Tag Archives: breath

Forrest Yoga Classes in New Jersey

I recently completed the 200-hour Forrest Yoga Foundations Teacher Training at Fresh Yoga in New Haven, CT with master teacher Ana Forrest. It was a life-changing experience.

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Some of the many gifts I received from this training are:

  • I got my personal yoga practice back. It’s not unusual to hear yoga teachers bemoaning the loss of their own personal practice. As of today, I have practiced yoga 31 days in a row. And I have no intention of turning back. One of the personal ethics I created for myself during the training was to practice a minimum of 6x/week for at least 30 minutes per day. So far, this ethic is guiding me into health, a sense of wholeness, and a sense of trust in myself that I have not felt for a very long time. My strength is growing by the day.
  • My connection to breath has deepened exponentially. I have always felt a strong connection to breath and had a good intuitive understanding of how to teach breath. But since this training, my application of breath is becoming so much more skillful. I am better able to share this understanding with my students, and teach them in a practical way HOW TO USE BREATH FOR HEALING. This will revolutionize your yoga practice and your life.
  • I realized through this training how I had a plethora of habits that were holding me down and dimming my light, as well as showing up as obstacles to moving forward in life with clarity and conviction. Social drinking and partying (I have been a DJ in the nightlife scene for 10+ years), mindless eating, even social media use suddenly revealed themselves as ways that I would distract myself from what was essential in my life at the moment and choose a behavior that took me away, that numbed me out. Getting clear about the myriad ways I was squandering my life energy made me see that all those things we take for granted as being normal, “let loose” or “have fun” type behaviors are actually hooks that drain our vitality. I have since reformed how and what I eat, and my tendency to casually use “party favors” (drugs & alcohol) in favor of clarity around how these actions keep me from feeling what I need to feel. The pull towards addiction or compulsion is insidious, and our modern culture accepts and even encourages our slavery to various forms of addiction, from shopping to gambling to online porn to recreational drugs to exercise. Getting clear about my tendency to fall into these traps and speak about it to anyone who will listen has been liberating.
  • I have learned how to connect to my spirit by breathing well, finding beauty in the everyday, and speaking my truth from my heart. These concepts sound nice on paper, but applying them is ironically not as easy as it sounds. When our thoughts are poisoned by a steady stream of negative inner dialogue, our spirit is often in hiding or maybe even not in residence. If our spirit is our essential, truest self, the best version of ourselves, why would that best version of yourself hang out for the punishment most of us put it though on a daily basis? In Forrest Yoga, we learned to see ourselves as ENOUGH. I am enough. This is a radical concept because our culture is always telling us we are NOT enough, that we need one more degree, more money, less cellulite, more hair, more boobs, etc. to be worthy. This is the furthest thing from the truth because who we are is ONLY and EVER from our spirit, never from what we do, what we earn, what we learn or accomplish along the way. It is WHO WE ARE at the essential, spiritual level. Developing tools to help us connect with this essence of who we are is one of the most powerful and healing aspects of Forrest Yoga.

These four paragraphs above sum up the four pillars of Forrest Yoga: Breath, Strength, Integrity, and Embodying Spirit.

Forrest Yoga is a healing, therapeutic approach to yoga. It heals at the physical, emotional, and energetic level. I am so grateful that my spirit guided me to Forrest Yoga nearly four years ago. Before I was even ready to begin the healing I’m experiencing now, my spirit guided me in this direction. Healing is a process. We must have patience and put in the time to reap the rewards. The rewards are nothing less than a transformed life, freedom from addictive and compulsive behaviors, clarity about life and what we most want and need, letting go of our rackets (ritualized and rationalized behaviors designed to keep us from being present to what is actually happening in the moment) and life-zapping mental habits.

I am offering Forrest Yoga privately in Jersey City, NJ and New York City. If you are interested in private instruction in Forrest Yoga, or an inter-disciplinary approach utilizing the other styles of yoga that I teach, along with thai massage and shamanic reiki, please contact me.

 

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Riding the Breath (cross-posted from ReflectionsYoga.com)

Here is a blog post I wrote for one of the studios where I teach, the lovely midtown Manhattan oasis, Reflections Center for Conscious Living. It’s amazing that such a serene and lovely space for yoga and meditation exists in the middle of hustle-bustle Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. That’s one of the things that makes Reflections so special. It’s also where I did my first yoga teacher training, with my teacher Paula Tursi. She taught me a great deal about the breath, in particular, she taught me how to watch the breath, and to use this watchfulness to know when I’m struggling or trying too hard in a pose. Without further ado, here is the text of the post, or you can read it in its original form here.

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Riding the Breath

One of yoga’s gifts is the cultivation of witness consciousness. By teaching us to watch, with compassionate detachment, the fluctuations of our minds and bodies, yoga shows us that everything is always arising or dissolving.

We start with the breath and watch its fluctuations, its rise and fall in our bodies. Then we begin to extend our awareness to our bodies, and watch sensations rise and fall in them as we move through the poses. Another way to help us build awareness is to watch our thoughts and the attitude we bring to practice. By checking in with how we’re feeling when we sit in those first few opening breaths of class, we can set a baseline of tone or attitude that we can compare against once practice is over, and then see again the cycle of arising and dissolving.

To see everything as either arising or dissolving helps us when life takes its inevitable challenging turns. Cultivating witness consciousness and compassion towards yourself on your mat can help you bring this same watchfulness to your life. Instead of being caught in the drama of things ending or the exultation of things beginning, what would happen if you took an attitude of equanimity and allowed things to simply settle into place?

For many of us, the idea of letting go of control is very threatening. We have agendas that want fulfilling and we have invested in things turning out such and such a way. When things don’t go as we hoped, many of us suffer twice: once for not getting what we wanted, and twice for having our expectations thrashed. And yet we keep fantasizing into the future and sowing the seeds of our disappointment.

When meeting the edge of a challenging yoga pose, our teachers usually tell us to slow down, approach with respect and awareness, breathe, and feel. Witness consciousness is doing this before every big and small decision, before each potential argument, before each potential disappointment, before each conversation, before we deepen into another yoga pose, in short, always! If we can pause long enough to not barge ahead when a mindful step is a more skillful choice, we may find the rough edges of our lives becoming smoother. Instead of a series of ups and downs, we can learn to navigate ourselves right down the middle, riding the edge with grace and mindfulness.

~Post written by Lola Rephann

Lola teaches at Reflections Wednesday nights at 6:30pm (Foundations 1), Fridays at 6pm (Yin Yoga) and Sundays at 12:30 (Quick Fix)

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Reports from Wind Horse, the first Forrest Yoga conference

Forrest Yoga is about doing stuff like this. Although extremely challenging, it’s not about the pose. The pose is just the vehicle to help you access the stuff.

I wasn’t able to attend this year. Hopefully next year. From everything I’ve seen and read, Wind Horse 2012 looked amazing, and what else could you expect from a gathering of Forrest yogis?

I’ve already expressed my love and admiration for Forrest Yoga in these pages, and my dream to one day certify as a Forrest Yoga teacher. I do study with some amazing Forrest Yoga teachers, including Erica Mather in NYC and Heidi Sormaz whenever I get to New Haven, CT. Here’s some collected blog posts, photos, and other ephemera from 2012’s inaugural (and surely not the last) Forrest Yoga conference.

Top 10 Ana-isms from Wind Horse: One thing I love about the Forrest teachers I’ve studied with so far? Their in-your-face honesty. Emotional and spiritual nakedness even. Ana Forrest  is the grand-mommy bad-ass of them all.

Ana Forrest Fierce Medicine Reading and Workshop at Wind Horse, 2012 (video): Fierce Medicine is an amazing book. Please read it.

New song introduced at Wind Horse 2012 (video): Forrest Yogis sing songs at the beginning of practice. These songs are usually from the Native American medicine traditions. Forrest Yoga has a shamanic/medicine (wo)man thread coursing through it, no doubt inspired by Ana’s earliest experiences working with animals and nature, experiences she chronicles in Fierce Medicine. The songs sung by Forrest Yogis are cherished by the tribe and lend consistency to gatherings that brings yogis together from all parts of the world.

Workshop recaps: A little more detail on some of the workshops offered at Wind Horse 2012, via Forrest Yoga teacher Megan Keane’s blog. Another workshop recap via Grateful Yogi. Monday morning at Wind Horse, via Megan Keane again. Another one from Grateful Yogi.

Some photos, general recaps, and random stuff I found online:

I’m sure there’s lots more I’ve missed or things that will come online after this post goes live. Please leave any updates in the comments. Thanks, and a-ho!

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Yin Yoga & Meditation

There’s a lot of reasons to do yin yoga. Yin yoga is an excellent counterpart to more active “yang” vinyasa or other physical practices. It’s great to practice yin yoga when you’re stressed out, over-heated, or for women in their moon cycle. Whenever you have been too yang, yin yoga will help re-balance your energy levels and serve as a tonic to an over-stimulated, over-booked life. Yin yoga can help quiet the mind and heal the body. Like all forms of yoga, yin yoga can help settle the mind by bringing awareness into the subtle realms of breath and energy, but yin in particular is well suited as a preliminary practice to sitting meditation. Why is this so?

Yin yoga helps lengthen and strengthen connective tissue (ligaments, fascia, possibly even bone!) by virtue of its “yin” methodology. The three principles of yin yoga are 1) meet your edge 2) stillness 3) hold for time. Once you meet your first edge in a yin pose, you’ll soak there until your body opens enough to allow you to find your second edge. Then you soak in stillness there, holding for time, until another edge appears, and so on.

The attention to detail it requires to follow the three-step path of yin yoga (find your edge, stillness, hold for time) naturally settles the mind. The breath in yin is used as much to invite space in (breathe into an area that feels stiff or congested) as it is a release (lion’s breath is a yin treat; holding a pose for a long time can sometimes feel claustrophobic and lion’s breath is a great way to release excess energy without moving). As the body cools down and the muscles become relaxed, the body naturally requires less oxygen. The breath can become slower and deeper.

The quality of breath that develops from a yin practice makes it a perfect antecedent to sitting meditation practice. Not only will the joints used in sitting (spine & hips) be open and lubricated (yin yoga practice actually helps create more of the substance, hyaluronic acid, that cushions the joints) but the breath and mind will already be well slowed down. A sitting practice after yin practice can go very deep.

I will be offering a workshop on yin yoga on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 at Reflections Yoga in NYC. The focus of this workshop will be on using yin yoga to prepare the body and mind for meditation.

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