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I can trace my first exposure to anything yogic to a childhood memory of being mesmerized by a group of people on the sidewalk chanting the maha mantra: "Hare Krishna…" It took an effort by my parents to keep me, a normally reserved child, from joining the circle of dancing devotees. In a Junior High English class, the teacher introduced us to the basic principles of Buddhism in a discussion of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. In High School, I was politically and socially active and my interest in Buddhist philosophy was informed by my concern for human and environmental rights.
It was my dual interests in social activism and Buddhism that drew me to study with Bhikku Buddhadasa, a monk and philosopher in Southern Thailand who was a proponent of Socially Engaged Buddhism, a movement to apply the insights from meditation practice to situations of social, political, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice.
During college, when visiting home on summer vacations, I would drag my mother to any convenient and inexpensive yoga class I could find. While it’s hard to know if any new props will catch on for use in public classes or at home, we love checking out the newest yoga gear to hit the market. Anyone who has attempted Crow Pose during a sweaty, heated class will understand how the maker of Guroo Non-Slip Arm Sleeves came up with the idea for this product.
These gel-like discs are small enough to tuck into your mat bag, and offer a little extra cushion for your knees, wrists, elbows, hips, or feet during asana practice. If you like practicing with a partner or like to move around a lot during your practice, Manduka’s newest mat might be the perfect addition to your home practice space. As the weather turns colder, getting out on the water for the ridiculous fun of stand up paddleboard yoga is a less attractive option.
Yoga Alliance and Prana are offering two scholarships for yoga teachers who work with underserved populations and who want advanced training.
Kathryn Budig breaks down Kapinjalasana into the equal parts strength, balance, and backbend.
Every two years, Yoga Journal presents a yoga conference at the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The main conference opened with a free community meditation class led by Pamela Bliss, an internationally recognized yoga teacher trainer, meditation teacher, and intuitive.
My first yoga class of the main conference was on shoulder openers and alignment with Maty Ezraty, proprietor (along with Chuck Miller) of the Yoga Works studios in Los Angeles. Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga in New York City, and her husband, David Nichtern, a student of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, led an intensive on the mind and body. David began with a discussion of the mind, our basic goodness, and how our mind is like a cloudless sky, open and clear. Cyndi described how yoga is a template for how we live life, giving us the skills for when times are tough.
The class delivered this message: when you make friends with yourself on the mat and treat yourself with kindness, the kindness flows from you like the river.
His creative instructions made the class a moving meditation as we moved through sun salutations.
Dharma Mittra is the founder (in 1975) of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City and the creator of the Master Posture Chart with 908 postures (1984). Practice began with alternate nostril breathing followed by some challenging warm-up poses. Natasha walked us through a series of poses to help release the hamstrings so everyone could find a more comfortable forward bend.
Natasha's demonstrations of how to accommodate the limitations of our bodies taught us to accept ourselves as we are.
Eric asked, "What makes yoga, yoga?" He answered, "You." He stressed the importance of a positive relationship with ourselves so we can have a positive relationship with others. Andrew Harvey is an author, scholar, mystic, and founder and director of the Institute of Sacred Activism, based in Oak Park, Illinois. Julie, a certified Iyengar teacher and physical therapist from Portland, Oregon, who wrote Yoga Journal's anatomy column for seven years, had a wealth of information to share. The morning session focused on solutions to back problems resulting from an anterior tilt of the pelvis, and the afternoon concentrated on solutions to back problems associated with posterior tilt. Gary Kraftsow, founder of the American Viniyoga Institute and who leads teacher trainings throughout the US, ended the main conference with some important reminders. The importance of conferences like this is not just in the work we do in the classes but in the coming together of like-minded people, the discussions in the hallways, the lunches with strangers, the conversations in the marketplace. Lisa Gniady teaches Hatha, Kundalini, and children's yoga in Cary, Crystal Lake, and McHenry. The panel was moderated by Dayna Macy, author of Ravenous, a Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom . Steve reminded us to keep it simple and to pay attention to what feels good, without judgment. Seane talked about keeping the food simple and elegant so the kidneys and liver can break it down. Dayna ended the panel discussion by reminding us to be grateful for our food and to the people who grew it and prepared it.

Throughout the yoga conference the theme of simplicity was repeated: simplicity in our postures, our meditation, and our food choices. Join the 90,000+ San Franciscans and get our picks for the best Bay Area free & cheap events and deals each week. Flowers are blooming everywhere, from Holland, home of the Tulip Time celebration, to Mackinac Island and the Lilac Festival. I was first exposed to India through my elementary school friend whose family was from India. On the first day of a silent meditation retreat in his monastery, the participants were offered the option of a morning yoga class. In my absence, she continued taking classes and when I returned home for an extended stay, she gave me a Birthday present that would change the trajectory of my adult life, a gift certificate to the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles.
The vast and methodical approach of Iyengar yoga challenges the teacher to be sharp and present to the needs of each student.
You never know when one will become a favorite (we still grin with excitement at a score made years ago in the marketplace of a Yoga Journal conference:  a soft-sided, firm yoga block that does double duty as a meditation cushion).
The arm sleeves are designed to absorb sweat so you won’t slip off your arms in arm balances.
The 78-inch square mat is made of Manduka’s Black Mat PRO, offering nearly 40 square feet of practice space.
The Indo Yoga Board was designed to simulate the instability of an SUP board so SUP Yoga enthusiasts can enjoy the challenges of the practice indoors even when the weather isn’t optimal. Held this year July 7-11, the conference opened with several one- and two-day intensives, followed by the main conference beginning on July 9. Maty reminded us of the importance of transitioning, paying attention to what happens in between the poses, feeling the effects of the pose we just completed, which she described as the "sweet part." She talked about yoga as waking up.
When we go back to basics, listen, and pay attention to what we feel in the simpler poses, we develop a relationship with ourselves. He questioned, "What kind of life is it if you can't find ten minutes a day to meditate?"--a poignant reminder to slow down to experience ourselves. She defined yoga as relationship: our yoga practice as a practice of movement, our meditation as a practice of stillness, and the combination bringing balance. She asked, "Can you find savasana in tadasana (standing mountain pose)?" As the poses got tougher she reminded us to soften our breath. Accept and let go are what all the students needed to do as we entered Jason's class on hips and shoulders. In contrast to some of the other classes I attended at this conference, the room was filled with a younger crowd looking for a more challenging practice. He joked that nobody likes old people unless they have money, stressing the importance of maintaining good health. He described every pose as "adoration to the Lord." In downward facing dog, he encouraged us to try to touch our head to the floor, stressing that if we don't go beyond our limits, we will stay in the same place for years. Natasha, a frequent contributor to Yoga Journal, pointed out that for people with tight hamstrings, this may not be the case. She took the time to demonstrate all the postures, using props, showing variations for the three main body types: stiff, balanced, and bendy. She ended class by asking us to focus on one specific thing we learned in our practice that day and to bring that benefit into our yoga practice. In warrior II, Eric had us clapping to the beat of the music (inhale, open arms; exhale, clap hands in front of the heart). Her small class made for an intimate setting to explore how to use books to teach yoga to children. There was a two-day Yoga for Golfers intensive, an evening kirtan concert with Sean Johnson and the Wild Lotus Band, a discussion on the symbolism of Hindu and Buddhist deities, a restorative Yoga Nidra, book signings, and a Family Yoga class. It is taking what we learn in the workshops off the mat and into real life that is the true meaning of yoga.
Aadil talked about four things to eliminate from your diet: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and refined sugar. At the age of nine, I begged my parents to allow me to accompany my friend on her annual summer trip to visit family in India and amazingly, they agreed.
I only understood that the philosophy she outlined explained the nature of reality in a way that made perfect sense to me and I wanted to study more. There were no volunteers among us to lead the women's group so the females were going to have to go without. In my first Iyengar Yoga class, the teacher was able to illustrate how a quality of self-inquiry would lead to inner penetration in the authentic practice of yoga. They also promise to protect against bruises and provide compression to the arms, which promotes circulation. We wouldn’t recommend taking it to a studio, though, where mat space is at a premium, though its size would probably make it quite a challenge to get it there anyway.
She described meditation as the process of observing, letting go, surrendering, and taking time to shut down in order to live a balanced life.
She reminded us to hold our postures with gentleness and smiled as she told us not to be fooled by the implied simplicity of puppy dog (down dog with hands on wall) as we worked on the alignment. He went on to discuss the three major clouds: attachment or neediness, aggression or grouchiness, and ignorance or sleepiness. Practiced with eyes open, with a soft downward gaze, sitting comfortably, we began to pay attention to our breath with a "relaxed attentiveness to the breath going in and out of the body." If a thought arose, we were told to label it "thinking" and bring the attention back to the breath, remembering the breath is simple. There was a printing error in the brochure, and Jason's alignment-based class was described as a vinyasa flow practice.
He told us to reach up with the arms until we stop at the top, feel the subtle pause before continuing on, find the stillness, then switch directions. To achieve radiant health, some important things to do are meditation, headstand, shoulderstand, and pranayama.

Practice included standing half lotus, headstand, shoulderstand, firefly, cobra variations, and some partner poses. If the hamstrings are too tight, they pull on the pelvis, flattening the curve in the lower back, causing pain in both the hamstrings and the back. She recommended that those with tight hamstrings spend four minutes a day (two minutes on each side) lying on the floor near a door, with one leg up the wall and the other leg going through the doorway. Class began to the sound of Bob Marley singing "No Woman, No Pride" as we swayed along with the music. He instructed us to use our yoga practice to broaden ourselves and reach new horizons, not to become more rigid.
We awakened our inner child as we used the children's books to invent yoga poses using the story.
She brought in pieces of a skeleton so we could easily visualize the movements she discussed. Julie talked about the importance of showing people where a body part is and being specific so there is no confusion in instructions for poses. Her motto, "Eat less, chew more," with a reminder to be sensitive to the energy in the food. His photographs of farm animals living in sanctuaries have been published around the world.
Unfortunately, an unstable political situation in their hometown led to a last minute trip cancellation and my dream of going to India was put on hold for another 10 years.
Therefore, in college, I took advantage of the opportunity to study with professors well versed in Buddhist philosophy, one of whom was a Tibetan monk.
I, who had only intermittently attended yoga classes as a kind of stretching compliment to dance classes, selfishly volunteered to lead the morning practice so that I could at least prepare my hips for entire days of sitting in meditation. While in that class, I perceived the link between the yoga philosophy I had studied and the practice of yoga asana. I consider having teachers to guide me as a true blessing and I am continually discovering the fluid nature of the secrets I so ardently wanted to unlock. What became apparent as the days went on was that each teacher had a different approach to lead us to the same destination.
At this point we were kicking up into handstand in the center of the room and attempting to clap our thighs together. Jason, a yoga teacher trainer from San Francisco and contributor to Yoga Journal , skillfully incorporated both into an alignment-based, slow flow class. He reminded us not to rush, to find the crispness, and then blend it, making the movement more complete. Dharma talked about the impermanence of things, that all things come to an end, eaten away by time: things, food, family, jobs, money, yoga.
Eric reminded us in the beginning of class to use the 60 minutes to find heaven for ourselves, saying we can make heaven out of every environment we are in. As we settled down into savasana (corpse pose) at the end of class, Eric said, "Rest in peace" (tying it with his earlier comment about heaven) and serenaded us by chanting "Jai Jai Hanuman." As we emerged from savasana, we all joined in, ending class chanting as a community.
He talked about the dangerous times we are living in, emphasizing that we all know it and feel it, and that this is the condition needed for a massive rebirth. One book in particular, Hey, Little Ant , by Hannah Hoose, Phillip Hoose, and Debbie Tilley, stood out. Julie said, "We all come to yoga with misalignment, and our yoga practice contributes to the problem.
She stressed the importance of taking time in between the poses to feel the effects and learn the internal benefits--a common theme throughout this conference.
Many of these were free community classes offered to the public who were not registered for the conference.
Seane talked about eating in a way that respects all living creatures and does not harm or deplete the earth. I was also moved by the very tangible practical nature of yoga as well as its healing potential. He had some people switch directions as we settled down, joking that "people can't rest with smelly feet in their face." We ended class by chanting Shri Ram . Andrew urged us to dedicate our lives to help transform chaos into order, use our strength and wisdom to serve all beings, live in peace and joy, connect with the divinity within, and serve humanity with open hearts.
When we correct the alignment, balance, and structure, we will correct the problem and help to reduce pain." She explained that the body will follow the path of least resistance, with the stronger muscles or the more mobile joint doing the work.
Pamela talked about our culture of striving and achieving and the need to surrender, a reminder that peace begins within us. Practicing simple poses with focused attention to alignment gave us a renewed respect for the basics. He explained that when we focus on the third eye, after about 90 seconds our sixth sense becomes activated and we begin to see lights, flashes. She urged us to remember the yamas and niyamas (the ethical rules of yoga), and not to get ahead of ourselves.
During our practice, no matter how challenging the pose, he reminded us to feel comfortable and find that sixth sense, learning to see beyond ourselves. We were then given the chance to pair up and create a short class from various books Marsha brought to class.

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