A Yoga Sampler
As the seasons change and kids head back to school, we find ourselves with a bit more time to develop our practice (or so we hope). And even for those who have attended thousands of yoga classes, the search for a new class can stop us before we even get in the door.
The terminology, the chanting and other real or imaginary obstacles can bring up feelings of inadequacy that impede our practice. Should I be sweating this much? Am I doing this right? Wander-ing minds and unnecessary self scrutiny are the first barriers that need to be broken through to develop a yogic mind. I faced these obstacles and more while attending yoga classes in my home area, and now hope to share the benefits I gained from each tradition in order to help you find the right class for you.
Yoga as a Healing Art
Body & Yoga Wellness (Huntington) is an intimate studio offering yoga with an emphasis on injury healing, stress relief and pain reduction. Susanne Gruber has been teaching for over 17 years and is certified in neuromuscular massage therapy. Rather than succumbing to the ego and pushing the body past its own limits, Susanne supports the body’s natural alignment to allow the students true relaxation in each pose. You can find a teacher with experience in the healing arts by checking your local wellness centers. Look for teachers with a background in massage therapy, or perhaps check out established schools that offer gentle and restorative yoga classes, such as The Northport Yoga Center.
Returning to the Self with Play
Inner Spirit Yoga Center (E. Northport) offers both yoga and Middle Eastern dance classes. After leading us through a spiritual discussion, Roni tenderly adjusted each student, sometimes literally dancing between individuals to the Indian music that filled the room. After practicing some simple poses on our own mats, the class was split into two groups. The first group selected yoga postures, and then the second group gave support using their body (asana). We stumbled awkwardly at first, but as the rotations continued we all began to play a bit and open to the yogic artwork created by our bodies. Roni explained that each class is completely different, but I’m sure her energy and expertise keeps the students coming back for more.
Moss Spa & Yoga in Cold Spring Harbor also offers classes that assimilate fun with yoga. This upscale spa and boutique offers post-natal, partner yoga, ayurveda workshops and even a class that blends asanas with poetry. Gary Barrero’s Kundalini class combines intense breath work with mantra repetition, introducing a completely different aspect to the traditional postures that most westerners equate with yoga. Playing with different types of classes allows a student to develop awareness and spontaneity in their practice.
Personal Attention Provides a Strong Foundation
To anyone who feels overwhelmed by the numerous variations of yoga available, Jeff Logan at Body & Soul Fitness & Yoga Center (Huntington) offers a wonderful introduction to Iyengar. Jeff’s decades of experience allows him to challenge both new and advanced students. His friendly and outgoing nature doesn’t hurt either. Support from blocks, bolsters, blankets and even chairs will bring you into poses that may otherwise feel uncomfortable. If learning precise alignment of each posture appeals to you, internet search engines make it easy to find a studio that teaches the extremely popular Iyengar style of yoga. So check it out and prepare for a perfectly aligned practice.
Total Body Workout to Develop your Practice
Of all the wonderful classes that I attended over the last two months, the breath and flow focused Vinyasa offered at Balance Yoga & Healing Arts Center (Huntington) was the most physically challenging and rewarding. Sara Intonato kept the class flowing as one and provided adjustments as we worked our way through stimulating variations of the sun salutation (surya namaskar). After working up a full body sweat, we relaxed into corpse pose (savasana), and soothing incense and kirtan (chanting) filled the room. The asanas were invigorating, but this class was about more than just toning and cleansing the body. The Vinyasa sequence unites the body and mind, and this popular technique can be found in many studios throughout the tri-state area.
Kali Ray TriYoga offers another systematic technique that combines posture (asana), breath (pranayama) and focus (utilizing mudras) to increase both strength and flexibility. The terminology used in this class differs from other traditions, but the basic level class provides a full explanation of postures to acclimate a new student. Jennifer Driesen at The Yoga Studio (E. Northport) leads the class through a sequence of poses, with a focus on core strength, creating a unique full body workout. If you are looking for a well structured class, with a lot of core work, visit www.triyoga.com to find a teacher in your area.
This list is only a starting point. There are an abundance of classes, including Bikram’s hot yoga and Sivananda’s hatha yoga, which I have been trained in. If you still feel unsure about which direction to begin in, I offer the wisdom a young swami once shared with me, “The paths are many, but the truth is one.” It doesn’t matter which class you attend, only that you open your heart and mind to a more harmonious way of living.
Tara Duffy is a Hatha Yoga Teacher and a certified Personal Trainer. She has traveled extensively, seeking new experiences and testing social, physical and spiritual boundaries. Tara is back on Long Island, sharing the knowledge she has gained on her journey with others through writing and yoga instruction.