How Ayurveda Compliments Your Yoga Practice

By Stephanie Keach

Hatha Yoga does an amazing job at strengthening, stretching and detoxifying the body, while helping to replenish and rejuvenate all the internal glands and organs. Yet for some, it may not be enough for full wellbeing.

Yoga has a sister, her name is Ayurveda (both born in India).  If Yoga’s original purpose was to get your body prepared for spiritual practice, then Ayurveda takes over from there with an expanded and balancing view of wellbeing. Ayurveda is the Healthcare system of India.

Ayurveda is an approach to healthcare from Ancient India based on dividing bodily substances into 5 classical elements:
Earth • Water • Fire • Air • Ether

Ayurveda’s main purpose is to prevent illness and promote longevity by seeking balance. According to Ayurveda, the key to vibrant health is understanding how the elements operate within you, your environment and every aspect of your life. Adjustments in lifestyle and daily routines can be made to balance and harmonize the elemental tendencies in each individual. Like Yoga, Ayurveda deals with what supports and doesn’t support us. Ayurveda goes beyond Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) to balance tendencies in order to heal the sick and maintain wellbeing in the healthy.

So, I strongly encourage everyone who loves the health benefits of Yoga, to try out her sister, Ayurveda.  Wellbeing is not merely an absence of diseases but is defined as a state of joy in the soul, mind, and senses.

Come spend a weekend with Dr. Scott Blossom, Ayurvedic Counselor, Yoga Instructor and Chinese Medical Professional. Plus, Stephanie Keach was his first Yoga teacher, way back when, so the love runs deep here people!

Yoga and Ayurveda
With Dr. Scott Blossom
March 18–20, 2016

Why Asheville NC?

Asheville was #1 in Yoga Journal’s “10 Towns with Top-Notch Yoga” and was listed as the #1 “Coziest Cities in America” by Elle DECORE magazine. Asheville area is world renowned as a bustling tourist destination, named one of twelve must-see travel destinations in the world by Frommer’s travel guides.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which connects the Great Smoky National Park with the Shenandoah National Park and runs right through Asheville, is a great launching point for hiking and biking, or for those looking for a scenic picnic at an overlook.

Mountain adventures await your visit to the Asheville area, whether you’re planning a culinary travel experience with a tour of restaurants and microbreweries, or if you’re checking out the area’s top-rated outdoor sports activities. There’s so much to see and do in Asheville, that the only problem is narrowing the options!

Learn more of what Asheville has to offer at www.exploreasheville.com

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

Power Flow Vs Slow Flow

One of the most beautiful aspects of yoga, is that it invites practitioners from all backgrounds, ability levels, and personal goals to share in the benefits of yoga and hopefully even transform the world towards peace and goodwill. The most popular style of yoga at the Asheville Yoga Center is Flow Yoga, (traditionally also called Vinyasa).  And the two most popular sub-sets are known as SlowFlow and Power Flow.   As with many aspects of yoga, there are deeper benefits and qualities to these two forms than at first glance.

Slow Flow Yoga, in some ways, has more traditional roots going back to Viniyoga (Desikachar, founder).  This style usually provides poses that range from gentle to challenging, but done with stable, self-centering energy.  The pace of these classes is understandably slower and emphasis is placed on safe alignment and the maintaining balance of the slow breathing. This style can vary tremendously in its speed, with some classes preferring long, silent periods of reflection and static holding during each pose, and others opting for a more fluid experience (with possible frequent bursts of energetic sequencing to raise energy).  The toned-down speed of these classes does not, however, mean that the poses are any less beneficial for building strength, stability, and postural integrity than other styles. This slower pace is definitely more conducive to the meditative practices of mindfulness of action and awareness of breathing. This makes it particularly well-suited to newer students, or for those who desire deep concentration within their practice, most conducive to Slowing Down (hence the name).

Power Flow Yoga, or often Power Yoga, takes its inspiration and core from Ashtanga Yoga (Pattabhis Jois, founder). This style relies much more on synchronized breathing with each movement to produce beautiful, flowing patterns of motion and energy. As you may have guessed from the name, Power Flow techniques tend to be more vigorous than Slow Flow, and we generally recommend that practitioners are capable of enduring a higher rate of physical activity and heat in their classes. All Power Yoga classes are not necessarily heated, but internal heat is a big benefit of this style, helping with overall detoxification, cardiovascular fitness and weight loss.  With a foundation in Sun Salutations, Power Fow is often considered the “most athletic style” of yoga out there and attracts such clientele.  At first, it\’s all about seeking the workout, but eventually, by the end of class, not only has the body slowed and calmed itself, but so has the breath, heart, and mind.

Both styles are designed to transform the way you think, feel, and move, increasing physical capabilities in tandem with the mental. They promote anxiety relief, self-growth, and continual advancement toward your own goals, offering benefits as long as you remain conscious and active during your practice. We play music at our studio, which helps to set a rhythmic tone to the movements of theFlow practice.   We recommend newer students or those with physical fitness concerns to enroll in Slow Flow yoga classes before attempting Power Flow, as there are a wealth of benefits to be found in the tranquil, focused techniques of this style. Those who are returning students or seeking an experience that heightens physical challenges, weight loss, or a more workout-centric style should consider looking into Power Flow classes, but will still find ample reasons to pursue either form. Listen earnestly to your body, breath and mind, to deepen your sense of progress on your journey before making a final decision, and if still in doubt, feel free to contact our studio for assistance.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

5 Tips for Aging Gracefully with Yoga

By Stephanie Keach

1. Pelvic Floor

Usually we think anti-sagging, anti-wrinkling, anti-balding when we see “Aging Gracefully”, but honestly those things don’t make us graceful. How about not having to wear a big, bulky diaper? Yup, GBK (Go Beyond Kegels) I say. My students will tell you I am not shy to drop anatomy terms like vagina, testicles, and anus in a yoga class. I’m a frequent flyer with pelvic floor anatomy because lets face it: Use it or Lose it. So squeeze often down there. Squeeze different things down there. Trying to isolate genitals from anus for instance – this might take a lifetime but the practice itself can enrich so many aspects. Elimination and sexuality, yes, those are the more obvious benefits. But how about becoming more grounded and certain? How about healing lower back issues? Oh yeah people, get your squeeze on!

2. Toes

Now, these fantastic appendages may not get sexier with age, but we can keep them limber and strong. Consider how many hours a day, each week, each year of your life your sweet little feet have carried you and spend some time daily literally massaging your toes. Touch them and Love them- they are going to (hopefully) carry you through ’til the End! Trying to grab / pick up things with your toes is a common activity in my “shoes-off” household, helping our feet stay healthy and limber.

3. Neck

Another common saying out of my mouth is “Your neck will not age well. Period. I am sorry for this news.” Yoga doesn’t prevent aging anywhere, and our vulnerable necks take a beating for sure: life, sports, computer screens, headstands… The best we can do for our necks is awareness and gentleness. Whenever you can remember, Check your Neck! meaning watch alignment and posture (driving and looking at screens are really bad ones!) Add in frequent neck stretches and neck rolls and that’s great. Get neck massages and you are on your way to Neck Nirvana!

4. Nutrition

I can’t think of a more loaded topic in the yoga world, yet regardless of diet: We Are What We Eat. Mindfully pausing before purchasing, preparing and ingesting can help us make better choices for our overall health and well being. But regardless of the ever controversial Vegan vs. Paleo, ask yourself these things:
How do I feel while I am eating this?
How do I feel after I eat this?
How are my bowel movements?
How is my mood after I eat?
How are my energy levels throughout the day?
How are my hair, skin, nails?
How is my menstrual cycle?
All these things listed above are very affected by what you eat. It takes deep self-reflection to determine the least violence towards the planet but also yourself! Moderation and flexibility is really the kindest food mantra we got in the yoga world. (Oh hey, it’s a pretty good Yoga body AND Yoga mind mantra too!) As most long-term Yogis agree, I believe listening to what your body TRULY needs is one of the most important forms of non-violence.

5. Rest

Oh stress. Our dear, uninvited guest doesn’t always get the hint that his welcome is over! So alas, our rhythm of deep rest and healing gets disturbed, and this disturbance can wreak havoc in all parts of our lives. This isn’t news, almost half the population is experiencing insomnia for either short term or long term reasons. Yoga gives us amazing tools for rest: Restorative yoga, Deep breathing, Meditation, and my all time favorite, Shavasana. Taking mini-naps has been a life-saver since I began having babies 20 years ago! To survive my pregnancies, when insomnia first visited, I began to get really good at Quick Shavasanas. Meaning, I would get into bed, put pillows around my head to cover my ears and eyes (my husband uses earplugs and an eye-mask), then lie on my back, comfortably like corpse pose in a yoga class, with a blanket, then I would super efficiently scan my body to deeply sink into the mattress, then my mind, and poof! I was out. I would either have a timer, or would naturally “awaken” after 20 minutes, refreshed and restored! Superbly miraculous and way more important to “master” than handstand, in my opinion.

I think it would be awesome if we edited our colloquial saying to “Aging Healthfully.” Now that is something to achieve! We are all aging, every single second. Yoga will not prevent it, and it may not even slow it down. But we can start right now with new practices to help the process feel more comfortable. Upcoming workshops like Yoga and Ayurveda will educate us in Nutritional healing with Yoga. Our 300 hour Therapeutics Training gives you every tool Yoga has to utilize our tools for healthier aging. Workshops like Senior Yoga with Libby Hinsley, Restorative Yoga with Sara Levine, Yoga and Meditation with Michael Johnson are only going to expand on my Top 5 suggestions above. I will leave you with one other great Tip:

“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
― George Bernard Shaw

5 Reasons Steph Loves Ashtanga Yoga

1. Strength Building

I have the genetics for flexibility, which makes Yoga a dream job. Except that flexible people get injured in Yoga three times more than non-flexies. We apparently go too far into the stretch, injuring the tissues around our joints. Yup, I see it all the time. But lucky me, I “found” a style of Yoga early in my Yoga career that complemented my flexibility and built the much needed strength around my joints called Ashtanga Yoga. It was in Santa Barbara, CA in 1992, in John’s danky basement with space heaters. I would later drive to Encinitas to study with Tim, and it was also a danky basement with space heaters. These were definitely the low-budget days of Yoga! But the benefits of strength building Yoga practice are beyond protecting flexibility. I am building bone density, I am comfortable in my strong body (long periods of sitting or gardening for example don’t “kill” me), and I am a strong woman. Not just muscular, but strong in spirit, and in Yoga. Body-mind-spirit are all connected.

2. Pranayama

I had been practicing Yoga for several years before I found this style of Yoga, and besides the incredible strength it required (which humbled me to my very core), I was blown away by breathing deeply. At least it felt like this was the first time in my life that I ever even noticed deep breathing and how it made me feel. It was incredible. I am talking one of the top 5 moments of my entire life! Somehow, I awakened to the realization, while doing the traditional closing seated pranayama (Ujjayi- throaty breathing), that the breath wasn’t just “air in, air out.” It was energy, and I could literally feel it beyond my lungs, filling up my body. I could feel where the energy was stagnant or depleted and could use the Ujjayi to help heal and re-inspire that area. Oh yes, life transforming, like a million times more exciting than downward facing dog!

3. Heat

For me, I like intensity and excitement. Not only is this practice intense and exciting (incredibly hard and challenging postures!) but the environment is intense and exciting. At least “back in the day” in those basements. I was told by John and Tim that they were trying to recreate the heat they found in Mysore, India, the birthplace of this practice. I loved it. As most of us Yogi-heat-seekers realize, the detoxification happening is definitely not just physical toxins but emotional, spiritual, and psychological as well. That heat combined with the practice itself can really transform things (cells, muscles, bones, thoughts, emotions, etc).

4. “Practice, Practice, All is Coming.”

This was the mantra of the founder, Pattabhis Jois. He wasn’t very fluent in English, but he sure chose his words succinctly! His verbatim teaching matches my own personal philosophy of life, which is highly influenced by Zen. About the same year I “found” Ashtanga Yoga, I also discovered Zen meditation. The main messages are so parallel: It\’s not about the goal. It’s about the journey and every single thing we do and think along the way. So wake up. Keep practicing. Every moment.

5. Amazing Lineage

This particular style of Yoga has one of the most amazing lineages of dedicated practitioners. It starts before Pattabhis Jois with Krishnamacharya, but then quickly finds many American devotees: Bryan Kest, David Swenson, Tim Miller, Kino MacGregor, to name a few. And ALL of these fabulous and kind people were influenced by one main American: David Williams. He is from Greenboro, NC and often comes to visit family and friends, and – being super blessed – I am one of his friends! This crew of devoted, old-school ashtangis are the best. I feel honored to call them my friends. And David will be at Asheville Yoga Center Sept 3 – 6, so if you want to try what Steph has used to sustain herself for almost 30 years, please come! All levels welcome. Register here.

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide

Instructor of the Month: Sara Levine

Why do you teach yoga?

Teaching gives me the opportunity to be joyful with those around me. As humans, we aren’t always able to be present and kind to ourselves and others, but when we’re on our mats, we are all equal – we are all graceful, clumsy, learning, falling, succeeding and showing up.

What is your teaching history?

I taught in San Francisco for 6 years before I moved to Asheville. I started my career teaching 20 classes a week at 5 different studios! That didn’t last long…Now I’m happy to have been teaching solely at AYC for the past 2 years.

What is your favorite pose at the moment?

My favorite pose is, and always has been, half moon (ardha chandrasana). It makes me feel beautiful, strong, balanced, open and feminine all at the same time!

What’s your sign? (astrological)

Sagittarius

What is your most challenging pose?

Funny enough, my most challenging pose is revolved half moon (parivrtta ardha chandrasana). My upper and mid spine don’t like to twist too much so I’ve always found it challenging to stack my hips and rotate my shoulders at the same time in those opposite directions.

How long have you been practicing yoga?

12 years

Describe yourself in three words:

grateful, compassionate, easygoing.

What is your favorite quote?

“and though she be but little, she is fierce” – Shakespeare

What is your favorite word?

Eloise (my little girls name)

What are you reading right now? (or your favorite book)

Middlesex

What are some favorite songs on your playlist?

La Belle et Le Bad Boy – MC Solaar

Walking in the Sun – Fink

Ohpa-Me – Dechen Shak-Dagsay

What is your favorite food?

My mom’s lasagna

What is the last movie you watched? (or your favorite movie)

I watched Boyhood recently. It was fascinating and so well done.

What inspires you?

Now, it’s my daughter. Before I had her, it was my strong and intelligent friends – taking on the world.

Sara’s class schedule:
Monday 8:30am – Slow, Power Flow
Tuesday 7:00pm – Slow, Gentle Flow
Friday 8:30am – Slow, Power Flow

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

 

The 5 Tenents of Jivamukti Yoga

Hot, hip, and holy.

Created in 1984 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, Jivamukti yoga strives to help us fulfill our true potential, liberation in this life! It is a practice that allows us to access the underlying, subtle, and esoteric teachings of yoga. Through the practice of the 5 tenents we strive for a life, not just a yoga asana class, that allows us to express compassion and create a mutually beneficial coexistence with all that surrounds us.

1. Ahimsa: Nonviolence and compassion towards all beings (which includes eating a vegan diet.) By being kind to others you create an atmosphere of peace within and around yourself that extends into the greater world.

2. Bhakti: Devotion—offering everything you do to something greater than your ego/small self— acknowledgment that Self or God realization is the goal of all yoga practices.

3. Dhyana: Meditation—connecting to that unchanging reality of eternal joy within.

4. Nada: Incorporating sacred music and sonic techniques and learning how to enhance the development of a sound body and mind through deep listening.

5. Shastra: The study of Sanskrit scriptures and how they apply to the here and now.

From Jivamukti’s roots in Ashtanga, we love asana, it allows us into our bodies and opens us up to all beings (every body). The practice of asana not only allows us to create strong flexible bodies but also strengthens our mind and adds flexibility to our preconceived notions that hold us in stagnation. What a gift it is, in this life, to have a human birth and to be able to practice the divine act of asana.

It’s more than a yoga asana class, it’s a new way of thinking and living, moving from a society of dominance to one of mutual benevolence and balance. When asked, “who would you say is the perfect candidate to start practicing Jivamukti yoga?” David Life responded: “the ones with imagination, a sense of adventure, and the courage to change. All change starts within. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.'”

To learn more, join Adam Shirley and Kumiko Yamada for a Jivamukti Workshop on July 18, 2015, 10:00 – 12:30pm. All Levels Welcome. $35.

 

Yoga for Stress

Do you feel great? Alive and vital? If not, consider the role that stress might be playing in your life.
Stress can greatly diminish our energy. Stress quite literally robs us of our vitality. We live in an
increasingly stressful world and the potential for the experience of stress comes at us from many
places: work, relationships, current events, life events, social media and information overload can all
create the sensation of stress in our bodies and minds.

Thankfully, yoga and the tools of yoga offer us a way forward to a healthier and happier way of
being. There are three simple steps that you can take right now, utilizing what you’ve already
learned from your practice.

#1 – Shift your attitude. Studies have found that those people who believe that stress will kill them,
do in fact die from stress related and stress induced illnesses. Rather than allowing yourself to hold
such a powerfully negative view, shift into seeing the power of the positive. When you feel yourself
experiencing stress, rather than freak out- affirm that this is what it feels like when your healthy body
responds to challenge. This one simple shift could save your life.

#2 – Move! Get out there and move! Move your body in yoga- any yoga practice or run or walk or
skate or swim or- you get the idea. Our stress response is created through our sympathetic nervous
system. This system reacts to a true life threat in the same way as the experience of traffic making
us late for work. There is no distinguishing the levels of threat- just the same reaction. Our bodies
prepare us for stress by enabling us to run or fight. One of the ways that we can release some of
that response is by moving our bodies.

#3 – Breathe. Allow yourself to not only notice your breath but also begin to work with it. Simple
pranayama (breathing techniques) are incredibly effective in shifting and handling the energy of
stress. Next time you feel stressed- shift your breath- begin to breathe long and deep. Do a practice
of equal inhale/exhale. Allow yourself to inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for the same count. A few
minutes of this will shift your entire perspective and you will begin to feel better right away.

 

Instructor of the Month: Denise Daneck

Why do you teach yoga?

Yoga is amazingly healing on all levels. It is a gift to share and anyone who feels called to should!  What an incredible opportunity to dissolve boundaries, connect unconditionally on a soul-level, and explore the power of collective group energy with sacred intentions! I love all of the possibilities that teaching offers.

What is your teaching history?

I began reading the Yoga Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, and all kinds of texts on yoga/meditation in college before developing any sort of consistent asana practice. I moved to asheville while dabbling in various spiritual practices with the intention to learn yoga and have been teaching here now for about two and a half years.

What is your favorite pose at the moment?

Warrior 2! Lately I go into it and feel almost instantaneously empowered, energized, and focused.

What’s your sign? (astrological)

Sun in Virgo–Moon in Pisces

What is your most challenging pose?

Handstand in the middle of the room.  It reveals to me some limitations and work I need to do.

How long have you been practicing yoga?

About six years.

Describe yourself in three words?

Peaceful, grateful, active

What is your favorite quote?

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi

What is your favorite word?

Ethereal

What are you reading right now? (or your favorite book)

Reading now: The Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne, The Shamanic Way of the Bee by Simon Buxton, and Learning to Silence the Mind by OSHO.

What are some favorite songs on your playlist?

Changing Waters by Lis Addison, Nataraja by jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach, Fear of Falling by James Murray, Shyama Bolo by  Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach

What is your favorite food?

Smoothies & Green Juice!

What is the last movie you watched? (or your favorite movie)

Last watched The Princess Kaguya and Still Alice

What inspires you?

Nature, conscious evolution, Light-workers & Difference-makers

Denise’s class schedule:
Friday- 4-5 AYC
Saturday- 12:15-1:45 AYC

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

 

Instructor of the Month: Rich Fabio

Why do you teach yoga?

It agrees with me.  Every other line of work I tried I wasn’t very good at.  I used to work so I could be a yogi in my off time.  Now, I see work as a contribution to society and my community. It is an extension of who I am.

What is your teaching history?

I have explored many styles and facets of yoga.  I first started teaching meditation as that was my first interest.  My body was weak so I took up asana.  I taught vinyasa flow sequences in college.  When I decided to teach yoga full time I was initially an alignment teacher and now I offer a fusion of all my past teachers and methodologies including other wisdom studies like Qigong and Kaballah in The Roots Moving Meditations.

What is your favorite pose at the moment?

Kneeling One Legged Blue Moon pose as my teacher calls it.  You have to see it to know what it is.  But it is really cool and fun.

What’s your sign? (astrological)

Aries sun

What is your most challenging pose?

Dropbacks

How long have you been practicing yoga?

12 years

Describe yourself in three words:

Happy, honest, and free

What is your favorite quote?

“You already have it!” – Lee Rothstein

What is your favorite word?

Gelfling

What are you reading right now? (or your favorite book)

Vivekachudamani by Swami Dayananda, Dune by Frank Herbert, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism by Lama Anagarika Govinda, and The Principles of the Greater Kan and Li by Mantak Chia

What are some favorite songs on your playlist?

Pure Imagination by Willy Wonka and Celebrate by Madonna

What is your favorite food?

Pizza

What is the last movie you watched? (or your favorite movie)

Being There

What inspires you?

I find Chi and understanding Chi very inspiring as well as when people consciously try to be better at living their life.

Rich’s Teaching Schedule:
Fridays and Sundays 12:15-1:45pm Align and Flow

Download AYC’s 200 RYT Training Guide 

Yogi Tips for Spring Cleansing

Spring is the ideal season for cleansing. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is related to the wood element, which tends the liver and gall bladder. These organs focus on the cleansing process: secretion and detoxification. As things get moving in nature, our bodies need to get moving too in order to avoid winter stagnation that manifests in digestive disrupts, respiratory congestion or headaches. Supporting detoxification, drainage and circulation with food choices and movement can help kick off our spring cleanse.

Food for Cleanse

Any cleansing is good cleansing. At the minimum, avoiding stimulants like coffee, sugar, alcohol, and other simple carbs help to reduce cortisol production and lessen the body’s response and “crash” pattern. This sugar roller coaster can leave one feeling heavy or fatigued. The goal of a spring cleanse is to lighten that load.

A plant-based, whole foods diet will allow your body to focus on cleansing and not converting sugar or digesting more burly foods, like meat. More intense cleanses include juice fasts and should be conducted with the support of health practitioner.

Wild foods that grow in your yard are nature’s superfoods that aid in spring detoxification. Many can be added to salads or made into a pesto like the recipe below. Some of our other favorites include: Chickweed, Dandelion, Chickory, Plantain and Watercress.

Chickweed Pesto Recipe

4 Cloves of garlic
½ cup of olive oil (extra virgin)
3 cups fresh chickweed leaves
¼ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
1 tbsp of lemon juice
½ cup of walnuts
Sea salt to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend well.

Herbal support during cleansing can include these plants:

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Nettles (Urtica dioica)
Red Clover (Trifolium pretense)
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Yoga for Detox

A spring yoga practice that focuses on compressions and twists in the abdominal region will support cleansing. Cardiovascular exercise will assist detoxification, allowing for better secretion and elimination. In addition, restorative poses can help integrate your cleanse, while providing gentle support to a rigorous fast.

Here are some cleanse-supporting poses:

Bharadvajasana I (Seated twist)
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch)
Parivritta Utkatasana (Revolved Chair Pose)
Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose)