Wherever you go, there you are …
My practice has evolved over the years, and I have been influenced by a few traditions, Hatha, Iyengar Ashtanga and Kundalini, and here in yoga, as in most disciplines, I favor a combination of techniques. I like to assemble the best aspects of each technique and bring them together under one umbrella.
In each school of yoga, I have found pearls of wisdom and different approaches that have helped me to create a broad and varied foundation to my practice, tools that have kept the flame of inspiration and creativity alive in my body, mind and spirit. As a Yoga instructor I love combining a heating yang vinyasa, or flowing style yoga, that conditions the muscles of the body with a cooling yin yoga practice that targets the interior connective structures of the body so that I can experience total balance—inside and out.
Yoga has provided me with a subtle, quiet and introspective means of listening to my body. Once I started moving quietly and slowly through yoga, I was able to experience my body as far more than an anatomical structure, a machine, as I had in dance, a body to be ordered and disciplined. I started to recognize that my body was a thinking, sentient entity, one that deserved respect and compassion. I never truly got acquainted with my body and myself until I found yoga, and I certainly had never realized what my body was capable of until then … I had never experienced the mind and the body in such a subtle, integrated way—until yoga I had not understood how inextricably linked the mind and body are and how vital consistent and focused, nurturing attention was to keep the body-mind relationship healthy. Yoga’s benefits are endless, and you will feel its effects almost immediately.
There are so many things I love about yoga—the way it makes my body feel, and the way it calms and centers me, but the the thing I love the most about being a yoga instructor is that your practice doesn’t end when you roll up your sticky mat… you take it with you. Are you familiar with the phrase: “Wherever you go, there you are?” or “you can run, but you can’t hide?” Or “you take yourself with you?” In other words, to truly enjoy your vacations, it’s a good idea to try to make peace with yourself, so that rather than feeling as though you are escaping from yourself—you are simply escaping the crush and bustle of your daily life and hopefully returning to yourself. Yoga is one of the most wonderful ways to return to yourself … every time to step onto your mat.
Yoga is the vehicle that helps us to create deeper awareness and consciousness of ourselves as total, integrated beings, and one that helps us to cultivate patience and compassion towards ourselves and others. And its effects are subtle, yet powerful at the same time; they last long after you conclude your practice … the yoga continues off the mat and touches every aspect of your life, if you let it—if you learn to cultivate consciousness through your practice that you choose to bring into your every day.
May the peace and love you learn to give to yourself through yoga be the gift you give to others.
Yoga = Union
The word yoga means union—it is the true union of will with spirituality, the disciplining and the exploration of the emotions, the body and the body. Yoga is the oldest of the physical disciplines. It is an immortal art, science and philosophy.
Traditionally, yoga is a method of joining the self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen and align the body, increase spinal flexibility, and promote blood flow to all of the organs, glands and tissues, keeping all of the body’s systems healthy and balanced.
On the mental level, breathing techniques used throughout the practice and the seated meditation which follows the active asana practice quiet, clarify and discipline the mind. Through yoga you can deeply connect to your innermost self and rise above worldly concerns and minutiae. You can find a place where detachment and connectedness are in complete harmony—where the body and mind are one.
Yoga is about feeling centered, emotionally and spiritually grounded. Yoga offers freedom to the body-mind, an opportunity to go “deep-sea diving” into the body, where the real treasures can be found—the repositories of history that get inevitably recorded in the body and its tissues, all the way down to its cells. Yoga offers freedom, suppleness, flexibility, devotion to oneself and greater peace of mind. In yoga you aren’t expected to execute anything perfectly, to adhere to rigid, achievement oriented standards or to use your body as a tool to accomplish more and more. The premise of yoga is kindness, compassion and respect for the self. Yoga means patience and careful attunement to the whisperings of the body. Through the asana practice, the spirit is nurtured by respecting one’s body, by becoming closer to it and its inner workings. By establishing an environment that fosters celebration of the self, of your body exactly as it is, you actually cultivate the ability to release your preconceived notions of what your body “should be capable of, or what it “should” look like and to give up those desires, or at the very least, to temper them. In giving yourself permission to experiment, in giving yourself over to the breath, you gain some distance from yourself, from your physical concerns, and free your mind. Inevitably, you find a space that enables you to focus on the more important aspects of your life—finding true balance and peace in your body in the present moment. The very nature of yoga is slow and steady, and through following the rhythm of the poses in your practice, your perspective is positively altered and your mind is slowly, imperceptibly calmed. Through yoga you can connect to your innermost self and achieve profound union of mind and body, reaping the benefits that lie in the subtle workings of the breath and the asanas. You increase flexibility, overall muscular stamina, as you build inner strength and endurance. You cultivate a relationship of genuine intimacy between your body and your mind and a sense of authenticity of self that serves you in your own life and in the lives of those you touch.
|No one can see their reflection in running water.
It is only in still water that we can see.
The typical yoga practice is Hatha-based. It is a “yang vinyasa” or heating, flowing practice that targets the muscles of the body, increasing strength, stamina and flexibility. It promotes a considerable degree of physical exertion for the purpose of creating internal heat, or “tapas,” that in essence “burns away” physical and emotional blockages in the body. The vinyasa practice consists of a sequence of breath-motivated physical poses, or asanas, designed to work all parts of the body, with an emphasis on making the spine strong, and flexible and increasing overall circulation in the body. Hatha yoga, which is the basis of most yoga practices, features poses that utilize three basic movements: forward bends, backward bends, and twisting motions. Each pose is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, tree, and the head to knee pose, to name a few. An asana is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one’s strength and stamina. Yoga practices can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours. Some yoga practices can be quite demanding whereas other approaches like Yin yoga, the cooling practice, stretch and open the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga’s benefits are most immediately experienced when practiced as a daily ritual, offering deeper and more challenging positions as one becomes stronger and more capable; but perhaps the greatest benefit of a consistent yoga practice is learning how to cultivate peace of mind.
Yoga begins with the breath. The breath leads the body and calms the mind. The breath stills the mind and heals the body. The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of prana, or life force. The science or control of breathing in yoga is called pranayama and is the technique that could be considered the “engine” behind moving the life force through the body and the vehicle that is most responsible for transformation in the body mind in the yogic realm. You will learn to breathe in a way that will profoundly influence your every day—the way your body functions, the way your mind works. Breathing is your ticket, your way to gain access to the meditative mind.
There are three kinds of essential breathing in yoga:
1.Ujjayi: the Scholar’s breath, a breath of concentration used to cultivate and circulate the body’s subtle internal energies.
2. Kapalabhati: the breath of fire used to stimulate the body’s internal fire and stoke the flames that turn the body’s water sources into vapor or subtle energy that circulates through the body to create internal balance and harmony.
3. Alternate nostril breathing: the meditative or reflective breath used to cool the body and tonify the kidneys used in meditation.
Learning these techniques will teach you that the breath is a powerful healing force and that, just like in the Chinese art of acupuncture, it can open or create new pathways where vital chi can flow. Where once there were restrictions, yogic breath coaxes the body into opening and releasing unavailable or blocked/stagnant energy so that equilibrium can be established. If there is restriction in the body, that means vital energy (chi) is blocked and participation from that particular area is diminished. The ancient art of acupuncture is remarkably effective in this capacity; through the insertion of tiny needles carefully targeted along the body’s meridians (energy pathways), the body is coaxed into relinquishing its holding patterns and balance is restored. Amazingly, through yogic breathing, you can achieve the same effects. When you are able to breathe deeply and completely, the breath itself becomes a gentle, catalytic force helping you to move into territories of your body you have never explored before. You don’t have to be a world traveler to be inspired, for once you truly learn how to breathe and explore your capabilities through yoga, your body’s topography and inner landscapes become the most exciting territories you could discover.
|And if you should individually achieve calmness and harmony in your own person, you may depend upon it that a wave of imitation will spread from you, as surely as the circles spread outward when a stone is dropped into a lake
Replenish, revive, balance and restore. Get to know your inner emotional landscape with this profound mind-body “un-workout.” Yin yoga is a practice of long-held, deeply relaxing “stretching” poses that open and energize the “meridians,” or energy pathways of the body, restoring youthful joint mobility as you quietly collect and gather your chi, your life force.
Whereas the yoga most people are familiar with appropriates the muscles or yang tissues of the body, yin yoga targets the more interior supportive structures—the “fasciae,” literally down to the bone marrow. Yin is every bit as vital as a heating or “yang vinyasa” yoga practice—the “power yoga” where one flows from pose to pose, energetically pushing the envelope, concentrating on building muscular strength and stamina. Yin yoga, on the other hand, is a cool, calming, restorative practice that literally helps you to recharge your batteries. You’ll learn poses like the dragonfly, seal and pigeon, all of which are designed to stretch and revitalize the deeper connective tissue in every part of the body, stimulating your meridians which connect to your vital organs and help to restore balance and harmony in your body systems. This “needle-less” form of acupuncture will leave you feeling calm and energized at the same time. The yin practice of long-held stretching poses combined with deep, focused breathing encourages you to tune in and listen to your body. You hold poses between ten breaths and ten minutes if you have the time to spare, to liberate the body’s chronic holding patterns, relieve pain, and restore joint mobility, recapturing some of the ease and freedom of movement you used to have as a child. Yin yoga is truly one of my favorite things on earth—it is a way of learning to cultivate the body’s subtle energy that enables you to heal yourself, prevent injury and find a deep sense of peace and calm in your body, mind and spirit.
|It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts,~K.T. Jong|