Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda
Today there are an estimated 16 million yoga practitioners in the United States alone. Out of these 16 million, a fraction of them are introduced to yoga’s sister sciences of tantra and ayurveda. In ancient times, students would begin studying ayurveda and tantra, then dive deeper into classical yoga. In this class we will first define ayurveda and tantra along with some of their key components. Next we will learn what they have in common and how they differ. Finally we will experience a practice drawing upon the knowledge of all three sister sciences. This will be a class of moderate physical intensity. All levels welcome.
Forward Folding: Moving Down and Out
When we fold forward we stretch the back body, strengthen the front and increase the energy that moves down and out called apana in Sanskrit. This energy is responsible for removing toxins and waste on both physical and mental levels. If this energy or vayu is not strong, we can consume a healthy diet and get proper exercise but still be full of toxins and be the perfect environment for disease to grow. This class will consist of postures, breathwork and meditation to help facilitate the downward flow of energy and is open to all levels.
Balancing Poses: Power and Grace
When we practice postures on one foot or the hands, we find the perfect balance of power and grace. These postures also give the mind the ability to focus deeply and make it very one-pointed. In this class, we will explore some of the more complicated postures and learn a few “tricks of the trade” to make very difficult poses seem simple and fun. We will also practice more subtle techniques to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Open to all levels.
Bending Backward: An Uplifting Experience
When we practice back bending postures we strengthen the back of the body, stretch the front and increase the inward and upward moving energy called pran in Sanskrit. This is the vayu that gives us our vitatlity; physically and mentally. If this energy is weak, we feel sluggish, uninspired and even depressed. When flowing properly we are an inspiration for all. This class will consist of postures, breathwork and meditation to help facilitate the inward and upward moving energy and is open to all levels.
Twisting: Get Centered
Twisting postures help us to unwind tension along the spine, gently “wring out” the abdominal organs and increase the energy the moves toward the center called samana in Sanskrit. When this vayu is strong, we are capable of proper digestion and assimilation on physical and mental levels. We also feel very “centered”. When this energy is weak, we can feel scattered and suffer from poor digestion. This class will consist of postures, breathwork and meditation to help facilitate strong digestion/assimilation and is open to all levels.
Lateral Stretching: Expand!
When we stretch to the side, we help open the inner thighs and strengthen one side of the torso while lengthening the opposite side. On a more subtle level we strengthen the energy that governs circulation and gives us an expansive feeling. This vayu is called vyana in Sanskrit. When working properly, blood, lymph and prana flow through the body and mind efficiently. When obstructed we may experience cold hands and feet as well as mental and energetic “blockages”. This class will consist of postures, breathwork and meditation to help facilitate circulation physically and mentally. Open to all levels.
Handstand and Other Arm Balances
Balancing on the hands helps to build core, arm, and shoulder strength. Arm balances also help us to focus the mind and improve concentration. These tricky poses enliven the spirit and make us more courageous and less fearful as well.
In this vigorous class we will prepare the body and mind with salutations and standing poses before learning a few “tricks of the trade” that will help make some of the most difficult poses in yoga more accessible.
Splits, Lotus, and Other Hip Openers
Some of the more advanced poses (which are also some of the most beneficial) require full range of motion in the hip joints. If we attempt to move into some of these advanced asanas without full mobility in the hips, we risk injury to our knees and ankles.
In this class we will first look at the anatomy of the hips and then systematically work our way down to the mat to explore hero pose, variations of pigeon, full splits, lotus, and a few secret gems that are not taught very often in general classes.
Vinyasa from a Tantric Perspective
The word vinyasa stems from the Sanskrit word nyasa, which means “to place”. The prefix vi, in this case, means “in a special way”. Thus vinyasa would mean “to place something in a special way”. The word tantra translates “to weave” and refers to weaving together the material and spiritual worlds.
A tantric vinyasa class is a practice consisting of postures, movements, gestures, breathwork and meditation weaved together in a special way to reach a specific desired result. In this class we will first decide what our desired result will be and then practice in an intelligent way to get there. This class will be on the more vigorous side and is appropriate for students in good health and a strong physical practice.
Viparita Karani: Turning Your World Upside Down
Although today most yoga practitioners believe viparita karani means "legs up the wall", the literal translation is "active reversal" or "to be inverted". Some ancient scriptures described viparita karani as headstand (the Gheranda Samhita) and some as shoulderstand (the Hatha Yoga Pradipika). BKS Iyengar calls headstand the "king of all asanas" and shoulderstand "the queen". Everyone seems to agree that holding inverted postures for long periods of time kept the ancient yogis looking incredibly young and healthy.
In this class we will focus on intelligent preparations, safe alignment and proper counterpose for inversions to lower any risk of injuring the cervical vertebrae.
Vinyasa Krama: Intelligent Sequencing
Vinyasa stems from the root word "nyasa" which means to place something. The prefix "vi" on this case means in a special way. Therefore a proper definition of vinyasa means to place something in a special way. This could refer to placing your arm in a special way while in triangle pose. It could also refer to placing postures in a special way within a sequence to get to a desired result.
The word "krama" means steps or stages. Vinyasa Krama is the act of placing asanas and pranayamas in a special way and in stages to achieve the desired result. This could be to strengthen your digestion, to help heal a sore back or to help deal with a particularly stressful time in your life.
This class will give a general formula on intelligent sequencing with examples of sequences for different desired results. Then we will all design a sequence and practice it.
In today’s yoga world, prana is sometimes mentioned, but rarely in any detail. It is described as “energy” or “the vital life force” but these descriptions just begin to scrape the surface. Vayu means direction of flow or wind. Tantric Vinyasa Yoga is the skillful use of this energy. We not only attempt to build and contain it, but also direct it to certain areas of the body, which in turn, have and effect on the mind. Once prana has entered the body, it can move in five different directions and accumulate in these areas, which can be good or bad depending on the person.
In this class, you will learn the five main vayus and how to strengthen them. We will then do a practice to help us understand where we are lacking prana and how to increase it where we need it most. Although this is a gentle practice, it has very powerful results.
Shodhana: Yogic Purification
Tantric yoga focuses less on the yamas and niyamas (how we treat ourselves and others) of classical yoga and emphasizes inner purification of the physical, energetic and psychic bodies. When deep inner purification happens, we spontaneously choose to act with compassion and see the world more clearly thus effecting every decision we make.
In this unique class, we will use a strong sequence of postures, breathwork and meditation that leave you feeling a deep sense of cleansing but not exhaustion. Energized but also centered. You will be challenged physically, but in an intelligent and holistic way that will build prana (the vital life force), not deplete you of it. Please arrive with an empty stomach and an open mind!
Tantra: Weaving Together the Material and Spiritual Worlds
The word tantra means “to weave.” While most spiritual traditions say the material world distracts us from spiritual growth, tantra says that the material world is a manifestation of the divine and that we should weave the two together. It also says we should have a personal relationship with, and can even embody the divine.
This class explains (and then applies) the ways to make our practice more than just a physical workout. A Tantric Vinyasa class is more of a sacred ritual that helps us to identify with the divine light that rests within all of us!
Teachings from the Ancient Texts: Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Out of the few ancient texts on the physical practice of yoga, the most well known is The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Written approximately 1,000 years ago, this scripture describes physical postures, cleansing techniques, breathwork and meditation techniques to make one fit to reach the highest stages of yoga. Today most of the deeper practices in this text have been forgotten. In this class we will begin with a discussion on some of the main teachings and then move into a physical practice applying what we have learned.
Teachings from the Ancient Texts: Yoga Sutra
Perhaps the most well known of all yoga scriptures is the Yoga Sutra. In it, the sage Patanjali lays out the steps to reach the highest stages of consciousness. When looked at the text from a tantric view, it has hidden messages that help to accelerate the process and make it more accessible to all. In this class we will first discuss the Yoga Sutra and then move into a gentle physical practice that will prepare us for a longer meditation on sutra 1:36.
Stilling the Lake of the Mind
We all know that meditation is good for us. If you're looking to connect to spirit, find inner peace or just trying to deal with the stress of modern life, meditation can work wonders. Why then do we still struggle with starting or continuing a meditation practice? The answer may surprise you. It could actually be your yoga practice itself holding you back! When yoga is practiced inappropriately, it could make it more difficult to find the inner stillness necessary for meditation.
In this special 2 1/2 hour class, Jim will draw on ancient teachings and parables to help you better understand "the lake of the mind". Afterward, he will lead you through a specially designed sequence of postures and breathwork that will make it effortless to be still and reap the benefits of a deep meditation.
Advanced Practice: Asana
In this vigorous class we will explore some of the more intricate postures in yoga. This class is appropriate for strong practitioners and teachers who are in good physical health and are capable of practicing poses like hanumanasana (full splits), adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) and kapotasana (full pigeon). For those who are not practicing these types of postures, please know appropriate modifications to do instead.
Pranayama for Teachers and Experienced Students
“Pranayama practiced appropriately can cure all disease and practiced inappropriate can cause all disease”. — The Hatha Yoga Pradapika
The ancient yogi’s didn’t practice to achieve a “six pack” or that great “yoga butt”. They practiced to build, move and eventually stop the flow of prana. While most practitioners today have gained great flexibility and strength through the physical practice, they have little to no knowledge on the subtle practice of breathwork.
This class will first discuss prana in more detail followed by a short, gentle asana practice to help prepare for a longer pranayama session. Appropriate for teachers and experienced students.
Advanced Practice: Bandha and Mudra
The advanced practices of yoga are not contortions of the body, they are the ability to stop and redirect the vital life force (prana) at will. Yogis build prana through breathwork (pranayama), stop the movement of energy through locks (bandha) and redirect the flow through full body gestures (mudra).
In this class we will focus on the three main bandhas and three main mudras within a physical practice. We will also discuss the appropriate time and place to practice them and what is the desired result of each. This class is for experienced practitioners who have a firm grasp on asana and basic pranayama.