience the consequences
of overconfidence and a sense
of dryness or loss of contact
with your Source.
Integration You bring insight
to bear on the contradictions that have caused you to lose contact with grace, you apply spiritual insights to the nitty-gritty actions
of your life, and you experience
the ripening of your breakthroughs over time.
On the path of radical transformation, you’ll pass through these seven stages:
After the honeymoon period, you might
become discouraged by the complications involved in making a significant life change.
She needed some sort of balance in her
body and her psychological world before
she could move forward in her inner life.
yogajournal.com march 2008
photos: david martinez; model: claire missingham; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makeup: betten chaston; top: aspire; pants: shakti activewear
before you begin
WARM UP Stand in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) with your palms pressed together in Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Focus for a few minutes on the inner sun at your heart, which is the microcosmic equivalent of the outer sun at the heart of our solar system. Your inner sun represents the light of consciousness, without which nothing would exist—just as our physical world wouldn’t exist without the sun. This inner sun is often compared with the embodied Self, the jivatman or “liberated being.” You might dedicate your practice to this light.
If Sun Salutations are your warm-up for a general practice, move slowly and consciously, gradually building heat. If Sun Salutations are your whole practice, do a 2- to 5-minute Downward Dog as a warm-up.
after you finish
REST DEEPLY End by devoting
at least 20 to 25 percent of your
total practice time to Savasana (Corpse Pose).
Adapt Sun Salutations to
suit your mood, energy
level, or available time,
and let your practice shine.
Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a series of postures that warms, strengthens, and aligns the entire body. It serves as an all-purpose yoga tool, kind of like a hammer that’s also a saw and a screwdriver, if you can imagine such a thing.
The sequence that begins on page 74 might be considered the classic one, but there are so many variations that many modern schools would dispute this. You can alter this particular Sun Salutation by playing with its pace. If you move through the sequence rapidly (by transitioning into the next pose each time you inhale or exhale), you’ll warm up fairly quickly. Start with 5 or 6 repetitions and gradually build to 12 or more or set a timer starting with 3 minutes and gradually increase to 10 or more.
Or try moving slowly and deliberately, and you’ll feel how the sequence becomes a sort of moving meditation. As you practice this way, center your awareness at some point in your body (such as your third eye or your heart) and challenge yourself to keep focusing there for the duration of the practice.
Moving quickly is more stimulating, while moving slowly is more calming. Whichever way you do it, the sequence can serve as either a self-contained minipractice on days when your practice time is short or a warm-up for a longer session.
by Richard Rosen
by Richard Rosen
Stand with your feet slightly apart and
parallel to each other. Stretch your arms
(but not rigidly) down alongside your torso, palms turned out, shoulders released.
2 Urdhva Hastasana
Inhale and sweep your arms overhead in wide arcs. If your shoulders are tight, keep your hands apart and gaze straight ahead. Otherwise, bring your palms together,
drop your head back, and gaze up at your thumbs.
3 Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Exhaling, release your arms in wide arcs as you fold forward. Bend your knees if you feel pressure on your lower back and support your hands on blocks if they don’t reach the floor. Release your neck so that your head hangs heavily from your upper spine.
4 Ardha Uttanasana
(Half Standing Forward Bend)
Inhale and push your fingertips down into the floor, straighten your elbows, then lift your front torso away from your thighs. Lengthen the front of your torso as you arch evenly along the entire length of your spine.
5 High Lunge
Exhale and step your right foot back into a lunge. Center your left knee over the heel so that your shin is perpendicular to the floor, and bring your left thigh parallel to the floor. Firm your tailbone against your pelvis and press your right thigh up against the resistance. Inhale, reach back through your right heel. Lengthen the torso along the front of the left thigh. Look forward without strain.
6 Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Exhale and step your left foot to Down Dog. Spread your palms and soles. Press the front of your thighs back as you press your inner hands firmly against the floor. Imagine that your torso is being stretched like a rubber band between the arms and legs.
7 Plank Pose
Inhale and bring your torso forward until your shoulders are over your wrists. Your arms will be perpendicular to the floor. Try not to let your upper back collapse between the shoulder blades: Press your outer arms inward, and then—against this resistance—spread your shoulder blades apart. Firm your tailbone against your pelvis and press your thighs up.
8 Chaturanga Dandasana
(Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Exhale as you bend your elbows and lower down to Chaturanga with your torso and legs parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders lifted up, away from the floor, and down, away from your ears. Lift the thighs away from the floor, lengthen your tailbone toward your heels, and draw the lower ribs away from the floor to avoid collapsing your lower back. Look down at the floor or slightly
forward. If you can’t maintain your alignment, place your knees on the floor until you have built more strength.
9 Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
(Upward-Facing Dog Pose)
Inhale, straighten your arms, and sweep your chest forward into Up Dog. Keep your legs active, firm your tailbone toward your heels, and press your front thighs upward. Draw your shoulders away from your ears. Look straight ahead or look slightly upward.
10 Adho Mukha Svanasana
Exhale back to Down Dog. To finish the Sun Salutation, step the right foot forward into a Lunge, then inhale into Ardha Uttanasana and exhale into Uttanasana. Inhale into Urdhva Hastasana and exhale to Tadasana. Observe your body and breath.
BY ROGER COLE • PHOTOGRAPHS BY KATRINE NALEID
If you practice yoga, no doubt you’re aware of its health benefits. But like any physical activity, it’s not completely risk free. If you’ve been practicing for long, you or someone you know has probably pulled a hamstring, tweaked a sacrum, or experienced some injury while on the mat. Close to 9,000 Americans received medical treatment for yoga-related injuries in 2004 and 2005, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Still, there are only two yoga injuries reported for every 10,000 times it is practiced, according to American Sports Data.
Injuries can be great teachers. They invite you to uncover your yoga demons—misalignments or overzealous attempts to force your way into poses—and make corrections. But it’s smart to learn proper technique, especially when it comes to your inner knees, hamstring tendons, and sacroiliac joints. These parts are vulnerable to damage and take time to mend. But if you understand what causes trauma to these areas, it’s easy to adjust your practice to avoid or help heal injuries. Here’s a primer on each.
Avoid injuries on the mat with this
practical guide to caring for your
KNEES, HAMSTRINGS, and SACRUM.
the road to injury
Have you always found it difficult to get into Padmasana (Lotus Pose) and felt tempted to force your legs into the position to join your serene-looking classmates for meditation? If you are thinking of traveling down this road, please reconsider. You may have discovered that rather than leading you to the blissful land of the Lotus, pushing yourself in this way dead-ends with a sickening “pop” in the knee, followed by years of pain and limited mobility.
When you hurt your inner knee doing yoga, it’s usually because you’ve tried to force a leg into Padmasana or one of its variations. Sometimes the injury occurs after one or both legs are already in Lotus position and you attempt a pose that adds a backbending movement, such as Matsyasana (Fish Pose), or a forward-bending movement, such as Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (Half-Bound Lotus Seated Forward Bend).
To understand how Lotus can hurt your knee, visualize lifting your right foot up and placing it atop your left thigh. To get into this pose safely, your thigh will have to rotate outward about 115 degrees. For many of us, though, the thigh cannot turn out that much, either because of its bone structure or because tight muscles and ligaments inhibit its movement. If your thigh stops rotating but you keep lifting the shin and foot, you’ll bend the knee joint sideways, which will pinch the inner-knee bones together—the upper inner end of the shinbone pressing against the lower inner end of the thighbone. Between these bones lies the medial meniscus, which is a protective rim of cartilage that pads the knee joint and guides its movement. When you lift your foot, you are using your same-side shinbone as a long lever. If the thighbone doesn’t rotate enough, you’ll apply tremendous pinching pressure to the meniscus—as if your shinbone and thighbone were a giant pair of pliers. Forcing this lift even moderately can do serious damage. Similarly, if you are in Lotus and your top knee is not on the floor, pushing that knee downward can apply enormous damaging force to the meniscus.
prevent and prepare
To prevent this injury, the first rule is to never force your legs into any Lotus variations—either by pulling the foot strongly upward, pushing the knee downward, or thrusting your body forward or backward. Don’t let your yoga teacher push or pull you into any of these poses either. Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose) and Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) can cause similar (though usually less severe) pinching of the inner knee, so practice them cautiously, too. Stop going deeper and back off if you feel pressure or pain in the knee. The structures that need to loosen up in these poses are all located around the hip area, so that’s where you should feel stretching or releasing sensations as you go deeper.
The safest way to practice Padmasana and related poses is to strongly rotate your thigh outward at the hip and not go deeper into the pose when you reach the limit of your outward rotation. This means that you’ll have to stop lifting your foot when your thigh stops rotating, so you may not get your foot on the opposite thigh. (Remember the upside: happy, functional, pain-free knees.) You can use your hands or a strap to help rotate your thighbone outward. Whether using your hands, a strap, or a cloth, if your knee ends up dangling in midair, support it with a folded blanket so you do not inadvertently force it downward as you turn the thigh outward.
the path to healing
If you have the misfortune of hurting your inner knee in Padmasana or a related pose, the first thing to do is leave it alone. You need to rest, ice, elevate, and compress it for a few days to reduce swelling and inflammation. If the injury seems serious, seek medical attention. It’s a good idea to reintroduce knee range of motion as early as you can by gently flexing and extending the knee to the extent possible. A yoga program for recovery needs to be individualized to your needs and supervised by a qualified instructor. But the general pattern is to promote alignment and strength with basic standing poses, such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) and Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II). If necessary, support your body with a chair to take weight off the knee. In addition, increase range of motion by doing Virasana (Hero Pose) with the pelvis supported on a prop, and eventually reintroduce outward rotating movements like Baddha Konasana (and perhaps Padmasana) using a rolled cloth behind the inner knee.
the road to injury
Say that you’re a flexible yoga teacher. Each day you wake up and practice hamstring stretches, then demonstrate deep forward bends in your classes. When you notice a pain just below one of your sitting bones, you stretch it more, thinking that will promote healing. But when the pain increases, you decide to rest it. After the pain diminishes, you stretch again and reinjure the area. The pain comes back, and the cycle repeats. This process can go on for years.
The hamstrings are three long muscles that cover the back of the thighs. At the top of them, tendons attach all three to the sitting bones. A nagging sensation just below the sitting bone is caused by a tear in the upper-hamstring tendon, near where it connects to the bone (called the attachment). To stretch hamstrings in forward-bending poses like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), you straighten your knees while lifting your sitting bones. Any time you stretch a muscle, it pulls on its tendons, creating microscopic tears in them. If you wait 24 to 48 hours between practice sessions, these tiny tears heal. But the upper-hamstring tendons can take longer to heal because they are poorly supplied with blood. When you don’t give your hamstrings time to rest, you set up a scenario for injury. Alignment can also be an issue. Teachers often tell beginners to lift their sitting bones in forward bends because beginners tend to round their backs in such poses, which can lead to disk compression and lower-back injuries. But people with loose hamstrings can lift their sitting bones so high that the tendon starts to wrap around the bone. This can weaken the tendon.
To recap: If you produce new tears in your upper-hamstring tendons faster than your body can repair the old ones, you’ll end up with an injury. If you rest and start to heal, the partially healed tissue may still be too weak to withstand the pose and you’ll tear it again, ending up with more pain than before. If you repeat this cycle often enough, scar tissue will eventually develop in the torn area—and rehabilitating scar tissue is typically a slow, difficult process. Often hamstring injuries that seem to occur suddenly are set up by a gradual weakening of the tendon over time, caused by overstretching and insufficient rest. The weakening can culminate in one powerful stretch that leads to injury.
prevent and prepare
To prevent an upper-hamstring injury, you need to approach straight-leg forward bends gradually and with awareness, taking any pain near the sitting bone seriously. Never force a forward bend (or any pose), and if you feel discomfort at or near the sitting bone while bending forward, stop stretching that hamstring immediately. If the discomfort recurs in a future practice, avoid any action that causes it for at least several days. This usually means you should avoid practicing forward bends over that leg or you can bend the injured-side knee in all forward bends. Bending the knee protects the hamstring tendons by taking some of the stretch off of them and giving them time to repair themselves before a significant injury develops. Reintroduce straight-leg forward bends on the affected side only when the discomfort is completely gone for at least a few days, and then do so gradually.
Another important preventive measure is to include plenty of hamstring-strengthening poses, such as Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Purvottanasana (Upward Plank Pose), and Virabhadrasana III (Warrior Pose III), in your asana practice. Building muscle strength also strengthens the tendons of these muscles. However, if you have an existing hamstring injury, be sure to introduce these poses gradually.
the path to healing
If your injury is new, especially if you experience a dramatic injury such as a sudden tearing sensation during a hamstring stretch, rest and ice the area immediately. Be sure to avoid stressing it in any way for several days before introducing any recovery exercises at all.
Recovering from an upper-hamstring tendon injury typically takes at least a year. There are different schools of thought on how to recuperate. Some people suggest that you avoid all stretching for about six weeks while slowly reintroducing very mild strengthening exercises such as tiny preparatory movements for Salabhasana and Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). You systematically build up strength over the next several months, eventually adding powerful strengtheners like Purvottanasana and exercises that combine strengthening and stretching, such as Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), against resistance. The key is to avoid any stretching that causes pain to the injured tendon while systematically introducing stronger hamstring-strengthening exercises, including those that strengthen the muscle in the stretched position, for several months. You shouldn’t reintroduce any maximum-power hamstring stretches, such as Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), for at least a year after your injury.
the road to injury
Suppose you’re one of those people who finds that yoga comes easily to you. You can bend into most poses without stress or strain. One day, while coming out of Janu Sirsasana, you notice that something feels a little off down where your lower back joins your pelvis. From that day on, you frequently have a nagging ache in that area. It’s usually more annoying than disabling, and periodically it goes away altogether, only to mysteriously reappear days or even weeks later. These are some of the symptoms of an unstable sacroiliac joint alternately moving out of alignment and back in again.
The sacrum is the bone that is shaped like an upside-down triangle at the base of the spine. On each side of the sacrum, a roughened surface makes contact with the corresponding surface of the left and right ilium bones, or the “wings” of the pelvis. These are the left and right sacroiliac (SI) joints. Strong ligaments hold the SI joints together to prevent the sacrum from tipping forward between the ilium bones. To get an idea of where your SI joints are, trace your thumb over the top rim of your pelvis on one side, moving backward until you find the rearmost bony prominence of the ilium (this is called the posterior superior iliac spine or PSIS). If it were possible to press your thumb forward an inch or two, deep into your body, you would be touching one of your SI joints.
Yoga students frequently develop a specific pain pattern that’s characterized by a dull ache over an area about the size of a quarter and is centered on the PSIS on one side of the body only. Sitting, forward bending, and twisting movements often make it worse, and back- and sidebending can also be painful. Although not all experts agree and other injuries must be ruled out, many yoga teachers and health professionals believe that this pain pattern is caused by the misalignment of one of the sacroiliac joints.
According to one theory, yoga practice (especially if it emphasizes forward bends, twists, and poses that stretch the inner thighs) can loosen the supporting ligaments of the SI joints over time, until one side of the upper sacrum slips forward relative to the ilium on that side. Because the two irregular surfaces no longer sit properly on one another, pressing them together tightly (as occurs strongly while sitting) causes pain.
prevent and prepare
To prevent this problem from happening, be mindful of your alignment in different types of poses. In forward bends, be careful to move your sacrum and ilium forward as a unit. For example, in Janu Sirsasana, move into the pose by tilting the iliac crest (pelvic rim) of the bent leg forward toward the foot of the straight leg. This makes the ilium push the sacrum along so that the two bones move as one. When your ilium stops moving, don’t tilt your sacrum any deeper into the pose. Likewise, in twists, experiment with letting the pelvis turn along with the spine instead of keeping it fixed, so the sacrum and ilium move as a unit.
In forward bends, twists, and any pose that stretches your inner thighs, try contracting the pelvic-floor muscles. These muscles help hold the sacrum in place by pulling the sitting bones toward one another, thereby squeezing the ilium bones inward against the sacrum. Finally, strengthening muscles of the back with poses such as Salabhasana, and strengthening the deepest abdominal muscle (transversus abdominis) with pranayama practices such as Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath), help stabilize the SI joints.
the path to healing
If you already have a sacroiliac misalignment, the key is to adjust the joint back into its proper position and keep it there. Some health professionals know how to manually manipulate the SI joint back into place, but it often pops back out soon afterward. Therefore, it’s helpful to learn how to reset your own SI joint using asana techniques, but it’s best to learn these techniques from a qualified instructor.
The golden rule for SI-adjusting postures is that a correct pose should immediately feel good on the injured area while you practice it. Enter each pose slowly, and if it causes any discomfort near the PSIS, come out of it right away. Not all poses work for all people, but you need only a single one that works for you. Two examples of poses that help some people are the Salabhasana and Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I) variations shown here. Either side of the Virabhadrasana I variation may be helpful.
Once you have learned to put your SI joint back into place, make sure it is properly located before each yoga practice and follow the preventive steps above to keep it there. At the end of practice, use your technique again, if needed, to firmly reset the joint. Some teachers find that taking special care to keep the SI joint in place at all times over a period of months or even years can make it more stable. n
Roger Cole has practiced yoga since 1975 and taught since 1980. He is a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher trained at the Iyengar Yoga Institutes in San Francisco and Pune, India. He teaches at Yoga Del Mar in Del Mar, California.
Forcing your knee into
Padmasana can damage the
medial meniscus. Instead, use a strap to
rotate your thigh and always
honor your limits.
Illustrations: stephanie mccann
PHOTOS: KATRINE NALEID; MODEL: JANET STONE; STYLIST: MICAH BISHOP/ARTIST UNTIED; HAIR & MAKEUP: TAMARA BROWN/ARTIST UNTIED; TOP: NIKE; pants: NORDSTROM; MAT: LULULEMON; BLANKETS: PROP CITY; BLOCK: TARGET
padmasana (lotus pose), preparation
Set up blankets to support your pelvis and right knee. Sit
in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with both legs extended. Bend one knee and place a washcloth behind it. Keeping the knee firmly bent, grip the end of the cloth in one hand and pull toward your body and out to the side to open the inner knee and rotate the thighbone outward. Continue this rotation as you lift your heel with your other hand and place your foot high atop the opposite thigh, near the hip if possible. Note: Discontinue if you experience knee discomfort.
virasana (hero pose), modification
Avoid pain in your knees by elevating your
pelvis as high as is necessary with folded blankets. Align your heels directly under your outer hips (this is less stressful for the knees than
the standard alignment of having your heels outside of your hips). Keep your knees slightly apart, with your thighbones parallel. Place
your feet in line with your shins. Sit for several minutes daily. Gradually lower the props over
a period of weeks or months.
muscles attach to
your sitting bone.
The tendons that
attach the hamstrings
to the sitting bone
can be torn
supta padangusthasana (reclining hand-to-big-toe pose), against resistance
During the later stages of recovery from a hamstring injury, you can build strength while stretching the hamstring muscles mildly in Supta Padangusthasana. Lie back on the floor through a doorway or in the corner of a room. Lift one leg at about a 60-degree angle from the floor and firmly press the heel against the door frame, holding for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.
uttanasana (standing forward bend), modification
If bending forward with straight legs causes pain below one
sitting bone, you may have injured your hamstring tendon. To protect an injured hamstring, fold forward into Uttanasana while bending the knee on the injured side enough to elimi-
nate any discomfort. This will give the tendon a chance to heal. Continue to stretch the hamstrings of the other leg normally.
The sacroiliac joints are a
common site of yoga injury.
To protect these joints, move the sacrum and ilium bones as a unit in
forward bends and twists.
virabhadrasana I (warrior pose I), variation
This pose may relieve sacroiliac symptoms by putting asymmetrical forces on the joint. Move into it slowly to make sure it feels OK; avoid it if it hurts. Take a wide stride, bend your front knee, and place a block between your knee and the wall. Keep your front shin vertical, back knee straight, back heel lifted, and chest lifted. Shift your body weight and adjust the angle of your pelvis to find the position that feels best in your sacroiliac area.
salabhasana (locust pose), modification
This pose may help stabilize the sacroiliac joints. Strap your ankles 8 to 12 inches apart. Lie on your belly with your arms alongside your body, palms facing up. As you inhale, lift your arms, legs, and chest up. Pulling the legs strongly outward against the strap may relieve sacroiliac symptoms; it contracts outer hip muscles (gluteus medius and minimus) that pull the ilium bones apart, temporarily creating a gap between the sacrum and ilium to give the sacrum the freedom to move back into place. Introduce this pose gradually and back off immediately if it causes discomfort.
illustrations by Pierre Mornet
When Priscilla Fitzpatrick’s elderly
parents made plans to move near her, she
knew she would be taking a more active role
in their care, but she welcomed the chance to
see them through their later years. Then, just
a month before they arrived—and shortly
after she celebrated her daughter’s first birthday—Fitzpatrick was diagnosed with cancer.
It felt as if her world was cracking apart.
And once her parents did move nearby, their world collapsed on top of hers.
“The move put my father’s Alzheimer’s
into rapid progression,” says Fitzpatrick, who lives in Richmond, Virginia. “Then my mother got really ill with rheumatoid arthritis. Over
the next two years, each of them was hospital-
ized twice. In between the hospitalizations,
I would try to see them several times a week.
I did their shopping and really anything else you can think of. I would be helping my dad communicate, helping him go to the bathroom, helping him wipe himself. And I was the person my mother would cry to. She was overwhelmed.”
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick was trying to cope with the treatment she was undergoing for the cancer that had invaded her thyroid gland, as well as the fears that the diagnosis brought—scariest of all, the possibility that she might not see her baby daughter, Frankie, grow up. After three surgeries and two rounds of radiation, she’s come through the worst of it, and her prognosis is good. She’s fully involved in the joyous exhaustion of being the mother of a lively, energetic four-year-old and is back at her part-time job in the local public school system. But her parents’ continuing decline has meant that she’s had little respite to process all that’s happened and little sense that she’s returned to a normal life. Her father is now in a nursing home, and her mother’s needs are greater than ever. Although Fitzpatrick has nine siblings, most live several hours away, so she continues to shoulder most of the burden of her parents’ care.
Situations like these are becoming sadly, awfully, familiar. Some 44 million—44 million!—Americans provide care to other adults, most often elderly parents. Typically, these caregivers are women in the middle years of their own lives who are suddenly thrust into a role for which, even if they’d vaguely seen it coming, they’re completely unprepared. All at once they have to be a financial planner, housing manager, medical advocate, navigator of social-service bureaucracy, and sometimes a therapist. That’s on top of handling the gradual loss of a loved one to a world of pain, confusion, and decline.
There seems to be no end to the difficult emotions that these situations bring up. “Most of us haven’t faced what it really means to have these bodies that are going to get
old and die,” says Nischala Joy Devi, a yoga and meditation teacher who cofounded
the Commonweal Cancer Help program in Bolinas, California, and is the author of The Healing Path of Yoga. “So caregiving brings
up our own helplessness and fear.”
For many caregivers, though, the dominant emotions aren’t always the ones you’d expect. When I asked Fitzpatrick about difficult emotions, she unhesitatingly answered that resentment was the worst. “I’d resent my brothers and sisters for not coming to visit,” she says. “Sometimes I’d resent my mother. I’d think, ‘Why couldn’t you have handled this?’ I’ve lost a lot of empathy, and I don’t like that in myself.”
mired in a swamp
Too often if you’re a caregiver, you find yourself mired in a swamp of anger, resentment, and irritation. When you’re finally able to take a breath and get a little perspective, you feel guilty for having those feelings. The challenge becomes not just doing all that needs to be done, but finding a way to do it with some kindness and grace. How to cope with anger so that it doesn’t leach into your interactions with the person you’re caring for? How to find the stamina and patience to manage the insurance paperwork, phone calls to social workers, trips to the emergency room? How to face what sometimes feels like a black hole of needs, without getting overwhelmed and depressed?
Phillip Moffitt, a longtime yoga practitioner and member of the Teachers Council at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, is intimately familiar with this difficult terrain. He’s had primary caregiving responsibilities in his own life and has counseled hundreds of caregivers. Last year I became one of them.
I meet Moffitt on a gorgeous spring day at Spirit Rock. Outside the meditation hall, the rolling hills are a vibrant green; hawks wheel overhead against a deep blue sky. Some 200 people have gathered for a workshop that Moffitt’s held for each of the past five years, to offer caregivers a break and
help them apply spiritual wisdom to their work. (This year’s workshop will be held, free of charge, on March 2.)
I’ve come here because of a promise I made to my father that I’m finding hard to keep. My dad died in 2006 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. A few years earlier, I’d agreed to take his place as the person who would make medical decisions for his favorite cousin, Kitty, should the need arise. As the children of Irish immigrants, the two of them had shared a hardscrabble Depression-era childhood. Their early history included parents who’d died young, uncles crippled and killed by railroad accidents, and cousins who were sick for months with rheumatic fever. But they also shared a network of extended family that somehow cushioned the blows.
Kitty had never married, and my dad was her closest relative. I didn’t know her well, but I’d always liked her. She and my dad both had what I thought of as a particularly Irish ability to deflect emotional pain with a joke and a laugh. She was tall, with beautifully coiffed white hair, and though her income was limited, she was invariably elegantly dressed.
When my dad brought up the subject of caring for Kitty, an image of her lying serenely in bed in a light-filled room flashed through my mind. I envisioned myself in that room, wise and compassionate, holding her hand and quietly deciding when it would be time to turn off the machines and let her go. I said I’d be happy to take his place.
Three years later reality set in. I got a call saying that Kitty had been hospitalized; she’d been hallucinating and was malnourished. Her doctor said that her dementia was likely to get worse, and she couldn’t live alone any longer. The hospital would be discharging her within a week, and I had to find her a place to live.
While I leapt into action to do what needed to be done, I discovered to my dismay that I was not the kind and loving caregiver I’d imagined I’d be. During my dad’s illness, my mom was on the frontlines, and I gave her a lot of support. It was wrenching and painful, but the emotions felt pure, clean; they were intense, to be sure, but didn’t come tangled in a skein of aversion, annoyance, and guilt.
With Kitty, though, it was different. The demands on my time quickly felt unremitting, and I resented all of them.
It started when she was still in the hospital, and I had just a few days to figure out where she would live. I had to take time off from work—right now—to consult with social workers and a lawyer, tour convalescent homes and assisted-living facilities, draft a power of attorney, and bring a notary to the hospital. Kitty’s town was 15 miles away from mine, and there was a bridge undergoing earthquake retrofitting between them. Driving back and forth every couple of days, I usually got stuck in teeth-gritting traffic.
Then I spent the better part of four weekends cleaning out her apartment. It was a small place, but her dementia had brought on a habit of shopping at thrift stores for more clothes than she could possibly wear. Her bed, her couch, her dresser—every horizontal surface was covered with them, and the closets were stuffed full. Under the clothes I found crumpled bills and bank statements, lists in her spidery handwriting, half-eaten frozen dinners, candy wrappers. The place looked as though a giant had picked it up, turned it upside down, and shaken it. It smelled bad, and it was depressing. Other relatives pitched in, but I was the point person and the decision maker.
Aside from all the tedious logistics, seeing the evidence of Kitty’s decline brought up shadowy fears that I—also a childless woman—really didn’t want to think about: What would the late stages of my own life look like? On the way to my last day, would confusion, disarray, illness, and pain be inevitable?
Over the months that followed, the demands of my role as Kitty’s caregiver would ease off for a while, then start up again. Her bank made repeated mistakes, forgetting to put my name on one of her accounts. To get her finances straightened out, I had to fax reams of documents to her HMO, Social Security, the investment company that held her IRAs. Just when I’d gotten some set of paperwork sorted out, I’d get a call at work from the assisted-living staff: Kitty’s cat had run out of food, and could I bring some over today? Driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic across that bridge, sometimes I’d just roll up the windows and scream.
After she had finally settled in at the assisted-living facility, I’d sometimes go for weeks or months without calling her. I felt guilty, but I just didn’t want to have to do anything more for her.
My anger and frustration weren’t directed at Kitty herself. I had shielded her from a lot of what I’d had to do, and she was unfailingly appreciative of the things she did know about. And I was moved at the resilience she showed as she adjusted to her new life; at mealtimes, for instance, she helped other residents who had a hard time feeding themselves. But when I got calls about something else she needed, my dark feelings resurfaced—with an intensity that shook me and didn’t square with my ideas about myself.
At the Spirit Rock workshop, Phillip Moffitt becomes the first of several yoga and meditation teachers I consult. How, I ask him, can I be a better caregiver?
First, says Moffitt, an impish-looking man of 61 with a mop of curly dark hair, he doesn’t much like the word caregiver. Instead, he prefers to use the phrase care provider. Caregiver, he says, sets up the expectation that you’re going to get something back. “That’s the death knell for being able to keep up a steady course as a care provider.”
caregiving as practice
One crucial thing, Moffitt says, is not to feel guilty about the difficult feelings that caregiving brings up; all that does is add to the burden. “You have this attitude that you should be feeling better about doing this,” he says. “That’s just a concept. You feel how you feel. You’re not supposed to go, ‘Oh, how wonderful. This feels so good and it’s an honor to serve.’ No—what’s really happening is, ‘This is a drag, but I’m doing it.’ That becomes the practice.”
In fact, he says, approaching caregiving as a practice—you show up and do it consistently without a lot of drama, regardless of how you feel—allows you to learn from it in a different way. Paradoxically, you can become more present, while getting some distance from the afflictive emotions. It becomes less about accomplishing something and more about the process itself. “Someone has to push the stone up the hill,” Moffitt says. “You’re choosing to do it. The intention is, you’re showing up to push the stone, not get it over the hill.”
Throughout the daylong Spirit Rock event, Moffitt and the other presenters punctuate their talks with breaks for walking and sitting meditation. Care providers, Moffitt says, spend a lot of time in their heads, because they have to stay on top of so many logistics. He instructs us to listen for cues from our bodies that might signal ways that we could take better care of ourselves. A tightness in the belly, for instance, might suggest the need to take deeper, slower breaths as a way of nourishing ourselves. A constricted feeling in the throat might be a clue that we need to find someone to talk to.
Indeed, virtually all the teachers I talk to over the next few months say that it’s essential for caregivers not to neglect themselves. “One of the most important things we can do is take care of ourselves,” Devi says. “We’re taught that it’s selfish—I don’t know where that comes from.”
Devi, too, has firsthand experience of caregiving. Her own mother grew frail and forgetful around the time she turned 90, with only enough savings left to cover perhaps a year of assisted care. Rather than risk her running out of money, Devi and her husband found a way to generate revenue that would pay for her mother’s care. With her blessing, they used her funds to make a down payment on an old house near their own. Then they fixed it up and turned it into a small assisted-living facility, which they administered. “Instead of one mother, I had six,” Devi says. Sometimes Devi and her husband had staff to help them, and sometimes they didn’t.
“Once, our caregiver quit two days before Christmas,” Devi recalls. “I was working full time, traveling, and teaching. It was a really exhausting time. I thought if I could keep my center in the midst of all that, all my years of practice would be worth something.”
reaching for respite
When you’re in the midst of looking after someone whose needs are urgent and chronic, it can seem impossible to take care of yourself too: There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done and fit in a yoga class, or even 20 minutes of meditation at home. And being around people who are sick, confused, or in pain can make it easy to feel that your own comfort is less important. But in the long run, putting your own needs aside isn’t sustainable. The times when you feel the most squeezed are the times when it’s crucial to find even tiny moments of respite.
“There’s a Sufi expression,” Devi says. “‘Never give from the depths of your well, but from your overflow.’”
Finding small ways to replenish her well has been hugely helpful to Fitzpatrick. She’s a longtime yoga practitioner, but during the most difficult parts of her own and her parents’ illnesses, she just didn’t have the time or energy for it. She did find comfort, though, in writing in her journal each day and in slipping away occasionally to spend a few moments in meditation or prayer. These days, she sometimes invites her mother to concentrate on breathing quietly with her while they are driving to see her father in the nursing home. And one day she did some chanting at her father’s bedside, holding his hand. “He has a grip like a vise,” she says. “I could feel it soften.”
She’s seen other caregivers who didn’t make self-care a priority, and they suffered. Of one person in particular, she says, “She let her life disappear. She gained weight, and her blood pressure went up. My dad wouldn’t want that for me. He would say, ‘Your quality of life matters.’ It’s like knowing when to take Child’s Pose.”
What’s more, taking care of yourself allows space for compassion to arise, says psychotherapist Stephen Cope, who’s the director of research at the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living and the author of The Wisdom of Yoga. The person you’re caring for needs that compassion—as do you—but it can’t be forced. And it’s not likely to flow through you when you’re feeling depleted.
Cope’s father suffered from Alzheimer’s for five years before he died. “There’s a teaching that compassion naturally arises when the open heart comes close to suffering,” says Cope. That didn’t always happen during his father’s illness, but he cherishes the times when it did. “There would be times when I would go into the nursing home and I would stroke his head, and I was just right there,” he says. “I would have this wave of love. But if I wanted it to happen, it wouldn’t. I learned to savor those moments of authentic compassion; they carried me through a lot of moments when it wasn’t there.”
the essence of care
Those moments can become a touchstone, reminding us of why we are providing care in the first place. One day not long ago, I was driving down a sunny street in Kitty’s town, on my way to see her. About a quarter mile ahead of me, a thin, white-haired woman was pushing a shopping cart in the crosswalk. The crosswalk sloped downward, and as I drew nearer I could see that the woman, bent nearly double, was struggling to keep the cart from getting away from her.
I had an immediate flash of “Oh, no, the poor thing—somebody needs to help her.” Then I got closer and realized that the person was Kitty. I pulled the car over, went to her, and helped her push the cart onto the sidewalk. She was gasping for breath, but she managed to say, “Oh, I’m so glad to see you.” A wave of feelings washed over me: sadness at how much she had declined and how vulnerable she seemed out in the world, relief that she hadn’t gotten hurt.
More than anything, though, I felt grateful—that at that moment, seeing her at a distance, I’d been able to see her fresh, as just a person in need of help, a person I was glad to help. All the other feelings I’d attached to the situation fell away; what was left was the heart of the matter.
Since that day Kitty’s situation hasn’t gotten any easier. She is growing frailer and more confused, her money is nearly gone, and she will soon need to move into a nursing home. In the months and years ahead, it’s likely she will require more help from me, not less. But since that day, I have been finding ways to renew myself for the work that needs to be done.
When I had to go look at several nursing homes one morning, I made sure that I took my dog to the beach in the afternoon—letting his exuberant energy and the freshness of the ocean fill my well again. I’m taking up offers from some of Kitty’s friends to drive her to doctors’ appointments. I’m reminding myself that this work is scary and hard, and that I shouldn’t feel guilty for sometimes wanting to turn away from it.
As for Priscilla Fitzpatrick, she has emerged from the crucible of the past two years with a fresh plan for herself. What she’s been through has given her the courage, she says, to create a life that’s more meaningful to her. “I find myself standing amongst the rubble, wanting to do something extraordinary,” she says. “I’m lumpy, I’m scarred, and I’m middle-aged. But I have strength and a whole new perspective.” She’s decided to pursue a longtime dream of becoming a yoga teacher and has begun a teacher-training program at Yoga Source in Richmond.
As she spends one weekend each month steeping herself in asana as well as yoga philosophy, she’s discovering deeper insights into her role as caregiver. As her father continues to slip away, she says that what she wants most of all is to be at peace with the situation. “You have to find a way to be as comfortable as you can with it,” she says. “It’s like a yoga pose. There is not one right way. You’re doing the best you can—that is your right way.” n
Katherine Griffin is a deputy editor at YJ.
by Katherine Griffin ✤
You imagine yourself as a loving
caregiver but then come up short
of time, money, and patience.
What do you do?
5 ways to
Let your body teach you
You can get emotions like resentment to loosen their grip by investigating how they feel in your body, says Stephen Cope of Kripalu. “Ask, ‘Am I experiencing this as a tight feeling in my chest? As a lump in my throat?’ That starts to break up that mind-state.” By observing the emotions held in your body
during yoga, you’ll find it easier to recognize their physical signs as they arise during your day.
If you can approach caregiving in the same spirit as you do your yoga practice, you can deepen the experience and make it easier on yourself. Here are some ideas from yoga teachers—and experienced caregivers—about how to do this.
continued on page
Work to your edge
Sometimes the person you’re caring for needs so much that you lose your sense of boundaries and feel that there’s no end to what you must do as a caregiver. It can help, Phillip Moffitt says, to repeat to yourself, “I am doing the best I can—within my abilities—to care for this person.” Just as you learn not to push past your edge in yoga, in caregiving, too, you have to set limits so you don’t deplete or injure yourself.
Asana practice provides constant reminders that within even the most difficult pose, you can rest in a place of steadiness and comfort. Can you find that same place when taking care of
a difficult chore for your loved one? When you have to call the HMO, say, and feel yourself tense up, take three slow, deep breaths before you pick up the phone. Try to approach the call with a sense of curiosity. This time things might be different—and at the very least, you’ll feel better if you don’t come into the situation irritated.
Know when to rest
“Usually, the most difficult emotional moments are tied up with physical fatigue,” says Nischala Devi. Learn to recognize when you’re tired—maybe your first sign of fatigue is crankiness, for instance, rather than feeling worn out—and take minibreaks when you need to. You may need to give up some of your other regular activities during especially demanding periods as a caregiver, but don’t cut out sleep or yoga practice. If you have time for nothing else, at least spend 15 minutes each day in Viparita Karani (Legs–up-the-Wall Pose).
It may not seem like it when you’re trying to get a slow-moving elder out the door for a doctor’s appointment or negotiating a Social Security phone system, but, as a caregiver, you have
a lot to be grateful for. At the end of each day, sit quietly for a few minutes. Let images of your interactions with your loved one play through your mind. Reflect on the things for which you’re grateful: the spark of spirit that still comes through in the person’s smile; the squeeze of a hand that lets you know you’re appreciated; seeing the person in comfortable surroundings that you helped to arrange; your own health and ability to help someone who needs you.
continued from page
Because you care
Yoga Journal Issue 209 (ISSN 0191-0965), established in 1975, is published eight times a year (February, March, April, June, August, September, October, December) by Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc., 475 Sansome Street, Suite 850, San Francisco, CA 94111, (415) 591-0555. Annual Subscription:
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yoga has come a long way, baby. Just a
generation ago, devoted yogis had to travel to India or help organize the occasional visit of
their master teacher. Thanks to their dedication, many of them became master teachers themselves. Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller, Patricia Walden, John Friend, Rod Stryker, and Shiva Rea, to name just a few, have taken the ancient
practices and made them relevant for the next generation of American yogis.
Now that next generation is starting to make
its mark. Here, we’ve gathered 21 gifted, well-
studied teachers under the age of 40 who together represent the incredibly diverse and
yet deeply connected character of yoga in
America. It’s not an exhaustive list but a sampling of teachers who are shaping yoga’s future.
We limited our selection to teachers who are based in the States (which makes it easier for you to study with them) and who are in the trenches every day, either directing their own yoga studios or teaching around the country. Some are innovators—or yogic mutts, if you will—who have studied many traditions and are crafting their own unique interpretation of yoga. Others are meticulously preserving a treasured style in its pristine form. They may appear to have little in common, but they all share an inner calling to pass down a system whose goal is to encourage compassion and contentedness,
ease suffering, and awaken us to our interconnectedness. We’re grateful to these teachers—and to all of the teachers and students out there—who are dedicated to exploring all that yoga has to offer and to sharing their discoveries along the way.
These talented young teachers are shaping the future of yoga.
photo: kenneth graham
photo: tom Mcinvaille
Sianna Sherman is a captivating storyteller, whose inspiring and heartfelt teachings have garnered a faithful audience. With a soothing voice, she weaves together Anusara Yoga’s Universal Principles of Alignment, personal anecdotes, Hindu mythology, and Tantric philosophy, occasionally mixed with a few lines from classic children’s literature. “Stories open up our ability to absorb yogic teachings by giving us a lens through which to view ourselves,” she says. “They also inspire creativity and joy. One of my favorites is Mary Poppins. She helps people unleash their imaginations and soar to new heights. That’s what I want my students’ hearts to experience.”
Sherman, whose teachers have included Richard Freeman, K. Pattabhi Jois, Sally Kempton, and Douglas Brooks, apprenticed with John Friend and was one of the first to be certified to teach Anusara Yoga. Today she travels the world, often with Friend, leading teacher trainings and workshops. At the heart of Sherman’s message is the importance of connecting with others: “I hope people find the courage to live from the heart with compassion and love. You can step into this practice in a way that opens you up to the people around you. You don’t have to be fluent in your asana practice, but you do have to give it everything you’ve got.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at Yoga Journal’s Colorado conference; giving teacher trainings in Berkeley, California; and leading retreats and workshops around the world. Visit opentograce.com.
Simon Park remembers how, as
a small child in rural Korea, he had an image of being a primal warrior. But all that changed when he was five and his family moved to Philadelphia. Eager
to be an all-American kid, Park played baseball, football, and basketball. It took years for him to reconnect with the primal part of himself. He found it when, as an undergraduate at UCLA, he stumbled upon Shiva Rea’s yoga class in the World Arts and Cultures department. It took Park some time to warm up to the practice, but once he did, he found it
healing for his body and his mind. “Yoga allowed me to open to people a lot more,” he says. “Shiva helped me find the bridge between the seeming dichotomy of being a fierce, primal warrior and a soft, open-hearted yogi.”
Park considers himself an “energy-centered practitioner” and focuses on helping students find the flow of energy in their bodies through movement and self-observation. “Alignment is important, and the breath is important, but I’m trying to teach students to understand energy
in order to heal their own bodies and find freedom. Yoga is a method to free yourself in the world—to be happier and more genuine and more connected
to people. I try to give that spirit in the classroom.”
These days Park, who has been influenced by many teachers, including Maty Ezraty, Dharma Mittra, Joan White, and Duncan Wong, teaches workshops and retreats around the world, spreading his own style of yoga that blends traditional hatha practice with Thai Yoga Massage. These classes, which Park has developed over the years through his own experimentation and study of martial arts, increase body awareness, encourage self-evolution, and just feel good.
Where to find him in 2008
Teaching at the Kripalu Center
for Yoga & Health and the
Telluride Yoga Festival, and in Korea, Japan, and China. Learn more at wheresimon.com.
Home Base Berkeley, California
Style Anusara Yoga
New York City
Style Flow Yoga
“I want yoga to be healing [for others], because it was for me,” says Monique Schubert, a Kripalu-certified instructor who took up yoga in college but found her mentor when she began taking classes at the home of Kripalu Yoga teacher Maya Breuer. Schubert started with Breuer when she was 24, and after a lifetime of bad posture, yoga finally helped her to stand up straight. It also helped her resolve grief and depression, inspiring her to help others, starting with children. The notion of teaching kids came to her in a flash during her training. “I saw myself teaching young people,” she says. “I can’t counsel them, but I can offer something to alleviate the sadness.”
Schubert now teaches students all over New York City, through schools and special programs. For three years she taught incarcerated teens. “They inspired me to practice harder, because they would ask these questions—and you knew [that] if you were faking it, you were going to get exposed,” she says. Her classes focus on traditional poses such as Tree, Cobra, Warrior, and Sun Salutations—asanas that beginners can do well and then grow with. “I teach the basics because I want everyone to have the real tools they need
to help themselves,” she says. “Like all the yogic scriptures say,
the external teacher awakens the inner teacher.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at Bronx Community
College, at a free summer series in Socrates Sculpture Park,
and at Shambhala Yoga & Dance Center in Brooklyn.
Home Base New York City
Style Kripalu Yoga
Home Base Tucson, Arizona
Style Anusara Yoga
Darren Rhodes is quite literally the poster boy for Anusara Yoga. You can find him on the Anusara syllabus poster, deftly demonstrating more than 345 awe-inspiring poses. His motivation for achieving such a feat wasn’t ego driven; it came from his belief that asanas create more than just physical change. “When I come across a posture I really want to do,
I ask myself, ‘How do I have to shift physically, mentally, and in my heart to be able to do that?’ ” He adds,
“I want to be able to do a posture because I know it will require transformation on all levels.”
Rhodes grew up in a family of yogis. His mother took up the practice when he was in utero, and his father is an avid meditator. He remembers entertaining his parents’ friends
by doing poses in the living room.
In high school he began practicing
in earnest, using a Richard Freeman video and going to local studio classes. But it wasn’t until his early 20s that he met Anusara Yoga founder, John Friend, and had one
of the most shakti-filled experiences of his life. “John turned my yoga practice into a radical, rockin’ life celebration,” he says, “which is what I strive to share in my classes.”
As a result of his own fire and
passion for the physical, Rhodes’s classes at both of his Yoga Oasis studios in Tucson, Arizona, are
playful yet intense. “I ask students
to be with the asana as a mode of transformation. The most beautiful thing about yoga is that it allows anyone and everyone—no matter what their level—to find their bliss.”
Where to find him in 2008
Leading workshops in Louisville, Kentucky; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Asheville, North Carolina. Learn more at yogaoasis.com.
photos from Left: guillermo hung; milo
photo: dave kamm
Karina Ayn Mirsky
Home Base Kalamazoo,
Style Para Yoga
“Connecting to a 5,000-year-old tradition of saints and sages lends a unique quality to meditation practice. I’ve had moments of feeling as if I’m in the presence of those who have done these techniques over centuries,” says Karina Ayn
Mirsky, who in 2002 was initiated by Rod Stryker into the Tantric tradition of Swami Rama of the Himalayas, known as
Sri Vidya. This feeling of unseen support carried her through a diagnosis
of lymphatic cancer at age 27, and she credits her survival to that support. “I felt guided and held by the grace of my tradition, its teachers, and its ancients,” she says.
Her personal practice informs her teaching,
but she’s adamant that what’s right for one person might not be right for another. “My approach
to teaching is holistic and individualized. It draws from my experience as a woman; massage therapist; cancer survivor; and student of psychology, yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda. I study the nature of minds and bodies as they fluctuate with the time
of day, season, phases
of life,” says Mirsky, who
is currently pursuing a master’s degree in East-West psychology.
Classes at her studio, called Sangha Yoga, start with a discussion of everybody’s needs that day—physical or psychological—followed by a brief meditation or pranayama. They then continue with chanting before the asana practice. A yoga practitioner for nearly a decade, Mirsky has studied extensively with Para Yoga founder, Rod Stryker, and Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the head of the Himalayan Institute. She has spent the past three years developing yoga programs for people with
a variety of ailments, including obesity and
eating disorders. “What
I hope to impart to my students is the value of service to others.”
Where to find her
in 2008 Giving teacher trainings at her Michigan studio and teaching workshops in New York, Cincinnati, and Chicago. Visit sanghayoga.com.
Home Base Miami, Florida
Style Ashtanga Yoga
Kino MacGregor had been practicing Ashtanga Yoga for less than a year when her guru came to her in a dream: K. Pattabhi Jois saved her from a raging-mad Lord Shiva and put her on a boat to Mysore, India. “I was this American girl with very little knowledge of Eastern iconography, and suddenly there I was in the Hindu version of Lord of the Rings.” Within two weeks, MacGregor had a plane ticket to India. Within seconds of meeting Jois, she knew he would influence her life. “Before my analytical mind could think, I knelt down and touched his
feet. From that moment
on, I considered him my teacher,” she says.
Ten years later, MacGregor is the cofounder (with her fiancé, Tim Feldmann) of Miami Life Center, which offers yoga and nutrition classes as well as workshops on spirituality, bodywork, and life coaching. A PhD candidate in holistic health, MacGregor believes that yoga is a catalyst for huge life changes and that students need community and support. “Miami Life Center seeks to provide spiritual guidance for those who wish to integrate lessons of higher consciousness into their daily lives.”
There are group Ashtanga Yoga classes at the Center, but MacGregor’s true devotion lies in keeping the traditional, self-paced Mysore style alive. “Guided classes can be challenging and frustrating for people,” she says. “But Mysore gives you as much time and space to do as many modifications and take as much time as you need.” Wherever her students are on their path, MacGregor seeks to support them with openness and empathy. “My presence as a teacher is to hold a space of possibility for my students, respect the tradition and lineage that I teach, and offer a beacon
of spiritual light for those who wish to look deep within themselves.”
Where to find her in 2008 Giving one-week intensives at the Miami Life Center and in Copenhagen, Denmark, and
teaching workshops in Washington, DC; Pitts-
burgh; and Europe. Visit
miamilifecenter.com and ashtanga-awareness.com.
Jason Crandell cares about the placement of your collarbones, thighbones, and arches of your feet, but not for aesthetic reasons. “I’m a technique-oriented teacher—but not for technique’s sake,” he says. “The detail is there to help focus the mind, go inside, and have a rich, calming experience.” It was that calming effect that kept Crandell going during his early days of yoga practice. As a former ice-hockey player and skateboarder, he had an athlete’s tight body and a competitive drive. Both qualities made yoga difficult. “The poses never came easy to me, and I experienced a lot of discomfort for a long time,” he says. “But afterward I always felt clear, grounded, and content.”
Crandell’s influences have included Iyengar Yoga teachers Richard Rosen and Ramanand Patel. He apprenticed with Rodney Yee before taking on the role of yoga director at the San Francisco Bay Club (an athletic club with a popular Mind & Body Center). He leads his own workshops and retreats and is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal. Crandell’s well-crafted sequences combine the precision of Iyengar Yoga with the steady rhythm of vinyasa flow. Beneath the asana, his message to students is consistent: Focus on the process
of self-discovery rather than the goal of perfecting poses. “I want my students to be really curious about who they are and to be accepting of whoever that may be on a particular day. I want them to see that everything inside and outside is incredibly mysterious. I want them to use the practice to just check in, see what’s unfolding, and learn to deal with it skillfully.”
Where to find him in 2008 Teaching at his annual retreat at Feathered Pipe Ranch, at Yoga Journal’s
Colorado Conference, and
at the Asia Yoga Conference. Visit jasonyoga.com.
photo: tom rosenthal
photos (from top): john carty; ken probst
Home Base New York City
Style Jivamukti Yoga
Alanna Kaivalya usually begins
class with a guitar in hand or sitting in front of a harmonium. She offers a Sanskrit chant related to a specific theme or perhaps turns her students on to a creative riff such
as Buffalo Springfield’s “For What
It’s Worth,” transforming it into
a lead-in for a mantra like Om namah shivaya.
The music and chanting captivated her when she took her first Jivamukti Yoga class six years ago.
Kaivalya has always believed that music has great power to influence positive change in people. Born
with a hearing impediment, she says music has given her a profound vehicle for self-expression.
The 27-year-old seems both exuberant and wise. She says she believes that within each student lies a vast wellspring of love and potential—and it’s her job as a teacher to draw that out. Her classes blend rigorous poses and soothing adjustments with bursts of yoga philosophy.
And the effect is a contemporary understanding of ancient knowledge that can inspire even the most stressed-out type A New Yorker.
Her oft-repeated advice to all is, “Don’t miss the vibrations!”
In 2007 Jivamukti cofounders
Sharon Gannon and David Life asked Kaivalya to move from her hometown of Denver to New York City. They felt that her being closer to them and their centers was
the next step in her evolution as
a teacher. She happily obliged.
“I do what I love, and I do it with great love. Any time you act in accordance with that principle, good things will come.”
Where to find her in 2008
Giving classes in Manhattan and
at Yoga Journal’s Colorado Conference, and singing on her new album, Shine. Visit jivadiva.com.
“In the Buddhist tradition we
practice for the benefit of others,” Chandra Easton says. “Yes, I can
be happy and better myself on this path, but I can also be of service.” Service is one of the themes that shapes Easton’s work as a yoga
and meditation teacher.
Although her mother began practicing Tibetan Buddhism when Easton was five, it wasn’t until her 20s—when a health scare put her in a tailspin—that she began to take her spiritual practice more seriously. Fortunately, she found solace in the teachings of a visiting Tibetan
lama, which eventually led her to spend a year studying in Dharamsala, India. She then enrolled at
the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying comparative religion and working under Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace. In 2001, after her daughter Tara was born, Easton began her teacher training with Sarah Powers and fell in love with Yin Yoga.
Now her philosophy is coming to life with the several projects she has in the works. Together with Powers and yoga teacher Janice Gates, she cofounded Metta Journeys, which offers trips that combine yoga and meditation with a philanthropic component. This year they will take students to Rwanda to raise funds and awareness for the organization Women for Women International, which financially
and emotionally supports women who are survivors of war. On the trips, students will have a chance
to interact with the women there as well as to do yoga. Future journeys include a return to Rwanda in 2009, and trips to India and Bosnia. Easton is also teaming up with
her husband, Scott Blossom, and
a group of experts in the Tantric
tradition to teach Samavesha
Yoga, an approach that blends asana with philosophy, mantra, pranayama, and meditation.
Where to find her in 2008
Teaching in the San Francisco
Bay Area, at the Esalen Institute,
and at the Telluride Yoga Festival.
Learn more at shunyatayoga .com and mettajourneys.com.
Marla Apt’s classes at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles are packed. But she doesn’t let the popularity go to her head—she stays focused on transmitting
the tradition that she holds so dear. “Asana and pranayama are understood in Iyengar Yoga as a means to practice the yamas and niyamas, gain emotional stability, connect with your subtle anatomy, and steady the mind,” she says. “I hope to convey this to the best of my ability to students.”
Her mother took her to an Iyengar class in Los Angeles 17 years ago, and Apt was immediately hooked. “It was the first yoga class where I saw the technique was able to embody the philosophy. I had the sense that the teachers really knew a lot.” After completing her teacher training in 1995, Apt headed to India to spend a year taking classes with B.K.S. Iyengar. Eventually, she began assisting classes taught by Iyengar,
his daughter, Geeta, and his son, Prashant. She returns regularly with her husband and fellow teacher, Paul Cabanis, to study with the Iyengar family.
Apt has held many leadership roles within the Iyengar organization: She served as president of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California (IYASC) for four years, and she was president of the national association for two years. She has also worked as an organizer of the Iyengar Yoga National Convention. Recently, she has pulled back from her public roles
to focus more deeply on her practice and to begin teaching around the United States and internationally. “I believe that yoga is for all people, so I’m constantly trying to expand my field of practice, knowledge,
and experience to be able to help as wide a range of
students with as wide a range of issues as possible.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching workshops in Los Angeles, Japan, and Istanbul. Visit yoganga.com.
Home Base Los Angeles
Style Iyengar Yoga
photo: david martinez
photos (from top): paul cabanis; martin sconduto
A typical class with Scott Blossom includes mantra, philosophy, asana, and pranayama.
“I feel like yoga is a ritual—one where you bring all the elements into it, a kind of alchemical mix,” he says. His asana teaching is based on Shadow Yoga, a style developed by
Hungarian yoga teacher Natanaga Zhander (a.k.a. Shandor Remete), which blends the Ayurvedic principles of energy flow with Tantra in the hopes
of leading to effortless and spontaneous meditation. “I want to give people the asana they know and love, but I also want to nudge them toward meditation. My vision is that people are going to fall in love with meditating and will then
do it by choice.”
Blossom began his love affair with meditation 16 years ago. After a silent meditation retreat in Thailand with his twin brother, Michael, Blossom returned with a new perspective. “When I got back I couldn’t take the physical practice as seriously,” he says. “For me, it became a vehicle
After years of study with Ayurvedic scholar Robert Svoboda and yoga teachers Zhander
and Erich Schiffmann, Blossom (and his wife, Chandra Easton; Tantric philosopher Christopher Tompkins; and Sanskrit scholar Christopher Wallace) has developed a Tantric yoga immersion program called Samavesha that is being taught in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Blossom is a cofounder of Healing Opportunities, Inc., a Santa Barbara, California, nonprofit that offers yoga, massage,
acupuncture, and stress management to people who have life-threatening illnesses and
to those who provide care
for them. “People are looking
at the bigger picture, at how
the yoga community can help the larger community through seva [selfless service],” he says. Down the line I see people really defining yoga as service.”
Where to find him in 2008
At Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Feathered Pipe Ranch, and Ojai Yoga Crib. Learn more at shunyatayoga.com.
Style Vinyasa Yoga
Study asana with Kate Holcombe and you’ll get plenty of personal attention, as she mainly teaches one-on-one. She was steeped in this approach while studying with T.K.V. Desikachar, who fondly calls Holcombe his “American daughter.”
“We’re trained in this lineage to see the whole person,” she says. “We view the human as a whole system with different dimensions—the body, breath, mind,
personality, and emotions. I try to provide support in whatever way is going to
work best for the individual.”
Two events convinced Holcombe to dedicate her life to yoga. The first was a
bad bike accident during a semester abroad in India. Her yoga teacher at the
time, Mary Louise Skelton, took her, broken ribs and all, to Desikachar, who gave Holcombe a powerfully healing yoga practice. A couple of years later, Skelton,
diagnosed with breast cancer, was dying with clarity and grace: “It was very clear to me that this was from studying with Krishnamacharya for 35 years,” Holcombe says. Now, after six nonconsecutive years of study in India, Holcombe has a
thriving practice of private clients and small groups. Her burgeoning nonprofit,
the Healing Yoga Foundation, works with homeless women, people with HIV/AIDS and cancer, and other groups; national teacher trainings are in the works. Her
Yoga Sutra classes, taught in small groups with a focus on chanting the Sanskrit verses with proper pronunciation, are anything but esoteric. She’s known for using personal experience—both as a yoga teacher and as a busy mom—to reveal the meaning of the sutras. Holcombe says she’s grateful that her yogic lineage is deeply spiritual as well as practical. “My teacher calls himself the postmaster—
that he just delivers,” she says. “And I really feel that way, too.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching in San Francisco and Seattle, and training teachers in New York City and elsewhere. Learn more at healingyoga.org.
Home Base San Francisco
Style Yoga in the tradition of T. Krishnamacharya
Garrison, New York
Style Hatha Yoga
Yoga is a family affair for Charles Matkin, who was born in Canada and raised in a transcendental meditation community
in Iowa, where even Grandpa did Downward-Facing Dog. But as a teenager
Matkin rebelled against his spiritual roots, refusing to meditate and eventually moving to Manhattan, where he worked three jobs, took premed classes, and dabbled in acting—the period he now lovingly refers to as his “jerk years.” Eventually Matkin returned to the mat and studied many styles of yoga, trying
to build his own context.
“No dogma” is how Matkin sums up his current approach to teaching. “I try to teach a range of principles rather than rules,” he says. From the many disciplines he has studied—Feldenkrais to Iyengar Yoga to Jivamukti, and more—
he now feels equipped to use whatever method or tool he believes will best reach his students and help them on their path. He keeps classes playful by injecting quirky observations and jokes. “There’s humor in my classes so people can laugh at themselves,” he says. “It’s supposed to be ‘enlightenment,’ not ‘enheavy-ment.’ ”
Today he and his wife, Lisa Bennett-Matkin, own Matkin Yoga in Garrison, New York, where they conduct teacher trainings and workshops. They’ve also created a teacher training program in therapeutic yoga and a video series called Healing Yoga—a result of their interest in integrative medicine. This year they plan to launch a new studio in Manhattan. “I feel that the teacher is inside
of each of us; it is so easy for people to look outside for an answer,” Matkin says. “Challenge yourself to look inside.”
Where to find him in 2008 Teaching at Matkin Yoga Studio and the Omega Institute. Visit matkinyoga.com.
photo: jesse goff
photos (from top): matthew wakem; david martinez
In the Mysore room of YogaWorks in Santa Monica, Simi Cruz moves from student to student, offering them guidance as they silently move through the self-paced Ashtanga Yoga practice. As she scans the room for misalignments and energetic blockages, Cruz, who has graced the cover and pages of this magazine many times with her stunning poses, will reach for a block or a strap to modify a pose if a student needs it. “Props work well for people who have injuries, and they’re good for preventing injuries,” she says. “If you see someone pushing too hard or moving too fast, you have to pull them back sometimes.” Cruz studied Ashtanga Yoga in India with K. Pattabhi Jois but learned to modify poses from her primary teachers, Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty.
As a small girl, Cruz learned Sun Salutations from her mom, and she began taking
yoga classes at 18. When she found Miller and Ezraty in her early 20s, she spent the next 10 years at YogaWorks in Ezraty’s class
six days per week. To this day she calls Ezraty her “second mom.”
Cruz cherishes the individual attention she’s able to offer in her Mysore room. “I do something different with every student,” she says. “I get one-on-one time with all of them,
and I get to design a practice that’s good for them individually, which is how yoga was meant to be taught.” And she hopes to give her students the tools to practice in a way that’s safe and healing for them. “That’s my job as a teacher—to nurture students until they can go out and fly on their own.”
Where to find her in 2008 At YogaWorks locations in California and New York. Visit simicruz.com and yogaworks.com.
Style Ashtanga Yoga
For more hot teachers under 40, turn to
Lisa Black avolio
Home Base Seattle
Style Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga
When Lisa Black Avolio teaches asana, she hopes to convey more than just the physical shapes of the poses. “I focus on empowering students to be the best they can be and to step up to the edge of transformation,” she says.
Black, one of a handful of teachers with the title of Senior Master Baptiste Power VinyasaYoga teacher, practices what she preaches. In addition to teaching yoga in the style of Baron Baptiste, Black has created her own flowing style called Shakti, which combines principles she’s learned from Baptiste, Shiva Rea, and Ana Forrest with her own philosophy and life experience. “As a teacher, it’s important to be authentic and not to try and be anyone else or teach like anyone else,” she says.
Black travels to assist Baptiste at workshops and teacher trainings, teaches her own retreats, and runs two bustling Seattle-area studios: Shakti East and Shakti West. “I enjoy the directing and managing, but teaching is the thing that I really love and am passionate about.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at both Shakti studios; at her annual retreat in Maya Tulum, Mexico; and around the country at Baptiste yoga trainings. Learn more at shaktivinyasa.com.
Home Base Boston
Style Iyengar Yoga
Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher Jarvis Chen challenges his students to look beyond the superficial workings of the mind and into the intelligence of the body. “When I started yoga I was a very rational, scientific-minded person,” says the Harvard scientist and yoga teacher. “But yoga helped me discover my bhakti qualities—compassion, love, and a connectedness to something bigger.”
Chen is a social epidemiologist who conducts research at Harvard School of Public Health and brings his yoga to work every day. “I study health disparities in poor and disadvantaged communities, and my yoga helps me approach the subject with compassion. Even if you haven’t lived in poverty, you can understand the want and fear that comes with deprivation because, as the Yoga Sutra teaches, fear is universal.”
In the yoga room, Chen, whose primary teacher is Patricia Walden, loves working with beginners. He specifically enjoys the process of showing students how going from gross alignment instructions to subtle instructions brings greater fullness to the breath and focuses the mind. “The transformation from disintegration to integration happens over time, but even beginners can get a taste of it.”
Where to find him in 2008 Teaching at B.K.S. Iyengar Yogamala in Boston and at workshops in Middletown, Connecticut, and Charlottesville, Virginia. Learn more at jarvischen.com.
Home Base Raleigh, North Carolina
Style Classical Yoga in the
Style of Dharma Mittra
Chandra Om’s purpose as a teacher is crystal clear: to carry on traditional yoga through the method
of Dharma Mittra, a yoga master in New York, whose teachings are infused with reverence for chanting, meditation, the guru, and the belief that asana is performed as an offering to God. Today Om, who has studied with the Brazilian-born Dharma Mittra for 14 years, holds the high honor of being the only person to whom he has given permission to teach his advanced practices.
This teacher-of-teachers runs the thriving North Carolina School of Yoga and travels to New York once a month to study with her guru. At the core of her teaching are yoga’s ethical guidelines: “Without yama and niyama, there is no yoga,” she says. “I myself love the postures and a strong asana practice. But holding both legs behind your head and standing on one finger inverted doesn’t make you a nice person.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at her school in North Carolina. Check out her recently published book, Dharma Mittra: A Friend to All, a biographical account of the life of her teacher. Learn more at ncschoolofyoga.com.
Home Base Ojai, California
Style Vinyasa Flow (Formless)
If years ago you had suggested to Kira Ryder that she would someday be leading a magical little yoga community in a wild Western town, she wouldn’t have bought it. Growing up on the East Coast in a driven, ambitious culture, Ryder was hardwired to believe that numbing your feelings was superior to facing them. “If anyone had told me that yoga was spiritual, I never would have signed up.”
After 12 years of yoga practice Ryder is the director of Lulu Bandha’s, a thriving yoga studio in Ojai, California, and her core value is compassion. With classes ranging from Strong Vinyasa to Sweet Vinyasa and Yoga Siesta to Yoga for Stiff White Guys, Ryder’s mission is to give people the skills to create a yoga practice that meets them where they are. Ryder, who names renowned yoga teacher Erich Schiffmann as her main asana influence, encourages students to feel their way into poses, inviting a sense of formlessness within the forms. “The hope is that there will be a sense of self-assurance that they know what’s best,” she says. “The house rule is ‘You’re in your body, not me.’”
After six years Lulu’s has a devoted community of locals, and a national community is building as well. Last October more than 250 yogis from around the country flocked to Ryder’s fifth annual yoga conference, the Ojai Yoga Crib. Throughout the year she communicates over the Web with a blog on Channel Yoga and by posting videos—highlights of her classes as well as workshops led by other teachers—on LuluVu. “I love community when it allows people to discover themselves. That’s the most important thing.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at Lulu Bandha’s, at her annual Ojai Yoga Crib, and on her blogs and videos. Learn more at lulubandhas.com.
Home Base West Palm Beach,
Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia
As a physical therapist, Emily Large helped people find ease in their bodies, but it wasn’t until she discovered Viniyoga that she found her life’s true passion—blending physical and spiritual healing. “Yoga has a profound influence on my body and empowered me to heal myself,” she says. “I wanted to share that with other people.” Thanks to her extensive background in anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, Large knows the nuts and bolts of how injuries happen and how to heal from them. “That foundation gives me the confidence to guide students through a yoga practice while keeping them safe.”
Large has completed the four-year, 1,000-hour yoga therapy program of the American Viniyoga Institute and is now a certified yoga therapist. Her classes cater to students with specific health issues, such as low-back pain, chronic headaches, and neck and shoulder tension. Her teaching style reflects the mantra of her primary teachers, Gary Kraftsow and Mirka Scalco Kraftsow: “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.”
Large also introduces church groups to yoga. A devout Christian, she has credibility among people who may be skeptical of yoga’s spiritual implications, a skepticism she admits she once shared. “I was nervous I’d have to give up things in my diet or adopt different spiritual beliefs, but I found out that yoga isn’t about dogma—it’s about nourishing the individual.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching yoga at her surf retreat in Costa Rica. Learn more at livinglargetherapy.com.
Home Base New Haven, Connecticut
Style Forrest Yoga
Heidi Sormaz knows about body issues. Growing up as a ballerina, she battled eating disorders. She also knows the harm resulting from pushing to overachieve. While working on her PhD in psychology at Yale University, she realized that her body was in pain. She practiced Iyengar and then Ashtanga Yoga to get in shape, but she pushed too hard and found herself with more injuries. During a teacher training program with master teacher Ana Forrest a light bulb went on. “I asked myself, ‘Why am I working so hard?’ In order to achieve something—whether it was yoga teacher training or my PhD—I was willing to push myself too hard. I was willing to stay in a pose that wasn’t comfortable.”
After Sormaz had this intellectual realization, she began cultivating the same wisdom in her body and bringing it to her studio, Fresh Yoga, which she opened in 2002. Her mission: Yoga should always be healing for the mind and body. Sormaz recognizes the value of different paths and offers a variety of styles at her studio, but she wants all her teachers to impart the importance of breathing and feeling.
Her own classes focus on providing an experience that is physically, mentally, and emotionally transformative. For example, if she’s teaching someone with scoliosis, the main focus may be to lessen the curve in the spine. But if she’s working with a student who’s overweight, she tries to help them reframe their negative thought patterns. “It’s less about the body and more about the thoughts,” she says. “Our thoughts are our biggest barrier. And we are all dealing with our healing.”
Where to find her in 2008 Teaching at Fresh Yoga. Learn more at freshyoga.com.
Home Base New York City
Style Om Yoga
During class you’ll find Brian Liem telling stories and engaging with his students. A sense of humor and openness lies at the foundation of his philosophy. “I’m not afraid of being the class clown,” says Liem, director of programming at Om Yoga. “Rather than lecturing directly from texts, I try to pass on the teachings in an accessible way.”
Twenty years ago, Liem faced a bundle of challenges all at once. Those tragedies helped him realize that he’d better make the most of his precious time on earth. He decided to become a yoga teacher. Today, Liem sees himself as a link in the great yogic chain. He’s been taught by Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga; Judith Hanson Lasater, teacher of Iyengar Yoga; and Eric Spiegel of the Shambhala tradition of Buddhism. Liem draws from them all to teach sweet asana classes with an overlay of Buddhist meditation practices.
Liem sees yoga as a great community builder. He represented Om Yoga in 2004 at the Gay Spirit Culture Project’s conference. “I find through yoga practice there’s a language that can transcend differences—without denying the diversity of any individual—and initiate a dialogue,” he says.
Where to find him in 2008 Instructing at Om Yoga’s 2008 teacher training program in Manhattan and leading a weeklong retreat in Morgan’s Rock, Nicaragua. Learn more at omyoga.com. n
By Diane Anderson, Samantha Dunn, Andrea Ferretti, Catherine Guthrie, Nora Isaacs, Lauren Ladoceour, Valerie Reiss, and Kelle Walsh.
continued from page 99
photos (clockwise from top): barbie hull photography; robyn loonan gibson; audrey sheldon; travis l. kelley
photos (from left): steven large; michael shannon
photo: janna coker
photos: jeffery cross; model: kelly quintia; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makeup: betten chaston; top: lululemon; pants: doce vida fitness
awareness as you
learn the dynamic
art of balancing.
An ancient, oft-quoted definition of yoga from the Bhagavad Gita is samatvam yoga uchyate (2:48), or “yoga is balance.” This verse emphasizes the central role of equilibrium, both in yoga practice and in life. As students of yoga, we seek physical, mental, and spiritual balance. However, we often objectify balance by using it as a noun. We say that we try to “attain” balance in our lives—but balance is not a static place that you can actually reach. Like an active verb, balance constantly rebalances itself each moment in a moving equilibrium of relationships.
Balancing is a journey, not a destination. You will not find it by following systematized or formulated modes of living and being; you will discover it by developing a sensitive awareness that responds and adjusts to the ever-shifting moment. In other words, instead of seeking to attain balance, you will fare better by learning the art of balancing.
All balancing postures provide an opportunity to learn and experience the dynamic nature of balance. Take Vrksasana (Tree Pose)—a seemingly simple pose in which you balance on one foot. No matter how still or statuelike you become, you will notice that you must continually listen, feel, and react responsively to each moment, or you’ll fall. Balancing involves correcting errors and then, in turn, correcting any overcorrection of those errors. It also involves seeking a natural harmony with your breath.
Full inhalations and exhalations create a supple and centered body, while shortened or suspended breathing creates rigidity and disconnection. When you refine your ability to move with your breath, you will become more stable and your movements and adjustments in each pose will become subtler. To an external observer, you may appear to be still, or “in balance,” but from the inside, you will be able to feel the continual adjustments within this stability. You will feel the constant interplay of movement within stillness, and stillness within movement.
Creating harmony in your life is similar: It implies tuning in, listening within and without, and working in concert with yourself and others. The ability to consistently observe and harmonize your internal awareness with your outer actions the way you do in yoga postures becomes an invaluable asset in navigating the changing seas of life.
More-challenging balance poses, such as Samatvamasana (Toe Balance Pose), turn up the volume so you can hear the dynamics that are involved in balancing loud and clear. To do Samatvamasana, you must support and balance all of your body weight on the tiptoes of one foot and a raised ankle. This posture creates a very tricky physical form to balance in, with only a single, very small contact point with the earth. It requires great focus and attention to maintain equilibrium. The technical difficulty of the posture—it requires a great deal of strength and flexibility—combined with the profound or deep focus and constant subtleties of adjustment that the balance requires, makes this asana exhilarating to hold for even a few breaths.
As you work on the poses in the sequence that follows, don’t worry about being able to maintain perfect balance right away. Instead, use these poses as opportunities to explore how balance works, and be watchful of the subtle ways that your body moves to find balance. Your strength and your ability to tune in to and adjust to small changes in equilibrium will improve your balance over time.
Vrksasana (Tree Pose, fig. 1)
With regular practice, you can greatly improve and refine your ability to balance. A good way to warm up for Samatvamasana is by practicing Tree Pose and its variations. Before you begin, be sure to have a solid foundation to practice on—this is essential for all balancing poses. So, whether the base of your pose is your hands or your feet, you’ll need a firm surface to stand on, like a wood or tiled floor. Most carpeted surfaces are too soft, which can throw you off. Sometimes even a thin yoga mat can be too unstable. Stand with your feet together in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Let your breath become even and rhythmic to help create mental focus and equilibrium. When you enter a balancing posture, focus on moving very slowly, with complete attention, and not any faster than you can maintain stability. Try not to think of the finished pose; instead, see that each movement is steady and complete in itself.
Before going into Tree Pose, do a gentle stretch by bending into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend). Fold forward from the hips and allow gravity to do the work of lengthening the hamstrings and leg muscles. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then slowly rise back up to Tadasana. From there, press your hands together in prayer position at the chest, and gently fix your gaze on a point on the floor a short distance in front of you. This drishti, or “gaze point,” will help you direct your concentration inward and maintain steady focus. From there, shift your balance onto your left foot, then lift your right foot off the floor and press it into the root of your left leg (the top inner thigh). Hold the pose quietly and steadily, keeping your gaze point fixed and your breath even. Repeat on the other side, and then practice changing sides a couple of times while carefully shifting your balance through the transitions.
Tree Pose can be held quietly and passively like this, focusing mainly on steadiness and balance, or you can practice it more dynamically. When your Tree is steady, you can begin to intensify the pose by activating more muscle sets. Firmly press your hands together, tighten the buttocks, tuck your tailbone, and lift your chest to build strength and add a challenge. You can also actively extend your folded palms overhead, like limbs of a tree growing toward the light, to further increase the lively expression of this elegant asana.
A final and challenging variation of Vrksasana is to slowly come up on your tiptoes and practice maintaining a steady balance. This Toe Balance Tree variation will strengthen your ankles and prepare you for the final Samatvamasana variations. Keep your standing foot pointing straight ahead and then begin to try lifting up and down a few times from flat foot to extended ankle to tone and strengthen the ankle muscles.
To experiment with another threshold of balancing awareness, try holding the Tree with your eyes closed. There are three primary sensory systems used for balancing: visual perception; auditory perception; and the proprioceptive sites, or sensory receptors, which are found in the muscles, tendons, joints, and inner ear, and detect the motion or position of the body. You can experiment by closing your eyes and trying to touch your nose with the tip of one finger. These sensory receptors are what tell you the position of your body parts. By closing your eyes and shutting off external visual perception, you will become more attuned to your breath, and your proprioceptive awareness (the internal awareness of where your body is in space) will increase. With repeated practice, your ability to listen and to navigate toward balance will emerge from within.
Start by coming into Tree, choosing a drishti on the floor close to the tips of your toes. Then become as steady as possible and keep your breathing even. Slowly let the eyelids relax and fall like soft curtains. Don’t shut them quickly or close them all the way; let them rest with a slight opening at the bottom, so that you can still use a small portion of your visual perception for balance. Then, after a few more even breaths, close your eyes all the way. This practice will help you learn to develop and use your inner balancing mechanisms. Once you get the hang of this, you’ll find that quieting the senses can improve your inner balance.
Squatting Toe Balance (fig. 2)
This pose will strengthen your ankles and allow you to experiment with balance in a squatting position. Come into a squat, with your feet flat on the floor if possible. (If you are unable to squat with flat feet, place a folded mat or blanket under your heels.) Keep your feet parallel, with the inner edges touching, or if you need to, bring them to hip-distance apart. You may need to extend your arms in front of your knees at first to counterbalance your weight. Then press your hands in prayer position at the chest and hold the pose for a few breaths. Next, rise up on the tiptoes of both feet, sitting on your heels, with your weight propped on each sitting bone. When you rise up, your upper thighs and knees will become parallel to the floor; when you go back to the squat, the knees will point upward. Rise up and down a few times to further strengthen the ankles. Then hold the Squatting Toe Balance for several steady breaths. You can also try holding the pose with closed eyes, as you did in Tree Pose. You may find it easier to balance like this in Squatting Toe Balance than it was in Tree.
Parivrtta Samatvamasana (Revolved Toe Balance Pose, fig. 3)
Adding a twist requires that you have heightened balance awareness, and it opens your hips in preparation for Samatvamasana. Come into the raised Squatting Toe Balance. Once you feel steady, begin to slowly twist to your right as you exhale. Bring the back of your left upper arm over the right thigh and press it against the outside edge of that thigh. Press your palms firmly together and lift your chest to increase extension as well as the space between your vertebrae while twisting. Turn your head naturally to the right and find a comfortable gaze point on the floor or side wall. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then release. Rest for a few breaths in Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose) by sitting on your heels. Then do the other side with equal awareness and attention to detail.
A further variation of the basic twisting squat is called Pasasana (Noose Pose) and involves wrapping the forward arm in front of your shinbones while taking the back arm around behind you and clasping hands. This type of binding requires considerable flexibility, and I generally caution against risking doing the arm lock in twisting poses. Even for very flexible people, such binding exerts an undesirable outward torque on the shoulder cuff that can lead to instability and injury. Binding would be even riskier in Revolved Toe Balance. You twist just as effectively and beneficially by pressing the hands together and lifting the chest as you rotate.
(Toe Balance Pose, fig. 4)
Having played with your balance and warmed up your ankles, you’re ready to move into Samatvamasana. From the squatting position up on your tiptoes, place your left heel toward the center of your pelvis and sit on the heel. The exact placement of your heel will depend on your anatomy, so you will have to experiment until you find the place that’s most comfortable for you. Most people can press the heel against the tailbone or center it in the perineum area to distribute the weight between both sitting bones. Others find that they must keep the heel to one side, directly beneath the sitting bone, to support their weight. Once you’ve found a suitable place for your left heel, prop yourself up by keeping your fingertips on the floor or on blocks on either side of your thighs. Lift your right foot off the floor and, with the knee bent, externally rotate the leg and place your right ankle in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus Pose). If possible, keep the right shinbone parallel to the floor. From there, slowly lift your hands off the floor and into prayer, using them like training wheels as you learn to balance. Try to hold the pose for a few breaths and then change sides. Change sides a few times, keeping your breathing smooth and even.
Once you are able to balance on both sides, you can explore the three different arm-hand positions available for this posture. The first looks a bit like a tightrope walker’s weighted balancing bar: You reach the arms straight out to each side, with the palms up and the hands in Chin Mudra (Gesture of Consciousness), where the index finger touches the thumb while the other fingers extend outward. Next, try folding your palms together into prayer. Lastly, extend the energy of balance skyward by raising your arms overhead, with your palms in prayer. Each of these arm positions develops a slightly different balance awareness, and it is fun to try them all. Work up to holding each variation for several slow breaths, or about 30 seconds on each side. You might also experiment with closing your eyes.
Samatvamasana (Toe Balance Pose, extended leg variation, fig. 5)
For the final variation in this series, you will extend one leg forward while in Toe Balance Pose. From the Squatting Toe Balance, support yourself with your hands on the floor, extend your right leg on the floor in front of you, and sit on your left heel, pressing it into the same spot you used for Samatvamasana in Figure 4. Push strong lines of energy through your foot by pressing the ankle forward and flexing the toes back. Notice how that foot mirrors the position of your supporting foot. As you steady yourself, balance with your arms down and out to the side, with hands in Chin Mudra. From there, clasp the big toe or outside edge of the extended foot with the hand from the same side, and balance with the other hand down and out in Chin Mudra. Remember to breathe smoothly using your breath to help you balance and rebalance over and over again.
Begin to notice the oppositional lines of energy in your body and how they assist you in balancing. As you push your ankle forward, your toes pull back. As you move your right leg and right arm forward, you lift your chest and engage your core. All of these complementary lines of energy are required for balancing in this challenging position. You can call on them when you feel yourself starting to waver.
Maintaining balance and equilibrium is one of the most precious goals in yoga. Samatvamasana teaches that balance, rather than being a fixed place at which you can arrive, is actually a journey of constant adjustment, sensitivity, and responsiveness to the changing circumstances of each moment.
By practicing balancing poses, guided by the flow of your breath, you will become aware of the interplay of opposites. As your understanding becomes subtler, you will learn to balance all kinds of opposites: softness with firmness, strength with flexibility, left with right, upward-moving energy with downward energy. Eventually, you’ll be able to apply these principles to your life, and you’ll balance faith with questioning, pushing through with backing off, control with surrender, activity with rest, and masculine with feminine. Balancing these polarities will help inform and guide your life. Remember this as you practice balancing poses. And enjoy the equilibrium you discover! n
Ganga White is author of Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice and is the co-director of White Lotus Yoga Foundation with his wife, Tracey Rich. For more information, visit whitelotus.org.
by Ganga White
by Ganga White
of ankles and feet
Shows the dynamic
nature of balance
Knee injury, pain,
or injured ankles
Hip joint pain or
1 Vrksasana (Tree Pose), variation
Begin your exploration of single-leg balancing and single-leg toe
balancing with variations of Tree Pose. Maintain even contact with
the floor across all the bones and toes of the supporting foot as you come into Tree and reach your arms overhead. Once you feel steady, try rising up to your tiptoes or closing your eyes. Both of these variations will require you to recalibrate your equilibrium over and over again. Developing steadiness in Tree will help you in other balances.
2 Squatting Toe Balance
From a squatting position, lift your heels into the Squatting Toe Balance. Create
a dynamic connection between your heels and your sitting bones to help keep the pelvis level. Extend the upper thighs parallel to the floor as you lift through
the crown of the head, relax the tailbone, and breathe deeply from your center.
This variation builds strength and balance to prepare for Samatvamasana.
3 Parivrtta Samatvamasana (Revolved Toe Balance Pose)
A twisting variation of Toe Balance Pose will further strengthen your balancing skills and increase flexibility in the hips. From Squatting Toe Balance, lengthen your spine with an inhalation, then turn slowly from the waist on your exhalation. Keep the gaze, the breastbone, and the hands in prayer rotating together until you can place your upper arm across its opposite thigh. Press the palms and thighs together actively, while lifting energetically through the chest.
4 Samatvamasana (Toe Balance Pose)
To come into Samatvamasana, move one heel closer to the center of the
pelvis. You may engage Mula Bandha (Root Lock) to create more firmness or
to help alleviate any discomfort. As you raise your leg to place it across the opposite thigh, keep the foot flexed to protect the bent knee and open the hip. Extend your arms to the floor as props, using blocks if necessary, so that you can lift the breastbone and the head. Maintain connection of the heel and
pelvis as you gently raise your hands in prayer and balance.
5 Samatvamasana (Toe Balance Pose), extended leg variation
When you come into this advanced variation of the pose, you extend the Half Lotus leg and reach it
forward while spreading the toes and pulling them back. By integrating these opposites (of reaching out while pulling back), you’ll find it easier to balance.
You can create oppositional lines of energy in your torso, too, by simultaneously drawing energy down the legs, up the spine, and out through the arms.
yogajournal.com march 2008
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
yogajournal.com march 2008
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
illustration: stephanie Mccann
Tips to keep Trikonasana
from being a pain in the neck.
although Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) is considered a beginning standing pose, it offers a lifetime’s worth of lessons. And positioning the head and neck is certainly high on many students’ list of challenges.
When you’re in Triangle, you may find that your neck feels overly tense or compressed. Or you may find that it’s nearly impossible to turn your head to look up at your top hand. Usually these problems can be resolved by fine-tuning the position of your head, neck, and shoulders to bring them into optimal alignment. (If you have preexisting neck injuries or arthritis, though, you may need to make further modifications with the guidance of an experienced teacher, or consult a health care practitioner.)
But first, let’s dispel the notion that your neck should feel relaxed in Trikonasana. Your head, after all, weighs around 12 pounds. With your spine parallel to the floor, the muscles on the top side of your neck have to contract to hold that weight in place against gravity. Ultimately, Trikonasana will strengthen these muscles, including the upper trapezius and levator scapula (which extend from the base of the skull and back of the neck down to the upper scapula) and sternocleidomastoid (from the top of the breastbone and inner collarbones to just behind the ears). But since a working, contracting muscle feels tight and tense, strengthening it may be uncomfortable. This is especially true if you came to Trikonasana with weak side-neck muscles—which is likely, since few of us spend time holding our heads sideways outside of yoga practice.
You can give these muscles a head start in the strengthening process with a simple isometric exercise. Place your palm on the side of your head, just above your ear, fingers pointing up. Press your hand against your head and your head into your hand with equal force, so the side muscles contract but your head doesn’t move. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Do this a few times each day to prepare these muscles for Triangle.
As you develop better alignment in the pose and gradually increase your endurance, your muscles will get stronger and be able to do their job without complaining. While strength in the side-neck muscles doesn’t have a lot of benefit for daily activities, it does help with sideways poses such as Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) and Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose). What’s more, strengthening these muscles will help stabilize your neck in Sirsasana (Headstand).
align with your midline
Although the side-neck muscles have to work in Trikonasana, you can reduce the strain if you keep your neck in line with the rest of the spine and don’t try to look up at the ceiling right away. With your head in this position, you can use a couple of simple techniques to check your alignment—first in the left-right orientation, and then in the front-back plane.
Set up to do Trikonasana to the right, so that you can see your head and torso in a mirror. Once you’re in the pose, look straight ahead and draw an imaginary line from your navel up through your breastbone. Even better, use a spotter with a good eye or a helper with a long dowel or broomstick to help you see the line. Ideally, the line should continue from the center of your torso to your nose, through the center of your face. If your head hangs below the line, your neck will be sidebending to the right. If your head is lifted above it, your neck will be sidebending to the left. Either way can strain your neck. After correcting your position by centering your head on the line, imagine that you’re lengthening your spine away from the pelvis, all the way up through the crown of your head, which should help decompress your neck. The left and right sides of your neck should be just about even in length.
The second dimension of aligning the neck with the rest of the spine involves the front-back orientation. Many people tend to keep their heads forward in their everyday posture, so “forward head” is a common problem in Trikonasana. This misalignment is easy to correct by doing the pose with your back to a wall. For Trikonasana to the right, set up with your right buttock lightly touching the wall, and your right foot and left heel near it. Come over into the pose. Ideally, your torso and head should be in the same plane as your legs, and that plane will be parallel to the wall. With your right buttock touching the wall, your shoulders, head, and left hand should be within a few inches of it. If your head is several inches away, correct the position by bringing the back of your head closer, though not necessarily touching the wall. Make sure you haven’t overarched your lower back; check that your back ribs and shoulders are also near the wall.
Now that your head and neck are aligned with the rest of your spine, let’s make sure the curve of your neck is optimal before you turn your head. You can learn to feel the proper curve while you’re upright, and then find it again while sideways in the pose. Sitting or standing, place the palm side of three fingers across the back of your neck, just below the base of your skull. Drop your chin toward your chest, and you should feel the back of the neck flatten and the nuchal ligament (a large, very firm ligament that’s right in the center of the back of the neck) rise up under your fingers. If you lift the chin back up and keep going until you’re looking at the ceiling, your neck will be hyperextending and you’ll feel the base of your skull compressing into your neck. The position you want, both for Trikonasana and everyday activities, is a soft curve forward, neither flat nor hyperextended. In the upright position, your chin and gaze should be level. (You may have to confirm that in a mirror.)
Check your curve
To put the correct neck curve into Trikonasana, come back to your wall setup and tip your pelvis to the right to come into the pose. Lengthen your spine from your lower back out through the crown of the head, so your neck decompresses along the midline of your torso. Check that the back of your rib cage and the backs of your shoulders are near the wall. As you also bring the back of your head toward the wall, make sure that you don’t stick your chin out (thus hyperextending your neck) or tuck your chin into your chest (flattening the neck). Check the curve with your left hand.
Now you’re finally ready to turn your head to look up at the top hand. Just remember that if your head is forward or your neck is sidebending, flat, or hyperextended, your neck rotation will be limited or even painful. You may want to ask for feedback from your teacher or an experienced friend to make sure that as you turn your head, you don’t stick your chin out, bring your chin too close to your chest, or tip your head up.
Practice right rotation
If your navel and breastbone are turned toward the floor in the pose, your neck will have to overwork as you turn your eyes to look at the ceiling. You may want to move your Trikonasana back to the wall and work on rotating your torso by moving your left waist, ribs, and shoulder closer to the wall. With your front body facing straight ahead, turning your face and your gaze upward will just be the icing on the cake.
Finally, a word about how the shoulder blades can contribute to neck discomfort in Trikonasana. If your everyday posture includes tight neck muscles holding your shoulder blades halfway up to your ears (which often accompanies a forward head), it’s likely that you’ll bring that tension into the pose.
Stand again in front of a mirror, lift your breastbone up off your heart, and ease those shoulder blades down your back. That’s the same action you’ll need in Trikonasana, and it’s handled by the lower trapezius muscles in your midback. In the pose—and in daily life—increase the distance between your ears and your shoulders on both the left and right sides, like a turtle sticking its head out of its shell. Visualize having a beautiful long neck, smooth neck muscles, and full freedom to turn your head in both directions. Then practice it, and it can be yours. n
Julie Gudmestad is a physical therapist and Iyengar Yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon.
by Julie Gudmestad
The side-neck muscles have to work in
Trikonasana, but you can reduce the strain
if you don’t try to look up right away.
ask the expert
by Timothy McCall, MD
I lost my cervical curve due to an auto accident nearly eight years ago. I was advised not to do Halasana (Plow Pose). Are there other poses that I should avoid as well?
Angela Johnson | Newport, Oregon
The worst poses you can do for flattening the cervical curve are Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Halasana, and related poses such as Karnapidasana (Knee-to-Ear Pose). The neck is not meant to bear weight in any of these poses, but it will bear weight if it’s flattened. You may find that you want to avoid these poses entirely.
It may be possible to practice them safely, however, if you learn to use props to modify the poses a bit. I recommend that you use two or three folded blankets to support your shoulders. Have your teacher or a friend watch you in the pose to be sure that you’re maintaining a healthy cervical curve.
You should have a gentle inward arch from the bottom of the neck to the back of the skull. None of the neck vertebrae should be touching the floor or the blankets. If that isn’t happening, you may need to create more elevation or decide that the poses just aren’t right for your practice. In Shoulderstand and Plow, think about moving your chin slightly away from your chest; you may be able to feel how doing so increases the cervical curve.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) should be safe for you and may actually be useful for helping to maintain a normal neck curve; if necessary, practice with blankets, as with Shoulderstand. Again, have a friend check your position in the pose to be sure your neck has the proper arch in it.
I have neck pain after practicing Sirsasana (Headstand). A teacher said I should have the weight slightly to the front of my head, nearer the forehead, rather than on the “hotspot,” at the crown. But another teacher had strongly warned against practicing in this way and said the weight must be on the hotspot. Can you shed some light?
Michelle Chand | Guildford, Surrey, UK
Be cautious of any prepackaged yoga advice that says everyone needs to do a specific pose in exactly the same way. As one of my teachers, Mary Dunn, put it, “Good teachers teach from what they see, not just what they know.” We come in different shapes and sizes, have different bone structures, and are affected by different factors that can change the best way to do a particular pose.
In this case, your body and a teacher gave you clear feedback that the insistence on balancing on your hotspot was misguided. If balancing on the crown of your head flattens the cervical spine, it’s not going to be good for you, because a normal arch in the neck supports weight better than a flattened neck does. Moving the balance point a bit forward may bring a healthier curve into your neck and thus feel better.
The more you’ve developed your inner awareness through your yoga practice, the more you can rely on the feedback that your body, breath, and mind give you to guide your practice—even if your experience contradicts a theory that seems to work for most other people. If you haven’t yet developed that awareness or if you aren’t sure, seek out the guidance of a trusted teacher and maybe even schedule a private session to understand the exact mechanics of the situation.
My husband had a cerebral aneurysm and has balance issues, muscle spasms, tremors, double vision, and very limited stamina. He would benefit from yoga, but how should we approach it?
In cases like this, it’s always best to work with an experienced teacher who can evaluate the student, try out various practices, and determine if they seem to be working. A good teacher will notice specific details about your husband that will allow her to choose an appropriate practice. In addition, the teacher can give feedback and correct alignment problems.
While it’s hard to recommend what might work without seeing your husband in person, my guess is that supported standing poses—for example, holding on to a table or balancing with the help of a chair—may be useful in adding strength, reducing muscle tension, and improving balance. Due to your husband’s limited endurance, it would be important to start slowly—perhaps with just a pose or two a day—and build his practice up slowly over several months.
I’d also consider adding restoratives, simple breathing practices, and guided visualizations and meditations to promote relaxation and reduce his level of stress, which is likely to be quite high. Stress, besides lowering quality of life and impairing immunity, is known to contribute to muscle spasms. If he’s open to it, a daily meditation practice could also be very helpful in the long run. n
Timothy McCall, MD, is a board-certified specialist in internal medicine. He is Yoga Journal’s medical editor and the author of Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing (Bantam). He can be found on the Web at DrMcCall.com.
photo: katrine naleid; model: autumn alvarez; stylist: lyn heineken; hair/makeup: chris mcdonald; pants: yogabella; mat: gaiam
photo courtesy of steve ross
Anne Cushman takes readers
on a spiritual journey to India and back
in her mindful approach to chick lit.
By Hillari Dowdle
Chick lit is hardly the first genre you’d turn to if you were looking to learn more about yoga philosophy. Escapism, yes. Spiritual growth, not so much. But Anne Cushman has managed to combine both elements in Enlightenment for Idiots—a book that just might be the first spiritual take on the genre.
Cushman’s heroine, Amanda, is a sassy, underachieving yoga teacher and writer who is in love with an unavailable lout named Matt. [Spoiler alert: If you don’t want to know the details of the plot, please skip to the next paragraph without reading the following sentences.] When it turns out that Amanda’s love is cheating on her, she takes an assignment writing a travel guide for Western spiritual seekers visiting India. While there, Amanda obsesses about Matt; meets a friendly sidekick; discovers she’s pregnant with Matt’s baby; rejects Tom, the safe but dull guy who has offered to marry her; makes peace with her mother; decides to keep her baby; and discovers that she doesn’t need Matt in order to be happy after all. If chick lit is what you’re after, this novel delivers.
But if you’re a yogi, the book offers even more. Cushman is a seasoned yoga practitioner and meditator, co-directing the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training program at Northern California’s Spirit Rock Meditation Center. She’s a former Yoga Journal editor, who wrote her own spiritual guide to India in From Here to Nirvana. So Cushman knows the terrain and represents it well, using what she learned in India to fill in all the details.
She’s especially good at capturing the ashrams and gurus that attract Western spiritual seekers. Among others, there’s a B.K.S. Iyengar–like character called Mr. Kapoor (“He’ll crucify you over a metal folding chair,” his students rave); a Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) type named Prana Ma, whose followers hug dolls made in her likeness; and a character not too unlike Gangaji named Saraswati, who fervently demands that her students wake up to the idea that Self and Other are merely constructs to be transcended.
Each character is ripe for a little satire, which makes the novel a fun read, especially if you’re in on the joke (and even if you aren’t). Cushman also manages to capture the heart of their teachings, which gives the book another level of meaning. The grumpy and glowering Mr. Kapoor, for example, says to Amanda, “You think that my yoga is not spiritual! Can you meditate without a body? Can you sing the praises of God without a body?” Good point. Prana Ma reminds Amanda that everyone, everywhere, just wants to be loved. Saraswati’s teachings come to Amanda during the worst pain of her labor: “Who is the ‘I’ who cannot do it? Show me that ‘I’!”
When you read between the lines for the wisdom that is woven throughout Cushman’s fun romp, this book serves as a call to enlightenment and an introduction to yoga philosophy. Back home in San Francisco, baby and manuscript delivered, Amanda meditates on the outer seeking and inner work she did in India: “What if enlightenment really is for idiots? What if when all those spiritual teachers kept talking about the present moment they meant this present moment, not some better one?”
For those readers who are yearning to live more authentically, Cushman seems to say that the best shot you have at enlightenment is seeing it in the here and now—not chasing after it on some far-off continent. And having been there and back, she’s one chick who would know.
Sasha and Mishoo: Little Yoga
Warriors, by Jeffrey Mix; illustrated by Katherine Homes. Monroe Litho Printers;
Every kid loves a treasure hunt. This interactive children’s book captures young imaginations as they follow Sasha and Mishoo’s journey to find Chakra, the pair’s beloved lost cat. Along the way, Sasha and Mishoo encounter obstacles that they must overcome by doing various asanas. Children are asked to practice yoga along with the heroes by standing in Tree Pose (Vrksasana) to help Sasha and Mishoo cross the river on a turtle’s back, doing Lion Pose (Simhasana) to scare off a pack of hyenas, holding Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) while hot lava passes underneath them, lying in Corpse Pose (Savasana) while bats fly out of a cave, assuming Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) to slide under a wall, and standing in Warrior Pose II (Virabhadrasana II) for 10 breaths to withstand a shower from an elephant’s trunk. In the back of the book, a useful guide shows the various poses, with clear instructions.
Although purists might argue with the sequencing and pose names (what are Helicopter Arms, anyway?), kids are certain to be delighted by the bright pictures and the fun challenges that the book offers. And parents will like that the self-published book is printed on 100 percent post-consumer-waste recycled paper using wind power and soy inks, and that a percentage of profits will benefit the Tibetan Village Project.
Yoga: An Annotated Bibliography
of Works in English, 1981–2005,
by Daren Callahan. McFarland and Company;
If you’re researching a subject that has anything at all to do with yoga or are simply curious about the hundreds of books on yoga, this annotated bibliography of works published between 1981 and 2005 is an invaluable resource. The largest of its three parts (with 1,901 of the total 2,490 entries) lists yoga studies, instructional manuals, and reference books—both popular and obscure—including reissues of books published before 1981. Parts 2 and 3 of the bibliography focus on selected translations of widely read traditional texts, particularly the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutra, and dissertations and theses presented at American universities for postgraduate degrees. As someone who does a great deal of yoga research, I can vouch that this book is worth its weight in gold. Yoga teachers and yoga-school librarians will surely benefit from having it on their shelves as a ready reference to help students find works they might be looking for. Richard Rosen
Downward Dogs & Warriors:
Wisdom Tales for Modern Yogis,
by Zo Newell. Himalayan Institute Press;
Asana has roots far deeper than the ones that you create by pressing through the four corners of your feet. But unless you’re a yoga scholar or consider it your hobby to wade through ancient yogic texts, you might not know the whole story behind your favorite poses. In Downward Dogs & Warriors, Zo Newell offers a CliffsNotes version of the Indian tales that first inspired the asanas practiced today. For example, did you know that Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) was named for a god who embodied Shiva’s anger after the wrongful death of his first wife, Sati? Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) may look like a pose named after a simple three-sided shape you studied in geometry, but it also represents the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva (the gods of creation, preservation, and destruction), the three Ayurvedicdoshas, and the three gunas (qualities of nature).
To help modern yogis better connect with these ancient tales, Newell suggests embodying a pose’s story during practice, meditating on the myth’s message, and then journaling about the experience. While the specifics of getting into the featured asanas aren’t comprehensive, the book is a great tool for students looking to deepen their understanding of the history and mythology behind asana practice.
Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life: A Guide for Everyday Practice, by Charlotte Bell. Rodmell Press; rodmellpress.com
Charlotte Bell was in search of spiritual happiness. The Iyengar Yoga teacher eventually found it by practicing yoga and meditation, and studying Buddhism. In this book, Bell’s first, she recounts her 20-year journey toward enlightenment in a comprehensive guide to vipassana meditation and yoga as spiritual practices.
With vulnerability and a voice yogis will connect to, Bell interweaves her story with Eastern philosophy, comparing the Buddha’s teachings with those of the sage Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. She offers many examples of how philosophy and asana practice have supported each other in her own journey. The book really gathers steam about 50 pages in, when Bell begins an insightful investigation into Patanjali’s eight limbs of ashtanga yoga and how to integrate them into everyday life. Readers will love Bell’s open, can-do attitude and the daily practices that suggest living your yoga mindfully. Claire Dederer
By richard rosen
VINIYOGA THERAPY for the Low
Back, Sacrum, and Hips and
VINIYOGA THERAPY for the Upper Back, Neck, and Shoulders, with
Gary Kraftsow. Pranamaya; pranamaya.com
This pair of back-therapy DVDs—one for upper, the other for lower—is the brainchild of Gary Kraftsow, a yoga therapist, the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, and a student of T.K.V. Desikachar in the 1970s. Both presentations have similar three-part formats: a 20-minute introductory lecture on understanding back pain; a 40-minute technique workshop, in which a couple of dozen asana-based exercises are explained and modeled; and finally, three therapeutic practices.
The exercises are, for the most part, accessible modifications of familiar postures such as Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), and Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana). Viniyoga takes things slow and easy, with lots of repeated movements designed to align the neck, ribs, and spine, and stretch and strengthen the low back, hips, and sacrum.
As Kraftsow notes, those people who have serious injuries shouldn’t do these poses without expert supervision, but for folks with everyday backaches and pains, these DVDs will provide a firm foundation for a home practice. n
our reviews of
books + music + videoS
Los Angeles yoga teacher Steve Ross has recorded with bands such as the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, and Men at Work and has taught yoga to the likes of Def Jam Records founder
Russell Simmons. Not surprisingly, pop is what Ross plays in his yoga classes.
“Even though the lyrics may
not always align with yoga philosophy,” says Ross, “the music
provides a familiar backdrop
so students can have a good time while they’re learning and growing as yogis.” These tracks might accompany the vinyasa portion of Ross’s class, followed by slower songs and Yin Yoga poses. Erica Rodefer
No Woman No Cry by Fugees
I Believe by Sounds of Blackness
Love and Happiness
by Al Green
Gone Going Gone
by Black Eyed Peas
by Arrested Development
Stars All Seem to Weep
by Beth Orton
Poetry Man by Zap Mama
Higher Vibration by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers
Sri Vidya by Steve Ross
To download Ross’s playlist, go to
photo: Rubinstein PHoto 2008
A new exhibit teaches kids about the importance
A new children’s museum exhibit highlights yoga as a tool for kids who feel shy or are unable to engage in team sports to get active. Run, Jump, Fly! Adventures in Action, which opened in February at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, features yoga along with climbing, dancing, and bicycling to inspire kids to enjoy physical fitness. “We really wanted to emphasize just moving,” says Samantha Moy, a spokesperson for the museum, explaining the motivation for the traveling exhibit.
The exhibit offers fun challenges related to balance, strength, coordination, and cardiovascular endurance. Kids test their cardiovascular endurance on a stationary bicycle that simulates pedal-powered flight through the sky, and they practice surfing or snowboarding using balance boards backed by video sequences. Another feature shows kids dance, strength training, and beginning hatha yoga techniques to try at home.
“We want the visitors to explore yoga as a fun but potentially gentler, quieter physical activity than what is often offered to children,” says Shari Aronson, the exhibit’s developer, who has practiced hatha yoga for 17 years.
In addition to briefly describing yoga’s origins, the exhibit introduces yogic breathing techniques, or pranayama. It also demonstrates, through pictures and worded instructions, basic asanas: Downward-Facing Dog, Cat-Cow, Tree, Half Moon, and Bridge poses.
The exhibit challenges traditional notions about who can participate in physical activities. Aronson consulted with adaptive-yoga specialist Matthew Sanford (pictured on page 125), a paraplegic yoga instructor in the Iyengar tradition and author of the book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. The exhibit shows photographs of kids doing the poses, then children with disabilities doing adapted poses—say, by leaning on a wall or pushing against a tabletop—to get the general shape and to glean the benefits of the pose.
“What I wanted to get across—and I think kids will figure it out—is that the adaptive pose is not that different,” says Sanford. The exhibit also depicts the experience of a blind snowboarder and a wheelchair cyclist.
Run, Jump, Fly! will travel to children’s museums in California, Massachusetts, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Canada through 2011. JILL DUMAN
Creative communication is key
in yoga for the hearing impaired.
At the end of most yoga classes, the sound of the instructor’s voice gently rouses students from Savasana. But how do you know when to come out of the pose if you can’t hear the verbal cue?
This is just one of the challenges that deaf and hearing-impaired people face. And until a few years ago, there was no organized effort to address such challenges and bring yoga to this population some 28 million strong. But in 2004 Lila Lolling, a hearing yoga instructor and former American Sign Language interpreter, decided to combine her two passions and launched DeafYoga. Lolling says that in order to teach yoga to deaf students, accommodations to traditional yoga instruction need to be made. In her classes for the deaf community in Austin, Texas, and in workshops around the country, she uses sign language and, when students’ eyes are closed in meditation, gentle touch, a fan, and lights to communicate. In her DVD DeafYoga for Beginners, Lolling uses sign language, subtitles, and demonstration to convey her instructions.
Through the DeafYoga Foundation, a nonprofit that Lolling founded, she is tackling an even bigger challenge: the translation of yoga terminology. “There’s no sign for consciousness,” she explains. “There is, but it [means] to know. [To have] ‘consciousness’ and to ‘know something’ is not the same thing. There’s no standardized sign for yoga, meditation, enlightenment, or pranayama.” That American Sign Language and English are drastically different makes the translation issues even more difficult, Lolling says.
Lolling wants to catalog signs created of yoga concepts and provide a network for deaf students to find teachers and classes. She says she would also like to educate hearing instructors on how to teach yoga to deaf people.
Bonnie Ramsey, a deaf yogini in Austin, started practicing three years ago after seeing a flier for Lolling’s class. Since then she has taken classes in both the hearing and deaf communities but says that classes with accommodations for deaf students help her to relax more during the practice.
Through an interpreter she explains that it’s especially helpful when, for example, students’ eyes are closed in Savasana and Lolling slowly raises the lights to indicate that it’s time to come out of the final resting pose. “Otherwise, I’d be opening my eyes and trying to figure out what the next step is,” she says. “This way I can really relax instead of feeling I have to keep paying attention.” rachel mosteller
santa fe, new mexico
Yoga, art, and mountain air so clean
you can’t help but breathe deeper.
Santa Fe is known for its art scene, spiritual and healing centers, and unique historic character as one of the oldest Spanish colonial towns in the country. But the mythology of Santa Fe is derived from something more elemental: its remarkable geography.
The city rests under the dreamy blue-green peaks of the Sangre de Cristo range at the edge of a vast, luminous desert. This location, with its sense of expanse and vertical uplift, seems to automatically induce deeper breathing. It doesn’t hurt that the air is almost intoxicatingly pure.
“There is a wonderful communion with nature here,” says Wendelin Scott, owner of Yoga Source studio. “It’s a place where you can really clear your vision.”
Santa Fe attracts world-class yoga teachers, committed students, and spiritual seekers. The city of 70,000 boasts more than 10 yoga studios, numerous meditation centers, and at least three schools of healing arts. “Santa Fe is a healing center,” says Rima Miller of Yoga Moves. “If you have injury or stress in your life, it’s a very good place to come practice.”
Founded in 2000 by Tias Little, Yoga Source offers precise and vigorous asana, rooted in Ashtanga and Iyengar traditions. In 2007 he sold the business to Wendelin Scott and Amy Spurlock, but Little and his wife, Surya, still teach there regularly. The studio hosts other guest teachers, including Kofi Busia and Aadil Palkhivala. 901 W. San Mateo, Ste. Y, (505) 982-0990. yogasource-santafe.com
True to its name, this studio explores yoga and other forms of creative movement. Its 23-foot ceilings provide the perfect environment for classes on the inversion swing—a double loop of padded rubber that makes for an exhilarating weightless experience of inversions, backbends, relaxation, and partner moves. The studio’s signature yoga style is Chandra Yoga, a practice that follows the phases of the moon. 825 Early St., Ste. C, (505) 989-1072. yogamoves.com
White Iris Yoga
Gail Ackerman, an Intermediate Junior level Iyengar instructor, has taught at her studio for more than 20 years. Eight classes are offered weekly, including beginning and intermediate levels, and there is one therapeutic class for students with injuries. 1701 Callejon Emilia, (505) 986-8212. whiteirisyoganm.com
After running the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts for 24 years, Body owner Lorin Parrish opened this dynamic center for yoga, massage, and bodywork. The center offers eight or nine classes per day, including Mysore-style Ashtanga. It also has a juice bar and café, and offers childcare. 333 Cordova Rd., (505) 986-0362. bodyofsantafe.com
Santa Fe Community Yoga Center
This nonprofit center is a gathering place for the local yoga community. Classes in gentle yoga (Yin, Kripalu, and Gentle Eclectic) for all ages and skill levels are offered, including classes for seniors. The center also raises funds for yoga programs in local schools, has a lending library of yoga books and DVDs, and maintains an extensive bulletin board of community events. After class you can walk the outdoor mud-and-straw labyrinth. 826 Camino del Monte Rey, Ste. B1, (505) 820-9363. santafecommunityyoga.com
This small studio offers up to two Iyengar Yoga classes most days of the week with owner-teachers who still regularly train in India. 1125 Cerrillos Rd., Oddfellows Bldg., (505) 955-9644. yogadifferent.com
(Bikram’s) Yoga College
of India Santa Fe
This school offers hot yoga classes seven days a week. 1310 Monterey Dr., (505) 955-1515. bikramyoga-santafe.com
The two-year-old Anusara studio offers several classes a day and often opens at 7:30 a.m. for self-guided meditation. Anusara Yoga founder John Friend makes an annual visit. 815-A Early St., (505) 989-1288.
While you’re here
Enjoy a soak in one of the area’s hot-water springs, such as Ten Thousand Waves Spa (3451 Hyde Park Rd.), Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort (50 Highway 414, Ojo Caliente), or Sunrise Springs Eco-resort (242 Los Pinos Rd.). CARMEL WROTH n
Museum of Modern Yoga
News + views + events + trends
Matthew Sanford helped design the yoga component
of the exhibit.
KARMAPALOOZA March 1. Miami Beach, Florida. Join the Sun Salutation-a-Thon at the beach or create a Pose-a-Thon at your own studio during this annual festival that encourages karma yoga and raises funds for charitable causes. karmapalooza.com
Balispirit Festival: A celebration of Yoga, dance, music, gratitude, AND love March 5–16. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. This festival features a concert by Michael Franti; Nyepi, the Balinese silent New Year celebration; a four-day retreat intensive; daily yoga, dance, and music classes; and nightly kirtan. balispiritfestival.com
Second Annual Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research March 6–9. Los Angeles, California. More than 30 presenters will gather to explore the challenges and opportunities
in the field of yoga therapy.
Workshops and discussions by Nischala Devi, Janice Gates, Gary Kraftsow, Judith Hanson Lasater, Richard Miller, Larry Payne, and others. sytar.org
Yoga: The Conference and Show April 24–27. Toronto, Canada. Workshops with Baron Baptiste, Nischala Devi, Lilias Folan, Manouso Manos, Dharma Mittra, David Newman, Natasha Rizopoulos, Richard Rosen,
Rod Stryker, and Rodney Yee.
yogajournal.com march 2008
yogajournal.com march 2008
Yoga Source’s roots are in Ashtanga and Iyengar.
photo: carmel wroth
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
march 2008 yogaJournal.com
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DEEPEN YOUR FLEXIBILITY Easy to use yoga straps designed by a yoga teacher. Presized for specific poses and different body types. Please visit PracticeStraps.com. For wholesale inquires (201) 447-5766.
Arts & Crafts
YOGA DRAWINGS, PAINTINGS, LIMITED
EDITION PRINTS: Personal yoga figure paintings/portraits by Alan Fink. (410) 526-4024;
HAVE YOUR CROSS STITCH, Crewel, Hardanger, Embroidery, and Needlepoint artworks professionally hand stitched by GhostStitchers Stitching Service. ghoststitchers.com
audio & Video
ARE YOU READY FOR THE JOURNEY? Learn How Tai Chi can help you create all that you desire. DVDs, Books, Seminars, Workshops email@example.com; drtaichi.com
Easy Tai Chi DVDs—Instruction, certification. Save money, time! Learn at home with Dr. Jeffery. Short, easy forms to supplement your yoga practice. Toll-free (866) 682-4244 after 9 am Pacific. EasyTaiChi.com
YOGA NIDRA MEDITATION CD. One of the deepest, most popular meditation CDs in the world today. ISBN 0972471901;
DVDS & CDS—Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali and Tantra with Carlos Pomeda, Sally Kempton, Douglas Brooks. “World-class teachers who convey the depth of the yoga tradition in a deeply transformative way.”–John Friend.
RIVERVIEW SPA Ayurvedic Panchakarma (purification, rejuvenation), yoga, and meditation in beautiful Virginia. (434) 969-1400; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; riverviewspa.com
Books & periodicals
YOGA AND JUDAISM: Explorations of a Jewish Yogi. By Steven J. Gold. Available at
lulu.com or http://stores.lulu.com/yajc
YOGA STUDIO FOR SALE: Extremely successful, in ideal West-Coast seaside community. Serious inquiries, please email:
INSPIRATION + AWARENESS + WELL-BEING Introducing “Purely Vibrant,” a powerful vibrational therapy and extraordinary catalyst for healthy change. purelyvibrant.com
PELVIC/INVERSION SWING Back pain? Let gravity do the work. Enjoy the benefits of
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SPIRITUAL RESPONSE THERAPY (SRT)
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VEGGIELOVE.COM Meet single vegetarians for friendship, dating, romance. Free to browse. Free to join. Find your veggie love today!
GENERATE INCOME WHILE RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS iwater: high vibrational water filtration units, established international
company, (800) 679-7042, ext. 7320;
WAKE UP CALL! Software to help you stay awake to the present moment and your true identity. Windows/Mac. Free download at eynip.com
GOT MAC? Get iYoga. Practice while your Mac provides timing and spoken instruction for any sequence. $29.99. iyogayoga.com
Schools & Training
Bach Flower Remedies® International Education Program Improve well-being for yourself and others. Courses approved by Dr. Edward Bach Foundation, England. CEUs for certain professions. (800) 334-0843;
UNCOMMON MEDITATION: Enter the world of authentic, spontaneous meditation, natural kundalini awakening, speed-of-light advancement. Seminars and shaktipat diksha with Durga Ma. (623) 271-9380;
SCHOOL FOR AWAKENING Discover the freedom and joy of your true self with Stephan Bodian, author of Wake Up Now (excerpted in the January/February 2008 issue). Eight-month program begins late spring 2008.
SHAKTIPAT MEDITATION & TEACHER
TRAINING with Steven S. Sadleir in the lineages of Vethathiri Maharishi and Shivabalayogi Maharaj: Learn Siddha, Shakti, Jhana, Diksha, Kriya and Kundalini. (949) 355-3249;
CHAKRA PSYCHOLOGY with author/teacher Anodea Judith, March 23-30. California retreat spends one full day on each chakra with yoga, personal healing, and sacred ceremony. A week that has changed lives for 22 years! CEU approved. (415) 472-2284;
LICENSE/CERTIFICATION: Distance Learning or Residential State-Approved Programs: Clinical Nutritionist (CN), Clinical Master Herbalist (CMH), Holistic Health Practitioner (HHP), Environmental Health Professional (CEHP)™. State-Licensed College! Natural Healing Institute; (760) 943-8485; naturalhealinginst.com
A GENTLE WAY® TEACHER TRAINING
Specialists in beginners, plus-sizes, seniors, & health challenges. San Diego, California.
(619) 698-1170; agentleway.com
LIFEFORCE YOGA PROFESSIONAL TRAININGS, Workshops, Retreats, DVDs, Teleclasses, CDs, Books, for Mood Management with Amy Weintraub. yogafordepression.com
YOGA THERAPY 500/200–HR TEACHER TRAINING: Santa Rosa, CA. YAA training: May 31 – June 13, July 12 – 24: Call for Details:
(707) 575-0886; anandaseva.org
ASHEVILLE YOGA CENTER offers YA certification: 9 months; 5 days; 23 days. Children’s, prenatal, Ashtanga, more. Comprehensive, compassionate, North Carolina!
(828) 254-0380; youryoga.com
VINYASA FLOW YOGA TEACHERS TRAINING IN PORTUGAL June 28-July 18, 200 Hours, Yoga Alliance Approved. Beautiful Algarve Retreat Center. Pool. Bodywork. Close to beaches. Excellent faculty. 2000 Euros includes accommodation, meals, and tuition. (001) (413) 664-8686. froglotusyoga.com
TEACHING CHILDREN’S YOGA–This 2-day workshop for learning how to teach children comes to you! Affordable, 15-student minimum and instructional Yogaland™ DVD included. (480) 654-9653; yogainspirations.com
HEAVEN ON EARTH YOGA INSTITUTE: Montreal, 250 & 500 hours registered yoga teacher training: intensive & weekend programs. (888) GO-KAREN; heavenonearthyoga.com
200-HOUR YOGA TEACHER CERTIFICATION WITH ROLF SOVIK, PSY. D., AND SANDRA ANDERSON. June 23-July 15, 2008, Himalayan Institute Teachers Association.
Call (800) 822-4547, press 6,
500-HOUR YOGA TEACHER CERTIFICATION HIMALAYAN INSTITUTE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION. Advanced training program includes in-depth study of meditation, pranayama, Yoga Sutra, Asana & the Subtle Body. Call (800) 822-4547, press 6. HimalayanInstitute.org
Advanced Thai Yoga & Massage Certified Practitioner Training: Professional residential intensives from 16 to 2500 hours! Train directly with recognized Aachan and Master Instructor! Register now for Winter/Spring. (706) 358-8646; firstname.lastname@example.org;
200-HR. JOURNEY INTO YOGA: TEACHER TRAINING IN THE KRIPALU TRADITION: Asheville, North Carolina, September 5-16 & October 17-28, 2008, with Brahmani Leibman & Jashoda Edmunds E-RYTs.
Contact: (914) 693-6847;
AUSTRALIA - Yoga Teacher Training with Master Teacher Nicky Knoff. Great Barrier Reef & World Heritage Rainforest. Yoga Alliance RYT 200 hours. knoffyoga.com
YOGA TEACHER CERTIFICATION High-quality, compassionate, personalized training. Nondenominational style valuing all yogic traditions. Registered. 200-hour. Austin, Texas.
(512) 266-7926; livingyogaprogram.com
JUDITH LASATER - YELLOW SPRINGS, OHIO. April 26-30, 2008, (weekend option). “Practicing and Teaching from the Inner Body.” Contact:
Patricia Schneider; (937) 767-7727;
SAVANNAH YOGA CENTER: YA 200-HR May/October teacher training: 8-month program. Extensive and affordable. All welcome.
(912) 441-6653; savannahyoga.com
SILVER LOTUS TRAINING INSTITUTE
200- & 500-Hour Level Teacher Training. In-depth Self study based on the psychology of the Yoga Sutras. Precise alignment, experiential anatomy & physiology, kosas, chakras. Highly individualized training in the tradition of Krishnamacharya. Small class size;
TEACHING CHILDREN’S YOGA–This 2-day workshop for learning how to teach children comes to you! Affordable, 15-student minimum and instructional Yogaland™ DVD included. (480) 654-9653; yogainspirations.com
DONNA FARHI IN SEATTLE Spinal Integration: a 6-day Intensive, May 9–14, 2008, at The Yoga Tree. (206) 545-0316; email@example.com;
YOGA SPIRIT TELE-CLASSES Live phone lectures with experts: Judith Lasater, Donna Farhi and more. $5 off coupon #2626; FREE Ramayana stories. yogaspirit.com
Sacred Art Yoga – Teacher Training
Certification. Yoga Alliance RYT 200 registered. Affordable 9 day sessions, Texas.
(713) 526-6595. sacredartyoga.com
VINYASA FLOW YOGA TEACHERS TRAINING IN COSTA RICA April 28-May 19, 200 Hours. Yoga Alliance-Approved. Gorgeous beachfront spa. Luxurious accommodation. Pool, Ayurvedic massage, excellent faculty. $3,300 includes accommodation, meals and tuition. (413) 664-8686; froglotusyoga.com
Vacations & Retreats
RAW JUICE FAST Organic and Green or Rainbow Juice Cleanses in luxurious eco-retreat center near beautiful beaches and organic farms. American Yogini Juice Fast Coach certification starts soon with Alison Shore Gaines and Mary McGuire-Wien, (631) 722-4771;
WILDERNESS RETREATS FOR WOMEN: Yoga, canoeing, hiking, GREEN RIVER, UTAH. April 19-26, 2008. (207) 721-9229; herwildsong.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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Chandra Das and Patricia Brown.
(888) 666-6412; rollingmeadowsretreat.com
LOVELY ”YOGAVILLE” RENTAL (Charlottesville, VA, area) near Satchidananda Ashram: Tranquil B&B rooms, entire house, or Timeshare Opportunity. (202) 340-0488;
Ancient Yoga Center at Barsana dham ashram: Hold your program in a peaceful, spiritual ashram environment. Practically experience a yogic lifestyle. Gorgeous Texas Hill Country. (512) 923-9464;
ALOHA AINA RETREAT MAUI Yoga retreats in lush setting next to a waterfall. One week vacations starting on the 22nd of every month. Gourmet Vegetarian food. Reservations:
(808) 572-4589; alohaainamaui.net
KAUAI VACATION RENTAL COTTAGE. Beautiful, secluded cottage, mountain/waterfall views, minutes to beaches, yoga studios, more. (866) 218-9250; kalamacottage.com
PUERTO RICO 20-ROOM HIDEAWAy, stunning mountain setting, freshwater pool, morning yoga class, ideal for individual vacations, retreats, workshops. (888) 343-2272;
SWIM WITH WILD DOLPHINS, The ultimate Human-Dolphin Connection. Meditative,
healing Caribbean island retreats. Yoga, healthy food, Atlantean legends. (800) 326-1618;
THAI MASSAGE AND YOGA RETREAT LAS PLAYAS TORTUGAS, MEXICO
April 14–18, 2008. Amazing beach and food!
IDEAL SETTING FOR GROUPS: 20 rooms property, thermal water pool, 4-acre gardens, 15 min. to San Miguel de Allende.
RETIRO MAYA RETREAT CENTER spectacular facility for group retreats in Tulum Mexico’s secluded turquoise beach; retiromaya.com/retreats; email@example.com
FABULOUS FACILITY FOR GROUPS:
Elemental, serene, soothing senses embattled by technology. Outside San Miguel Allende, Mexico. U.S. phone: (505) 205-1234;
INDIA, NEPAL, TIBET, BHUTAN, SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE TOURS for small groups of like-minded seekers. Featured in June YJ (pages 17-18). SpiritTravel.com
SOUTH OF FRANCE: July 13-20, 2008.
Francois Raoult takes you on a week long
retreat in Provence-languedoc. Creative
Iyengar yoga. Lodging in 17th century hamlet. Great swimming and food! (585) 244-0782;
THAILAND–KOH SAMUI Health Oasis Resort. Fasting, Colon Cleansing, Candida, Naturopathy. Courses in Reiki, Thai Massage, Yoga.
SOUTH OF FRANCE: 5/4–11, 9/21-28. Glorious surroundings, private lake, sumptuous wines/cuisine. Kripalu yoga, qigong, tai-chi, hikes.
(212) 431-7051; firstname.lastname@example.org;
PURPLE VALLEY YOGA GOA–Develop your practice in India, the home of yoga, sun-drenched beaches and pure vegetarian food.
YOGA RETREATS: in Samoa, India, Australia, China, Tibet, & more with leading yoga travel company Raw Shakti! (888) YOGA-123 ;
YOGA-HIKING IN SPAIN. Asturias. New Studio and B&B in mountainous region. Pilgrimage tours–Camino Santiago. (970) 923-6859;
yogajournal.com March 2008
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Practicing mindfulness, Richard Freeman feels
a natural affection for
all living things.
the yj interview
by Lauren Ladoceour
By the time he met his teacher, K. Pattabhi Jois, Richard Freeman had practiced yoga for 19 years, visited several ashrams in India, and taught yoga to Iran’s royal family. Less than a year after meeting the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Freeman became the second Westerner certified by Jois to teach Ashtanga. Today, Freeman lives with his son, Gabriel, and his wife, Mary Taylor, in Boulder, Colorado, where they run The Yoga Workshop.
How did you first come across yoga? When I was 18, I reread Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which talks about the Bhagavad Gita. That led me to [Ralph Waldo] Emerson and the Upanishads. My family was uneasy with the fact that I was studying even Western philosophy, because it’s possibly the least useful in terms of a career. So without their blessing, I embarked on the yogic path at the Chicago Zen Center. Later I studied Iyengar Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, bhakti yoga, Tantra, and different Buddhist practices. It wasn’t until 1987 that I discovered Ashtanga Yoga and met Pattabhi Jois.
What made you think “Yes! This man is my teacher”? When I went to one of his workshops in Montana, I could already do most asanas well. However, the way he linked them internally was interesting, because I was able to go into the midline of the body and into the nadis [energy channels]. We had a strong connection; this is where my previous studies really paid off. His English isn’t very good, so we mostly talked asana in Sanskrit.
This wasn’t the first time you worked with a cultural barrier. What were some of the challenges of teaching yoga in Iran? A friend invited me to teach at his studio there. For four years I taught yoga to the empress, the princes, and other members of the royal family. They were mostly Muslims with a strong conception about the Divine. I had to be very careful to not use terms that suggested I was trying to convert them or speak of idolatry and reincarnation. Working across cultures, I had to become honest with myself about what it is I actually know, what are theories or metaphors, and what is essential spiritual teaching and practice.
So what is essential? Meditation. It’s focusing the mind on any pattern or thing that comes up. This mindfulness practice is something you could do as a Hindu, Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist. I enjoy quiet time. I go outside and contemplate insects, my dog’s nose, the rabbits around here, or whatever presents itself. Everything is connected, and so I feel a natural affection for these things. My wife is a chef and does most of the cooking, so I make washing the dishes my meditation. I pay close attention to my breath and what I’m doing.
How has fatherhood changed your practice? It’s been enlightening. I had to let go of some poses and studies a bit; as a father you deal with moments of crisis, which can happen at any time. My practice is more internal now—I might have time just to sit down and do a tiny little pranayama. Still, there’s no other medium that’s quite as potent as raising a child with someone to either drive you crazy or open up your heart and mind to compassion to yourself and others. n
photo: cheryl ungar; hair/makeup: amy solomon/maximum talent; shot at the lula w. dorsey museum, ymca of the rockies