Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bhagavad Gita - On & Off the Yoga Mat

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most beloved of Hindu Scriptures. It is an excerpt from the Mahabharata. In almost every Yoga Teacher Training it is one of the main texts that students explore and study. Often times when I teach Yoga class I like to incorporate a theme from the Yoga Sutras, The Chakras, The Bhagavad Gita, The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, Biblical quotes or even a song, something to tie it into the practice so people go beyond the physical exercise.

The Bhagavad Gita tells the story of Arjun from the Panadava family having to accept his Dharma (purpose) of battle with his tyranical cousins from the Kaurava family, also known as the Kurushetra War. Ironically, the Kaurava's are led by Dhritarashtra, who is blind. This blindness is also symbolic for ignorance. The Pandava family are very pale in complexion, almost white, and this is symbolic of purity. The Kaurava family are led by greed and ignorance. While Arjun looks across the battle field he sees his cousins and struggles with accepting his Dharma, as he looks at them with compassion. The size of the Kaurava army is great compared to the small army that Arjun has, but Arjun is a Master Archer and he has Lord Krishna on his side.

While Yoga is not teaching people to fight, in our lives there are times we are up against blindness, ignorance and greed, we have battles, and it is important to look at our opposition with compassion, to put God first in all our battles, and to know that when we assert ourselves for the purpose of the greater good, we are fulfilling our Dharma.

How do we embrace this on the Yoga Mat? We must understand that Yoga Asana and Pranayama exercises are to rid the body of toxins, in order for us to grow deeper in Spirituality. If we practice yoga without peace in our heart, without awareness of Divine love, we are just going through motions. Similar if we go to church, temple, and mosque reciting prayers, and having no love in our hearts, then we are just going through the motions. It is far better to allow these ancient teachings to help us grow spiritually than anything else.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reiki Master

Today was a magical day, as myself and my amazing friend/yoga student/Karate Sensei Joseph, became Reiki Masters!!! For years we both had searched for the chance to do Reiki Master Training, as both of us went to Level two attunements. Reiki is an ancient form of energetic healing, that helps balance, heal, and bring clarity for people. Our Teacher is the wonderful, Mary Henry, who had taken Yoga with me for quite a while. Early on Mary used to share with me her journey with Reiki, and sometimes we used to do Chakra based yoga classes in the morning Yoga classes, to enhance her Reiki Experience. Now a year later, I am doing my Reiki Master Training, and Crystal Healing with her. I am truly grateful for the experience. The entire day, both myself and Joseph were buzzing with Joy, Happiness, and Gratitude. Attuning yourself to the vibrational energy of the Universe, and of God, reminds you how amazing Life really is. I truly felt like I was floating. Thank you so much Mary, your Reiki Attunements, and your wisdom of Crystals, the intuition and knowledge you shared will be forever cherished. I know I am blessed to have had this amazing day, thank you so much! Lately, I had been under some unexpected stressful situations, and rather then give stress the upper hand, I chose to look forward and direct my life in a positive & productive path, and this experience was exactly what I needed. Reiki has a way of bringing "Truth" to the surface, and while I left this magical day walking on a cloud, I was met with an unexpected storm, and I am grateful to have found resolve, and an amazing Rainbow full of self-respect, honesty and composure as my Pot of Gold.

Mary will be giving a special Crystal Healing Series Workshop at the Excel Yoga Studio in the BX, on Thursday nights, so if you are interested in taking your journey to a new and exciting level, visit the Excel Page for more details.

Thank you again for being an amazing Teacher! And thank you Joseph for sharing this incredible experience with me too!

Pictures: Ambria, Mary and Joseph......Ambria and Joseph (We are glowing), ....Ambria and Mary

Summer Solstice 2011- Yoga in Times Square

This Tuesday June 21st marked the 2011 Summer Solstice. This is the day the sun shines the longest, and NYC brings Mind-Body-Harmony to the centre of the Big Apple, Times Square. For anyone to find peace in the busiest place in NY is amazing, and yoga at its finest. With people watching all around, concrete below, tall illuminated buildings around, the beautiful sunny sky above and a sea of Yogis ready to practice, I laid out my "free" mat. Many students of mine both in the city and in the Bronx at Excel Yoga, had decided to participate in the amazing event. While I had been registered for the evening one, I knew that it would make more sense for me to do the afternoon session since I had to teach Yoga 3-8pm. After my 10 am Yoga Session, I headed to Times Square, where I saw one of my lovely students, Doris. We both were happy to be there, got our free mats, and laid out our mats on a slanted part of the concrete. Soon, Nicole and Mary arrived too, but they were late to get the "free" yoga mats, so wound up practicing on two small hand towels. The class was Bikram, with Partick, a very funny and engaging teacher in Tiger Strip Spandex Shorts. Ironically, a few years back when I did the Summer Solstice, I took class with him too. It was truly a magical experience, and I was happy to have shared the event with Doris, Nicole and Mary. None of us actually practice Bikram, but the entire event showed us all that power of collective consciousness, and the power of Yoga. No matter the style, the teacher, the location, this ancient practice of yoga instills positive energy in those who are receptive to it.

Pics: Ambria, Nicole, Doris and Mary (Eagle Posing), Ambria, Nicole, and Doris Eagle Posing again, and Doris and Ambria Camel Posing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Indian Classical Dance Performance

One of the traditional Dances in Indian Culture, originating in South India, is Bharatanatyam. This beautiful Dance is set to Carnatic Music (Indian Classical Music). Bharata Natyam comes from the words "Bhava" (Expression), "Raga" (Music), "Tala" (Rhythm), and "Natya" (Classical Indian Musical Theatre). Traditionally it would be performed in the Mandir (Hindu Temple) by the Devadasis (women considered servants to God/Married to a deity). This Dance usually celebrates a story in the music with expressive movement, passionate facial expressions, lyrical footwork and mudras. It is very easy to witness various Yoga Poses in this style of Dance. Almost every Indian Girl usually learns this beautifully expressive Dance, myself included. Some girls grow up to be incredible Bharatanatyam Dancers, one of them is my friend Alisha, and a lovely young girl who studies Yoga with me, Meganna. Recently, the students of the amazing Sonali Skandan put on an absolutely amazing performance of exquisite Bharatanatyam Dance here in NYC. The Show began with the young tikes doing the dance to Ganesha, and progressed with the senior dance students who wowed the crowd. I have to say while every performance was lovely, my friend Alisha stole the show with her incredible facial expressions and beautiful movements. The Show was truly incredible, with wonderful MC's, beautiful dance sequences, and enchanting Live Indian Classical Musicians. Thank you ladies for putting on an amazing Show.

Pictured: Ambria & Alisha

Quotes for the Day - TRUTH

"The Truth shall set you free" ~ Jesus

"Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold." ~Leo Tolstoy

"There is no god higher than truth." ~Mahatma Gandhi

"Truth is rarely writ in ink; it lives in nature." ~Martin H. Fischer

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad." ~Aldous Huxley

Monday, June 20, 2011

Yoga Jewelery

As Yoga is a Mind-Body-Spirit experience, it is safe to say that everyone on this planet has a unique Mind-Body-Spirit. While we are all made of love, love can be expressed in so many ways. As Yoga is liberation of the soul, for an artistic spirit, liberation can be found in art and all forms of creative expression. One of the most amazing things is to watch peoples individual creative expression in their fashion as Yogis. You may see people wearing fancy mala beads, or simple ones, perhaps popular brand name yoga attire, or clothes that look comfy and simple, or clothes that have yoga phrases all over, or funny phrases and logos. I know I enjoy wearing bright colors, pants with hand painted designs, crystal jewelery and hand made work. I am so blessed and grateful because often times my students have bought me amazing gifts like yoga clothes, jewlery, shawls, candles, beautiful books, and much more, but sometimes students take the time to make gifts.

Recently one of my youngest students, the beautiful Milta brought me gorgeous earrings that she MADE herself!!! Milta is extremely talented, she has a regular Yoga practice that is incredibly strong, she is a green belt in Karate, she does Mambo, she does track, she is an artist, gets excellent grades in school, and is truly a delight to be around, plus she is high energy which I LOVE, and now to add to the list she is a jewelry designer/maker! When I observe the way she conducts herself, I smile and I consider her a Mini Me. As a teacher, she is the type of student you would want in her class as she inspires, listens, encourages, gives her best, and has fun.

When I list all the things that this amazing girl does, I have to say that she does it with determination to give her personal best. For people who have never met this young lady you can see how amazing she is by her work is in her jewelry design. The earrings she made for me look like they should be in a fancy store on display, they are beautiful. When I first saw them, I instantly said to myself, "WOW, my new favorite pair of earrings!!!" I wore them all day, and sadly lost one of them, so I was kind of sad when I took the picture. I plan on using the other one as a gorgeous pendant. Thank you Milta for the beautiful gift, and for being such a RAY OF LIGHT, your talent amazes me all the time!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Yoga Teacher that Instructs Kickbox

What do you get when you take a Yoga Teacher and have her Instruct Kickbox Class? I still don't know the answer to that one, except to say that my calves are sore. This week Ambreezy Breeze has had the pleasure to be exposed to the world of Kickbox. With only taking one Kickbox Class ever, by the most amazing Kicbox teacher Leon, I was asked to cover his 5 classes in his absence, 3 in the Excel Yoga and 2 in the city. This Saturday marked my Kickbox debut, and sadly I had been suffering with intense stomach illness due to food poisoning, I literally was in the restroom 4 times just before the class, it truly is a miracle I had the energy to teach that class along with the 4 other Yoga classes I taught that day. I introduced myself to the students, many who know me as their Yoga Instructor, and some don't. I made sure to remind them, I am not much of a kicker or a boxer, but we will sweat and have an amazing class. We did have an amazing class, at least that has been the unanimous response from the group in between exercises. Kickbox helps students have a wonderful cardiovascular workout, and develop explosive power in the muscles. I have been teaching the class as more of a Semi Kickbox, Boot Camp-ish, Zoga-laties style class. With a lot of emphasis on the core, we also do jumping jacks, kicks, blitz foot ball drills, punches, more core, more core, and some more core. While I am grateful for the learning experience, I will be thankful to have Leon Back. After Thursday my muscles are going to really need and be grateful for a Yoga class.

Community Yoga Class with Armondo

This year marked the launch of the Zoga Yoga Teacher Training Program. While I had been working on this teacher training since last year, and anticipated launching it in the Fall of 2011, the Universe wanted otherwise. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to launch the first program alongside Michael Baez at the Bamboomoves BX location (Newly Named Excel Yoga), and lead these 8 new Yoga Instructors on their newest chapter of their journey. After months of cleverly crafted Teacher Training that exposed students to Teaching Methodologies, Yoga Philosophy, Anatomy, Subtle Body Awareness, Testing and much more, students are now ready to teach "Community Classes". These classes are open to the community, discounted at $5, and come with incredible value. The first Teacher Trainee to teach was the outstanding Armondo. Armondo is also husband of Denise, and a fellow Fire walker. Ironically, Armondo is the newest to the practice of Yoga out of the 8 Teacher Trainees but you would never guess it if you witnessed his practice. He has come to develop an incredibly strong Yoga Asana Practice that leaves him ready for camera shots in every pose.

The community class had a beautiful turn out of friends and supporters of Armondo. While I was feeling incredibly sick, I wanted to participate in the first Community Class of the group. Armondo played beautiful music and led the class in a wonderful practice. Towards the beginning of class I actually became tearful, I felt the powerful impact that Armondo's instruction was having on the entire class, the vibrational energy that his humility and love had helped create, and it was like an "A-HA" moment, this was part of the reason I wanted to create a Teacher Training Program. He was amazing. His sequence was mindful, his opening meditation was inviting, his attention to new students needs was absolutely beautiful, his pacing and incorporation of modifications was lovely, and as always his demonstration was fantastic! The funny thing was that Sunday had been day three of a horrible reaction to food poisoning for me, so I was weak, and Armondo's class made me feel better. At the end of class during Savasana, Armondo guided us into a beautiful peaceful Savasana. I felt as though a wave of light had swept over my body, it was amazing!

The goal of the 200 Hr Zoga Yoga Teacher Training Program is to Harmonize the Mind, Body and Spirit, to create teachers that inspire this opportunity in whatever yoga class situation that are faced with. Armondo did just that, I was so proud and happy! Community Classes are a beautiful way to support and up and coming Yoga Instructor. Community Classes are on Sundays at 3:30 at Excel Yoga in Pellham Bay, BX. Thank you Armondo for a lovely class.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yoga at Om with Eli

Currently my schedule is teaching Yoga every day, but Thursday is my free morning, so usually I like to take Dharma's Master Class. This Thursday I was running late, and my body was feeling somewhat tired from this new onslaught of heat in NYC, so I was debating. I decided to venture to a well known studio and take a new class. On the way to Manhattan, I was still debating, as I love taking Dharma's class, but I realized I was tired, so I went to Om. Om Yoga was started by Cyndi Lee. It is a studio near Union Square that has several studios inside. The class I was taking was the "Express" Open Level Class, because I had to teach later that afternoon. We were in the sky room, a studio space that has amazing wall to wall Windows on two sides of the room, pale colored walls, and a baby blue painted ceiling. The class was filling up, so I placed my mat near the Windows. The room is a long rectangular room, so the way the mats are configured was mats facing the center, so we are facing each other. In walks the Teacher, Eli who was subbing for the original teacher. Eli sat right in front of me in the center of the room. Eli has a very soft spoken voice, sat down and began with three Om's. He started to lead us into his Vinyasa Sequence, and I started to feel sad, like I had wished I was at Dharma's. I knew that my mind was running, so I had to calm that, and find a sense of presence. Throughout the class, I noticed that he walked around, provided verbal cues, and adjusted people with no demonstration, except at the end of class. I also felt as though the regular students in the class were loving every second of the class. One lady even winked at me at the end of class. I had hoped that he would adjust me, but I know that some Instructors don't bother adjusting me. He invited students to take whatever variation of the pose they needed, since it was an Open Level Class. Halfway through class, I noticed that his sequence was very similar to my Level 1 Yoga Class, and again my mind started to run, I started to feel bad that my dedicated students at Bamboomoves, BX, now newly renamed "Excel Yoga" have a level 1 class that in Manhattan would be considered "Open Level". The words in my head...."Oh Man, maybe I am too hard of a teacher." Again, I had to quiet my mind, focus on my breath and flow through the practice. Eli gave some lovely verbal cues, his awareness of alignment was obviously strong.

This experience only further solidified my opinion on the debate of whether it matters who the teacher is for a Yoga Class. Some say that the practice of Yoga is only about the practice, and while there is truth to this, we should be open minded, I notice that these people are the same people who have their own favorite teachers too. We all have a style of yoga that resonates with us, an Instructor that inspires us, and a studio that we feel at home in, because we are energetic beings. Different Energy works best with each individual. Also, in India where Yoga originates, it is known that your Guru is Your Guru, your practice, and how you learn is defined by your Guru. It is the Guru's job to bring you into light & out of darkness, to teach and guide you, to inspire you. It is more than just anatomically placing your body in asana, but rather, connecting your breath with your body and most importantly your spirit. While here in the West when we sign up for an Express Class, we are clearly not seeking a Guru, it is still an experience that has the potential to leave us to want more. Any yoga class is an experience that can and should teach us and guide us. Thus, in my opinion, from my culture, and my awareness of Yoga, it is true that the Yoga Instructor is imperative in an individuals Practice, if it is not so, we would never be able to note who our preferred Instructors are, and for some, who our Guru is.

I am grateful for the experience of learning from Eli, and many other talented Yoga Instructors, at any chance I get. I am also appreciative of the friendly staff at Om, and beautiful Space they have. It is wonderful to see that people make time in the middle of their day to take a Yoga class. Thank you Om, and Thank you Eli.

Photo: Eli from Om Yoga & Ambria

Yoga with Denise

I have been meaning to post this post for a long time now, to highlight an excellent Yoga Instructor. Denise has been taking Yoga at Bamboomoves, BX for a long time, and last year became a certified Yoga Instructor. Since last summer, she has gone on to become an incredible Yoga Instructor. She teaches the Gentle Yoga class, and Level 1. I also had Denise cover a class for me in Manhattan last Christmas when I was away. Denise has an amazing soothing voice, a gentle sweet heart, and a compassion that makes her a wonderful Yoga Instructor. During Teacher training I had mentioned to her that she would be a wonderful Gentle Yoga Instructor, initially, she was not so happy with my intuitive observation. What many people do not understand is that, to be a Gentle Yoga Instructor is harder than to be an advanced Yoga Instructor. It takes patience, understanding of the asana, and a compassionate heart, Denise has all of these rare qualities. This year when I had broken my toe, I had the pleasure to take Denise's Gentle Class. Her cues were so beautiful, her adjustments were precise and her attention to my need to modify was lovely. It is really beautiful to take a class from a student who you once taught, it is magical. The amazing thing about Denise is that she is very versatile. She can teach Gentle, Level 1, Kids Yoga, and even Belly Dance. Soon she will be adding preNatal to her list of talents. Thank you Denise for being an amazing Yogi colleague, a fellow fire walker, and an amazing friend.
Photo: Denise at her Teacher Training Graduation 2010