• 03/18/2020 6:30 AM | Anonymous

    As we find ourselves following the same patterns of increased social distancing due to COVID-19 that we've watched communities around the world go through, we want to be a source of support for our members and community. 

    We're posting here member studios and teachers who are offering online classes—some free, some free for now, and some paid—as well as other small businesses and organizations that are doing what they can to support their communities during this time. 

    Feel free to post in the comments other service providers and businesses that are supporting customers during this time so that customers can support them in return. We will keep adding to this list as we can.

    In addition to the below, we can try to support our local restaurants, which are still open for takeout or delivery for the time being, and gift certificates can be bought for many items and services. And remember to reach out to neighbors, friends, and family who may need help coping during this time. In addition to the scary health climate, increased social isolation can be tough for some to handle.

    Keep deep breathing and stay well!

    YTA Members offering online classes
    Birchwood Yoga Center
    PranaMoon Yoga
    Willow Tree Yoga
    Yoga Culture

    Business and organizations offering socially distanced services

    • Most libraries have digital offerings that can be checked out remotely; some, like the Ossining Library, are offering tech help by phone or e-mail. (You can also call just to chat.)
    • Feed the Birds is offering delivery service within Croton-on-Hudson for orders over $20, or back-door pickup for others.
    • The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville is offering delivery service for orders over $25 and within 10 miles.
    • Bella Maiya Day Spa in Briarcliff Manor is offering at-home massages. 
  • 03/05/2020 7:33 AM | Anonymous

    Mudras were a mystery, and one I didn’t think I was “allowed” to explore. I thought they were only used by the “Grand Poobah” of yoga and, therefore, I didn’t touch them (pun intended) until … well, I am getting ahead of myself. 

    At my March YTA workshop I hope to save others from the unnecessary delay in discovering the support available in reaching for mudras in daily life. As the saying goes, having a relationship with mudras has made all the difference in my living. So, if you have any curiosity about mudras, I invite you wholeheartedly to join me! (There’s a mudra for wholeheartedness, did you know that?) 

    I first reached for the assistance of mudras as a teacher, not as a student. I was creating a curriculum for an Ayurveda and Yoga Study Group to help yoga teachers and students better understand how these ancient twin sciences can help balance our dosha and access our vital life force. As a health coach, yogi, and Ayurvedic health counselor, it is my job to support clients in creating a personalized approach to meet their individual health goals. Providing accessible and efficient tools are crucial aspects of my work and mudras help my clients and I succeed. 

    Ayurveda is the first whole medical system of our world with lifestyle as a founding principle. The study course I was designing included an assessment process to teach individuals to know their dosha and recognize the signs and symptoms of imbalances. This of course is crucial to avoid the disease process that follows chronic imbalances. Mudras are very useful tools to rebalance the elemental matrix. When we consider that in the palm of our hand we can influence our heart rate; in the tips of your fingers we can adjust our thyroid; or with a snap of our fingers ignite our digestion—the power of the mudras, while not as transformative as the breath, run a close second to the tools we carry with us. 

    No matter where we are or what we are doing, we can almost always assume a mudra to calm our anxiety, secure our boundaries, fortify our immune system, or get energized. As I designed the study course, the mudras were teaching me! I discovered they have a consciousness of their own, and like benevolent spirits guiding, they taught me to reach for them. I don’t like to say use them, because just like a friend, we don’t want to use anyone, but rather I appreciate them and relate to their qualities.

    In my daily living, I balance my dosha, which usually means keeping vata in check with kurma mudra. This reduces vata’s forces of wind so that my systems don’t dry up or whip my thoughts around hither and thither like leaves on a windy day. I also engage samana vayu mudra before every meal to optimize digestion; I reach for pala mudra before a difficult conversation to calm anxiety; and I always seek pruna jnanam for discernment when making important decisions. I have a holy host of powerful forces at the ready to assist me in meeting life with a stable and confident posture. Until of course I can’t, as Dr. Suess says in Oh the places you’ll go, “…you’ll move mountains kid, except when you don’t, because sometimes you won’t!” And then there’s a mudra for that—despair and depression can be met with nonjudgmental support and the uplifting qualities of vajraprandama mudra.

    As the practice and teaching of yoga evolves, She, our beloved Mother Yoga, remains steadfast and true. Her yamas and niyamas are our anchors while her sister, Ayurveda—the first lifestyle medicine—offers her tridoshic philosophy to guide our daily bread and breath. Yoga teachers are more sophisticated and are exploring beyond the physical stretch of asana and into the subtle body. We are hungry to understand how asana, pranayama, kriya, mantra, mudra, and meditation influence our subtle bodies; and how the subtle doshic forces of prana, tejas, and ojas guide the expression of their physical counterparts of vata, pitta, and kapha. These biological forces govern all life on earth; the wind, the rain, and the fire. Our ability to respect and cooperate with them is a great need. 

    We’ve seen how the forces of vata (wind) blow the fire element to devastating effect, for example, in Australia, California, and Brazil most recently. And we’ve seen how the earth’s instability (150 earthquakes across the globe in 2019) threatens our most fundamental needs of shelter, food, and a sense of belonging. While I can’t guarantee mudras will save the world, I can provide a comprehensive overview of them. Perhaps with this introduction the living gifts of mudra can enter your life, offering their handy access. And while you may not love them as I do, you will certainly come to appreciate them and one day may even find yourself telling a family member, friend, or student, “You know, there is a mudra that could help you.”

    Learn more about Deirdre at deirdrebreen.info

  • 01/20/2020 1:34 PM | Anonymous

    What Exactly Is Yoga Nidra?

    I was first introduced to yoga nidra as a teenager in Mumbai, India, and the stillness it led me into had a profound impact on my practice and my teaching.

    Yoga Nidra is a guided auditory meditation technique practiced lying down in savasana. In Sanskrit, nidra means sleep. Yoga nidra is often referred to as the sleepless sleep because it induces a state between being awake and being asleep known as the hypnogogic state in which the mind and body deeply relax. This powerful state on the threshold of being asleep and being awake can be used for many purposes that include deep relaxation, releasing memories locked in the subconscious and unconscious, and creating an expanded state of consciousness.

    Yoga Nidra’s roots lie in an ancient tantric technique called nyasa in which practitioners held their awareness on different parts of the body and through concentration and the chanting of mantas were able to bring more consciousness to different parts of the body. We use a variation of nyasa in yoga nidra to move our awareness through the body in a particular order and to create a circuit of energy through the brain that allows us to enter the hypnogogic state.

    Yoga nidra is highly adaptable both in length and purpose. It can range from just a few minutes to an hour-long practice depending on the purpose and time available. Most practices are between 15 and 40 minutes.

    Why I Love Restorative

    The impact restorative yoga has had in releasing stress and tension for me is very personal. 

    About fourteen years ago I had a bout of serious asthma attacks that were life-changing. I was continually in and out of the hospital and put on high levels of cortisone for an extended period that created extreme anxiety and panic attacks. 

    I started practicing restorative yoga, which was an integral part of my recovery. Restorative calmed my nervous system, relaxed my body, and released tension from my breath. The effects of this practice released the fear of future attacks. 

    No amount of trying to talk myself out of the situation helped because my whole system was stuck in a heightened state of tension and anxiety. I needed to learn to bypass my mind and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is exactly what restorative yoga does. 

    Why Restorative Is So Powerful 

    Modern life is fast-paced and filled with stressors that contribute to a constant level of low-grade stress that we're often unaware of. This continuous state of sympathetic nervous system arousal has led to many modern-day illnesses such as asthma, cancer, heart disease, and stress disorders.

    Restorative yoga provides the prefect antidote to stress because it creates a supported pause. By completely supporting the body and being still for extended periods, the breath, the mind, and the nervous system begin to calm. 

    Different restorative poses can be used for different purposes, though they all help to calm and quiet the nervous system. There are poses that open the breath and lift our spirits when we're feeling depressed, poses that are supportive and nurturing when we're feeling anxious, and poses that target specific parts of the body where tension accumulates. 

    Restorative yoga releases tensions on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Since our bodies store all our past experiences, when we let go of the holding in the physical body we often have strong emotional releases. The suppressed emotions and past experiences locked in the body bubble up to the surface and are then released. 

    One of the advantages of a restorative practice is that it can be applied universally to everyone. People who aren't physically able to practice asana, such as the elderly and physically challenged can reap the benefits of deep relaxation and energetic rebalancing. 

    Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra

    When I started teaching adults I included yoga nidra at the end of every class. Most students didn’t know what it was at the time but they kept coming back for more. One of my fellow teachers advised me not to include yoga nidra in classes in New York City. My colleague said students would get frustrated and leave because New Yorkers couldn’t slow down, but the opposite happened and people came back for more. It’s exactly what we need in NYC but we often don’t know it. I found that adding yoga nidra at the end of the practice was very powerful because the restorative postures led students into a place of deep stillness which when followed by yoga nidra induced an even deeper state of surrender enabling the release of past experiences locked in the subconscious and unconscious. 

    I’ve now been teaching my restorative/yoga nidra workshops for the past 12 years. I've worked with Alan Finger to develop a nine-step approach to yoga nidra called "Mona Anand's Ishta Yoga Nidra."

    I design yoga nidras for different imbalances such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. I also design yoga nidra practices for chakra and dosha imbalances, which I teach in restorative/yoga nidra workshops. I am currently writing a book with Alan Finger on yoga nidra and the chakras. 

    To learn more about Mona, visit monaanandyoga.com.

  • 01/01/2020 6:00 AM | Anonymous

    Here we are, beginning a new year and a new decade, certainly an auspicious time! We look forward with great zeal and optimism, as we rightly should, to how we will manifest, at long last, that which will help us to experience greater fulfillment.

    One thing I learned from the years that have passed is that the promises and resolutions put forth at the time of holiday excitement dismally slow down and dim as the energy stabilizes. In fact, the old habits and patterns that were to be changed for the better might even alter to become more fixed and stuck. 

    I would like to share my personal experiences of the last two years that have enriched and changed my practice of yoga. As we all know, because of our interest and involvement in yoga, with its philosophies and all-encompassing teachings, we have a head start toward those changes we desire. At the first YTA retreat at the Himalayan Institute led by Luke Ketterhagen, one point he made resulted in a major physical shift for me resulting in greater freedom of thought. The refinement of Mula Bhanda by using the image of how an octopus travels toward the surface of the sea changed my existing point of view, thus allowing my mind to be more flexible and my physical body to use the strength of the pelvis more efficiently. 

    At the second YTA retreat at the Himalayan Institute with Todd Norian, another simple teaching resulted in greater stability of the shoulder girdle, with the supported expansion of the rib cage permitting more activity for the breath to enhance the function of the heart and lungs. The teaching of simply moving the head of the humorous bone back brought greater alignment to the shoulder, the rotator cuff, the neck, and in the embodiment of the rib cage over the pelvis.

    At this time I am choosing to embrace these teachings, as well as those that continue to evolve through my practice, to enhance, brighten, and strengthen the "now" which ultimately becomes the future. This is my New Year's resolution. We have within us all the joy and light we seek and through our practice, the means to intuit our path and to be inspired as we integrate these teachings for our own greater good.

    Make sure your "list" includes attending the monthly YTA workshops that are held the second Saturday of each month at Club Fit in Briarcliff. See the exciting lineup of workshops and presenters below and on our website. And keep in mind the third annual YTA retreat!

    Yours in yoga, 
    Paula Renuka Heitzner

  • 12/31/2019 11:43 AM | Anonymous

    Some of us come to yoga in a quest to resolve problems with pain, to reduce stress, or to explore our fascination with the body. Others come as part of a spiritual journey, in a quest for greater meaning and personal transcendence. Still others come to yoga seeking emotional balance, freedom from negative emotions, and liberation from a karmic inheritance. Because yoga is a profound discipline, wherever we begin our journey, we eventually find ourselves addressing all these dimensions of healing: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

    I was introduced to yoga in 1975 when I was a young professor of philosophy, through the renowned philosopher Mircea Eliade’s classic book, written in 1936, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Yoga, as Eliade described it, is the pathway to direct knowledge, or the ability to liberate ourselves from illusion. But if ultimate wisdom and the freedom it brings is the goal of yoga, why and how must we use the body to get there? What is it that we are looking for through bodily exploration, beyond greater strength, stability, focus, and alignment? And why can bodily self-awareness lead us to the truth with a big capital “T”? The challenges I faced in my own life led me to explore those questions. The answers to those questions all revolve around one thing: the body is the seat of what is unconscious ourselves. What lies beyond consciousness includes both our restrictions and limitations (all the forms that ego takes), and our higher self. The path into the body brings what is unconscious to light in order to let go of what binds us and become free.

    My own life took me out of a purely intellectual journey as a philosopher and into intensive somatic self-exploration. In 1976 I began to suffer from severe chronic pain. No amount of hospitalization or conventional medical care helped me. Over the years I came to realize that my dis-ease was the result of a combination of factors: on the physical level, scoliosis and a tight ligamentous structure; on the mental level, a hard-driving, self-critical type A personality; and on the karmic level, buried emotional conflicts dating to infancy and before. I was tied up in knots, and it was my body, not my mind, that was showing me that.

    I spent years studying meditation with an Indian spiritual teacher, all of which helped. Then I discovered the Alexander Technique in the late 1980s and its study opened the door to a complete change in understanding of who we are and how to heal. The Alexander Technique is a specific approach to learning how to identify and release unconscious physiological tension. While this tension is physical, it affects every aspect of our being: our thought processes, emotional reactions, and so on. You can’t change those thought processes or emotional reactions more than marginally through mental analysis or psychotherapy, because ultimately the body rules the mind. FM Alexander, the founder of the Alexander Technique, showed that all of us carry excess physiological tension all the time, and demonstrated that this unconscious tension underlies physical disease, as well as mental and emotional stress. He developed ingenious methods for helping people identify, observe, and release this tension. The consequence of putting your primary attention on noticing, feeling,and releasing physiological tension is that life as a whole becomes increasingly effortless, the mind becomes more peaceful, perception becomes more accurate, health improves, and it becomes easier to stay detached in the face of life’s bumps.Does this sound like yoga? It is. It’s not the same as yoga, but it shares a lot of yoga’s ultimate aims. It just uses different tools, a different terminology, and comes from a different culture.

    The path into the subtle body in yoga is the path into more and more refined sensation and perception. It’s a path toward effortlessness. We move from the grosser to the subtler sensations and perceptions. As we learn to do this, we are increasingly able to release negative karmic issues, tied to heavier and grosser sensations (being more tamasic or rajasic), and move toward lighter, more expansive and sattvic states. This process of refinement can only happen if we make effortlessness—softening and letting go—more important than achieving, being right, or any other ego issue. The deeper we move into refined physiological sensation, the more we let go of outer compulsions and reactions. The commitment to the exploration of lighter and lighter states of being is a very important aspect of higher yogic practice. This is a process of ever subtler physiological awareness.

    The quest for effortlessness, with everything it implies, both mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, has been a guiding force in my understanding, study, and teaching of both the Alexander Technique, craniosacral therapy (which I have practiced and taught internationally since 1994), and yoga. It has also been the focus of my three books on self-healing: The Art of Effortless Living, Effortless Pain Relief, and Fear-Less Now.

    The practice of yoga extends far beyond our workout on the mat, in which most of our attention is on strengthening, stabilizing,and expanding the body. As yogis, we all seek to release our own samskaras (grosser physical, spiritual, and emotional restrictions) and become more attuned to our more refined, sattvic selves. And this is a process that takes place every moment of every day. The conscious pursuit of physiological effortlessness, which is identical with deepening peace, can be a great adjunct to the yogi’s journey, and can help deepen one’s understanding of the core meaning of ancient yogic practices.  

  • 11/20/2019 6:37 AM | Anonymous

    From Asana to Samadhi: Exploring the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

    Just as lions, tigers, and elephants are gradually controlled, so prana is controlled through practice. Otherwise the practitioner is destroyed.
    Hatha Yoga Pradipika 2:15

    How well-trained is your inner lion-tiger-elephant? This verse from the preeminent hatha yoga text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, suggests that we all have a beastly inclination in need of taming. This is probably not news to you; most of us know our inner lion-tiger-elephant all too well! It’s the part of us that wants what it wants when it wants it, regardless of the consequences. It’s the blind instinct of life: the powerful drives of hunger, fear, sex, and sleep. It’s our inner two-year-old stamping her foot and refusing to share her cookies, eat her peas, or go to bed on time. This untrained lion-tiger-elephant resists any efforts at discipline or restraint. Unregulated, it rampages blindly through life, driven by instinct and habit. From the yogic point of view, we are acting out patterns laid down in the unconscious mind, spinning on the wheel of karma, mindlessly squandering prana, our precious life force, on worldly affairs without making an attempt to realize the purpose of life.

    However, the verse also implies that although we have inherited a beastly side, we have also inherited an inner-wild-animal trainer. In other words, we have the inherent capacity to control prana and regulate the life force that animates our body and mind. This trainer has intelligent self-awareness, and serves as an inner locus of control that is not thoughtlessly driven by unregulated passions, selfish desires, fear, or greed. Our inner trainer has discrimination, intention, and purpose. Our inner trainer has the capacity to train the exuberant pranic force and create a harmonious, enjoyable inner world.

    Now the question becomes: what kind of training, and how do we train ourselves? As for what kind of training, here’s a hint: The verse appears in the chapter about pranayama practice, in a text on the practice of hatha yoga.

    As for how: Prana gradually comes under control with practice. Perhaps that reminds you of what Patanjali tells us right up front in the Yoga Sutra (YS 1:14):  “That [practice] becomes firm only when done for a long period of time, with no interruption, and with reverence.”  He’s explaining abhyasa, the “ardent effort to retain the peaceful flow of the mind free from roaming tendencies.” Bringing prana under control reins in the wild-animal mind, roaming under the spell of its habits and instincts, but mastery is achieved only with sustained, uninterrupted, reverent practice.

    Like instincts, our individual karmic samskaras can be deeply ingrained in our unconscious mind. It takes time and consistency to create positive new habits that are just as strong as our undesirable old habits. This is true of training elephants and tigers, and it is true of training our mind. Patience is required in training wild animals, and that is just what is needed in working with our inner lion-tiger-elephant. Patience means having reasonable expectations, avoiding condemnation, staying the course in the face of setbacks, and cultivating commitment for the long run. It also requires having faith in the practice and in the process of training. Faith, or shraddha, develops from knowledge and understanding, from our own experience, and from confidence in the experience of those who have gone before us—the lineage and tradition of teachers and practitioners who have shared their accomplishments and their methods. Without faith, doubt undermines our dedication and consistency of effort.

    Finally, practice with reverence. Have respect for the inner lion-tiger-elephant and its enormous strength and power. After all, our animal nature is also an expression of the divine, worthy of our respect, and essential for our life here in the phenomenal world. The Sanskrit word sevita, translated in this verse as “practice,” has connotations of protection and preservation, as well as pursuit and practice. We must be firm and consistent in practice, yes, but we must also feed and protect our inner lion-tiger-elephant self. Think of it this way: Love and serve your teeth and claws, and they will love and serve you.

    And now we come to the consequences of not training ourselves. “The sadhaka (practitioner) is destroyed,” reads the last stanza of this verse. At the mercy of haphazard experiences, instinct, social conditioning, and deep-seated distorted perceptions, the untrained mind creates enormous stress in the mind and body, and so we fall victim to distress, sorrow, anger, and disease. Untrained, the pranic force runs amok, exhausting our vitality in the pursuit of worldly and instinctive desires. We suffer; we die in ignorance; the practitioner is destroyed. The great gift and promise of yoga is that we can bring the wild animal to heel. Then our passions, in the service of a greater intelligence, operate joyfully and harmoniously at every level of our being. Our vision begins to clear, and we realize that our life’s beastly inclinations and all—is emanating from the source of divine consciousness, eternally pulsing in the depths of our heart.

    Republished with permission from himalayaninstitute.org

  • 10/17/2019 6:55 AM | Anonymous

    My interest in scoliosis was fueled both by my own right thoracolumbar curve and my mother’s severe scoliosis, generated by having her left arm braced overhead for the first six months of her life. A boyfriend’s scoliosis is what originally brought me to yoga itself. I was looking for something that might help him with his back. Together we started yoga classes in Munich. 

    When I returned to New York, I continued my studies, slowly making it my career path, and went on to train with both Elise Miller and Bobbie Fultz, the two Iyengar pioneers of yoga for scoliosis. I completed my certification in yoga for scoliosis with Elise Miller. I began anatomy studies with Irene Dowd in New York, and subsequently completed Gil Hedley’s life-changing six-day human dissection course for nonmedical professionals. I continued to study anatomy and kinesiology and developed new material for yoga for scoliosis. I also began using mudras, energy-channeling hand gestures that can deeply impact the body and mind.

    In 2007, I cofounded the first and only dedicated yoga for backcare and scoliosis center in the world. There I conduct “Gold Standard” 200-hour Three-Pillars of Practice Teacher Trainings and a full 500-hour Mandala of Yoga Masters program and teach workshops and master classes nationwide, in Europe and in the Middle East. In 2011, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, I opened the new Yoga Union and Yoga Union Backcare & Scoliosis Center, with both a dedicated Backcare Program and a full regular yoga program from basics to level 3-4.

    I also became involved in the creation of Yoga for NY in 2007, the organization that represents all yoga studios, teachers, and students in New York State, when the state attempted to license Yoga Teacher Trainings. I was elected Executive Director and Chair of Yoga for NY, which succeeded in defeating this licensing attempt with a bill signed into law by then Governor Paterson. I went on to defeat the city’s attempt to impose a “class tax” on yoga classes despite the prevailing view that this would be impossible to accomplish. 

    My workshop for the YTA on November 9 will give the basic tools for reading a back and an understanding of the fundamental principles of action to help balance the spine, as well as the entire interconnected organic body. 

    Learn more at yogaunion.com

  • 09/16/2019 6:45 AM | Anonymous

    From the base of the mountain, many paths. From the peak, only one moon.

    While yoga has its roots in Indian Vedic scriptures, qigong grew out of the Chinese Taoist pursuit of longevity. For me, they are different paths up the same mountain; the goal of each is to improve the health of the body, to calm and clarify the mind, and to strengthen connection to the human spirit and humanity. These forms complement each other so well, that for me a synthesis of yoga and qigong as a practice has become the most potent combination for the improving my life and the lives of my students. 

    Looking at each system separately (and I know I’m speaking in broad categorizations), yoga has been described as the “union of body, mind, and spirit.” The physical practices of yoga are geared towards the cultivation of strength and flexibility in the body. As I see it, for the most part the postures of yoga are quite lineal, with straight lines and angles predominating. Alignment and precision are not only important, but required; to really “stretch” the body we need to bring sustained effort to opening the connective tissue in ways that do not injure. This requires correct technique, time, and skillful application of effort. 

    Qigong translates as “life energy cultivation” and utilizes practices that enhance the flow of life force in our bodies. The exercises often involve connecting breath with gentle, circular, flowing movements, bringing suppleness to the body and flexibility to the mind. It is this suppleness that allows the free flow of healing life force (qi) and connects one to authentic being. Through qigong practice the senses are cleansed, and the movement of energy is experienced as pure joy.

    These two systems, yoga and qigong, are not at odds with each other. On the contrary, they are mutually supportive paths up the same mountain, from which the  “one moon” can be seen in all it’s brilliance. Strength and flexibility through yoga (ability to hold firm) and suppleness  (ability to hold yield) through qigong.

    So, in the end, the objective is to meld the linear (expansion in all directions) and the circular (return to the source), creating a practice that improves strength, flexibility and suppleness. This brings balance to yin and yang, heaven and earth, sun and moon, male and female. Dancing with this “pair of opposites” brings balance to the whole being and connects us to all of nature. 

    For more about Daniel, visit yogaofenergyflow.com/.

  • 09/10/2019 7:05 AM | Anonymous

    From the late '60s forward, I had the good fortune to study with many of the renowned yoga teachers who had come to the U.S. from India. Yoga felt incredibly familiar to me and totally in alignment with my path and purpose, but I always felt that something was missing, something as yet undefined. It seemed that many of the Eastern teachers assumed that Western bodies and Western psyches were somehow not quite ready for the truly authentic, unabashed techniques that would deliver us to unprecedented breakthroughs and bliss. That all changed when Yogi Bhajan unveiled Kundalini Yoga, which I encountered as a student at the University in Chicago in 1972. 

    Kundalini is a tantric path. Tantra means that the seen and unseen are interwoven. It also posits that desperate times (Kaliyug or the Age of Darkness, which we're in now despite the onset of the Aquarian Age) call for desperate measures (i.e., what works!). Kundalini Yoga is immediate, powerful, and potent. It's a gift to humanity from the saints and sages of the ages and lets us enter into the profound process of our unfolding in the context of life as we know it. Life is the crucible for our transformation process. But we need to approach life with a firm discipline and the willingness to take our yoga beyond our mat and extend it to everything we do. 

    I first met Yogi Bhajan in 1973. He was not like the swamis and gurus I'd met previously. He was more like Sean Connery in the Wind and the Lion rather than Ben Kingsley in Ghandi. What I learned from Yogi Bhajan was exactly what I'd always been looking for in my yoga journey: something immediate; something with some spiritual juice; and, most importantly, something that I could pass on as a teacher to help people deal effectively with all of the issues they invariably encounter. 

    For many years I was the only Kundalini Yoga teacher in Manhattan. I had a number of yoga centers and throughout the '80s and beyond I published books, videos, and DVDs. In the 2000s I met Ana Brett, who was a sub for the Vinyasa teachers at my studio. We soon merged into one unit and began to teach together. We recently published The Kundalini Yoga Book—Life in the Vast Lane, a 10-year project. 

    This year marks my 45th year of teaching. Yoga now in the U.S. is a bit bipolar. On one hand, it's trendy and silly (goat yoga, beer yoga, nude yoga…) and conversely it's evolving into something amazing. What I foresee is a Grand Synthesis of yoga styles that will be woven through the fabric of our culture and consciousness. 

    A Kundalini Yoga teacher is a spiritual teacher because Kundalini Yoga is all about spirit. When spirit is present we can live our greatness. The purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to give us the means to live lit up. What I see happening among many modern yogis is that people are sometimes losing sight of what's important. The key is to remember what the saints and sages have been telling us for 5000 years. Successful living means bringing our minds and emotions under conscious control. Also, we need to deal with karma before it deals with us. We need to live in a way that honors and gathers energy. Our chakras, nadis, nerves, and all bodily systems need to be aligned and purified every day. Every day we need to ingratiate ourselves with the self that never dies. Kundalini Yoga gives us the means to do all that every day so we can live the high life. Then our life can become our yoga and yoga can be our life. 

    I look forward to seeing all of you on September 14 at the YTA's kickoff for the 2019 season of workshops. You will experience a yoga workout, and we'll also be focusing on yoga tools for every form of modern malaise. These include: thyroid issues, addiction, weight loss, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, issues around menopause, adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, depression, insomnia ... and anything you would like to request a protocol for. 

    Increase your professional palette. Share in a powerful group energy. Give your life and practice an energy boost. Manifest destiny and heal the world!

    To learn more about Ravi, go to raviana.com.

  • 12/01/2018 4:55 PM | Anonymous

    I just read a column for a newsletter that I wrote 9 years ago entitled Healing Through Dance.  I had written it after my 53rd birthday ... Yes, that makes me 62 years old now.  And the essence of what I wrote in that article still holds true for me today, that dance is healing.

    In the article, I was sharing how some painful feelings were opening up for me in celebrating my birthday. Any of you know that experience, where celebrating your birthday brings up issues!?

    A few days after that birthday, I was teaching at my studio and because of my struggles around my birthday, I had no inspiration to teach, nothing to give. Yet the music spoke to my spirit, and the pain I felt around my birthday transformed into the joy of dance.

    So as I’m in my 60s, I still have the same joy through dance as I had in my teens!! I would have never imagined when I was in my late teens and discovering dance as a career path that I would be dancing like this at 62!

    Not only that, I still feel as connected to the grace, power, and aliveness in my body—maybe even more so now than I had over 40 years ago. As I've cultivated more mindfulness and connection to energy within the body, it actually feels like I feel MORE joy and life force moving within me as I dance now. What a blessing!

    What's the secret to healing through dance? My sense is that what makes dance healing is that it keeps our spirit young. When rockin' music is playing what do kids do? Yes, they dance! Put the same music on in a room full of adults and what do they do? They usually talk. Something has happened to the spontaneity of our spirit that we had as children and how our spirit was intimately connected to our body.

    We can recover this lost connection of body and spirit. That's why I call Shake Your Soul "the yoga of dance." When our body and spirit return to each other—THAT is yoga! The key to recovering our spirit's youthfulness through dance can be as simple as putting on a piece of music that moves you and let it move you!  

    Honestly, that is a big part of it—trusting our movement instinct. Yet there is something even MORE wonderful when we have this kind of communion experience of our bodies and souls in a community of other bodies and souls. Dance, indigenously, was a community experience for the most part.

    For me, the art of teaching a dance class that invites people's spirits and bodies to unite is in the linking of meditative movement disciplines like yoga and qi gong into the dance experience. This provides participants a direct connection to embodied spirit that can then find its way into the dance. Alongside this, I build in creative dance exercises into my classes, what many of us did as kids, like follow the leader.

    We all need permission and support to reconnect to our creative spirits. We all get the encouragement to exercise,  become more flexible, and increase muscular strength and cardiovascular health—all so very important. Yet what about the health of our being that IS about reconnecting our bodies and movement with our life force or spirit? How can we be disciplined in terms of building movement back into our lives but at the same time connected to the FREEDOM of our spirits that dance can bring us?

    I invite you to answer these questions experientially through dancing with me at my Shake Your Soul workshop January 12th.  It would be a joy and privilege for me to support you in uniting your body with your spirit through dance. 

    To learn more about Dan, visit leveninstitute.com.

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