Last weekend, the incredible DJ Tara and I welcomed the new moon at Brooklyn gem, Abhyasa Yoga Center. While merging music and movement, I was also able to say a formal goodbye to Abhyasa— where I trained with J. Brown and used to teach weekly classes— unfortunately closing at the end of this year. Sincere thank you to call who attended, and to J. for being so supportive over the years!
Ringing in 2017 was an absolute joy. Ali and I are so grateful to everyone who came to sweat and shimmy for our second Vinyl Vinyasa at BSP's upstairs dance studio— quickly becoming one of my favorite Hudson Valley venues!
I'd seen DJ Ali's name on fliers all over New Paltz and in my Facebook feed when I first moved back to the Hudson Valley. We had some mutual friends, so I knew we'd cross paths eventually.
One night last winter, I popped into Market Market to hang quickly before another event, and she was spinning classic 90s flames. For the first time in months, it was a party that I didn't want to leave!
(At the time, I was unpacking ten years of a career and lifestyle filled with sometimes-mesmerizing "VIP" access — while also dealing with the fact that it no longer served me. In my music-industry evacuee haze, bands, DJs and the local nightlife usually left much to be desired. But with Missy Elliott in the background of the moment Ali was curating, transitioning back to my hometown community to teach yoga felt manageable— maybe even right.)
A couple weeks later, Ali and I met in person, and a hefty co-sign from an always-fab mentor / friend I adore came soon after. Tamar confirmed what I already knew: Ali was a baddy.
Join us on Friday night, March 25, 7pm-9m to welcome the weekend and celebrate Spring with 2-hours of yoga flow alongside a live DJ! With the support of Sara Trapani and the amazing WSY community, Vinyl Vinyasa will surely be a soothing and fun night for all— just like that night back in February at MKT. Hope to see you there!
This weekend, One Billion Rising comes to the Hudson Valley for a day-long event honoring the commitment to take care of ourselves so that we can also do our part to take care of others.
COMMUNITY, CARING, AND REVOLUTION
One in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Do the math: that's about one billion humans on this planet — too many mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts — who will experience physical abuse and its aftermath. Joining the movement on Saturday, 2/13, local teachers from around Ulster County are donating their yoga classes with all proceeds going to The Washbourne House, a shelter which houses and supports survivors of domestic violence.
AT WHOLE SKY YOGA, COMING TO CLASS = DONATING
Whole Sky Yoga is participating— donating my 11am Saturday class to the cause! What's that mean, exactly? In addition to making a generous donation on behalf of WSY, studio owner Sara Trapani is donating the income from each student in attendance to The Washbourne House. Students compelled to make additional contributions are welcome to leave cash or checks with us to deliver. ($40 is the suggested donation, but again, any contribution helps. I'm donating my teaching fees!)
YOUR REWARD FOR SELF-CARE?
Students with WSY class cards won't be impacted at all— Saturday is a regular class and donating is completely optional. But as a gift to you for simply showing up, Whole Sky will be giving One Billion Rising wristbands to ALL in attendance, giving you access to incredible discounts at businesses in the area and free classes at other participating movement studios!
Together with One Billion Rising, we're helping to raise awareness on an important issue: violence against women. If you and some friends want to get wristbands and make a day of it by popping into Le Shag or Birch Body Works, or a taking a meditation, dancing or pilates class later on, you should! Either way, you're taking care of yourselves through yoga asana, and that's a revolution of its own.
Hope to see you in class on Saturday!
We can all think of moments when a yoga teacher offered a directive that really resonated and maybe even catalyzed an emotional response or new level of body-mind awareness. What is the inspiration behind their methods? How have these powerful verbal landmarks been crafted?
Genny Kapuler, an Iyengar teacher, sees herself as a messenger of a poetic lineage. “Language threads the mind into the body,” said the seasoned instructor. “It’s a vehicle.”
When I asked her to discuss the power of metaphorical speech in classes, she quickly made the distinction between an example cue —“breathe into the mucus membranes of your nose” — and a more elegant alternative.
“What if I say,‘there’s a lining in the nose that would be like the silk lining of a kimono, and as you breathe, you can actually feel the fibers open, so the fibers open in a way that would be like flower petals… the petals of the inner nostrils open, and they open all the way wide, into the sinuses of your face.’”
Thinking about it as “the silk lining of a kimono” that can be blown open is one directive you’re likely to remember after you’ve felt it once.
Kapuler says that her love for language pre-dates her yoga experience and goes back to when she was little. Not surprisingly, Kapuler has always been a voracious reader and has a highly tuned ear, which explains the verbal flexibility that flows from her.
Delivering an "Aha!" moment isn’t easy. New teachers are often guilty of over-teaching,
while some ego-driven instructors talk just to showcase their knowledge. But metaphor enthusiasts, for the most part, seek to establish deeper connections.
Developing this can be done, but it begins with self-awareness. Cass Ghiorse, a yoga teacher and wellness coach, has been slowly backing off from over-cuing since last year. “I’m a lot less wordy now. I think part of it is because I’ve grown and evolved. I’ve learned the power of silence. I’ve become my own editor.”
Ghiorse credits The Breathing Project’s Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews for unveiling concepts that have allowed her to ask more questions rather than firing off layers of instruction.
Ghiorse—who memorizes her students’ names to make them feel “seen” and starts each class by saying “give yourself time to arrive”—admits that syncing thought-provoking offerings with students can sometimes be tricky. “They don’t want questions, they want answers,” she said of the paying public.
Now she gives these in a new way. Ghiorse thinks of sequences like “poetry in your body” and offers poet Mary Oliver-like pauses between asanas to let her inquiries seep-in. “You can’t answer it for your students, you have to let them answer it for themselves, and so there’s a quiet there that I cannot tell you, is so invaluable," she said.
“One holds the poses quite a bit in Iyengar yoga,” agreed Kapuler, “and within that holding, one has time to plummet the depth of their psyche and their being.”
Another trick of these teachers: They are always asking themselves what’s working and what’s not. With an experienced group of students doing sun salutations, Crown Heights studio owner Jyll Hubbard-Salk wonders “Why am I gonna keep talking?!” She’s learned to “just let them get in their vibe,” intuiting when to “fall back and shut up.”
While she does try to make a point not to use profanity, Hubbard-Salk’s students appreciate her nurturing-but-direct style and those four letter words do slip out. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I need to stop fucking cussing when I’m teaching.’ And some of my students are like, ‘Girl, that’s why we come—‘cause you’re real!’”
Perhaps a bit eccentric, Hubbard-Salk finds that being uncensored is effective. “When I’m like ‘move your bottoms down,’ nobody moves. But when I say, ‘move your asses down’— they drop!”
Mirroring that sentiment, Ghiorse discussed the process of trusting her authentic self by using relaxed, familiar language. For some, “familiar” might not go all the way to foul language, but Hubbard-Salk, too, walks in her truth unapologetically. “I woke up like this.”
Originally published on YogaCityNYC. Illustration by Sharon Watts.
I've struggled with performance anxiety since I was a kid, and there were points during my yoga teacher training when I thought I'd never be able to actually TEACH. At least not without having a public meltdown. Thankfully, practice and repetition have given me the confidence to, most of the time, feel comfortable in my own skin.
Many thanks to Brette Popper and Cynthia Kling at YogaCity NYC for the opportunity to explore the stage-fright-as-an-instructor experience, and to Patricia Pinto, Julie Ewald and Mel Russo for sharing their stories in the piece. Honored to be contributing to the site, I got a lot of out ruminating on the triggers and physical / sensory experiences that are part and parcel of the process.
Here's hoping that you guys get something out of our variety of experiences in the FULL STORY.
See you on the mat! x
Beginners often tell me that they don't feel prepared to join a class full of already-familiar yoga practitioners — even despite being eager to give it a try. Like doing anything new for the first time, I wholeheartedly understand the varied degrees of apprehension here. I just wish that more people could see how accessible yoga really is.
With this in mind, I'm happy to announce the following SPECIAL...
The details? Sign up for a personal, one-on-one session with me to help introduce you to the practice that's changed my entire life. In addition to being almost HALF the normal cost of a private, $5 of your payment will go directly to women and children in need.
THANKS FOR THE 40%, BUT WHAT CHARITY WILL MY $5 BE GOING TO?
The Washbourne House is a 17-bed shelter for women and their children, located in a confidential location in Ulster County. Residents receive individual and group support-counseling, case management, parenting and children’s services, advocacy and extensive referrals. [DONATE DIRECTLY.]
Please know it would be my absolute pleasure to work with you and your loved ones, and that I'm always available to answer questions that you may have — even if it's as simple as "what do I wear to a class?" Thank you, and happy holidays!
FOR ALL ONE-ON-ONE BOOKING INQUIRIES, PLEASE FILL OUT THE CONTACT FORM OR CALL 914.475.3132, AND I'LL GET BACK TO YOU ASAP.
At the end of June, I put my entire life in a U-Haul truck and drove it out of Brooklyn. Circumstances and timing were in alignment, and after almost ten years of living in my beloved NYC, rebooting made sense.
There was no plan. The only thing I knew for certain was that this self-imposed career break came with a neighboring expiration date that would emerge organically (and be relatively painless), or be birthed out of necessity. Either way, time off was imperative.
Choosing to roll the dice and put myself in a position that could wind up being potentially unpleasant was out of character for someone so practical, and as you might imagine, reactions to the decision ran the gamut. Thanks to a generous and supportive friend close to home, I had a place to lay my head while sorting out the noise.
In my new surroundings, pursuing a relaxing, limber schedule instead of actively looking for a new full-time job summoned jolts of fear almost immediately. Morning jogs, actually spending time with family, teaching / taking yoga, having intimate conversations, traveling, and roaming in nature were interrupted by misgiving story-lines in my head. What if I don't figure out a way to support myself after this break?
The Universe doesn't care if you're in the midst of a Xennial life renovation or if you have 90% of your belongings boxed up in storage— things keep moving forward and stuff comes up. Opportunities slip from our grasp, hearts and smart phones break, friends hurt our feelings, and people fly off the handle in line buying kale. With several personal and professional unknowns looming, my yoga practice quickly became a day-to-day anchor in uncharted territory. Reading helped too.
Writings from American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön had admittedly influenced this temporary lifestyle change in the first place, and I was hopeful that intentionally sabotaging my own coziness would allow my concept of "normal" to transform for the better. And it did. Little things that would generally summon internal aggravation — running out of hot water in the shower, having little-to-no spending money, cleaning up after other people — started becoming much less icky to endure. Those moments accumulated, and like Rinpoche reaching to get his glass, the discomfort got to a point where it was almost welcomed.
There is no guess what happened next portion of this blog post, though. It's October and I'm still here. Floating in the in-between.
Maybe I'll return to the digital media / broadcast space I know and love, or maybe sipping-in a few extra weeks of unplugging is more productive to explore a potential career pivot. In the interim, I notice that even though I teach twice a week and work a handful of odd jobs, pockets of rest and leisure leave me feeling deep-seated lethargy-shame. But I come from a 24/7-email, "we don't sleep, we take naps" world, so it's clearly just conditioning. Using a new lens to examine ideas and emotions previously attached to my day-to-day priorities, aspirations, and appetite for success (read Zosia Mamet ask "Must every woman build an empire?") invites valuable critique, I'm learning. So exploring all that has been fun.
It's natural for us to focus on milestones and events— taking inventory on our lives is a constant. We hop from A to B, one relationship to another, downward-facing dog to plank pose. Thanks to a treasured yoga teacher of mine, I've been trying to flip that mentality and approach life's pockets of transition with curiosity. Why don't the in-between moments that separate our achievements demand more of our attention?The car ride from A to B. The thought patterns that surface when we're between partners. And the muscle energy harnessed while shifting from down-dog to plank. There's important information there.
WHAT'S A PATANJALI?
Despite feeling like my identity is getting jostled about, I'm adjusting more each day. Going from nine years of swearing by living alone to having two roommates isn't the nightmare I thought it would be (full disclosure: they're both pretty wonderful), and in turn, my comfort zone continues to swell.
So what if my savings is hemorrhaging! If cultivating some quiet can't help me produce anything tangible in the long run, then at least I can be grateful and content for each tranquil moment that passes here. That honestly might be enough. Time, I'm assuming, will inevitably tell if having the footing to explore writing and teaching yoga full-time was worth trying in the first place.
Thoughts about the future still play duck-duck-goose in my mind, but willingly relinquishing control might actually be my favorite part of the transition these last few months. It's also the most alarming.
Luckily, I have reinforcements.
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the eight limbs of yoga include guidelines called the Yamas and Niyamas — things we should consider abstaining from, and practices we should consider cultivating, respectively. Aparigraha (the fifth Yama describing non-grasping, be it possessions, relationships, or ego-gluttony) has allowed me to get over myself when it comes to my current surroundings, my previously stable income, and the people I interact with. Taking Santosha (the second Niyama describing satisfaction and not requiring more than what you have) into consideration, it's hard to ignore my formerly rigid, rule-centered mindset suddenly being tolerant of all the chaos that comes my way.
I'll be back in New York eventually. I'm just not sure when.
Far from turning my back on the big apple, visiting yoga teachers, event-hopping with cronies and face-to-face meetings lure me back in. Meantime, I'm thankful to have kind words from supportive well-wishers and colleagues serving as reminders that there are benefits to this perhaps-reckless recess, and that I'll come out shining on the other side. I suspect they're right, but it wouldn't hurt to pour out a little kombucha for your girl either.
Yoga has many definitions, but this is one of my all-time favorites. As an author, screenwriter, editor, pioneer of hip-hop journalism and Kundalini yoga teacher, Dan Charnas has incredible stories to tell.
Whether you're an experienced yogi, just starting out, or managing a chronic condition, this gentle yoga practice will help you build strength, improve circulation, relieve stress and, over time, even facilitate healing. My personal approach adapts to each individual's specific needs, so beginners are most welcome. Plus, aside from simply feeling better, beneficial patterns of thought and behavior are cultivated in each breath-centered class.
Many thanks to Ashtanga owner Michael Stein — who, coincidentally, was my FIRST yoga teacher over 15-years ago — for this wonderful opportunity. I'm honored. And I can't picture a more-fitting set of circumstances to launch a website that's been a long time in the making.
Hope to see you all in class!
- WHERE: ASHTANGA YOGA — 71 MAIN STREET, NEW PALTZ
- WHEN: THURSDAYS AT 8:15PM & MONDAYS AT 7AM (STARTS 9/18, ENDS 10/27)
- DROP IN: $14 / $7 FOR SUNY NP STUDENTS
CLASS BUNDLES AVAILABLE — CONTACT ME FOR MORE INFO!
According to our friends at Yoga Alliance, there are many benefits of yoga.
Stress relief: The practice of yoga is well-demonstrated to reduce the physical effects of stress on the body. The body responds to stress through a fight-or-flight response, which is a combination of the sympathetic nervous system and hormonal pathways activating, releasing cortisol – the stress hormone – from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is often used to measure the stress response. Yoga practice has been demonstrated to reduce the levels of cortisol. Most yoga classes end with savasana, a relaxation pose, which further reduces the experience of stress.
Pain relief: Yoga can ease pain. Studies have shown that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions.
Better breathing: Yoga includes breathing practices known as pranayama, which can be effective for reducing our stress response, improving lung function and encouraging relaxation. Many pranayamas emphasize slowing down and deepening the breath, which activates the body’s parasympathetic system, or relaxation response. By changing our pattern of breathing, we can significantly affect our body’s experience of and response to stress. This may be one of the most profound lessons we can learn from our yoga practice.
Flexibility: Yoga can improve flexibility and mobility and increase range of motion. Over time, the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity.
Increased strength: Yoga asanas use every muscle in the body, increasing strength literally from head to toe. A regular yoga practice can also relieve muscular tension throughout the whole body.
Weight management: While most of the evidence for the effects of yoga on weight loss is anecdotal or experiential, yoga teachers, students and practitioners across the country find that yoga helps to support weight loss. Many teachers specialize in yoga programs to promote weight management and find that even gentle yoga practices help support weight loss. People do not have to practice the most vigorous forms of yoga to lose weight. Yoga encourages development of a positive self-image, as more attention is paid to nutrition and the body as a whole. A study from the Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that regular yoga practice was associated with less age-related weight gain. The lifestyle study of 15,500 adults in their 50’s covered 10 years of participants’ weight history, physical activity, medical history and diet.
Improved circulation: Yoga helps to improve circulation by efficiently moving oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.
Cardiovascular conditioning: Even a gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
Presence: Yoga connects us with the present moment. The more we practice, the more aware we become of our surroundings and the world around us. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.
Inner peace: The meditative effects of a consistent yoga practice help many cultivate inner peace and calm.