Ashtanga and Ayurveda workshop with Mary Flinn – Reflections by Gert McQueen

Satyana Yoga Studio workshop participants

Satyana Yoga Studio workshop participants

What: Ashtanga & Ayurveda workshop with Mary Flinn

When: October 17-19, 2014

Where: Satyana Yoga Studio (Facebook and Website)

by Gert McQueen

Unknown to Kathy Falge, our most excellent Ashtanga instructor, when she set up this weekend of great yoga for us, there also was scheduled, in the building, the annual ‘Haunted House’. Our yoga studio is on the second floor of a ‘historical’ Paddock Arcade building, in Watertown NY.

The first session of our workshop started Friday at 5:30p.m., just as the first group of folks arrived to be ‘scared’ by ghosts, ghouls and other creepy creatures. The ghoul-guides were helpful, in directing, both folks arriving for yoga and those wanting to be scared, in the darken stairs and hallway. The ‘sound effects’ of creepy wind howling actually was a help in keeping me (us?) focused. We were lucky, there wasn’t much screaming or banging around with the haunting as we thought there would be. We yogis were so focused, on our breathing that Dracula could have entered the room and we would not have noticed.

No doubt about it, Friday evening’s energy was quite high. Many of us, who shared last year’s workshop with Mary Flinn, were ready to do it again.

That first evening’s session was concentration on three areas of attention; posture, gaze and breath. The program said ‘1/2 of the primary series’ but that night we did the complete primary series. The natural deep concentration, on all our breathing, created a ‘natural high’. Many of us, not only experienced the high, that night, but marveled about it for a week.

While the weather turned to heavy rain Saturday morning, the session was quite lively as Mary discussed the doshas and other aspects of Ayurveda thought. She also had scheduled individual consultations during the three days. We then moved in our practice trying out various ways we could increase or decrease breath/movement for each of the doshas and for high or low energies and conditions. Before we knew it is was lunch break.

I had brought myself a bag lunch and drove to one of the most beautiful ‘park’ cemeteries we have here. I drove around one of the several ponds that were filled with the local population of ducks and geese as well as those on their migrations. They are beautiful to watch. I found myself in a visual meditation as I watched rain drops slid down the window with leaves flying around as the ducks passively drifted in the pond. Contentment!

Saturday afternoon’s session was focused on techniques used in assisting others. I paired off with Sandy, my once-a-upon-a-time Tai-Chi instructor and sometime yoga instructor. While learning these techniques are interesting and valuable, I would not utilize them myself, that is a personal preference. It is always good to learn more about yoga postures and how to help yourself and others with proper alignments.

Sunday morning’s session started with the complete standing postures of the ‘first’ or primary series, which also is the beginning of the ‘second’ series. The primary series, standing and sitting postures, is called ‘yoga therapy’ because it detoxes the body making it ready for the second series which goes into more advanced twists, backbends and more.

Once finished with the standing postures, we came to sitting on the mat, where we immediately started in on second series postures. Generally speaking, we normally do not get to do many of these postures in our class schedules. So this exploration was very helpful in learning various preparations for backbends — backbends themselves and some arm balances and head stands.

All too quickly the session and workshop ended. As always, everyone learned and shared much together. We all are looking forward to more workshops with Mary. We all thank Kathy and Jeff for all they give to us and for bringing Mary to us. And a great thank you to Mary!

~Gert McQueen

Find Gert on Twitter @gertmcqueen!

To my teacher training class… I love you!

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For the past 10 months, I have participated in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program. Outside of my day-job responsibilities, my life has been very yoga- centric and yoga-intense.

Although I love everything I have learned and the friendships I have formed, I am ready for a much-needed break once I complete my final test/practicum in two weeks.

The program was not an intense, emersion. Rather, it was a weekend-formatted program designed for busy folks like myself, people who have families and career responsibilities. My fellow yoga trainees come from varying backgrounds and cultures, range in age, and vary in gender. There are men, women, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, scientists, college students, college professors, engineers, poets, musicians, photographers, web developers, and world travelers.

For the past 10 months, one weekend per month (sometimes two weekends),
we were dedicated to practicing and training. Training weekends began with a 90-minute, Saturday-morning practice at 10:45 a.m. and ended with a 30-minute meditation on Sunday at 7:00 p.m.

In preparation for these weekends, we read yoga books, practiced yoga, read
some more yoga books, and did some more practice. From books on breathing, anatomy, history, and Ayurveda to practices of restorative, yin, vinyasa, and prenatal yoga, we consumed and digested a plethora of information both on and off the mat.

Once certified later this summer, some of us will go on to teach; some of us
won’t. But all of us, I suspect, will take what we’ve learned and deepen our
practices and continue journeying into ourselves.

This post is simply to thank my fellow trainees for their inspiration, dedication,
and motivation. I learned something from each and every member of my class and will never forget my experience and how it has changed me, my yoga practice, and my approach to teaching new students.

Thank you! I love you. Namaste!
~Paula

Energy of Yoga on the Mall with Shiva Rae and the Akoma Drummers

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I participated in the 9th annual Yoga on the Mall on Saturday, May 3, 2014. This event was free and part of DC Yoga Week.

Needless to say, I was exceptionally anxious last week leading up to the event. I was up very early Saturday morning and met a group of fellow yoga teacher trainees at the Shady Grove metro station at 7:30 a.m. We each had our mats over our shoulders and the expectation that we were going to have a great time…I think we were all pleasantly surprised.

The specific location of the event was on a grassy, sloping hill adjacent to the Constitution Gardens Pond near the Vietnam War Memorial. The Washington Monument was the back drop.

Much to our surprise, we were the first yogis to arrive! The event crew was still setting up the stage as we formed a cozy row of mats near the front of the stage. Soon, we were joined by a few other friends and many, many strangers trickling in behind us. Music played, and I grew more and more anxious to get started. I really wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience.

Hawat Kasat, co-founder of the DC-based non-profit One Common Unity, was our host and MC. He introduced himself, the drummers and the volunteers walking around the hill offering assistance to participants.

The first part of the event was a 30-minute beginners class led by two local yoga instructors: Annie Moyer of Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in Arlington, Va. and Arlet Kosein of Extend Yoga in Bethesda, Md.

Gentle sun salutations and twists warmed our muscles and connected us each to the other. I’d never experienced such a strong group consciousness and energy. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed, but allowed myself to feel whatever sensations my body and mind wanted to feel.

After the 30-minute beginner class, several local yogis got up on stage and demo-ed poses in a gentle flowing exhibition as music floated in the background. There were some amazing demonstrations of arm balances and back bends and forward folds. Just amazing to watch and a great opportunity for me to absorb the beginner class.

Then Kristen Arant, the Drum Lady, led the 6,000 participants in music and singing/chanting and movement in preparation for Shiva Rae to take the stage who led a one-hour flow class. Kristen was accompanied by her “brother” drummers, the Akoma Drummers, and there was no denying their beat. As a participant, my only choice was to move with it.

Then it was time for Shiva Rae to take the stage. To be honest, I had no idea Shiva Rae was going to be there. I had come across her name and some of her images sporadically over the past few months. I knew very little about her but knew that she was an inspiration to many. And she did not disappoint.

For the first few minutes of her hour on stage, she energetically spoke to the crowd in a voice that resonated as genuine, compassionate and natural. There was nothing contrived. She seemed to really care about being there and leading the group. At one point, she walked into the middle of the crowd and asked us to roll up our mats and touch the earth. Our first movements of her class were done mat-free! It was rather liberating and freeing. A great reminder that we don’t need a mat to practice and can get close to nature doing our yoga at any time and in any place.

As the hour came to a close, she asked everyone to gather our belongings and move closer to the stage. The drummers drummed and everyone danced together for the last seven minutes or so. Truly amazing.

As Hawah thanked the crowd and invited everyone to come again next year, I couldn’t control my welling emotions any longer and finally released my tears. Luckily, my friend Birgit was next to me and offered me her shoulder and a hug. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one overwhelmed by the positive and contagious energy the group had formulated and continued to sustain in the aftermath of practicing, singing, chanting and dancing together.

Just amazing. I recommend such an event to anyone and everyone…even those fearful of large crowds like myself. As a matter of fact, I’m heading to the Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Philadelphia on Saturday, June 7. Anyone interested in joining me?

Namaste!
~Paula

© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate and lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Teaching Yoga to Women in Correctional Settings

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I will earn my yoga teacher certification in July 2014. I’ve decided I want to teach yoga to women behind bars and/or in community corrections.

Did you know that 85+% of incarcerated women self-report being involved in a domestic violence situation within 6 months of their arrest? If these women could get to a healthy level of self-worth and self-awareness, their rate of recidivism could drastically be reduced once released.

I think learning yoga and meditation could be the tool that empowers them to transform their lives for the better.

Certainly, the most difficult part will be earning their trust. I’ve worked in community corrections as an educator in the past. But somehow I think teaching yoga is going to be a bit different than teaching GED or ABE skills.

If anyone out there has specific experience or insight, let me know. My plan is to design a workshop series with a posture and meditation guide, something tangible the women can take away. So even if they decide they never want to take another class with me, they have a token that may serve as a motivator to return to yoga some day in the future.

Namaste!
~Paula


Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

(Image source: http://pinterest.com/pin/107945722292099400/)

An Ashtanga Yoga weekend workshop {shared by Gert McQueen}

Gert is a fellow WordPress blogger I met over a year ago through my other blog. She and I discovered, over time, that we have many, many common interests and experiences. I hope you enjoy her guest post below as much as I do!


I’ve been practicing Ashtanga now for just over 10 years. At first I thought I would never do it, for ‘it’ is a very strong intense athletic type of yoga. I had never been athletic in my life but then in my middle 50s I’m doing this type of yoga. But as you know, once you make that commitment and just ‘show up’ you find just what you can do!

Here’s our group picture! The only male, Jeff Rule is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

Here’s our group picture!
The only male, Jeff Rule, is the owner of the studio. I am in the center, in green. In front of me, in blue is Mary Flinn, guest instructor. Next to her is Kathy Falge. Kathy and Jeff are my Ashtanga instructors. Also present are three instructors of mine that teach Vinyasa flow and Kripala.

I usually practice 2 nights a week; on Monday and Thursday evenings, 90 minutes each night. The only time I miss a class is when the weather is too nasty (too hot, cold, or stormy) or I’m ill. Once retired I did a ‘mysore’ practice (personal practice) early mornings at the studio when I lived in that neighborhood. But once I moved, 15 miles away, it was next to impossible to get there in the early mornings. The idea of dealing with dark and snow and traffic no longer appeals to one who is retired! In fact the only night driving I do any more are those 2 night yoga classes! Everything else gets done before 4pm or it doesn’t get done. I should mention that I bike a 7 mile round trip trail as often as possible; this season the tally is, at the moment 800 miles. In the winter I go to a gym, 3 to 5 times a week, to bike and work upper body/core machines. I also walk and do tai-chi.

Like lots of folks I am not very self-disciplined but have found that if I ‘pay’ the fee I’ll want my monies worth; therefore I make the class. Now of course I ‘know’ I can practice at home and I try but for the most part it doesn’t happen. There are always so many other things to do, at home. Is that a cop-out? Sure, but at least I’m honest! I’ve wanted to get into a home meditation practice and even with on-line sessions I keep getting side-swiped. So I try to remember to – just keep coming back to my breath and my practice! There are times when illness or injury will stop or limit my practice. Again, just come back to it and it will stay with you and you with it.

When it was announced that the studio was inviting a certified level 2 Ashtanga teacher to do a workshop, September 27th, 28th and 29th, I signed right up! I’ve attended 3 other workshops in the past by visiting yoga instructors, who taught Ashtanga, but never a level 2 instructor. My instructor met this woman in Mysore India earlier this year.

Workshops are interesting…different instructor, energy, views – all help to get you ‘out of your comfort zone’ even if it’s only a short time. But funny things happen…you ‘work’ harder because you want to make your instructors ‘look good’ (by having great students for the visiting instructor) and you want to ‘look good’ too! And then you, the student, the one who is practicing yoga, finds that you can do ‘more’! You find that hidden strength and calm to move beyond and achieve something that was just within your reach!

I had done my normal 90 minute class on Thursday. The workshop was a total of 9 hours over 3 days (2 on Friday, 5 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday) and then my normal 90 minutes class on Monday. That’s a total of 12 hours of yoga in 5 days. Many of us wondered, out loud, if we could do that afternoon session on Saturday! We did, plus by Sunday morning, we all were loving it!

Every one has some physical limitations; we just modify and adjust. I have some breathing/heart rate/coughing issues as well as the ‘usual’ female stress incontinence. If I get too hot I start to choke, cough and I sometimes must stand ‘still’ while I get my breathing/heart rate settled. A trip to the bathroom before major hip-openers and twists is a given and then again before headstand and savasana. All small prices to pay for the benefits of the practice! And then there are some postures that may not be ideal or wise for us to do. For me its shoulder stand sequences (constriction of chest area), jumping, crow postures, hand stands and very deep forward twists (wrists, breathing and belly fat). Even with restrictions it is always good to do modifications.

In our studio we sometimes leave the windows open a crack and/or put on the ceiling fans. Generally speaking our ‘classes’ are geared to those that ‘show up’, that means there can be many levels of understanding and learning of the postures that entail more instruction versus ‘just doing’ the practice. So, the workshop format allows the participant to do the complete and traditional style of Ashtanga; something we may not get always in our regular class time.

So, it didn’t take long, probably about 5 minutes, before our visiting instructor closed the windows and turned off the fans! Oh, we all knew we were in the ‘heat’ for sure! Could it have been that heat that opened my muscles up more enabling me to do more with my body and get more strength? I’m sure it was.

In addition to a more ‘intense’ practice experience our guest instructor gave us opportunities to be part of a fire ritual and offerings, healing mantras and circle and a guided meditation that was a very profound personal experience.

~Gert
 
Check out the studio at these sites…