February 2019 Newslette

The Yoga Teachers Association Proudly Presents

The Karma of Your Verbal Cues

with Jason Ray Brown

February 9, 2019

1:30–4:30 pm
The Yoga Studio at Club Fit
584 North State Road
Briarcliff Manor, NY

Leading students into healthy postural alignment has as much to do with what not to say as it does with what to say. 

In this workshop, we’ll examine common verbal cues about the pelvis and shoulder girdle and their ripple effect over time should a student continue to practice them for months or years to come. While it may be an appropriate cue for them today, will it continue to be a healthy cue over time, or will it eventually lead to an imbalance and/or injury? Furthermore, how do you incorporate anatomical and biomechanical information in a group yoga class without overwhelming your students with language that they may not understand? 

Join Jason to explore the karma of the yoga cues you offer in class and learn alternative strategies and cues to preserve the health of the hips and shoulders. 

Jason Ray Brown has over 20 years of collective experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, clinical massage therapist, and functional anatomy educator. He was the owner of Zenyasa Yoga & Wellness Studio and creator of Zenyasa, a contemporary movement practice synthesizing slow-flow yoga, Zen Buddhism, biomechanics, and functional strength and conditioning. Jason most recently launched Functional Anatomy Academy for yoga teachers and other movement professionals. 

To attend Jason’s workshop, register now!

Workshops are $45 members / $65 nonmembers in advance ($55 / $75 at the door).
Preregistration is highly recommended in order to guarantee a space in the workshop.
Cancellation within 24 hours of a workshop may result in forfeiture of the registration fee.


My Yoga Journey

by Jason Ray Brown

I suppose that my path to yoga begins with my mother, before I even knew that yoga existed. As a kid, I remember sneaking into her room to look through her colorfully illustrated book about a beautiful blue man that was often depicted playing the flute. I later came to learn that the book was the Bhagavad Gita, and that the blue man was Krishna. My mother was a hippie-child in the 60s, and in addition to her revolutionary spirit she also shared lots of stories, wisdom, and insight with me from her explorations of Eastern spirituality. But it wasn’t until I moved to New York City in the mid-90s that I discovered the physical practice of yoga. 

After graduating from Gonzaga University in 1994 with a degree in theater, I spent about six months in London working as an office temp and auditioning and acting in various fringe productions. In 1995, I made the big decision to move to New York to pursue acting. While on the one hand it was amazing to be following my heart, it was also very stressful! Acting classes and head shots were expensive, and as soon as I’d find a decent job to pay the bills, I’d have to quit that job in order to take a part in a show. So it seemed as if I was always looking for work and often anxious about how I was going to pay the rent. Looking for an antidote to the stress, I started spending time in the self-help section at Barnes & Noble, where I’d sit on the floor and read the books right there because I couldn’t afford to buy them. One day, I ventured a little beyond the self-help section and discovered a super small section of books under the category of “Yoga and Tai Chi.” There were only a handful of books there at the time, but one of them changed the course of my life completely.

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann was the first book that I ever read about yoga. The words on those pages spoke to a long dormant aspect of my inner being. I resonated with everything Erich said, and I knew that I’d just discovered my new path. I started asking everyone I knew if they’d heard about yoga. Remember, this was before the age of the Internet, so I couldn’t just do a simple Google search. But eventually I found someone who practiced yoga, and she recommended the Integral Yoga Institute (IYI) on West 13th Street. I started taking classes there regularly and fell in love with the practice. I became a vegetarian, gave up smoking and drinking, and did my best to live a yogic lifestyle. I attended teacher training at the IYI in the Fall of 1998 and started teaching at the IYI in January of 1999. 

After graduating from IYI’s teacher training, I was hungry to learn more about yoga from different teachers, so I started exploring other practices. I took classes at the Sivananda Institute, Jivamukti, the Iyengar Institute, and OM Yoga Studio. I really resonated with the alignment-informed, slow-paced vinyasa style at Cyndi Lee's OM Yoga and found myself practicing there more and more. I eventually enrolled in the Road to OM teacher training with Cyndi and began teaching at OM Yoga in 2000. Shortly after that I traveled to the West Coast to attend a 2-week teacher training intensive with Erich Schiffmann, and it felt amazing to finally study with the teacher whose book had so radically changed my life. 

In 2002, I enrolled in the Swedish Institute of Massage Therapy. While I was initially only interested in learning more about the body in order to become a better yoga teacher, I ended up completing the entire curriculum and become a licensed massage therapist in early 2006. It was during my massage studies at the Swedish Institute that I discovered a passion for the study of functional anatomy. Believing that you teach what you want to learn, I started offering a series of anatomy courses for my yoga teacher colleagues that eventually became known as “Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers (ASFYT).” I taught the series using a couple of fantastic books by Joseph Muscolino, Kinesiology: The Skeletal System and Muscle Function and The Muscular System Manual. Both of these books went far beyond what I’d learned at the Swedish Institute, and teaching from them took my own knowledge of human movement to new heights. 

In 2008, I trademarked my own style of yoga called Zenyasa, which is essentially a slow-flow yoga practice that incorporates elements of Zen Buddhism, functional strength and conditioning, Tai Chi, and moderately paced vinyasa yoga. I opened the Zenyasa Yoga & Wellness Studio in 2010, where I and others offered Zenyasa classes, the ASFYT Series, Zenyasa teaching training programs, and therapeutic massage services. Sadly, we recently lost the lease on our little yoga haven, but I have plans to continue offering the ASFYT Series and Zenyasa programs in the months and years to come. In the meantime, I continue to offer private yoga and therapeutic massage services in upper Manhattan,Yonkers, lower Westchester, and at my home in Riverdale. The journey continues!

Learn more at jasonraybrown.com


2019 Workshops

Jason Ray Brown: The Karma of Your Verbal Cues
February 9
Details and registration info in this newsletter and at ytayoga.com.

Deborah Lubetkin: LifeForce Yoga to Meet the Anxious Mood
March 9
LifeForce Yoga interweaves ancient disciplines with current scientific findings to help you release what no longer serves you and become the agent of your own healing. Learn yoga tools not taught in regular classes to support the healing journey for yourself or others. Develop a practice that includes breathing exercises, easy postures, and guided meditations. This program covers evidence-based yogic tools designed to relax and calm anxiety and bring balance to the emotional body.

Ray Crist: Yoga and the Luminous Body
April 13
This is an experiential workshop that offers a direct understanding of yoga and its healing power, as well as an introduction to Shamanic energy healing. Ray has a unique way of making deep knowledge accessible to all. You will understand what shamanic work is all about and you will acquire tools that you can use to heal yourself and others. This workshop tends to the healing and evolution of all three perceptual states: lecture for the mind, yoga asana for the body, and shamanic journeys for the soul.

Paula Heitzner: Beyond the Triangle—Esoteric Poses to Spice Up Your Teaching
May 11
Do you like to be surprised, delighted, and enlightened? Our workshop presenter this month is equipped to offer you these experiences. Be prepared to learn the obscure postures that were gleaned over the years from esoteric studies, ancient lore, and Eastern art and philosophy. Be inspired to spice up your own practice and teaching methodology. Note taking and question asking is encouraged and expected!

Tao Porchon-Lynch: Celebrating Life!
June 8
Experience 100-years-young Tao Porchon-Lynch’s unique and accessible teachings firsthand. Use the four pillars of yoga—pranayama (breath work), mudras (gestures), bandhas (energetic locks), and chakras (energy centers)—to explore the rich potential of the body to renew, heal, and revitalize. Practice Tao’s special “yoga tango” and learn subtle techniques that are not taught anywhere else. Walk away inspired, strengthened, renewed, and ready to energize your practice and life.


Eileen O’Keeffe

Tribute to a Long-Time Yogi

Eileen O’Keeffe, long time friend and yoga teacher, died January 14, 2019, after a long battle with cancer. Eileen, diagnosed in January 2016, fought valiantly, with guts, determination, resilience, and some humor.  

Eileen and her friend, Rosemarie, the story goes, went to sign up for a class that taught speedreading. Since that class was full, Eileen opted to take the yoga series while her friend did not.  Reportedly, Eileen loved it, became a convert, and began taking yoga seriously. While she commenced practice with Dharma Mittra in NYC, her move to Westchester County led her to a search that connected her to Tao Porchon-Lynch and Betsy Kase, prior to her ownership of Yoga Haven. Betsy and Eileen took teacher training with Tao Porchon-Lynch, becoming certified from Tao’s Westchester Institute of Yoga. Eileen taught for health clubs and worked privately with clients. Prior to that, she began taking classes with John Friend, whose Anusara yoga was popular throughout the yoga community from coast to coast. Subsequent to Eileen narrowing down her training, she began studying with and taking workshops with Todd Norian. Eileen always defined her teaching as “classic Hatha yoga.“ She did not easily run to follow the various styles of yoga. She taught a type that was accessible to all, yet her classes were by no means easy!!

I met Eileen through Betsy Kase, as Betsy was leaving New York Sports Club to open her own yoga studio in Tuckahoe. Eileen was teaching for New York Sports Club at the time we met. We soon became yoga buddies. And shortly after becoming friends with her, I took teacher training with Betsy at Yoga Haven. Eileen and I began traveling to yoga retreats together. As part of teacher training with Betsy, Eileen and I, with Betsy’s other teacher trainers, went on retreats to Kripalu to take classes with Erich Schiffmann.  Eileen was always the one who, whenever she was able, would attend yoga retreats where we would practice together. She would then break down the hardest poses during our time together, so that I could learn and later teach them.

Eileen was a long-time member of the Yoga Teachers Association, taking on the role of YTA president at one point. Eileen worked tirelessly in YTA, teaching ten yoga classes a week, rearing a family, and holding down a demanding full-time job. Eileen always exhibited a can do approach—tirelessly handling these responsibilities with grace and loads of energy! She believed that YTA was an important component of being a student and teacher. She always made her students aware of YTA in order to assist them in furthering their yoga practice. 

Eileen lived her practice of yoga off the mat. Her practice was a testament to her students and friends, and her family. She approached life with a sense of humor, reality, reason, common sense, integrity, and fun. She will be missed by so many—for all of these things and more! Om shanti, shanti shanti.

—Sylvia Samilton-Baker  


Words of Wisdom

from Paula Renuka Heitzner

Dear All, 

Beloved fables, fairytales, and folklore abound in this month. Groundhogs poke through their nesting places hoping to see their shadows to determine the duration of their rest. Cupid and his bow and arrow bring lovers together in honor of St. Valentine.

Nature's way of resourcing rest and rejuvenation through hibernation during very trying seasonal conditions is reputed to have a tiny window during this month of February. The resting animals (bears, for example) peruse their state of affairs, determining when to begin the arousal process that highlights their return to lifestyle activities.

“Goldilocks and The Three Bears” represent an often repeated and well-loved story that crosses through all three of the above categories and can also be used, allegorically, in our yoga practice. The return of the three bears to their home after their winter rest creates the drama in life we can all identify with. In this story, the number 3 is dominant—bears, bowls, chairs, and beds—reminiscent of the Aum mantra, which has several important triads (Brahma—Vishnu—Shiva, for instance). The bears are aware of the disturbances and disruptions they encounter in their home, reminding us of how important  conscious awareness is as we go through our own "homes." When they discover the source of their invasion, their compassionate way of dealing with Goldilocks is a beautiful lesson to emulate. Her adventuresome journey serves to illustrate for us another important yogic lesson—she tried and tested everything she encountered with curiosity and courage and decided what worked best for her, discernment through inner guidance.  

Meditation, in our yoga practice, gives us the benefits of hibernation. The stillness affords us the benefits of the sleep state. 

End your sleep state, this month, and wake up to the advantages YTA has to offer yoga teachers and serious students. The workshops are informative and more interesting than hibernation. 

Yours In yoga, 
Paula Renuka Heitzner


Your Thoughts

Do the risks of headstands outweigh the benefits?

Sirsasana, headstand, is in the lineup of important postures in a serious yoga practice and offers great benefits. Because of the nature of inversion, circulation and respiration are greatly enhanced. There are several variations for the asana, but the mastery of its simplest execution gives one balance and poise, both mentally and physically, helping the practitioner to release fearfulness in a practical way. It demands focus and concentration when one is learning the basic set-up for the pose, creating leg and abdominal strength. When taught and practiced correctly, I think the benefits outweigh the risks, except if one suffers from dizziness, high blood pressure, or ocular and retinal disorders. These individuals should avoid the practice until they make deeper health changes and get clearance from their physician. 

I think the practice of Sirsasana builds trust, not only in the self, but between student and teacher.

This section is dedicated to answering your questions about yoga—as a student or as a teacher. Questions? Comments? Send them to ytaeditor@gmail.com or go to our Facebook page. Tell us your thoughts!

Paula Heitzner, ERYT– 500, is a Master Yoga Teacher. She has taught yoga for over 50 years and has trained many others to teach the time-honored principles, practices, and philosophy of yoga. The “teacher of teachers,” as she is called by her students, teaches at the New Age Center in Nyack. 

Learn more about Paula at nyackyogacenter.com.


From the January YTA workshop with Dan Leven


Member Events 

YTA members (individuals & studios) are invited to include their events here. Send details to ytaeditor@gmail.com by the 15th of the month to be included in the following month’s newsletter. Member events are also posted in YTA's online directorythe source for information about yoga teachers, studios, and yoga teacher trainings throughout the Hudson Valley. To be included, individual and studio members may send their information to ytadirectory@gmail.com.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Family Dog Yoga (hosting studio)
Elisha Simpson
12 N Division St, 2nd Floor
Peekskill, NY

Teen Mindfulness for Peekskill Youth
Ongoing (Tues, 3:15-4 pm)
Elisha Simpson of Crossover Yoga Project and Pat Taylor offer free mindfulness sessions to help teens learn how to control impulsive behavior, focus better in school, and develop empathy toward themselves and others. Free for Peekskill youth.

Iyengar Yoga Scarsdale
Nancy Kardon
74 Brewster Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583


299 Greenwich Avenue, 3rd Fl.
Greenwich, CT 

Iyengar Yoga Fundamentals with Nancy Kardon 
Feb 2 (Sat, 11:45 am-12:45 pm)Learn the basic actions of alignment and balance, how to quiet the mind by paying attention to how we make the basic shapes in Asana practice. $25; free for new students 

Scoliosis and Back Care with Nancy Kardon 
Jan 19 (Sat, 2:15-3:45 pm)
Learn how to identify bhow the back is uneven, what pushes out, what goes in, and how to work with asymmetry. We will use wall ropes and other props to help us learn and create extension and gain strength. $25

Riverstone Yoga
Contact: Jeanette
2 Hudson View Way
Tarrytown, NY 10591
914-332-YOGA (9642)

Journey Through the Chakras with Shawna Emerick 
Feb 2 (Sat, 1:30-3:30 am)
Do you have some creativity blossoming within you, but just don’t know how to express your authentic self? Has fear caught hold of you? Explore how these thoughts pertain to your yoga practice. $50

Level Two Training: Teaching the Whole Child with Mayuri Gonzalez
Feb 2 & 3 (Sat & Sun, 9 am-7 pm)
Little Flower Yoga is back at Riverstone. For those who completed Level One, this training will expand on your knowledge and confidence when teaching in schools. If interested in finding a Level One training near you, check out the website. $695

Pebble Yoga with Angelique 
Feb 12 (Tues, 4-4:45 pm)
6-week series: Ages 4-7. Help students become more familiar with their breath, body, and feelings. Classes focus on awareness with poses, games, creative exercises, relaxation, and experimental movement.  $125 for the series

Beginner Yoga Series with Shannon R 
Feb 24 (Sun, 11:30 am—1 pm)
4-week series. Learn the foundations of yoga, focusing on breath and learning postures. Each week we will focus on a set of postures and how to best come into the pose in our own bodies. Students will guide the pace of this class. $95 for the series

Yoga Culture
Contact: Kristine Habersang
105 Mill Plain Road
Danbury, CT 06811

Yoga Nidra: Guided Relaxation & Meditation with Allison Ray Jeraci
Feb 1 (Fri, 7:30-8:30 pm)
Let Allison be your guide in this restorative yogic sleep. In a relaxed state, you’ll delve into the layers of consciousness, tap into what’s important, and release what’s not, creating a state of peace and bliss. $30

Spread the Love Restorative Yoga Workshop with Jacqueline Just
Feb 15 (Fri, 7:30-9:30 pm)
Offer yourself some much needed love, patience, and kindness. This heart-opening practice will provide you with mental clarity and emotional calm to support yourself and those close to your heart. We will begin with a guided meditation called maitri (love and kindness) meditation and then move into a supported asana practice utilizing props to allow surrender and release. $35 


~ Final Thoughts ~



Newsletter design and layout: Lisa Sloane 

Editorial team: Terry Fiore Lavery, Paula Heitzner, Audrey Brooks

Yoga Teachers Association was created by a small group of pioneering yoga teachers in 1979 who saw the need for affordable and continuing education. Today, YTA continues as a 5013c nonprofit dedicated to expanding learning opportunities for teachers and committed students.


$50 annual dues for individual YTA membership
$75 for studio membership

Workshop Fees 

$45 members / $65 nonmembers in advance
($55 and $75 at the door)

Find out about and register for upcoming workshops at ytayoga.com/Events.

Like YTA on Facebook!


Audrey Brooks

Vice President 
Lorraine Burton

Steven Cownie

Susan Edwards Colson

Board Member-At-Large
Paula Heitzner, ERYT

Program Coordinator
Robin Laufer, MS Ed, RYT 500

Special Events
Gina Callender

Terry Fiore Lavery, RYT

Newsletter Design & Layout
Lisa Sloane, MA, ERYT

President Emeritus
Tao Porchon-Lynch, ERYT, IAYT