ShaktiShorts

On The Scene: Studio Trunk Show

Visitors showing up for afternoon classes this past Sunday, October 18th arrived to the sound of happy voices and rounded the corner to the dressing rooms discovering a riot of color and sunlight on yoga-related (and some non-yoga-related) gear at an exclusive sales event at the Lefferts BYPS studio.



Saya Ishii was offering an impressive array of Shakti activewear as well as several items from her own growing line of stylish yoga wear. Trudy Miller showed and demonstrated items from her ingeniously-designed convertible clothing line. Jessica Senecal was present with the complete Bach Flower Remedy line which she uses in her personal transformation consulting sessions here at the studio. Handmade fashion from Natalia Riva offered exceptionally stylish winter headgear.


Join us for our next pop-up trunk show on Sunday, November 15th (2-5 p.m.)!

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The Mirror: A User’s Guide

From time to time I speak to folks who are reluctant to try a form of yoga that uses mirrors. Sometimes people assert that a class in which one is required to use a mirror sets up an environment that promotes aspects of vanity and encourages judgment, and that students should learn to feel whether their alignment is correct or not, without the alleged dangers one’s reflection may present. Yoga comes in many styles and forms these days, they all offer many benefits to the practitioner, and each and every one of these methods has its place.

As a lifelong dancer, teacher, and all-around movement person, I’ve had a great deal of experience and logged many hours in studios of various types, and I can’t help but feel that mirror usage and the reasons for it can be highly misunderstood. If you’ll allow me, I’m going to share my thoughts with you on this topic.  Although I am writing with the Bikram yoga enthusiast in mind, the same information could certainly be applied to any class situation in which mirrors are typically used. I’m going to focus on the actual process of learning to use the mirror as a tool, and less upon the ego, vanity, and judgement  angles of the issue, which while certainly related, is a huge topic that is well beyond the scope of this article.

Achieving the highly detailed level of structural body alignment that a Bikram class can give requires the visual feedback that a mirror provides, and that feedback needs to be ongoing. It’s just not realistic to feel like you are in perfect alignment (whatever you’re doing) and actually BE in correct alignment all the time without visual confirmation. Have you ever been on a bodywork table and have the practitioner straighten you out when you thought you were aligned? Ever had a coach or teacher tell you that a part of your body you can’t see is doing one thing while you feel  it doing something else? (You: “But my back leg was straight!” Teacher: “No it wasn’t!”) Yikes!

If you train as a yogi, dancer, athlete, or what-have-you, your body awareness and spatial sense gets much, much better, and it can become incredibly reliable over time. This skill, however, takes constant, ongoing practice to develop and maintain.  As a beginning student –in any discipline requiring precise placement–one internalizes the cognitive command chain that trains a person in visual/internal self-evaluation: You look in the mirror, assess what you see, make the corrections necessary, turn the focus inward and try to memorize the feeling of what spatial relationships in the body create the desired result, verify the result visually, and then start over. It’s a constant subconscious, split-second “look, assess, correct, verify, start over” cycle. If there is a teacher or demonstrator, there is an additional “compare-and-contrast” segment to the cycle. Of course you get better at it, but as your skill level advances, the fine tuning necessary gets progressively finer as well. After your class, off you go into the world where life happens, your body responds and adapts to it, and all sorts of crazy, misaligned things feel “straight.” Later, you return to yoga, dance, bodywork, (or whatever alignment-focused method you choose) and work on coaxing things back into a neutral, aligned state again. It seems as if it’s a “three steps forward, two steps back” process, and it is, but one does improve over time.

This is why dancers and other “body folks” who may have trained for decades still spend hours in the studio refining, feeling, adjusting, and refining some more.

If this repeating cognitive cycle sounds like a lot of focus, it is, and that is also why it can serve as a tool for your meditation. This is the reason why losing oneself in a task for a length of time with no distractions can be so relaxing and enjoyable … because it’s actually a meditative state.

It’s true that for some people the mirror can become a crutch, they are unable to function without it. It is certainly possible to become more alienated from your body or your practice, and so therefore it’s your responsibility to be conscious of how this feedback process works and fine-tune your personal version of it,  getting the most from this valuable asset. Periodically, you can deliberately not look in the mirror for a second or two, take a sensory snapshot from the inside, and then play the game of “let’s see if this looks the way it feels.” Another technique is to maintain your gaze enough for balance, but unfocus the eyes just a tad so that the awareness can be turned inward for short periods of time.

This is why I have so frequently heard at the beginning of class a phrase something to the effect of “look into the eyes of your own best teacher.” A tool this powerful should be approached with an attitude of great responsibility. In the end, it’s up to you, completely.

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Learning to love what’s good for us

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Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

When you’re genetically wired for hard work, the hardest thing to do is nothing.

The opposite of ambition. The antithesis of labor. Idleness. Blech.

But just like in yoga, where the posture you hate the most is the posture you need the most, I figured doing nothing was the right move.

But not before doing a little research. Sabbatical comes from the word sabbath, meaning day of restBut the word also dates back to ancient agriculture. Mosaic law decreed that on the seventh year, a farmer’s land was to remain untilled while debtors and slaves were to be released.

Maybe that’s what I needed. To leave the land alone. To emancipate myself as a slave to achievement.

So one year, I decided to do nothing. For three straight months. No working. No writing. No marketing. No strategizing. No nothing.

Just a lot of sleeping, a lot of walking, a lot of reading, a lot of singing and a lot of traveling. And cookies. Oh man were there cookies.

And it turns out, for someone who’s happiest when he’s productive and prolific, for someone who’s wired to find satisfaction by adding value through toil, taking a sabbatical was the best thing I could have done.

By the time summer was over, I was rejuvenated and equipped for the next chapter of life.

Who knew doing nothing could be so productive?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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Student Story: Candice

Why did you start practicing Bikram yoga and how long have you been practicing?

I have been practicing on and off for 4 years, starting at the South Slope studio with a friend at her recommendation. Coming from a dance background, I was looking for exercise that would work my whole body; what I got was a mind/body practice.

How has your practice affected your life?

This practice has increased my quality of life tremendously! Being present, staying grounded, continuing to grow and develop my yoga.

What keeps you coming back for more?

My physical and mental reaction to this yoga are what keep me here.  I feel, look, and operate better as a human when growing my practice.

Do you have any advice/insight for new yogis?

We were all there once! Be inspired by your fellow yogis!

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Yoga is the ultimate on ramp to your day

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Everybody needs a good on ramp.

A ritual that prompts a work mindset to start our day. A process that merges us into the real world and ensures our days have a cadence and rhythm. A routine that gets us in the mood, in the flow and in the zone so that by the time we actually hit the highway of life, we’re traveling at the same speed as traffic, and can navigate the road effectively.

Early morning yoga is perfect for this. Not just for your own sanity, but for the sanity of the people you work with.

Set a tone that says work happens here, and let it ring.

What’s your on ramp?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Take your practice with you

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

My yoga instructor once said, “Don’t anticipate my words. Stay in the now. Stop thinking about what movement is coming next. Wait until I say change to come out of your posture.”

That’s why I love the practice. When class is over, you can take your practice with you. Out of the studio and into the world.

Especially with the suggestion of anticipation. This is a surefire practice to help you grow bigger ears. One of the major blocks to effective listening, after all, is anticipating.

Anticipating what you’re going to say next. Anticipating what the other person is going to say. Anticipating what the other person is trying to say. Anticipating how you’re going to inject your opinion. Anticipating how you’re going to prove the other person wrong. Anticipating how you’re going to relate to what the other person is saying.

Are you listening or waiting to talk?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

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Post-Event Report: Nutrition & Cooking Workshop With Nancy Campbell

Our nutrition workshop with Nancy Campbell of RadiantHealth last Tuesday (Sep 22nd) was a great deal of fun and it was wonderful to see so many of you there! Upon entering the studio, students and staff alike were greeted by the wonderful aromas of expertly-cooked vegetable dishes, cooked by Nancy herself. Those who stuck around for the demonstration were rewarded with delicious servings of not one, but two hearty autumn-style vegetable dishes.

Didn’t make it? Never fear! Here are the two recipes for you to make right now …

Steam-­‐Sautéed Brussel Sprouts with Mustard and Caraway

Adapted from Myra Kornfield’s The Healthy Hedonist              Serves 4 to 6

About This Recipe:

This steam sauté method is the easiest (after steaming) method to get fresh vegetables on the table dressed, seasoned and ready to eat fast. I’ve been in love with this technique since learning it from Chef Myra Kornfield and will never treat my broccoli, cauliflower, brussels, green beans, and even kale to brutal amounts of oil and frying again. To steam/sauté your veggies they need three things: moisture, fat and seasoning (esp salt). You will need a saute pan with a lid, some tongs, and a timer (or just a fork handy to test when the veggies are done). You need to be willing to taste before you serve – the mark of a good chef – to ensure that you’ve gotten the seasoning right. Sometimes it requires a little more butter and other times you just need salt. Either way, you can’t go wrong with experimenting and testing new combinations with this method. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 pound brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved 2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway or fennel seeds 2 garlic cloves sliced
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring the brussel sprouts, butter, water, salt, garlic and caraway seeds to a boil in a large skillet. Cover and steam over medium-­‐high heat until the brussel sprouts are just tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the mustard and maple syrup. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste.


 Steam-­‐Sautéed Green Beans / Broccoli / Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

By Myra Kornfield

About:

You can use this method with any firm vegetable, such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, and green beans.

You may add garlic, spices, and dried herbs along with the water, fat source (i.e. olive, coconut, or toasted sesame oil, butter or ghee/clarified butter), and salt. Add fresh herbs when you uncover to saute.́

Ingredients:

1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or 1 1⁄2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound green beans, ends trimmed or 1-­‐2 heads broccoli (enough to cover bottom of 10” skillet)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Bring the water, oil, salt, optional red pepper flakes, green beans, and garlic to a boil in a skillet with sides.
  2. Cover and steam over medium-­‐high heat until the vegetable is brightly colored and just tender (soft enough to feel some resistance with fork), 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the vegetable size.
  3. Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes longer. (If you want to add fresh herbs, this is the point to add them.) Sauté to intensify flavors, 1 to 2 minutes long. Adjust salt if needed, add a sprinkling black pepper to taste, and serve.

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About Nancy Campbell, M.S., Culinary Nutritionist: Nancy combines her training in nutrition and integrative health with a masters of urban planning, and over a decade of professional culinary experience in her nutrition practice, Radiant Health NYC.  She supports her clients to redefine how they eat, build culinary skills, and fine-tune their pantries so they can feel amazing in their skin AND in the kitchen. She can be found at:   http://www.radianthealthnyc.com

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Student Story: Neyda Martinez

Why did you start practicing Bikram yoga and how long have you been practicing?

I was walking down Flatbush Avenue one day in a state of deep pain and emotional anguish, having lost my mother just a few months earlier. Feeling like an empty shell of my former self, I was “running on empty” when quite suddenly an ethereal voice whispered in my ear and directed me to “just melt the pain away.”  When I happened to look to the right, there was the Bikram Yoga studio! I’d never ever thought of doing Bikram Yoga before.

Coincidentally, the day before, I’d met Robbin Farrell. She joyfully stopped to say hello and acknowledged me for no reason but to say how lovely the flowers that I had just purchased were—sunflowers and white lilies. The following day, when I walked into the studio … there she was!  I started my practice in May of 2012 and I’ve kept it up ever since.

How has your practice affected your life?

When I started the practice, the physical and emotional pain was so great, I’d cry before, during, and after Pada-Hasthasana (Hands to Feet pose). I suffer from back pain and sciatica due to a series of falls I’d had in my early 20s and was also experiencing excruciating knee pain for nearly a year which my doctor could not explain.

It only took me a few weeks to get hooked. I bought both Bikram books and studied them religiously. I could feel the healing effects of the series early on, and the smallest gain in strength or an inkling of flexibility as I continued to practice got me excited. I was also grateful for the new-found ability to rest and to quickly rid my mind of any annoying thoughts and stupid chatter. However, it was the community of kind yogis at the studio and the compassion of the instructors that gave me the most hope. Reflecting now, I must have really been a mess with all of that crying during and after class, but at that time, I felt a break-through was on the horizon. A year later, my sister came with me to a class. She now practices too. And, though we live in different cities, we share this connection; it’s the most beautiful gift in the world!

What keeps you coming back for more?

Well, I’m hooked for life. No matter what I do … dance, ride my bike, or work out at the gym, the Bikram series is my priority and my anchor. I love that these postures are among the oldest forms of physical therapy. I have faith in the method and the discipline in keeping up with the practice. I do believe that it’s a mind-body-spirit connection with yourself and the universe around you that is developed and strengthened. Now, every day on the mat is a day for which I am grateful. I never leave a class without having learned or experienced something new. The hardest part for me sometimes is just simply looking at myself: I see my fears and I see my vulnerabilities. But there’s nothing to do in that hot room but to work through it. On days when I am exhausted or feeling especially challenged or fidgety, I remember to smile (a little or a lot) during my practice. I love the simplicity of it all.  A mat and a bottle of water and a little nourishing food is all we really need. Well, that and love!

Do you have any advice/insight for new yogis?

Well, it’s not my advice but rather the words of a fellow yogi who shared this with me recently after a class: “This yoga is life; it has nothing to do with feeling comfortable. We must learn to live outside of our comfort zone.”

My simple advice: Don’t give up! If this particular type of yoga is not for you, try other forms of yoga until you find the right one for you. You deserve the peace, the health, and the mental clarity that comes with it. You are worth it.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

By taking action, we reduce the intensity of the problem

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

When our yoga room is at full capacity, we practice mat to mat. And it’s awfully tight. Students have to be especially respectful of other people’s space, property and energy. Otherwise it can make for a distracted, frustrating and claustrophobic class.

I was recently practicing within inches of another yogi, when it came time for the standing series. As usual, the instructor suggested we stagger horizontally, so as not to fling sweat or accidentally clip the person next to us.

But the woman to my left wasn’t paying attention. She just stood there, hands on hips, chugging water. And in that moment, I could feel the controlling instinct inside of me welling up. I wanted to tap her on the shoulder and say, just walk towards the mirror, lady. It’s not that hard.

But she still wouldn’t move. It was driving me crazy. To the point of anxiety and paralysis.

How many times have we all been in that same position? Waiting around for somebody else to take the first step before we move? It happens every day. Not just in yoga, but off the mat as well. What keeps us stuck is the belief that someone else needs to change before we can move forward. That others should align with our implicit expectations, rearranging their existence around our requirements for happiness.

Unless we remind ourselves that people are not here to meet our expectations. Only through taking action do we reduce the intensity of the problem. And so, instead of making so many unbalanced, burdensome demands on others, we learn to take our own action. To readjust our own posture and position and move closer towards our goals, while granting others the space to do the same.

It works in yoga, it works in business, it works in marriage, it works everywhere.

What expectations do you have that lead to fear and caution?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Show people they’ve already achieved victory

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Photo by Monica Felix @ www.monicafelix.com

Whenever new students come to practice at my yoga studio, I always make it a point to congratulate them in the locker room for sticking it out the whole ninety minutes.

At least you stayed in the room the whole time, I tell them. I’ve been here for years, and not all first timers do. Consider that a victory.

Every time I’ve said this, new students never fail to become energized. And many of them have come back.

What could you say to someone to reinforce her self-belief that she’s progressed significantly more than most people her exact same situation?

Scott Ginsberg is a writer, daily practitioner and work study volunteer at Bikram Yoga Park Slope.