Sunday, February 19, 2017

Shree Expert Teacher Focus: Jessica Addeo

Jessica Addeo, RYT 200 

Jessica has been studying and practicing Ansuara yoga for over a decade. She has completed two 3 part immersions and two Anusara yoga teacher trainings (her most recent training at Shree Yoga). Jessica hopes to engage others in deep conversation with themselves in her classes as a means of "paying it forward" for all yoga has done to enhance her life. Her practice is inspired by the belief that the relationship we have with ourselves deserves the same time, attention and space as all the other relationships in our lives.

How do you stay connected to your practice when you can't get "on the mat"?

I am constantly reminding myself that my practice isn't just the physical poses, although this is my preferred way "in". My practice at the heart of things is how I am in relationship with myself and I can do that in many ways. Walking with my dogs is another physical means to get in touch with myself. And at my most limited moments, just sitting with myself, making time for quiet moments to connect, keep me centered. Sometimes the best I can get is sipping a cup of tea in the morning before I start my day or closing my eyes for a few breaths in the shower. When I remember that the meaning behind these actions is to find the "me" in my daily life, I feel better. When I first started practicing, I learned the value in slowing down. When I slow down I can listen to my inner thoughts and feelings and as a result my outer life becomes a more authentic representation of who I really am. As I have continued practicing I've learned how to listen off of my mat, if I make time, even just a few moments, for it. I will always love to come to classes but it is nice to have a fallback for when life gets full. 

What is your biggest physical challenge in your practice?

Strength! My practice feels best when I also have been doing some light strengthening as well. Pilates and light weightlifting are my favorite ways to support my practice. Poses such as hand balances and chaturanga (the hardest pose in my practice) are always a challenge. I have to work really hard to remind myself that I am strong, engage my muscles and then try the pose. 

Who inspires you? Why?

I am inspired deeply by the students who attend my class. When someone tells me that they look forward to my class all week or that something I said hit home with them I feel motivated to keep going. To keep on my path and continue sharing my perspective because it's helping not just me, but others as well. I have so often been in a class and felt like the teacher's theme was speaking to me directly and those words carried me through experiences off of my mat. The opportunity to be doing that for others will never cease to amaze me. 

Stop in for Jessica's class: Wednesday 7:30 to 8:45 pm Beginner Yoga

This Friday Night: Notes to Self

With Jessica Addeo Friday, February 24th from 6:30 – 8:00   PM
$20 or a class from your card.  No reservations.  Bring your mat, a journal or notebook, and pen.
 Your yoga practice will draw you in deeper to yourself, creating a relationship within you that is invaluable. Journaling can also be a tool for you to uncover the underpinnings of your daily life, your thoughts, feelings and emotions. When the two are connected, you have access to yourself through both the physicality of a practice and the introspection of journaling. There is no need to have writing experience or an advanced practice. This class will be a slow paced and gentle asana practice with several restorative poses sprinkled in. Throughout class you will be given a prompt and an opportunity to journal your contemplations.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Shree's Expert Teacher Focus: Whitney Speer

By Jessica Addeo

Whitney Speer, Certified Romana Pilates Instructor

Whitney has been a “student” of movement for decades. She found Pilates in 1991 and has been teaching Pilates since 2000. Whitney focuses on how you do an activity, not what you are doing. Her classes will challenge you and leave you with a strong, solid center. Below she tells us about her own personal practice, what she is reading and her tip for staying healthy year round.

What does your personal practice consist of?

In my studio, I spend an hour four times a week doing Pilates. I vary my workout each day, trying to hit the major points of the foundational work in three of the workouts and then “experimenting” with methods or equipment in the fourth. I also meditate 20 minutes a day to keep me calm and focused.

What’s on your bedside table?

The list is is so long: Pema Chodron’s “When Things Fall Part”, “Anatomy Trains”, and for fun, “My Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle

How do you keep yourself healthy in winter (spring, summer, fall)?

I WALK! My goal is an hour a day, all year long, with my Pitbull, Shayna. When I find human companions to join us, I’m very happy. I’m much happier walking with you than having coffee or lunch or such….

Stop in for Whitney’s class on Friday from 11:15 to 12:15 pm. Whitney will also be starting an 8 Week Evening Series on Mondays from 7:30to 8:30 pm (April 2nd to May 22).

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Pull of your Heart

“A desire is anything but frivolous. It is the interface between you and that which is greater than you. No desire is meaningless or inconsequential. If it pulls you, even a little bit, it will take everyone higher…every desire is of profound importance with huge consequences, and deserves your attention.”
- Mama Gena

Desire gets a bad rap in yoga.  In some yoga schools it is considered to be what draws us away from our spiritual practice, but in Tantric philosophy desire is what can draw you in, because every longing, urge or impulse comes to us from the Divine.  On the the tattva chart, Tantra's "map of creation", willpower or desire is second only to Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine aspects that make up the Absolute at it's absolute highest.  The Divine, Unmanifest's first impulse to bring anything and everything into creation comes from this deep level of being, and so do all our desires and impulses even in the physical realm where we live our day to day lives.  Sadashiva is one of the Absolute tattvas, making up not a place, but, as Christopher Wallace in Tantra Illuminated says: "the Divine Reality that pervades the whole of the manifest universe.... The five absolute tattvas [of which sadashiva, or desire, is the third] are essentially a description of the Divine Source of all Being."  

36 Tattvas of Tantrik Cosmology - from Christoper Wallace's book Tantra Illuminated

So…from this we learn that desire is essential. And all our desires, every one we have, flow from that part of ourselves. If you take the time you can trace every one of them back.  Now, when we trace them back we see that not all of them lead us in the direction that we want to head in in any particular moment.  We acknowledge that at any given time many aspirations may be arising and of course we can't act on all of them.  When we want to live a life of meaning and sustainability we have to be discerning about which passions we choose to pursue, and we have to inquire deeply into what the real impulse is behind what we are going after.

So allow me to share a process I recently went through in trying to decide whether to make a certain purchase. Out shopping one day I happened to see a pair of boots that I immediately decided I really, really wanted. I longed for these boots. Showing some rare self-restraint I didn't buy them on the spot  because of course I most decidedly did NOT need these boots, but I did go home and look them up online, tried to find them cheaper, and kept visiting them on the store's website for a few days. As I agonized as to whether or not to buy them I did a little exercise.  Why were these boots so important to me?

The week before, a friend was wearing a pair just like them at an event we were at together. She looked really good in them, very stylish, and I admired them. At this event were also some other women I happened to not know as well as she did, and she seemed so comfortable and at ease. She fit in so beautifully and I admired her poise and grace.  I was not feeling particularly comfortable or at ease. File it in the mental Rolodex.  When I was out shopping the next week and saw this pair of boots, the file gets activated.  Boots = fitting in, ease, poise, feeling comfortable. On the superficial level what happens is – I have to have the boots!!  But deeper…what did I really want?  Connection.  Yes, again on a superficial level connection with the other women I was with, but intrinsically what I want is to feel connected on an unshakable level, I want to know it as the truth of my being, that I am intimately connected to all of creation by the thread that weaves us all. To feel loved, feel at ease…that’s what I want.  Which of course has nothing to do with a pair of boots.

If you know me, you know I indulge my boot (and clothing, handbag, jewelry...) desires more often than I should.  If I'm being particularly mindful I avoid buying unnecessary items and seek out the deeper connections I am looking for in the form of yoga practice or a walk with a friend or date night with my husband.  But I also recognize that these desires are part of what makes me who I am, which is someone who deeply believes in the joy of self-expression and adornment as a way to connect to and celebrate the beauty of the physical Universe, which is also part of Tantric practice.  As always it’s a delicate balance. 

Yoga gives us the opportunity to tune in to our hearts, to get in touch with our desires and the impulses behind them. When we attune ourselves to our highest we remember that the Universe chose to embody and become each and every one of us to feel Itself through the vehicle of our bodies and spirits. If you deny those impulses, the deepest longings of your heart, you deny the Universe the experience of YOU. You were made manifest to shine the light only you can shine.  Every desire you have fuels that flame and urges you to burn brighter, so indulge them when you can in a meaningful way, choose wisely, and shine on!

Urdhva Dhanurasana with feet on a chair

Off the Mat:
I'll invite you to the following exercise: Close your eyes.  Where is your heart pulling you?  What do you really want right now - it can be anything at all - there is no right or wrong answer to this. Once you're clear on where your heart is pulling you, begin to trace that impulse back to its source.  Why do you want it? What benefit will it bring you?  What is the feeling associated with having whatever it is?  Let this be the intention for your practice this week – to follow the pull of your heart.

Dragon Catching its Tail

On the Mat:
Desire is the pull you feel in your heart towards something.  In Anusara-speak, Shoulder Loop is the physical expression of that pulling.  When we move the tops of the shoulders and head back, and bring the bottom tips of the shoulder blades into the back of the heart, the chest opens and lifts and we feel an openness and liberation.  We literally feel the heart pulling us forward and we just have to follow it.  Work on poses like Ustrasana, Dhanurasana, Purvottanasana, Dragon catching its Tail and Urdhva Dhanurasana.  I worked on UD a lot this week with my feet on a chair to get my upper arms really vertical and my heart way out in front (if the chair feels too high you can do this with feet on 2 blocks at the wall, or feet on a step). 
For the Anusara Junkies:
Open to Grace: Set your hands/feet to reflect your desire to align with your highest intention to connect.
Ground yourself in what you long for.
Line up hands/feet and line up with your yearning for your highest self.

Muscular Energy: Engage your muscles and engage with the part of yourself deep inside from where all yearning flows.
Firm muscles and ignite your craving for _____________ (whatever your desire/intention is)

Shoulder Loop: 
Bring bottom tips of shoulder blades into your back and let your heart be pulled in the direction it wishes to go.
Feel your longing like a tether hooked to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades pulled forward through front of your heart.

Organic Energy: Shine the light of your passion from your deepest, transcendent heart.
Spread the light of devotion from the seat of your desire out to the world.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shree's Expert Teacher Focus: Susan Walsh

By Jessica Addeo

 Susan Walsh RYT 500 Anusara-Inspired Yoga Teacher

 Susan’s classes incorporate her experience in teaching yoga since 2005 and her studies in therapeutics (over 100 hours). She always greets her students with a smile and her classes include some of the best physical adjustments around. Susan uses her background in yoga, personal training and aerobics, as well as her own personal experience with injuries, to lead a class focused on alignment. As such, she is now also teaching a chair yoga class on Wednesdays (see schedule below). For her teacher focus Susan shares what she is working on in her own practice, what she is reading and her antidote for the cold.

I feel my practice these days is on the rebound.  I have had injuries in the past from various exercise classes I was doing that have taken time and lots of patience to heal.  I had torn hamstring attachments and as a result of that injury knee cap tracking issues.  They are both doing very well after lots of therapy over the past year and now I feel my practice is becoming strong again.  I have learned much from my injuries but am very grateful to be able to practice without much restriction, thus the rebound.  I read a book a little over a year ago called “Younger Next Year for Women” by Chris Crowley & Henry Lodge.  The timing of this book was perfect for me because it talked about what I was doing to heal my injuries was to make me healthier next year, results do not happen overnight.  It’s a process.  The process became my practice.

I am currently reading “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown.  It’s about rising strong after we fall, no matter what type of fall it is (personal, professional…).  She says vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for -  love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust.  “The process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.”  Once again the process becomes my practice.

Since the weather has gotten colder (and I hate cold weather) I have started drinking more tea.  My favorite drink lately has been a Matcha green tea latte made with Matcha powder.  Matcha is very high in antioxidants and makes a nice comforting drink for this time of year.  I heat up milk, usually almond, coconut or cashew, place it in my blender with some Matcha powder and some sweetener.  I use the blender to give the drink a frothiness, but the blender is not necessary.  Water is also an option in place of milk.  Starbucks also sells a Green Tea Latte made with Matcha powder so if I am out and about, it has been my go to drink of the season.  

 Stop in for Susan’s classes at the following times:

Tuesday 12:00 to 1:15 pm Level I Yoga
Wednesday 9:30 to 11:00 am Aligned Flow I&II
Wednesday 11:15 to 12:15 pm Chair Yoga

This Friday Night: Flow Your Week Away
With Susan Walsh Friday February 10th 6:30 to 8:00 PM
$20 or 1 class from your card

With this slow flow, our bodies will have a Friday night party together as we flow to the music and wind down our week. Slow, steady movements will release tension, clear work week stress and get you ready for your weekend. We will end the practice holding poses as we flow with our breath.

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