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Friday, March 22, 2013

Yamas and Niyamas Class Series

Yamas and Niyamas
8 Week Class Series
Space 301
Join Amanda Brenner, E-RYT200 in an exploration of the ethical guidlines presented in the philosophy of yoga. Each class will include slow flowing postures, breathwork, meditation, and a discussion of a yama or niyama from the Yoga Sutras. Appropriate for beginners as well as seasoned yogis.

Suggested Donation $60 for entire series

Commit to the whole series or Pay What You Can drop-in.

Week 1: Ahimsa (non-violence)
Week 2: Satya (truthfulness) and Asteya (non-stealing)
Week 3: Bramacharya (moderation)
Week 4: Aparigraha (non-grasping)
Week 5: Sauca (purity)
Week 6: Tapas (discipline) and Santosha (contentment)
Week 7: Svadyaya (self-study)
Week 8: Isvara Pranidana (surrender)


Thursday, March 21, 2013

More on Surrender: A Discourse on My Personal Spirituality

a bad Instagram of the Buddha and the Virgin, side-by-side on my altar

Now about the Isvara...

So, this concept of surrender in the Yamas/Niyamas is called “Isvara Pranidhana” in Sanskrit. (ish-vahr-ah prahn-ee-dhan-ah) This is translated as “surrender to Isvara.” Isvara does not have a cut and dry English translation, but it does refer to a Higher Power. Yoga does not require a belief in a deity, but it does require that you acknowledge that you are not God, and that something greater than you exists. So, Isvara is that something- you fill in the blank.

In the yoga world, we often skirt the issue of Isvara. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or invalidate anyone’s belief system, just as we appreciate the same consideration being given to us. And it is not due to a lack of belief or even a lack of ascribing to a concrete system. Of all the yogis I know, though we have the system of yoga in common, our spiritual beliefs run the gamut. I personally shy away from talk of religion with anyone. I tend to let people believe what they want about what I believe. Sometimes, especially where family relationships are concerned, ignorance truly is bliss.

But I don’t want to be afraid to talk about my spiritual experiences and what I believe. It is an important part of who I am. What is the point of the surrender without the Isvara? And how can I talk about this element of yoga while refusing to discuss my own experience of Isvara?

My personal spiritual journey has vacillated wildly from one extreme to another. I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. I never questioned any of the beliefs I was indoctrinated with from a young age until I was in my teens. But as I began finding my own thought patterns and developing my own personality, becoming the person I am meant to be, I also began dissecting the brand of Christianity I was being spoon-fed.

It started with the notion that a loving God can’t send people to Hell simply because they aren’t “saved.”  What if they don’t know they need saving? What about aborted fetuses and isolated villages who have never heard of this exclusive way to Heaven? It was a slow process, but I gradually let go of the things I had a hard time believing. Some might label such an action as a lack of faith, and so be it, but the Christianity I knew just did not line up with the feedback I was getting from my own soul.  

I spent much of my college years searching for something to replace my former religion. I still held Jesus as a central figure, and I still had very real spiritual experiences, but I felt I needed a semblance of a system to put them in. At that time, I was very drawn to symbols and iconography. I became enamored with the figure of the Virgin Mary and her significance in more liturgical brands of Christianity. I started collected statues and postcards and anything with the Madonna on it. My friend gifted me his plastic Mary lawn ornament from a Christmas nativity display, and I took it everywhere with me. To paint a better picture, my plastic Mary was three feet tall. She rode in my car, she sat in my dorm room window, and she went to the library to study with me. Part of this was just to be different and to be noticed- college student absurdity. But it was comforting to surround myself with this divine mother energy.

Christ crucified was another important image and idea for me. Being at a Christian college, there was no shortage of crucifixions to stare at, and I spent a long time staring at them. I would go to the college worship services and stare at the wooden crosses and just weep. At the time, I was very confused spiritually; there was a constant struggle between the faith I grew up in and the beliefs I still held. But one theme emerged clearly: the greater good of love and sacrifice. Even as I was crying over the crosses, not sure if God even existed, they became huge monuments to a love for all of humanity. And I still have some of my icons.

It was important for me to not know, for awhile at least, what I believed. Not out of a sense of laziness, but from a very honest place inside me. And out of that not knowing, I came across a mentor of sorts.

Dr. Ted Mashburn was my philosophy professor. I thought that every word that came out of his mouth was so important that I changed my major to take more of his classes. His ideas about God made sense to me, and his classes became the light at the end of my dark tunnel of soul-searching and unknowing. He was also, and still is as far as I know, the pastor at a Baptist church.

As I studied philosophy and other religions, Dr. Mashburn helped me to explore my own beliefs through essays and discussion. And while I really liked the ideas from his head, more importantly, I was able to form some ideas in my own head. I began to see elements of truth in Buddhism and Hinduism, and I began recognizing the light within myself, and that later became my central belief. Whatever you need to save yourself, you already have in your possession.

I still often operate from a state of unknowing. But there a few things that remain constant in my spiritual path.

- Heaven and Hell are states of mind that I create for myself.
- Cultivating awareness is key to maintaining a state of “heaven” or peace on a soul level.
- Yoga helps me to do that.

And everything else if open for debate.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Yoga of Surrender

The Yoga of Surrender

Yoga is such a broad, yet detailed topic that you could spend your whole life in pursuit of one tiny part of it, and it seems to me that most people in the west who choose yoga are choosing that tiny point of focus to be the postures. Over the past year, my practice and teaching have evolved to be less posture-focused, and more encompassing of the system of ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path, not the Mysore practice) as a whole instead of picking at pieces and parts. For those unfamiliar, here is the eight-limbed path as presented in the Yoga Sutras:

Yamas- moral restraints
ahimsa- nonviolence
satya- truthfulness
asteya- nonstealing
brahmacharya- moderation
aparigraha- non-grasping
Niyamas- moral observances
sauca- cleanliness
santosha- contentment
tapas- discipline
svadyaya- self-study
Isvara Pranidhana- surrender
Asana- postures
Pranayama- breathing
Pratyahara- withdrawing the senses
Dharana- focus
Dhyana- meditation
Samadhi- absorption

As far as I can tell, all parts work together toward one state of being. You cannot separate the different parts or it ceases to be yoga. And as a friend mentioned to me last week, there are a lot of people out there practicing the postures who do not practice yoga. And though the system really needs to be seen as a whole, certain elements are highlighted in my life at different times.

Recently, Isvara Pranidhana has been a focus for me. To surrender, you have to change your perspective. If you are “I” focused and ego-driven, life will continually be a struggle. If you operate from the perspective that life is about “ME” and “I” am most important, then you will naturally feel personally affronted when life doesn’t go your way. When you become goal-oriented instead of surrendering to what the universe has in store for you, it is easy to be disappointed when you don’t meet your goal.

If, however, you can step outside of your ego and surrender to something beyond yourself, the world might make a little more sense. If you can focus on the quality and spirit behind your actions instead of the results of them, you might find that the world falls into place a little more easily, even if that place is unexpected.

For instance, it is easy right now, when I focus on myself, to see the obvious amount of lack in my life. I personally lack energy and time to do all the things I want to do with my business, which in turn seems to lead to a lack of money. I lack patience with my husband and my dogs, and I lack the space in my brain it might take to focus on a healthier diet or adding more activity to my life. I have all these goals that I would like to meet that are not possible right now, and I feel inadequate in many areas of my life. Oftentimes I sit back and wonder why am I even teaching yoga, because I just don’t feel like I have anything worth teaching. There are a lot of “I”s in this paragraph...

But in a rare moment of clarity, I am able to surrender to what is happening in my life, my business, and my yoga practice and enjoy the natural flow of the universe. What it all comes back to is being in- nay, cherishing, basking in!- the present moment. Some times are easier than others. Sometimes the sun is out, and the dogs walk quietly and well-behaved, and I can enjoy life easily. Other times it takes conscious effort to act from and be in a place of love and gratitude without attaching to an outcome. Sometimes surrender is hard.

Sometimes I am angry when my body declines into illness on a holiday normally devoted to fun and merriment. Other times, I can appreciate the forced rest and solitude and surrender to my physical state.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand what direction I should take professionally, and it is a struggle when I feel like I don’t contribute financially to my household. Other times I can enjoy where I am in the process of growing as a teacher and a business owner.

And I think this whole surrender thing lends itself to a disconnect for would-be beginners. Most people I talk to about attending yoga have a goal in mind that they haven’t reached yet.

“When I lose weight and/or become flexible, I can go to yoga.” I hear it ALL THE TIME, and I don’t understand it! Yoga is not some pie-in-the-sky thing meant only for elite bodies and minds. But, then again, it requires some surrender to step into a yoga class, and I think that is where the communication breaks down. People don’t “get” that yoga is available to them because they can’t get past their insecurities.

Listen, I am not asking you to do anything beyond your means. I’m not asking you to be thin and do the splits plus a million push ups. Not even close. Just walk in the door and surrender to whatever you might experience. I have no disillusions- you might hate it. But you might discover that if you can be nice enough to yourself to try the postures, they feel kinda good on your muscles and joints, and if you do them you might be able to lie still. If you can lie still, you might be able to focus long enough to take deeper breaths, which will calm the nervous system down and make you less stressed and anxious. And you might like that.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Private Individualized Therapeutic Yoga

Private Individualized Therapeutic Yoga Sessions offered by Amanda Brenner, E-RYT200

After many years of practicing and studying the different facets of yoga postures, Amanda now utilizes the physical practice of yoga as a healing modality. In a private session, Amanda will evaluate any physical concerns as well as related emotional and psychological effects to develop an individualized practice for the student. Though an issue may seem purely physical, Amanda approaches all issues in an individual from the perspective that he or she is a five-dimensional being (physical, energetic, mental, psychological, and spiritual) and with the understanding that these five dimensions are inter- connected. A practice that honors all five dimensions may consist of postures and movements, specific breathing techniques, vocalizations, and meditation, and is usually most effective when practiced daily. After a set period of time, a follow-up session will be scheduled to re-evaluate the individualized practice and re-adjust, if necessary. 

Individualized Therapeutic Yoga is recommended for those who have a physical limitation which may prevent them from attending a public class, including but not limited to the following conditions:

Injury in muscles or joints
Loss of range of motion due to injury
Excessive weight
Recovery from broken bone
Asthma, Emphysema, or other breath-related condition

Individualized Therapeutic Yoga is also helpful for those healthy individuals who could simply use a different perspective on areas in need of improvement or who have a strong interest in learning about the more subtle practices within yoga.

One hour session: $60 includes client evaluation and a unique home practice assignment that is specific to your needs
90 minute session: $80  includes addition of guided instruction through alignment of the postures in the practice
Two hour session: $100 includes addition of guided relaxation and light bodywork

Receive $20 off a package of four or more sessions! 

All private yoga sessions are held at Rosie Bluum in Fairhope, 6 S Bancroft St during the following hours:

Tues 11am-5pm
Wed 10:30am-4pm
Thurs 11am-5pm
Fri 10:30am-12pm
Fri afternoon by appointment only 

Email amanda@kulayogacommunity.org to schedule your appointment. Walk-ins also accepted as time permits. Friday afternoon times are available by appointment only.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Live Your Yoga Series with Julie Wilkins

Scroll to the end to pay online to reserve your spot!

Sunday Afternoons
Feb 17-March 24
Space 301
Downtown Mobile

Join Julie Wilkins in this 6 class series designed for yoga practitioners to expand their yoga practice both on and off the mat. {series begins Feb 17th from 3-4:30 PM }

Each vinyasa style class will focus on a physical alignment technique while integrating body/mind teachings, breathwork, and meditation practices. Participants will deepen their understanding of mindfulness and intuition through yoga and be provided with weekly home exercises to further their self study. 

It is recommended that participants register for entire 6 week session. {$60 recommended donation for series}

Please bring a notebook and pen.

Week 1 {Finding Ground}
Learn how to steady yourself through strong muscular action for a more balanced and supportive practice. Understand how growing "roots" contributes to a feeling of safety and belonging in the world while strengthening the mind/body system to be more resilient in times of challenge. Participants will leave class with specific strategies including nutrition, yoga, and mind/body methods to strengthen this first emotional center.

Week 2 {Unleashing Creativity}
Learn how to free the binds for more creative expression in your practice. This class will focus on hip openers and freedom of movement while tapping into your spark of creativity. Understand how your health and wellness will improve when you participate in creative endeavors . Excellent class for anyone trying to conceive or in the process of "birthing" a business or project.

Week 3 {Courage and Responsibility}
Strengthen your core and find the guts to move forward in your life. This class will tap into your power center as you heighten your sense of responsibility, courage, and personal integrity in the world. Participants will learn how the body speaks through digestive ailments and weight struggles.

Week 4 {Heartful Expression}
This practice is designed to draw you closer to your heart's truth. Tap into the alignment of the chest, upper back and shoulders for an uplifting yoga class. Learn how to connect to the heart center through truth, positive actions, love, and gratitude. Participants will learn about the fourth emotional center (heart) , the importance of having something to nurture, and how the body speaks through the heart, chest, and lungs.

Week 5 {Voice and Vision}
In this class we will learn alignment of the head and neck along with proper gazing points during the practice. Let your voice be heard while focusing your vision on what's ahead. Participants will learn how to strengthen their intuitive senses through body/mind practices.

Week 6 {Receptivity}
Receive the blessings in your life in this gentle, restorative based practice focusing on softening to the inner and outer world. Learn relaxation techniques, guided meditation, and breathwork to calm and soothe the nervous system . Participants will leave with an individualized self care home program.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kula Yoga Teacher Training 2013-2014

For teacher certification or those who simply want to study the practice of yoga on a deeper level.

Kula's 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training (Registered Yoga School 200 via Yoga Alliance) with Amanda Brenner, E-RYT 200 begins May 2013. The training will meet one weekend per month over a twelve month period. All sessions will be held in Mobile at Center for Spiritual Living, 1230 Montlimar Dr.

Fri 6p-9p
Sat 1p-7p
Sun 12-6p

May 17/18/19
June 21/22/23
July 19/20/21
August 16/17/18
September 20/21/22
October 18/19/20
November 15/16/17
December 6/7/8
January 17/18/19
February 7/8/9
March 21/22/23
April 11/12/13

$2200 if paid in full by 4/1/12
$2300 if paid in full by training start date (5/17/12)
$2600 if paid in installments over the course of the training ($200 deposit due upon application and 12 installments of $200 due at each weekend)

Two half scholarships are available for this program. If you receive a half scholarship, monthly payments are $100. Applicants must demonstrate financial need and commitment to the local yoga community. Click here to apply.

Trainees will also be required to attend one class per week and fifteen hours of workshops with any RYT 200 and complete outside homework and reading assignments.

Topics include:

Asana: how to teach, benefits, contraindications,
Pranayama: techniques, how to teach, how to develop a practice
Meditation: techniques, how to teach, how to develop a practice
Philosophy: Eight Limbed Path, Yoga Sutras, philosophy of teaching
Anatomy: Applying knowledge of the body to yoga postures
Subtle Body: Chakras, Vayus, Prana
Teaching Methodology
Business of Yoga

Amanda has experience in Power Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Viniyoga (Yoga Therapy), Anusara, Kripalu, Bikram, Prenatal, Chakra- and Mantra-based yoga. Amanda is currently working toward RYT 500 certification with a concentration in Yoga Therapy under JJ Gormley Etchells. Other well-educated teachers in the area (E-RYT 200 and above) will be brought in to assist with various topics.

Projected Reading List:
Please have the first four by the first training session.

Heart of Yoga, TKV Desikachar
Tree of Yoga, BKS Iyengar
A New Earth, Ekhart Tolle
Teaching Yoga, Mark Stephens

Bhagavad Gita, translated by Stephen Mitchell- aquire by November training
Approved Asana Reference Guide (discussed during first session)

or Download PDF to send in with your check

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beginner Yoga Series

8 weeks from 1/16/13-3/6/13

This series is a great continuation of Yoga for Newbies! RSVP on Facebook.

Each week we will explore a different breathing exercise, philosophical and subtle concept, and anatomical focus in the postures. By the end of the eight week series, participants should be ready to explore all levels flow or alignment-based classes. All abilities welcome. It is encouraged to commit to attend the entire series. This class is an appropriate next step after the "Yoga for Newbies" workshop on Jan 13.

Suggested Donation for the entire series $60, but everyone is welcome to pay what you can per class.