Manager Spotlight: Sally Sjolin

IMG_8422 2.jpg

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.

Summer Savings

SummerSolsticeGrab.png

Summer Savings

Throughout the month of June save 15% on your choice of either a             5-Class or 10-Class Card.

Use Promo Code: SUMMER
May be purchased Online or at the Shala. 

1. Limit one per member.

2. 5-Class Card is valid for 3 months. 10-Class Card is valid 6 months. Pass activates on the date of first use.

3. Pass is non-refundable, non-transferable, and cannot be combined with any other discounts.

4. NO EXCEPTIONS

Click Here to purchase online.

All About Ashtanga

0158_5.18.17.LauraYogaSession.jpg

by Laura Josephy

Ashtanga Yoga is a traditional style of Hatha Yoga popularized by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India (1915-2009). Ashtanga Yoga is said to be rooted in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient text written by Vamana Rishi.  This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his teacher Rama Mohan Bramachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois throughout the time of his study with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927.  The term Ashtanga, meaning eight limbs, refers to the set of essential practices listed in the “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.”  They are yama, universal ethical observances; niyama, personal observances; asana, posture; pranayama, breath extension; pratyahara, sensory transcendence; dharana, concentration; dhyana, meditation and samadhi, meditative coalescence. Jois believed that it was essential for most practitioners to enter the eight limbs through posture practice as it facilitates the purification of the body and mind creating a suitable environment for meditation.   

The main components of Ashtanga Yoga emphasized by Jois are vinyasa and tristhana.  The Sanskrit word vinyasa is typically translated as movement with the breath.  In colloquial language today, there term vinyasa often refers to the transitional movements that reset the body between each pose or between each side of a pose - think chaturanga, up dog, down dog.  More specifically it means a focused, intentional sequence of form, movement and breath that frees the mind.  In Ashtanga Yoga each movement is assigned either an inhale or exhale, while the state of the pose is given five complete breaths.  The breath intrinsically directs and shapes movement in the body.  The inhale resonates with rising and spreading patterns like lifting the arms overhead. The exhale enhances downward and inward patterns such as forward folds.  A key aspect of this movement-breathing system are the bandhas, or locks, which seal energy inside the body lending it both buoyancy and stability.  Mula bandha, the root lock, is a physical and energetic lifting of the center of the pelvic floor that is correlated with the exhalation.  Uddiyana bandha, the flying lock, is physical and energetic scooping of the lower abdominals correlated with the inhalation. Finally, tristhana refers to the three points of action/awareness - posture, breath and looking place - that are important in internal purification at the level of the body, nervous system and mind. Vinyasa coupled with bandha and tristhana creates a strong internal fire that, when practiced over a long period of time with great devotion, remove the six poisons discussed in the yoga shastra  - kama, desire; krodha, anger; moha, delusion; lobha, greed; matsarya, envy; and mada, sloth - that obscure the light of our True Nature. 

There are two formats in which Ashtanga Yoga is traditionally taught and practiced; led and “Mysore Style.”  Yoga practitioners today are most familiar with the led format in which the teacher guides the entire class through a sequence of postures simultaneously. However, the Ashtanga Yoga method was built around the “Mysore Style” class, so named because this was the way in which Pattabhi Jois taught in Mysore, India.  Ashtanga Yoga today continues to be taught primarily in the Mysore Style format by Jois’ grandson Sharath in India and by other qualified teachers all around the world. In the Mysore Style each student is given individual instruction within the group setting.  The movements, breath and other aspects of the practice are learned gradually in a step-by-step process accessible to anyone.  Through repetition students begin to commit small sections of a sequence known as the Primary Series to memory.  Students arrive anytime during the two hour class period and are welcomed into a room filled with the sound of the breath as instruction and questions are kept to a whisper.  A new student’s practice may only be 30 minutes.  In this first class students are taught the basic breathing techniques, the tristhana method, the Sun Salutation and possibly a few standing poses.  This approach allows students to establish a solid foundation in both body and mind; to integrate what was learned previously before progressing further and to adjust to a new daily routine.  Doing too much too fast often brings the risk of strain and imbalance while learning gradually allows time to develop the strength, flexibility and confidence necessary for a sustainable practice.  This process will likely surface the mind’s strategies of avoidance, resistance, distraction, impatience and self-judgement. Ultimately a form a mindfulness training, such is the path and process of Yoga. These moments are opportunities to let go of conditioning and to wake up to the fullness of the present moment experience. 

Many misperceptions about Ashtanga Yoga Mysore Style exist.  Though the class is not led, ample one-to-one instruction and hands-on assists are given.  You need not practice for the full two hour class period, be a yoga teacher, highly experience or even at all familiar with the sequence. The Primary Series is the template from which all students work independently yet each unique body inhabits the shape of any given pose differently such that modifications are given making the practice accessible to all - young, old, big, small, flexible, strong.  Like any practice or skill, the key is consistency.  At the start, you will likely discover new muscles. Regularity in practice will relieve the muscular soreness and invigorate the body-mind each day.  Having practiced this method almost exclusively for many years I am admittedly biased.  I feel the Mysore Style method gives me the room I need to work at my own pace and level, to follow the rhythm of my own breath and to draw my attention inward in a way that is not possible in led classes. I am able to explore the sensations of my body and carefully observe and feel the pattern of my breath in a way that settles my thoughts and clears my mind. Yet I am not alone. I am in the felt presence and support of the other practitioners breathing and moving in the room. We are in it together as a community.  This inspires and motivates me to get on my mat morning after early morning. It gives me permission to be vulnerable as a student of the practice myself and to listen, learn, grow and transform through its teachings.  

Join Laura in her upcoming 4-Week Intro to Mysore Style Series, January 14th - February 4th. More details available HERE. 

FLASH SALE! 8 for $80!!

Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 11.44.21 AM.png

This offer is available online only through Monday, November 27th.

Click HERE to purchase!

Please note that this promotion has a couple special considerations...

1. Limit one per member.

2. This pass is valid for 60 days only. Pass activates on the date of purchase.

3. Pass is non-refundable, non-transferable, and cannot be combined with any other discounts.

4. NO EXCEPTIONS

Thank you for making the Shala the vibrant community that it is! 

Namaste,

Shala Teachers & Staff

Why Yoga?

By Hannah Ouellette

It wasn’t something I planned on, I had just come down off of losing a significant amount of weight and the gym got to be boring. I saw an advertisement saying “$10 for 10 days of Unlimited Yoga,” so I figured for $10 what could I lose. I say this and act as if I was not intimidated or mildly afraid of what I might find when I got to the studio, but really I had serious trepidation. That trepidation led me to call the studio and leave a message. The call I got back was kind, open, and interested. 

Laura Josephy, the studio manager at the time and now owner, took no less than 20 minutes of her day to talk with me about my body, my previous experience with yoga, and what I wanted out of my practice. It was like having a small therapy session in the best way. I was encouraged and excited, but like any new physical effort or practice I had preconceived notions. 

I came from a weird tangential background that was an amalgam of different sports and physical practices. I had loved Pilates because in some ways even when I was heavier I could get my body into positions of flexibility other people didn’t have. (Are you sensing that mild/moderate competitiveness?) But I had only done a yoga class in college where at the end of practice each week I would compare myself to other people who made more rapid progress mastering asana. I was stuck in the asana and what I thought yoga was. So it was with this complicated background I proceeded to the then Mountain Yoga studio. 

Finding whatever brazen woman that lives inside me, I decided to practice at a advanced beginner’s class taught on a Saturday. In complete honesty, I figured this was where I would have the best chance blending in. I was met by a bright sprite of a woman who radiated energy. I knew then I was in a special place. I rolled out my old mat that I had used in previous Pilates classes, thinking that I might look the part. Little did I know that back row has the heat of a small sauna, but what I noticed more was how many different types of people where in attendance.

Often when people say the word yoga, usually one of two scenarios come to mind: a nubile barely dressed young woman arching gracefully into something that makes you sigh in awe and cringe in presumed sympathy pains, or the wise and hardtack bodied old yogi who seems to levitate off his prayer rug. Of course because I am a slightly hyperbolic person I imagined both of these types of individuals and they also didn’t sweat. 

That wasn’t the case in this class. I found myself comfortable with not only my choice to practice but with myself in a new way. As the practice began the directions were clear and intuitive making it easy to try and not stare at the people around me. Did I get lost and confused at times? Obviously, but I became less of a critic and breathed. Granted, the breaths I took were mostly off-cue but at least I was trying something that I didn’t know about. 

As the class came to a close I felt warm and unified with my fellow practioner in a way I had never experienced at the gym or in other sports. I was so grateful, that I spoke with my instructor for a solid 15 minutes after class. Again, there was no rush because she wanted to provide advice and assessment that would help me on my way. 

Like with anything, a large part of my beginnings with yoga was spent comparing my asana practice to others and trying to make sure I broke a sweat in class. This began to cause a minor burn out because I was in a tangent of sweat and burn without breath. So as I continued to attend more and more classes I began to need something different. That is when Mysore came into my life.

The Mysore four-week program was where I really found my stride. The intimacy of small class and the sequencing became more important than comparing. It became about my breathing and how that resonated with the others practicing. The progression of movement was linked with breath, but I was also developing a community of people who loved yoga. Through that love of yoga, I found myself falling in love with the people as much as the practice because they were there breathing with me. Suddenly, I was practicing with people who had been working on asana for years, but they were grunting or deep breathing right alongside me. It was an eye-opening experience because yoga wasn’t about mastering complicated poses in that space. It was instead how unified breath with other people and the self created a conduit for a deeper awareness that where I could go on my own. 

Yoga is something people come to in different ways, but when you find a community of people who love it and want to teach more than the physical aspect of it, that is when you truly find yoga. I am glad everyday that I saw that advertisement and that the people Tahoe Yoga Shala keep embracing me. Every time I find myself losing focus, there is always a kind friend who tells, listens, or shows me a new facet of yoga and how I might bring that to my wheel house. 

Yamas - Universal Disciplines

The Yamas-Universal Disciplines


Over the last several months we have been taking a closer look at the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. The Sadhana Pada is the chapter on practice. This chapter includes one of the most beloved pieces of Yoga philosophy, the 8 Limbs of Yoga.  The 8 Limbs of Yoga are both a starting place and a roadmap for the student seeking an understanding of the philosophy that supports the 5000 year old practice. But as Richard Freeman so wisely states, "the map is not the territory." The map can give us a theoretically understanding of being there but, alas, it is not the same as actually being there.  If what follows resonates, I encourage you to seek out resources (including Shala teachers), journal, meditate and discuss your discoveries. Nothing beats ones' first hand experience.  The practice of Yoga is a living, dynamic, constantly changing tradition that requires your curiosity and insight in order to continue to evolve from generation to generation.


The first of the eight limbs is yama, universal disciplines. The Sanskrit word yama translates as; to bridle, to restrain, to check or hold-in. The yama focus on the interactions we have with people and things outside of ourselves. Together with the niyamas, or internal disciplines (to be discussed next month), the first two limbs of Yoga form the fundamental ethical precepts at the foundation of the practice.  To be clear, Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy of existence that offers us the contemplative science and technology for living the good life.  At the core of the Yoga practice is the understanding that we are all interconnected. You can interpret it on the gross level - we share air, earth, sun and water - or the subtle level - we share the spark of consciousness. The Dali Lama sums it up nicely, "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."  The living practice of the five universal disciplines is an exercise in placing all beings inside your heart while simultaneously seeing yourself in others. 


The five yama are non-harming (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), moderation (brahmacharya) and non-grasping (aparigrahah).  Theses principles seem fairly straightforward but they run deep into every action, deed, attitude, thought and word. These questions are merely food for thought, not personal opinions or judgements. Does non-harming extended to animals? Insects?  Does non-stealing included other's time or energy?  Brahmacharya was traditionally considered a period of chastity. Most modern house-holding yogi's prefer to translate this yamaas moderation, specifically in the arena of sexual desire. Are there areas in your life where desires of any kind consume and incapacitate you?  The yama are ordered with intention.  Can you practice non-hurtfullness when speaking your truth?  Can you practice non-grasping in your intimate relationships?  Perhaps over the next five weeks you will ruminate on these question and others of your own, recognize patterns and reaffirm your Yoga practice as a method for creating a gap between the spark and the flame....
 

Purusha, Prakriti & The Gunas

Purusha, Prakriti & The Gunas


Last month we discussed the five root causes of suffering (kleshas): lack of self-awareness (avidya), "I am-ness" (asmita), attachement (raga), dislike (dvesa) and fear of change (abhinivesha). The Yoga Sutras state that by tracing our patterns of suffering back to their source and controlling the thoughts (vrtti) that arise around them we can avoid future pain.  Sutra 2.17 states that the suffering to be ended is caused by the correlation between the Seer and the Seeable. 

Purusha is the Seer, the witness, pure consciousness and the True Self. Prakriti is the Seeable, the experienced, creativity and the constantly changing. All ideas and feelings, including those about Purusha, are composed of impermanent and interconnected braids of creative energy, or Prakriti. Prakriti is expressed through the three primary forces of creation - sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is brightness, clarity and intelligence. Rajas is activity, passion and change. Tamas is inertia, lethargy and darkness. Referred to as the gunas, these three forces combine to create everything in nature including the food we eat, the thoughts we think and the body in which we live. Sutra 2.18 goes on to say that the Seeable exists for the dual purpose of experience and emancipation. If Purusha is pure seeing alone and Parkriti exists solely to put on a fantastic show for Purusha, how did they become such an entangled mess?  Though distinct, Purusha an Prakriti are often experienced as one and the same due to lack of self-awareness - yes, thats right, klesha numero uno! Through the practice of the 8 Limbs of Yoga we can use our experience to awaken to our innate discriminating intelligence. This light of awareness has the ability to discern the difference between the Seer and the Seeable.  When the Seer sees clearly the external world may appear drastically changed when in truth, it is the internal perception of the world that has shifted. The world doesn't change but how you relate to it does...

Next month we will start to look at where the rubber meets the road - The 8 Limbs of Yoga!
 

Avidya Asmita Raga Dvesa Abhinivesha Klesah


Avidya Asmita Raga Dvesa Abhinivesha Klesah

Last month we discussed the definition of Kriya Yoga according to Patanjali in his seminal text the Yoga Sutra. The second chapter of the Yoga Sutra is titled Sadhana Pada. One translation for the word sadhana is procuring and thus the second chapter is often referred to as the chapter on how to practice Kriya Yoga. Sutra 2.2 states that the intent of Kriya Yoga is to bring our innate intelligence into the foreground by removing the causes of suffering. Sutra 2.3 lists the five root causes of suffering and the Sutras that follow go on to explain each klesha in detail.

The five afflictions are: lack of self-awareness (avidya), "I am-ness" (asmita), attachement (raga), dislike (dvesa) and the will to live/fear of death (abhinivesha). These five obstructions whether dormant, attenuated or alternating between interrupted and fully active are the principle hindrances on the path to self-realization. Avidya is considered to be the ground in which the other four kleshas thrive. In the absence of self-awareness we mistake the transient for the permanent, the impure for the pure, pain for pleasure and that which is not the self for the self (2.5). To be clear avidya has little to do with the ordinary acquisition of knowledge through the intellect but instead refers to knowledge in the highest philosophical sense. One can be very intelligent or academically accomplished and be completely blinded by the illusions created by the mind. The mind in its delusion desires things to stay permanent, perfect and pure and when things change or unfold in an unexpected way suffering occurs because the sense of "I am" (asmita) has become enmeshed with that object/person/situation/title. This confusion of the seer and the act of seeing results in attachment to pleasure (raga) and resistance to pain (devsa) and a generalized fear of change, the most all encompassing and subtle of which is the fear of death (abhinivesha). How do we get off the wheel of suffering?  Stop watering the seeds! Fortunately the root causes of pain can be ended through self-inquiry and meditation.  By tracing these afflictions back to their source and controlling the fluctuations of thought that arise around them we can cultivate the discriminating intelligence that allows us to discern the difference between the Seer (Purusha) and the see-able (prakriti). More on these concepts next month...
 

Tapah Svadhyaya Isvara Pranidhanani Kriya Yogah

Tapah Svadhyaya Isvara Pranidhanani Kriya Yogah

Patanjali's Sutra 2.1 defines the practice of Kriya Yoga, the Yoga of Action, as tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-reflection) and Isvara pranidhana (surrender to Isvara). Tapas, from the Sanskrit root "to heat," is the purification of body, mind and senses through consistent practice.  Svadhyaya is self-study and may involve reading philosophical or spiritual texts, the recitation of personal mantras, journaling and psychotherapy. Isvara pranidhana is surrender to God.  If you are uncomfortable with the "G word" please feel free to substitute a word that resonates: Divine, Soul, Creator, Beloved. BKS Iyengar states "This sutra represents the three great paths: Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga." The path of action (karma yoga) is the practice of austerities (tapas) including asana (postures). The path of knowledge (jnana yoga) is the path to understanding one's self (svadhyaya). The path of love (bhakti yoga) is the path of complete surrender (pranidhana) to the effulgent and sorrowless light of Isvara. Tim Miller quotes his teacher, Pattabhi Jois, as having considered the mythological Hanuman, to be one of only two great yogis. What makes a great yogi?  The perfect balance of strength, intelligence and devotion.

Patanjali goes on to say in Sutra 2.2 that the intent of Kriya Yoga is to bring our innate intelligence into the foreground by removing the causes of suffering.  More on the five kleshas (afflictions) or root causes of suffering next month...