Monday, April 15, 2019

Retreat News with Videos

The weekend of April 5-7 I was privileged to co-lead “Journey to the Heart of Anusara” retreat. 57 students participated at beautiful Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness in Stockbridge, MA.  It was a wonderful experience all round.  Here's a short video peek into the retreat:

Retreat is an opportunity to step away from the normal day to day of life and dedicate time and energy to experiencing deeper connection with oneself and with others.  We journeyed to the heart through inspiring stories, deep slow asana, meditation and my favorite, Kirtan, or devotional chanting which is a fast track in.

One of the things that made Journey to the Heart of Anusara Yoga Retreat so special was having four certified Anusara teachers working together: myself, Tiffany Wood, John Seelye, and Jackie Prete. That meant that when one of us was teaching, the other three were assisting. We were able to give participants a lot of personal attention during classes. It was wonderful for me to have the opportunity to focus solely on adjusting, enhancing, and supporting the students without having to teach at the same time. Working as a group of teachers was an inspiring experience for me and I look forward to repeating it.  Join us at Kripalu in 2020!  Dates to be decided.

I left the retreat feeling refreshed and reinvigorated both as a person, a yoga practitioner and as a  yoga teacher and studio owner.  Working as team we share ideas, insights and techniques to enhance ourselves as Aunusara Yoga teachers.

I’m offering a sweet summer weekend retreat at Ananda Ashram in Monroe in August.  Click here for details.  Early bird discount through May 1.

Tiffany, Chaya, John and Jackie
Thank you to Darryl Dobson Photography and Lisa Long for the photos and videos.  Thank you to the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga for providing the framework and support for us to grow and flourish as a community.

Chaya Spencer
Certified Anusara Teacher
Owner Shree Yoga

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Want More Strength? More Flexibility? Check Out Strengthen and Stretch.

By Susan Walsh, ERYT 500, Anusara Inspired

“I love Susan’s Strengthen and Stretch class - it’s a great workout and fun. I highly recommend it.” ~ Bea

I created a new class for Shree a few months ago called Strengthen and Stretch. I wanted to take all of the great aspects from a normal yoga class but add more specific toning, strengthening and stretching aspects.   I added movements to give mobility to the joints and to help strengthen our muscles, heart and mind.  Gentle larger movements are done to lubricate the joints, warm the body up and slightly elevate our heart rate.  We use body weight resistance and resistance bands to strengthen and tone muscles in our legs, hips, chest, arms, shoulders and core (similar to movements done in physical therapy).  There are options to every exercise to accommodate all fitness levels.  The toning is followed by slow deep stretching allowing our bodies and minds to release tension, relax, soften and expand.  

The class is slightly more intense than a yoga class with the added benefits of strengthening and toning being worth the extra exertion.  The mind has a chance to slow down during the stretching portion and the seated meditation and Shavasana feels heavenly after all the hard work.  People leave class feeling awake, energized and fulfilled from our practice ready to approach the rest of the day.  

Strengthen and Stretch takes place Wednesdays 12:15 -1:30 pm weekly.  Suitable for beginners and those wishing to increase muscle strength and flexibility. No reservations needed.

Special offer!  Strengthen and Stretch class on Wednesday, March 27 at 12:15 pm is only $10.

See you there!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Blessing for You

In India, there is no river more sacred than the Ganges.  She gives life to millions and receives their cremated remains at the end.  She is considered not just a river, but literally a Goddess, Ma Ganga, who is prayed to, honored with lights and flowers, and from whom blessings are received.

I asked my husband and daughter during their visit to Varanasi, a city on the banks of the sacred river, to say a prayer of blessing for all the students and friends of Shree Yoga.  At sunrise on January 23rd, a blessing was said for you all.  Candles and flowers are offered and there is a magic in connecting so deeply to nature and the life giving force of our rivers, oceans, mountains and valleys.  Know that you have been blessed.  If you have a moment, sit silently now and open yourself to fully experience the beauty of countless blessings that are pouring out to you all the time.  This is the meaning of “Shree” – a vast abundance of beauty and a perspective on life that looks for the blessings amidst all that is.



1/23/19 Sunrise on the Ganges in Varanasi

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Chapel of the Bones

During my travels earlier in the month, we had an interesting and rather unexpected church visit in the Portuguese city of Evora. We encountered the transience of life up close and personal. “The Chapel of the Bones was built in the 17th century, with the intention of provoking by the image the reflection on the transience of human life. Both the walls and the pillars are covered with a few thousand bones and skulls from the burial spaces connected to the convent.” By the 16th century, there were as many as 43 cemeteries in and around Évora that were taking up valuable land. Not wanting to condemn the souls of the people buried there, the monks decided to build the Chapel and relocate the bones. 5000 corpses were moved. The inscription over the door reads: “Nós ossos que aqui estamos, pelos vossos esperamos,” or: “We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”

It was both beautiful and somehow terrible to behold so many bones artfully decorating every vertical surface.  There was a pillar of sacrums, stacks of femurs, masses of skulls and arches of tibias.  The monks would meditate here on the ephemeral-ness of the body and life finding inspiration to commit fully to their religious practices.  I wished there was somewhere to sit and contemplate because it certainly did stimulate this awareness in me. It also brought home the unity of all bodies and all peoples regardless of color, creed, religion or ethnicity – all the things that seem to divide us and make us feel better than, less than, and certainly different from one another.  Tantric philosophy teaches that we are all made of the One energy and nowhere was this more apparent to me than in the Chapel of Bones.  The Bone Chapel brings perspective, one of the 8 Pillars of Joy.

Here is a poem by Father Antonio da Ascencao, that hangs from one of the pillars:

Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Pause… do not advance your travel;
You have no greater concern
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.

Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among all the many concerns of the world,

So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop… for the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.

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.