Wednesday, March 8, marks the International Women’s Strike, which coincides with a Day Without A Woman. These events emphasize the intersectionality of race, gender, and class, and the complex ways in which inequality and injustice are woven through our social, cultural, political, and economic structures and systems.
thank you to all who came out for the first in a series of community nights dedicated to building camaraderie and connection! sula and the noise put on an amazing show, and nathan from grownyc schooled us in urban gardening, city farmer’s markets, and progressive waste management. thanks to your generosity, we raised $600 in donations for grownyc.
our next community night is scheduled for Friday, March 3, in Union Square.
in the meantime, here are some solid resources for continued social action and engagement:
by Jenny Campbell
If you have been practicing yoga for a while, there is a good chance you have heard the yoga cue to “breathe into your heart.” The verbal assist is meant to energize the inner body of the chest, as well as open the physiological body by making more space in the sternum, widening the collar bones, creating a sense of lightness, promoting good posture, and a developing a feeling of freedom in the upper body. While this verbal cue might sound abstract, it is actually an anatomically sound instruction. When we breathe in, the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle primarily responsible for the act of respiration) contracts downward, creating more space for air entering the body. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes upwards, assisting our bodies in the release of air. This not only allows for our full, deep yoga breathing, but the pumping action of the diaphragm also massages the heart. Therefore, we can literally breathe into our hearts!
Between the winter cold and daily stress, we could all use some self-care techniques in our back pocket. Practice this exercise anytime you need to connect with your breath and de-stress. This pranayama can be practiced in any pose with a long spine and a free abdomen, such as an upright seated position, savasana, or supta baddha konasana.
3-Part Breath (Dirga Swasam Pranayama)
Find your seated or supine pose and bring your attention to your breath. Allow the breath to be continuous as you initiate your inhale from the low belly, lift the breath into the rib cage/diaphragm, and then the chest. Once you reach the top of your inhale and your chest, take a long, continuous exhale, following the same path in reverse. If helpful, you can use your hands to guide your breath as you move up and down the torso.
Inhale: one long breath into the low belly, rib cage, chest
Exhale: one long breath out through the chest, rib cage, low belly
Repeat 5-10 rounds. You may slowly start to lengthen the breath as you feel ready.
- Teaches one to breath fully and deeply
- Can calm and ground the mind
- Can help to decrease stress and anxiety
- Can help one to focus on the present moment
*Proceed with caution with this and all breathing exercises, especially if you have a respiratory condition. As with all pranayama, stop if you feel light headed.
teacher sherry russell recently called on the shala’s love army to generate signage for the women’s marches happening in washington, d.c. and here in nyc (not to mention all over the country!). we think these gorgeous signs and banners will lend some much-needed color and joyful tenacity to the enormous gatherings taking place this inauguration weekend.
on a mild evening in early january, maria rubinate and ashley dorr treated both new and familiar faces to a cozy self-care workshop, including light asana practice, pranayama, art therapy, and a tutorial in seasonal ayurveda. one of the focuses of the workshop was how to identify and address symptoms of vicarious trauma as a result of intense, challenging, and emotionally-charged fields of works. it was a remarkably educational and soothing event, and we’re excited to hear that maria and ashley are considering making this a regular happening.
We are very happy and grateful to have hosted Tim Miller this past weekend. We learned so much from his 35+ years of work as a devoted practitioner and teacher of Ashtanga Yoga. See below for some of our favorite workshop takeaways. Continue reading
by Bibi Lorenzetti
One of my favorite winter foods is dhal. Dhal is a type of legume, usually split yellow or orange lentil. There are many different ways of making dhal soup, which tends to be nourishing and balancing for all doshas, depending on preparation.
I learned the following recipe from my cooking teacher in India, who is known to Westerners as Tina. She works on a camping stove set on a big rock in her living room. We gather around as she talks us through each step of cooking traditional Indian food. When the meal is ready, we—Tina, her students, family, and dogs—go outside to sit and eat together on big floor pillows in the shade of colorful fabrics.
For a while, I was making Tina’s dhal for special order at the Shala. I would pack a cart full of jars and wheel it from my Greenpoint apartment to the Bedford L, all the way to the Shala fridge. It was fun, but a lot of work! For those of you who enjoyed it and ordered it weekly, follow these steps.
You will need:
- A Dutch oven, otherwise known as a cast-iron pot
- A wooden spoon
- Measuring cups
- Pan or small pot
- 1 1/3 cups of yellow or orange dhal
- 3 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp turmeric (I like to buy it fresh and grate, so I do 2 tsp turmeric; if you use powder then 1 tsp is enough)
- 1 tsp coriander, ground
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom seeds
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 1 garlic cloves, mashed
- 4 dried red chili peppers (broken up)
- A few stems of cilantro (to be chopped and added at the end)
Soak the dhal in a bowl with cold water for an hour. Drain and wash under cold water until water runs clear.
Transfer the dhal to the pot together with water, and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove the residue that rises to the top. Reduce heat. Add salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until you see the dhal is getting mushy and soft, a paste-like consistency. Stir frequently throughout this process.
In a separate pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add dried chilis, garlic, mustard and coriander seeds, grated turmeric and ginger. Stir seeds pop, then add the rest of powdered spices and fry for a few more minutes, stirring. Make sure the flame is low enough that seeds don’t burn and ghee does not dry up. You can always add a little more ghee if needed!
When dhal is ready (mushy, and water has been nearly completely absorbed), add the ghee and spice mixture to dhal and cook for a few minutes on low flame. Cover and let sit. Add cilantro as garnish upon serving.
Depending on your predominant dosha, you may want to add more or less of the following:
Grounding spices for vata: cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilis.
Cooling spices for pitta: cardamom, coriander, cilantro, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint, parsley.
Warming spices for kapha: black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cloves, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, cilantro, coriander, cumin, parsley, cinnamon.
By Julie Peacock
Are you using essential oils for your health and wellness yet? It’s amazing how healing and beneficial essential oils can be for your body, mind, and spirit. They have the power to lift the spirits, conjure up powerful memories, boost your energy, calm your nervous system, assist in healing the body, clean your home, and so much more.
I’ve been using essential oils for years, but once I discovered the certified pure therapeutic oils (CPTG) that doTERRA makes, I have experienced their many benefits—in my practice, with my kids, and with my clients. Consider peppermint. Peppermint not only freshens the breath, but can be used to soothe digestion, cool the body, help with focus, and relieve various aches and pains.
The other day, right before my Mysore practice, I was experiencing a tension headache. Instead of popping a couple of Advil, I dabbed a drop of peppermint on each of my temples and at the base of my skull. My headache was gone within minutes. And that’s just one way to use peppermint—there are so many others!
Check out my November 5th workshop (12pm-2:30pm at The Shala Union Square), where we’ll practice getting grounded using yoga, nutrition, and essential oils. See more information here.
our fort greene garden has come a long way!
thank you to all the students and teachers who kept our garden watered and cared for this summer. it looks beautiful and well-loved!
II.55 tataḥ parama vaśyatā indriyāṇāḿ
tataḥ: then, from that
parama: the highest
vaśyatā: subdued, controlled, governed
indriyāṇāḿ: of the senses
Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs. (Source: Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B.K.S. Iyengar)
Pratyahara is the fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of practice. It is the process of withdrawing the senses (indriyas) from objects of distraction, desire, or aversion, both outside of and within the mind. This prepares us for equanimous concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana). Like tributaries moving toward a greater body of water, the busy, individual trajectories of the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin are redirected for the purpose of reflection and insight.
— Melanie Jane Parker
with our next book club meeting slated for october 1, we are excited to announce paul beatty’s the sellout as our summer reading selection.
described by Kevin Young of the New York Times as a “metaphorical multicultural pot almost too hot to touch,” the sellout most certainly stands on its own. we have, however, selected two powerful supporting texts to be read alongside beatty’s brilliant satire: citizen by claudia rankine and between the world and me by ta-nehisi coates.
please read one, two, or all three books in preparation for our discussion and potluck in september! date and time TBD.
David Swenson is a wonderfully warm, skilled teacher and practitioner of Ashtanga Yoga. We can’t wait to study with him next month.
What do you hope people take with them into their daily practice? What does the yoga community need to do to take the practice of yoga to the next level?
Hopefully people will leave with a renewed energy and inspiration. Ashtanga is a lifelong journey, and one will move through many phases of relationship with the practice. By spending time with people that have been doing this for decades, they should come away with tools to keep them moving forward in their own practice.
The next level really means the weaving of the practice into other areas of life off of the mat. The next level does not mean more flexibility or strength but rather a deeper understanding of the realms of yoga that cannot be seen. The subtle aspects and their applications are the real next level. This can be achieved through the development and fostering of patience, awareness of our actions and interactions in daily life, and the willingness to make changes in our life to suit the most current needs of our situation. Weaving yoga into everyday experience is the goal. When we can blur the lines between practice and daily life we are moving in the right direction!
Yoga International, February 2014
A big thank you to Maria Rubinate for organizing the garden restoration project, and to Maureen, Claire, and Calvin (among others), who aided in the transformation of the Shala’s green space. It took a tremendous amount of work (which is still ongoing) to dig up and remove decades of debris. If you are interested in lending a hand, please speak with Maria Rubinate or sign up on the Fort Greene Shala bulletin board. Gardening season is near!
Drawing for Spiral Jetty, Great Salt Lake, Utah, Robert Smithson, 1970
1.4 वृत्तिसारूप्यमितरत्र ।।४।।
At other times (itaratra), it takes the form (sarupyam) of the mental activities (vritti). or: Conformity to the operations elsewhere.
It is natural for our minds to identify with our thoughts and with the objects around us. This is the basis of avidya, or ignorance of our real Self — confounding all the changeable things around us with our own true nature. This true nature (atman, purusha, soul, the seer) is said to be eternal and unchanging, and is pure awareness.
This sutra tells us that when we lose touch with our own being, chitta (the mind, or thinking faculty) manifests itself in place of the seer. We then become bound by time and space.
When the mind is not resting in its own true being, it takes the shape of the vrittis. We think the thoughts we have are who we really are. This avidya, the source of all suffering, clouds our perception. When we ‘clean’ our minds our thoughts and actions are not colored and dictated by our misperceptions.
With practice, we can avoid behaving in ways we don’t intend, and can stop ourselves from saying things we regret. Practice allows us to make a habit of being true to ourselves. This intention becomes a habit of awareness. Though we will fluctuate back and forth, identifying ourselves with our mental activities, we can catch ourselves and let go.
Vyaas Houston of the American Sanskrit Institute has said:
“If I don’t remain the seer, continually aware of the field; if nirodhah is not occurring, there is conformity to the vritti. I never lose my original identity — I just think I do.
One or the other is taking place. Either yoga is taking place or there is identity with vritti.”
— Jenny Meyer + Barbara Verrochi