What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga is a system that encompasses both physical and spiritual practices. It is not a religion but rather a guide to living in the world with mindful attention to our actions as they affect us and those around us. The practice is available to anyone and everyone and does not require any particular degree of physical ability. With proper guidance yoga can be practices by seniors, children and anyone in between. However, the physical or “asana” part of the practice is not necessary at all to practice yoga. Meditation, breathing exercises and living one’s life according to ethical principles are all elements of Hatha Yoga, which are no less and in some ways even more important than the physical practice. However, for anyone desiring to explore the physical practice of yoga there are many benefits including increased strength, stamina and flexibility, as well as greater self-awareness to name a few. It is also a great practice for stress management. Finally, the practice of yoga is fun, personal, creative expression, which can always be a part of your life as it can be adapted to time, place, age and circumstance.

What is the purpose of Yoga Practice?

The purpose of yoga in the classical sense is to quiet the fluctuations of the mind in order to be able to access the Divine spirit and reach enlightenment. However, the idea of enlightenment in that classical sense can be seen as a very lofty and somewhat esoteric goal. I really believe the purpose of yoga in our everyday, worldly lives is to help us develop deeper self-awareness so that we can become more loving of ourselves and by extension of others. And as this love grows exponentially it affects positive change within our communities and beyond.

What is the purpose of savasana?

 We come to savasana to quiet the body and the mind. Translated as “corpse pose” it is a meditation on impermanence, the inevitability of death, our own death and the releasing of all that burdens us in this lifetime. For a brief time we can allow ourselves to surrender our bodies and minds to a place of peace.

What is the purpose of Meditation?

 The purpose of meditation is to bring the mind to a single pointed focus of attention thereby quieting all general “noise” that fills the mind most of the time. At its highest level the practice of meditation allows one to live in the world in a constant state of inner freedom and contentment.

Why do we chant OM?

Om is the universal vibration that signifies Isvara or God. We chant Om to create sacred space, to come into relationship with Isvara. When we chant it together, the vibration draws us together as community opening to the Divine within ourselves and each other.

Why is it so important to be in the present moment? How does yoga help us do this?

Being in the present moment frees us from all the habitual behaviors that cloud our perceptions of reality in any given situation. We typically get caught up in all the stories we create to justify or explain ourselves and our life experiences to ourselves. But it becomes an internal monologue with no exit. So if we can pause and bring ourselves fully into this moment (instead of being stuck in the past or in the unknowable future) and really look, really listen to our self and whoever is in front of us at this moment we have the opportunity to break out of that habitual, sealed off place and truly engage in the truth.

Yoga offers us practical techniques to access the now and identify and release our habitual reactivity. With thousands of years of lineage behind us we have access to profound experience and guidance in the practices of yoga. And our dedication to seeking the unveiled essence of our true nature enables us to be in the present ever more consistently.

Pranayama, asana and meditation all practiced mindfully within the guidelines of ethical behavior are designed to help us focus on calming the mind long enough to quiet the noise and begin to really hear the heart and soul. Only then do we become truly present and available to those around us. Only then can we open ourselves up fully to relationships with others.

Needless to say it’s a lifelong practice and I constantly need to check in with my inner self to stay authentic and honest. And it can be hard work. But it’s joyful work, which is why I treasure yoga as a guiding practice in my life. – Jen Marcello (2011 YTT graduate)

What is Restorative Yoga?

Over 4,000 years ago Hatha Yoga (the physical practice of meditation) was created as a method to overcome aches & pains that arise through day to day living.  The intention was to free up & build the practitioner’s physical & mental energy so they may dedicate themselves to higher pursuits.

Restorative Yoga is a modernized form of this practice taught from a restful perspective.  Our overly-stimulating lifestyles that keep the sympathetic nervous system (the fight/flight response) on all the time is known to cause as well as exasperate many, if not all, the health issues we encounter in our life.  This practice carefully combines easy-to-access asanas (static yoga postures) and gentle vinyasas (yoga movements) to restore and balance the function of the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) to release, re-align and refill physical & mental energy. – Mary

Why are my palms/feet so sweaty?

 In my experience, a slippery mat could be the culprit so maybe it’s time to get a new mat that allows you to grip a little better. Some find it helpful to keep a towel near by to wipe away excess moisture in between postures. On a deeper level, sometimes the body sweats and releases fluid as it is changing and shifting. Be observant about your body and yourself and to see if this may be the reason you are sweating. Perhaps your body is detoxifying and becoming purified!  Let this process occur fully – it will pass! – Aarti

I'm not flexible - Can I do Yoga?

Absolutely! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that’s a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible with time.  The key is to honor your body, be open, and be YOU. This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being. – Alanna

Everyone has areas on their body that are more or less flexible then other areas, and yoga is an excellent way to encourage not only flexibility, but also endurance, strength, body awareness, relaxation and compassion. By practicing yoga, my inflexible areas have become more flexible, and with time, I see so many benefits from a consistent yoga practice that move beyond the physical.  By using props, practicing pose modifications, and communicating needs and limitations to your teacher, you will begin to witness your overall transformation from being stiff, to being aware, joyful, strong AND flexible! – Amy

Why do we roll to the right side after shavasana?

It’s all about Ha and Tha.  Sun and Moon.  Male and Female.  Projection and reception.  Activation and relaxation. The left nostril, which is Ida or Yin (feminine, fluid, passive, receptive) stays open which helps to calm the central nervous system after a vigorous (Yang) practice. Also, we take energy or prana in through the body from the left side and release energy away from the body through the right side so rolling onto the right helps to release that which no longer serves us as we complete our practice.  Rolling onto the right side activates the sympathetic (Yang) nervous system and helps to arouse us out of the dreamy internal state of shavasana in preparation to re-meet the external world.  Physiologically, because the heart is on the left, lying on your right side allows the heart to stay on the top and remain open and free of pressure.  When you rise with left on top you “lead with your heart”. – Deborah