Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I am very much looking forward to the 108 Sun Salutation Workshop this weekend at Taj Yoga from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

As I mentioned in the workshop description, your intention is far more important than the sheer number of salutations you complete. You will no doubt hit physical and emotional walls and I encourage you to modify and rest whenever necessary. Let us follow the first tenant of yoga, ahimsa, non-violence. Because the intention is so important, I thought I'd share a bit more about how to go about creating or setting an intention. Even if you are not participating in the workshop, this information sheds light on the subject and applies to intentions set in regular classes as well as special events such as a yoga mala.

Your intention can address whatever you are feeling in the moment, the moment we begin our journey toward 108. For example, the other day, after sitting and welcoming what was present for my practice I decided my intention would be, "I am patient and gentle (with myself)." Your intention can be that specific and relate to the particular practice at hand or it can be more overarching and general. For example, "I am love" or "I am love itself." I like to use present tense language that expresses intention as an already occurring phenomenon. As my teacher states, in this way, "We don't hold our wishes for the future, but express them as truth." Overall, an intention is a short and positive statement or affirmation about something you are whole-heartedly dedicated to manifesting, living and be-ing. It can even be one word. You might show up Saturday with this intention already determined.

Your intention can also be in the form of a dedication. Perhaps there is someone or something in your life that would benefit from the energy and awareness your practice will cultivate?

Lastly, your intention may involve the 'healing' or 'transforming' of a particular relationship you have with someone else. In my experience, in these types of situations, it has been best to focus on my own personal healing around the relationship. This is the only piece of the puzzle that I have even the slightest bit of control over anyway. The intention could be an inquiry into how this might best be done? Or, if you know what needs to be done, if anything, your intention could center around to be-ing the strength/compassion/forgiveness/etc. to honor your heart's desire?

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states "You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will, so is your deed. As your deed, so is your destiny." The trick with all intentions is not to be attached to the outcome. Often times things 'heal' or manifest in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. I choose to trust, however, that through the tapas (fire, heat or intensity) of committed and regular practice, transformation occurs in subtle and obvious ways. We label these results as pleasant and unpleasant, good and bad and therein lies the root of suffering.

We will certainly generate a large amount of tapas through the practice of 108 Sun Salutations. I think perhaps my intention will to become aware of what comes from the ash of the fire......

If you are moved to bring a small token, photography or clipping to place in front of your mat as a symbol or reminder of your intention, please do =)

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where There's a Yin There's a Yang

To define Yin Yoga one must first have an understanding of Yang Yoga. That’s usually how it goes; two opposites come together like perfectly matched puzzle pieces to create a seamless and well balanced whole. A Yang Yoga practice is characterized by vigorous heat building sequences and a strong focal point, usually the sensation of the breath and body moving together. There are many other words used to define this approach including, vinyasa, flow, power and hot yoga. The majority of the classes I offer at Taj Yoga in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington fall into the yang category. LauraNidra Yoga marries the Ashtanga and Universal traditions of Yoga to generate heat or intensity (tapas) in body and mind. Though I do offer weekly Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra classes, it makes sense that majority of the classes follow the yang model; we spend so much time in our head that it can take a physically challenging class to bring awareness to the body. The body is an excellent place to start, however, as it is lovely window to the more subtle layers of our being, energetic, emotional and intellectual.

When practicing Yoga of any form there is always an opportunity to notice the subtle and sometimes obvious ways in which the body embodies all of our experiences, physical, mental, emotional, energetic and even chemical (i.e. what you put in the body). Have you ever been practicing a pose, say pigeon, and suddenly been overwhelmed with the urge to cry right then and there in the middle of class for no apparent reason? This is what I’m talking about. A teacher that graced my study of Yoga for a short period once shared that the physical body is in the shape of the energetic body. The energetic body is not limited to the breath but is a coalescence of every experience you have ever had right up until the eternal moment of now. The physical body is a living map of this history and we each vibrate, or AUM if you will, at a unique frequency.

In a perfect world we would have ample time to process and integrate each experience physically, energetically and often emotionally. Unfortunately, we don’t often have or make the time for this important work and the body, in effort to compensate and perhaps protect, forges alliances that don’t always serve us. For example, long after the physical body has healed from a particular trauma it may still hold onto the past in a way that manifests as physical guarding, stiffness or pain. Note that physical injury not required and this can happen with the occurrence of emotional or psychological trauma alone. Left unattended for several years this can start to interfere with the life we desire to live, physically and energetically, and can create serious dis-ease. I’m not criticizing. We haven’t the built in ‘shake it off’ system discussed by Peter Levine in his book ‘Waking the Tiger;’ an animal instinct literally hardwired into a dear, for example, after narrowly escaping the hypnotizing spell of headlights. Dr. Holly Hochstadt of Inner Brilliance Chiropractic once shared that these areas of discomfort are stored potential, energy and brilliance. I agree and this knowing encourages me to safely inquire into the parts of my body that whisper and sometimes yell at me for attention. The body is wise and the light that lives within in it shines brighter when we listen and welcome it just as it is.

I digress.

If Yang Yoga helps us to establish an awareness of the multidimensionality of our physical presence, Yin Yoga helps us to reinforce it. In my practice I have found that Yin Yoga can be just as intense as its more dynamic counterpart, if not more so. I have also found that constant movement, like music, can be a distraction or a tool for avoiding the proverbial skeletons in our hips, shoulders, bellies and jaws. Yin Yoga is a quite and contemplative practice done low to the ground using a receptive field of awareness. Holding poses for an extended period of time is one of the signature characteristics of a yin practice. What starts out as a juicy and delightful stretch can quickly turn into an agitating and anxiety-provoking trap. My Ashtanga and Yin teacher, Troy Lucero, is always careful to note the difference between agitation and true-violence or suffering and injury. Usually, if I am honest with myself, my desire to leap out of the pose, screaming, crying or sometimes both, is a result of the former. And so with no other choice, I go deep into the heart of the sensation.

Remember the lyrics to the childhood song, ‘Going on a Lion Hunt?’

Going on a lion hunt. I’m not afraid. Look, what’s ahead? Yikes, fill in the blank! Can’t go over it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go around it. Gotta go through it.

This is the passive-active process my Yoga Nidra teacher Richard Miller calls welcoming. Richard also shares that every sensation, emotion, thought and belief points in the direction of our True Nature. So, it seems, that it is in our best interest to welcome the full spectrum of sensation in order to meet Rumi in his non-dualistic field beyond right-doing and wrong-doing.

If you’ve read this far and you’re still looking for hard facts regarding the physical benefits of a Yin Yoga practice, I suggest you read Paul Grilley’s “Yin Yoga.” Grilley shares that Yang Yoga focus on the muscles through rhythmic movements while Yin Yoga focus on the connective tissue through slow moderate stretching. Muscles are filled with fluids, mostly water, and become soft and elastic during all forms of yang exercise. Connective tissue (truly all pervasive in the body but for Grilley’s purposes refer to ligaments and fascia), on the other hand, lack the fluidity of muscles and, as a result, are naturally stiff and inelastic. Grilley states, “Connective tissue doesn’t respond to rhythmical stretches the way muscles do. Connective tissues are tough and fibrous and stretch best when pulled like taffy (i.e. slow and steady)…Further, in order to stretch the connective tissue, the muscles must be relaxed.” Grilley continues, “As important as it is to our physical and mental well-being to be strong it is not muscular strength that gives us the feeling of ease and lightness in the body, it is the flexibility of the joints, of the connective tissue.” He cites that it is joint pain not muscular injury that causes old people to hobble around and professional athletes to retire. In the end, Yin and Yang Yoga compliment each other as well as the ancient symbol but Yin Yoga specifically, through gentle stretching, rehabilitates the connective tissues that form our joints and leave us feeling an incredible lightness of being.

If nothing more, practices such as Yoga Nidra and Yin Yoga are excellent opportunities to rest in stillness and restore the nervous system. I know I am constantly going, teaching, working, organizing and doing. I spend a lot of time in the sympathetic nervous system and, as a result, in a perpetual shade of flight or flight. The one or two times a week that I intentionally come to a full stop are rich and rewarding on so many levels. Taking time to surrender and let go is vital if we are to be able to harness the full power of our sympathetic nervous system in times of true emergency. We all know what happens to the Shepard boy who cried wolf. Quite practices such as these move the body deep into the parasympathetic nervous system allowing the adrenaline and cortisol valves to turn off and the feel good, healing hormones such as serotonin to flood the body. This immediately lowers stress, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, strengthens the immune system and lifts overall mood. This is the post-savasana bliss we all know and love!! Finally, an addiction we can feel good about. After an hour of sympathetic nervous system based Yang Yoga the body is primed and ready to sink deep into relaxation. Conversely, an hour of Yin Yoga can prepare the mental and energetic bodies for an even more profoundly present moving meditation or Yang style class. The Yin and the Yang are truly inseparable; where there’s a Yin there’s always a Yang.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Support LauraNidra Yoga


I have the good fortune to see many of you on a regular basis. Others I am grateful to bump into from time to time. There are several of you, however, that I have not connected with in an embarrassingly long period of time. This email is two-fold in its intention: 1) to re-establish and nourish a sense of community 2) to update you on my professional doings. I believe in the power of community and acknowledge that I wouldn't be doing what I feel is my personal calling without the support and encouragement of those of you who keep showing up in a myriad of ways to affirm my life's path. Further, I believe that a balance of giving and receiving is integral to the health and success of the community at large. I invite you to consider sharing with me your doings as well as what I can do to support you in the resolution of your goals and aspirations.
Just over a year ago I stepped out of a very comfortable and rewarding role as a free-lance yoga instructor at several prominent yoga studios in Seattle in order to establish myself as an independent yoga professional and the owner of LauraNidra Yoga. Needless to say, the past year has had its fair share of personal and professional ups and downs. The experience has been quite humbling. I have had to dig deep into my reserves of strength, perseverance and trust in order to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I am reassured by the knowledge that my experience is not unique and that thousands of small business owner's are faced with similar issues on a daily basis. I am not one to look back with regret so, when I reflect on the unfolding of events that have brought me to this moment, I see a great deal of positives. I see how my teaching has grown. I also see how students have been affected by this evolution. I see a beautiful community of practitioners that express mutual agreement about the value of yoga through their presence alone and in the small gestures of kindness that range from a smile to a supportive email. I recognize the growing pains my teaching has undergone and sense the clarity of voice that is emerging like wings from the chrysalis.

LauraNidra Yoga offers an Ashtanga and Universal inspired practice that marries classic form with contemporary creativity. Of course, LauraNidra Yoga wouldn't be complete without the influence of Yoga Nidra which is woven into each class. LauraNidra Yoga's signature style MOVES you into STILLNESS. I currently offer 7 ongoing classes a week at Taj Yoga in Crown Hill/North Ballard. Yoga Nidra Meditation continues to be offered the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month at 7:00 p.m. My events schedule is full of exciting events that will provide opportunities to deepen your practice, play in mother nature and experience yoga in the context of a new and different culture. Please consider visiting my website for more information or subscribe to LauraNidra News for monthly email updates.

Yoga offers an array of wellness benefits. With regular practice Yoga can reduce stress, bolster the immune system, increase strength, endurance and flexibility, balance energy levels and promote clarity of thought and communication. Yoga can also enhance other areas of your life be it gardening, biking, academics or other creative endeavors and leave you feeling comfortable and confident in your body. No matter your exposure to yoga or your reason for practicing, it is my intention to encourage you to reach beyond perceived limitations to experience the innate ease of being that is your True Nature.

The business piece of being an independent yoga professional has also grown. I have learned that it requires a lot more than being a good yoga teacher to run a successful yoga business. I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel that inspired me to aspire to such a vision. I feel momentum beneath my wings but teeter at the edge of the nest wondering if they are strong enough to carry me. If you are inclined, you can help keep me afloat by mentioning me and my business when interacting with your community and professional network. I appreciate your word of mouth referrals tremendously. To make your job a little easier I am now offering 2 weeks of UNLIMITED YOGA for $20. This is primarily a new member special, but as a thank you, I would like to extend this one time incentive to you as well. Lastly, if you have a website and are interested in a link exchange to increase search engine visibility, please let me know as I have recently added a Community Page to my website and would be happy to list your business or service and feature you in my newsletter.

In gratitude,