January 2021 Newslette

Words of Welcome

Dear All, 

Happy New Year! Three little words that hopefully will ring true in the following days of 2021. We have all been touched by the pandemic, and 2020 will be remembered by the virus-induced illnesses, the interrupted work schedules and ensuing monetary losses, the isolation of social distancing, and the burden of home schooling. This translates into unheard of levels of anxiety, stress, and depression touching every strata of the population, creating the vicious cycle of exhaustion and insomnia, further perpetuating the destruction of the immune system and the depletion of spirit and strength.

The go-to strategy of sleeping pills and drugs are not working efficiently enough for all, and medical experts are increasingly turning to more natural solutions. The safest solution to deal with these stressors is to accommodate the body's need for sound sleep and relaxation, without drugs and pharmaceutical intervention. Our practice of yoga supplies a natural, organic approach, reminding us of the resources available to us through this practice, and offers three other words to empower ourselves as we move into the future: 

• Sustainability: the Warrior
• Succor: the Witness  
• Service: the Wise One

The viable option of yoga as a therapeutic resource is recognized by Psychology Today and researchers at Harvard Medical School. Their investigations showed how a daily yoga practice could be an effective, positive way to deal with insomnia, and to gain sleep quality and quantity to arrest further deterioration of the immune system and to repair any resulting damage, neurologically.

Here are the guidelines, or New Year's Resolutions, that each of us can adapt and adjust to create a healthy body, mind, and spirita "new style of resolutions" for the "new" norm:

1. Avoid bright screens and stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) close to bed time.
2. Exercise during the day to better rest later onnot too late to disrupt sleep.
3. Hydrate before sleep because it is less disruptive than dehydration.
4. Read a book, pray, meditate, do gentle yoga, and breathe deeply and slowly before bedtime. Restful activity induces sound sleep.
5. Don't nap during the day if your nighttime sleep is poor.

These five suggestions create the important "sleep hygiene of health." Another suggestion would be to embrace your practice of yoga even more closely now and to immerse your being in the benefits it bestows upon usnever truer or more important! 

Our 2021 YTA lineup of monthly Zoom workshops is awesome. Avail yourself for health and harmony with other "yoga cronies” against COVID-19.

Yours in yoga, 

Paula Renuka Heitzner

2021 Workshops

Saturday, January 9
1:30–4:30 p.m.

via Zoom

** $35 members / $55 nonmembers **

The Five Elements 
in Yoga

with Colleen Breeckner

 AUM arises from ether; ether in action is the air element; action creates friction and heat; through friction and heat arises light, followed by fire… Fire liquefies, creating vapor water; water then flows and becomes solid earth. Based on these principles, the body generates and creates, and it does so most effectively when in balance. 

Ayurveda looks to uncover the deeper causes of disease, thought, and behavior. It’s a lifestyle practice aimed at avoiding disease. 

Asana sequencing is optimized when it includes a combination of posture and breath work to balance the five elements. Artful sequencing considers the following variables: time of life, time of year, state of imbalance, individual constitution, and ability.  Individuals will benefit from practices that consider these variables.  

This workshop will begin to illustrate how to sequence for individuals and groups to better meet the needs of students and private clients. 

Note: A recording will be made available to registrants for 7 days following the workshop. 

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 The Zoom meeting link will be sent in your registration confirmation upon receipt of payment.

Please ensure you have it before the workshop—check your junk/spam folder!

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Colleen Breeckner has been a student of yoga for over 24 years and is an eRYT-500 with the Yoga Alliance. Colleen trained for certification in the Anusara teaching method for 7 years, and she is a certified Ayurvedic health counselor, as well as a certified herbalist. She is the director of Lila Tandava Yoga Teacher Training based in New York and Connecticut. She frequently hosts workshops, classes, and outdoor adventure retreats for adults, teens, and children both internationally and nationally. She is known for her playful and spirited style and for her ability to convey complex spiritual teachings in a lighthearted, accessible way. Her clear articulation of the poses along with her creativity make her classes profound, physically challenging, and fun. Throughout the years, Colleen has kept a foothold in a variety of different traditions, including Vinyasa, Anusara, Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Katonah Yoga, therapeutics, and more. She feels that all traditions have something of value to offer and truly honors each system for the perspective they give to the teachings. Colleen is driven by a deep commitment to humanity, helping others to surmount life’s challenges and find the strength within themselves to prevail. She continues to pursue learning in all areas of yoga and movement. She has a son, Kaleo (22), and a dog, Riley (7).

Register Now


  Bonus Workshop!

January 30

Yoga for Everybody
with Dianne Bondy
Explore techniques to help adapt yoga asana to different body types. This workshop will look at the role of body image, race, diversity, wellness, and diet culture in yoga and will include an accessible asana practice, lecture, and time for Q&A. 

February 13
Beautiful Poses
with Judith Rose

pend a special afternoon taking in the beauty of poses from a variety of Yogic and Jewish Mystical traditions. Experience Vishnu the Sustainer, Lightning Bolt of Shiva, Krishna the Flute-Player, Reclining Buddha, and unique variations of Warrior. Then enter the mystery realm through “Otiyot Hayyot, a lyrical and expressive movement practice based on Kabbalistic understandings of the Hebrew alphabet. Discover ancient wisdom secrets through the embodiment of the sacred.
Come to pose, to play, and to pause!

March 13
Moving into Stillness:
An Afternoon of Meditation
and Yoga

with Hunt Parr

In this three-hour master class, we will look at yoga practice as a way to explore the Buddhist methods of mindfulness and compassion. You can expect direct lineage meditation instruction, an asana class with creative sequencing and transition work, and a gradual transition into restorative yoga and pranayama to downregulate and send you floating away with a sense of integration. There will be plenty of time to ask questions, explore how things fit together, and insights to add to your own yoga practice, teaching  practice, and life. 

April 10
Yoga and Bodymind Ballwork for Osteoarthritis
with Ellen Saltonstall

May 8
Kung Fu Yoga with Nina Crist

June 12
Practice to Empower Personal Possibil
with Paula Heitzner

Unless otherwise stated, 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.

From the December Workshop
with Jillian Pransky



The Five Elements

and Ayurveda

by Colleen Breeckner

Nature possesses a qualitative energy through which we can either expand into wisdom or contract into ignorance. —David Frawley, Ayurveda and the Mind

Seasonal rituals are created to aid our bodies in adjusting to seasonal shifts in temperature, moisture, sunshine, and diet to make these periodic transitions smooth. We achieve this by shoring up the immune system through a combination of nourishing practices that are individually applied based on deficiencies or excesses in any of the five elements in the body. The five elements are earth, water, fire, air, and space.

  • Earth (prithivi) rules the lower body. The primary areas are the feet, thighs, and knees with relationship to the hips and sciatic nerve. Connecting to the Earth through the four corners of the feet honors the four directions, thereby setting a strong foundation.
  • Water (apas) rules the hips. The area of focus is the hips, sacrum, and psoas, and water is seen in the secretions and digestive juices, mucous, and plasma. When aligned in this area, it brings fluidity and flow to the body. Without fluidity, this area promotes “stuckness” and uncoordinated movements.
  • Fire (agni) rules the navel. The primary areas in practice are the core, lower back, and diaphragm. It lies in the grey matter of the brain, retina (perceives light), digestive fire, metabolism, and enzyme systems. The organs of transformation can be transformed by heat, metabolism, digestion, and assimilation. Fire can give you the power to direct, power to change, ability to absorb, take in, and let go. Alignment of the torso is essential for enhancing the effectiveness of this element.
  • Air (vayu) rules the chest. The affected areas are the shoulders, lungs, and heart. Air can be seen in the pulsation of the heart and breath in the lungs, sensory movements, and nervous system. The area of contraction and expansion allows for the ability to freely express oneself.  Tightness in the neck affects this ability, therefore the application of good shoulder alignment promotes the freedom of air through the throat.
  • Ether (akasha; space) rules the neck. The affected areas are the throat, forehead, and mental field and the spaces in our bodies, for example, the mouth and inner ear. Space governs the idea of creating space in the body and mind, personal space, and boundaries. It controls the regulation of our emotions and passions. It is the primary area of governing spiritual progress. In physical practice, we enhance the efficiency of the element ether through the application of skull alignment.

Balancing the five elements in yoga is called Tattva Shruddhi, which is the process of integrating our felt experience. Creating balance between these five elements brings the body back to harmony.

Ayurveda is the overarching structure by which specific yoga asana is prescribed. Ayurveda is the tradition from which the art and science of sequencing and breath practices are informed. Both meditation and yoga asana are key aspects in Ayurvedic lifestyle practices.

While meditation has the ultimate goal of enlightenment, for the everyday householder meditation has additional goals of increasing sexual vitality, mental acuity, and overall radiance. Life force (prana), radiance (tejas), and vitality (ojas) are the measuring sticks by which Ayurveda assesses physical and mental well-being. 

Prana is the vital force that maintains the respiration of the cell and is the flow of intelligence in the cell. Prana governs all higher cerebral activity and the biological functions of the other two essences. Prana is carried by the fluids in the body and is the vital energy we take in not only through foods but through liquids and breathing. It is responsible for enthusiasm and expression in the psyche without which we suffer from stagnation and depression.

Tejas is the intelligence of the cell. It is the essence of the heat we absorb, not only through our food but also through the skin, where we absorb sunlight. Tejas is fed through visual impressions. It governs mental digestion and absorption, without which we lack clarity and determination. Tejas has subtle energy and heat; we rise because of tejas. It helps us get to a transcendental state; without it there is no awakening. Tejas unfolds the intelligence to burn past life karma. It is the light of your true nature that burns brightly.

Ojas is the essence related to vitality and immunity. The pure essence of the bodily tissues (dhatus), ojas is a protoplasmic, biological substance—not a romantic concept.  It is our natural resistance to fight infection. Ojas must be strong to avoid invaders or chronic illness. It is influenced by the power of agni, which determines digestion and the quality of assimilation. Ojas is fed through the sensory impressions of taste and smell. It provides psychological stability and endurance, without which we experience mental fatigue and anxiety.

An experienced practitioner will examine an individual through the Ashtavidha Pariksha, which includes the examination of pulse, eyes, urine, stool, skin, tongue, voice, and build to determine the state of prana, ojas, tejas, and the distribution of the five elements.

Yoga asana has the goal of creating physical health and mental equilibrium. Ayurveda seeks to nurture physical vitality and mental clarity to allow for living life to the fullest.

Ayurveda, like all good medicine, is both an art and a science. Science is based on laws and requires scientific uniformity of symptoms and treatments. Ayurveda looks to uncover the deeper causes of disease, including but not limited to thoughts and behavior. Thoughts and behaviors can solidify into bad habits and lead toward preventable illness. Ayurveda assists in uprooting them at their cause.  

Because the habits and behaviors that lead to illness vary from person to person, treatment in Ayurveda differs from person to person. Though there may be uniformity in certain treatments, dosage and carrier substances will vary by constitution. The prescriptions consider the following variables: time of life, time of year, state of imbalance, individual constitution, and ability.  

For example, fall is a challenging time for people of a vata (air + ether) nature, but harmonizing for people of a kapha (water + earth) constitution. Individuals will benefit from practices that consider nature (dosha) and other variables. Generally, we can apply seasonal recommendations to suit the needs of the larger majority of practitioners then work individually in more complicated situations.     

Fall and winter govern the elements air and ether, in winter most people benefit from a slower more grounded yoga practice that emphasizes rhythm and support. The diet should be oily, nutritionally dense, fresh, and warm. Extra sleep and a longer savasana are essential to supporting vata. Scents should be grounding such as sandalwood and rose, as well as daily abhyanga self-massage with appropriate oils and herbs.  

Seasonal practices incorporated into a routine provide immeasurable support that becomes undeniable overtime.

For more information about the five elements and Colleen’s teaching offerings, visit colleenlilayoga.com.

Yoga Q & A

From a yogic point of view, what is a pandemic and what can be learned from it?

The pandemic represents a high degree of imbalance occurring because of the abuse of planetary resources and the depletion of our own personal resources. By being confronted with the severity of the consequences resulting from this lack of consciousness, we are becoming more greatly aware of the need to do an about-face. Our yoga practice can help us realign with the planet, balance personally through meditation and self-exploration, and move toward recovery from the pandemic.

The safety protocol of "staying in place" removes external distractions, and "safe distancing" offers the opportunity for introspection to practice these yogic principles. And that can be the gift taken from the grief of Covid-19.

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 to share your thoughts!

Paula Heitzner, ERYT500, is a master yoga teacher. She has taught yoga for over 50 years and has trained many others in the time-honored principles, practices, and philosophy of yoga. The “teacher of teachers,” as she is called by her students, can be found at her studio, the Nyack Yoga Center, in its new location at the American Legion Hall. 

Learn more about Paula at nyackyogacenter.com.

Member Events 

YTA members (individuals and 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.


Online Yoga and Meditation Offerings

Devi Ma Yoga Prenatal, Sun & Wed; Mom’s Hour, Wed; & New Mom, Thurs; & more; by donation; Online Yin and Prenatal trainings starting in January

Elisha Simpson (Crossover Yoga Project)
Trauma-informed yoga & meditation. Tues & Thurs, 7 pm; Fri, 8 am; $15/class

Gina Callender
Yin/Restorative, Mon, 7-8 pm; Wed, Hatha yoga level 1, 5:30--6:30 pm, $10/class

Iyengar Yoga Scarsdale
Asana, restorative, & pranayama via Zoom

PranaMoon Yoga at the Hat Factory
In studio & Zoom, Mon-Sun, Bhakti pass, $10/class

Sacred Spirit Yoga & Healing Arts Center 
All-levels, with Chris Glover, Tues & Sat, 9:30-11 am, 

Wainwright House 
Yoga & movement classes, $10 members; $15 nonmembers; meditation classes, $5 

Willow Tree Yoga
All-level, Kundalini, stretch, & vinyasa, outdoor & Zoom, $16/class.

New: Yoga Gifts Online, yoga-themed gifts and teaching tools; gifts can be picked up or possibly delivered to avoid shipping & taxes. Visit yogagiftsonline.com for more info 

Shamani Yoga with Betsy and Charlene
Online classes
$9, with 48-hour replay link 

Final Thoughts


When human beings lose their connection to nature, to heaven and earth, then they do not know how to nurture their environment or how to rule their worldwhich is saying the same thing. Human beings destroy their ecology at the same time that they destroy one another. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal world.

—Chogyam Trungpa

Yoga Teachers Association was created in 1979  by a small group of pioneering yoga teachers who saw the need for affordable and continuing education. Today, YTA continues as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to expanding learning opportunities for teachers and committed students in the Hudson Valley. We offer monthly workshops presented by the leading yoga teachers of our time for the benefit of the community. All are invited. Membership dues and additional contributions are deductible to the extent allowable by law.

 for individual membership
$75 for studio membership

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

Board of Directors

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, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, CEP 

Terry Fiore Lavery, RYT

Newsletter Design & Layout
Lisa Sloane, MA, ERYT



Copyright © 2021 Yoga Teachers Association. All rights reserved.

Yoga Teachers Association • 21-39 Croton Lake Road • Katonah, NY 10536 • USA