The Power of Flipping Everything On Its Head

by Hannah Greenstreet

Beyond the Western culture of yoga that glorifies handstands on social media and places them on a pedestal as the ultimate goal of asana practice, there is a powerful relationship that opens when we develop an intimate practice with ourselves and inversions. Adho Mukha Vrksasana, the Sanskrit term for handstand, is an advanced pose that can be accessible to all if we break it down in pieces and devote steady practice to progressing. There are a few principles that drive why I personally choose to stand on my head and/or hands at least once a day (or as many times as I can fit in). 

First, focus. When we challenge ourselves enough to literally hold the weight of our body contrary to gravity, we have to conjure up some serious focus. When getting upside down, we can’t check out or think about our to-do list. We are so incredibly present, eyes focused, connecting to where we are in space. What I cherish about the focus required to sustain a head/handstand is that it offers the chance to be totally alive in your body. 

Second, clarity. When we get upside down, it gives us a personal moment of invigorating perspective. It’s like we take ourselves on a personal rollercoaster where we enliven our spirit and see our reality through a different lens. We debunk the ego’s myth that life is exactly how we see it and can recreate our relationship to the world around us from a wholehearted place. 

Third, rejuvenation. This breaks down to the literal flush to the blood and cells created when we fling our legs up toward the sky. It is healing for our physical bodies to break up the order of day to day functioning and find renewal; kind of like internal housecleaning. Physical and mental revitalization is a beneficial result of establishing an inversion practice.

Lastly, and maybe the most obvious, balance. Getting upside down in space calls for ample balance, which is the main reason why inverted poses involve so much practice. When we remove the expectation of achieving the ‘Western-worshipped’ handstand and simply hone in on balancing our body’s relationship to the space around us, we uncover the process of building strength and balance. 

Adho Mukha Vrksasana demands regular practice; it takes commitment to surpass the fears of falling or failing as strength is cultivated to sustain a handstand. It requires the motivation to keep trying and using props to help properly learn how to hold a head/handstand. It’s an ever-evolving challenge worth including in your asana practice. There is infinite opportunity for all yoga students. When we unite our focus and balance through consistent practice, we gain the clarity and rejuvenation that help us illuminate grace and ease within ourselves. We connect to our mat and the earth. Ultimately, we can discover peace and comfort in the fresh perspectives when take the risk to flip everything on its head. Join me on July 15 and 29 for two inversion-specific workshops and gain simple techniques to access inversions at any level.

Yoga Buddy Pass

In the months of June & July, when you and your yoga buddy save 25% on your next (or first) 10-Class Card or 1-Month Unlimited when you come to class together and make your purchase at the same time.  You need not attend all your classes together, just the first, but we all know that getting to class is easier and a whole lot more fun with a yoga buddy! 

Limit one Yoga Buddy Pass per student. Yoga Buddy Pass is not available online. 

Teacher Spotlight: Tara Hostnik

Tahoe Yoga Shala Teacher Spotlight Teacher

Name: Tara Hostnik

Practicing Yoga Since: 2005

 1). Tell us about the first yoga class you took. I was in college and signed up for a yoga class through our student intramural program. I wanted to try something new and never expected the practice to become a lifelong passion. I remember feeling awkward and struggled through a lot of the postures. Some of the postures just felt so uncomfortable. What hooked me was the savasana. I’ll never forget how relaxed I felt and I almost didn’t get up!

 Teaching Yoga Since: 2014

 2). What do you remember of the first yoga class you taught? It was so scary! We had to teach to peers in our training program and I wanted everything to be perfect. I remember planning the class and struggling to figure out how to build something to accommodate a diversity of bodies, abilities and preferences. During my training I learned there are so many reasons people do yoga- for strength, relaxation, socialization, building confidence or to lose weight to name a few. How could I possibly impress everyone? The best part was building my playlist and playing DJ. When the moment came to teach, I was so nervous and it took me about halfway through class before I found my voice and felt comfortable. In the end, it was a huge rush and like most things, I impressed myself for taking a risk and trying something I didn’t think I was qualified for or capable of doing.

3). Who/what are your teachers? Why? As a seasonal outdoor educator and traveler for the past ten years I have moved around a lot or lived in isolated places far away from a traditional yoga studio. Thus I never had a consistent teacher outside of DVDs and online trainings. I have visited many studios in my travels, trying different styles and teachers and spent a lot of time practicing on my own. I am inspired by the outdoors and I suppose the natural world plays a large role in my practice (I am always willing to practice outside)! However, my favorite teachers are Shiva Rea and Stephanie Snyder. Shiva’s classes always felt like a dance and I loved her movements. Stephanie’s classes are heart-centered, rigorous and dedicated to building strength which has improved my abilities as an outdoor athlete. Additionally, Troy McPeak of Peak Beings has been a huge inspiration and teacher of mine. He is one of the most compassionate, thoughtful and non-judgemental people I know and my style is highly rooted in his teachings.

4). In what ways has yoga supported or impacted your life? Yoga has been the center for my spiritual growth, emotional health and physical wellbeing. What started as a means for physical health and stretching turned out to be so much more.  I remember while taking my yoga teacher training in Hawaii I was given the chance to try ecstatic dance. In the middle of the vibrant, dynamic and sweaty experience I started to cry. It had been so long since I had danced and was feeling empowered by the training. I was so happy that crying just felt like a huge release, like I was free.  I walked out of the dance hall to journal and process my feelings. I had a few epiphanies that day but one was that I need to aim for joy every day of my life. Yoga has helped me do this and I try to live by this message every day, knowing that some days will ultimately be better than others. But we aim for joy either way. Just like we aim towards a forward fold, crow or into a headstand. It’s all a process.

 5). What does your current yoga practice include? Why? After arriving to Tahoe Yoga Shala I have begun practicing Ashtanga yoga. I am interested in incorporating more breath work, chanting and philosophy into my personal practice and am thrilled to be a part of the Shala’s Ashtanga community. Additionally, I consider teaching as a part of my practice, to share what has helped me in so many ways. I hope to inspire not only a larger yoga community but a healthy one that is rooted in both self-love and love for others.

6). What currently inspires you? To be completely honest, I am absolutely inspired by Tahoe. This place is special in so many ways and I can’t wait to spend more time playing in the mountains and finding little nooks to practice my yoga. I love the community and hope to inspire a devotion to spiritual growth, physical and emotional wellbeing for the people I meet and interact with, either through yoga or other vehicles for health.

 7). What is your favorite season? Why? Mmmm, that is a hard one. I have always loved fall. Growing up in New England, I looked forward to cooler temperatures, fall colors, football season, the start of the school year and falling into a new routine. I was a nerd and loved organizing my new school supplies and being a student. I have yet to experience summer and fall in Tahoe so I suppose I will find out!

8). What secret helps you to maintain balance and stay healthy? I think it’s important to understand what makes you happy. Sometimes being happy means practicing yoga, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep while other days it might be letting loose at a party or dancing to live music with a cold IPA! Other days it might be going on a solo outdoor adventure or visiting with a friend and engaging in conversation. You are the only person who understands your physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing and you can’t allow the pressures or judgements of society to interfere with following what makes you happy. Don’t feel bad about your needs and pay attention to how certain activities, people or things make you feel. That is what I believe yoga teaches us. It teaches us to pay attention to ourselves on multiple levels and to love ourselves without judgement. If you can integrate what makes you happy into your lifestyle, focus on things that also make you feel good and try not to follow somebody else’s rules, I think you have found your balance.

9). A fun fact most people don’t know about you? I am a huge science nerd and nothing makes me happier than when I get to talk about forest ecology, astronomy or wildflowers to somebody willing to listen.

10). What do you want to share with the Shala community? I am so grateful to be welcomed into this incredible community and hope together we can maintain and grow our compassionate, healthy, inviting and heart-centered group. Namaste.

The Power of Sanskrit & The Present Moment

Live in the present. The idea of living in the present moment is a common goal amongst us, especially yoga practitioners. We seek to be more mindful, more aware and look to the practice of yoga to help us achieve this. If we are not worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, then we are immersed in the beauty of the present moment. That’s not easy to do! Our minds are so busy managing work, family, friends and life that finding ourselves really in the present moment is often short lived. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, tell us that yoga is citta-vritti-nirodhah. Yoga is the quieting of the vrittis (thoughts) of the citta (the mind). The practices of Yoga and meditation teach us how to find clarity, how to become more mindful, and how to connect to our mind through our body.  When engaged in the practice of Yoga we are learning how to live in the present moment. For example, most yoga teachers will invite you to connect to your breath. That simple instruction can help to quiet down the chatter of the mind and offers the opportunity to look inward and truly connect to the present. 

Often yoga classes begin and end with the sound of OM. It is said to be the primordial sound, or the sound of the universe, encompassing all sounds, and all of creation. When we chant OM we connect to the universe, to ourselves and to each other. Chanting OM helps to quiet the mind and come into the present moment. How can such a simple sound have such a profound affect on our mind? That’s the power of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language of yoga and meditation; it’s a spiritual, vibrational language. It has the power, like music, to uplift the heart and soul. The sound of the Sanskrit language has the power to put us at peace and learning Sanskrit can teach us how to live in the present moment.  

On June 10th & 11th I will offer the American Sanskrit Institute's (ASI) Level 1 Immersion at the Tahoe Yoga Shala. The method created by the American Sanskrit Institute uses yoga philosophy to teach you how to achieve present moment awareness. When the senses are completely focused on listening to the sounds, the sight of the alphabet, and the feeling of making the sounds then learning becomes an experience rather than a struggle. At first you’ll become aware of what thoughts (vrittis) are blocking you from experiencing the present. Then you’ll learn a technique for controlling where you place your attention based on the Yoga Sutras. This method has proven to help anyone who wants to learn the language and is a guaranteed way of learning. Even if you’ve never thought of learning Sanskrit, this method can help you to learn and master anything you put your mind to. The experience itself of participation in the Immersion is an experience of using Yoga to truly live in the moment. Vyaas Houston, the founder of ASI, says that learning Sanskrit connects us to the joy we experienced as children. It’s true, the joy and happiness of engaging the sounds of the language in this weekend Immersion can connect you to that peaceful, happy, live in the moment place you are seeking. That’s the power of Sanskrit. 

Learn More About Kacey's Upcoming Sanskrit Immersion HERE

Spring Ayurveda & Flow Yoga with Rachel Meisler

Bring me your tired, your stressed out, overwhelmed, yearning to recover from injury and live pain-free!  Yoga provides an all-inclusive and welcoming place to work on your issues, whatever they may be.  Perhaps you think about going to yoga class but hesitate because of challenges you’re coping with in your body, mind, or emotions.  Actually, NOW is the only time we have, so this is a great time.  And, yoga is completely adaptable to honor and respect special conditions.  

If you are unfamiliar with Ayurveda, this ancient living science - traditional Indian medicine - is a thriving holistic health care system which includes yoga, nutrition, and lifestyle approaches to healing.  Ayurveda and yoga, hand in hand, offer guidelines for our everyday lives and realistic, down-to-earth practices to improve our selves, relationships, work, and enjoyment; nurture our wellbeing; and promote longevity. 

My Sunday at 5:30pm Flow and Wednesday at 4pm Ayurveda Hatha classes adjust according to needs of the students present and consider the other current states.  These conditions exist on multiple levels: for the individual, the community, planet, and universe.  For example, the weather on any given day is a state that we experience on all of these levels simultaneously.  We may therefore choose a more grounding practice when needed, and a more uplifting practice at another time of day, month, season, year, lifetime, era, or epoch!  This is the essence of the application of Ayurveda in Yoga.  Furthermore, as in any yoga practice, the individual has ultimate power and is encouraged to self-regulate along the continuum of effort, discipline, and surrender, creating unique experiences within common poses.

With springtime’s sporadically warm and cold weather and wet heavy flows of snowmelt, we may feel heavy, lazy, overwhelmed, resistant to change, or in need of a push.  Ignite the fire of a yoga practice to burn off winter’s accumulated toxins and melt away stagnation, breaking through damns of energy to allow the natural flow.  

Perhaps if you are in balance, you notice as the days grow longer, you feel more motivated, curious, or inspired.  This is the perfect time to return to yoga or to begin fresh.  Like a seed buried in the dark earth, fed by the snow, and called by the penetrating warmth of the sun to break open and sprout, we may struggle through the aches of cracking open as we grow.  But it is only via this process of courageous transformation that we are ever able to truly bloom and be our most beautiful selves.  

Yoga is a vast body of knowledge, an ocean of wisdom, with countless approaches, variations, and endless room for growth.  Particularly if you feel stuck in a rut in your life somehow, now may be the time to break from the routine and try something new.  

As both yoga and Ayurveda summon the awareness that we are part of Nature, we discover the heart of our own true being in these traditions.  We begin to live more in tune with the rhythms of the universe, bringing us the sense of fulfillment that manifests in contentment.  We wake up with the sunrise and shift our schedules and activities as the seasons change.

Come as you are in this moment, and open yourself to your great potential.  Give yourself the opportunity for a new life, at home in your own body, to embody your dreams, and not just survive but to blossom and thrive, right now. 

Feel free to contact Rachel with any questions, concerns, for a private class or consultation, or just to talk about yoga over a cup of tea.  You can find her at the Tahoe Yoga Shala or through her website, OceanAyurveda.com.  

Donation Based Yoga Classes

For Immediate Release

South Lake Tahoe, California - The Tahoe Yoga Shala is raising donations to support the South Lake Tahoe community. In September 2016, Tahoe Yoga Shala (the Shala) began offering two weekly donation based yoga classes to support local organizations.

"We strive to be a home place where both residents and visitors gather and explore the body-mind connection,” says Laura Josephy, owner of Tahoe Yoga Shala. “I envision the Shala making connections throughout the community in acknowledgement and support of the unique way each organization makes an important difference in our town.”  

Donation classes currently meet on Monday from 3-3:45pm and on Wednesday from 9:30-11am. All are welcome and no one is turned away for lack of donation. The Monday class with Kacey Davy is focused on yoga philosophy giving students a unique opportunity to connect with Sanskrit’s timeless sounds through the chanting of the Bhagavad Gita and other selected texts. The Wednesday Ashtanga Level 1 class explores basic yoga postures and breath practices with the Shala owner, Laura Josephy.

100% of the donations made in place of Shala membership fees benefit a rotating organization. To date the Shala has collected over $2500 in donations that have benefited the League to Save Lake Tahoe, Mitch Underhill Mountain Fund, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless, and Sierra Avalanche Center. During the months of April and May, the Shala will be raising awareness and funds for Firefly Yoga International, a non-profit whose mission is to develop the first international network of yoga teachers trained to provide yoga to trauma survivors at the point of care.

Tahoe Yoga Shala is located at 585 Tahoe Keys Boulevard, Suite F1A. To learn more about donation classes offered at the Shala, please visit www.tahoeyogashala.com.

Prana Vinyasa Yoga

By Crystal Woodward

In the last year the practice of Prana Vinyasa Yoga has blossomed into my life.  My foundation as a yogini has been in styles of yoga that, to me, feel strong and masculine.  As I have begun to open to my own authentic energy and voice, I wanted to call feminine energy into my practice and teaching. For the next chapter in my development, I went looking for a style and teacher who embodied the divine feminine. I found it in the creative, fluid and dance-like approach of Shiva Rea and her signature style, Prana Vinyasa Yoga. 

In Prana Vinyasa I discovered a beautiful place to explore the creative physical movement of vinyasa yoga. I was able to submerge into the feeling of flow in the body and drop into the current of my breath as the ebb and flow of inhales and exhales. This style is like a mandala - rich, circular and complete.  Though the work continues each time I step on my mat, the method encompasses a holistic approach to the yoga practice.  I am grateful for ongoing courses in Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda, meditation and mantra.  These courses inform the myriad of Prana Vinyasa sequences - from foundational work, to the elemental body, to moving through the Chakra system. This diversity has given me the opportunity to be more mindful as to how I am feeling or the circumstances surrounding any given day.  With this awareness I intentionally pick a practice for that day that manifests greater balance and happiness. Beginning to embody Prana Vinyasa has allowed me to open to my creative power and accept all the different areas of my practice and life.

I am delighted to share Prana Vinyasa Yoga with each of you in my weekly classes on Monday and Friday at 5:30pm. Join me for a special Rhythm + Flow: Live Music + Yoga Series.  Let your body move to the rhythm of original electronic music!

Bringing the Outside In

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By Audrey Villanueva

Go inward, bring the outside in. This is a big part of the yoga practice. The winter season is a perfect time for inward reflection. Hibernation is nature moving inward toward the pineal gland, an acorn shaped endocrine gland located in the middle of the two hemispheres of the brain. In energy anatomy terms, the pineal gland is the "Third Eye" that modulates waking and sleeping patterns and other seasonal functions. Balasana, child's pose, is an excellent way to access the inward journey through the 3rd Eye Chakra or 6th Chakra. This chakra controls the various bio-rhythms of the body, and when it wakens, one may feel a pressure at the base of the brain. The 3rd Eye relates to clear seeing and intuition. By learning to focus your consciousness and trust what you see, the yoga practice may deepen and the ability to draw inward becomes more available.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to the inward journey through its discussion of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras explain the eightfold path and define it as Ashtanga, which literally means "eight-limbs." Pratyahara, the 5th Limb, is to withdrawal from the five senses or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and it's stimuli in order to focus on the inward journey. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth. This sets the stage for deeper concentration and helps relieve us from outside distractions thereby bringing the Outside - In.

Moving inward by visualizing the middle of the brain-pineal gland-3rd Eye facilitates pratyahara practice. The winter season when, naturally the rhythm is to hibernate, is an ideal time to move deeper into the practice of slowing down into self-awareness, self-study, and self-discovery. By stimulating the 3rd Eye in poses such as Balasana we can attune ourselves to the body's natural rhythms and allow life to flow more simply by letting go of old habits and patterns that hold one back from moving onward, upward, and inward.

Energy Anatomy

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By Gina Quincy

The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, this term refers to meeting points of subtle energy channels called nadi.  These channels carry Prana (life force) throughout the subtle energy body keeping us vibrant and healthy. There are seven primary Chakras which move along the spine from the tailbone to the crown. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to nerve plexus in the physical body.  Each of the seven main chakras contains bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of well-being.  Each Chakra controls a specific area of our physical, energetic and emotional body.  As we bring attention to each Chakra thru breath, color visualizations, mantras, and clearing statements we can illuminate fears that may be preventing energy from flowing freely.  When we let go of fear by opening and balancing the Chakras we can begin to see our life's purpose clearly.  

Chakra Clarity is like having a clear glass of water in front of you.  As the Sun shines into the glass you see a rainbow refracted onto the wall.  The glass of water is you; your body, your mind and spirit.  The sunlight is the white light of the Divine.  The rainbow is the energy of your True Nature spread out into the world.  As we step into the rainbow - a place of clear-seeing - we see that security, gratitude, happiness, unconditional love, peace, intuition, and source energy is the reality.  Everything else is an illusion.  When you feel negative emotions come up, remember this illusion. Bring yourself back to your breath and see yourself lit up in rainbow colors.  

The last Charka Meditation of the season is this Sunday, December 18th from 7-8pm. Step into Chakra Clarity and receive an energy anatomy "tune-up" that will keeping you dancing through the holiday hustle and bustle with grace and ease. 

Namaste: The Rainbow Light in me sees the Rainbow Light in YOU!

Greetings From Mysore, India

By Kacey Davy

Namaste, greetings to you, from India! Laura and I are in Mysore, the small South Indian city where the posture practice of Yoga that we know today was revived and codified by T. Krishnamacharya. All lineages and modern styles of yoga asana are likely influenced by Krishnamacharya's teachings in Mysore and throughout India. As I move about this town and immerse in my practice each day, I feel a deep reverence for the history of these practices that have transformed my life and am overwhelmed with gratitude. 

Here in India, gratitude for life is displayed everywhere you look. In every home, shop, cafe and even on the streets there are altars to honor the Divine that exists in all. Every day, several times a day, time is spent meditating and cultivating awareness for the Divine. The people here live every day with love, faith, gratitude, and respect. There is so much we can learn from the culture and practices of India.  Especially now in a time when so many people are feeling emotions such as fear or uncertainty about the future of our country. As Thanksgiving approaches let us be thankful for our life and for the lives of others regardless of our differences. Let us focus on finding ways to cultivate kindness and compassion instead of spreading anger and contempt. 

We can look to the practices and philosophy of Yoga to find the tools we need to interact with others. In the first chapter of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, verse 1.33 is powerful teaching that anyone can embody through practice. It says that through conscious cultivation of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity in relation to those who are happy, sad, virtuous and vicious, we develop clarity and serenity in the mind. Through the practice of this sutra, we can choose to cultivate kindness toward those who are happy and extend compassion for those who are suffering. When we meet virtue with joy we offer others the support to continue their virtuous actions. The cultivation of equanimity, even-temperedness, or simply the ability to remain calm with vicious or cruel people brings an end to feelings of hate and anger. Remembering these four keys to connecting with others is a choice we can make to bring peace to ourselves and promote love and gratitude in our relationships and our community at large.