What is it to be a Yogi?

PC: @LOLOANDTHELENS

PC: @LOLOANDTHELENS

by Crystal Woodward

As the Seasonal Yoga Living Immersion I have been imagining draws closer, my mind swirls with creative potential and the imagining turns to planning and action.  What is it to be a yogi? The best place to begin is with your own unique answer to the question; why do I do yoga? To this question there are as many answers as there are shades of a human.  I want to be healthy, lose weight, be happy, heal from trauma, try something new, find peace, experience ease in my body, manage stress and so many other heartfelt desires. Eventually with dedicated and prolonged practice, I believe these intentions lead us to deeper self-awareness.  This awareness begins in our outer most layer, our physical body. If you decide to continue pursuing yoga after this first step, the second, third and subsequent steps arise naturally. These steps become the road travelled on a literal Journey to Self, consciousness and potential moments of divine enlightenment. This journey will challenge and change you, ask you to be honest with yourself and clear the lens of your perception. Would you like to be a yogi on this journey? 

In my upcoming Four-Season Immersion I will share what I have gained on this path and offer you a way to become a living yogi.  Incorporating the elements and seasons in my daily posture, self-care and meditation practices are just a few aspects of the yoga tradition that I have woven into my yogi lifestyle. The Journey to Self is a journey in working on oneself.  To be a yogi first and foremost you need a consistent physical practice. Most of us need a moment to reconnect with and step back into our bodies. This is why yoga is most commonly associated with movement and shapes. The physical movements of yoga are a doorway into awakening the body to the flow of life force energy that moves within and links each shape together in a dance. 

A daily practice gives you an opportunity to check-in each day: how do I feel?  why am I feeling that way? what choices can I make to feel different? Immersion participants will learn two short home practices to balance the energy of each of the four seasons. These home practices become a part of your self-care toolkit. For example, when you have a lot of energy a solar heat building practice may feel inviting. On other days a slower, more lunar practice may feel more appropriate.  Sometimes we just need to rest and restore and on these days we can pull in a Yin or Yoga Nidra practice. The seasons also play a role on the style of practice to which we are most drawn. We are currently in the fire element summer season. We can literally feel the heat surrounding and coming off of us. Throughout the summer months of our journey we align with the water element to support us in maintaining balance.  A fluid and playful practice will help cool and soothe the overactive fire that can lead to irritation and sharpness in our attitudes. 

Much of the self-care we do as yogis is aimed to support ourselves through the continued work of our journey.  Most of these practices are quite enjoyable, full of self-love and leave you feeling good. These self-care rituals involve diet, lifestyle choices and self-study.  Journaling about your daily life routine is a form of self-study we will explore in the Immersion. With an understanding of your typical day you can begin to slowly add practices in support of your yoga journey. For example what changes to your evening routine will support your morning practice?  Do you need to go to bed earlier, get up earlier and/or have healthier lifestyle practice to feel better in the morning? To this routine we add self-love practices like oiling the body, tongue scraping and drinking warm citrus water. I will share just a few practices each season so that you can truly integrate each of these refinements into your daily routine. Something as small as drinking warm water each morning can take time to become as natural and basic as brushing your teeth.

As yogi we get much of our self-care practices from Ayurveda, yoga’s ancient sister science.  Thousands of years ago humans ate fresh seasonal whole foods and learned which foods and herbs could be used for healing.  In our modern age of fast food, preservatives, pesticides and prescription medication, a return to this simplistic way of living can feel like quite a shift!  Throughout the Immersion we will come together and cook a whole food organic meal for each season. By sharing the meal created with our own hands and sitting and talking yoga with other yogis a community is created. We all need allies, yogi friends that understand the awakening you are going through and people to talk to about consciousness and the bumps of the journey.  Trainings and immersions are a fun way to meet like-minded new friends!    

Lastly, the doorway of posture practice may lead you to philosophy and meditation, the primary tools through which we reach for enlightenment.  There are many different ways to approach meditation. We will explore Japamala mantra meditation, walking meditation and Yoga Nidra as techniques for sitting still with yourself, clearing your mind and dive into the depths of yourself. Together as a group, and in small groups, we will discuss yoga philosophy and concepts and continue to inquire into our ourselves, our reasons for practicing and just what this yoga thing is all about!

The Seasonal Living Yoga Immersion begins October 4-6th. This Immersion will offer you a strong foundation to work from and return to again and again on your journey to Self.  Early bird registration rates for the full Four-Season Immersion as well as the single Autumn Immersion end September 6th. Full schedule details and online registration available on the Shala’s website.  Stay tuned for information about free seasonal living talks at the Shala. Ready to learn more? Questions? Email Crystal to schedule a free 20-minute conversation.

Donation Classes Benefit Gateway Mountain Center

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The Shala is proud to announce that the Gateway Mountain Center will benefit from all funds raised at its weekly by-donation class every Sunday at 5:30pm. This class is open to all-levels. All are welcome!!

Learn more about the Gateway Mountain Center by visiting their website…

Mission/Vision

Gateway Mountain Center is where youth of all backgrounds Learn, Heal and Thrive. We foster a sense of wonder, connection and inquiry.  With spirited, adventure-learning we help youth transform their self-awareness through connections with self, nature and community.

Core Values

Connection heals.  We look for ways to strengthen connections in mind and body, ignite passions, and engage the joy of discovery.  As systems thinkers, we understand that connecting with the Life Force heals, inspires, and teaches.


Disconnect Is The Problem.  Connection Is The Solution.  

Eco-Literacy. Scientific Inquiry. Mind-Body-Awareness. 

Adventure-Learning. Interdisciplinary. Holistic.

Humanistic. Integrated. Informed. Inspired.

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 1st & 2nd 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 and Register Online HERE

Donation Classes Benefit Alpine Watershed Group

Every two months the Shala selects a new local organization to support through its weekly by-donation class on Sunday at 5:30pm. In the months of March and April, 100% of donations made will support Alpine Watershed Group. Cash or check donations only please. All are welcome!!

Mission Statement:

Alpine Watershed Group works to preserve and enhance Alpine County's watersheds for future generations through education, collaboration, and implementation of projects.

What is AWG?

Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) is the community-based environmental organization focused on preserving and enhancing Alpine County's watersheds. For nearly 20 years we have been working to create opportunities for Alpine County residents and visitors to participate in meaningful environmental stewardship programs. We conduct water quality monitoring, implement meadow restoration projects, and educate and engage our community members on promoting watershed health.

Located just south of Lake Tahoe, Alpine County holds the headwaters of five rivers—the Carson, Mokelumne, Stanislaus, South Fork American, and Upper Truckee. The majority of Alpine County is managed by state and federal agencies, with 96% of the county designated as public land. With only 1,200 residents spread over the county’s 700 square miles, Alpine County is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Please visit AWG’s event calendar to find opportunities to help steward our incredible natural resources.

Japa Meditation

by Crystal Woodward

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Japa is a form of meditation done using the repetition of a mantra, for example OM or om shree maha lakshmi namaha. A mantra is a word or a sound repeated to aid concentration. Typically Japa is practiced using the aid of a mala bead necklace to further direct attention toward a single place of focus, in this case the mantra itself.  A complete mala consists of 108 beads while a smaller mala has 54 or 26 beads.  Malas can be made with various materials but most are include semi-precious stones, crystals or seeds.  A mala is special and sacred, and should be treated as such. The mala should never just be cast onto the floor or tossed in a pile. A mala deserves the care of  something that holds a vibration of our dreams.  Some believe that a personal mala should have a special bag and others should not see your mala. Others believe a mala should be worn around the neck so that the day’s intentions stay close to the heart.  In the center of each mala is a slightly larger bead often referred to as the Guru or God Bead.  The Guru Bead is used to create intention within the wearer and to be a reminder of the motives for sitting in meditation. There is also a tassel at the end of most traditional mala necklaces that lays below the Guru Bead. The tassel is said to represent one-thousand petals of a crown chakra lotus flower.

When a mantra is repeated the yogi can use the sound vibration as an anchor for their awareness that can draw them into a deeper state of meditation.  Mantra can be a great entrance into meditation because there is more happening on the external physical plane to support the mind in being present in the moment; speaking and moving a bead with the hand.  Mantra can be practice aloud, whispering, muttering to one’s self or mentally. It is generally easiest to begin practicing Japa aloud however, it is believed that mental repetition of a mantra is the most potent.  

When you sit for Japa, close your eyes and bring the Guru Bead either to the heart or third eye and pour in your intentions - hopeful and powerful manifestations and prayers for your day. This can also be a time to make associations with the specific mantra about to be preformed.  Holding the mala in their right hand, the yogi begins to circulate the mantra, spinning the bead in each finger as the garland moves.  I find that this spinning is a great meditation tool, when the mind wanders throughout the Japa practice the feeling of the spinning bead in the fingers draws my mind back into the meditation practice.  The right hand moves the garland with the thumb and middle finger. Using the index finger is not recommended as this finger is associated with the ego.  If when going around the whole mala the yogi would like to continue their mantra practice they will hold the last bead closest to the Guru Bead and flip the mala over, to go back over the way they just came, so as never to pass over the Guru Bead out of respect for all of the gurus or teachers.  Traditionally malas and a specific mantra were given to a student by a teacher.  In our modern life this is not always possible.  Go ahead and choose a mantra that speaks to you and feels special to you. If you are crafty you could make one!  When picking a mantra do a little research, know what the mantra means and why you would chose it. If you get stuck, ask a trusted yoga teacher for guidance in choosing your mantra.  Try a few and when one feels right, stick to it.  

Mantra is powerful and we will want to work consistently with only a few mantras at a time.  Yoga is about repetition and practice to get results. Keep at it and begin to slowly add Japa into your daily routine. Start with once or twice a week and practice more often with time. Japa meditation calms the senses. At the end of the mantra repetition, the yogi may find it easier to the sit in silence and meditate in the residue of the vibration.  This is a practice that I have added into my daily routine and has really helped me deepen my meditation practice.  I would love to teach you more about this practice in person at my weekly Japa meditation class.  This class is about 20 minutes long and is offered at no cost. It is held each Saturday after my 9:30 am Flow: All-Levels class at the Shala.  Come to both the Flow class and the Japa meditation or arrive at 11am for just the meditation piece.  I hope to meditate with you! 

Why Mysore Style?

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by Annie Davidson

When I went to my first Mysore class, I picked it because the time worked. I had no idea what Mysore meant (although in my American naïveté I thought it meant I might get sore!). I remember Kacey asking me if I had done any yoga before. I said, “Of course! I had done yoga for years and I ‘knew’ the poses.”

Over two years later, I can confidently say that Mysore has transformed my body, mind, and spirit - no joke, no exaggeration. Now, if you asked me, I’d say I am still learning the poses, even the very first sun salutation! I rediscover my body, mind, and spirit every day. I can do things I never thought this middle-aged body could do and still I have so much more to learn. 

For me, the biggest difference - as compared to how I practiced before with led classes - is that Mysore is MY practice. The approach allows me to truly own my practice and this means it has deepened me in every way. I can take it wherever I go - hotel gyms, visiting family, outside, inside.  I am constantly surprised by doing things I never thought I could - like standing on my head for extended time. And along the way I have never been injured or scared off because I get so much support from the amazing, wise teachers who have committed to this journey, too.

I’m deeply grateful to Kacey and Laura for their loving kindness, support and HUMOR in my first two years. I look forward to living the rest of my life with the practice. If you want to explore the universe that is you, step on your mat with the Mysore approach at Yoga Shala. 

Donation Class for Lake Tahoe Humane Society

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Katarra is a 10 year old pure bred Alaskan Malamute. She needs a home as an only dog as she is choosy about her dog friends. She needs to be kept on a leash whilst out walking and on a runner when left in a yard because like most Malamutes she is great at escaping.   Katarra is available for adoption at El Dorado Co. Animal Services – S. Lake Tahoe

Katarra is a 10 year old pure bred Alaskan Malamute. She needs a home as an only dog as she is choosy about her dog friends. She needs to be kept on a leash whilst out walking and on a runner when left in a yard because like most Malamutes she is great at escaping.

Katarra is available for adoption at El Dorado Co. Animal Services – S. Lake Tahoe

In the months of November and December, the Shala's donation based classes will benefit Lake Tahoe Humane Society.  

Lake Tahoe Humane Society Mission: “Dedicated to enhancing the lives of animals in our community through service, education, and, stewardship.”

Find more information on their website at www.laketahoehumaneandspca.com

Attend our weekly by donation (cash or check only please) class to support this resource in our community.

Ashtanga Improv: All-Levels on Sunday at 5:30pm with Laura

The Art of Ashtanga

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THE ART OF ASHTANGA

by Shelley Zentner

When my yoga teacher, Laura Josephy asked me if I’d be interested in drawing every pose in the Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series for her teacher training manual, I jumped at the opportunity. I love drawing the human figure. The challenge of making 75 studies felt like an extension of my own yoga practice and an opportunity to deepen my understanding of anatomy. What I hadn’t anticipated was the profound nature of the journey, both artistically and personally. I’m learning so much from the repetition and discipline required to work with this much consistency. The fine nature of the drawing style requires a level of concentration and absorption I haven’t experienced since I was an art student. I have a yoga anatomy book under my easel, along with David Swenson’s seminal Practice Manual for reference.

Uniting other disciplines with art is not a new venture for me. I graduated from the University of the West of England in 1997, with a degree in Art and Visual Culture. The program was an experimental blend of studio art, philosophy, theology, politics and history. It suited me because I love ideas as much as I love making art. To me, they are inextricably linked. I’ve always had a very broad range of academic interests, and am not and expert at anything - I just have a childlike curiosity about things and find connections intriguing.

This curiosity has led me to combine art with many different fields of study, such as science and cultural politics. I also use my art for social and political activism and founded the local group Tahoe Activist Artists in 2017. The imagery that manifests in my work is usually centered on the human form although I like to spend time outdoors, communing with nature. I fill sketchbooks with observations of landscape and nature, working out ideas and emotions with words and images combined.

I first came to Ashtanga around 12 years ago, not long after I moved to Tahoe from Wales. My husband and I had met whilst bouldering our way around Canada and the US. I didn't have my work visa yet, so I took a few classes at Lake Tahoe Community College for something to do and to connect with like-minded people. I took oil painting and figure drawing with Phyllis Shafer and Ashtanga with Amrito Cross. I was too committed to climbing to maintain a regular practice though, and soon ended my daily practice after the quarter was finished.

I began practicing yoga again last October after I realized that I had to let go of climbing after 21 years. I was diagnosed with endometriosis and breast cancer in 2015, and the treatments, trauma and surgeries have changed my life. The transformative nature of the disease has presented me with what I call the ‘dark gift’. Meditation and a new spiritual practice brought me to the realization that I needed physical activity which nurtured my body and soul in a way that climbing no longer did.

Ashtanga initially attracted me because it reminded me of a long, technical boulder problem. Visualization, memorization of sequence, and fine, meditative, detailed work balanced with the big movements or gestures are the qualities of bouldering and art that I love. I find this again in yoga, with a different language that translates to the same thing.

When I can practice regularly, I feel at one with the world. The nature of Mysore style classes allows for a personal journey, supported by caring teachers. I feel part of a community again, and I also enjoy occasional Yin and flow classes. My body feels strong and supple, and I feel nurtured and empowered. The athletic nature of this practice satisfies my need to be physically energetic. The spiritual, meditative aspect of the practice calms my mind, makes me feel connected to the universe, and helps release the tension of my body.

I’m profoundly grateful to have found the Shala, my teachers, and to have the opportunity to explore my practice in more depth through art. It makes me happy to know that the drawings will continue in their journey as a teaching tool, and find purpose in the education of a new generation of instructors.

Shelley Zentner is a professional artist, wife, mother and instructor at Lake Tahoe Community College. Learn more at www.shelleyzen.us

Shelley’s Drawings will be available to view and purchase at our Art of Ashtanga event on November 11 at 6pm.

Manager Spotlight: Sally Sjolin

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Name: Sally Sjolin

Practicing Yoga Since: A long time

1). Tell us about the first yoga class you took?

I lived in San Francisco two blocks from the Guru Ram Das Ashram which is housed in a beautiful victorian. The Ashram was founded by a co-op community of students and teachers and is now known as the Kundalini Yoga Center. I remember walking into the building and being seduced by the smell of food cooking. I signed up for a beginner series and learned that they had a community meal each evening after class. At the time, I was living a stressful corporate lifestyle and was craving balance and interactions with mindful people. I went to class at the Ashram 2 nights per week until I moved from SF.

2). What do you remember of the first yoga class you taught?

Last January, I started managing the Shala which gave me the opportunity to be more involved with the yoga community that I love.

In June, I got very lucky and was accepted into Tim Miller’s Ashtanga Yoga Primary Series Teacher Training in Encinitas. Because this door opened, I am currently apprenticing/assisting one day per week during Mysore class. I have become surprisingly unattached to the outcome. I love yoga and want to learn as much as possible. Thank you fellow Mysore students for allowing me to learn by pushing on you. ;-) I will also take the Tahoe Yoga Shala 200-hr teacher training which begins in April.

3). Who/what are your teachers? Why?

Laura and Kacey, because they are amazing and I love them. They offer a safe space to practice and grow. The Shala Mysore program is growing and thriving. It’s the shared commitment and the love and support from teachers and fellow students that motivate me to practice every day.

I’ve also been able to spend time with the wonderful teachers at Ashtanga Yoga Center in Encinitas. It was eye opening to study at Tim’s studio with people who have been practicing and teaching for so many years. It’s not uncommon to see practitioners side by side doing 3rd series or others working on 4th. The community is inviting, happy to share space and teach no matter which series you are practicing. The energy at AYC is magical and inspiring, but there is so much to learn.

4). In what ways has yoga supported or impacted your life?

Yoga has been a part of my life for a long time, but did not become a lifestyle and spiritual path until recently. Practicing daily has had a huge impact on my body and mind. It has opened my heart, helped me gain physical and mental strength and has reduced anxiety. It’s meditation, spiritual movement, truth, love, and a path to peace. But it’s rarely that simple, because the practice meets me right where I am on any given day. It can be challenging to keep my mind calm when faced with fear, doubt or impatience. Yoga has become a comforting ritual and for me and is ultimately an act of devotion, trust and faith. When I become unmotivated, I remind myself that dedication is a choice.

5). What does your current yoga practice include? Why?

I practice Ashtanga Mysore Style 6 days per week. Mixed in with my Asana practice is pranayama, meditation, chanting and Sanskrit. Like many things in life, it started out of necessity. I was struggling with anxiety caused by a heart condition. I was told by my doctor to stop exercising and not elevate my heart rate, but yoga was ok. Obviously, that doctor had never done Ashtanga because it’s really not that easy. One of my earliest observations was that Ashtanga is a breathing practice and that focusing on breath during Asana would calm my mind and help reduce the anxiety. This was much easier to accomplish in the Mysore room with a self-led practice. Now that my heart is fixed and my anxiety is mostly gone, I still practice daily.

6). What currently inspires you?

My dog Lizzi who has been fighting cancer, but continues to love and make the most out of life despite what she goes through.

7). What is your favorite season? Why?

I love Spring. Mostly because there are baby birds, but also because it’s such a beautiful season in Tahoe.

8). What secret helps you to maintain balance and stay healthy?

Taking time for myself. This has been a learning process, but it’s one of the most important things that I do to keep myself balanced and sane.

9). A fun fact most people don’t know about you?

I love wildlife and have been known to do dumb things to observe them more closely. I wouldn’t say that these encounters were fun, but they were definitely exciting. I’ve been bluff charged by a Bull Moose in Canada, a Bull Elk in Yellowstone and a Male Lion in South Africa. I was trying to take photos and got too close.

10). What do you want to share with the Shala community?

I’m so grateful to be a part of the Tahoe Yoga Shala community. I’ve recently had the opportunity to take a class from each of the teachers at the Shala. What a great experience, they are all wonderful. We are so lucky to have such an experienced team of diverse teachers, each offering their own unique style. It was hard for me to step out of my Mysore comfort zone, but I’m glad I did. Try a different teacher or style of yoga, you might be amazed.

Intro to Mysore

Intro to Mysore

by Kacey Davy

Warning: Practicing Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga might be addicting; it will get you grounded, healthy, strong and flexible.

Mysore Style is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga Yoga. Named after the city in India where it originated, Mysore, is the source of this lineage based yoga method.  To practice Mysore Style is, for most, a different experience than what people think of when they go to a yoga class. The poses are taught individually in a group setting. The teacher is not leading everyone through the sequence at the same time. Instead, you will receive one-on-one instruction from the teacher. When you first walk into the Mysore room it may seem chaotic as everyone is doing something different. However Ashtanga is a set sequence of poses that you learn one-by-one, allowing you to commit the sequence to memory over time. Everyone begins the same way, first learning the sun salutations and then the standing poses, and so on. Repetition is used to help you develop a deeper understanding of the sequence each day and gradually you begin to feel at home in the movement-breath patterns. Then, through a dedicated practice, whether one or several days a week, you learn the entire Ashtanga Primary Series poses one by one. By moving slowly through the series you gain strength, endurance, and a sense of empowerment. Since this is individual instruction, the teachers can offer you modifications and personal feedback.

  The Ashtanga practice is all about the breath, learning how to move the body with the breath to take the shapes of the sequence, it is not about perfection of poses and achievement. The practice is all about keeping the energy moving. Yoga seeks to transform us, to build awareness of ourselves by connecting mind and body together. Ashtanga emphasizes the breath as the connection for self-awareness and over time the practice reveals the many layers and aspects of ourselves. 

The purpose of yoga is to bring peace and balance to our lives. Ashtanga is a sequence of poses designed to detoxify the body, the practice builds strength, stability, stamina, flexibility, and restores range of motion to the joints. It purifies the nervous system and, when done consistently, it helps you to feel balanced and grounded. Anyone of any age can learn Ashtanga. The 4-Week Intro to Mysore Series I am offering in October is an excellent way to learn more about this practice and integrate this style of yoga into your life. 

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