Nataraj, the Cosmic Dancer

Have you had a chance to check out the statue, or “Murti”, in the front of the bamboo room at Yoga Union?  Perhaps you’re like me and you’ve used it as your focal point during a difficult balance sequence but don’t know much about it. In order to appreciate more than just the beauty of the murti itself, I asked Todd to answer a few questions about the dancing deity he chose for his studio.
Q: Who and what is being depicted?
A: The statue or “Murti” depicts Shiva in his form as Nataraj, the cosmic dancer. Shiva is divine consciousness and his dance, called the Ananda Tandava or “blissful dance”, creates the entire universe. The symbolism reveals to us that the universe is a divinely blissful dance of consciousness in which no individual is separate. We are both engaged in the dance, as Shiva is, and we are also the dance itself.
Q: What made you choose this particular statue?
A: The sheer beauty of it is honestly what first drew me to the Nataraja.
Q: What significance does it hold for you and the studio as a whole?
A: This particular depiction of Shiva is probably the most relative to yogis who practice “asana” or physical yoga poses. The statue has movement and life in it. In fact, it is actually placed in a yoga pose, so it’s a good fit for the yoga studio. The symbolism it presents also has a lot to teach us about being graceful in our practice. Shiva’s standing on one foot atop a dwarf who symbolizes our ego. It is this ego that keeps us small by insisting we aren’t worthy, don’t have enough, aren’t ready yet, or haven’t earned the right to be all that we can be. Here we learn here what’s required is to squash that limiting voice in our head and to transform the ego from a problem, as Shiva did the dwarf, into the actual stage we dance all over. The other foot is the graceful upturned foot which symbolizes revelation- that through yoga we embody the power of grace and our true nature is revealed; joy, goodness, delight, fun. We are never more ourselves than in that enrapturing moment of blissful dance; when we’re in the zone so to speak.
Q: What do you want your students to gain from it?
A: Primarily that life is a dance and that like all dance, it’s primary purpose is to delight in life.
Q: Any other fun facts in regards to Nataraj?
A: One of our teachers, John Friend (Anusara Yoga founder), has called his tour this year “Dancing with the divine.”

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If you’re interested in learning more about Shiva, the link below has some great information:

http://www.religionfacts.com/hinduism/deities/shiva.htm

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Sun Salute!

 

Summer in Portland is… unbeatable. When the sun comes out, the streets fill with smiles, exposed flesh and the smell of backyard BBQs. An open patio seat is hard to find and bodies lay strewn about in parks- victims of the Vitamin D assault. We even seem to forget the 8 months of incessant rain that only just stopped yesterday. It’s on these glorious days that it can sometimes be a challenge to take our bodies out of the sun and into the studio. So instead of compromising one for the other, why not take your practice outside? Yoga is, after all, about unity. When it’s practiced in nature, your connection to the universe may feel more readily available and your sense of awareness will have room to grow and evolve.

Outdoor yoga exposes the senses to external stimuli that otherwise may be missed while indoors. Rather then letting the elements become a distraction, try using them to enhance your experience- a light wind can bring you back to your breath, the feel of the sun on your face may inspire you to open the heart just that much more, and a newly opened flower can provide the perfect focal spot while you invite stillness in.

One especially difficult aspect of practicing outside is uneven terrain. But instead of getting frustrated or disengaging, is it possible to use the challenge to cultivate patience and acceptance? Experiment with grass, sand and soil, mat or no mat, and feel the different muscles engage with each. Enjoy the elements between your toes.

Being outside can also help you connect with your poses on a deeper level. “By putting your body into the shape of a tree or a stretching cat, by exploring the graceful wingspan of a bird or the fluidity of the Sun Salute, by breathing with the same cyclical sense as the tides or with an ocean sound, you evoke a sense of harmony, timelessness, and connection to the universe,” says Jane Jarecki, a Kripalu Yoga teacher at Evolution Physical Therapy and Yoga in Vermont.

There are several options for taking your practice outside. Perhaps you start alone, doing a few simple poses in Laurelhurst park while taking your dog for a walk. Maybe that evolves into a group of you and your friends meeting at Mt. Tabor for a sunrise session and picnic breakfast.  Or maybe you go for the ultimate outdoor yoga experience and sign up to join Yoga Union on their epic adventure to Wanderlust this July (http://squaw.wanderlustfestival.com/home)!

Speaking of Mt. Tabor, we plan to meet on the top of the hill for a rejuvenating hour of yoga in the park. Bike, drive, walk or roller skate yourself and your mat to the top of of Mt Tabor at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 26th. We will be up on the hill with light refreshments (with $5-$10 donation) and open hearts, as we bring yoga out into the community for the first time this summer.

Whatever way you choose, enjoy the experience and revel in the beauty nature provides us. And don’t forget your sunscreen!

Happy yoga-ing!

Information from:
http://www.yogajournal.com

Flying Fish Co.!

 

If you frequent the Yoga Union studio, then there’s a fair chance you’ve passed by a large van bearing the name “Flying Fish Co.” on the corner of 50th and Hawthorne. But have you stopped to peek inside and see what that van is all about, and who’s actually driving that thing around Portland?

Lyf Gildersleeve, the owner and second generation fish monger from Idaho with his degree in Aqua Culture, is as welcoming as the fresh foods he’s providing. He greets each patron with a smile and recognizes more than a few of the returning customers, calling many by first name. He seems to know what they have come for and enthusiastically volunteers which fish is the most fresh, which has gone down in price, and any specials he currently has in.  A chalk board lists the week’s fresh catches (boasting names like Copper River Sockeye and King Salmon) as well as the frozen (but never defrosted) selection, which is lengthy and drool-inducing. My eyes bounce from Dover Sole to Halibut Cheeks to the Smoked Ahi and back to the Ekone Oysters, all this before I even see the lists of local, organic, grass fed meets. Lyf tells me the beef, lamb, buffalo, pork and even elk are delivered to him direct from the ranches. All the meats, including the fish and the local eggs (chicken, duck and quail, oh my!), are chemical and hormone free. There’s even something for the herbivores- fresh seaweed salad! A large refrigerator, also covered in chalk board with prices listed on all sides, holds most of his bounty. Customers happily browse through the selection, while Lyf gives cooking tips for each. The environment feels more like a friend’s house than a fish market, and it makes me want to become one of his regulars.

As awesome and substantial the choices of seafood are here,  a huge focus of the Flying Fish Co. is to provide proteins that are not only good choices for our bodies, but also good choices from an environmental prospective. Populations of certain species vary over time and are dependent upon multiple factors, including how heavily they are fished. If a specie’s population isn’t stable, then it won’t be available from Flying Fish Co. Meats like beef and pork are purchased form local farmers, helping to stimulate and support our community economy. We as consumers should also do our part by making smart choices, and Lyf’s truck is a great place to start. Even the trays the fish are packaged in are biodegradable.


As I browsed through the choices, I was surprised to find that prices were well below what I had expected. A dozen eggs are $5, and I picked up a pound of the fresh Copper River Sockeye Salmon for only about $10. Lyf said that although his prices were higher than at a store like Fred Meyer (whose products are not even comparable, in my humble opinion), they’re actually a few dollars cheaper than at a place like New Seasons. He accepts cash and cards, making buying a breeze, and soon will be accepting EBT (food stamp) cards. If you sign up to be on his mailing list, you can find out what specials he will have in that week (it always varies) and even make special requests.

Later that night I grilled my fresh salmon on the patio with the Portland sun shining (finally!) down on me. I took Lyf’s advice and didn’t overcook the fish, making sure the insides were still a lush coral pink. The result was one of the best dinner’s I’ve had all spring, and the friends I was willing to share a bite with agreed. The flavor was delicious and fresh, and the meat flaked off in perfect, moist bites.

Tomorrow I plan on walking down the block and popping back in to see Lyf, who opens his doors from noon to 7, Wednesday through Friday at the corner of 50th and Hawthorne (he’s also open on weekends at 3221 SE Division, in the cart pod). This time I want to try some of the farm fresh eggs, and maybe some of the Pacific Snapper. I’ll probably also mention how open my lower back feels from his Hot Flow class I attended this morning- when Lfy isn’t slinging fish, he also happens to be a wonderful instructor at the Yoga Union 🙂
I highly recommend taking a minute to stop by and check out Flying Fish Co. and say hi to a fellow yogi in the process.

Here’s a link the the Flying Fish website, where you can find out more about product availability and even details on other locations (most of which are owned by Lyf’s family) around the West. Be sure to sign up for his mailing list while there!

http://web.flyingfishcompany.com/home.html

Namaste!

200-Hour Teacher Training – Yoga Alliance Certified

This is a three-part Vinyasa teacher training designed to give you a full skill-set for teaching yoga.

Our program will focus on developing tools such as thematic class design, fluid sequencing, creative flow, authentic heart language, powerful adjustments, clear anatomy instruction, and therapeutic yoga for private clients.

✿Learn to Teach with Confidence!
✿Fluid Sequencing and Creative Flow
✿Meaningful Theming
✿Anatomy and Physiology
✿Pranayama
✿Safe and Therapeutic Alignment
✿Powerful Adjustments
✿Group Teaching Exercises
✿Constructive and Encouraging Feedback
✿Tantric Yoga Philosophy
✿Holistic Health
✿Community Outreach


Prerequisites:
Part 1 – SET THE FOUNDATION. Minimum one year of consistent yoga practice (three days per week).

Part 2 – THE ART OF TEACHING. Completion of Yoga Union Part 1 teacher training or a 200-hour teacher training elsewhere.

Part 3 – REFINE AND SHINE. Completion of Yoga Union Part 2 teacher training or at least a year of teaching experience, and fifty or more Anusara practice hours (approval required).

Application Process:
Submit all completed applications to Annie or Natalie:

✭Annie – annieoso@yahoo.com
✭Natalie – nataliegildersleeve@gmail.com

We select our students carefully to ensure that everyone admitted is prepared for the course.

Yoga Alliance Certification will be issued only to students who complete all three parts.

The Directors:
Sisters Annie Adamson and Natalie Gildersleeve are confident, knowledgeable, and approachable instructors. People say their instruction is fun, safe, inspiring, and personally transcendent.

Annie Adamson is co-owner of Yoga Union Community Wellness Center. She is an accredited Anusara instructor, and she holds certification in Hot and Vinyasa yoga. She infuses her classes with stories that light the heart and impassion the practice.

Natalie received her 500-hour Hatha yoga certification from D’ana Baptiste, and has been studying Anusara yoga for the past four years. She recently moved to Portland after owning and running a yoga studio in Utah. She is nurturing and inspiring, and she encourages each person to find their authentic voice and inner wisdom.

What Graduates are Saying:
“I began my journey as a yoga teacher Yoga Union’s 200-hour transformative teacher training. This was a life-changing experience for me and gave me a solid foundation of knowledge.” Amy Bratton

“The Yoga Union Teacher Training was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Not only did I become a more confident and knowledgeable practitioner, but a more honest, patient, and compassionate human. Annie and Natalie exude positivity, and their pure love of teaching and community made it one of the richest experiences I’ve had. The solid foundation they provide is essential for anyone who is committed to the practice and study of yoga.” Jainee Dial

Upcoming Trainings:

Each section is ten days long, with one day off. Students will complete 65 in-studio hours and 15 home study hours in each section. Total Hours – 240

✦Receive a $400 discount if you purchase all 3 parts together.
✦Please scroll to the bottom to view prices and to register.

☯July 2011 – Part 1 – Set the Foundation
June 30th through July 10th
More Details: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5145/5593771766_db9f4c768e.jpg

☯October 2011 – Part 2 – The Art of Teaching
October 6th through 16th
Daily schedule coming soon – please check back

☯March 2012 – Part 3 – Refine and Shine
March 1st through 11th
Includes a 3 night retreat – location TBD
Daily schedule coming soon – please check back

Prices:

✰$3200 – All three parts – July 2011, October 2011, March 2012 (retreat included) price includes a $400 discount for purchasing all 3 parts together.
✰$1200 – Part one – July 2011
✰$1200 – Part two – October 2011
✰$1200 – Part three – March 2012 (retreat included)

Register:

1. Fill out and submit application
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5229/5593715698_376cae4924_b.jpg

2. Wait for acceptance notification

3. Make payment
https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/home.asp?studioid=-371

4. View the reading list and begin.
http://yogaunioncwc.com/images/reading-list.jpg

We require a $400 deposit, which is non-refundable.

Please contact Annie or Natalie with any questions:
Annie – annieoso@yahoo.com
Natalie – nataliegildersleeve@gmail.com

 

Pose of the Month, Siddhasana “Perfect Pose”

As many of you know, June’s pose of the month is Siddhasana, also known as the “perfect pose”. Already in class I’ve heard students joke about the irony of this choice,
“We do this one everyday!” or, “More like pose of the year!”
And it’s true! We do find ourselves in Siddhasana more often than many other poses, which makes it an even better choice to focus on mindfully for the next few weeks (and hopefully continuing on into the future). Often times the poses we find easy or familiar are the ones that allow our minds to wander the most.

“Siddha” in Sanskrit refers to the hidden powers within the body that assist individuals in attaining spiritual upliftment. The pose is thought to be one of the most important asanas and one of the most beneficial seated poses, allowing the yogi to practice breath control (pranayama), concentration, meditation, and self- realization.

Siddhasana directs the energy from the lower psychic centers upward through the spine, thus stimulating the brain and calming the nervous system. It redirects blood circulation to the lower spine and abdomen, and tones the lumbar region of the spine, the pelvis, and the abdominal organs. It also allows for a balancing of the reproductive system and blood pressure.

Here are some technique tips to help you achieve Siddhasana:

  •  Sit down with both legs outstretched in front of you (Dandasana), keeping length in the spine.
  • Bend the left leg at the knee, and place the heel at the perineum, then fold the right leg and place the heel against the pubic bone, allowing the foot to angle downwards.
  • Both ankles should be resting, one on top of the other.
  • Keep both knees and the left heel in touch with the floor.
  • Keep awareness if your spine- if it is difficult to keep it straight, don’t hesitate to use a blanket under the buttocks to increase upward length
  • Rest the hands on the knees, perhaps with palms facing upwards, or in Gyan mudra (allowing the tip of the thumb and the tip of the index finger of each hand, to touch one another).
  • Close the eyes and look inward- scan your body and breathe into the areas that need some extra attention. Use the breath to bring awareness into the posture and into your self.
  • Reversing the position of the feet and repeating for the same length of time, or, alternating the foot on top at each class can be beneficial and balancing.

The main anatomical focus in this pose is the spine, but take caution or make adjustments as needed if you have a knee injury. As always, ask an instructor if you need assistance or have a question about any component of the pose. And most importantly, find enjoyment in it!

Sources:
http://yogajournal.com
http://yoga-teacher-training.org

Be Human, Stay Human

Are you tired of schlepping your yoga clothes all over town in your purse? Does your mat fall out of your backback while you’re cruising down Burnside on your bike? Do you wear the same t-shirt to class, regardless of if it made it in the wash or not? Have you neglected to treat yourself to something nice, even though you definitely deserve it? And do you dig using products that are organic, sustainable and recycled?
If you answered yes! to any or all of the above questions, we recommend checking out the awesome bags, clothing and accessories created by Stay Human, a company by Michael Franti and Carla Swanson.

According to the founders, the product line was inspired by yoga and a desire to cultivate a “stay human lifestyle”. They guarantee that throughout each stage of construction, ethical, humanitarian and environmental practices are utilized and 10% of all proceeds are donated to the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Clinic in Indonesia and the Hunter’s Point Family in San Francisco. Check out these sites for more information on the causes:
http://www.stayhumanstore.com/
http://bumisehatbali.org 
http://hunterspointfamily.com 

Yoga Union is happy to offer several of the Stay Human products in our own studio, ranging from tanks with built in bras, to bags made for the yogi-on-the-go.

 Our favorite bag, made from organic hemp, doubles as both a carry-all for your daily life (including a change of clothes!), and as a stylish yet functional way to carry your mat.

If you want something smaller, traditional tube-style yoga bags are available in eye-catching prints, assuring you’ll never forget your bag in the locker room again (or at least not as often ).

There are several pant and top styles for both men and women, and if you can’t find your size or favorite color in the studio, the website makes online ordering a breeze.
For women, we are loving the simple, comfortable feel of the Womens Eco Heather Cropped Pant, which can just as easily be worn to the grocery store as to the studio.

For the men, check out the Downward Dog t-shirt, made from 100% organic cotton. The illustration is beautiful and may even help you mindfully get into the pose.

Or maybe you’re searching for the perfect gift for someone you love? This beautiful bracelet would look great on anyone, and since the eco-silver is reclaimed from
film, cellphones and computers, you can feel good knowing you’ve done your part to support a company focused on reducing their environmental impact.

Everyone Yoga!

How old were you when you began your yoga practice? Do you ever wish you had found yoga at an earlier age? Many parents in cities across the country are encouraging their children to explore yoga and its teachings earlier, and classes taught for kids are becoming increasingly more popular. Yoga can be a wonderful way for children to learn how to calm the mind, exercise the body and appreciate the inner strengths and resources of every individual.

While some research has been done on the effects of yoga on children, definitive results are limited. However, there are several speculated benefits and many of them include the same advantages adults receive from a regular practice. Here’s just a few of the ways getting your child involved in yoga could help them later in life-

*Improved attention, concentration and promotion of emotional and self-control. Mindfulness is one of the greatest teachings of yoga. Exploring and developing mindfulness within yoga can be especially helpful for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with one study reporting a reduction in mood swings, temper outbursts and crying fits.
*Improved ability to plan and carry-out complex brain functions. Research suggests that yoga increases blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain, which results in a faster realization and correction of errors. This can be especially helpful during standardized tests given in schools.
*Improved strength and flexibility of muscles. Besides the obvious benefits of being strong and flexible, strengthening the muscles allows for an increase in circulation which results in an uptake of oxygen and hormones. This allows the parasympathetic nervous system (the “Rest and Digest” component of our brain) to take over. What does that mean? Reduced stress! And also an increased resistance to its effects later on.
*Decreased depression and anxiety. Research shows that people who practice yoga regularly have increased levels (sometimes as much as 27%!) of neurotransmitter y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is known to elevate mood. Starting yoga early can help young children develop and maintain positive outlooks on life.

If you’re considering yoga for your child,  it’s important to find the right learning environment for the development of foundations that will be used throughout a lifetime. The focus should be more on the cultivation of compassion and acceptance, as well as the connection between breath and postures, than on competition or perfection of poses (this is true for adults as well! But sometimes easy to forget ). Do your research before enrolling your child, and develop a relationship with the instructor.  Communicate with your child and make sure yoga classes are fun and that they are enjoying the experience. Some studios offer joint parent/child classes where you can practice together. This can be a great way to introduce them to yoga with you there to guide, support and offer encouragement.

Information received from:

http://74.125.155.132/scholar?q=cache:saHeUCq-eKoJ:scholar.google.com/+yoga+for+children&hl=en&as_sdt=0,38

Below are some resources for additional information on yoga for children.
Namaste!

http://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/210
http://moveyogastudio.com/