THANKSGIVING YOGA

THANKSGIVING DAY from 9:30-11.

Put that turkey in the oven, then take a break and join Lauren for this Thanksgiving morning flow gratitude practice. Class will be 65 minutes of yoga asana, with a gratitude meditation and luxuriously-long savasana. Please come join us. Items for the Alternatives to Violence pantry will gladly be accepted.

Zumba and Zumba Strong Monday-Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Need a fitness plan as the days get cooler? Leah has you covered! Join her for Zumba (Monday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.) and for Zumba STRONG (Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 p.m.).

Are you new  to STRONG? Here’s a description:

“ STRONG by Zumba® combines body weight, muscle conditioning, cardioand plyometric training moves synced to original music that has been specifically designed to match every single move. Every squat, every lunge, every burpee is driven by the music, helping you make it to that last rep, and maybe even five more. In each class you’ll burn calories while toning arms, legs, abs and glutes. Plyometric or explosive moves like high knees, burpees,and jumping jacks are interchanged with isometric moves like lunges, squats, and kickboxing. STRONG by Zumba® instructors change up the music and moves frequently to make sure you’re always challenged to the max.”

Continuing Ed. and Yoga Teacher Training

Are you a yoga teacher in need of your continuing education hours?  Are you interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor? Aloft School of Yoga offers a supportive environment in which you can meet your educational goals.  Our Yoga Alliance certified 200 hour yoga teacher training  is modular-based, allowing you some freedom and choice  in the pace of your training.  We train in a supportive community environment of teachers in training and current teachers, learning together as we go.

Our next training dates are Sept. 21-22 and Oct. 12-13, from 9:00-2:00, with 1/2 hour off for lunch.  They will also include some reading and homework. The Sept. training will focus on yoga as a tool to address stress and trauma, including the anatomy of stress.  The October training will focus on taking a more in depth look at ayurveda.  These trainings are required for the 200 hour teacher training, and available for continuing education credit. For further information, please contact Kristine via the website “contact” button.

 

Opening Up and Letting Go

Cill

By Cil Richards

Cil Richards is a professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.  She has a committed meditation practice and teaches and leads a weekly meditation group at Aloft Studios.    Here, she shares thoughts about meditation and shares why she meditates.

In this politically charged election year I have been thinking a lot about views and how much trouble they can cause.

View plays such a big role in what we believe, what we think about, and what we experience. It’s easy to say that we should drop our deeply held views and assumptions but that won’t make it happen. Fortunately meditation practice is a means to help us see those deeply held views and their effect.

When we meditate do we really open up to what is there or do we make assumptions about what we are experiencing? “I’m tense, I’m sad, I’m not good at concentrating. I’d be able to meditate if I wasn’t so hot.” Persistent investigation reveals the holes in these assumptions about experience. Anyone who has sat and watched their mind knows that it’s a madhouse in there. Thoughts and moods come and go like crazy. Things are constantly changing. And although sometimes that can be a little disconcerting, it’s a good thing. The fact of change means there is opportunity, possibility. I’m not sad, or angry, or hot. Those states come and go. Further investigation can reveal under what conditions these states arise and the patterns of behavior that play out over and over. For example, when I am stressed I often find that there is also some craving or aversion present. By looking closely we begin to see that we often fabricate our own reality based on views. Accompanying views are associations and memories that the mind uses to solidify and manufacture a way of viewing experience.

A helpful analogy from the physical world is a rainbow. We have all seen rainbows. No one would argue that they don’t exist, but we have all discovered that you can’t catch a rainbow, can’t touch it, and there is, alas, no pot of gold to be had. But what is a rainbow really? Is it a thing? Isn’t it really a process? One that happens when certain conditions are present? The recipe for a rainbow includes sun, rain, and an observer (you or me). Take away any one of these three and you don’t have a rainbow. The rainbow observed depends on where the observer is. That is, no two people ever see the ‘same’ rainbow. There is no ‘true’ rainbow. The rainbow ‘exists’ in relation to the sun, the rain, and the observer. Viewpoint matters.

We all hold some mental model of how the world works. Most often, when confronted with information that violates that worldview we ignore it or deny it. By doing so we miss an opportunity to learn. Through meditation if we really look at what’s really happening we see many things that challenge our worldview. If we can loosen our grip on our views and allow a new way of seeing then the possibility of transformative learning or insight arises. Letting go of views and allowing for different ways of seeing and views is an important part of meditation practice.

In my own practice through the years I have let go of and loosened many of my views. This has not been easy since as a professor I have certainly suffered from the ‘know it all’ disease. However, letting go of knowing how it is and seeing how it really is has really opened up my mind and practice.

The Joy of Less Expectation: Musings on meditation by Carolea Webb

I consider myself to be a reasonably serious meditator.  I’ve taken the time to look deeply at my mind, with varying degrees of intensity, for going on twenty years now.  I’m still no kind of expert, but I have noticed a few significant changes for the better. One big difference is that I find meditating to be less effort and more fun.

I was thinking about that as I drove home today after meditating with Kristine Zakarison and two other friends this afternoon, and I thought it might be a good subject for her blog.

One reason I have more fun meditating now is that I’m no longer imposing so many expectations on what I should experience.  In the early days, I expected that by watching my breath and being aware of my thoughts I should be able to make the thoughts go away, or at least reduce them enough to produce a calm state of mind. If I didn’t manage that I gave myself a mental scolding. “Bad meditator!” I said. “Bad!”

I also thought I should never fall asleep, squirm on my cushion or fantasize about food.  (Honestly, I remember a week-long retreat when I couldn’t seem to quit visualizing bell peppers. Go figure.) I had a long list of things I could do wrong.

Over the years, I have let that go (at least to a large degree).  Each morning I approach my meditation with curiosity.  “What will my meditation be like today?” I ask myself. “Will I relax into the joy of pure consciousness or will I feel like I’m half crazy?”  It’s fun to see what turns up!  I simply try to perceive what is present without identifying with it.  All kinds of mental phenomena (or the lack of it) comes and goes.

I didn’t tell myself to quit having expectations and judgments.  It just happened naturally over time.  And, here’s what was surprising to me: the less I tried to force a sense of well-being into my meditations, the more it arose naturally on its own.  I had made friends with the experience!  Now, whether I struggle to stay awake, fight an urge to plan my grocery list, come up with a brilliant insight, acknowledge some worry, or sit in blessed awareness of the present moment, I consider it a privilege to live the adventure.

On Slowing Down, Being Mindful, and Truly Seeing — By Marji Neill

I love to share words from others about why you value your practice, and how you manifest your practice in your daily life.  I share some words Marji Neill shared with me, along with an image of where Marji meets herself/her spirit:

“Hi Kristine,

It was great being with you in class today!   I’ve missed seeing everyone.   I had to chuckle when you were talking about being mindful, slowing down, and making eye contact.  Lots of thoughts came to my mind.   I do not have many natural talents [editorial note from KZ:  this is not true!], but for whatever reason, complete strangers have always opened up to me.  My girls noticed this when they were young and it is something that drives my husband nuts.   When we are out, and I speak with total strangers, he will often ask, “Do you KNOW that person?”   Growing up with an “always be busy, busy, busy” mentality, I tend to walk briskly, but I like to smile and greet anyone I see.  This has led to a ton of “little while friends” and fun conversations.  Also, it seems like my guardian angel or spirit guide (or whatever energy is helping me through life on earth), likes to draw my attention to wildlife at just the right moment, and it’s been a fun part of my life.    Lately I’ve noticed I’m not walking as fast.  It made me wonder if I was holding back to not irritate my cranky knee (chronic), or if I am just getting older.   But, you gave me hope that maybe I am finally understanding that if I zoom through life with my head down, I will miss a lot.   After all, I want to know how that wild turkey family with seeming limited good sense, is doing!”

Sept 29, 2015

Dance with Me . . .

5100025281_c125e2c49e_zI think that most of you know that, very soon, I am heading out to Boston to have brain surgery to attempt to remedy my epilepsy. I am very fortunate to have a talented and loving community of teachers to teach and substitute while I’m away, although classes will be more limited, so please be sure and check the schedule every week. I feel incredibly graced to have such a wonderful group of friends/teachers who have agreed to teach while I’m away, and also to have a loving community of students who have been understanding and supportive. I’m convinced that it takes a village to face up to brain surgery . . . Thanks for being my village.
I’m going to write a separate post about this, but one of the things I find myself wanting to do, as I face this surgery, is dance, and dance, and dance. I have loved having the opportunity to do Nia with many of you, and the joy and the freedom of dancing together seems to be keeping me in just the right, hope-filled space, living in the moment of now, that I need to be in to deal with what is coming up. So keep dancing with me while I’m away and send me your good energy!
Another thing I’ve learned a lot about is the incredible power of the stillness that yoga and meditation/prayer have taught me. About a month ago, I had an extensive series of brain scans at the Martinos Center, a research center of the Mass. General Hospital. Turns out I have a strong ability to make my body and mind very still for long periods of time, which makes for great brain scans. It has been interesting to “see” the images of my own meditating mind, and to discuss with researchers and doctors the power of learning stillness and how it does create a different looking brain.
So dance with me, or be still with me, in the weeks ahead. If you want to follow the details of what’s going on, I have another blog, epileptica.com, that is specifically about the surgery. My husband Jonathan as well as myself will be posting about my journey. In the meantime, I am grateful for the presence of all of you in my life, and it is an honor to teach you . . . One that I don’t take for granted.

Finding Your Quiet Place

IMG_1162Let’s face it . . . We all need a break sometimes.  We need moment to step back, gain some perspective, recognize that we are more than the thoughts and emotions we are having in the immediate moment.  We need a moment to realize that we are more than the physical pain, the grief, the fear, or the illness we are experiencing.  It’s no wonder that, within the traditional path of yoga, four of it’s eight limbs are dedicated to learning to quiet and focus our minds.  In yoga, it’s sometimes called “cultivating the witness.”  We use our breath, our ability to focus and concentrate, our posture, and our intention to become familiar with that part of ourselves that can “witness” our thoughts, feelings, even our discomfort.  We initially learn to recognize, and then gradually to be at home with, this witnessing part of ourselves.  Once found, the witnessing place within us can be a powerful reminder that we are more than the sum of our immediate strong feelings, thoughts, story-lines, physical pain, even illness.  Cultivation of the witness within ourselves empowers us to make choices where before we felt victim to circumstances and situations beyond our control.  We meet the witness as a loving, non-judgmental place within ourselves.  Spending time in this witnessing place creates a sense of sanctuary and peace.

We begin learning this process early on in yoga practice, and then we integrate it into our asana practice.  Once we are able to consistently find it in yoga, it has the benefit of expanding outward into the rest of our lives.

Lions and Roaring Rabbits! Oh My!

iyengarlionposebunnyLet’s take another look at a fun posture, good for opening us up for spring.  “The Roaring Lion Posture (whose original Indian name is Simhasana) in Yoga is suitable for people of all ages and types (including old and weak) because it is relatively easy to perform. The posture is sometimes referred to as Bhairavasana . . .  reallionpose copybunnyThe posture gets its name because the face of the person performing it resembles the face of a Roaring Lion (Simha Mudra or Lion Face Gesture) because of the open mouth and extended tongue.”  Kind of fun to combine lion pose with some spring bunnies . . . Everyone is doing it!