Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
What brought you to yoga?
I became interested in yoga in college after seeing some friends of mine practicing crow pose on campus. It looked so cool and effortless! I still aspire to make crow pose look cool and effortless. It’s a journey!
What is your approach to teaching?
I want to teach yoga in an accessible way, through a trauma-sensitive lens. I want my students to feel safe and empowered to connect with their body through movement and breath. I hope to foster that connection in any class that I teach.
Why did you choose to teach at 5KY?
I found Five Keys Yoga when I was looking at yoga studios on the north side of Chicago. I was immediately drawn to the studio’s focus on folks with special needs. When I read “Yes, you can do yoga!” on the website, I knew I was home! That is exactly the message that I want to tell every person that I meet!
What makes your soul sing?
I love to be in nature. Feeling fresh air, listening to water as it moves, watching the light filter through the leaves of a tree - these simple things always leave me in awe of all creation. They help me feel connected to myself and to this earth, and they truly make my soul sing.
You can find Rachel at 5KY on Fridays at 5:30 PM.
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
If you want to learn yoga, you might start out (as I did) looking up yoga poses online, getting a book on yoga, or even attending a class for beginners. A few decades ago, it might have been difficult to find a yoga class nearby and so, whatever kind of class you found, well…that’s what you got.
These days, there are so many options, the problem is now one of overwhelm. “Which kind of yoga should I do?” “How should I start practicing yoga?” “What is the best kind of yoga for me?” are all questions that arise from beginners approaching our studio.
The truth is, do whatever kind of yoga makes you feel best and that you can do consistently. As I mentioned, I started practicing yoga with poses I found online and in books. Eventually, my curiosity brought me to classes. Finally, I met my guru, who has taught me what yoga is really about. The process unfolded naturally over time.
With kids of all ages returning to school, we are reminded of the importance of continual learning and education. One of the things we love most at 5KY is bringing yoga into schools. Although what the kids learn in their classrooms about math, literature, history, and science is essential, yoga brings an education on something slightly different.
Whereas our schools educate our children’s bodies and minds, yoga nurtures their hearts. This is why bringing yoga into the classroom is so important. Yoga for children is not a type of play but a true education. In the method we use, we are not simply teaching our kids cute animal poses or telling a story with yoga poses interspersed.
When taught correctly, this method of children’s yoga is a serious practice that can teach children how to calm themselves, regulate their emotions, and tune into the messages that their body, heart, and mind transmit. It works on all aspects of the child. Not just the physical or even mental aspects, but their spirit - their heart - as well.
We are starting to understand that it is not just the IQ that matters. There are multiple types of intelligence that we ought to be developing. Yoga works the mind and body, yes. But it disciplines the body to be calm and the mind to be silent, so that the heart can speak.
When we teach our kids emotional intelligence - empathy, compassion, wisdom - we prepare them to live in a world filled with other beings and all the joys and challenges inherent in that. This world, rich with the experiences of loving others, is what I want to prepare my child for.
But we have all been children before and retain (deeply buried as it may be) some of that childlike wonder and vulnerability. Yoga is a gift to that inner child, as it nurtures the emotional intelligence that this world so desperately needs.
So I’d like to give a different kind of primer on yoga. Not one like I sought out when I first began; full of flashy poses and not much substance. I’d like to suggest some tips for the beginner that I wish I would have received when I started practicing yoga. This is a primer for beginners on the heart of yoga.
You can find Marjorie at 5KY on Mondays & Tuesdays at 7:30 PM.
Adventures in Yoga
Adventure is not outside man; it is within.
- George Elliot
Yoga is a serious business, there is no doubt about that. It requires discipline, self-inquiry, and detachment to results, among many other virtues. However, that doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t fun.
If you aren’t having fun in your yoga practice, I recommend revisiting the reasons you are practicing. If you are practicing only to make your body look better or because you like the way it looks when you walk around with a yoga mat slung over your shoulder, it will probably be hard to maintain the spirit of fun innate in experienced yoga practitioners.
The discipline required to practice yoga allows us to find freedom and a sense of adventure. And what is more fun than freedom and adventure?
Our inspiration at the studio, Sonia Sumar still loves to climb trees in her 70s. That is exactly the kind of thing yoga is preparing the body for - climbing trees in your 70s.
In fact, the most adventurous, fun-loving, and free people I know are the ones who have been consistently practicing yoga and meditation for many years. They are unencumbered by worries, emotional burdens, nagging physical ailments, and attachments.
Are they human? Of course. But they take challenges and pleasures that arise in equal stride.
After practicing for years (or even months), sometimes my passion for practice dulls. At this time, I like to reinvigorate my yoga practice with one of these tools, finding fun and adventure in my practice again.
My greatest hopes for myself, for my students, and for you is that we never lose our sense of adventure and that we always have fun on our yoga mat.
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice.
- Vladimir Horowitz
We’ve all been there. Perhaps we heard from a friend about the wonderful benefits they’re getting from practicing. Or maybe we’re inspired by an influencer’s incredible poses. Maybe we’ve practiced before but it’s been a while and we feel creaky or out of shape.
Starting a yoga practice can feel intimidating. Being consistent with it can feel impossible. Yet, in Yoga Sutra 1.14, we’re told “practice becomes firmly grounded when well-attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.”
That means to feel established in our yoga practice, we not only have to be consistent with our practice for some time, but we also have to do it with our whole heart engaged.
So how do we develop the habit of practicing yoga when we’ve been consistently inconsistent? How do we even start to practice yoga? I think this Sutra offers some ideas.
What we aspire to at 5KY is to cultivate an appreciation for the deepest, most powerful benefits of yoga. I believe it is these benefits that will inspire you to return to your mat again and again.
Physical accomplishments, once mastered, will eventually wither as time passes. But these inner accomplishments become grounded through regular practice, done for a long time, and in all earnestness. That is what will inspire us to continue coming back for more.
To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
In yogic philosophy, there are three gunas or qualities that combine to form everything that exists. Tamas is characterized by inertia and heaviness. Rajas is characterized by activity and movement. And Sattva is characterized by lightness and harmony.
All three of these qualities have a part to play. Tamas is the fertile soil for change and creates the conditions needed for life. Rajas invigorates life, excitement, and passion. And Sattva allows us to achieve balance between Tamas and Rajas and develops clarity and peace.
Sattva can be described like a spinning top. Outwardly, the top may seem like it's not moving but actually, it spins so quickly it balances itself on a thin spindle. When Sattva is balanced, Rajas and Tamas are balanced as well. When Tamas and Rajas are out of balance, we have trouble feeling Sattvic.
An imbalance of Tamas manifests as dullness, apathy, delusion, and/or depression. A person who has given up on themselves and the world has too much of the tamasic quality.
An imbalance of Rajas manifests as anxiety, attachment or addiction, agitation, and a sense of egoism. A person who is constantly jumping from one thing to another or desperately hanging onto patterns that do not serve them has too much of the rajasic quality.
Yoga creates balance between Rajas and Tamas to develop a pervading sense of Sattva. This is why experienced yoga practitioners feel uncomfortable explaining yoga as simply relaxing. Yoga creates balance between activity and inertia. A yogi experiences relaxation and vitality at the same time.
Summer is in full swing now and energy is high. We may find ourselves slightly rajasic - accepting all the invitations, making too many plans, doing more than what’s within our capacity.
Perhaps in winter, or even now after so many months living with the uncertainty of the pandemic, we find ourselves tamasic, hibernating at home and not prioritizing things that create feelings of peace and well-being within ourselves.
This is where the gift of yoga comes in, as it is chock full of practices that help balance our energy levels. As you know, yoga is not only practicing yoga poses but is about the unity we create within our lives. In service of this, I offer these balancing practices for your energy levels.
Nurturing the Mother Within
Empathy nurtures wisdom.
- Suzy Kassem
You may have read on our blog before that we select our themes for each month well in advance and yet somehow, the themes seem to so neatly align with what actually materializes. So when we selected our themes for May of 2022, which revolve around prenatal yoga and nurturance, I had no idea I would be celebrating my very first Mother’s Day as a mother to a newborn son this month as well.
As I write this, snow is falling outside fast and spring feels a long way away. At the moment, I am pregnant - in my third trimester to be precise - but the end of this pregnancy seems far away as well.
I am being guided, and always have been, by the Divine Mother within me. She shows me how to prepare myself and my surroundings for the profound shift that is about to take place.
All pregnancies are different and I have been extremely fortunate to (so far) have had a very easy pregnancy. Much of this is the luck of the draw. But fortune always favors the prepared and I cannot dismiss the effect yoga has had on my body and mind in preparation for this shift into motherhood.
What I have heard and observed is that parenthood is about creating best laid plans and simultaneously, the ability to adapt to the unexpected. This is essentially what yoga embodies and teaches.
Yoga has taught me how to be in tune with my body, how to advocate for what it needs, and how to adapt circumstances to create ease and stability in my bones and muscles.
Yoga has taught me the correct way to breathe. Practicing yoga has integrated this way of breathing into my entire being. It has prepared me to retain the fullness of my breath during moments of fear, anger, and sadness and let go of as much as possible, in preparation for the next breath . . . the next moment . . . the next chapter.
Yoga has taught me that I am not my mind; that I observe my mind only. It has taught me that all phenomena I experience are a way of transcending the limitations of this flesh-and-bones body, into the experience of the Divine Mother, which is truth, knowledge, and bliss.
What brought you to yoga?
I have a really good friend who told me she thought I would really enjoy yoga. Not just for the physical benefits but for the spiritual and emotional growth you can experience through it. So she brought me to a yoga class and I loved it! That was about twelve years ago and ever since then, I’ve kept coming back.
What is your approach to teaching?
I think that if you’re going to plan or build a really good, solid class, you have to first know who your students are and what they need. Even if you don’t know them personally, you have to know what they want out of their practice and build from that foundation. My approach is to come into the moment, notice your breath, have a purpose for breathing, bring movement into your breath, and then practice different poses with the breath - always remembering that the most important thing you’re doing is linking your breath to movement. And then, ending a practice with a really nice, long savasana.
Also, I try to give the message that you take the practice out with you in the world. It’s easy to come to a class, practice, then walk out the door and forget about breathing or mindfulness but that’s what I ultimately want to teach, is to use the practice throughout the day.
Why did you choose to teach at 5KY?
When I met Erin, I really and truly felt some kind of magical connection to this space. Erin taught exactly the way I wanted to practice and the way I wanted to teach. I was impressed with how much she knew, for example the chanting she does. I felt a connection. I felt this was a place that taught the way I’ve always believed in practicing and how great it would be to be a part of this community as a teacher. There’s such a good feeling here. This studio isn’t just the walls and the colors and the props. It’s the energy and the emotions that permeate the space that matter and makes me feel like I’m at a place that fits.
What makes your soul sing?
Feeling connected to people and to the wider world. My soul sings when I see that other people feel good and are happy. My soul sings when I know there is love out there in the world to be felt and to be given. When you have an opportunity to share that with people, it’s a beautiful thing.
You can find Karen at 5KY on Fridays at 10:15 AM.
There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
- Rachel Carson
I think if yoga were a season, it would be spring. Both the arrival of spring and practicing yoga are regenerative. As more and more research emerges, there is good evidence that yoga and meditation have some anti-aging benefits, such as lowered inflammation, increased gray matter in the brain, and protection for our chromosomes.
Just like spring, this regeneration is not just physical. Yoga (and the arrival of spring) brings profound emotional - even spiritual - regeneration. How do we feel after a yoga class? Lighter, less encumbered by stress, and as if we are seeing everything with new eyes.
But one of the things that makes me saddest when talking to some yoga beginners is that they think it’s too late for yoga to have these positive effects on them. That could not be further from the truth. I’ve taught yoga to people of all ages, from 7 weeks old to 77 years old.
Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.
- James Baldwin
A beautiful thing has arisen since covid-19 has changed the world. Many of us are evaluating how to simplify our lives. Increasing simplicity is one of the gifts of yoga.
Although many of our students crave the setting, structure, and community that a yoga studio provides, some of our students are embracing the ability to practice yoga with their favorite teachers from home. In fact, we’ve welcomed students “at the studio,” who are streaming yoga classes online from their homes on multiple continents, in multiple states, in the suburbs of Chicago, as well as right down the street.
Streaming yoga classes online has allowed us to open ourselves to a new mode of accessibility. After all, accessibility is the cornerstone of our studio.
Although we've had our challenges, I think we’ve excelled at providing the same sense of community and welcoming that we pride ourselves in providing at our classes in person, to those of our students joining us for yoga online. That is the benefit of a small studio: personal attention. We get to know our students, their goals, and their yoga practices in the intimate class sizes we provide.
However, without some forethought, I think taking yoga classes at home can cause students to miss out on some of the benefits a yoga studio provides. So if you’re interested in taking online yoga classes at home or just want a peaceful retreat, here are some tips for creating the ideal environment for your at home yoga studio.
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
FIVE KEYS YOGA
WHAT OUR CLIENTS SAY
Five Keys is fantastic! The studio is lovely and soothing, and the teachers are very caring and attentive.
I've ... probably been to 25 different yoga studios. This is one of the most welcoming, calming spaces with very talented instructors.
I love this yoga studio. It's a great balance of a good workout and relaxation and feels like a real community.
An ideal studio for someone new to yoga.