Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shree Owner/Director Feature: Chaya Spencer


Chaya, age 7,  and her brother with their first meditation teacher, Pandit Pranath

Chaya Spencer was not your typical child.  She began meditating at age 6, and at 14, she traveled to India to spend summer vacation at an ashram her mother had visited while on her own spiritual journey. Upon returning to the US for 9th grade, she worked any job she could save money to go back to India, which she did the following summer. She spent the next three years traveling around the world with her spiritual teacher, Swami Muktananda. She studied yoga, yoga philosophy, Sanskrit, Indian music, and Indian cooking in addition to her American schoolwork, which she handled by correspondence. She spent the next 12 years living  in the ashram in NY and travelling back to India annually, immersed in spiritual practice and study. In 1990, Chaya underwent an intense yoga teacher training in India and began teaching classes there. She completed her Anusara Certification in 2002.  After a break for marriage, a move to New York, and the birth of two children, she resumed her career as an instructor, and Shree Yoga was born in Rockland County NY in 1998.

In India 1990
Chaya encourages each student to reach their uniquely highest potential by drawing on her vast depth of knowledge to offer well-planned, thoughtfully sequenced classes, including options for every body.  Her careful eye on alignment, paired with decades of spiritual study and practice ensures transformation in every aspect of the practice for each and every student. 

Chaya is proud to say that Shree Yoga is, at nearly 20 years old, one of the oldest studios in the area, and boasts one of the most senior teaching teams. Dedication to the deepest teachings of yoga, combined with a commitment to growth and innovation has sustained this studio far beyond the many yoga trends that have come and gone over the years.  Students who value wisdom and experience, as well as those looking to go deeper than just the physical practice of yoga find connection within its walls.  Those who practice, study and train to become teachers at Shree tap into a centuries old practice adapted beautifully for modern life in ways that transform body, mind and heart.  Now a member of the Anusara School of Hatha Yoga Board of Directors, below Chaya shares some of what drives her:

What is your vision for Shree:
Chaya: I believe very strongly in the healing properties of yoga and that Shree should be a space where anyone, no matter their level of health or fitness, can experience that.
I kept seeing students come into my “easy” beginner level class and finding it too hard.  So, I created a whole series of Gentle Therapeutic classes to meet their needs.  We now have physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other health care providers referring patients to our gentle classes and we are the only studio in the area who have such a strong focus on therapeutic specialized yoga classes.  We’re the “It” place for therapeutic yoga and I'm proud of that.

What do you love about teaching yoga?
Chaya: When students tell me how their yoga practice has enhanced, changed and shifted their lives for the better, well, there’s nothing more inspiring to me.  I feel my life has value and meaning through serving the needs of our students – especially those who are challenged physically in some way.  It’s very fulfilling.

What’s next?
Chaya: I feel blessed to have a long history, most of my life actually, studying and practicing yoga.  I’m looking forward to sharing that wealth of experience through training a group of people to teach yoga in the Anusara style this fall along with my colleague Rachel Dewan.  I think of it as my legacy.

What’s on your bedside table?
Chaya: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton which I’m reading for the Shree Book Club meeting in May.  And, readings from the bereavement group I’m attending after losing my Mom in September.

Chaya and her husband William participating in a Puja 1993


Chaya, age 27, in India