Monday, February 3, 2014

Upcoming Yin Yoga & Pranayama Workshop

Beginner's Mind Yoga presents:

Yin Yoga & Pranayama Workshop

Co-lead by Alice Despard (RYT-200) and Liz Chabra (ERYT-500)

When:   Saturday, March 15, 2014 ~ 9:30 - 11:30 am
Where:  Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
             6201 Dunrobbin Drive
             Bethesda, MD 20816
Cost:     $35.00
Host:     Alice Despard, Beginner's Mind Yoga Instructor

Preparing ourselves for the changing of the seasons as Spring approaches is a time-honored practice in the yoga tradition.  Pranayama, which means "energy management", is an important tool in the yogi's toolbox.  Working with the breath, pranayama helps us to optimize and regulate the flow of universal energy (prana) through our bodily systems, thereby supporting our immune system in pollen season as well as shaking off the sluggishness of the winter blahs.

The Yin postures in this workshop will focus on the lungs, heart and intestinal meridians.  These postures, which are held for a length of time, encourage a meditative and receptive mind  and so lend themselves perfectly to the introduction of breath work to begin stimulating the  subtle energy body (pranamayakosha) which surrounds our physical body.  In this workshop sequence, we will interweave Yin postures and breath work, followed by a short period of meditation to seal the practice.

Please bring your own mats and blankets if you have them and wear layers of clothing appropriate
for a yin practice oriented on the floor. We will also provide some blankets and other props.

Registration and payment in advance at this link is required to attend this workshop.



Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Subtle Benefits of Restorative Practice

I received a wonderful note from one of my yoga students today;  here is the gist of it:

Solstice Full Supermoon June 22, 2013
"What a great [restorative] class that was on Saturday! My body, especially my left hip thanks you.  After class, I was talking to [another student] about it. She told me that some people do not like restorative classes-- not as rigorous, vigorous, or whatever. I was really surprised because I had the opposite reaction. I thought it worked for me because it put my body in such different positions. It helped me to isolate this place on my left hip, buttock, joint, or whatever structure that is causing me so much trouble."

This was great feedback for a yoga instructor to receive from a student; indeed feedback is what it is all about in a restorative practice:

The resistance to slowing down, listening quietly to the body is an endemic tendency with many go-go-go people.  Some yoga practitioners have a rather narrow understanding of what they wish to achieve in a yoga practice:  if it is not a sweaty "workout" it can't be a worthwhile practice.  Of course sweaty, invigorating practice has its place!  Very much so!  A fiery, rajasic practice has many benefits, strengthening our bodies and our wills in many ways.

By contrast, a restorative practice balances us out with a more sattvic, contemplative yoga practice, experiencing the body/mind complex in a radically different way.  This can balance out our rajasic nature, which tends to be highly charged and zealous in its efforts,  by bringing a cooling, calming, quieting influence by soothing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in the body, and through cultivating the equanimity and dispassionate awareness  of our higher witnessing self.  Then your whole being begins to radiate with a more coherent and conscious light!

What this student is discovering is wonderful:  yoga is indeed a practice of mind and body union, so that you become more able to isolate, (i.e. bring healing focus and awareness) to specific areas of the body which are calling for you to bring them back into wholeness--in fact, back into holiness.
The first step for some yogis is allowing this subtle process to unfold, and it is not easy for many who are focused on "doing" a practice rather than simply "being" during a practice.  But most practitioners come around to experiencing the benefits of a restorative practice if they can just make that effort of allowing the space and time to hold their bodies in gentle awareness in the postures, sometimes called "effortless effort".  This is all part of the process of evolving into our wiser selves!

Even those yoga students who are resistant to a restorative practice-- some consciously and some unconsciously--usually reap some profound benefits from a restorative asana class, sometimes to their own surprise!

Om Shanti Om

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Falling into Place

The fall is almost here and a few D.C. heat waves will not discourage us from anticipating its arrival!

This year, particularly, is full of anticipation for me as I prepare to depart at the end of September for Spain to walk the Way of St. James (El Camino de Santiago).

This journey will take me away for about two months, and it is the first time I will be leaving my yoga students after five years of teaching my weekly class. 

I'm very grateful to be leaving you in good hands, however:
My yoga students will be under the tutelage of Lisa Johnson, whose background training is in Anusara, Ishta, and Vinyasa yoga styles. I met Lisa this summer; she was my anatomy teacher during my yoga teacher training sessions.  She will be sharing teaching duties for my Saturday morning class with Susan Cameron, one of her colleagues from Yoga Fusion Studio in Bethesda, Maryland.

I will also be present and assisting my colleague Sookie Kunst at KarmaYoga at a Yin Yoga Workshop in our usual space here at Redeemer on Sunday, September 23, 2012.

When I return in November, I hope to pick up with my students right where we left off, and begin with a restorative practice in anticipation of the holiday season.  


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Session I

Summer is a great time to slow down and consider starting or recharging a yoga practice.

Always, we begin again!

The summer session for Beginner's Mind Yoga began on Saturday, June 2, 2012 and runs through Saturday, July 21, 2012.  Drop-ins are always welcome and fees are $15.00 for an hour-and-a-half class.

Church of the Redeemer
6201 Dunrobbin Drive
Bethesda, MD 20816

9:30-11:00 am

comfortable attire and an open mind

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


This is a very important film which everyone should exceptions!



Water: Fascinating movie spans the globe to reveal recent discoveries about water, the most amazing yet least studied substance in the world. Witness as researchers, scientists, philosophers and theologians try to understand this unique liquid and all its miraculous properties still waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Relieving Stress at the Office

        These tips were sent to me by Susan Stewart, a yoga student of long-standing:

The following yoga tips can help you reenergize, refocus, and realign.

1. Better than caffeine? When you feel yourself dragging at the end of a long, hard day at work, it might seem intuitive to race to the closest coffee shop for a pick-me-up, but a short yoga stretch at your desk may do the trick. Try this energizing pose you can do at your desk. On an inhalation, lift your chest, making a high backbend. Stay here and draw three full, rich breaths into your body. As you exhale, release your hands, place them on your knees and round your spine. Tuck your pelvis and pull your navel away from your knees, coming into a seated Cat Pose. Let your head dangle to open the back of the neck. Repeat several times. (For more information see Office Yoga Tips.)
2. Take a deep breath. Your breath is a relaxation tool that never leaves you. You can access it at work, while you're running errands, or whenever you feel stressed. Why not try it now? Close your eyes and observe as you take 10 slow, deep breaths in and out through the nostrils. When you're done you'll feel calmer, more centered, and more focused. (For more information see Inhale, Exhale, Relax.)
3. Go for a mindful walk. When you think of meditation, you may think of something very serious and focused, but the practice of meditation includes a wide range of techniques you can practice anytime, including many that are appropriate for a mid-day yoga break at home or in the office. To do a walking meditation, simply keep your mind in the present as you take a mindful walk around the office or the block. The idea is not to walk to get somewhere, but simply to enjoy the walk. (For more information see Meditation in Motion.)
4. Pamper your peepers. If you work with computers, detailed documents, or small objects that strain your eyes, you may find that your vision starts to get fuzzy by the end of the day. Taking a break from the intense concentration of work—whatever work you do—is good for everyone. The yogic practice of withdrawing from the senses (Pratyahara) can be both spiritual and mental. When we close our eyes, we move into ourselves and away from the external world. This creates a deep sense of peace. On a physical level, closing our eyes can protect them, calm our bodies, lower our blood pressure, and make it possible for us to concentrate for longer periods of time. So take a yoga break at your desk, or wherever you are, during your work day. Close your door, close your eyes, and surrender to the moment. Your eyes—and your mind—will thank you. (For more information see Cyber Eyes.)