PYI YOGA PHILOSOPHY ONLINE

Teachers include:
New York City favorite & international teachers 
Manorma teaching the Yoga Sutras.
Jacob Kyle, MA teaching Samkhya Philosophy
Rob Lindsey teaching The Bhagavad Gita

These 3 low-homework courses can be done individually, or together.
Listen anytime, or join us live online! 
ALL the info below.

Great for yoga students & teachers alike.

PYI YOGA PHILOSOPHY ONLINE

Begins March 12th!
Required for PYI Yoga Therapy Certification
Continuing Education Units with Yoga Alliance
GREAT rate for you & and earlybird, too.  See below…

We are thrilled to be partnering with Embodied Philosophy to provide this online 50-hour training. World-class instructors walk students through the most vital texts and philosophies of the yoga tradition in this course which is required for PYI Yoga Therapy Certification and counts towards CE credits with Yoga Alliance.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

with Manorama D’Alvia 
March 12th – April 30th
Tuesdays, 7-9pm ET

This course offers a comprehensive investigation into the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the seminal texts of the Yoga canon.

Samkhya Philosophy

with Jacob Kyle 
July 11th – August 1st
Thursdays, 7-9pm ET

This course offers a penetrating look into what is often referred to as the “metaphysical backdrop of classical yoga”. Understand Yoga’s philosophical foundations and how it is relevant to contemporary issues.

Bhagavad Gita

with Robert Lindsey
September 10th – October 29th
Tuesdays, 7-9pm ET

Dive deep into yoga philosophy in this foundational course on Hinduism’s most beloved text. Engaging with the Bhagavad Gita is a necessary adventure for everyone on the yogic path.

PYI Integration Hours

with Dana Slamp
May 9th, August 15th, & November 14th
Thursdays, 4-6pm

For Yoga Therapy Certificate candidates only, join Dana Slamp as she integrates the series material into the larger context of Prema Yoga Institute’s curriculum.

Each course includes:
4-8 Live, Interactive Zoom Sessions
4-8 Q&As
4-8 Downloadable Videos & MP3s
Course Readings
10-20 Yoga Alliance Cont. Ed. Credits
10-20 Embodied Philosophy Credits
Private Pop-Up Facebook Group

Tuition
$597 or 6 Payments of $104
Early Bird (before 2/19): One-Time Investment of $497, or 6 Monthly Payments of $91 

NOTE: Presence at the scheduled times is not required for participation, but is required for credit toward PYI Yoga Therapy Certification. 
For certificate candidates requesting an absence, please see the PYI Student Handbook.

REGISTER TODAY!

5 Yoga Tips to Transform Old Habits


Namaste Prema Peeps,
 
It’s the middle of January, deadly freezing, and a time when that New Year’s resolution starts to dissolve away – just when we need our tenacity the most!
I’m sharing advice from the philosophy of yoga below, along with some expert tips to follow your intention (funny, they sound a lot alike!)
 
Before scrolling, don’t forget:
 Prema Yoga Essentials Training starts February 1st! 
 -and- Prema students can waive the Yoga Therapy Certification Enrollment Fee – just get in your application in by January 30th.  It’s short and easy. 
5 Tips to Change Old Habits

1. Combat the Kapha Season
 
This is the kapha season – or “earth” season – in the Ayurvedic calendar.  At a time when you dearly want to stay inside, you’re meditative or contemplative practice will benefit. Take time to explore – especially in these days around the lunar eclipse. 
 
The downside is that the kapha season can bring us a little too low – there’s a tendency towards depression, weight gain, and inactivity.  Combat this by getting to class!  This is the one time of year where hot yoga (but not too hot) is truly therapeutic.  Vinyasa and Ashtanga are great choices as well – keep moving once a day, favor warm cooked foods, and get as much of sun as you can.
 
2. Replacement Therapy?  The Sutras Say it Works
 
Charles Duhigg, the author of “The Power of Habit,” recommends identifying the triggers to your old habit – which can be from time, location, people, emotion, or ritual.  Once you find your trigger, you can intercept your pattern by taking an entirely new one.  The Yoga Sutras state that: 
 
“2.33 When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is Pratipaksha Bhavana.”
 
Next time you wanna reach for the cigarette, the phone, or the remote, try replacing that pattern with a positive one.  Of course, the Sutras concern themselves primarily with thought.  But as the thought always precedes the action (even if primal or subconscious), try to dig a little deeper into why you have been keeping that habit.  Leading to the next step…
 
3. Get to the Root Cause
 
As an actor, I was taught that absolutely everybody has an objective, even if that objective is subconscious, and that every action – however negative – has some positive reward.  Getting to the root cause is critical.  I recommend journaling – sitting down and just downloading any “whys” of your old habits on paper.  You can even burn this paper as a mental and ritualistic way of discarding your old reward system.  Then, circle back to step 2, asking yourself, How can I get that reward in a healthy way?
 
The Sutras also say that ignorance is the root of all suffering.  Use your inquiry of “why” to dig deeper for a more lasting result.
 
4. Find your Support System
 
Have you ever heard about the study that says that you’re only as healthy as your 5 closest friends?  Pay attention to whom you are spending your time with, and what you are up to.  It’s no surprise, I suppose, that a lot of my friends love yoga and fitness classes (we’re also rather fond of travel & wine – but everything in moderation!)  Yoga class, a yoga training, or a meditation group are a great way to meet like-minded people who support your new intention.
 
5. Plan to Fail…But Celebrate Anyway
 
Odds are that not every day of January is going to be full of love & light for you, with 100% clean eating, pure thoughts, depressant/stimulant free, and full of yoga & cardio classes.  Experts recommend cultivating a recovery plan for those not-so-stellar days.  My go-to plan is to schedule in my positive behavior, marking on my calendar when and where I will follow through with healthy habits (especially after a day that involved –say, half a cake & Hulu binging). Whether you manage your tasks with a calendar or a checklist, be sure your new habits are on it.
 
In a great article on resolutions, the New York Times highlighted that small celebrations are a successful way to support your change.  Celebrating is a form of reward and personal affirmation – and can be as simple as telling a friend about your success & taking in their compliments & support.  

The most effective everyday celebrations are emotional – give yourself a pat on the back every time you follow through with a good intention (or discard an old habit).  This is how we bring out the shy, new patterns, and say goodbye to the old routine.
Care to learn more about PYI? The Yoga Therapy Certification is now 850 hours – including Practicum.

When the Holidays Aren’t Happy

A personal note….
Hello Friends & Students & 
Colleagues,
 Today is a surprisingly quite day in NYC. I got through most my shopping, did some baking, got in a class, and still have some indulgent hours to sit, reflect and connect with you.

First of all, thank you for another phenomenal year of learning.  We taught 92 students in PYI’s advanced yoga trainings, and I got to sit with hundreds more in trainings at Yoga Vida, Pure Yoga, and Ohra Yoga.  We had another retreat to Africa, with a potential Bali retreat on the way (Curious? Please email me here.) plus a full roster of classes every week.

Not only did our team apply for accreditation our school’s yoga therapy program, but I’ve experienced a dream that has been loooooooong in the making for me. It seemed like a simple thing to ask from life, and yet I have found it to be elusive, challenging, mysterious and nearly complete out of my control:  I met someone kind, and I fell in love.

So I have a great deal to be thankful for.  But instead of yet another “Happy Holidays” card crowding in your inbox, I felt compelled to speak about what the holidays are often like for me, and so many others.

The holidays – and particularly the new year – have meant depression for me for many years.  They would lead me to measure my life – to consider my choices and my goals – and in doing so, I always felt like I came up short. As a single person with no kids, I so often felt like the odd man out at the party – what could be wrong with me, when everyone else seems to have a family unit? Never mind that my friends & family love me, or that most families and couples are not as happy as they seem – none of that could completely take me off the holiday cocktail of self-judgment and loneliness.

Today my partner and I were talking about depression – considering our friends and family members who have battled it – and I admitted that I am one of them.  The saying goes that you “battle” depression – but I always think of it as a well.  I would feel myself sinking down into a well of darkness, and when that time came, I would have to claw my hands into the mucky earth of the sides of the well and climb myself out of it – one good action after another.

“What got you out of it, do you think?” my partner asked. The first word that came to my mind was: Yoga.

Frankly, this is an oversimplification.  I went to therapy for years to identify my predisposition for mixed anxiety and depression, and went through years of very slow work in choosing better behaviors, better self talk, better friends, better habits – even a better career to manage my emotions.  

I needed that professional care to be where I am today.  But my practice is where and how I get to participate in my own healing. I learned extremely effective tools for getting out of that well. And with time and discipline, I’ve learned to stay clear of it whenever possible.  I still check in with a pro from time to time, but nothing can replace the empowering ability to be a part of your healing process.  

If you’re on this list, chances are that you’ve felt this ability to improve your mood in yoga.  My gift this year is a video of perhaps one of the best tools for managing a host of emotional challenges:  Alternate Nostril Breathing.  Even if you’ve tried it before, please give it a look again.  It’s one thing to get a toolbox as a gift under tree. It’s an entirely other matter to learn how to use those tools, and to put then to use when you need them the most.

You’re not alone.  
You are loved.  
You are perfect – just the way you are – and you have the tools you need to be healthy.  

These are the main lessons from my practice.  And I’m still here – happy to learn them with you again and again. 

To your health, Dana Functional Anatomy Online starts January 9th – Sign up today.
Care to learn more about PYI? The Yoga Therapy Certification is now 850 hours – including Practicum – and our faculty is expanding, too.

Late April Newsletter: Receiving Grace | Ayurveda Discount ends May 5th

​Receiving Grace

I admit it:  Grace can be a very complicated word for me.  It seemed owned by the religious system I grew up in – a conservative Protestant church – that believed that grace came from a big-G God, the only God, and only when you earned it.  The church’s songs and description of grace were quite beautiful, actually, even transportive – but the concept became wrapped in submission, obedience, and patriarchy – the religion’s other leading theories that to me meant a lack of freedom, and an inability to truly connect and love others who were different from me.

Even as a kid, I felt an internal conflict – how could grace – which is by its nature available to all – be denied to people of other beliefs or cultures or gender preferences? I struggled with this – to follow my heart and live a more accepting, open, and honest expression of my spirituality, would I separate myself from grace? Here are some critical answers to my dilemma:

  • Being in nature helped me rediscover grace.

On our yoga retreats in Africa, there is never a guarantee that you will see an animal.  Sure, you can get the best guide and go to the best area of the park, but the animals are wild, and are not on your schedule.  There is always an element of luck.

But when you get your first glimpse of a rhinoceros family, or of a pride of lions sunning their pregnant bellies like housecats, it feels like more than luck – it feels like a miracle.  And such grace is not exclusive to some exotic land – a sunset glimpsed down a street in Midtown can have the same overwhelm.

  • Grace is free. 
We do not “earn” the sunset anymore than we earned the appearance of a lion. We do not have to follow any rules or precepts or make any bargains to receive this beauty.  It just is.
  • Grace is radical – it completely short-circuits the false concept that we must earn everything. 

My yoga practice has given me another lens through which to view spirituality.  Yoga says we just need to practice – there’s no yoga “perfect!” You are already complete and connected, just the way you are.  No need to get into a huge guilt trip about not living up to your exacting standards.  A fall is not a fall from grace – just get up, and practice again.  This is what it truly means to be “Grace-ful.”

  • Grace comes whether we are worthy or not. 

Just as in yoga philosophy, a moment of grace tells us that we are loved, and always have been loved, and worthy of love.

  • When we take without saying thank you, we rob ourselves of grace.

There are plenty that have wrested beauty from the land – stripped her of diamonds, oil, ivory, and everything else. And this, too, is a mistake. It is a surefire way to limit the power and beauty of natural grace.  The more we can live in alignment with the natural world, the more receptive we  become to receiving its blessings.

***

When I was first taught Ayurveda, I thought it was a cool way to care for myself. Eventually I realized that it was a way to relate to everything – and I do mean everything – in a more mindful way.  Relationships can become more compassionate.  The body can become more healthy. And your teaching can become more intelligent as well.

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old way to connect.

In our Ayurvedic Yoga Immersion, June 1 -17, you can learn so much more about yourself and how to choose dietary, yoga, and even sleep habits that can contribute to your optimal health.

Not yoga for your friend,
Not yoga that’s on trend,
Not even yoga tailored for your background –
but designed just for you,
just this day,
just this hour.
*****

To get the early bird rate on this training: Reach out to Angela by May 5th.


Refine your yoga practice and teaching for private clients and therapeutic students to specifically improve mind/body imbalances.

Use Ayurveda and yoga to apply the techniques of yoga in a precise and empowering way.

LEARN

  • Personalized lifestyle choices and self care to bolster your effectiveness in the healing arts, including:
  • Your present Ayurvedic constitution, or dosha (vikruti)
  • Ayurvedic essential oils (Abhyanga)
  • Daily cleansing techniques and skin care (Dinacharya)
  • How to make the right dietary choices for your dosha (constitution)
  • Maintaining digestive fire and energy (agni and ojas)

Teaching and Essential Therapy Tools:

  • Introduction to East/West comparative psychology
  • The classic intention behind the asana types, and how to modify asanas for each individual (“Asana Chikitsa”)
  • The classic psychology of chakra theory, kosha theory, and how to use these systems for client assessment
  • How to alter your teaching to balance according to dosha, chakras and vayus
  • The classic esoteric philosophies of health and happiness
  • How to alter your practice and teaching for the era, season, time of day, and time of life
  • How to balance and teach to each constitution, tailoring your teaching to the individual
  • The necessity of down-regulating techniques in Hatha yoga (PNS-inducing yoga)
  • The constitution of different yoga practices and lineages
  • Interpreting “Doctor-speak” to modify practices in recovery periods or chronic pain
  • The Ayurvedic perspective of auto-immune disorders
  • Improve your business skills in private yoga practice
  • Use the paradigm of Ayurveda as an intuitive, effective and efficient tool in your teaching practice.
  • How to appeal to the “higher self” of your client while engaging them (Atman, Sattvic state, etc.)

Prepare case studies and teaching strategies based upon the classical systems of Ayurveda and yoga, addressing current imbalances practically

Training teachers will practice teaching one on one and in small groups, improving your ability to assess learning styles and provide customized, therapeutic teaching.

Review the the parameters yoga therapy, how to refer out, and how to teach to specialized communities, including those recovering from acute pain or managing a chronic disease.

SCHEDULE
June 1st – June 17th 
Tuesdays | 6pm – 9pm
Fridays | 6pm – 9pm
Saturdays | 9am – 6pm
Sundays | 11am – 8pm

PRICING

  • Non Members | $1550
  • Equinox Members | $1400
  • Pure Members | $1350
  • Pure Yoga TT Grads | $1300
  • Prema Yoga Grads | $1250

**Early Bird discount! Register by May 5th to receive $100 off!


YOGA VIDA MEDITATION, YOGA NIDRA, & PRANAYAMA

50 hour Teacher Training towards
the 300 hour Yoga Vida Advanced Certification
May 4-6 and 18-20, 2018

with Dana, Kajuan Douglas, Rebecca Hajek & Will Schneider

Dive deep into the heart of the yoga practice with this two-weekend immersion into Meditation, Pranayama and Yoga Nidra.

Cultivate a personal meditation practice, and learn classic pranayama and meditation techniques to apply in classes and with private clients in a modern way. Lead Yoga Nidra to encourage healing and relaxation. Learn the science of mindfulness, and evidence-based techniques appropriate for teaching in business and other secular settings. Perfect for teachers and those with a consistent yoga practice.


 

with Dana, Rebecca Hajek, Kajuan Douglas, & Will Schneider, & Colleen Herman

THROUGHOUT THIS 50 HOUR MODULE, WE’LL EXPLORE:

>> Yoga Nidra, the art of conscious relaxation – the history, science, benefits, and accessible techniques
>> Kosha theory to address physical, mental, and emotional imbalances
>> The neuroscience of Meditation, Yoga Nidra, and Pranayama
>> Pranayama for anxiety and depression
>> Developing a daily meditation practice
>> Meditation from the Sutras
>> Meditation from the Vedas
>> Loving Kindness Meditation
>> An introduction to Kundalini meditations and kriyas for memory, healing, focus, and more
>> Mindfulness
>> A review of modern scientific evidence in support of mindfulness techniques

>> All students interested in Meditation & Pranayama are invited to join!

How to Outsmart a Negative Thought Spiral

Recently I was researching one of my favorite Yoga Sutras, when I came across this translation by Edwin Bryant:

“Upon being harassed by negative thoughts, cultivate counteracting thoughts.”
                         – Yoga Sutra 2.33

When I read this version, two things immediately came up for me:

A) How does Edwin Bryant know me so well?
and
B) It is time to bring the bhakti back!

For centuries, yogis have used mantra and sound to calm, disperse, and dispense negative thoughts.  Now science can confirm that the brain changes when we replace our paranoia/depression/anxiety with a good bhakti beat. (Alex Korb’s book “The Upward Spiral” looks at the neuroscience in some detail).

Not only does replacing negative thoughts potentially release serotonin and dopamine, a gratefulness practice, “actually affected neuron density” in parts of the brain.  That means that by getting a good sound groove going, you get even better at being positive – transforming that negative energy into positive energy – just like the black panther’s suit!  🙂

Every spring, Jess Caplan and I meet in our Sound Yoga Immersion for one weekend with curious teachers and students who are looking to turn this spiral around.  You’d be amazed at how much trepidation there can be about using our voice! Jess’s chill approach makes it like game time.  Every year – without fail – I walk back into the room and the whole group is laughing and smiling and quite often in a group hug.  What can I say? She’s a master.

With me, we will learn a little harmonium (that box we play in class), and some classic mantras for attracting love, purifying, removing obstacles, and more.  Expect to hear the science behind sound, and how to follow the Path of Creation to your highest good and happiness.

Good news: Since I was late in getting this out, Pure has extended the Early Bird special to this Friday March 9th!
*****

To reserve your spot at the $25-off rate: Reach out to Angela by Friday!

Got Stress? ANB – The Insider’s Life Hack

Got Stress?
ANB – The Insider’s Life Hack  

Regardless of your politics, we know that this particular yoga student above had quite a stressful 2016!

“Alternate Nostril Breathing” – mistakenly called “alternative nostril breathing” by some news sites – is an old and reliable way of managing stress.  I actually used it before going on stage for the first time as an understudy on Broadway.  It can take as little as 2 minutes, but no more than 15, to manage hormones, stress, feelings of anxiety and depression.

Here’s how our Mindfulness teacher, Karen Nourizideh teaches it:

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Purifies the body and stills the mind, brings oxygen to both hemispheres of the brain.

Place the right-hand index and middle fingers between the eyebrow center, the right thumb closes off the right nostril.

Inhale through the left, count “Inhale 1, Inhale 2, Inhale 3”.

Close off the left nostril with the right-hand ring finger, exhale through the right, count “Exhale 1, exhale 2, exhale 3”, inhale through the right nostril, close off the right nostril, exhale through the left for 3 count, inhale thru the left through 3 count, close off the left, exhale through the right, etc.  End on the left side exhalation.  Practice at least 10 rounds.

Nadi Shodhana has immediate effect on cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain.  Nadi-shodhana pranayama practice for 20 minutes showed statistically significant difference in Heart Rate (HR), Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP), Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP), Reaction Time (RT) and Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR).*

*Subbalakshmi NK, Saxena SK, Urmimala Urban JAD, Immediate effect of nadishodhana pranayama on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain. Thai Journal of Physiological Sciences, 18(2):10-6, 2005.

IAYT Yoga Therapy Letter of Intent for New York’s Prema Yoga Institute

It’s begun!  IAYT has accepted Prema Yoga Institute’s initial materials for full accreditation as an IAYT Yoga Therapy Training School.  This application process will take 5 months to complete, and additional time for review.  Our promising start means great news for previous, current, and future PYI students:
  • PYI intends to honor all completed hours in current and prior trainings.  We will offer an opportunity to audit updated courses when needed.
  • Should you wish to be certified with IAYT, expect to complete 800 hours of training AND 200 hours of guided Practicum – which can include paid hours in your private practice!
  • PYI is expanding with 200+ hours of online content, including a Yoga for Osteoporosis Certification with Dr. Loren Fishman, and a 3-part Embodied Philosophy course with Jacob Kyle.
  • PYI continues to expand its scholarship program through work study and placement programs with our partners at Kula for Karma.
  • As we expand to exceed the international criteria for Yoga Therapist certification, PYI will continue to be the most affordable Yoga Therapy training in the Northeast.
  • Our modular enrollment process makes it possible to pay as you go, and join when ready.

Thanks to all the students who have been taking this incredible journey with us – with grads working at Mt. Sinai Hospital, NYU Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, ICahn School of Medicine, The Oscar Center, and at studios and wellness centers across the Northeast, we are thrilled to see what the next graduating class will do.

Be sure to check out the trainings below.  They are required for graduation, and spots are limited!

Yoga for Positive Body Image” September 23 -24,  Prema students get a $50 discount!

Yoga in Healthcare” October 6 – 29 with Dr. Loren Fishman, Dr. Chris Walling and more.

An Interview with Dr. Shari Becker – Yoga for Positive Body Image

Dr. Shari Becker will be leading PYI’s specialty training, “Yoga for Positive Body Image” September 24-25, 2017 in Manhattan.  The class is part of Prema Yoga Institute’s offered Specialty Yoga Therapy Courses.

GREAT NEWS:  NYS Social Workers can receive 16 CEU’s for this course!  You can sign up for the class directly at Kula for Karma’s website. Enjoy the interview!
______________________________________________________________

DANA SLAMP: Hello Shari! I understand that you’ve been a clinical psychologist and practicing since 1998. Tell me about the realization you came to when you started practicing yoga.

SHARI BECKER: Hello, Dana! Your question addresses my favorite topic: the integration of traditional psychotherapy with the philosophy and teachings of yoga. About 3 years into my clinical practice, a yoga studio opened up in my area. I took my first class with Sheryl Edsall, and I was hooked! I could move my body in ways that didn’t require athleticism AND listen to her talk about spiritual concepts that resonated with me at the same time?? I’m in! In her words, through yoga, I found answers to some of the issues I had been struggling with in my own life. “Speak your truth and let go of the results” is an example of a life-changing comment she made during one class. “Live in faith, not in fear” is another. Once I started integrating the teachings and lessons I learned from my own practice into my life off the mat, I soon began to recognize specific ways in which this wisdom could help some of my patients with their struggles.

DS: Did you see some natural applications of yoga philosophy and techniques in the clinical setting? Or was it odd to consider at first?

SB: While the relevance of yoga philosophy in the clinical setting seemed quite apparent to me in a very natural way, I ran into two issues. The first was that my training, a traditional approach to clinical psychology, strongly discouraged therapists from “self-disclosing” or bringing their own experiences or beliefs into the therapy process. I was a fairly new therapist and still following the rules. Even mentioning that I had gone to yoga class that week was outside the structure of traditional psychological treatment. In addition, we were taught as psychologists the importance of empirical validation, or research to support our methodology. Yikes! I couldn’t find any research to support what I was doing. It was pretty scary to leave the tried and true approach that I had been trained in.

However, I recognized that with careful attention to the impact on my patient, I could responsibly introduce the subject of yoga and respectfully ask each patient individually, if the appropriate circumstances arose. I also jokingly told them they were free to call the “therapy police” on me if they were so inclined! Over time, my anxiety around breaking the rules lessened and I witnessed the successful application of yogic wisdom in facilitating happier and healthier lives for my patients. One of the first patients I introduced to yoga found a community that she desperately needed in the yoga studio and became a beautiful yoga teacher herself!

DS: Eating disorders are known to be very complicated diagnoses. What about yoga is useful in such a case?

SB: This is a great question, Dana, and the answers will be found in the upcoming Advanced Yoga Teacher Training for Disordered Eating and Negative Body Image. Yoga is an ideal adjunct modality to complement more traditional approaches to treating eating disorders. The training will draw upon many of the therapeutic qualities of yoga to inform yoga teachers and therapists about how they can promote healing, in a very deep and embodied way, for the eating disorder population.

Yoga offers us new perspectives, interrupts our habitual patterns of thinking, teaches us to recognize physiological signals, and invites us to slow down, reflect and pause before we move into action. In addition to addressing the specific needs of the diagnosed eating disorder population, our training will provide information and practical application of yoga philosophy and practice to those who struggle on a regular basis with sub-clinical disordered eating habits and negative body image.

DS: As yoga teachers, so many of us know students who are struggling with negative body image, and most of us have danced with that demon ourselves. It strikes me that in our image-saturated culture, it’s not really a fair fight. How can yoga help us reclaim our self love and worth?

SB: This question raises an important and provocative issue that evokes passionate response in many. Advertisements and messages about food consumption and body image prevail in our society. It is never easy to go against the flow of cultural norms, but no one ever said practicing yoga was easy! Many people have a misconception of yoga and believe it is a physical practice. In its fullest form, yoga invites us to explore our inner selves to get to know our mental, emotional, spiritual and relational bodies as well as our physical body. Once we are able to recognize that we are so much more than our physical bodies, we are able to disengage from the superficial values promoted by the media and other societal factions. From this safe position of boundary and clarity, we are free to cultivate love and compassion for ourselves.

DS: Our Kula for Karma friends have shared how giving you have been in supporting their efforts to bring yoga to at-risk communities and groups. Tell me about what drew you to serve with Kula as a teacher.

SB: Kula for Karma recognizes the therapeutic value of yoga and touches the lives of individuals who are greatly in need of healing, medically, emotionally and spiritually. The populations served by Kula reap the benefits that yoga offers, including stress and anxiety reduction, increased awareness of physical and emotional experience, and self-compassion.

Kula for Karma was founded in my NJ community 10 years ago by two incredible women, Geri Topfer and Penni Feiner, I knew Geri and Penni from our local yoga studios and was very interested in the work they were doing right from the start. Fortunately, Kula offers many opportunities for volunteering and involvement at every level of the organization, so I was able to support them for many years before I was certified as a yoga teacher. It has been a great source of pride and joy to watch my teenage sons join the Kula team by volunteering their IT skills at the annual gala.

DS: We’re so thrilled to now invite Social Workers into the program, and to provide them with 18 CE’s in New York – a huge feat! Other then just about every yoga teacher (IMO!), who else could benefit from this two-day intensive?

SB: I agree with you that every yoga teacher could benefit from understanding how to teach in a way that promotes non-judgment, self-compassion, non-competitiveness and a gentle approach in relationship to our bodies. I also believe that mental health professionals would gain a different perspective on the struggles their patients face in relation to food, eating and body image. Many, if not most, women in particular spend an enormous amount of time and energy believing there is something wrong with themselves, their bodies and their eating habits. The yogic approach to healing offers many profound lessons that would serve all of our patients well. It is sometimes easier to think about our patients as the ones with the issues, but this training will also help each participant become more self-reflective about their own personal dance with the thoughts and feelings that often stand in our way of a healthy and joyful experience in our own bodies. We can only teach what we know, and most of us are works in process on this topic of food, eating and body image. I am looking forward to sharing my own journey with the participants in this training.

Wait, the Point is Pleasure!? June Ayurveda Essentials

Quick: Can you name a calorie-free, addiction-free, just downright FREE daily pleasure that doesn’t involve another person? If an answer doesn’t come to you quickly, but a whole list of other crap does, then you may need a refresher course in the simpler things in life.

That’s how it was for me.  I was knee deep in my third career, and – even though I loved my job – my career, my friends, a handful of vacation days and whole lot of hustle were all I had.

When I burned out and searched for another way to live, I luckily found myself in an Ayurveda course. The first lesson was that Kama – or pleasure – is one of the primary reasons for life.

Not just something you do one day a week,
Not just something to distract you,
Not in a bottle,
Not in an invite,
And definitely NOT a diversion, but
Pleasure is the POINT of life.

Every day offers us a multitude of opportunities to be fed by beauty, healthy rituals, amazing food, and uplifting study and community.  Real energy lies in “pleasure refueling,” and finding these free sources of mojo can significantly cut down on the Starbucks bills!

As a teacher, the Ayurvedic lens saves me time and effort, and has made my yoga therapy work infinitely more precise, effective, and direct.  Imagine if you could determine what a person needs just by looking at them – isn’t that a skill you’d like to have, especially if you are in the healing arts?  And wouldn’t you love to empower your clients to nourish their health and happiness?

That’s why our June Prema Yoga Ayurvedic Training is both an essential life course and a required course for therapeutic teachers.

We study outside,
We indulge in the senses,
We seek to become better listeners,
Better teachers,
And better caretakers of our bodies and minds,
All through infinite sources of pleasure.

Sound Yoga Training – Interview with Jessica Caplan

Did you know that it is sound that creates the world? All the creation stories begin with sound – God spoke to create the world, “Om” is the sound of the Universe vibrating – sound is truly our most powerful tool for change.  Sound is where thought becomes action.  I was able to sit down with PYI’s resident Sound Healer and new mother Jessica Caplan to get the full scoop on how this alchemy works:

Dana: Hi Jess!  Please tell us about what led you to sound healing.

Jess: I’ve been a singer for my whole life, and a yoga teacher for over a decade. For the most part, those two parts of me were separate, and I had a strong desire to integrate them. I started to sing to my students in Savasana – usually improvised chants or melodies without English lyrics – and my students would often come up to me after and say how much my singing had helped them release and relax. Around the same time – and this is before this field became as popular as it is now – I started to hear the words “sound healing.” I started to research and read books on the subject. I quickly knew this was something I wanted to explore and practice. That led me to the wonderful year-long program at the Open Center, at the time supervised by Wendy Young. That was the beginning of my journey, and I am still exploring and learning so much. This subject is truly infinite.

D: I notice that many can reach a more meditative state using sound and music.  Why do you think this is?

J: Sound and music has such a profound impact upon us. It’s universal and it’s ancient. Sound works on the brain and body in real and measurable ways. For example, our brain waves entrain (fall in step with) sound waves, so certain sounds can actually shift our brain waves into the more meditative brain wave states of alpha and theta, and even delta (sleep). Sound can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us to relax and rest. In my experience, sound engages us in ways that can cut through the mental static and open us up to deeper parts of ourselves.

D: Sound Yoga Training often brings up the most delightful moments of the “school year” for me because you see people open up so easily.  What would you say to those who are a little hesitant to sign up because they aren’t “musical?”

J: I’d say that we are all inherently “musical”! What is sound, but vibration, and what are we, but vibrating atoms? This is another reason why sound has such a profound impact upon us: we are vibrational beings. Watch a baby explore her voice – she is totally free, playful and curious. Somewhere along the way, many of us have shut off our connection to the full range of our voice and our own musicality. Getting in touch with that part of ourselves is touching our essence. On a practical level, this training doesn’t require any previous musical experience – though musicians are always welcome. We’ll have plenty of instruments for beginners to explore playing (singing bowls, tuning forks, harmonium, shrutti box and more); all you need is an open, curious mind, and the ability to listen.

D: Awesome. What can we expect this May 10-12 from the training?

J:  A highly experiential weekend filled with exercises in deep listening, meditative sound and mantra, reconnection to our voices as an expression of our soul, and exploration of a wide range of traditional sound healing instruments. This is a get-your-hands-dirty immersion: less exposition, more experience. Like yoga, the magic of sound healing lies in the practice, not the theory. While students will come away with some understanding of the theory and science, what we really want them to leave with is a newfound connection to sound and music.

Ready to dive into the healing powers of sounds? Scroll down to download a free audio meditation track to help you let go.