Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Know Your Yoga - Neighbors of East Windsor Magazine Article

Neighbors of East Windsor Article: Know Your Yoga

By Tracey L. Ulshafer, Owner, One Yoga Center, Hightstown, NJ

What is Yoga? Apparently the answer to that question it depends on who you ask! If you are reading this article then you probably have already either taken yoga classes or at the very least, looked up a few online. There can be many confusing words and descriptions, all used under the yoga umbrella. So what do they mean? And how do you know which type or style of yoga is right for you?

These are good questions to ask. It is also a good idea to not only look up your local yoga studio online, but to call and talk to someone about the style of yoga that the studio primarily teaches, and inquire if it may be right for you given any specific needs or limitations that you may have.

The yogis in India (the birthplace of yoga) practiced many types of yoga. Without getting into all of those practices, which can only be more confusing, just understand that the practices of yoga that we tend to do here in the West are known as “Hatha” yoga practices. These combine breathing, postures, meditation and sometimes other components, usually in a one hour to one and a half hour class, led by a teacher and practiced by multiple different practitioners of various levels. If you see the word “Hatha” on a yoga schedule, it generally means an all-level class, guided through different combinations of postures, breathing, and the other components. Usually these are quite eclectic, often have a theme to them, and can vary tremendously from teacher to teacher. It is important to understand that all other types of yoga practiced here in the West generally come from Hatha. So, think of Hatha as the vanilla ice cream, in a very flavorful ice-creamery world.

We can thank a man named T. Krishnamacharya for bringing these yogic practices to us. Often referred to as the “Father of Modern Yoga,” Kirshnamacharya is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers. His legacy can be found throughout many different yoga practices, styles and lineages, as most “master” yoga teachers today learned from him or one of his disciples. Two of his main students developed their own styles of yoga. First, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois developed the practice known as Asthanga Yoga. This challenging practice has different levels that the student can work towards developing with his or her teacher. The first level is known as the Primary Series, consisting of fundamental postures and breathing techniques, including the Sun Salutations and other static postures performed with linking Sun Salutations between them. As a striking contrast, Krishnamacharya’s other well-known teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, developed a style of yoga (called Iyengar Yoga) where very particular alignments along with prop use. Whereas Asthanga Yoga is a flowing style of yoga, in Iyengar Yoga, postures are held longer and usually do not have salutations in between them. 

Today, the most popular style of yoga practiced here in the USA is called “Vinyasa.” This means that the breath and the movement of the postures are choreographed together, kind of like a dance. The Asthanga Yoga practice introduced Vinyasa Yoga. But today, there is such an eclectic way in which Vinyasa is taught; you can often hardly see the roots of Asthanga in most classes. You can usually find these classes to be a little more challenging or sometimes even athletic, since there are series of poses that are performed multiple times in succession, thus building up muscle tone and strength a little more quickly. Vinyasa classes can be quite stylized and it may be a good idea to check into the studio or teacher before attending these classes if you are new to yoga. However, if you are very physically fit, an athlete or someone with no injuries or limitations and want to push your edge, then these classes may be exactly what you are looking for.

So what about Hot Yoga? Yes, another favorite these days. Hot Yoga derived from a style of yoga called Bikram, named after its founder, Bikram Choudhury. Originally, Bikram coined a series of 26 hatha yoga postures that were performed in a very hot room (105 F). After Bikram started a copyright campaign in an effort to have Bikram teachers and studios pay him exorbitant amounts of licensing fees, many studios changed their name from Bikram Yoga to Hot Yoga. And alas, a new breed of yoga was born. The idea of the intense heat is to increase circulation, blood flow, promote sweating and detoxification. Most people find that they are able to perform yoga postures more easily in the heat, but there can be some negative aspects too, like: overheating, overstretching resulting in injury or dislocation, and more. Again, there are benefits to this type of practice, but proper health, hydration and preparedness before going to a hot yoga class is recommended. 

Kundalini Yoga is a style that was developed by Yogi Bhajan as comprehensive practices (known as kriyas) combining meditation, mantra (sacred sounds), physical exercises, and breathing techniques to awaken to the full potential of the individual. People often comment that these classes are infused with a lot of energy practices meant to awaken this spiritual potential within us referred to as the kundalini.

So, what about Vini-Yoga, Phoenix Rising, Kripalu Yoga, Yoga4Sobriety, Sivananda, Yin Yoga, Power Yoga, Prenatal, Jivamukti, Restorative, Aerial, Acro, and…yes, let’s say it, “Goat Yoga?” There are so many styles of Hatha Yoga today, and as more teachers develop and create their own particular brand of yoga, we will see more and more appear on local yoga studio class schedules. And the truth is, you need to find the style or styles of yoga that speak to you. The benefits of a yoga practice are quite extensive. So, do a little research, call and talk to your local studios, and pop around until you find the style of yoga and a teacher that can support you not only now, but way into the future.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November's Theme:

November 2017 Theme: 

Often times when we are in the midst of something and are too close to the subject, we cannot see the truth clearly. Without proper insight, we might make a rash or impulsive decision that is not best for us, personally, or the good of all. This month's Indigo Angel card prompts us to "Think About It" a little more.

Virtue says, "step back from your current path or thought process and review the situation you're asking about. There's an unseen aspect, and the angels guide you to slow down so you can move forward with the whole picture in sight. This card can also be cautionary, if you were about to make a radical change impulsively. While it may still be the best path, this card asks you to look into the alternatives first."

Haven't you ever noticed that there are times when you are plugging away at something and it just isn't flowing? When you take a moment to move away from it, and come back refreshed, you can think more clearly and often find the best options - which can often be ways that we were not using at all in the first place. 

If there is something that you are needing to think more about, try this: 

Come into a comfortable position with your spine straight. Close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths into your belly, expanding it with each inhalation. Once you feel relaxed and centered, invoke Archangel Raziel, who's name means "the Secrets of God." It is said that Raziel sits so close to God that he hears and writes down everything that God says, and so, has universal wisdom. 

Repeat, "Dear Archangel Raziel, help guide me in my spiritual understanding and to a place of knowingness and wisdom," three times. Continue breathing deeply while focusing on what you need to think about. Be highly aware of any images, thoughts, ideas or words that come to you during this time.

This may not be an immediate or quick fix. You can use this meditation daily if you are working through a big life question. But one thing is for sure, once you know, you know.

* * * * * * * 

Special Message from Tracey for November

How you doin? I just wanted to say that. I'm feeling humorous! It has nothing to do with anything else I am going to least I don't think so!

THINK ABOUT IT! This is not something the Universe needs to tell a Gemini. If anything, we need to hear the opposite because our wheels are always spinning! But, alas, there it is. So, I thought about it! And yes, sometimes in my earnest to do the right and best thing, I often miss it completely. How does this happen? Usually because I am in my head and not in my center. This is an ongoing issue of mine. I constantly work through it. I am wired to think and do and create spontaneously. It is a complete challenge to slow down, be and know. 

After my test to slowing down the earlier part of this year, I felt myself recently going Mach 5 again. Yes, skip Mach 1, I went right to 5. I needed to get away and clear my head and do something off the charts different. So...I went to Morocco. I did not tell many people what I was doing because, frankly, I didn't want to. I needed to just do it for me. I needed it for many reasons. The pluses of going: I got to step onto another continent: Africa! I rode a camel on the beach at sunset. I met some amazing people from all over and made friendships and connections that I believe I will always have. And then, there was clarity. I went with no real expectations. I returned enlightened about a bunch of stuff and re-aligned with my true self again, something that sometimes takes us getting away and seeing things from a different perspective to get back in our groove.  

So, now that I am refreshed, how can I help you? How can I be of service to you? As your yoga teacher and travel guide of Sacred Journeys, how can I help you to reach your own truth? I don't have to think about it anymore. This is it. It's all about being there for others, helping to guide and lift each other up so that you too can find your path to your true self. So, seriously, think about it this month. How can I be of service to you? Contact me for private mentoring or spiritual guidance at or 609-918-0963

In Love & Light.
Tracey L. Ulshafer, Founder, One Yoga & Wellness Center LLC, E-RYT500, RYS, CMT, Energy Worker, 11:11 True One.