Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Adjustment Clinic

When: Saturday 11/8/08 12:30-6:30pm
Cost: $100 (includes workshop and hand outs)

The ability to adjust others and to adjust yourself comes from a two-fold understanding. While knowledge and technique are important, so is the ability to read the physical and energetic signals of the individual you are teaching. Great adjustments used incorrectly for someone's ability, body type, or even mental and emotional state become worthless or even detrimental. On the contrary, a small but perfectly applied adjustment can allow the practitioner to transcend boundaries they didn't even know existed. In this workshop we will:

  • Learn adjustments for several important asana, including standing and floor poses
  • How to apply these adjustments for your own practice in addition to students of all abilities
  • Learn to "read" yourself and your students' bodies and energies, in order to determine the best way to adjust
  • Deepen your understanding of human anatomy and how it is affected by yoga, emotions, and touch
This workshop is open to both practitioners and teachers, as the learning takes place from both angles.

Please contact me directly to register: sara@sarayoga.com or 516-521-7545

Save the Date

It is with much joy (and a little intimidation) that I invite all of my beloved readers to a holiday chanting celebration. My chanting teacher has decided that myself and the rest of my chanting group are ready for our first concert. The theme of the show will be healing chants and mantra, something that all of us need during the chaos between Thanksgiving and the New Year. We will be chanting from the Vedas and Yoga Sutras, which will be inspiring for all. It is a complimentary show and your presence is welcome. I could certainly use your support to quell my nerves!!! Here's the scoop:

What: Concert of Healing Chants
When: Saturday, 12/20 6-8pm
Cost: Nada!
Why: In addition to the gorgeous sounds of ancient sanskrit chants we will end the evening with a vegan dessert buffet. Yum!

Contact me with any questions. Kids of all ages are welcome.

I'm Back!!!

My dear readers, I am so sorry to have neglected you. I've had a wild few weeks, but all was well worth it. The fall retreat in Jamesport was fantastic on all accounts. Probably my favorite retreat that I have led thus far. Stay tuned for the spring date!

Now that I am back on the blogosphere I will have all kinds of juicy scoop to post. Events, reflections, tips for practice and life. Feels good to be home!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This is a poem found on the wall in Mother Teresa's orphanage in Calcutta. Its' source is unknown. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.


This morning's practice was "interesting". Translation: mentally challenging. I am grateful to be blessed with a physical body that is rarely sick or injured. My mind, on the other hand, has its weak moments. Today was one of them.

My friend, April, is known to say that "a flexible spine is a flexible mind". This morning during Kapotasana (a deep 2nd series backbend) neither one wanted to cooperate. It was almost like watching a movie screen; I saw myself doing the asana, saw myself judge my progress as "not good enough", and proceeded to feel like a kapotasana failure. The only good news was that I was totally AWARE of this as it was happening, which I know is the first step to change. 

I finished my practice and enjoyed the rest thoroughly, yet I was still hung up on this one pose. Not feeling okay with the fact that I couldn't let it go, I decided to take a deep, hard look and ask myself why this was still coming up? Most yoga practitioners know that this is not an easy thing, as the poses typically stir up those parts of us that need examining. For me Kapotasana brought up my deep seeded fear of failure. Failure of not being good enough, whether in my back bends, in my teaching, in my marriage, in my family interactions, etc. I spent much time probing deep into my mind and asking myself a string of "why" questions until I found the root cause of this fear. After meditating to find stillness and practicing acceptance throughout the day I finally feel I have come to peace with it. Here is the kicker though:

Being a dedicated Ashtangi I try my hardest to pass on the teachings of Guruji and the lineage to all my students, as most teachers of this tradition do. Somewhere though, the western translation has been muddled. The poses are a means to strengthen the mind. Yes, they will strengthen the body as well, but that is simply a by-product of the practice. Yet, for many of us this is where we get hung up (Kapotasana anyone?). We understand that we need to be adaptable and accepting and find a balance between our practice and daily responsibilities. Yet, we STILL judge ourselves when we don't bind or feel guilty if we cut our practice short once in a while. The deeper I dig the more I realize that this is not what Guruji is trying to pass on.

Sharath tells us that doing advanced asana does not create enlightenment. It is the mental absorption that brings transformation. Sun salutes, if done with the right state of mind, can trigger self realization. Advanced asana, if done for egoic purposes, will not. Saraswati, Guruji's daughter, recently gave an interview discussing how to mesh one's practice with having a job, a home, and a family. Frankly, she doesn't emphasize the asana as being super important. Rather, strength of MIND is what makes the difference. This can be practiced with or without a yoga mat. Guruji himself is known to say that Ashtanga Yoga is a "breathing practice and the rest is just bending". So if these are the roots of the Ashtanga method, then who the heck put so much emphasis on doing the poses perfectly? Drumroll please......US!!!!!!!!!

Many feel that Ashtanga Yoga is only for the physically strong, young, fit, and healthy population. To this I pass on the answer that Sharath gave to me when I spoke to him in person about this very issue just a few months ago. "Teach to your audience. Advanced poses do not equal enlightenment. Who says that one cannot become self-realized doing sun salutes and standing poses only? It is a state of mind that dictates the outcome of practice."

My conclusions are these: Ashtanga Yoga did not inject me with my fear of failure. Rather, it brought to the surface something it might have taken much longer to work through had I not been doing this practice. The next time I am struggling with attachment to our asana practice I vow to recognize it for what it is: weakness of mind. Ashtanga Yoga, just like anything else, is what you make of it. If it is about having a great asana practice you will face those issues. If it is about strengthening your mind you will be able to practice it for a lifetime.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All or Nothin'

The all or nothing mentality is easy to spot, because we all become enraptured in it at some point.  So often a student of mine will say something resembling, "I couldn't come to class last night because I was tired", or "I didn't practice at all yesterday because I would've had to cut it short". My personal favorite "All or Nothing" quote comes from my own father, whom often says, "I can't go to yoga class yet because I am not flexible enough". 

The beauty of Yoga is that it is not black or white. Rather, it is a tool that helps us to find the gray area, that unique place where we are in this moment, and to determine what we need NOW. When we are tired, stiff, or pressed for time it is not our physical body preventing us from practice. It is our own mind. We figure that if we can't do our full practice then it isn't worth doing anything. We don't realize that "progress" in Yoga is not measured in time spent on the mat, nor is it dependent upon having a practice worthy of the Yoga Journal's photo spreads. It is to give us the strength and clarity to still our crazy minds. Five minutes of yoga for that purpose alone is more powerful than hours of asana (poses) without intention. 

There have been times where I've had to cut a practice short due to responsibilities. There have also been times where I was aching, sick, tired, and unfocused but practiced anyway. I might not have had practices that looked stunning on those days, but I know this: I emerged from my mat a thousand times more centered and emotionally stable then before I started. I have NEVER regretted a practice. One of the most amazing practices I've ever had was during a brutal ribcage injury (thanks to surfing). The pain forced me into mindfulness. My mind wasn't concerned about grabbing my legs in back-bending, it just wanted some peace.The result was feeling lighter than ever before. That day cemented for me the importance and the purpose of practice. Our practice, just like life, will rarely be perfect. As soon as it is we will find new challenges to conquer. Whether 15 minutes of breathing or a full 2 hour asana practice, the result is always the same.......and always crucial to living a better life.

Yoga Sutra I:II Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah; Yoga is the control of the fluctuations of the mind.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Passing on the love.....

The last few days have been a huge reminder that times are tough for everyone. Because many of us are more stressed financially than normal there is not as much to donate to those in need. I have pondered this endlessly over the last few days and have been racking my brain as to how I can make a difference. Finally, I have come to a decision.

Tonight I was fumbling through the mail while discussing the Fall Retreat with Ben. I couldn't put my finger on it but I felt that some aspect of the retreat was incomplete. When I opened a letter from the Disabled Veterans of America, thanking us for our recent donation, it hit me: THE RETREAT NEEDS KARMA YOGA!

As a result, I am happy to say that 10% of the profits from the retreat will be donated to St. Judes Childrens' Hospital for youngsters fighting cancer. If you are just hearing about St. Judes for the first time, you will be impressed. They never turn away anyone who cannot afford treatment.....ever! They also have some of the finest therapies to help children and their families heal from the challenges that cancer brings to their lives. Anyone is welcome to donate, even if they cannot attend the retreat. I will personally ensure that your donation is sent to those in need.

This decision has inspired me to make the Autumn Retreat the best one to date. If you would like to join us on October 18th, or add to the donation for St. Jude's Research Hospital, please email me at sara@sarayoga.com

Peace, Love, and Light