Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Initiation Well

     Last week I visited Quinta da Regaleira in the beautiful town of Sintra outside of Lisbon, Portugal.  This UNESCO palace and extensive grounds was full of mystery, mysticism and intrigue.  What fascinated me most was the Initiation Well. It is a stone tower that descends through nine spirals 27 meters into the earth. 

      It is believed that various rituals and initiation rites took place here for practitioners of Tarot and Free Masonry or even the Knights Templar. The intention, we were told, was for the initiate to move from the known, the light of day, down through nine spirals into the depths of their own selves, darkness and the unknown. We entered through a stone portal and began our descent in silence circling deeper and deeper into the earth. The act of walking the narrowing spiraling inward well brought me into a contemplative quite place in myself.  We arrived at the bottom where the four cardinal points of the compass are inlaid on the floor and gazed up at the small circle of daylight.

      The way in is not the way out.  We headed into the subterranean tunnels.  First we arrived at another well, similar to the first but more crudely built.  You think you can ascend here but the path is blocked. It is a false exit, a trick.  Another tunnel led to a grotto- opening onto a waterfall spilling into a green pond, but this was also not an exit.  We then moved into an unlit tunnel, further into the unknown, true darkness and mystery.  This short tunnel led to the side of the pond and the true exit – a balancing act of crossing the green pond via 15 stepping stones.  

     I made my way across with fingers touching the stone wall on my right only to have the wall end and still 4-5 stones to go.  Fear rose up.  Though I have fairly good balance, I felt trepidation at taking these last few steps with no support.

     I found the whole experience a poignant metaphor for the spiritual journey.  We leave the known and venture into the depths of our own beings to encounter whatever is there; to know it, experience it and embrace it entirely.  There are often false exits and trick stairways until at last, overcoming our fear, we carry all we have understood and become back out into the light of day.  This is why we practice yoga: to know the depths of our own being and all that is in us so that we can live fully and completely; at one with ourselves.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Sustainable Gift Giving

Every year at this time I like to give a holiday gift to each of the yoga teachers who instructs at Shree.  They are all amazing people, teachers, yogis and the life blood of the studio.  I honor them and appreciate their integrity, trustworthyness, excellence, training and friendship.  Many have been teaching at Shree for 10 - 15+ years.  I wanted to give something sustainable - something that doesn’t come with a big carbon footprint, packaging and plastic wrap, something that had meaning.

 I asked each teacher what charity I could donate to on their behalf to show my gratitude.  Their choices were inspiring: Ocean Conservancy, Alzheimer’s Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council and more.  I became more aware that there are so many people doing good with tremendous generosity in this world: people helping people, the environment, animals and much more.

Consider giving sustainably this holiday season. Most of us don't need more stuff. Yoga makes a great gift, or a donation to charity in honor of's to help you choose a well rated charity if that's where you decide to give.

And, if you live near Saddle River, NJ, consider giving yoga at Shree: 

Happy Holidays!
Love and blessings to you and yours,


Monday, October 29, 2018

The Benefits of Chair Yoga

I once counted the “5 Most Important Decisions” I had made in my life. One of those was getting involved and staying involved with yoga.” ~ Herb Benkel 

Yoga can be incredibly beneficial for people with mobility issues, including people with injuries, and people of all shapes, ages and sizes. What’s more, yoga can be practiced from the comfort of a chair.

Jan Jeremias, Chair Yoga Instructor at Shree Yoga explains: A chair: you can sit on it, you can stand and use it to help you balance, or put your foot on it to help open up the hips.  Chairs are a beautiful and freeing prop that are beneficial for people of any age from those who are new to yoga to those who are seasoned practitioners.  The idea is to find steadiness and ease in every pose, which is the very thing that the ancient sage Patanjali wrote in Yoga Sutra 2.46: sthira sukham asanam.

Jeramias continues: Yoga has been shown to improve overall health, prevent and (even in some cases) reverse disease when practiced regularly as a lifestyle. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that it can therefore lend its benefits to everyone.

You can improve your strength. This means that older people will be better able to continue with hobbies and daily activities independently for many more years to come. If you suffer a fall or injury, a strong body will be able to withstand this better and sustain fewer injuries.

Yoga can help to improve flexibility. Chair yoga can help those with mobility issues to undertake activities that they have perhaps been unable to, such as reaching down to tie shoe laces or pick things up.

Yoga helps the skill of knowing where your body is in space, and coordinating your movements accurately. This can improve balance and can help prevent falls. For people with disabilities or conditions such as mild MS, it may mean having greater control over your body and its movements.

Chair yoga can lessen the impact of chronic illnesses and pain. Being calmer and more relaxed inevitably leads to a greater feeling of happiness and well-being. Joining chair yoga classes will also give you a venue to socialize and make friends.

Chair yoga includes breath work, which can help with stress management and pain management. Through meditation and paying attention to your breath, you can help your body and mind to cope with the pain of an illness or chronic condition concludes Jeremias.

Herb Benkel shares his 70 year old perspective of an adapted yoga practice due to a severe disability in his leg: “Today, I can’t bend the titanium knee past 40 degrees (so it’s very straight in its metal brace) and there is no functioning quad or hamstring at all. Both muscles are totally atrophied. Yoga still accommodated my needs both physically and mentally. I attend classes 2 or 3 times a week. They are now “Chair Yoga” classes. All moves are with the support of a chair, with no time spent on the floor. In the class are others with different physical or age related problems. There is still a strong and supportive social and emotional framework. We are, not even necessarily older. The need for modified types of yoga is based, not on age but on ability. Ability or need brings people to chair yoga. The ultimate result of doing yoga is the same from any level practice. Yoga creates self confidence, physical and mental strength and well being, personal awareness, better balance and the ability to handle life’s curves after injuries, or age, catch up to you.”  Read Herb's story here.

Shree Yoga Chair Yoga Class Description and Schedule
In this class we will do modified gentle yoga poses while seated and supported in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible to people who cannot stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to seated to supine positions on the floor. While seated on chairs, students can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild backbends.

In addition to a good stretch, chair yoga participants can also enjoy other health benefits of yoga, including improved muscle tone, better breathing habits, reduction of stress, improved proprioception, better sleep, and a sense of well-being.

Mondays 12:30 – 1:30 pm
Wednesdays 11:00 – 12:00 pm

Drop-ins welcome: $22, $20 seniors 65+, Newcomer Special 20 days for $30. 

See our full class schedule here.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

5 Essential Qualities of a Great Yoga Teacher

As I prepare for the upcoming teacher training at Shree I’ve been reflecting on what I value most in my most beloved teachers. I’ve distilled it down to five qualities that are the top of the list:

Authenticity - I want to study with teachers who practice what they preach, who truly live their yoga in all aspects of their lives, not just for show in the front of a yoga class.  They have a love of what they do and desire to share it from their hearts with everyone they can.
Genuineness -  Great yoga teachers know who they are, and have a strong connection to something bigger than themselves.  They speak from their heart and their truth.
Groundedness - Great teachers stay connected to their own higher guiding principles and respond rather than react to any situation.
Creativity - A great teacher is creative in planning class themes and sequencing of asana (poses) that enhance those themes and weave them together harmoniously, not just for the sake of just trying something new, but from a deep love of the body and spirit and desire to help students bring these two aspects of themselves closer. These practices help enhance life both on and off the mat.   
Intuition - A great teacher is attuned to his or her students.  It seems that they always know what you need to hear that day, the way you need to be adjusted or left alone, the poses that will help you feel in your body and ultimately your heart the quality they are trying to evoke in the practice on any particular day.

Notice “doing dramatic poses” or “having an amazing body” didn’t make this list. There is a misconception that comes up each time we offer a training that you have to be able to do “advanced” asana to be a good yoga teacher.  I do believe that Yoga teachers should be advanced yoga practitioners, which for some does mean very deep asana, but for others means a strong meditation practice and ability to share their experience, for some a deep knowledge of anatomy of physical and subtle body, and others a love of scripture and gift of sharing the mythology of yoga to name just a few. Yoga teachers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, religions, lifestyles and life circumstances. Student of yoga want teachers who look and feel like they do, not like they are airbrushed on the cover of Yoga Journal or filtered on Instagram. 

If any of these aspects of yoga speak to you, our Teacher Training is for you. If you read this list and felt an urge to grow and develop one or two of these qualities in your own life, it means you are ready to take this step. Some of these qualities emerge quite naturally as a result of diving so deep into your own practice, but we also have real practical, methodical ways to work on these things throughout the training and help them to develop and emerge.

Although the shared goals of yoga are few, the paths are many.  One of the most amazing things about Teacher Training is that, in your desire to share a practice that you love, you learn to embody all the qualities you admire in your own teachers, and become your own inner guru. Join us to start your own journey of transformation. Your students are waiting for you. 

Upcoming information sessions: 
Saturday, September 8 4:30 – 5:30 pm at Chaya’s home for a cup of tea and chat.  Email Chaya to reserve and get the address:
Saturday, September 22 1:00-1:30 pm at Shree

For all information, including dates and fees, and application click here

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Why You Should Sign Up for the Shree Teacher Training Today

Thoughts from Rachel Dewan on her upcoming Teacher Training Program at Shree.

Reason 1: FLASH SALE!  We’re offering an additional $200 off the early bird discount now through August 1.  In other words, take $400 off the full price today. That’s over 10% off the price of the training, the equivalent of getting 21 of those 200 hours for free!  And, if you pay in full with cash or check, deduct an additional $50!

Reason 2: Two certifications for the price of one. Shree is a YA Registered School, as well a certified Anusara School of Hatha Yoga school.  So our training, unlike others, actually gives you two certifications, one as a RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) with Yoga Alliance, as well as giving you the ability to register as an Anusara affiliated teacher so you are getting more bang for your buck than with other TT’s (Teacher Trainings) on the market.

Reason 3: An investment in your future. An investment is defined as allocating money (or sometimes another resource, such as time) with the expectation of some benefit in the future. Once you start teaching you will recoup your financial investment over time.  Other benefits include expanding your own yoga asana practice, learning new skills, including clearer communication and organization, and a calmer a more centered demeanor to name a few. It’s hard to say what the greatest payback I have received in all my years of taking and leading Trainings and Immersions has been, but at the top of the list is how yoga has given me the guiding principles of how to live a meaningful and satisfying life. It’s hard to put a price on that.

Reason 4: You’ll get time back.  The minimum number of hours for a basic certification is 200 hours, as specified by Yoga Alliance, the largest certifying organization in the USA. Since the standard of becoming an “expert” at anything is usually defined as 10,000 hours doing said activity, this is really not too bad! I have either taken or co-taught 8 TT’s over the 15-year course of my yoga teaching career.  Every one of them required sacrifices by me and my family that enabled me to be away for stretches of time and have time in between to complete course work. Yet each one left me calmer, happier, and more fulfilled, which led me to be more productive both at home and work.  It enhanced my personal relationships by giving me clarity about my own priorities and direction so I felt less stress over personal and career choices.  My overall physical and emotional health improved, which meant less time at the chiropractor, acupuncturist, therapist, and GP managing symptoms of stress. 

Reason 5: The time is there. As we know, there is a finite amount of time in each day, so the question really isn’t whether you have time, but how do you want to spend the time you have?  For me, participating in numerous teacher trainings was a meaningful and joyful way to spend periods of my life and well worth the sacrifices I had to make.  And although it took time from other things in my life for the span of the training, it was time invested in myself and my own growth which allowed me more space in my schedule as I learned how to be more discerning about how I spent my time.  Will your life be busier for 9 months? Yes.  Will the quality of that time enhance everything you do? Absolutely!

Chaya and I are both available to answer any questions you might have and help guide you in your decision making process.  Grab that $400 off and sign up today.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A Recap of Our Journey Into the Heart: Ireland Yoga Retreat June 2018

What a journey it was.  Ireland. Green.  Magical. History and mythology everywhere we looked.  Thirteen of us journeyed there in June for a sweet adventure into the heart.  Our venue was the lovely eco retreat, Ard Nahoo, set in the rolling green hills of Letrim.  It was peaceful, serene and perfectly suited.  We meditated together in the morning, practiced yoga themed to a different ancient Irish myth, and dined on delicious fresh local vegetarian fare.  Did I mention desert?  It was really good!

We hiked up a mountain to the cairn of Queen Maeve, and canoed out to the Lake Isle of Innishfree to recite Irish poet W.B. Yeats’ poem of the same name. We restored ourselves with gentle yoga in the afternoons, took walks, had a seaweed bath in Sligo and visited the magical white horses next door.  The misty mornings burned off to bright sunny days.  We were lucky to have Bróga Bríomhar dancers & Riverstown CCE musicians come one evening to perform for us and get some of us up and dancing the brush (broom) dance!  Our hosts invited us for gin and tonics before dinner, taught us how to make Irish soda bread, carved us walking sticks for our hike and set up a bonfire where we offered our intentions for the retreat supported by our shared community and journey.

Yeats wrote:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

For a week, we stole away from the weeping of the world and into our own hearts where we experienced healing, peace and community.

Below are some comments from those who attended.  But sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so – here are some pictures courtesy of Michael Miller, Bea Cronin, Adventure Gently and myself.

Hope you can come next time!  Let me know if you’d like to.


Here are just a few of the comments from the group:

This retreat has been one of the most joyful and inspiring experiences of my life.  The beauty is indescribable and the sense of community has been enriching.  I hate to leave.  I will strive to bring this all inside and with me.  Thank you, Chaya.  Clearly you put so much thought and love into preparing for this very special retreat. - Bea C.

We are changed because of the retreat. It was obvious the amount of time and self you put into the prep for this retreat and it was very appreciated. We have been processing our time at the retreat and marveling how it keeps leading to new thoughts, perspectives and ideas totally divergent from the original. - D & M Miller

This was better than I could have imagined!  What a rich experience – full of nature, poetry, music, mystery and legend and stories, yoga and meditation – a deep experience for me and transformative. - Lois PH

The retreat was perfect.  Location, people, hiking, canoeing, and of course the different types of yoga classes, from meditation to asana, restorative to yoga nidra.  It was a great experience.  Thank you, Chaya
Ronnie and Paul C.

I had great expectations, being an alumnus of Shree and inspired by Chaya for many happy days.  This retreat so exceeded my expectations.  To start the day with story, music, spiritual encouragement, journey through the day surrounded by natural beauty, and ended the day with shared blessing.  How do I manage in non-fairly land and ride the white horse.
Kate G.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rest is Radical Magic

Restorative Yoga: Luxury or Necessity?

By Karon Shovers RYT 500, Anusara Certified Yoga Teacher

The weekly restorative class prepares and grounds me for the week.  It is a time I have carved out for self love and reflection.  The themes each week are terrific.  I share them and try to apply them to my daily life.  Yoga and meditation as well as Shree Yoga are like a sanctuary for me. 
I love the calm it offers my soul. 

I often hear that Restorative Yoga is a luxury activity like a manicure or a massage or that it is for people who are not strong and flexible or can’t do a “regular” yoga class.  Some students believe that conscious resting will not help them shed unwanted weight.  Students who practice Restorative Yoga regularly claim that it is a necessity like brushing their teeth.  It helps prevent stiffness, back pain, feeling overstressed and helps them manage life.  What is the truth about Restorative yoga?

Restorative yoga compliments and magnifies the benefits of our asana practice and all types of movement.   It helps us unlock the secret to going slow, paying attention and sitting still.  When you practice intense rest you will discover more energy for your family, work, creativity and more vigorous exercise.

Rest is Radical Magic.

According to Roger Cole, sleep researcher, “Restorative Yoga allows you to recover fully from all the stresses and strains of life.  By relaxing muscles, lowering your heart rate and allowing your nervous system to stop constantly reacting, you are not only more relaxed but more focused and effective.”  This, in itself, lends to greater productivity and time management. 

We find that the practice builds on itself so the more you practice the more quickly you can drop into that place of calm and relaxation - whether that is in class or in daily life. Studies have found that consistent yoga practice increase serotonin levels and reduce monamine oxidase levels. As a result yoga has the potential to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. 

A 48-week study was done by the National Institute of Health to prove that Restorative Yoga can help people lose significant weight and subcutaneous fat.   Restorative yoga decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which is associated with weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease. 

The fact that restorative yoga helps people lose weight is a good thing, researches say, because the more aerobic styles of yoga or a gym workout can prove to be challenging or intimidating for someone overweight or injured and restorative yoga is easily accessible to all.

Rest is radical magic.  Come take Restorative classes during the month of July for $10 and experience what going slow can do for you.

Mondays 6:00 PM
Tuesdays 10:45 AM
Thursdays 10:45 AM
Sundays 11:30 AM