Deepen Your Understanding of Yoga Through a Reflection on the Yamas and Niyamas (Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras 2.30-2.45)

The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali is a guide to the practice of Yoga. Compiled prior to 400 CE, it is still studied in depth today. In the text, Patañjali lists the Yamas and the Niyamas as the first two steps on the path of cultivating Yoga. Asana, or the postures we usually associate with Yoga classes, is the third step.

If we were to place a seed on a plate, water it and place it in the sun for warmth and energy, even with careful tending, the seed still will not develop far. Without soil to take root in, and draw nutrients from, how is a plant to grow?

The Yamas and Niyamas are the soil for the seed of our Yoga practice. If we do not “plant” our daily Asana practice in the rich and fertile soil of the Yamas and the Niyamas, then true health will not grow out of our efforts.

Dale Chihuly at the NY Botanical Gardens

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Body Weight, Modifications & Safety in Aerial Yoga

As both an aerial teacher trainer and aerial equipment retailer based in the Midwest, one of the most common questions I encounter from new students and studio owners alike is, “What’s the weight limit?” This is an incredibly important question, yet many teachers (depending on their training and experience) may not feel comfortable answering it, either because they don’t have a solid understanding of the equipment they are using, or because it touches upon one of the biggest taboos in our culture, the ‘F’ word: Fat.

So let’s talk about it.

You’ll often see a “weight limit” of around 250lbs listed for aerial yoga classes, but in my experience if you ask the studio how this number came about, they may not have a deeper answer other than “that’s what my instructor recommended.” What is the significance of this number? Will a 275lb student break the hammock? Will they not be able to perform some of the postures? Or, worse, could they somehow be injured by the hammock?

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10 Tips – How Aerial Yoga Can Help You Get Grounded

by Jordan Anderson (Unnata Aerial Yoga teacher and course leader)

Yoga has always been a very grounding experience for me. Something about feeling the ground underneath my feet, feeling every bit of connection to the floor, and experiencing the play of inhale and exhale… I have always left a yoga practice feeling very centered. I wasn’t sure what to make of aerial yoga when I first heard about it. I figured it would just be a fun novelty practice, worth trying because it looked like fun. I was surprised to find that using the hammock for yoga actually enhanced my connection to the earth and to my breath in new and interesting ways that carried forward.

As someone who spends a great deal of time working against gravity in my everyday life as an aerial instructor and performer, the way we use the hammock in aerial yoga provides a nice balance. When the hammock is used to its full advantage, the upward pull of the aerial yoga hammock enhances our appreciation for the downward pull of gravity.

I constantly have students tell me how surprised they are that they can feel so grounded after an aerial yoga class. There are a few things I incorporate into every aerial yoga practice that allow for this groundedness to occur. For anyone who’s ever practiced aerial yoga and felt a little too floaty, or even dizzy, I recommend trying these tips for grounding the next time you practice.

Tip #1
Use your breath! Concentrate on feeling the upward pull of the hammock as you inhale, and the downward pull of gravity every time you exhale.

Tip #2
Find places to relax and let gravity provide a nice downward pull to your body while you are hanging in the hammock. In many postures, the more you are able to relax in the right places, the more grounded and extended you will feel.

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My Favorite Yoga Sutra (1.33) As Seen Through a Mirror

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As Yogis, our wisest leaders tell us that we must embrace unconditional love for each other if we are to find true transformation. And yet, many of us feel fear, sadness and anger more often than we feel peace and serenity. It’s not easy to simply drop an emotion and change our thoughts on a dime, so how can we navigate our way to that place of Yoga in our minds?

When I am confused and my mind only feels and sees chaos, I often look to Yoga Sutra 1.33 to give me guidance in how to find this unconditional love: “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” (translation Swami Satchidananda)

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Taking Classes With a Master Yogi (Reflection of Yoga Sutra 2.5)

img_1998I am lucky to live in the same city as Master Yogi Dharma Mittra. Dharma is one of the few Yoga teachers alive today who has received traditional teachings directly from a guru, and practiced those teachings for over 50 years. An authentic Yoga practice is not limited to the physical exercises of asana. It includes dietary guidelines, ethics, breathing techniques, meditation techniques, and more. These limbs of an authentic Yoga practice help us transition from a small, limited perception of life to a larger perspective of wholeness, which inspires a sense of internal calm. Anyone who studies with Dharma can see his authenticity; and for those of us who wish to pursue Yoga studies beyond physical fitness, we cherish our opportunities to study with this Master Yogi.

But I’m not writing this message to convince you to take classes with Sri Dharma Mittra. Instead, I want to inspire you to take classes with teachers in addition to Dharma Mittra.

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HEALING ILLNESS THROUGH YOGA

IMG_0027I recently had the misfortune of experiencing a severe allergic reaction. My skin erupted in all-over itching and burning, aggravated by all elements – heat, water, wind, and touch. Within a few days, my entire existence became intolerably irritated.

Up until that moment, my skin had been a guardian angel – a shield from external assaults, and a safe-keeper of my internal vitals. This time, however, the skin was being attacked from the inside, not the outside, and quite understandably, it reacted dramatically.

Once the reaction had downgraded from a potential life-threat of windpipe closure to just miserably uncomfortable, I knew all I could do was wait for my body to complete its stages of allergic response. I then reflected on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.30: “These are the obstacles that bring disturbance to the mind: disease, lack of effort, loss of interest, inapplication, attraction to things physical, false perceptions, lack of concentration, inability to maintain any achievements gained.” (Translation: Kofi Busia 1998)Read More

Being an Unnata® Aerial Yoga Teacher by Stephanie Paz

Stephanie Paz is currently a teacher at Sacred Sounds Yoga in Manhattan. She received her 200 hour Yoga certification in June of 2014 at Sacred Sounds Yoga and she recieved her Unnata® Aerial Yoga certification in February of 2015. Stephanie is also a practicing visual artist. You can read more about her as well as see her teaching schedule at www.stephaniepaz.com

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Firstly, I must tell you how significant and life changing this style of yoga has been for me and others I am close with.  Michelle’s class was the first group yoga class I’d ever gone to, back in 2009. Prior to that, I did yoga along with videos to help my chronic low back pain. The asanas in the silks, along with the chanting, meditation and pranayama Michelle integrated into this class changed everything for me. It healed me in so many ways. Without the physical release from pain I would not have been able to open my heart, soul, and mind in the ways I have. Unnata has been a true blessing in my life.

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Yoga Sutra 2.22 -Time passes continually – even when you aren’t watching.

“The existence of all objects of perception and their appearance is independent of the needs of the individual perceiver. They exist without individual reference to cater for the different needs of different individuals.”
— T.K.V. Desikachar

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This Yoga Sutra defines what we all intuitively know, and it may seem obvious at first. An example would be: whenever you leave your kitchen, and you are no longer looking at or thinking of your kitchen table, the table does in fact, still exist.

And yet, even though this is a seemingly obvious statement, how many times have you been surprised by your niece’s/nephew’s seemingly “sudden” growth spurt since you last saw them? Have you ever been taken aback by the choice of your ex-boyfriend’s/ex-girlfriend’s new partner? Have you ever visited an old workplace and discovered they in fact actually are doing fine without you, despite how much they relied on you to keep the place running?

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