Category: Practice

Week 2: Day 1: The End

During my “day of rest” in the 8-week series designed by Rodney Yee yesterday I not only took the opportunity to do a home practice that I really wanted to do, I also looked over my blog entries from the first week of the series.  What was painfully obvious is that I don’t want to be doing this practice.

A home practice is not about self-punishment, it should feel really good.  It should be about commitment, dedication and making choices that reflect a very personal and intimate evaluation about state of mind, breath and body.  I really enjoy my home practice, but doing the series as designed by Rodney Yee felt a little bit like punishment—–I was really forcing myself, albeit unsucessfully, to do his program even when I didn’t feel like it.

This is precisely what makes a home practice different from a group practice.  If I go to a group class and the instructor has us do six tree poses, then I am going to do those six tree poses to the best of my ability and depending on how I feel, the energy of the instructor and the energy of the group on the class, I’m either going to feel like I enjoyed the class or not or that I learned something new or not, but you can’t choose your own adventure when you go to a group class.  When I practice at home, I always start out with some warm-up poses and seated grounding poses and then I organically move in a way that supports exactly where I am.  Tight in the hips, I throw in pigeon pose.  Tense through my spine?  I’ll start with some twists.  Basically, I start with a few poses that allow me to self-diagnose and then I do what feels best after that.  It just doesn’t feel right to be by myself, all alone, doing what doesn’t feel right.

This is not, in any way, a judgement on the book or the series or sequences as designed by Rodney Yee.  As a matter of fact, I think that, for someone who is relatively new to yoga and who wants to explore what it means to have a home practice, this is still a truly valuable reference.  But, for someone who has been doing yoga for almost 20-years and already has an established home practice, this series feels like I am being asked to deny the wisdom of my practice, a practice that has served me well for quite some time now.

So, my 8-weeks of yoga with Rodney Yee ended after a week.  In the end, I have learned many valuable things from this experience of just one week:

  • Moving Toward Balance: 8 Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee is an excellent reference book for yogis of all levels (including teachers) who want to learn how to sequence a yoga practice, to explore alignment and desire very clear written instructions that are complemented by instructive photographs.  Regardless of whether you do the sequences as described, there is a lot of valuable information in this reference.
  • A home practice should never feel forced or like a punishment.  While you shouldn’t shy away from poses or only do the same exact poses, yoga isn’t poses and pose practice isn’t yoga.  If you take group classes regularly and want to try to do yoga at home, make sure that your home practice is something you look forward to.  Even if you just roll out the mat and enjoy an extended savasana, that is just as valid of a home practice as anything else.  Love it, enjoy it, benefit from it—–may your home practice be peace.
  • My current advice to students who want to start a home practice is actually the most helpful thing I can offer (I’m patting myself on the back here……).  I suggest that you roll out your mat.  Sit on your mat and breathe and see what happens.  If you feel inspired to practice a particular asana or move in a particular way, then do that.  If not, then do 5-10 cat/cow movements and see if you feel inspired.  If no inspiration comes to you, move into child’s pose and do a few sun salutations.  As you move through sun salutations, see what you feel inspired to—-perhaps a warrior pose or two, or maybe an eagle pose or maybe a tree pose or half-moon pose or…..you get the idea.  Not inspired, come on down and do a bridge pose and then wind relieving posture and hug your knees into your chest.  End with a 10-minute savasana.  Whatever you do, end in a 10-minute savasana.  I repeated that twice on purpose.  Even if you just sit, breathe and then end with savasana, that’s a lovely practice.  It might just be all you needed to start your day in peace or energize yourself in the middle of the day or close the day for a great night’s sleep.  Whatever it is, it’s yours and yours alone.

I’ll keep writing my blog and practicing and hope you’ll keep reading.   And, we’ll all sleep better tonight knowing that I’m no longer forcing myself to practice in a way that doesn’t bring peace to my life.  Oh home practice, I missed you last week!  Welcome back!  Welcome home!

And on Day 6, We Rest

Day 6 of Week One of Eight with Rodney Yee

Today we breathe, we relax and we meditate in supported hero pose.  Yes, we finally have a practice that is just my speed and just what I need after an incredibly stressful week.  I’ve got more adrenaline rushing around my blood and poisoning my organs than I care to admit and this, combined with the almost complete lack of quality sleep is enough.  Truly, enough.  So, thank you Rodney Yee for building in this lovely restful practice and (yippie) a day off tomorrow.

Next week, sun salutations.  I’m really looking forward to finding some new inspiration for  my sun salutation practice!

 

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee. You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog. It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync. This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika. Are you in Pittsburgh, PA? Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Day 5, Week 1: 8-Weeks with Rodney Yee

I just couldn’t help myself.  I am not doing well with this meditation after savasana routine.  Honestly, I’m exhausted.  I’m doing my practice after a long day and night of mothering, working full time and dealing with the world and all the thoughts rumbling in my head.  After savasana, the only thing left is to have a cup of tea, blog and take myself to bed.  I understand completely why the meditation is after the savasana, but it isn’t a realistic order of things for me personally.  So, yet another night of modifying the prescribed practice…….legs up the wall, meditation, savasana.

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee. You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog. It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync. This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika. Are you in Pittsburgh, PA? Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Day 4: Week One, Yoga with Rodney Yee

“It is crucial to learn how to open your upper chest and your arms with increasing relaxation in your neck and sense organs (Yee, 54).”

“The repetition of Tree Pose and Warrior I in the following sequence lets your body make its own
subtle adjustments to bring understanding and ease in the poses (Yee, 54).”

Ever since I went back to working a job where I spent the majority of my time sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen, I have felt my chin migrate forward and I can just FEEL my whole head in front of my spine.  It’s awful and it feels wrong.  I try to remember to draw my chin in towards my heart and release my shoulder blades down my back during the day, but it is really challenging.  When I finally get a chance to stand up, I feel desperate for a stretch.  I just want to get into downward facing dog and feel the weight of my head releasing down from my spine instead of creating compression and tension as my atlas bone shouts for relief.  So, yes, I agree—–it is crucial to keep the upper chest open with a relaxed neck and sense organs.  Of course, easier said than done!  I find it easier to address this task on the mat than in my “real life.”

As a teacher, I feel my students who are frustrated about the way their bodies perform and find shape in the asanas.  The idea that we can allow the interior intelligence of the body to find full expression through the practice of asana is one that we all want to believe, yet we find it hard to imagine.  We want to believe that we could yank or pull ourselves into a certain shape.  Or, better yet, if our instructor could just help us “make it happen” with a magical adjustment.  Even after many years of practice, I was rather skeptical that the repetition of Tree Pose and Warrior I was going to do much else but strain my body.  Amazingly, it did not strain my body and, by the third set of tree poses, I felt significantly taller through my entire body.  My arm pits seemed to rise with greater ease up and away from my hips and I felt elevated.  Really.  Almost without trying!

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee. You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog. It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync. This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika. Are you in Pittsburgh, PA? Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Day 3: Week One of 8-Weeks with Rodney Yee

In today’s practice I have discovered what two pregnancies have done to me.  Well, at least I think that is what is to blame.  Apparently, I no longer have any inner leg strength.  If you’ve never practiced tree pose, then you don’t know what I’m talking about.  But, if you’ve ever put the sole of your foot onto the inner thigh, you will recall (unless the last time you did tree pose was a LONG, LONG, long time ago…..) that you not only press with your foot into your thigh, but the inner thigh presses back into your foot.  This not only helps with balance, but it helps to maintain the strength and integrity of the standing leg.  Well, aparently, I no longer have any inner thigh strength at all.

In other words, my gracilis is nillis and my sartorius is nowhere to be found—burried under some, uhmm, “fatty deposits”………..

Makes me kind of wish that Rodney Yee were here to help me figure out how to find my inner thigh again.  OK, let’s be honest, I don’t kind of wish that Rodney Yee was here, I definitely wish that he was here.  But, in his absence, I hear the voices of my own wonderful teachers in my head and I am:

1) activating “root lock” aka. secret chakra action center or mula bandha

2) pressing my big toe into the earth

3) dropping my sitting bones and lifting my thigh bone to engage the thigh into the pelvis

and, of course…….

4) hanging on for dear life (I have this wonderful dresser at a perfect height in my living room.)

I just found this Real Simple article outlining some “easy” exercises I can do to strengthen my inner thighs—maybe when I’m done with 8-weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee I’ll start these exercises and let you know what happens. Or, maybe I should just make sure I get to Aleta’s Yoga Booty Ballet classes on Saturdays at Yoga Matrika!

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee. You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog. It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync. This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika. Are you in Pittsburgh, PA? Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Day 2, Week One: Home Practice

I was surprised, but I really loved the opening sequence of one-minute downward dog poses followed by one minute standing forward bend poses.  This opening sequence was both grounding and inspiring.

Otherwise, I’ve got three words about today’s practice: Too Much Triangle.  And, really, I’m a big fan of triangle pose.  It is both challenging and comforting.  But, I just stopped doing the prescribed number of triangle poses in this practice because they didn’t feel right to me.  I also added a child’s pose into the mix and closed my practice with a chanting session. 

Perhaps, after years of having a regular home practice, it is just impossible to go back to following instructions when the instruction doesn’t make sense for how I feel?  I know that, before I had a home practice I might not have even known how I felt and would probably have blindly followed the pictures and the practice as published.

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee. You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog. It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync. This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika. Are you in Pittsburgh, PA? Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Day One, Week One: Attachment & Weakness

A few weeks ago I threatened to start Rodney Yee’s 8-week Home Yoga Practice program from his book, Moving Towards Balance: 8-Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee and blog about my experience.  Today, I’m making good on my threat.  It’s Day One of Week One.

Today’s practice involved practicing multiple versions of some standing poses.  Already, I’m kind of frustrated.  After twenty-years of practice, I like doing these poses the way I like doing these poses.  So, today, I met the beast of attachment head on and I did the poses the way Rodney wanted me to.  I’m still going to keep doing the poses my way, but once I got over my attachment issues, I did find that doing the poses in the variety of ways that the practice suggested, I was able to find different sensation in the poses.  It was really an invitation to feel the poses in a variety of different ways and this brought me into deeper awareness of sensation in my body and the alignment and use of my skeletal system.

I also discovered that I am weak.  Seriously W-E-A-K.  For each of the asana variations, we were instructed to hold the pose for 30-seconds.  I confidently came into Warrior II only to find that my whole body wanted to give in at around five seconds.  I have been holding poses for a mindful period of time, but only some poses that are a part of my regular Vajra Yoga practice.  Being forced to hold other poses took me out of my strength-zone and I was surprised to find out how weak I felt when holding poses.  In all fairness, I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby for the past 19-months and that is bound to exhaust a person and change strength and endurance in some ways and enhance it in others.

Finally, I should divulge that I did this practice in the center of my home’s family room with a sick five-year old sitting on the couch watching Pokemon videos and playing fruit ninja on my iPhone and my 9-month old dumping blocks out of a canvas bag near my head.  While in downward facing dog, my 9-month old crawled under me and pinched my boob.  Yes, you read this correctly—-she pinched my boob!  But, I have to say that I felt a whole lot more open, centered and, if not really relaxed, more prepared to continue with the day than I did before practice.  I mention this because so many adults feel that they can’t mke time for yoga because they keep waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect place or the time when they can have some peace and quiet.  Yes, ideally you can make your practice about taking some time for yourself, but if you can’t, then just push aside the crumbs and the toys—–roll out the mat over the chaos and make it happen.

Please feel free to join me in my 8-week program with Rodney Yee.  You can share your own experience by leaving comments on this blog.  It’s OK if you start on a different day or we get out of sync.  This is going to be fun!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the fearless leader of Team Matrika.  Are you in Pittsburgh, PA?  Join us for a great class at Yoga Matrika in Squirrel Hill.

Community Supported Yoga

Yoga Matrika is a unique yoga community.  For the past five years, Yoga Matrika has changed location (here, there and back again…..) and some of our most beloved instructors have moved away, drifted away or gone and come back.  But, what has remained the same is that we are a community-based studio that serves the needs of this particular community for:

  • healing and wellness through yoga
  • friendship and support
  • gentle yoga and meditation
  • mindful movement and freedom of expression
  • classes and services for expectant and new moms and families with young children
  • resouces for the development of creativity, kindness, compassion and awareness in a world that does not always value these qualities

Yoga Matrika is now offering the unique ability to invest in the studio through the selling of CSY shares.  Community Supported Yoga gives students the ability to invest in an economical way in both their personal practice and the studio.

$30 CSY Investment Share/per month
Guaranteed Space in One Class per Week
Minimum One Year Contract Required

$50 CSY Investment Share/per month
Guaranteed Space in Two Classes per Week
Minimum One Year Contract Required

A LIMITED NUMBER of CSY Shares are being sold so that we can guarantee space in classes to share holders.  Buy your share today right here!

What are the benefits for Yoga Matrika?

  • Your investment in a CSY share allows us to spend less time on marketing and more time doing what we really love—teaching yoga!
  • Instructors can depend on a competitive and consistent wage for their work
  • The studio’s overhead costs are met each month regardless of weather or other cancellations or unexpected causes of low attendance.
  • The student body is more consistent and instructors get to know their “regulars” and students get to know one another.  This supportive environment is safer and more conducive to yoga practice for everyone.
  • We no longer have to keep offering special deals or working with outside marketing partners like Groupon or Living Social.  The best deal will always be available directly through the CSY (as long as shares remain available).
  • When instructors receive consistent and competitive wages for their work, there is likely to be less turn-over in instructors and therefore, less changes in the schedule of classes.

What are the benefits for students?

  • Making a commitment to practice once or twice a week is an investment in your health, wellness and stress reduction.  A CSY share makes this an economical investment and a promise that you can really keep for yourself.
  • Never worry about how many classes you have left, expiration dates or anything else that distracts you from your practice.  There will never be a better deal offered than a CSY share, so you can feel confident that your investment is also the best economical decision for your practice.
  • Freedom to choose from a variety of classes, styles, instructors and levels with little to no financial risk.  Sure, you can be a “regular” in a class, but your membership may provide the incentive you need to check out a different class or switch up your schedule for a week.
  • When you get to know your teachers and they get to know you, it is more likely that your individual needs will be met in a group environment.  Yoga Matrika is unique in that class size is limited to 12 students or less.
  • Get to know other members and you will experience the proven benefit of being a member of a supportive community.
  • Expectant members are more likely to come back for mom and baby classes and for classes on their own when they make this commitment.  Yoga isn’t just for pregnancy!  This is a practice for life.

Please join us in this beautiful bliss project.  Let’s create love and light in our communities through the effort of our combined practice and commitment to generating healing energy for the good of all living beings.  Jai!

Posted by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, the captain of the ship at Yoga Matrika, an intimate, community-based space for the practices of yoga, meditation and mindful movement for all levels, ages and abilities. 

 

Summer Yoga Deals

SUMMER DEALS

Summer tends to be a season of relaxed schedules, road trips, camping and special time spent outside—-walks in the evening after supper, playing out on the lawn late into the night because it is still light out and it is easy to fall out of the routine of your yoga practice.

This summer, we want to help you keep your commitment to your practice by offering awesome deals on unlimited yoga. Our studio is kept to a comfortable temperature with air conditioning and you will enjoy taking an hour out of the sun to refresh mind, body and spirit. Our discounted unlimited yoga packages are valid for ALL classes on the drop-in schedule as space permits. As space is limited in classes, we suggest that you enroll in classes online. This will also help you make and keep your commitment to yoga.

Please note that the schedule is not, in any way, guaranteed. Individual instructors will take vacation time and may miss one or more weeks of a class. Some classes currently on the schedule will not be held over the summer. The studio will be closed for holidays. It is important that, if you wish to take full advantage of these packages, you think that you will take a minimum of 10-classes over the summer and that you are somewhat flexible about which classes you take. If not, then even though this is a great deal, it may not be the deal for you. Absolutely NO REFUNDS and NO EXTENSIONS and packages are not transferable. There are no exceptions to this. No other discounts, coupons or offers apply to these special packages.

Unlimited Yoga from June 1 through August 2012

Purchased before April 1, 2012 $80
Purchased before May 1, 2012 $100
Purchased before June 1, 2012 $125

Purchase your SUMMER UNLIMITED package today HERE.

In addition, we also know that you may drift from your regular practice even if you take advantage of one of the great deals on unlimited yoga listed above. So, we’d like to offer a special unlimited package for September that you invest in now so you can return in September without breaking the bank.

Unlimited Yoga in September 2012

Purchased before April 1, 2012 $35
Purchased before May 1, 2012 $45
Purchased before June 1, 2012 $55
Purchased before July 1, 2012 $75

Spread the word to all your yogi and yogini friends! The more the merrier this summer at The Mat. If you are leaving Pittsburgh for the summer, then we’ll see you in September!

Purchase your BACK TO SCHOOL/UNLIMITED SEPTEMBER 2012 package HERE.

Practice What You Preach

For a couple of years now, the book I have used as a reference when planning Matrika Flow classes and that I consistently refer to my students that wish to develop their home practice is Rodney Yee’s text, Moving Toward Balance: 8-Weeks of Yoga with Rodney Yee.  I am very familiar with this book and feel that it has wonderful pictures, very clearly written instructions and well-conceived sequences.  I’ve always felt confident when I refer students and other teachers to this book.

But, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’ve never actually done the eight-week program.  So, it’s time for me to step up to the mat and practice what I preach.  My excuse has always been that I have a wonderful daily practice of yoga and meditation that I enjoy and I have never wanted to disrupt it.  Why would I change a good thing?  Well, there are LOTS of reasons why shaking things up a bit might be a good thing and I am going to make a commitment to this 8-week program.  My intention is to blog my experience and hope that you might join me on this two-month journey either by reading along or trying the program yourself and commenting on my blog entries with your own experience.Who knows, maybe I will read the Guide to Career Education
and get a start on writing my own book!

 

I am going to start my eight-week practice journey on Sunday, April 15th and end on Sunday, June 10th.  If you want to join me, please obtain a copy of the book before April 15th.  Want to let me know you are joining me?  Just comment on this post so I know I am not alone.  I’ll blog about my experiences and hope you will keep me company by posting about your experience with these practices or this 8-week program in general.

Meet you on the Mat!

Posted by Sharon Rudyk, the fearless juggler mamma at Yoga Matrika, an intimate space for the exploration of yoga, meditation and generosity of spirit in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 

The New Yoga Happy Hour

Yoga Matrika now offers two classes each week at 4:30pm:

Mondays
4:30 to 5:30pm
Hatha Yoga with Angela Scardina

Tuesdays
4:30 to 5:30 pm
Yoga I with Sharon Rudyk

This is a real gem of a time to do yoga if you can make it.  First, these classes are a sweet one-hour in length.  Second, as they start before 6pm, our discount package for daytime classes (4-pack for $32) applies.  Third, you can have your day, get in a quick yoga practice and then have a relaxed dinner and a walk on a fine spring or summer evening rather than rush through dinner and force yourself to run back out the door for a night class.  We know that not everyone has the option to take a class at 4:30pm, but if you do, then give one or both of these classes a try.  It’ll be a treat!

Angela

Oh, and, it is my great joy to introduce the Yoga Matrika community to one of our newest instructors, Angela Scardina.  Angela is originally from the rural hills around Kittanning PA.  Her college and graduate studies focused on psychology, language and religion.  She spent several years in NYC working to help young people and their families build communication skills and cultural understanding.  Excited by the many  reasons to integrate the discipline of yoga with her work, she was drawn to further her own practice and learn to share her love of yoga.  She completed a 9 month certification course at Integral Yoga Institute in NYC.  In addition to private instruction, she taught with Life in Motion, NYC Parks and Bent on Learning (a non-profit group that delivers yoga class to urban school teachers and students).  She recently moved to Pittsburgh and now joins Yoga Matrika to deliver Hatha Yoga.

So, you might ask, what IS Hatha Yoga?  Angela is a trained Integral Hatha Yoga practitioner and teacher.  Integral Yoga is a slow, gentle practice for anyone of any age or condition. A unique sequence of poses that tone and strengthen, followed by deep relaxation, breathing practices and meditation.  The class works with awareness and breath, and allows students time to get comfortable in a pose; fostering an individual experience that takes each student to her own limits, yielding maximum benefit and preventing injury.

The practice calms your body, breath, and mind, and leads you to realize the self within.  Loving guidance from the instructor, helps you to you walk away after class, feeling peace and serenity.

This post was written by Sharon Rudyk, team leader at Yoga Matrika and a seeker of serenity wherever it might be found.  Angela’s Hatha Yoga class is sounding pretty good right about now!  The next time you are looking for a healing and wonderful yoga class and are in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, please come and join us at The Mat. 

I’ve Got a Booty, How About YOU?

I’ve got a booty, yes I do.
I’ve got a booty, how about you?

And my booty reflects the fact that I spent the winter of 2012 on my butt, watching Downton Abbey and nursing a baby.  A noble cause, without question, but it has taken its toll my dear readers.  A toll that has taken me one step closer to needing to wear sweatpants every day.  What does your booty reflect?

Enough my readers!  Take charge of your springtime booty and let Aleta whip your entire body into shape with one of her delightful, fun and serious calorie spending Yoga Booty Ballet (YBB) classes at Yoga Matrika.  We call them YBB: Cardio Yoga classes because all practices include:

  • Setting an intention for your practice
  • A warm-up yoga-based kriya
  • An aerobic workout to music
  • A yoga flow sequence
  • Savasana (final relaxation/corpse pose)

No Orange or Hot Pink Pants Required. But, wouldn't it be fun?

Absolutely no experience with yoga, ballet, dancing, aerobics or anything else is required.  You may find that the movement sequences take a while to pick-up, but Aleta says that it takes just a month of practice at least once a week and then you will remember them all.  If you are not in good physical shape, have any health condition or have any questions about whether or not this class is appropriate for you, please check with your doctor first—-explain that it is a cardio workout combined with yoga-based stretches.

Yoga Matrika is committed to providing a wide

Aleta Howard

variety of classes in an intimate, non-judgmental, inclusive and non-competitive environment.  This class is no exception.  Aleta is a very caring and fun instructor who loves to teach and share this joyful practice with her students.  Please do not be shy if you are worried about not knowing what you are doing—-it will be ok.  Promise.

Bring a water bottle and an open mind!  Prepare to hip, hop, shake and groove your way to a shapely body and a fine looking booty for all your more revealing spring and summer wardrobe favorites.

When? 
Every Thursday evening 5:30 to 6:45pm
Every Saturday afternoon 12:00 to 1:15pm

Where?
Yoga Matrika, 1406 S. Negley Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

Why?
It’s fun, you will feel great and you will become stronger and more flexible.  As heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, taking the time to exercise your heart and mind while relieving stress is a great investment in the quality of your overall health.

How much does it cost?
If you’ve never been to Yoga Matrika before, then fill out our welcome form and receive a FREE first class.  Are you already a regular or have you been to the studio before?  Then it is $15 to drop-in, $50 for a 4-class pass and $80 for an 8-class pass. 

See you soon and often at The Mat!

Cardio Yoga

I am absolutely delighted to announce that Aleta Howard will be joining the Yoga Community and offering her unique YBB (Yoga Booty Ballet) classes starting February 2nd and through the spring.  What is YBB?  On the schedule, we are calling it Cardio Yoga.  If you think that “yoga” means traditional asana, then you might feel that YBB is more of an exercise class and wonder what it is doing on a yoga studio schedule.

Well, first of all, YBB combines some elements of Hatha yoga that will be recognizable to yogis who do have experience with more traditional yoga classes that are based on asana.  Second, YBB includes yoga kriya from the Kundalini tradition and the creation and support of a personal intention is an important part of each and every class.  Third, what is yoga?  While this is a deeper issue that would require both a lifetime of examination and certainly a much more respectful examination than I can offer here, I would like to suggest that expressing the body with joy, opening and strengthening the heart and learning to hold an intention through an activity are most certainly yoga.  It may not be what you have come to expect, but it might be just what you need!

Here is the official description of Yoga Booty Ballet from the creators of this style:

Yoga Booty Ballet is a fun, sexy and spirited workout that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. Work your body, engage your mind and lighten your spirit as you practice this East-meets-West amalgam of meditation, cardiovascular dance, ballet, Kundalini and hatha yoga.The results are immediate and long term. Students consistently complete class feeling better about themselves than when they arrive.
The meditation element serves to focus busy minds as well as awaken dull ones.  The dance portion improves cardiovascular endurance, promoting weight loss and improved body composition.  The ballet section increases strength and agility, building muscle and bone density. The yoga sections promote flexibility, balance and inner wellness.  Classes are fun and easy to follow, designed to draw out individual self-expression in a comfortable, non-competitive environment.Various dance styles explored include jazz, hip hop, burlesque, Latin, Bollywood, go-go, and more.

Really, try one of these classes, at least once.  For those readers who know me, you know that I am both directionally challenged and learning patterns of body movements is difficult for me.  The first time I tried Aleta’s class, I was really nervous because I was truly afraid that I would get lost and not be able to fully participate.  About 10-minutes into class I was having the time of my life.  I was smiling and moving and sweating and truly enjoying the music and the joyful movements.  Was I going right sometimes while everyone else went left?  Yes, but, the truth is that it just didn’t matter.  Aleta does not even suggest that there is a right or wrong way to do anything and she provides enthusiastic support for participating in this class in whatever way you are able.  Once I released the pressure I was putting on myself through my own ego, this is when I started having fun.

Yoga Matrika provides a non-competitive and intimate environment where you can feel safe trying something new.  If I didn’t think that Aleta was wonderful or that these classes weren’t a fabulous addition to our current offerings, then I wouldn’t be putting them on the schedule.  Especially if you are looking for a class that will help with weight loss or weight management or you need to combine your yoga with your cardio workouts, then you are going to love this class. 

When can you try our new Cardio Yoga classes with Aleta?

Friday Night Yoga Dance Parties

Friday, January 27
7:00-8:15 pm

Friday, February 24
7:00-8:15 pm

Friday, March 23
7:00-8:15 pm

Thursday nights, Starting February 2, 2012
5:30 to 6:45 pm

Saturday afternoons, Starting March 3, 2012
12:00 to 1:15 pm

Classes are $15 to drop-in or you can use your current class package.  Packages are 4-classes for $50 or 8-classes for $80.  We also offer a discounted student package of 5-classes for $35.  Please enroll online to save your space.  These special classes are going to be very popular and you don’t want to miss out!

Posted by Sharon Rudyk, Director of Yoga Matrika, an intimate space for yoga and healing work in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA.  Come join us!

 

Do You Know Your Heart?

This weekend, Plamen Karagyozov will be facilitating a three-hour workshop featuring the heart salutations at Yoga Matrika, an intimate space for yoga, meditation and healing in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh.  Acquaint Your Heart will be held from 1:00 to 4:00pm on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at Yoga Matrika.

If you were asked to describe your heart’s desire, most likely, you would immediately formulate a cerebral response that would be conditioned by culture, religion, traditions, expectations and other aspects of your unique human experience.  In reality, the heart is the very first organ of intelligence that you formed in your embryonic state.  We can learn how to consult the heart, listen to the heart and act on the heart through yoga and movement practices that draw upon our embodied intelligence to gain access to this important source of information.

The Heart Salutations that Plamen will offer in the workshop are a twelve step sequence flow (vinyasa) of energetic seals of the whole body(mudras) and asana that are accompanied by the breath (pranayama). At first, the body is warmed up and prepared for comfortable and effortless movement. Then the sequence is taught in sections with highlights on important details and gradually the entire salutation is practiced, featuring the various aspects of the heart and the circulatory system.Once the Heart Salutation is learned, with each pass through it, we layer in additional material, like Om, Yin-Yang and Tantra, transforming them from an intellectual concept to very palpable and practical aid in practice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that, in 2006, 631,636 people in the United States died of heart disease.  This represents over 26% of deaths that year. In 2010, they predicted that heart disease would cost the United States $316.4 billion. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity.  There is most definitely a cost of life, quality of life and time with those we love when we ignore the intelligence of the heart.

In the Tantric view, we can use our bodies as a tool for liberation in this lifetime.  Invest in learning the heart salutations and practice them.  Learn how to relieve your cerebral perspective and listen to your heart.  Feel your heart’s desire and include this important form of intelligence in how you move through the world.

This post was written by Sharon Rudyk, Owner and Director of Programs at Yoga Matrika and Matrika Prenatal.  She hopes you will visit her soon and often at The Mat, an intimate space for yoga, meditation and healing in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, 15217. 

Keep Your Unkind Words to Yourself

Walk silently.

I read this today on a sign indicating appropriate behavior while in the hallway at my son’s elementary school.  When I read it the first time, it made sense to me.  I’m sure that I was trained in the same way and have probably seen this message infinite times in my own elementary school and other institutional experiences and beyond.  But, the more I looked at the sign, the less I was sure of what it meant. In my experience, this means, don’t make noise when you walk in the hall.  But, how do I know this?  Walk silently actually means something very different depending on the context.

There are other messages on other signs.  One of those messages is that students should “Keep their unkind words to themselves.”  Again, upon initial reading, I immediately knew what this meant.  It means that I shouldn’t call anyone a Poopy Head, you know, at least to their face.  But, again, the more I saw this message, the less I was sure of what this really meant.

I was even less sure of what it meant when I happened to walk by the lunch room on my way to my son’s classroom and heard a lunch aid yelling at a student who had walked up to her and asked for help because their hands were full of too much hand sanitizer.  She said, “You took too much soap.  Don’t you have soap in your house?”  Seems that someone hasn’t been reading the signs in the hall!  First of all, it wasn’t soap, it was foaming hand sanitizer.  Second of all, it is not beyond my imagination that this child had never used a dispenser for foaming hand sanitizer before.  Third of all, the implication that perhaps this child did not maintain hygiene at home and therefore was ignorant on how to use the sanitizer at school wasn’t very kind.

So, on the third day of school, this poor child was berated for having too much hand sanitizer on his hands.  I wanted to walk loudly (if you can walk silently, you can also walk loudly!) right into the lunch room with a paper towel and help that child remove the hand sanitizer.  Then, I wanted to use some of the hundreds of unkind words that had immediately come to mind when I watched that Pittsburgh Public School employee talk with complete lack of respect or empathy to that dear child.

What I know is that you can put up all the signs in the world, but the best way to lead these children will be by example.  We must show them that compassion is possible and makes the world a better place to live for everyone.  It feels really good to be compassionate and express empathy and kindness to one another.  We can learn to be loud in our silence and have so many kind thoughts that there is little room for the unkind words.

In our yoga practice on the mat, we first learn awareness.  The first time that we sit on our mat and wait for class to begin, we become aware of the hundreds of thoughts, ideas and feelings that travel across our mind in a single moment.  Some of those thoughts are unkind and we may, at the end of a long day, have myriad unkind words for our family members and colleagues.  But, our practice shows us that it isn’t a sign that should keep us from expressing these unkind words.  Our practice brings us to a space where we notice that our thoughts and feelings are constantly in flux.  Our unkind words in this moment are no more or less true than the kind words that we might have for the very same person on a different day or in different circumstances.  As a matter of fact, after calming the body and mind in a yoga class, we might find that all the unkind words are gone anyway as the intensity of the passion of experience has faded.

What I wish for this lunch aid and all the children and teachers and administrators in my son’s school is awareness.  Awareness that they live and work in community.  Awareness that their feelings and experiences are important, but always changing and shifting.  Awareness that we all make choices in how we express ourselves and that these choices impact other people.

On your mat, the next time that you practice, soften your face and tongue.  Relax the muscles behind your eyes and soften your inner ears.  Feel the expressed and unexpressed unkind words you carry within you.  Free yourself slowly by breathing into the unkind spaces and exhaling the unkind.  Let you body relax and watch the breath as you free yourself slowly of unkind words.  As you practice, catch yourself if you start to think anything but the kindest thoughts about yourself.  Forgive yourself for all the times you used too much soap, forgot to sort the laundry, used the wrong color pen, took the subway in the wrong direction and wore different socks.  Once you feel better, offer some forgiveness to everyone else.

Tonight, in my practice, I’m going to forgive the lunch aid.  It’s a start.

Compassion and Generosity

For those of you who live in Pittsburgh and use public buses regularly for transportation, you know that the last week has been a nightmare. At all times of day and night the buses are crowded and most service that we had come to depend on every 15-20 minutes is now only coming once every hour. Many bus drivers are frustrated and exhausted and riders are squished and even riders that have no business standing and hanging on for dear life are being asked to do so. With the reduction in service, many buses are too crowded to stop and pick up new passengers along the route.  As I looked out the window when we passed stops by there were literally ten to twenty people waiting at these stops who would now have to wait 30-minutes to an hour for the next bus with absolutely no guarantee that one might come that would actually be able to stop and pick them up.

I am currently 30+ weeks pregnant and was riding the bus with my four year old son last weekend since I had promised him a trip to the library. It was the middle of the day on a Sunday and we got onto a very crowded bus. One person in the front got up to give us their seat and I had my preschool age son sit down and I stood in front of him. The way the seat hit him in the back of the legs caused his legs to “fall asleep” during the ride and when we got up to push our way out of the bus his little legs buckled under him and by the time we made it off the bus he was complaining that his knee hurt. We had to go into a drug store for something and, by that point, my son was loudly insistent that his knee hurt VERY MUCH. Upon inspection it was clear to me that it was related to the seat on the bus and would be relieved in a few minutes since the cause of the problem had been removed.

About 5-minutes later, a man wearing exceptionally filthy clothing and pushing around a small cart of equally filthy belongings came up to me in the drug store. In one of his hands, he held out a damaged children’s toy that had, in its day of new glory, probably been a plastic jeep car of some kind, but was now a three-wheeled go cart without doors or a roof—-just the base and three-wheels remained. The man said to me, “Your little boy’s knee is hurt? Would this help him feel better?” I was so shocked that all I could come up with was, “Oh, no, we couldn’t take your car! Thank you so much, but his knee will feel better in just a minute.” But after we left the store, all I could think about was the incredible human capacity for compassion and generosity that is possible regardless of our perceived or actual economic resources.

Here I was, completely self-absorbed in my clean clothes with my floral Vera Bradley purse working through my frustration at having had to wait for a bus and be so inconvenienced by the uncomfortable ride while I searched the shelf for allergy medicine that I could afford to buy for my child and this man, who appeared to have nothing—certainly, he had less resources than I did at that moment—offered both his compassion for my son’s pain and an extension of a gift of all he had. My response was to refuse the physical gift, but the extension of compassion and this generous offer are gifts that will remain with me for a very long time.

So many of us think that we don’t have anything to offer, when, at any given moment, we are given infinite opportunities to extend compassion and generosity to the people around us. While making donations to organizations and individuals who are doing important work in our community and around the world have their place, if we do not have the financial resources to make these kind of donations, there are still opportunities to give and to improve the lives of other people. A kind word, an offer of help, giving your seat on a crowded bus, or an extension of the resources that you do have without any selfish intent—–these are gifts that we can all give to one another.

Research shows that meditation that includes the extension of compassionate thoughts and wishes, even to complete strangers and on a large scale such as an intention for the happiness of “all living beings” has a profound impact on the shape of our brains and, ultimately, our own health.  This is not to suggest that we should be compassionate only to reduce our own emotional and inflammatory response to stress, but there truly are benefits to all living beings, including ourselves, when we make this a part of our practice.  Instead of thinking that we have very little to offer, we can delight in the fact that being alive gives us myriad opportunities to explore the gift of compassion regardless of our economic status, career choice or lifestyle.  Even better news is that every breath we take is a new opportunity, a refresh button of sorts, and a chance to take this moment to improve the experience of all living beings.

Post by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, an independent yoga and meditation instructor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Find out more about comprehensive meditation and stress reduction programs on Sharon’s website.

Frozen Food Month

Seriously, did you know that March was Frozen Food Month?  I didn’t know this until I received an e-mail from Giant Eagle supermarkets here in Pittsburgh indicating that there was just one week left to appreciate frozen foods.  From Lean Pockets to Ego waffles to Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (my personal favorite of the frozen edibles), we had a whole month to appreciate frozen foods and I squandered it not realizing my loss.  But, it’s not too late, there’s still a whole week to take advantage of this special time to explore the delights of our freezers.

Did you know what else March is? Women’s History Month.  Yes, women share the glory of this month with frozen foods.  So far, President Obama has not yet made an official Women’s History Month 2011 Proclamation.  When he does, it will be posted here. Now, while we mere citizens have an entire week to honor frozen foods and the ladies we love at the same time by buying them some ice cream, the President only has one more week to come up with an official proclamation on the topic of Women’s History Month 2011.  Might I suggest that he enjoy the convenience of a frozen food while writing?  The thing is that I didn’t know that all of the Presidential Proclamations were available like this.  I have to admit, it’s a rather curious collection.  This month*, President Obama has offered Proclamations on topics ranging from from “Save Your Vision Week” to honoring the 100th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire to the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy. It seems that when you are President of the United States, remembering your own wedding anniversary is the least of your problems.  So far, nothing yet on either frozen foods or the important contributions of women in the history of the United States.

What does any of this have to do with yoga or meditation?  It has everything to do with yoga!  Yoga and meditation are practices that encourage us to become aware in this moment.  By proclaiming a day, week or month a certain theme, we are suggesting that there are things we appreciate or that we should recognize that we may generally ignore.  This is what we do in our practice as well.  All day long we breathe, but when we practice, we watch the breath.  We see all the qualities of the breath—fast, slow, shallow, deep.  We experience the sensation of each in-breath as an in-breath and each out-breath as an out-breath and we feel our body’s response.  Setting aside some time each day for your yoga and meditation practice is like proclaiming that the next hour is “Sensation of Breath Hour.”  We come to appreciate what we generally take for granted.

Posted by Sharon Rudyk, an independent yoga and meditation instructor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  You can find out information about classes and teacher training programs with Sharon at http://www.yogamatrika.com/ and prenatal/postnatal programs and support services at http://www.matrikaprenatal.com.

*Wondering what President Obama proclaimed about this special month in March 2010?  Check out the proclamation archives here.

Stir the Sea

And on this first day of spring, the morning after the most magnificent moon, I offer a poem by Shutaku:

Mind set free in the Dharma-realm,
I sit at the moon-filled window
Watching the mountains with my ears,
Hearing the stream with open eyes.
Each molecule preaches perfect law,
Each moment chants true sutra:
The most fleeting thought is timeless.
A single hair’s enough to stir the sea.

Spring Preparation #6: Make a Commitment

The kind of commitment that I’m talking about is also sometimes referred to as “put your money where your mouth is.”  You know that you want to make a commitment to developing your yoga practice, your meditation practice or both.  Maybe you’ve been meaning to try yoga for a while.  Perhaps, after the 15th article you’ve read this month about the benefits of meditation you feel almost obligated to give it a try.  Maybe you’ve let your mat get dusty this winter or it might even be frozen in your trunk?

Whether you’ve never done yoga or meditated before or you’ve been a yogi at heart for forever, this season of renewal reminds us of the value of commitment.  Registering for an 8-week small group series with Sharon for this spring is an excellent way to ease yourself back on your mat or cushion or find out what all the buzz is about for yourself for the very first time.

Here are just some of the benefits to committing to a private small-group class over dropping-in on large studio classes:

  • You have the opportunity to develop a relationship with your teacher and your fellow students.  You know that this small group will notice your absence and you will miss seeing them too and these relationships help you get to class when you aren’t quite feeling up to it.
  • You write the dates and times on your calendar and then you make it happen.  If you have to arrange a babysitter, then you do it.  If you have to figure out what bus you are going to take, you find that schedule.  When it is on your calendar, then you do it. Making a class a habit is an excellent way to make sure that you actually attend.
  • In a small group you get the attention and support you need to learn new skills.  With an 8-week series, the material can be presented in a consecutive way.  The instructor can get to know you and your special abilities and is prepared to modify your practice just for you.  No more hiding in the back of the room just hoping you don’t hurt yourself!
  • Let’s be honest.  You spent the money and now you are going to show up.
  • When you make a commitment, a whole new realm of opportunities will open up for you.  Whenever you make a commitment, it means saying “no” to other things or people.  But, it also means that a completely new set of possibilities will be revealed to you.

Stop talking about doing yoga or learning how to meditate and SIGN-UP.  See you in April!

This post was written by Sharon Rudyk, an independent yoga and meditation instructor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Read more about Sharon on her website.

Spring Meditation #2: Yoga to Balance the Liver

Spring

The water murmurs
In the old stone well,
And, a rippling mirror,
Gives back the clear blue sky.
The river roars,
Swollen with the late rains of spring.
On the cool, jade-green grass
The golden sunshine
Splashes.

Sometimes, at early dawn,
I climb
Even as far as Lien Shan Temple.
In the spring
I plow the thirsty field,
That it may drink new life.
I eat a little,
I work a little,
Each day my hair grows thinner,
And, it seems,
I lean ever a bit more heavily
On my old thornwood cane.

~Liu Tzu-Hui, Sung Dynasty, AD 960-1278
[This translation from Beinfield and Korngold, page 160]

With the coming of spring, here is a gentle yoga-based exercise to balance the liver energy in the body.

The energy of the liver (or, “Liver Meridian”) starts at the inside base of the big toe and runs up the inside of the leg, goes through the reproductive organs and flows under the front of the ribs into the liver where it circulates upwards through the lungs.  This energy line controls the eyes and the nervous system.

Part 1:
For those of you who are familiar with “Bridge Pose” then this exercise will make more sense.  If you are not familiar with “Bridge Pose” then check out this description here.

Start: Lie on your back, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor with your heels as close to your sitting bones as possible.  If you can, grab your ankles with your hands.  If you can’t reach your ankles or that is uncomfortable, then place your arms by your sides with your palms facing down.

Exercise: Inhale and lift up through your thighs and pelvis and exhale as you slowly lower down.  Relax for a few breaths and then come up again as you inhale and stretch up as high as you can through the thighs and belly.  Tighten your buttocks then contract a little bit more and really squeeze.  Then relax your body as you slowly lower down.

End: Release your ankles and then lie down on the floor.  Rest and relax completely with your legs stretched out in front of you and your entire back resting on the floor.

Part 2:

Start: While still lying on your back, reach your arms up so that your palms face one another and your fingers are reaching towards the sky.  Take a deep breath.

Exercise: Make fists with your hands and squeeze the muscles in your arms.  Slowly exhale as you bring your fists down towards your chest.

Do this four times—–inhale and reaching up through the arms and exhaling slowly lower your fists down towards your chest

End: Relax on your back with your arms by your sides.

Part 3:

Deep relaxation: Lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your palms facing up.  Set a timer so that you can completely let go for a minimum of 5-minutes.  Relax your body completely and just feel your breath fall into a natural pattern.

SOURCES

Beinfield, Harriet and Efrem Korngold.  Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine.

Gach, Michael Reed and Carolyn Marco.  The Acupressure Stress Management Book.  Acu-Yoga: Designed to Relieve Stress and Tension.