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Yoga for EVERY Body.

Upcoming Events

 

Self Therapy Clinic

with Sandy Gross
6pm to 8pm
 12/11, 12/18

New Years Day Workshop

Taming Your Demons with Swami Atmarupa
1/1/2019 1pm to 3pm

Begginers' Workshop

with Swami Atmarupa
1/5/2019 2pm to 4pm

Study Yoga Mentoring Group

with Swami Atmarupa & Sandy Gross
 1/11, 1/13,  2/8, 2/10

 

Fine-Tuning Your Practice
A New Blog from Swami Atmarupa

Digital Downloads
Recordings of Guided Yoga Practices and More!



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Atmarupa

Fine Tuning Your Practice

Fundamental

Adjective - forming a necessary base or core; of central importance

Noun - a central or primary rule or principle on which something is based

Here at the Atma Center we have a series of classes called Fundamental Yoga. Although it is seen as our entry level, its importance to your overall success in making meaningful progress, both to and within other levels, cannot be overestimated.

In the Fundamental Yoga classes, you begin to cultivate a level of awareness that comes from feeling movement and its effects, from finding the nature of the breath, and from learning how to let go, be still and release from the chaos of daily living. It is a process of connecting to the very core of our being.

Remember when a radio had knobs and a station had to be tuned in? There was lots of static between stations, but when you found a signal it was necessary to slow down the turning of the knob and adjust it carefully to get the best reception. There needed to be a very precise adjustment to connect fully with the message/music being broadcast by the station. Sometimes distance precluded a clear signal or the broadcast strength was weak. And if you were traveling in a vehicle, the signal would be lost after some time and it was necessary to begin the process again.

We come to yoga class broadcasting the static from the world but as we adjust ourselves carefully in the practices we begin to find the signal. We hear the message of our body encouraging us to move and stretch. We hear the music of the breath moving rhythmically in and out. And during this time and space we can distance ourselves from the mental chatter so we can find our inner peace.

We fine-tune ourselves in Fundamentals. We connect with our “necessary base or core that is of central importance.”

When was the last time you took a Fundamental Yoga class?


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Atmarupa

Women of Substance

How many of you think you are beautiful? How many of you think that you could look better? What could you do to look better if you lost weight? If you are like millions of women, this is one of the first ways we believe that we can look better, whether we are a size 20 or a size 5.
  
In this Instagram and Facebook age, there can be a lot pressure to look beautiful, or guilt from how we look.  And the prevalence of eating disorders continues to rise.

It is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men:
  • One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia
  • Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia
  • Nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder
  • An estimated 10 – 15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are males
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
An article in the 2015 Bazaar magazine regarding our ‘Beauty Ideal’ states, “none of the body trends over the past few decades have felt as head-scratchingly inaccessible for the average woman lacking a trust fund-size budget for personal trainers, diet coaches and plastic surgeons as the current ideal: D-cup breasts, tiny waists, sculpted abs, big butts and thigh gaps inches-wide—all in one.”
            
But historically, women were admired if they were round bodied. In the 1890s, the sex symbol was ‘American Beauty’ Lillian Russell, who at her peak weighed just over 200 pounds! For most of history, fatness was the epitome of sexiness as well as representing fertility.

Think of some women that you have found "beautiful" in your personal lives. What do they look like? Are they thin? Do they have perfect features? How do they carry themselves?  What is their character? What makes them beautiful in your eyes?

The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 145 pounds. Over 50 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger.

But what about the health issues of fatness?  It is interesting to note, that in cultures where fat is considered beautiful--the health problems normally associated with fatness do not exist. Another interesting thing to note, is that moderately fat women can have fewer health problems.  They have a lower incidence of death from some forms of cancer. They are less likely to get emphysema than thin people. They have fewer menopausal symptoms because estrogen is stored in fat cells, have fewer wrinkles and more youthful skin. They also have less osteoporosis because carrying weight around strengthens the bones.

It's important to realize that self-acceptance and self-esteem are the keys to beauty, not an imaginary ideal of what you "should be." Have you ever avoided going after something you wanted because you did not feel you looked good enough? Have you ever postponed doing something because you were waiting to lose weight? These are sure signs that you are not satisfied with the way you look. They are also indicators of low self-esteem.

Having self-esteem and liking the way you look revolve around each other in a reinforcing circle. Women who are comfortable and satisfied with their looks radiate attractiveness.             
So, how do we learn to be self-accepting and believe in our own innate beauty? We need to learn to view our bodies in a more realistic and loving way. If we could lose our fear of fat . . . just think of the power we could gain! All that time and energy spent on trying to get or stay thin, or thinner, could then be ours to use as we wish. Instead of shrinking and constricting ourselves, we could expand our horizons, enlarge our expectations, amplify our power, and widen our impact.

Let's make friends with our bodies!  Love yourself. There's only one of you. Maintain a mental image of yourself as a uniquely beautiful soul. Promise yourself you will never again avoid anyone or anything because you think you are too fat! Accept yourself NOW!

And enjoy this little poem…

Homage To My Hips - by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in
they don't fit into little
pretty places. These hips
are free hips.
They don't like to be held back.
These hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
These hips are magic hips.
I have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Join Swami Atmarupa for the Women of Substance Workshop October 1, 2016 and fall in love with your body!



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Atmarupa

BEGIN AGAIN!

Our theme for January 2016 is “Begin Again.”  It may seem like a simple thing to do at the beginning of a new year, but trying to truly incorporate it into one’s life is not so simple.  How easy do you find it to let go of the past and begin again?

We make resolutions at the beginning of the year.  This year I will lose weight.  This year I will exercise daily.  This year I will refrain from getting angry.  This year I will……fill in the blank!  But as soon as we don’t quite manage to do what we say we are going to do, the negative self-talk starts.  We get stuck in self-doubt and resistance to moving forward arises.  This subconscious resistance consumes a lot of energy and with time we can no longer muster the will to try.

It’s time we look at our goals and start with small steps.  Take each new day as a fresh opportunity to step forward.  Today I will make healthy choices in my food.  Today I will park further from the entrance, or this week I will take 2 yoga classes instead of 1.  Today I will work on happiness and if I begin to get irritated, I will look for the anger that is being triggered inside me and own it as mine and not the result of something outside of me. 

Today I will take the opportunity to truly put the past where it belongs and begin again.  And if I fail, I will begin again tomorrow.


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Atmadarshan

Why Do We Celebrate Mahashivaratri?

According to legend, Shiva was the first practitioner of yoga.  He is also associated with transformation, of getting rid of the old so that new growth can emerge.  A festival named Shivaratri (“night of Shiva”) is said to be the most auspicious day of the year for undertaking new ventures, creating new habits, and making positive changes in our lives.

There are many stories surrounding Shivaratri.  One of the most popular is the tale of Suswara, a poor hunter who went too deeply into the jungle in search of game and did not make it out before nightfall.  He sought shelter in a tree and to keep himself awake, he plucked leaves and dropped them to the ground below.  As the night wore on, Suswara shed many tears at the thought of his wife and children, who must be hungry and worried about him.  Finally dawn came and, relieved, Suswara left the tree to return home.  Only later did he learn that at the base of his sheltering tree was a statue of Shiva.  Suswara’s tears had washed the statue and the leaves of the tree he dropped were sacred to Shiva.  Shiva, pleased with Suswara’s devotion, transformed the poor hunter into a mighty king.

This tale is symbolic of the journey all of us undertake.  The jungle represents our mind, and the animals we try to hunt down represent our instinctive urges.  The climbing of the tree represents our climb to higher consciousness, and the dawn is the dawning of a new, happier state of mind. Suswara’s transformation represents the heights we all can reach if we persevere through difficult circumstances.

During Shivaratri, participants practice yoga techniques which are transformative at the deepest level:  kirtans (call-and-response singing of mantra) release old emotional tensions;  chanting distracts the mind from its habitual patterns and creates a newfound sense of peace.  All ages are welcome to the Atma Center’s celebration of this festival.  It is free; any donations you make will be gratefully accepted and will go to the building fund, which helps maintain the building that houses not only the Center but 2 international non-profit organizations that serve to bring yoga to underserved populations.


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Atmarupa

Why Forgive?

Culturally, we are angry.  We blame others for the condition of our lives.  If we are stressed, it’s because someone or something has “done us wrong”- one of our friends, someone in our family, or the situation at work or home.  We look outward to find a reason for the way we feel, for the way our life is going.

Although we innately know that happiness can only be generated from within, we live in a culture where outward appearances and expression are prized and valued.  We “have a right” to say and do as we please and we are proud of that right.  Yet when our actions yield less than positive results, we are quick to disown those actions, misplacing our internal distress upon outside influences.  Rather than admit that we have made a mistake, we rationalize and justify our actions until we can believe the illusion that the consequences are not our responsibility.

However, over time, our sense of self is betrayed by this ongoing game of delusion.  Feeling depressed if the betrayal is turned inward, or anger if it is turned outward, we lose control by losing sight of out internal voice.  We spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating about the negativity in our lives, and this deepens feelings of anger, self-doubt and fear, leading to a feeling of helplessness and lack of control.

One of the greatest and most difficult lessons to be learned in life is forgiveness.  Learning to forgive is an integral part of living a life that may be filled with happiness.  Until we can forgive, ourselves and others, we will continue to harbor a negative force that destroys our inner peace and causes our life to be out of balance. 

Forgiveness not only acknowledges the fallibility of our actions, and those of others, but allows us to move onward, to be in the present and not in the past.  In forgiveness comes the realization that all beings suffer, that all beings seek happiness, and that we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions to life’s events.

No one drives you crazy or makes you unhappy.  You do that to yourself.  By looking inward and listening to your inner voice, you begin the process of finding your way.  By learning to forgive whoever has caused you harm, yourself or others, you regain a sense of control over the negative influences in your life.

 

- from Fall 1999's Atma Center publication To Your Health


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Atmarupa

What is Navaratri?

"The story of the Divine Mother represents the triumph of the divine power over the dark forces of negativity In the struggle between the dual factors of good and evil, truth and untruth, virtue and vice, freedom and involution, light and darkness. The occasion of Navaratri, therefore, is a reminder to the aspirant of the great cosmic law that the divine will always prevail ultimately over the un-divine.

"Navaratri is an annual awakening call to experience and express afresh the divine nature, to make manifest the light of truth and love in order to vanquish and conquer the forces of evil within. For it is through the positive forces of love and brotherhood and selflessness that negative and UN-divine elements can be effectively eliminated from the heart and the mind. Darkness can never resist light....

"Truth alone triumphs, however long and agonising its twisting duel with untruth may be. The positive must and does overcome the negative. The call of the Mother is to rouse oneself to this truth and to regulate one's life as a dynamic expression of divine positivism." - Swami Sivananda Saraswati

Learn how to manifest your most divine qualities with 9 days of free programs from April 11-19: 7:45-8:45pm Monday - Friday and 5:00-6:00 pm Saturday & Sunday. You may attend one, some or all of the programs, but you will need to preregister here

Read more from Swami Sivananda's article here


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Omkar

How Can You Teach Safe Alignment Without Hands-On Adjustments?

Among our many students, the Atma Center is often visited by yoga teachers-in-training from other programs. These yoga enthusiasts are often surprised by just how different our teaching style is from what they have experienced at other studios.

Recently, one such student asked me an important question. She wondered what we do to keep students safe in their asana practice, as she was under the impression that we don’t emphasize alignment issues and noticed that we do not touch our students to get their bodies into alignment.

I offered the following feedback:  student safety is a huge issue and of utmost importance in Satyananda yoga. We manage that in several ways.

First, we start students with the very basics: joint mobilization practices and core strengthening work so their bodies can handle classic asana with fewer risks. We fine-tune these practices over time, giving verbal cues about proper alignment –woven so naturally into the teaching they might not seem emphasized. We use exploratory, awareness-raising wording like, “check that you are…” or “notice the position of your [body part]”. If we ever see a student doing something out of alignment – like locking the knees, or throwing their head back, we start with a verbal cue to the entire class and then, if still necessary, approach the student individually.

Next, we offer modifications where appropriate. Many of the poses – even shavasana - can aggravate a stressed body part such as the wrists, the knees, the low back or the neck. Therefore, teachers will suggest different ways of practicing postures so that students can find the best variation allowing them to stick to our motto, “No Pain, No Pain.”

Most importantly, is our emphasis on awareness and honoring limitations. When students begin to listen deeply to their bodies and truly honor their limitations, they find the correct alignment and know how to stay within that safe, no-pain zone.

As students gain more experience and progress through the levels of practice, there is more of a conversation about alignment – in the form of exploration. Our students have established an awareness of their bodies and what feels right. Further, we acknowledge that everybody’s body is a little different. Bones are of different lengths/proportions from one person to another  and the angles of our joints vary. So, a proper alignment for one body is not necessarily proper for another body.

After our exchange, the student who posed the question replied, “The instruction is so soothing and subtle that I don't even realize how well I am being guided!” She followed with, “I am grateful for the lack of personal adjusting because I don't extend into poses the same way and when teachers have tried to assist, it would usually leave me very frustrated that I can't go as ‘deep’ as they might be adjusting.”

Even though this individual is not going to be a Satyananda Yoga teacher (yet?), I am comforted to know that she is inspired by our style of teaching and hopes to approach her students with the same gentleness and care as we do. I am also grateful for her excellent question and to be able to share some of the reasons behind our teaching style.

Next time you come to a yoga class at the Atma Center, I invite you to listen for the cues about alignment and notice how we guide you to be safe and comfortable in every practice.

 

Om Tat Sat,

Omkar


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Atmadarshan

Keeping Your Yoga Practice Fresh

One of our long-time students, Mark Johnson, shares his recommendation for keeping your yoga practice fresh:

 

I occasionally have the wish - perhaps brought on by reading a spiritual book - to go to a mountain top in India and sit at the feet of a great master. Obviously, that’s not practical. Time and expense aside, there are poisonous snakes, dysentery and no Starbucks. But what if the mountain top came to me?

From time to time, North American Gurukul and the Atma Center host visiting swamis from India for a weekend workshop or retreat. Swami Satyadharma came last Labor Day weekend and her transformative teachings catapulted my home practice to new heights. She’s coming again in May for a retreat, and I can hardly wait.

Whenever my practice gets stale; when I start thinking, “what’s the use”; when I feel out of step with the rest of the world - that’s when I know I need to be re-inspired. Sometimes I’ll find that inspiration in a book, or by attending a kirtan, but for me the best source is a retreat. Why?

First, it helps me to get away – from my stressful job, endless house repairs and glum economic news. It breaks up my routine thought patterns.

Second, it’s comforting to spend time with like-minded people. By the end of the retreat there is a feeling of closeness and friendship. I think maybe I’m not so crazy after all.

Third, there is nothing so magical as being in the presence of a master. Swami Satyadharma is the real deal and the teaching is rare and authentic. I’ve gone on retreat at four ashrams, and while those experiences were wonderful, the programs I’ve attended in the Satyananda tradition have been truly special. I hope you join me on the “mountain top” – snake free I hope – at the retreat at Salt Fork State Park on May 17-19.


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