Satsang: (sanskrit) being with good/righteous companions. This typically involves listening to or reading scriptures, reflecting on, discussing and assimilating their meaning, meditating on the source of these words, and bringing their meaning into one’s daily life.*
Starting in February, we will be creating Satsang once a month at the studio. The source for our discussion will be the Yoga Sutras, which have been described as one of the foundations of classical Yoga philosophy. Specifically, we will read and discuss The Yamas and the Niyamas by Deborah Adele.
Last year, one of our SPY students gave me this lovely little book and I was quite taken by it. I have been studying the yoga sutras since 2005, and they can often be arduous and seem very esoteric. This translation and treatment of the ethical principals and guidelines set forth in the sutras is neither…AND I’d love to spend some time in our community discussing the ideas and principles this wonderful author presents.
On Wednesday, February 21st we will kick off a year long inquiry into how to live a good life, by working our way through the Yamas and Niyamas, one at a time. Each month, one of our SPY teachers will lead the discussion and help us reflect on, discuss and assimilate their meaning into our 21st century lives. These gatherings are intended to be a dialog and an inquiry into how we can align ourselves with these principles and bring them into our thoughts and actions.
If you are new to the Yamas and Niyamas, here is a primer. I think of them as a set of guidelines that teach us how to be in community with others and in alignment with our own spiritual compass.
The 5 Yamas include:
Ahimsa - non-violence
Satya - truthfulness
Brahmacharya - moderation in all things
Asteya - non-stealing
Aparigraha - non-covetousness
The 5 Niyamas include:
Saucha - purity i.e. internal and external cleanliness
Santosha - contentment
Tapas - austerity; discipline
Swadhyaya - study of the sacred texts
Ishwara Pranidhana - constantly living with an awareness of the divine Presence
These ideas are universal and very similar to many spiritual teachings and guidelines. And yet, it is not always easy to navigate and adhere to these principles in a balanced way. For example, Ahimsa, (non-violence) seems like a commonsense approach and many of us consider ourselves to uphold this value in our daily lives. If we look at our words, though, and not just our actions, we might find that we gossip and malign others in private conversation, which is not in alignment with a broader view of Ahimsa.
Bringing this kind of awareness to our way of being may not eliminate all of our shortcomings, (we are human after all!) but it will bring the light awareness to our words and actions and start us on a common path to being in community, together, and making each other good.
I hope you will join us as we embark on creating Satsang together. To read more and preregister for these monthly gatherings click here.
The last couple of days I can best describe as demanding: we start with morning meditation, then 3+ hours of Yoga practice, interactive lectures and fine tuning our individual Yoga poses and transitions.
I started Yoga June 1, 2015 because a good friend strongly suggested that I try Yoga and since I had recently retired I thought, why not? Of course, I met Kim and Kate at the counter and I have been coming back ever since. I find the Yoga community at Savannah Power Yoga to be an astounding group of people and the members of my teacher training class are even more astounding as I get to know them better, day by day. We share our thoughts and problems, both on the mat and off, and watch out for each other, both on the mat and off. Tired as we are, emotions can run high from time to time, and yet we are there for each other and keep pushing forward to learn and improve our practice.
Yesterday I flipped my dog for the first time and after class as I was going to my car to get a change of clothes I ran into a delightful member of our SPY community who asked me how I was doing at Camp and I told her about flipping my dog and with her marvelous dry humor and not skipping a beat she said “Oh, what kind of dog do you have”.
Today we start with a Power Hour and then investigate back bends, break for lunch and come back to discuss the Yoga sutras. After that, Kate has more for us, but has kept exactly what that is as a surprise.
Have you ever wondered what was involved in becoming a certified Yoga Instructor?
Ten of us applied for and started Yoga Camp this past Friday, June 9, 2017. One from Kentucky, one from Athens, GA and the rest from the more immediate Savannah area. Yoga Camp is a seven day ordeal of back-to-back yoga sessions, lectures and inquiry, in mainly 10-12 hour days. Our lead instructor is Kate and her number two is Kim.
After Yoga Camp we pick up 4 more students for the four in-depth weekends of instruction across the summer. Teacher training ends Aug 27, 2017.
We started last Friday evening with a Fast Flow class led by Biza; for those of you that don’t know her, she is a short, energetic woman who almost vibrates with energy even when standing still. I had taken a day and a half break from my practice to prepare for Camp and felt really happy to be back on my mat and then class started and Biz played a great playlist to practice by with some occasional commentary thrown in. Fast Flow feels like an hour's worth of Yoga in 45 minutes; a great energetic way to start Yoga Camp.
After class we got to change clothes and then meet each other, received our training manuals and we dug right in establishing expectations and procedures for the rest of Yoga Camp and Teacher Training.
Saturday morning at 9:00AM we started our day with 90 minutes of Power Max led by Kim, another energetic woman who does Roller Derby for fun, followed 30 minutes later by an hour of Power Basic led by Kate, our lead instructor and owner of the studio, then followed by about 15 minutes of meditation.
We had time to change clothes, hydrate and grab a quick bite between classes and then participated in a discussion about What is Yoga? The afternoon and early evening were spent in a fairly intensive investigation of Mountain Pose and how it carries into the standing poses. This included lecture as well as physical demonstration by Kim and our own efforts to properly perform the poses.
We finished our first full day tired but satisfied with our efforts and the amazing amount of information passed on to us by Kate. -written by Steve Bellmoff
Technology: science or knowledge put into practical use to solve problems
It’s hard to admit out loud, but I have problems. They range from the mundane - I have to get the laundry, grocery shopping and house cleaning done - to the complex - I run a business with 25 team members and 500+ customers. These responsibilities in and of themselves are not problems, but sometimes it can feel overwhelming.
Right now, my problem shows up as me feeling overwhelmed. At other points in my life my problems were different - I was unemployed, I was taking care of a sick parent, I was heart-broken.
This is where yoga comes in and this is why I often think of yoga as a technology. The breath, the movement, the practice of constantly redirecting of my attention to the present moment are the practical tools I use to help solve my problems. Time on my mat can put little distance between me and the problem at hand. Yoga reminds me that I do have control over my thoughts and actions and I am at the helm, setting my own course and creating my own experience of my life. I can choose to feel overwhelmed or I can keep coming back to the present moment and directing my attention to what I am doing right now.
Yoga doesn’t work, in the same way that technology sitting on a shelf doesn't work. Getting on my mat or meditation cushion - using the tools of breath and present moment awareness - is what works.
I found yoga when I was fresh out of college with so many assumptions about how my life was going to progress. I thought I was going to move West, get a job as a documentary film editor, and maintain a practice to stay in shape. When no jobs or cities were standing out, I decided to stay in Savannah. Meanwhile, something was starting to happen on my mat.
A couple years in I signed up for Yoga Camp, a seven day intensive. The state of exhaustion I was practicing in at the end of some days was not defeating, but powerful. The moments when I was laser focused on my breath just to stay on my mat is where the magic lived. I got a glimpse into the world of yoga that has lived long before me, and I began to find comfort in the fact that yoga was never ending. There would always be a new edge to explore.
After Yoga Camp I had no intention of moving on to teacher training because I was so new to the practice still. I was in class with yogis who had been practicing longer than I had been alive. What was I to share with them that they didn’t already know? But, I did it anyways. I needed to learn more.
I think of my teacher training experience as one that taught me the very basics of how to be the human I wanted to be. I unlearned the need to control everything around me or have the future figured out. I no longer needed to be right all of the time. I was given the space to hear my own thoughts and not jump to conclusions. I literally and figuratively saw myself. I saw every autopilot response, insecurity, smile, breakthrough, and it all felt authentic.
Most importantly I learned that everything I do is a practice, and it started with getting on my mat. Relationships are a practice, eating nutritionally is a practice, getting enough sleep is a practice. Nothing I practice will ever be perfect, but every time I slip up there is a chance to come back and try again with mindful awareness.
I used to think that being a yoga teacher meant my practice was over and I couldn’t be the student I wanted to be. Now I understand that teaching is a practice too.
I did not have the desire to start teaching after I received my 200 hour certification, but I used what I learned as a foundation for my own asana practice. This year I am participating in PVTT again, with hopes of teaching at SPY in the fall. Though I may be presented with the same information, my takeaway will be completely new.
I don’t know your story, your whys or why nots, but I know that SPY’s teacher training program is designed to meet you where you are. I excited to begin again, and I hope you’ll meet me there, ready for anything. Namaste, Jane
So what is it about this practice that has inspired me to finally commit to this style of yoga and even open my own power yoga studio?
1. I like a strong physical practice. I find that some days I need to move and sweat in order to get to a quiet meditative state. This practice challenges me physically in the way my Ashtanga practice did. What I found after I began practicing this style, though, was that the sequence is very intelligently crafted and opens the body in a way that is very safe and accessible to many people. The lower back pain that used to plague me has essentially gone away since I started practicing BPVY. This is as much about the sequence as it is about a shift in my attitude toward my practice. Bottom line - the practice makes my body feel great.
2. As a teacher I like the sequence of poses is very accessible to new students. While there are challenging poses like crow and headstand in the practice, we are not required to teach every pose in the sequence in every class. As a teacher, I can gauge my students’ abilities and choose poses that will empower them. I teach the BPVY sequence to my “Gentle Power” students, many of whom are over 55 years old, some of them are even in their 80’s!
3. The fact that the BPVY sequence is structured into 11 parts, each with its own set of poses, provides an amazing framework from which to teach. While I can pick and choose what to teach based on what’s happening in the room, I don’t have to develop my own sequence every time I come to teach. When I first started teaching vinyasa classes I spent a lot of time planning my classes and trying to follow my plan instead of showing up and seeing my students and teaching based on what they needed. Instead of planning the poses, I can watch for what’s happening with my students and adapt to their experience and needs.
4. The same goes for music. I used to spend a lot of time putting together play lists trying to make sure the music would manage the energy in the room appropriately. Now I get to manage the energy using my own energy instead of using someone else’s voice.
5. Because this practice has a strong spiritual foundation, but I can be as subtle about it as I like when I am teaching. Some days I am inspired spiritually and this will show up in my teaching. On the days when I am in a very physical space, I don’t feel like I to have to lecture my students on their relationship to a higher power. The spirit of the practice flows from my own experience, study and inquiry rather than from reading other people's words in class.
6. Because there is no dogma in the spiritual aspects of the practice. I respect Baron Baptiste’s way of teaching a great deal because he draws on many faiths in his teachings and does not preach, but at the same time does not shy away from speaking of God.
7. Because Baron Baptiste is alive and teaches workshops all over the US and abroad and I can go take classes with him and his master teachers and learn directly from them. When I was constantly seeking my flavor of yoga, I really wanted a practice that had a living teacher with whom I could study. I want to be able to ask questions and tap into my teacher’s experience as I try and find my own way on this journey.
8. The most important reason I teach this style of yoga is because it makes me happy and it makes my students happy. At the end of my own practice, I am filled with a powerful joy that comes from my center. After I finish teaching I witness this joy in my students. To see a bunch of smiling, empowered yogis leaving class brings me more satisfaction than any other job I have ever had.
This is a repost of something I wrote back in 2011. I came across it this morning and was reminded of why I love this practice. 5 years later, it all still applies. It's long, so I will post it in two installments.
Why I Teach Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga (part 1)
I spent many years dating around in the yoga world. I’d try one style of yoga for a while, then be over it and find something new to satisfy my need for physical and spiritual nourishment. Some of these forays into a certain style of yoga didn’t last past the first date (e.g. Shiva Rea’s Trance Dance) while others went on for years (Ashtanga) and became an important part of my day-to-day life. Even in the long term relationships, though, I always had a sense that the practice was not exactly right for me. While I was deep into the second year of my relationship with Ashtanga, I went on a date with Baptiste Power Vinyasa. I had an ecstatic experience, but I was so involved with my Ashtanga practice, that I wasn’t sure what to do. My heart wanted to dump Ashtanga but my head kept telling me that my Ashtanga practice had supported me for so long, that I should not jump ship.
In the months that followed, I started to dabble in the Baptiste practice a little more. I’d travel to Jacksonville, FL for a workshop at MBody Yoga and even took a weekend workshop with Baron Baptiste. At the same time I would do the Primary Series every morning and even signed up for and attended David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga Teacher training. The training was great but I left conflicted. Having studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India a couple of years earlier, I had been steeped in the tradition and taught that the only “legitimate” Astanga teachers were authorized by the Jois family. As a life-long rule-follower I was having a hard time deciding to teach Ashtanga without being “legit.” I also firmly believe that a good yoga teacher practices what they teach. So I was in a pickle. I practiced Ashtanga, but felt like I wasn’t good enough to teach it, even though I had been teaching yoga classes for several years at that point.
Within a month of returning from that training, I signed up for Mark White’s Baptiste inspired teacher training at MBody. I had only taken a handful of Baptiste classes at that point, but felt in my heart like it was the right thing to do.
It would be nice to say that during my first weekend of teacher training I fell out of love and jumped in to Baptiste Power Vinyasa with both feet. The truth is that like with many long term relationships, the breakup was slow and painful. I was so attached to my way of doing things that Mark White had to use a lot of force to get me to let go of my old way of being. The truth was that I still loved Ashtanga but knew that I needed to move on. Like any relationship, the practice had run its course and taught me some incredible values and lessons. In the end, though we weren’t meant to be lifelong partners.
The good news was that Baptiste Power Vinyasa and I had an amazing physical relationship right from the start. Every time I practiced I was amazed at how great my body felt - I was buzzing from head to toe and didn’t have any pain at all! In previous practices, I would typically push myself to the point of at least some ache or pain - but it was the “good kind” of pain, I would tell myself. In this practice, even when I worked heard or Mark kept us in frog pose for 15 minutes, I would wake up the next day feeling great.
While the physical relationship was great, the emotional side of things was challenging. I had this notion that my perfect yoga would steeped in history and therefore legitimate. Learning that Mark had only been practicing for 5 years and was already teaching this style of yoga, not to mention teaching teachers, made me skeptical. What did he know that I didn’t already know? Heh. A lot.
The next three months of teacher training were a journey of self-discovery. And Mark was my unexpected guide. I learned more about myself than anything else, and some of the lessons weren’t pretty. Mark was my mirror, showing me the harsh reality of my teaching. I was robotic, pushy, self-centered, self-absorbed, and hiding behind my technical skills and physical practice. I watched Mark break the other students down into tears and was determined not to let that happen to me. The harder he pushed, the harder I resisted.
It was not until the last weekend of teacher training that something changed. As part of our final evaluation and certification process we would all be asked to teach one section of the Journey into Power sequence. I was very strong on the technical side, but weak on the inspiration side, so it was perfect when he asked me to teach the hip opening sequence. As I stood in the front of the room looking at my peers, I was filled with love and for the first time really saw my students and connected to them. The tears started flowing as I begin to teach. I don’t recall any of what I said, but it was not technical. It was straight from my heart. I had finally found love in my teaching.
What Mark taught me is that teaching is not about me. It’s about really seeing and connecting to each student and teaching from that connection. To me this is the essence of the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga.
Last night was our 6th Birthday at SPY so we threw ourselves a party. The practice was nice and sweaty and the refreshments were tasty. Just as important as the fun was the opportunity to recognize some the folks who have helped to make SPY the awesome community that it is. Without YOU, this place would not be, so thank you for all that you do to make SPY special.
If you missed the Yogi Achievement awards, we had some fun. Some of the awards are based on real data, some are just for giggles. All are part of makes our community great. Here is the breakdown:
Highest Class Attendance 2016 (Male) Cory Weston (446)
Highest Class Attendance 2016 (Female) Heather Downs (334)
Most Workshops Attended in 2016 (Female) Liz Howard
Most Workshops Attended in 2016 (Male) Robert Rollings
Sweatiest Yogi Jamie Downs
Most Likely to Come in After Class Starts Maureen Simmons
Most Likely to Flip a Bird to the Teacher Chad Mabry
Most Likely to Leave Before Savasana She Left
Most Enthusiastic New Yogi Frida Raley
Most Likely to Stand Up in Class to Let the Teacher Know its Too Hot Miranda Marchant
Most Likely to Kick Up in Handstand MaryBrooke Sligh
Most Likely to Have Glass of Wine after Yoga Shari Miltiades
Ninja Award - Takes Classes All the Time and You may Not Even Know it Jennifer Hale
Best Overall Attitude Amy Hughes
Most Likely to Hold Hands in Savasana Patrick and Jennifer Carver Andres Hernandez and Sara Simmons
Y'alll make SPY what it is - a place to work hard, play hard and connect with others. I look forward to at least 6 more years with you.
A longleaf pine habitat needs fire to survive. Without fire, the seeds can’t germinate, more aggressive plants take over, and new growth is inhibited. Ironically, fire suppression, which was first implemented to protect forests, was actually leading to the extinction of our native longleaf pine forests in and around Savannah.
In the Hindu tradition, Shiva represents this concept. He is the god of creation, destruction and regeneration. He is often pictured dancing in a ring of fire, stepping on a demon, which symbolizes ignorance, and lifting his left leg in an act of creation. He typically has a slight smile on his face, showing calmness despite being immersed in the contrasting forces of the universe.
Faced with fire, we can choose to see ourselves as victims or we can consciously choose to burn away the things that we do not need and make space for something new.
As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, I want to personally invite you to join me in burning away the old and making room for something new. A regular yoga practice has helped me learn to sit in the intensity of life and resist the urge to flee. Every once in a while I also need to take some time and identify what I want to create and I what I need to leave behind to make space for this new growth.
As we enter the new year, let’s take some time to identify what we need to release and what we are committed to creating for ourselves and others in 2017.
image source: By Chathurasj (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
As we near the end of the year, if you’re like me, you start to think about and welcome the clean slate of a new year. For me, 2016 was filled with intensity and the unexpected, so I am ready for 2017.
Before I can start fresh, there are some things I need to process and set free. I come from the corporate world, where reviewing "lessons learned" has always been an important part of closing any project. In my new world I like to think of this process as an “inventory and release”. What have I learned this year and what do I need to release?
If you look up the definition of release, you’ll find: “to set free from restraint, confinement, or servitude.” Where am I restrained and confined? What am I in servitude to? Wow. Lots of things. My fears, my drive for perfection, my desire to make others happy. As I sit here considering what is confining me, I can see that all of these things restrain me in some way. What if this year I could commit to fearlessness and imperfection. Just writing down a commitment to imperfection sounds scary AND sort of beguiling. What if I could just show up and do my best and let others be good enough doing their best? What if I could be in service to my higher self and the greatness of others instead of in servitude to my “shoulds.”
That sounds pretty good to me. I think I’ll start there. See you on your mat, Kate
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