May 2024 Newsletter

Words of Welcome

Dear All, 

The Roman goddess, Maia, had the honor of having the month of May named after her, because she oversaw the growth of plants. She also is celebrated for bringing respect and esteem to and for the “elders,“ as noted by the Latin word, Maiores, used in her name, meaning “elders,” who were recognized and feted in this month.

This month clearly ushers in Spring by affirming new beginnings, highlighting her intention to revitalize and grow on the planet. The harsh cold weather is over; its memory reduced by the passage of time. Mother Nature and Maia move forward with no doubts, just healthy optimism to shift consciousness instead of harboring debilitating judgments.

Their modus operandi is the perfect example of the practice of yoga and its inherent teachings and philosophies—to always seek the light. We are moved by our practice to unearth and celebrate our inherent wisdom, to evolve and transform by blossoming and blooming, like the planet and the plants.

Not only can we be motivated and guided to a life of greater fulfillment by these iconic examples, but we are able to help each other toward the attainment of evolution and transformation—right here and right now!

YTA was created with this paradigm in place. Our group grew strong and is still strengthening and developing to help the “seekers“ find their path and to bloom and grow in their lives and practice. We meet the second Saturday of the month to share a worthwhile workshop presented by experienced leaders in the world of yoga.

Please join us and share your experience and strengths with others as you empower yourself, and support the yoga community.

Yours in yoga,
Paula Renuka Heitzner

YTA Workshops and Events

Saturday, May 11
1:30–4:30 p.m.

At Club Fit and Via Zoom

Radiate & Return:

Relating to Your Core

with Jennifer Brilliant

When we approach our asana practice with knowledge and self-compassion, we enhance our strength, connection, balance, range of motion, and coordination.

In this workshop, we will discuss and explore what parts of the body to include in your concept of the core, as well as your relationship to your core. Anchoring the limbs to the core in yoga practice can support you in feeling whole and guide you to move with more fluidity and ease. Jennifer will share practices that will help you and your students stay connected to your cores.

Jennifer’s eclectic approach has been informed by in-depth and decades-long work in dance, personal training, Pilates, Alexander Technique, yoga, and more. This workshop will include:

  • Warm-up sequences for gentle joint mobility
  • The experience of initiating movement, as well as deep release from your core
  • Breathing techniques for how to work with your core to avoid holding your breath
  • 360-core work practice including back, belly, and sides
  • Using your core for simple, smooth flowing transitions for standing alignment, strength, and balance
  • Restorative and restful practices

This workshop is open to teachers and practitioners of all levels.

Recommended props: 2 blocks; 1 blanket (Club Fit has limited blocks and no blankets, so please bring our own if you have them; a thick towel can be used in place of a blanket)

A recording will be made available to all participants for two weeks following the workshop.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Jennifer Brilliant, (C-IAYT, E-RYT500,) has been teaching for over 30 years as a master dance teacher, personal trainer, yoga teacher, and yoga therapist. She was the director of teacher training at OM Yoga in New York CIty. These days she offers yoga and yoga therapy at universities, corporations, and a women’s mental health group, as well as her own Brooklyn studio. She also directs Beyond Brilliant, a selective team of yoga teachers who work with clients one-on-one and in the workplace. Jennifer mentors yoga teachers and those seeking to deepen their yoga life. 

    Register Now—In Person
    Register Now—Zoom

    Last Workshop of YTA's 2023–24 Season!

    June 8
    Quiet Channels: Creating

    a Steady Postural Base

    for Tranquil Asana
    with Aasia Lewis
        Via Zoom    
    The groins connect the pelvis to the legs, and due to their intimate, subtle nature, have the capacity to disrupt the orientation of the pelvis, which impacts the core of standing poses and the foundation of seated ones. In this workshop, we will explore the quieting of the inner groins and thighs during standing and seated postures to experience the effects of a soft abdomen and a widened base (specifically the glutes and backs of the thighs). The quiet channels of the groins bring us into a state of ease, equilibrium, and equanimity, supporting us far beyond the asana practice.

    ... And Coming in YTA's 2024–25 Season

    Sound Bath: Explore the Origins and Science Behind and Experience This Healing Practice 

    with Aura Soleil

    Merging Movement with Meditation with Betsy Ceva of Nyack's Shamani Yoga

    Yoga to Train the Body and Mind for Athletes

    with Karen Young

    The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery with Nikki Myers, founder of Y12

    Yoga and Archetypes 

    with Judith Rose

    Unless otherwise stated, workshops are $45 members / $65 nonmembers in advance ($55 / $75 day of) and count toward Yoga Alliance certification requirements. 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.

    Core Work Is More

    Than You Think

    by Jennifer Brilliant

    I was teaching a private yoga session recently in which my student did great work to strengthen, stretch, and engage her body and mind. The work was challenging and fun. But at the end, after a few moments of relaxation in savasana, she sat straight up, dropping her head back slightly, and straining the muscles in the front of her neck to recover her balance. To me, it looked stressful.

    I asked her to lie back down and took her through some steps for moving more smoothly back up to sitting:

    • Roll onto your right side, with bent knees, embryo-like, using your right arm as a pillow for your head.
    • Turn your chest and face toward the floor so that you can use both hands to press yourself up.
    • Let your head hang while rolling up to sitting from the base of your spine, with your head coming up last.

    She followed my instructions and then asked what the point was.

    This gave me a golden opportunity to share what I’ve learned and what I am passionate about—everything is core

    There’s not a lot of clarity about what core actually means. Some people use it interchangeably with abs and other people include more muscles in their definition. Some use it in a more metaphorical sense, to mean the center of the body. My view is that because the whole body is so interconnected, and everything moves out from the core to the periphery and in from the periphery to the core, you can potentially think of the core as including everything in the body.

    My idea that the core is big, deep, and encompassing has come through years of working with my body.

    As a young dancer, I sprained my ankles a lot. It was a chronic thing. One time, this happened in a ballet class. The force of landing a jump on a twisted ankle also broke my fifth metatarsal, a bone in my foot. After healing and physical therapy, Pilates was recommended to me as a way to become stronger and more physically organized. Pilates is an intelligent system of exercise using special apparatuses, designed to improve flexibility and strength through engaging the torso-stabilizing muscles of the abdomen and lower back. Since that intensive Pilates work so many years ago, I haven’t sprained an ankle again. How is it that becoming stronger in my core also made my limbs more integrated into my whole body, helping me to resolve the chronic problem of twisting my ankles? Maybe it's because the core and the limbs are so deeply interconnected. 

    Later as a professional modern dancer in New York City, I learned how to initiate movement from my core in a fluid way, by understanding the core as an area I could release and flow from as well as an area to work, integrate, and activate. 

    Realizing that my own understanding and experience of “core movement” is not universal has inspired me to create practices for my yoga students to make them aware of how their cores can be incorporated into every pose. After that private lesson where my student sat up in a way that didn’t engage her core, I was inspired to go back and dig through the sequence of poses and exercises we had done in order to find all the opportunities we’d had in the practice to incorporate her core, so that we could focus on them more in the future and she could develop a greater awareness of power in her own body.  

    One by one, I unpacked the ways the core could be the focal point of each pose we had done. The idea was not to tighten the abdomen in every moment, but rather to find a range of relaxation and engagement originating in the core, as if the engine of the body resides there.

    The Core and More

    Your body parts are interwoven into one amazing, articulate whole. Your core is part of that interconnected whole, not something separate to isolate and obsess over. 

    There are more ways to work with your core than just tightening it. You can brace yourself in a protective mode, firming and compacting your abdominals. Some poses, like chaturanga, really do require an almost absolute and total muscular engagement of the whole body—including our core muscles. You can also relax and release your core muscles, letting your belly billow, like it’s a water balloon being filled. Do this when you want to “open” your hips—because tightening the low ab muscles, which are located very near the hips, might be counterproductive in that instance.

    One of my yoga students read in a magazine that she should hold her belly in 70 percent of the time. When she told me this, I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of time.”

    Just as there’s not one “right” way to do things all the time, there’s also not one part of our body that requires constant engagement and monitoring. Everything within our body is connected to everything else. So releasing habits of holding, especially in our deep core, can affect every cell in our body and give us greater range of motion. Facilitating different movement possibilities in our body is a good thing, like the flow of life itself. 

    When we realize that our core is inherently connected to every part of us, we can fully experience the balance of effort and ease, both anchoring—grounding downward by letting go—and ascending—lifting upward by engaging all of the muscular strength and energy of your body—beyond our usual reaches. To me, it’s fun to explore different qualities that originate from my core—the capacity for everything from infinite relaxation to maximal activation—and every stage between.

    Learn more about Jennifer Brilliant at

    Originally published on Used with permission of the author. 

    Yoga Q & A

    Why has yoga become so popular and growing more so in different populations?

    That question will have as many different answers as people asked. It is a provocative question and it couldn’t and shouldn’t be answered “off the cuff.” Here is a compilation of thoughts of different yoga masters from the past.

    • Yoga is a wonderful way to love and nurture all aspects of who we are.
    • Yoga is the ultimate technique for stress relief.
    • Practicing yoga allows the whole body to pray.
    • Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are,” Jason Crandell.
    As one can see, it is evident that the foundation of this study and practice has an impact and effect for any and all individual participants.

    This section is dedicated to answering your questions about yoga—as a student or as a teacher. Questions? Comments? Send them to 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

    Final Thoughts

    Contrary to that familiar saying, I do not ‘bend so I don’t break’ I bend with the hope that I DO break.

    break off the fear that lives on the edges of me, like crunching the rime wedged in my cogs, causing a pregnant pause in the flow that was once full-fledged

    breaking through my own fragile mind’s limitations by no mistake, like shedding, tree bark flaking

    I bend to release internal frustrations

    I move with the beat of my heart, following, swallowing its undulations, as if the sheer movement of my spine is casting powerful incantations

    I break myself with care,
    to set my soul free

    I contort, test, crack my chest wide open so that I might more clearly see
    the ‘broken’ bits of me.

    I look down in awe and dare to see,
    all of me shattered and raw
    splayed out on the floor, a beautifully, brutal practice of fortification never aching to flea

    As I hold those delicate fragments, geodes waking from winter’s stagnance,

    I feed my soul’s intimate starvations

    I wine and dine
    I bend and bind myself
    Till I can hear the beating drum, no longer declining my purpose,
    the heart never meant to collect dust on a shelf

    A flutter in time ripples as I fold and unwind myself, this serpentine spine, I melt

    For it is no crime,
    That my undoing, the breaking in bending has become my internal shrine

    I choose to stay,
    I play in the wealth of my imagination
    I bend till I break to discover new foundation

    Never looking away, I swear to be the lover in my own liberation.

    ~Rivka Peiffer

    (From Elephant Journal, April 7, 2022)

    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 / $75 day of)

    Board of Directors

    Gina Callender, ERYT 200, RYT 500, CEP

    Vice President
    Lorraine Burton

    Tony Salmon




    Sylvia Samilton-Baker, MA, ERYT


    Terry Fiore Lavery, RYT (Editor)

    Cassie Cartaginese, RYT (Designer) 

    Social Media

    Chantale Bourdages


    Victoria Moya

    Board Member at Large
    Paula Heitzner, ERYT


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