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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't Let The Name Fool You: Why Chair Yoga May Be For You

Chair Yoga

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 have difficulty/discomfort standing 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.  Also ideal for people pre and post joint replacement, those with arthritis, vertigo or people in rehabilitation and physical therapy.
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.

Don't let the name fool you, chair yoga can meet the needs of a wide variety of practitioners. Those with experience, those who are just beginning and those who are post injury are all good candidates for trying this class. Some of the feedback from students so far includes: 

-Nice stretch
-That felt good
-I really enjoyed that
-It didn't hurt my knee/hip/shoulder
-I was really surprised by how much I can get out of a chair yoga class
-It was great to be able to move, bend and stretch without pain or discomfort

Yoga is not a one size fits all practice and chair yoga is another great example of that at Shree. This class is gentle and supportive, while still engaging your muscles, to help you get a full practice without stressing your body. 

Join Susan Walsh on Wednesday's from 11:15 to 12:15 pm for chair yoga. On March 22nd bring your parent or grandparent to class and YOU get to take the class for free!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Shree Expert Teacher Focus: Rachel Dewan

Rachel Dewan, E-RYT 500 Anusara Certified Yoga Teacher 

Rachel sought out yoga in college to help cope with the physical aches & pains that are the gifts of a performing musician, and soon found not an exercise system, but a way of life. Yoga has become a path of learning that has helped her to shape her life in all aspects, reminding her that when she opens to the power of grace in every moment, she can choose the life she desires to live. Rachel has been actively teaching yoga since 2004, practicing and studying extensively since 2001. In addition to classes and workshops, she teaches Immersions, has co-taught several teacher trainings and will be co-teaching the upcoming 200 hour Shree Anusara Teacher Training with Chaya this Fall. Rachel's classes infuse teaching deeply rooted in scripture of all kinds, while also reflecting living as a modern yogi for a seamless integration of contemporary and spiritual themes woven throughout postural and breath instructions to integrate body, mind, and heart in a powerful way. With an eye always on careful alignment, her classes include dynamic sequencing and movement with breath to skillfully open the body and harness its unique potential to bring forth the most satisfying and beautiful pose each individual body can create. Her ultimate goal as a teacher is to help guide her students to recognize their own inner teacher, the aspect of themselves that already knows how to live a full and meaningful life, but maybe has forgotten along the way.  Below Rachel gives a peek into her own asana practice and how she stays connected...

What does your personal practice consist of?

Some kind of yoga, every single day. Dedicating at least part of my day to my own sadhana, even if it's just 10 minutes because that is all I have time for between teaching and children, is one of my highest priorities. I tell myself 10 minutes is better than 0 minutes! What it looks like varies- some days a full practice at home. Some days an end of the day wind-down pranayama and restorative practice on the floor of my son's room while he falls asleep. Some mornings I sit for meditation, other days I sit before I go to bed. The days I get to a class are a real treasure. No matter what it looks like, I am a firm believe in #yogaeverydamnday!

What pose are you currently working on? How?

Lowering from handstand to bakasana, and vice versa. Working on it from a number of directions- pressing up from plank to L pose and back slowly with my legs on an exercise ball, then in a tuck, hips over shoulders. Lots of ab work on the floor lifting and lowering both upper and lower body slowly. Lowering from handstand to a tuck slowly at the wall. Practicing bakasana about 12" from the wall and trying to press up (this is MUCH harder for me!). Working on just holding handstand for longer to build my arm and core stamina. Hopping from down dog into bakasana.

What is your biggest physical challenge in your practice? 

An old hamstring injury that I recently re-awoke. Forward bending is incredibly painful right now so I am working on backing off, which is probably my second biggest challenge in my asana practice (although not a physical one).

What is your biggest mental challenge?

Not beating myself up about things I can't do yet. Not comparing myself to other people. Worrying about my weight and how my body looks. Ok thats 3 things... clearly focus should be on this list!

How do you keep inspiration alive in your practice?

The ultimate goal of my yoga practice is to be inspired. Said another way: for some aspect of my practice to help me make a connection to my own divine essence, my true nature, the part of me that is beyond my own self-limiting ideas and false labels. To that end, studying scripture, reading poetry, deep and challenging asana practice, regular mediation practice and taking classes with great teachers all help me feel lit up. Preparing for teaching immersions and Trainings also keep the fire inspiration burning for me - every one that I teach deepens my own learning and practice in ways I never anticipated. It is so joyful to share this system that is so integral to my own life, and watching it transform the lives of my students is deeply fulfilling. Imagining the reverberations of all those teachers then going on to teacher their own students, rippling waves of grace out in wider and wider circles to a world that so desperately needs it, is what keeps me going.

Stop in to experience the magic of one of Rachel's classes at the following times:

  • Monday 9:30 to 11:00 am Level I&II Yoga
  • Monday 11:15 to 12:30 pm Gentle Therapeutic Yoga
  • Sunday, April 23 2:30-4:00 Yoga Nerd

In addition to teaching her regularly scheduled classes, Rachel will be joining Chaya Spencer in co-leading the Fall 2017- Spring 2018 Shree Yoga Teacher Training. This will be her second time in this training with Chaya.

Shree Yoga Teacher Training Fall 2017 – Spring 2018

Find Your Voice.  Transform Lives.

Approved by Yoga Alliance RYS-200

With E-RYT 500 Chaya Spencer, and E-RYT 500 Rachel Dewan

You will be guided with patience and compassion to find your unique voice and a personalized way to bring forth your gifts through learning to teach yoga. This is a rigorous 200+ hour Anusara® yoga teacher training program led by one of the most senior and skillful Certified Anusara Yoga teachers in New Jersey.  This program is for those wanting to learn how to teach, or for teachers wanting to learn how to teach using Anusara methodology and techniques.

Click here for more information.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Shree Expert Teacher Focus: Karon Shovers Goldsmith

Karon Shovers Goldsmith, E-RYT 500, Anusara Certified Yoga Teacher 

Karon has been practicing and studying yoga for over 17 years, during which time she has completed over 2,500 hours of teaching groups, workshops, and trainings. Her areas of expertise included Women's Health, Restorative and Therapeutic Yoga. She has a new class: Autoimmune Recovery that begins this Tuesday at 1:30 weekly.  Encouraging playfulness and creative expression, Karon incorporates alignment and therapeutics in all of her classes and workshops, gently, but perceptibly, raising her students' practices to the next level and helping them to step into Grace. Below Karon shares her personal practice, what she is reading and what she drinks to keep warm!

Practice: I am working on moving my spine while holding various postures. I find it is doable in down dog and more challenging in other poses. I call it "Snaking my Dog" 

Study: On my bedside table I have The Spy by Paulo Coehlo, Living Breath from the Inside and Outside by Angela Farmer, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and Upstream by Mary Oliver

Food: "Golden Milk" which I drink every afternoon to warm up and take me through the darker afternoons. 

1 cup coconut milk or other non-dairy milk 
1 large cinnamon stick 
1, 1 inch piece of tumeric or 1/2 tsp dried 
1, 2 inch piece ginger, sliced
1 TBSP honey or maple syrup
1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns 
1 Tbsp coconut oil

This is the basic recipe, I also add a couple of cardamon pods and a little more cinnamon. Whisk all ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and simmer more. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. I store for about 5 days in the fridge. I leave the cinnamon stick and one piece of ginger in the stored milk to increase flavors. 

Stop into the studio at any of the following times to experience Karon's classes:
Tuesday 9:00 to 10:15 Beginner Yoga
Tuesday 10:30 to 11:45 Restorative Yoga with Meditation
Tuesday 1:30 to 2:45 Autoimmune Recovery ** New class see description below!**

Autoimmune Recovery

Yoga, while not a magic bullet, can address some of the shared challenges, both physical and mental, that accompany Autoimmune Disorders. It is known that moderate exercise, like yoga, can reduce inflammation in the body, which is common with autoimmune disease, and give you a sense of calm and well-being that lowers your body’s production of the physical and mental stressors that compromise the immune system.
This class will include active yoga postures, gentle stretches, restorative yoga and meditation to assist the mind and the body in reducing stress hormones that promote inflammation by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming influence) which reduces the body’s stress response.  This class is appropriate for students with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, IBS, Krohn’s and other autoimmune diseases.
Karon is consulting on a book and video on yoga for Inflammation and Autoimmune Disorders with Aimee Raupp, acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Doctor to be released later this year

Thursday, March 2, 2017

There are no coincidences

Although there seems to be a randomness to the world, unexplained occurrences that can leave us breathless either from joy or heartache, I don’t believe in coincidence. All that I have read and studied and practiced in my own life coupled with my life experience have taught me that  even though some things seem arbitrary to my limited human brain, there is a bigger picture of the universe that I am not privy to that lines things up in seemingly coincidental ways.  Like those 3D posters that were popular in the 90’s where you had to blur your eyes to see the hidden picture – the pattern seemed random, but when you focus the right way the picture would reveal itself.

Grace (or God or the Universe or whatever you want to call that which is bigger than yourself), is in a constant state of contraction and expansion and we are part of that.  We can participate with it and in doing so align ourselves with her shakti and flow so things tend to move generally in the direction we want them to go in, but as we are in relationship with her, and with so many other beings, all of whom have their own karmic imprints and cycles that they are a part of means that sometimes they line up and sometimes they really don’t. These can come in the form of “aha” moments: expansive epiphanies, beautiful happenstances, mind-blowing realizations, as well as mere “coincidences”….but can also come in the form of unexplainable devastation, heartbreaking loss, and debilitating illness. But when we are in the flow of Grace we realize that all of those are part of the same cycle.  We take responsibility for the choices we made along the way, but realize that for better or for worse we are not all-powerful or omniscient, and the way things go are not ultimately up to us alone.  
More than anything else, my training with Todd Norian was a huge lesson in spotting moments of grace in all experiences, and after years of practice these moments happen to me constantly – usually several times a day.  I don’t think they happen any more often now, I just think I’m tuned in better.  Most of these are small daily sweet little alignments, but one of my biggest “aha” moments was in Chicago in 2010.  I was at a crossroads in my teaching – I had been contemplating pursuing full Anusara Certification, had been studying a lot of Anusara and wanted to move forward.  At the same time, I became very involved in our synagogue as a result of my rabbi really taking me under her wing and reawakening my interest in Judaism.  I had started teaching a “Jewish” yoga class which was very well received but was very torn about the ways it drew me away from my Anusara studies and work.  In the midst of this my Rabbi called me into her office and told me she wanted to pay for me to go take a training in Yoga and Jewish spirituality.  It was quite costly but she was going to pay for the entire thing.  I walked out in a sort of daze…it was totally unexpected and I had to give her an answer within a few days as the program started soon and I had to arrange childcare, etc. for the 18 months I would be enrolled. 

The next morning I went for an early run, which is when I do my best thinking.  It was dark out and I was very much absorbed in my own thoughts about this process.  We had moved to Chicago for my husband’s work, yet my career was exploding.  I was getting numerous opportunities to expand professionally and I was reflecting that perhaps it was my shakti that brought us to IL not my husband’s, even though I went there kicking and screaming.  I was reflecting on the decision I had to make that would clearly shift my path away from the path I thought I wanted to be on.  I was feeling like someone was offering me a beautiful gift and when you are offered a gift you can’t say no…but it was so not in the plan.  The thought in my mind was “maybe the universe is sending me a sign that this is really my path I just hadn’t been aware of it until now”.  As that thought came into my mind I rounded a corner and in the dark, saw 2 figures standing on the corner directly in front of was my rabbi and her husband.  I was so shocked I almost fell over, I actually stumbled…wished them a good morning and ran off in utter shock.  Now, admittedly, she lived a few streets over from me in my neighborhood.  But in all my years there (almost 4) and my 5-day-a-week runs at approximately the same time, this was the one and only time I ever saw her.  I did enroll in the training and it did change and expand my life in amazing ways and I know it was the right choice. 

In The Alchemist, (Shree book club's pick of the month - join us March 12th to go deeper!!) Paulo Coelho tells us "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." When we align with our choices fully wholeheartedly Grace feels that alignment and answers in kind.  When we come onto the mat, move with our breath, align our bodies with our hearts, our energy with those in the room, and in doing so with the whole yoga community who aligns with these teachings, amazing shifts can happen.  When we are open to the push and pull, give and take, expansion and contraction of the universe we see beauty and meaning in every experience, however random or coincidental they may seem. Sometimes the most random acts turn out to be the most pivotal - and it's not that they are happening more often now. When I am sensitive, attuned, aware I simply notice them more. 

Off the Mat: Take time this week to notice "moments of grace" - seemingly coincidental events that pop up without rhyme or reason.  Look for them, be open to them, seek them out, and revel in the joy of connection.

On the mat: In my classes this week we worked on the complementary expansive and contractive energies of shins in - thighs out to build to poses (depending on level) such as Eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon lunge), agnistambasana (fire log pose), padmasana (lotus pose), eka hasta bhujasana and eka pada koundinyasana

For the Anusara Junkies:
Heart quality – stepping into the flow, being with what is, being open to the seeming randomness, aligning with coincidence

Open to Grace: open to the myriad of possibilities any moment offers you

Muscular Energy/Shins In: Hug shins to midline to engage with the current moment
Engage with the flux and flow of the Universe as it pulses in contraction and expansion (SI/TO)

Inner Spiral/Thighs Apart: widen sit bones and open to the uncertainty of life
Widen inner thighs and make space for the seeming arbitrariness of human existence

Outer Spiral: Sink tailbone and tone belly, affirming your place in the bigger picture that we are not completely aware of and yet an integral part of

Organic Energy: Celebrate the freedom that allows us to choose how we see every experience that presents itself.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Shree Expert Teacher Focus: Alison Simpson

Alison Simpson, RYT 200 

Alison was first introduced to yoga after a move from her home country of Scotland to Australia. She immediately felt the great benefits of practice and a sense of connection with others in her new surroundings. When Alison moved to the US and began practicing at Shree she fell in love with the alignment principles and heart centered themes offered in Anusara yoga. Jumping in, Alison completed 3 Anusara immersions before taking her yoga teacher training in 2013-2014 with Chaya Spencer. In her teaching Alison aims to encourage her students to find a deeper sense of connection with their mind, body, and spirit. Alison's classes incorporate asana practice with meditation to help students gain a deeper awareness of the light within them and leave class with a sense of wholeness. Below Alison shares a deeper look at her practice, inspirations and self care both on and off the mat!

How do you maintain your regularity of practice/devotion to practice when times are tough?

My yoga practice supports me through good times and tougher times. No matter how I feel, when I roll out my mat, come to my breath and start to move with the breath through my practice the worries and concerns slip away and my mind becomes more open, more clear. Yoga offers so much wisdom, in particular to listen to what my body needs day to day. There is always a practice to support me whether it's a faster paced flow, a slow and calming restorative practice or meditation practice. Each one brings me back to center and I roll my mat back up feeling uplifted. 

What have you read, heard, seen recently that inspires you? How?

I am currently reading "the teacher appears" by Brian Leaf. It is full of contemplations, inspirations and fun exercises to know yourself more fully. Today's inspiration was: Forgive the tightness in your hamstring and it will ease....try this now. 

Who inspires you? Why?

I am constantly inspired by the teachers and students at Shree. The teachers for sharing their skill and knowledge and the students of all ages who show up on their mats week after week willing and open to practice. 

Any special self care that you are currently practicing? What? Why?

Since starting to teach a restorative class at Shree I have been practicing one restorative pose each night before bed. My favorite is Legs up the Wall or Viparita Karani. Restorative yoga postures can be very effective in preparing the body for deep, restful sleep. Taking 10-15 minutes to relax and breath has really changed the quality of my sleep. 

What type of diet do you find is most health supportive/optimal for your body? Why?

I follow the Clean Diet. Not 100 percent but as closely as I can. Susan Walsh introduced me to this way of eating through a group cleanse that she ran. Cutting out gluten, dairy and acidic foods has given me more energy and clarity. Having a 12 hour period of fasting between dinner and breakfast has made the biggest difference- it has stopped the snacking which I had a tendency to do while unwinding in the evenings. I have gradually introduced this way of eating to my family and slowly but surely we are feeling the benefits. 

Join Alison on Thursday's 12:15 to 1:30 pm for Restorative Yoga. And, join her for an evening introduction to yoga with a gorgeous Scottish accent to top it all off.  Pre-registration required.  Begins this coming Monday.

4 Week Evening Intro to Yoga

With Alison Simpson, March 6, 13, 20 and 27 from 7:30-8:45 PM
Ever wanted to try yoga but didn’t know where to start? This is the perfect introductory series created for the brand new beginner. During this 4 week series, we will learn the ABC’s of Yoga.  There will be basic instruction in the fundamental poses, anatomy, breathing, meditation and some simple philosophy. This series will give you a strong foundation for a yoga practice and can provide greater confidence for you to  join a regular class and start you on your way to experiencing the many benefits of yoga ranging from stress relief to improved health and well-being.  Feel the difference and consider making yoga an integral part of your life. For those new to yoga or to yoga at Shree in particular.  All are welcome.  Advance registration required.  There are no make-ups for missed classes in this series.

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