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In 1981, the United Nations passed a unanimous resolution to globally declare September 21st as The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”). The intention was set that on this date all humanity would commit to peace above all differences and contribute to building a culture of peace for future generations.
In Yoga, we often chant Om Shanti as a call for peace, a remembrance of our connection to one another, and to create a vibrational tone which resonates peace within ourselves. Peace begins with our own intentions and actions. While world struggles may sometimes feel overwhelming, we can turn to our individual choices to feel a sense of deeper peace. How are you creating a more peaceful home environment? What ways are you offering peaceful communication with others? How do you feel your current choices align with a more peaceful world for yourself and others?
On Friday, September 21st, our community will gather together at 5:30 pm to create what is often referred to as a “Sea of Oms”. It is a lovely, flowing tone of Oms with each person’s breath coming at their unique pace and rhythm and connecting with others’ voices to create a harmonious sound of peace and tranquility. We hope you join us and please bring family and friends to this very special and intentional offering of peace for our community and our world.
Here are pictures from our September 2018 International Day of Peace:
Warrior I, or Virabhadrasana I, is the first in a series of three standing poses. While our practice of yoga is ideally one of cultivating peace, it is important to know this asana is named for Virabhadra, who was born out of Shiva’s rage at his wife Sati’s death and whose name means Hero Friend in Sanskrit. Shiva asked Virabhadra to kill Daksha, the man responsible for Sati’s self-immolation, only to repent after the bloody deed was done and bring him back to life. Similar to the pose itself, the entire story is a metaphor: Shiva represents the Higher Self, Sati represents the heart and Daksha represents the ego. This story teaches us that through compassion the higher self can forgive the ego, but it will always return to the essential nature of the heart.
To come into Virabhadrasana I, begin in Tadasana. Step the left foot back and then angle the toes toward the top left corner of the mat, keeping the stance wide so that there is plenty of room to face the hips to the front. From here, bend into the right knee until it comes over the ankle. Look down to find your right big toe on the inside of the knee–this may require you to track the knee outward slightly. Reach the fingertips up to the sky, keeping a slight bend in the back leg. Allow the shoulders to relax and the tailbone to tuck, almost as though it is being pulled down towards the mat below you. Lift the gaze and breathe. Switch sides after about five breaths.
Warrior I can provide both grounding and strengthening as the feet root into the mat and the arms embrace the sky above. This asana invites you to embody the dharma of Virabhadra and know your purpose. Remember that even amidst conflict, the real goal and intention is only that of peace.
Is there a pose of the month that you would like us to dive into? Email Emily@ashevillecommunityyoga.com and let her know!
Anjaneyasana, or low lunge, is a wonderful posture to take towards the beginning of your asana practice, after some gentle warm-ups like cat/cow, child’s pose and side stretches. It provides an opportunity to stretch the quads and hip flexors. Low lunge helps to increase balance, sharpen mental focus, and open the heart.
To come into low lunge, align the front knee over the ankle. Make sure that the knee is not moving forward over the toes or out to either side. Slide the opposite knee back until there is a comfortable stretch in the thigh and groin. Draw the tailbone down towards the earth, lift the arms to the sky while allowing the shoulders to drop down the back, and pull the bottom front ribs in and down to create length through all sides of the torso. You’ll want to press straight down through the front foot (this will lift your hips slight up and away from the mat) and pull your inner thighs towards one another. This action allows you to balance both stretching and strengthening. You can take a flow in low lunge: inhaling reaching the fingertips up, then exhaling and bending the elbows or hold stillness and feel the heart gradually lifting and opening with each round of breath.
If you feel wobbly in low lunge, try practicing the pose facing a wall. Take the short side of the mat against the wall and press the big toe of the front foot into the wall. Finding stability from the ground up ensures a strong foundation: the more intentional the placement of the feet and legs against the mat, the more stable and balanced the overall pose will feel!
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.” – Gandhi
The foundation of Asheville Community Yoga is built upon this philosophy. It is through this intention of selfless service from our teachers (over seventy of them!), our countless volunteers, and the greater community of Asheville, that join together to lovingly support the mission to provide a healing space for the practice of yoga for all. It is this devotion to the service of others which brings our karma yoga into action.
Karma yoga is done selflessly, without any attachment to outcome. While it is done without the desire for a reward or compensation, the benefits are felt almost immediately. An example of this was our recent service project completed by our 2018 Winter Teacher Trainees. Together they planted over 150 plants, mulched all of the garden spaces, pulled weeds, dug trenches, created a path for our staff to safely make their way from the staff parking area down the grassy hill, and rebuilt the front deck of the Karma Cafe! During this process, students coming in and out of classes stopped to remark on the beautiful work the trainees were doing, often pausing to thank them and share a smile.
Karma yoga can be an intention throughout your daily routine: from preparing food for your family and friends, to caring for your gardens and sharing the bounty they provide, or helping a neighbor or friend with some maintenance in the yard or home. There are possibilities all around us every day.
We deeply appreciate our community members who continue to practice karma yoga to support the mission of Asheville Community Yoga. We simply couldn’t do what we do without you! If you are looking for ways to serve, please refer to our website. Our Karma Yogis page is updated frequently with projects within and around the studio.
You can also sign up to participate in our monthly Service Projects where we take our yoga off the mat to help others in need. This month we will be taking our yoga to the streets of Asheville to practice compassionate communication with our homeless population and provide water, fruit, and rain gear.
Balasana, or child’s pose, is a resting posture that can be taken at any point during your yoga practice. Balasana reminds us to slow down, tap into our breath, and take care of ourselves! This asana is ultimately a pose of surrender and therefore gently encourages us to let go of our egos.
To come into child’s pose, sit on your knees and then lay your torso between the thighs on an exhale. If this is too intense of a stretch for the hips, child’s pose can be taken with the knees together instead. You can also either reach the hands out long in front of you or rest them next to the body with the palms up. If the hips do not comfortably sink back to the heels, place a rolled blanket underneath the sitsbones in order to find a full release.
While this posture is very simple physically, it allows us the opportunity to surrender into a state of non-striving and turn our focus inward. Child’s pose is one of the most advanced asanas we practice because it can be taken without direction whenever you need to rest. It can be difficult to truly recognize to what our bodies need, especially if that need is to slow down. Resting in Balasana is a wonderful way to release the ego and really listen to our bodies, and by doing so tap into the true practice of Yoga.
The Healing Vibration & Connection to All
There is something profoundly beautiful about being in a room with a group of people all sharing the sound of Om together. This ancient practice of chanting a vibrational sound with others is a way of feeling a deeper connection with one another and the world around us.
The syllable Om (or Aum) is an ancient Sanskrit letter first found in the Vedas, originating between 1500 – 1200 BC. The vibration of chanting this sound has been shown to have healing properties. A study done in 2011 specifically evaluated the effects of using Om as a mantra by using MRI scans of the brains of participants as they chanted. Researchers observed that the brain activity during Om periods was similar to the stimulation of the vagus nerve, which is often used to treat depression and epilepsy. Other research is being done which also refers to the positive experience and healing benefits of chanting this sacred vibrational sound.
Although Om (Aum) sounds like one sound, it can actually be broken down into three (or even four) parts:
- A – Ahhhh – represents the beginning of existence; the start of the universe, creation, and birth. The vibration can be felt in the back of the throat and all the way into the abdomen. You may experience a deeper sense of connection to your very existence. The sound represents that which brings you back to unity.
- U – ooooh – represents life force and connects us to the deeper sensation that there is more beyond what can be seen or heard. The vibration of this sound lets in lightness, clarity, balance and goodness. When you chant this letter the sound moves forward between the tongue and the palate up to the lips. It vibrates in the solar plexus. The sound represents an illumination of knowing, pure wisdom.
- M – Mmmm – represents the transformative energy of the universe and the thoughts and beliefs of your being. This sound unites you to the awareness of oneness. It allows you to slow down in order to feel the connectedness of all that is. The sound “mmmm” is produced by closing the lips which creates a vibration in the crown of the head. The sound symbolizes being at one with all things.
- Silence– Often considered the fourth sound in “Om”, it represents the energy that resonates after the room finishes the chant. Indeed, it is the greater connection to the vibration of the universe around us.
The energy we create is powerful. At the very core of existence is sound vibration. Just hold your chest when you chant, sing, talk, laugh, or hum and you will feel something happening within the body and mind. Quantum physicists have been studying the role of vibration as the very root of matter itself. Nikola Tesla said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Yes, it seems that the very foundations of our Universe, of matter and thought, appear to lie in the vibration of sound.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti~Om Peace Peace Peace
The summer solstice is upon us. On Thursday, June 21st, at 6:07 am, we will embrace the new season in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, the sun travels its longest path through the sky, creating the “longest” day of the year, or more specifically, the day with the most daylight.
In its earliest translation, solstice means “the point at which the sun stands still.” For those of us residing in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s a reminder that summer is here, with more sunlight and warmer temperatures. We begin to spend more time outdoors and find ourselves looking for ways to cool our bodies down by swimming in cool waters, hiking through dense forests, and eating lighter foods.
It is a long held yoga tradition to practice 108 sun salutations on the summer and winter solstice. The number 108 is considered a sacred number. It is why malas are composed of 108 beads and why many pranayama practices are completed in cycles of 108. The distance between the Earth and sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun. Diving deeper into our own connection, we find that there are 108 energy lines, or nadis, converging to the heart chakra and 108 marmas, or pressure points, which are considered sacred parts of the body.
If you choose to practice 108 sun salutations, it is recommended that you break them into sets. Nine sets of twelve salutations works well, with a break of child’s pose or simply standing in mountain pose (Tadasana) and bringing awareness to stillness and breath. One nice way to keep track of your sets is to use pebbles or stones. Place 9 stones across the front of your mat. Each time you complete a set, place a stone to the right or left of the mat.
However you choose to celebrate this summer solstice, may you feel the warmth of the sun and the deep connection and support of community. Namaste’
Adho Mukha Svanasana, or downward-facing dog, is perhaps the most iconic pose in Western yoga practices. Usually interspersed throughout multiple sequences, down dog is a versatile posture that stretches the hamstrings and creates length in the spine.
To come into down dog at the beginning of your practice, start on all fours. Walk the hands out a palm’s print in front of you, tuck your toes, and lift your hips up to the sky. Keep both knees relatively bent at first, release the shoulders down the back and sink the heart in the direction of the thighs while simultaneously lengthening the tailbone away from the pelvis. Feel each finger pad rooting into the mat and keep the index fingers either parallel or slightly turned out. Your heels do not need to sink all the way down to the mat in order for you to obtain the benefits of this pose.
Despite the fact that down dog can be considered a resting posture, it still requires effort and strength. If you are new to down dog, try placing blocks underneath your hands to bring the floor closer to you. This pose can provide a stretch for an achy back if you are on your feet all day and feel compression in your spine, and it is a great go-to if you only have a few minutes to fit in a home practice. It’s also an inversion, which means it can help to filter your blood and lymphatic system, giving your immune system a boost.
Keep in mind that, just like an actual dog intuitively stretching out its spine after a long nap, your version of down dog may look different from anyone else’s. Snap a picture of yourself doing your downward facing down and send it to Emily@ashevillecommunityyoga.com and we will post it on social media!
Tadasana is a foundational posture for all standing asanas. The Sanskrit tada translates to mountain and, as with many yogic postures, this name rings true to its essence. In Tadasana we stand with our feet hips distance apart, finding a micro bend in the knees and a slight engagement of the core. The hips are centered over the knees and the shoulders are rolled back, allowing the heart to open. The crown of the head is balancing over the pelvis and the chin pulls back slightly.
This combination of stability and relative ease is the perfect example for other asanas: if you have trouble finding the empowering sensation of Tadasana in a more physically demanding asana, then you are probably overdoing it and would benefit from a modified version of the pose. While Tadasana is traditionally found at the beginning and end of a Surya Namaskar series, it can be taken at any point during your practice.
Tadasana is a particularly wonderful posture to find here in our very own Appalachian mountains because it provides an opportunity to connect with the ancient land through our bodies. The next time you find Tadasana in your practice, visualize the beautiful blue ridges that surround you and know that you hold the same boundless capacity for strength and serenity.
“Water does not resist. Water flows.
When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress.
Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you.
But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it.
Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child.
Remember you are half water.
If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
The practice of self-care is, perhaps, the greatest and most challenging aspect of our daily connection to yoga. In its deepest tradition, yoga is a practice of mindfulness and creating deeper awareness of what serves our body’s highest good.
As gardeners, we realize that water is essential to the nourishment and growth of our plants, yet sometimes we forget how essential it is to us as well. Dehydration is the cause of many illnesses, skin conditions, and fatigue. When we are properly hydrated, we have greater clarity of mind, our internal organs function more efficiently, and our skin is healthier and more vibrant.
Water also can provide a sense of peace and tranquility when we make time to sit beside a stream, waterfall, pond or lake. Make time to observe the flow of water. Notice the reflections when the water is still. It is so much like our own minds isn’t it? When we feel rushed, anxious, or have thoughts racing through our minds, we are much like the rushing water. Yet, when we find time to sit, to be, to find stillness in the body and mind, we see more clearly that reflection of ourselves and all around us, finding that beautiful connection that has been there all along.
“The Earth is what we all have in common.”
– Wendell Berry
As another Earth Day approaches, we find ourselves once again setting intentions to recycle more, eliminate plastics and chemicals, sow seeds of native plants and trees, and create a lifestyle which supports our environment for future generations. What can we do as a yoga community to be more conscientious about our actions and how they affect our planet?
Ahimsa, or non-harming, is a yogic principle stemming from the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas, the ethical, moral and societal guidelines for life. When we care for our environment, we are in the practice of ahimsa. As you make choices throughout your day, take time to pause and think about how your choices, actions, and thoughts affect others.
A great way to care for our planet is to reach out to others in the community and carpool to classes! If you see the same people week to week in your classes, check in to see if you could all ride together. This not only saves on gas and reduces your impact on the earth, but also builds community and maybe even a long-lasting friendship! Let us know if you start a carpool group, we’d love to hear about it.
This month’s Service Project will be to continue the beautification of our outdoor spaces by weeding, trimming away dead limbs and plants, mulching, and planting. Want to join our Green Yogi Crew? Simply sign up at the front desk or email firstname.lastname@example.org Our weekly garden schedule will be posted on the website too, so feel free to join us at any time.
We are moving into the season of new growth and change. You may be tilling the ground, digging into the rich soil, to plant seeds for growth in the coming months. Such is the same for our lives. Intentions set now can create more vibrance and nourishment in the weeks ahead.
As temperatures warm and days get a bit longer, we find ourselves making healthier choices – eating more greens and fruits, exercising more, and even feeling more energized from the shift into more sunshine and light.
Now is a great time to cleanse our bodies from a season when many of us experienced colds, flu, and other illnesses. We can begin by creating a healthier living environment, purging things we no longer use or need and removing clutter. In much the same way we can do this physically as well, doing a cleanse or fast for a few days and clearing away heavy thoughts and anxiety in our mind through a daily meditation practice. Be sure to check out all of the amazing offerings in our Healing Arts center too!
As we physically move into this season of longer days we may find our asana practice shifting as well. Feeling more energized, a vigorous vinyasa practice or the new Budokon or Qoya classes might be just what you need. Spring is a perfect time to embrace something new and to feel a deeper sense of community by coming to any of our 125 weekly classes or joining a small group in our new Healing Arts space. So, what are you waiting for? Come join us!
“You know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie round the heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops the heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart. And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there.”
~Nicephorus the Solitary
It is the season of love. Valentine decorations and heart-shaped candies and balloons fill the store shelves and we are reminded of our heart connection. While romantic love may be the focus of the retail marketplace, there is a more essential and authentic love experience which we can create and experience in every day, not simply February 14th.
Our yoga practice is a great way to perpetuate love in our lives. Dedicating time each day to sit in meditation, creating space for a connecting asana practice with meets your body’s physical needs for release of stress and tension, and practicing mindfulness in our choice of what we eat and how we spend our time are essential ways to promote self love and self-care. As we begin to practice more self love, the love we share outwardly with others will continue to grow and come from an authentic place. As you begin each day, pause, and reflect on ways in which you can open your heart more fully.
Heart Opening Poses to add to your home practice:
Supported Supta Baddha Konasana or Bound Angle Pose: Reclining on a bolster, with hips and head fully supported for comfort, soles of feet together, with blankets or blocks under the knees
Supported Matsyasana or Fish Pose: Seated, place a block between shoulder blades and another block under head as you recline back. Variations include using a bolster or rolled blanket under the spine. Be sure your head feels supported so you do not strain your neck.
Ustrasana or Camel Pose: Using a blanket under your knees, place a block between your ankles, toes tucked, to engage your core and support your lower back. Hands on hips, keep them placed over your knees and you lift the heart and look upward. Variation to take palms to lower back or hands to the block or heels.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana or Bridge Pose: Reclining, knees bent, arms by your sides, pressing into both feet equally, lift hips away from the mat, keeping gaze forward. Hands can remain by your sides or elbows bent with hands toward ribs, or hands brought under the body and interlacing the fingers or a block can be placed under the sacrum for a supported bridge variation.
It’s January, and in the midst of winter, following the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we find ourselves at the beginning of a brand, new year. It can be exhilarating to think of a fresh start, turning a page on a new part of our life story. It can also be daunting, if we allow ourselves to become too caught up in creating “resolutions” with high (often unrealistic) expectations.
As we approach this brand new year, filled with possibilities and hope, may our intentions be rooted in love for ourselves and others. Set reasonable, attainable goals. Surround yourself with a community who supports and encourages you on this path. Create meaningful rituals for a healthier lifestyle. And remember that every ending offers a new beginning, so if you fall off the routine you have set for yourself, simply begin again, being present in the moment, just as it is.
We are embracing many changes at Asheville Community Yoga as well! We look forward to offering more yoga, qi gong, tai chi, meditation, and specialty classes, introducing you to more teachers’ wisdom and style of instruction, opening our Healing Arts rooms with wellness programs to enhance your practice and healthy lifestyle, as well as our cafe and child care. In the spring, we will continue our outdoor expansion efforts with a beautiful community garden and outdoor pavilion.
Wishing each of you a healthy, happy 2018! May you feel the support and encouragement of this remarkable community and grow more in your practice every day.
This season of giving offers a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness. The act of giving and receiving creates an exchange of energy far beyond wrapping or unwrapping a gift. We are given a chance to create a space for deeper connection.
Each new day offers endless opportunities to pause in gratitude for what is around us. From that very first breath of the day to the comfort of a place to rest our head at night, we are given moments of mindfulness. Even in times of stress, while we may not recognize it in the heat of it, there are often times of reflection when we realize what a gift that experience was in helping us grow and learn.
Autumn, perhaps more than any other season, reminds us that change is happening all around us. The leaves share their vibrant colors as if to bid a final adieu before floating to the ground to become nourishment for the plants and trees above. Daylight shifts into darkness earlier and a chill greets us in the morning and evening.
As nature begins to slow down her pace, so can we, taking time for more self-care and eating the rich greens and beautiful squashes that nature lovingly provides in these cooler days. It’s time for hearty soups and stews, cups of herbal tea and chai, warm blankets, good books, and, of course, yoga!
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Most of us use the space provided at Asheville Community Yoga to move our bodies, to relieve physical and/or mental stress, to clear our minds, and to open our hearts to connection. On our mats we connect to our body, to our breath, to the moment and to life itself. On our mat we often feel an array of physical sensations as well as emotions. In one moment we may experience extreme discomfort in our body while holding our least favorite pose for what seems like an eternity. Then, in the very next moment, we may tap into a well of strength and stability we never knew existed within us! Our hearts may open to an overwhelming sensation of joy that literally moves us to tears only to be followed by the pangs of grief we thought we had worked through some time ago. A consistent yoga practice will reveal the cycles of life to each of us and Asheville Community Yoga is a place where those cycles can be celebrated as well as grieved. Asheville Community Yoga is truly a container for life to unfold.
As we embrace warmer days and more sunlight, we can take a cue from nature to sow seeds of intention in our yoga practice. What will you plant with your words and actions?
In the karmic tradition, we truly reap what we sow. In other words, our actions create a similar reaction. How often have you noticed that if you are in a particularly happy mood others around you seem to be lighter in spirit as well? There is an energy being exchanged, whether intentional or not, and positive energy creates more positive energy. Just imagine if we set our intentions – planted those seeds of kindness and compassion. It’s a powerful and hopeful thought for our community, our country and our world!
Saturday, April 22nd is Earth Day. What a great reminder to care for one another and our planet. May we all plant seeds of loving kindness for one another and our world, not just this month or this season, but always. Happy Gardening!
With longer days and warmer temperatures, we find ourselves connecting with the rhythm of nature as Spring approaches. We naturally begin to exercise more and perhaps begin tidying up our “nests” for a new season. Our bodies crave greens and vegetables, fruits and juices more than the heavier foods we consumed during the cold, Winter months. Many people choose this season to do a detox of their system as a way to feel cleansed and refreshed.
With February approaching, we often call into mind the red hearts and romantic love of Valentine’s Day. While this is a beautiful expression of Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d shift the focus towards the relationship with our personal practice. In the same way that romantic relationships ebb and flow, our relationship to our yoga practice fluctuates along with the seasons, our lives, and our energy.
There are times when we feel inspired by our practice and are excited to get to the mat. You may notice this change with the seasons. As the weather becomes warmer, perhaps you have more energy and feel drawn towards classes with more movement. At this time, it may be easy to make time almost every day to practice and you’re filled with love and energy for it. [Read more…]
Be Here. Now. The Present of Presence.
It’s a New Year, and with it comes all of those “Resolutions” for healthier lifestyle choices, mindful spending, and better habits in our daily lives. Unfortunately, with expectations come disappointments when we fall short of what we hoped to achieve.
Bringing our focus back to the present moment allows us to create a more mindful and accessible practice of being here now, noticing habits and behaviors we can change, as well as celebrating those moments when we are flowing with our intentions. Setting realistic goals on a moment to moment basis removes our attachment to outcomes. Rather than feel defeated if we don’t follow through, we know that each moment offers a new opportunity to begin again and be present. [Read more…]
Winter Solstice, when the sun slips easily into longer evenings and reminds us to come into a deeper place of stillness. Symbolically, the solstice is a time of turning inward and listening to your inner voice. Like nature around us, we become less active. This quiet season can create moments of reflection and deep peace.
Winter is a time when we can easily begin to fall off our regular yoga practice. As our bodies shift with the calendar, you may find it beneficial to change the style of yoga you are practicing. Craving peace and tranquility? Check out one of our Meditation or Restorative classes. Moving a little slower and have less energy? Try a Gentle Flow, Qi Gong, or Yin class. Need to stoke your inner fire a bit and create some warmth? Try any of our Vinyasa, Warm Vinyasa, or Hot classes. [Read more…]
Where do we find time to practice gratitude with the increasing busy-ness of our lives? Yoga teachers often remind students to pause in gratitude. Once we step off our mats, however, there are countless distractions which can take us away from an “Attitude of Gratitude”.
If you have been around the studio at all in the last year, particularly in the last month, you know well that the buzz-word has been… Expansion! We are expanding – the studio, and all of us who are a part of it. Asheville Community Yoga is a being with a life-force and a powerful will all of its own, and we as members of this community have proven to be greater than the sum of our many parts.
We can think of expansion as the inhale…. as we practice our capacity to draw in breath, and with it prana, our very life-force, grows. We learn to savor that pause at the end of the inhale, where we experience ourselves as full. But clearly, we can’t hold the breath in forever! This is also a season of letting go, releasing. We must, in order to make way for what is yet to come. This certainly doesn’t mean that taking that the things we release are not of value! On the contrary, the thing we choose to release has already been assimilated into our very being as nourishment, and what is released will be recycled. It is the nature of things. We see this palpably in the leaves falling from the trees, and returning to the fertile earth. [Read more…]
Friday, September 23rd from 6:30 to 8 PM
Join us for light refreshments and meet our lovely Featured Artist, MariLou Solares.
MariLou lovingly donated 100% of the proceeds from the sales of her beautiful artwork to the Center. This week, a matching donation will be made for each piece sold! Be sure to check out her work in the lobby outside Studio B and come out on Friday to meet her and learn more about her inspiration for these lovely paintings.
Undoubtedly you will agree that one of the great joys of living in this area of the world is being able to take walks in the magnificent forests that surround our lovely little city in the mountains.
Both our Teacher of the Month, Maegan, and our Student of the Month, Marilou chose variations of Hero pose, or Virasana, as their current favorite pose. Poses are like medicines. Perhaps Maegan and Marilou are tapping into an energy we could all benefit from bringing awareness too at this time. What can we learn from this classic yoga pose with the powerful name?
The pose itself is in some ways quite simple. It is basically a kneeling position, with the buttocks seated between the heels on the floor or on a block or bolster. A particularly luxurious variation is to lean back (perhaps over a bolster) for supta virasana, reclining hero.
You are in exactly the right place at exactly the right time – know this! Know it in your bones, and know it in your breath. Know it in the feeling of your feet touching the ground and in your skin touching the air around you.
Know it on your yoga mat. When you are resting in child’s pose, know it in the familiar feeling of support from gravity. As you stand in a warrior or a lunge, know that all of the choices you’ve ever made (even the ones that seemed like mistakes!) are supporting you from behind. As you set your gaze off into the unknown future, know the present moment in the verticality of your spine. As you surrender in reclined bound angle pose and feel the front of the body open, know through the experience of sensation in the present moment that things are unfolding in ways even more optimal than you could have imagined… [Read more…]
The days are stretching longer and warmer. As we move toward the longest day of the year, summer solstice, that movement can seem accelerated. As the days get warmer and warmer and the foliage more lush in these glorious mountains, there is an undeniable fullness in the air. Life-force is palpable. The air is thrumming. In Ayurvedic terms, we are entering the season of pitta dosha, characterized as fiery, assertive and active. [Read more…]
Although we do offer a prenatal class at 12:45 p.m. every Sunday, with the right modifications and body awareness, most pregnant women can attend any yoga class throughout the duration of their pregnancy.
Check out this video to learn some handy prenatal modifications that can be used in any class offered at Asheville Community Yoga. It’s never a bad idea to let your instructor know that you are expecting, especially if you are newer to yoga, so they can help you choose the appropriate modifications to help the practice meet you (and your little one!) right where you are.
Some of you may recognize Michelle as a former staff member. Early last year, Michelle moved here from Hawaii with her husband Pat, and we were lucky enough to have her on staff as Outreach Coordinator before she began her present job as Wellness Coordinator for Mission Hospital. We are so grateful and very fortunate she is still serving our community by continuing to volunteer her time and immense therapeutic expertise to teach here! [Read more…]
Lauren Cox has been a diligent volunteer and dedicated student for many months now. You may have seen her out helping everyone find a place to park during busy class times as one of our key parking volunteers. Lauren is a member of our current teacher training program, and we couldn’t be happier to support her on this journey, as she supports us in so many ways! [Read more…]
What does it mean to be “grounded”? It is a fact of existence that we all share here on this planet: we are constantly subject to the law of gravity; constantly bound to this earth. One of the things we learn through our yoga practice is how to effectively work with gravity. We give our weight to the earth, and feel the sweet response from the ground helping us rise and move and sometimes even float through our practice. Rather than being dragged down into the inertia of gravity and feelings of heaviness, we cultivate a feeling of unconditional support, and consequently the ability to move through space.
We talk about gravity a lot, but what of that other force that complements gravity and helps up to rise to meet the sky? We could call this force levity. It is the force by means of which the stem of a flower grows up from the earth, and by which its bloom opens to receive the energy of the sky. It is the force by which mist rises from a calm lake in the morning, or smoke from a campfire at night. It is also the force by which laughter bubbles up from our bellies, and light shines from our eyes.
Burcu Hensley has been bringing her sweet self into the studio for some time now, taking classes and graciously volunteering to help with cleaning twice a week. Each time she comes in, she amazes us with her capacity to be present and the lightness of her spirit. Burcu is a brilliant woman with a big life, yet she fills the studio space with an unassuming humility and grace that is refreshing to be around. We are so grateful!
Gary has been a longtime friend to this community, showing up for regular practice and volunteering with many major building projects around the studio. In 2013, he completed our teacher training, and has been teaching a senior yoga class from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. Tuesdays. Gary is a solid friend and great yoga teacher, with an infectious sense of humor and a great smile that we are always happy to see!
Equanimity is defined as “evenness of mind especially under stress.” “Equanimity” comes from the combination of “aequus” (“level or “equal”) and “animus” (“soul” or “mind”) in the Latin phrase aequo animo, which means “with even mind.”
Most often, we tend to value equanimity when things are going awry. When life gets tough, it seems appealing to find a calm place of balance within ourselves, in which to take refuge…
There is another side to this coin, however. What about when things are going great? It may be more difficult to understand the value of maintaining an even mind when one is riding high on life – but this is just as important to finding that elusive quality of inner peace. [Read more…]
Ryan has become a hugely valuable asset to our community in the last months. Truly, it’s hard to imagine what it was like before he started practicing here!
He comes to numerous classes each week and helps us out in so many ways. From folding towels to parking duty to construction projects, Ryan shows up like a champ with a great attitude and plenty of energy for whatever arises. He is a true Karma Yogi, constantly looking for ways to serve without waiting to be asked. In fact, when we try and thank him for all he does, most often his reply is to thank us back! This kind of purity of service is rare and beautiful, and is an inspiration to us all. [Read more…]
Amber has been around from Asheville Community Yoga’s very beginnings. Truly, the place could not have been birthed without her long hours of dedicated service. She worked tirelessly alongside Michael out of pure love and commitment to yoga and service, and we all benefit today from that whole-hearted dedication. Amber is a true yogini on many levels, and it shines through her and permeates the studio we all love so much to practice in.
Amber’s dedicated practice is especially evident in her teaching – when she gives a cue for alignment, breath, or attitude, it is evident that she is speaking from her own deep well of experience. She has a knack for helping her students to really feel a pose from the inside out, and for conveying the understanding that yoga is more than just a physical practice but a way of being, both on and off the mat.
A key to living a happy life is accepting what is. This makes sense; indeed, if we are to be content at all in this world, we must be able to find contentment in it as it currently exists, even if we strongly desire change for the better. [Read more…]
Meet our Student of the Month, Peter Young! Peter has been tremendously helpful in so many ways, offering his invaluable skills in a number of huge construction projects here at the studio. Not to mention that he is a dedicated asana practitioner, showing up and sharing his practice and presence several times each week.
Most of you already know this wonderful woman. Cari joined our staff as Communications Director just over a year ago, making the move from Chicago to Asheville. From the moment she stepped through our door, there was a sense that she belonged here.
Before Cari embarked on her journey as a yoga teacher, she was a full-time journalist. Her ability to communicate clearly shows in her teaching, as she is able to effortlessly articulate the nuances of both simple and complex poses and ideas. Cari radiates a feeling of calm and capability – she’s the kind of person one feels comfortable trusting with any task or challenge.
Vulnerability researcher Brene Brown states that vulnerability “is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
How do we cultivate vulnerability? Two major aspects of vulnerability are authenticity and intimacy. Life coach Christine Hassler advises to think of the word intimacy as “into-me-see” – when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we allow ourselves to be seen. We all have many layers of self, and exist in many dimensions of psyche. Even if we think we know on a superficial level how we “should” feel – or even if we know deep down that everything will be ok … there are still oftentimes many messy layers between the superficial knowing and the deep understanding. We may know intellectually that a partner or friend didn’t mean to hurt us, yet still feel the very real emotions of hurt and anger. If we try and squash these emotions and pretend that everything is A-OK, chances are that rather than disappear these squashed emotions will fester under a cold surface, and eventually painfully erupt. [Read more…]
The year of 2015 is coming to a close, and 2016 stretches before us like a fresh slate. How will we choose to use the longer light, and the calm after all of the holiday festivities? [Read more…]
Jodie has been volunteering her skills here at Asheville Community Yoga for over a year now, and we are happy to announce that she has recently come on board as a staff member! In this time of transition for all of us, it is a huge blessing to have a bright light like Jodie join our team.
What inspires you to continue yoga?
Yoga inspires me to be open to infinite possibilities… in myself, in others, in our world. There is always more space to learn, grow and change, and yoga helps to inform my life through this ongoing process of thriving intuition. Yoga has been the constant in my life for over a decade, and I love being one of its students.
Our January student of the month, Melissa Reichmann, has been practicing with us for years now, coming several times a week to a variety of classes. Her dedication to her practice shows in her easy grace and alert presence. Melissa is truly a delight to be around, both as a student and as one of our most faithful volunteers.
Whether you have been coming to Asheville Community Yoga for a week, a month, or a year, you have probably met the lovely Sonya Costello! This beautiful being has been on staff since the very beginnings of Asheville Community Yoga back in 2010. She started off as a student, but soon came on board to work her magic as our Program Director.
Meet our December Student of the Month, Taylor Mitchell! Taylor’s presence and practice has been a great blessing to the studio. She is a great and dedicated volunteer in multiple capacities, but it is the precious gift of her gentle and sincere presence that stand out the most. Taylor is the rare type of person to be able to fill a room with calm, simply by being there.
Nita Carroll fell in love with yoga in 2011 after being laid off from a job she loved. Being laid off turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for both Nita and her future students! With the new free time on her hands, Nita dove headlong into the world of yoga. It helped her deal with what could have otherwise been a painful transition. [Read more…]
Jared Hamilton is a recent addition to our community, but dove in deep immediately. For the past several months, he has shown up big. He is dedicated to his practice, willing to try new things, and incredibly generous with his time and skills. In addition to hanging flyers and helping with studio chores, Jared was responsible for building the fire pit and keeping the fire alive at our 24-hour Yogathon fundraiser back in August. This is a guy who shows up big, and we are so grateful to have him around!
If November had a theme, it might be … you guessed it—gratitude! It is, after all, the month we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Regardless of our feelings about the traditional Thanksgiving story we learned in grade school and the variety of individual ways we choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), we can probably all agree that this month is a powerful time of connecting (or reconnecting) with our communities, and sharing our harvest – both from our gardens and from our lives. [Read more…]
Janet Ledder is one of our most long-term and dedicated students. You probably recognize her name from the announcements, as the generous student who has donated countless massages to benefit the center! You might also recognize her from one of the many weekly classes she regularly attends. She is a bright spirit with a strong practice, a ready smile and a twinkle in her eyes.
Lindsay Fields has been with us from the beginning, teaching one of our most longstanding and loved classes, Tuesdays night’s “hot core” practice. Her classes are definitely challenging, but Lindsay’s demeanor is so authentically kind and her instructions so clear and intelligent, that even the toughest sequences seem accessible.
It is said often enough to have become cliche, but as is the case with most cliches, it is true: the only constant is change. The only true stability we can find is in acceptance of this fact. [Read more…]
Meet our Student of the Month for September: Diana Christopher! Diana is beautiful inside and out, and has a rich story to tell. [Read more…]
Meet our September Teacher of the Month, our own dear Wendy Mallett!
You probably recognize Wendy from the front desk, or from one of the many weekly classes she teaches, or perhaps even from the early days of Asheville Community Yoga five years ago!
Most likely if you are reading this, you know well how vast the world of yoga is. There are practices ranging from the most gentle to the most vigorous, from the most physical to the psycho-spiritual. Truly, there is a style of yoga to suit nearly anyone who is ready to embark on the adventure. And for many practitioners, the adventure of yoga is one that lasts a lifetime. Those of us who love yoga so much, love it in part because it is such a limitless well. One could study it for a lifetime, and still only ever reveal the tip of the iceberg of all that yoga is. [Read more…]
One of our dear students, Monica Cassani, has opened up on her blog, Beyond Meds, about the role that Asheville Community Yoga and her practice have played in her healing process. Read the excerpts below and check out the full post here!
Thank you Monica for sharing your experience so openly and beautifully, and for all of your support. It is our deepest honor and truest mission to be able to practice alongside inspiring students like yourself!
Bridget has been a steadfast and committed member of our community for several years now; in fact, several years ago she received the Student of the Month honor!
James started practicing yoga years ago, before there was a yoga studio around every corner in most towns.
Meet our July Teacher of the Month, Anna Cook! Anna graduated from our Teacher Training program last year, and has shown herself to be a natural born teacher.
Meet our July Student of the Month: Dr. Chris Lechner! Chris is a local hand surgeon, dedicated yoga practitioner, board member and great friend of this community. There are truly countless reasons why he deserves this honor.
Some of you may remember several months ago when our Executive Director Michael Greenfield had shoulder surgery. Chris was quite literally Michael’s “right hand man” during this time, performing the surgery, guiding his healing process and helping out in all kinds of practical ways. He has continually offered his service big time, and we are all so grateful! [Read more…]
A major part of success in yoga (in life!) is discipline. For some of us the word “discipline” might not have an appealing ring to it—we may have an association from childhood that to be disciplined means to be punished, that it means we have done something wrong. Let’s take a moment to reframe what discipline is, how it can actually help us to find more freedom in our lives, and bring us closer to realization of our heart’s desires.
Asheville Community Yoga is now a part of the AmazonSmile program, where Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organizations selected by their customers.
Meet our Teacher of the Month, Rich Risbridger! Rich has been a dedicated yoga practitioner for more than 15 years, a yoga teacher for more than eight years, and an instructor here at Asheville Community Yoga for the past three years. We love having Rich around because his dedication, skill and sincere love for the practice is infectious and brings great joy to us all!
Meet our June Student of the Month, Julie Merrill! Julie has been a dedicated student at Asheville Community Yoga for several years now.
In addition to honoring us with her devoted practice on the mat, she has been an equally dedicated karma yogi. Julie regularly volunteers to help with parking during busy times, and generously donated a collection of her gorgeous mixed metal jewelry for our monthly raffle this past February. Check out her website to see some of Julie’s artistic creations
One of the most frequent comments we get when people walk into the studio is “Wow, these flowers are AMAZING!” <strong>This month, we would like to honor Pat McLaurin and Paul Harris as our Students of the Month. These incredible volunteers are responsible for keeping us always surrounded with beautiful blooms!
Meet our Teacher of the Month, Becca Odom! When asked to describe herself in three words, Becca said “honest, compassionate, and nurturing.” These are qualities that make Becca a great yoga teacher, a lovely human being and an all-around joy to have with us!
It’s that time of year again to cast your vote for the Mountain Xpress Best of Western North Carolina Readers’ Poll! We have won first place for Best Yoga Studio now for four years running, which puts us in the Hall of Fame. You can help us win for a fifth year! You can also cast a vote for one of our 50+ incredible instructors as Best Yoga Teacher.
We feel honored to be so supported by the community we serve. [Read more…]
Meet our April Teacher of the Month, Jerome Smith! Jerome is an ordained Pandit in the Himalayan Tradition. In addition to teaching meditation classes and workshops here at Asheville Community Yoga, he is also currently the spiritual director of Asheville Meditation Center, a nonprofit spiritual organization based here in town.
2015 Expansion Project:
What It Means For Our Community and For Neighbors of Asheville Community Yoga
By now, many of you are aware of our plans and vision for growth and expansion this year. We have heard from so many of you expressing excitement and support for the new opportunities the expansion project will create, and we would like to address a few legitimate concerns that have been raised during our conversations.
Some of you may have received a thoughtful pamphlet on your car, a personal message from Shawn Terrell, or may have been approached by one of the neighborhood tenants expressing these concerns.
This post explains our need to expand, outlines our plan and vision for the expansion, and addresses concerns voiced by a few community and neighborhood members.
This part of the year is marked by the spring equinox – the point in the year when the day is exactly as long as the night. It is a time of anticipation, as winter is poised on the brink of becoming spring. Ironically, the weather can be quite tumultuous this time of year. Rather than a graceful dance of balance and poise, it can appear as a violent tug of war. The changing of the seasons is a powerful reminder of the reality of constant shift and change, and the necessity of finding some sense of balance deep within our selves. How can our yoga practice help us to maintain a sense of calm and equanimity through the inevitable fluctuations of our lives?
Meet our Teacher of the Month, Anna!!!
We have been blessed to have Anna along on this journey with us from our very beginnings! Anna is a truly gifted teacher with her own unique approach to yoga therapeutics. In addition to her regular offerings of yin yoga and a warm therapeutic power flow, Anna stays busy accepting private clients for yoga therapy sessions and teaching semi-regular specialized classes on topics such as Yoga for Trauma, Yoga for Weight Loss, The Artist’s Way, and more. We asked Anna about what got her hooked on yoga and what keeps her inspired to practice, and this is some of what she had to say:
February’s Teacher of the month award goes to Jessica Chandra Shrago!
Jessica has been teaching at Asheville Community yoga for over a year now, and her generous and loving spirit makes her a perfect choice for this month’s honor.
As we enter into a new calendar year, many of us are feeling motivated. The days are getting longer again, and after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, January holds the promise of a bit of down time and some space for self-care. For many, the new calendar year marks a time for New Year’s resolutions. The support of the group energy of our community can be inspiring and help to strengthen our resolve! Oftentimes, however, our resolve is fleeting, and despite our best intentions, we can quickly settle back into the old patterns we were trying to break. The feeling of having let ourselves down, along with the winter looming on, can put us at risk for a bit of a mid-winter slump if we are not careful. How can we strengthen our resolve and sustain our highest intentions?
Susan has been guiding women into a state of flowing bliss for several years now with her Women’s Expressive Dance Wave on Monday evenings, followed by a women’s circle. Here are some sweet words of wisdom for 2015 from Susan herself:
December’s Teacher of the month award goes to all those who serve behind the scenes to support this place in being what it is!
Asheville Community Yoga is a pretty special place. It’s much more than just a place; it’s a vital community, a being in its own right, and as such has its own life-force, breath and heartbeat.
Meet our November teacher of the Month – Rebecca Willman!
Rebecca has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching since 2006. Whether teaching restorative, gentle or vinyasa, Rebecca’s classes are intuitively designed and are nurturing and supportive for all levels of practitioner.
Meet our October teacher of the Month- Ryan Kelly!!
Ryan has been with us here at Asheville Community Yoga for 4 years now – pretty much since the beginning! In addition to being an exceptionally skillful yoga instructor, Ryan is a biochemist and a mother of two. She is passionate about Taoist philosophy, herbalism, and classical music, all of which inform her life, her practice, and her classes.
Mudita (Altruistic Joy)
When you see that yoga student on his mat, effortlessly melting into the one pose that has eluded you for years, do you light up with joy and appreciation at his power and grace? When you hear of your close friend’s wedding announcement while you’re still reeling from a painful breakup, does your heart expand with the recognition of universal love being expressed so sweetly? Does the promotion of your coworker elicit immediate elation for his or her well-being and delight for his continued financial success? Errr, not so much? I’m with you.
Responding to the good fortune of others with envy is a human characteristic that we’d rather not advertise, but this is just what many of us experience. It’s as if we believe that there is a limited supply of happiness in this world and if someone else gets some, there is less available for me. This is a competitive reflex that seems to be culturally conditioned. When we are not feeling particularly joyous or open-hearted toward another’s success, it can feel inauthentic to acknowledge their joy. There is a bit of internal closing down that happens within as this occurs. A separation from others becomes a habit as the illusion of division rubber stamps its mark in the psyche. However, ancient wisdom teachings emphasize that all humans have naturally occurring divine qualities that arise within one’s own mind state if given the opportunity. There are four primary qualities, of which mudita or altruistic joy is one. The other three are metta or loving-kindness, karuna or compassion and upekkha or equanimity. We are all born with these spiritual attributes; they are potential seeds enfolded in our consciousness waiting for the right conditions and care to spark them into life where they can take root and grow to full bloom.
How can we use our yoga practice to nurture the seeds of joy that are waiting within? Look for what’s working well. Do more of what works. When my Asperger’s son was between the ages of 2 and 4, I was stuck in a pattern of constantly addressing his negative behavior, envious of other families who didn’t seem to struggle with parenting and desperate to find any positive in the situation. My husband and I began to employ the strategy of ignoring his negative behavior, unless it was harmful to himself or another, and look for what was going well, such as staying seated for 20 seconds or speaking respectfully instead of demanding. It worked. As we highlighted his small accomplishments, his need for attention through negative behavior subsided. He felt heard and validated and we felt as if we were better parents.
Look for the good. Have you shown up for yoga? That works. Were you mindfully breathing as you waited in line at the airport or in a seemingly endless line of stalled traffic? That works. If there is anxiety, agitation and a mind plagued by tight emotions, it may be difficult to appreciate our own good efforts or breathe with compassion toward a delay of unknown origin. Here is where yoga really shines. Mudita can be thought of as a twofold practice. First, the recognition of joy in others as we begin to recognize it in ourself and second, setting the intention to open to the joy within ourself while intending that others uncover the same inner joy.
To make this practice tangible, sit with the image of an artisan spring, where the water table is so high that its pressure causes water to spring up out of the ground wherever there is an opening in the earth’s surface, creating a deep pond with ground water flowing up from below. Repeat the phrase, May I open to the joy that is within me and be happy. Say it slowly and begin to feel that your body is like the pond, with an upwelling of natural, clear joy arising from the depths of consciousness. Allow a gentle smile to spread throughout your internal landscape, just as the upwelling of an artisan spring causes a gentle current to rise to its surface and glimmer in the light. Gradually shift the attention from the words to the feeling. Experience the “joy of letting go” flowing up from below and expressing itself as a smile. Focus on the pleasant sensations in your body and notice how those sensations nudge that little joy seed into action.
Mudita dismantles the wall of illusion that has been built up between ourselves and others, and as we slowly dismantle, we begin to experience tremendous freedom of joy that is undivided. The Dalai Lama, a spiritual teacher who radiates boundless joy despite tremendous challenges, explains the unlimited potential of mudita. He spoke in the middle of a rainstorm with a delightful giggle to many huddled, umbrella covered listeners, “It’s only logical….if I am only happy for myself, many fewer chances for happiness. If I am happy when good things happen to other people, billions more chances to be happy!”
By Margaret Kirschner
It’s summer time and your mind is consumed with thoughts of butterflies, picnics, flowers and long lazy days on the river, right???
If you answered with a resounding “NO” and a long chuckle, you’re not alone! These long hot days of summer often ignite the temper within us and can cause a bout of lethargy that can really rattle our nerves.
If this sounds more like your summer experience, never fear, yoga is here!!! There are many tools and techniques available to yoga practitioners to keep cool and stay calm in the summer months.
Beat the heat and stay cool, calm and focused during the longest days of the year with these simple practices. [Read more…]