SEASONAL SELF-CARE BLOG
Leigh Evans and Yoga Sukhavati
Posted on April 14th, 2015
Leigh Evans muses on yoga, internal investigation and transformation and her upcoming Yoga Sukhavati 200 HR Teacher Training in Nicaragua.
How long have you been practicing yoga? How long have you been teaching yoga?
In 1986, I had the great fortune to walk into the class of Dharma Mitra here in New York city. I was blown away by him and how yoga released the anxiety I was feeling as a young struggling dancer in NYC. After that initial class I felt so calm and peaceful. I went back everyday for 6 months and took everyone I knew to the class. I’ve been practicing yoga ever since. Wow, it’s been 29 years that I’ve been practicing yoga!
I’ve been teaching for 21 amazing years!
How did your first yoga teacher training change your life?
My first teacher training was in 1993 with Rodney Yee. I was lucky to live very close to the Piedmont Yoga Studio in Oakland, CA where Rodney was teaching. It was his first teacher training and we all had such an amazing time exploring asana. He’s a very creative person and was continually exploring to see what works to open the body. Through the practice of teaching in the training I became empowered to speak. My voice had always been one of my issues. Prior to that I really had difficulty speaking to people and was shy in front of a group. The teacher training provided me with a deep investigation and understanding of the body through the asana practice and also with a voice to share with other people. Teaching has really opened me up to other people.
You have extensive experience training with some of the best teachers in their respective fields, all over the world. Is there one teacher that has influenced you the most over the years?
I truly have been blessed by studying with the finest teachers. I seek out the best and am grateful that I have had the opportunity to learn from such incredible teachers.
When looking back I think my yoga path has been most significantly influenced by Sarah Powers. She is an amazing yogini, devoted to exploring practices that offer paths to awakening and freedom. She is continually seeking, learning, exploring and sharing what has helped her the most. I have witnessed her teaching change over the years. She is not afraid to let go of the practices that are no longer necessary for her. When I did my teacher training with with her in 2000, she was primarily a yoga teacher and had just started exploring meditation. Over the past 15 years her teaching has shifted significantly to be more focused on yin yoga and meditation. It was through my studies of yin yoga with Sarah that I was introduced to yoga practices that targeted specific meridians and organs. I continued that exploration as I delved deeper into the theories and practices of Ayurveda and chinese medicine and developed the Yoga Sukhavati seasonal practices.
What were you doing before you taught yoga full time?
My life was devoted to pursuing art and performance as a dancer and choreographer. I was working as a production artist in a graphic design firm which meant I spent all day sitting in front of a computer. The work that I got paid for was killing my body and my soul. I was miserable and my neck and back hurt all the time. At some point I just couldn’t take it anymore. I quit my job, went to India for 5 months and studied yoga and Odissi dance, (indian classical dance). After my journey, I vowed not to return to work that made me so unhappy and i started teaching yoga full time.
What do you enjoy about teaching yoga teacher trainings?
I love offering the opportunity for students to slow down and take the time to truly investigate. In our current fast paced lives and quick vinyasa practice, we rarely have the opportunity to listen deeply to what is happening inside. The Teacher Trainings provide an oasis of time and support through the deepening of the asana and meditation practices to go inside and really see what is happening in our bodies and minds. Through the process of bringing our habitual tendencies to consciousness we open to insight, choice and freedom. It brings me such joy to guide and witness the transformation of my students as they develop the skills and awaken their voice and presence through taking their seat as the teacher.
In your opinion, what is the benefit to doing a training abroad, vs. staying in your community?
When people take a teacher training in the midst their busy lives, they often feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to let go of the distractions and necessities of work and relationships in their home life. Carving out the time to fully commit to practice and study in a teacher training immersion abroad offers an invaluable supportive oasis. The Immersive retreat offers the freedom to completely devote yourself to your yoga practice and studies. As you remove yourself from your jam packed schedules and distractions of your daily life and dedicate time to practice, your body relaxes, your mind quiets and you reconnect with the essence of your being. The retreat environment fully supports you, so you can dedicate yourself to study. Your practice and awareness will soar to new levels!!
What are you most excited about for the 200 hour Yoga Sukhavati YTT in Nicargua?
For the 200 hour teacher training in Nicaragua I’m looking forward to being immersed in such a beautiful blessed environment that will offer all of us support. As a teacher, it is such a wonderful opportunity to release into just teaching and being. Embraced by this support, my presence and awareness will deepen and my clarity for teaching and seeing what the students need will expand. It is a rare gift of time and support.
How did you pick Nicargua for this particular training?
I like to offer trainings and retreats in pristine remote locations where the students will be immersed in natural beauty as well as exposed to new cultures. Nicaragua does not have as large of a tourist industry as some of it’s neighbors, so it will be easier to experience the real culture and get to know some of the Nicaraguan people. I’m very excited about this. Our retreat center, Costa Dulce is an absolutely gorgeous location. We have our own private secluded beach just steps away from our yoga studio. July is supposed to be the best time for surfing!
Can you give an example of what a typical day of training would look like?
6:00am Wake up-take a dip into the ocean!
7:15–7:30am Fruit & tea
7:30-9am Asana practice
10:30am-12:30pm Asana investigation
12:30-3pm Lunch & free time
3:00-5:00pm Seminar (philosophy, ayurveda, anatomy, etc.)
5:00-7:00pm Asana adjustments
8:00-9:00 pm Class if needed
How do you know Diane and Ira? What specialities will they bring to the training?
Diane Sherman is a friend and yoga colleague of mine from when I lived in Oakland, CA. She is a very creative and vibrant person, yogini, teacher, artist, and poet. She has also studied extensively with Sarah Powers so our teaching perspective is aligned.D iane will be teaching Asana with me as well as yoga philosophy. She has a life-long practice of journaling which inspired her to create a beautiful online course “Zen to Paper” in which she invites people into the world of journaling. She will be sharing her creative journaling techniques inviting the students in the training into a personal investigation of the Yoga Sutras.
Ira Macner is the anatomy teacher for the Greenhouse teacher training that I have been directing for the past 5 years. She is a wonderfully warm person and a great anatomy teacher. She brings Anatomy alive with her excellent sense of humor and thorough understanding of the body from her years as a massage therapist as well as a yoga teacher.
If there is one take-away you hope your 200-hour Yoga Sukhavati graduates have, what would that be?
I hope to be able to help people see where they are stuck in their bodies and minds and through that awareness open the path to freedom. Whether the obstruction is physical, mental, or emotional, I hope the transformative process of the 200-hour training will provide graduates with the skills to witness these habits and release the patterns that are holding them back and embrace practices that help them be their most vibrant and loving selves.
Q & A with Adi Carter
Posted on April 13th, 2015
When did you start practicing yoga?
I started practicing yoga in 1995 after a snowboarding injury that fractured my back. It was a last resort to try and avoid having surgery.
How did you find yoga?
I was walking my dog and bumped into one of my old ballet teachers who asked “how are you doing?” and I was quite honest in my reply and said “not so well, my back is really messed up.”She suggested a yoga class that she taught at a local gym where we laid out towels on the carpeted floor as yoga mats. I definitely had my guard up attending the class and I rolled my eyes at all the “om-ing” and “namaste-ing” but at the end of that class was one of the first times I remembered my back not hurting…the rest was history.
What style did you start with?
At that point there really wasn’t such a big “style movement,” everything was pretty slow hatha and the majority of people in the class I went to were over 50-years-old. There was no jumping around or fancy sequencing just mindful stretching and breathing. I then found some Iyengar teachers and started working with props like chairs & blocks and that really helped my back a lot even though it was extremely slow and dare I say boring (to a 17 year old everything is pretty boring I guess). In 2001 I was introduced to vinyasa yoga from one of my dance teachers in College and I was instantly drawn to the sequencing and “choreography” of alignment. The practice helped me a lot with managing the stress of a double major and writing my thesis which had me hunched over a computer all the time. The vinyasa practice then drew me towards a local studio that had Ashtanga yoga and I studied that as well, taking several classes a week.
When and how did you decide that you wanted to focus on AcroYoga?
I guess it’s still hard for me to focus on just one style of yoga but AcroYoga came into my life again as a therapeutic remedy after I threw my back out on a red eye flight to the West Coast. I loved the community aspect of AcroYoga and learning to trust people to hold you up in the air is empowering for everyone involved. And it’s a lot of fun which I think is essential to anything you do in life…make sure you are having fun, always.
What are the benefits of AcroYoga?
AcroYoga helps a lot of students to get into inversions and allow gravity to help realign and stretch the body. Physically, there is a lot of traction in the body through the practice of Acro or “flying” as well as the Thai Massage component of mindful touch which typically accompanies most AcroYoga offerings. Acro helps to take pressure off the low back and legs which are the areas typically responsible for holding us up so it feels really good when these large muscle groups can go upside down and move in new ways. But I think one of the most beneficial “real life” side effects of Acro is that it teaches us communication, trust and support and these characteristics help to change lives on the big picture when we are dealing with our jobs, relationships and interactions with others.
Are there misconceptions about AcroYoga?
Some people think you need to be an acrobat or really advanced in yoga to do it and it’s far from true. When you are first learning, Acro has very little to do with you flexibility or strength but more so about learning proper alignment & spotting techniques so that everyone feels safe & supported. With proper spotting and a good foundation, students quickly develop the strength and flexibility for more advanced poses and flying sequences. The fact that it is fun and feels good in your body means that you are more likely to practice it which also helps.
What do you get most excited about when teaching new student’s Acro?
I love seeing people get psyched on flipping their perspective physically and mentally. When someone has that “ah-ha” moment in a handstand or learning how to balance someone on their feet, it opens up so much potential in the mind and creates a childlike wonder of “what else can I do?” This becomes a catalyst for progression on so many levels and I love seeing students live out their passions at any age and finding the fearlessness to try something that maybe they thought they couldn’t do. Acro has a wonderful ability to help bring down barriers that typically result from fear. And when we move further away from fear we start to find love in some shape or form.
How do you and Leigh know each other?
Leigh and I met through Greenhouse Yoga where I used to teach when I was living in Brooklyn and Rockaway Beach. I always enjoyed taking her classes as they brought me back to my roots of alignment and an Iyengar philosophy offered in a Vinyasa style format which keeps it fun.
What are you looking forward to about teaching as part of Leigh’s Yoga Sukhavati: Art of Touch module?
I love working with students who are in a teacher training program and have a clear passion for the practice. Similarly students that drop in to workshops that are outside of the realm of a weekly 90 min yoga class also have a curiosity of “what else?” and that desire to take your practice deeper. I’m excited to share things that have helped me a lot in healing my own body as well as working with students of all ages & backgrounds. It can be intimidating to touch people and I think that it’s actually a lack of experience that makes touch scary. As we grow more accustomed to sending text messages and emails rather than meeting in person with a hug and a handshake, very basic elements of touch are slowly slipping away from our daily lives and I believe it leaves us feeling distant. Yoga teachers have the power to help change this and communicate through touch in a way that restores hope for many students. A good adjustment in class can change your whole day and then if you can pass that positive energy on, well then, that’s the sorta stuff that changes the world. I love being part of that process and inspiring the change makers who want to find happiness in their lives as they are the ones who ultimately change the lives of others.
When you’re not practicing yoga, what can you be found doing?
Oh wow, that’s a difficult question! I guess it depends on where I am as I am fortunate now to live in two really great areas for half the year. When I’m in Puerto Rico for winter the focus is definitely surfing and hanging out in the ocean. I’ve always been attracted to water, so when I’m around it I try to be in it as much as possible. For spring, summer and fall I’m excited to be moving back to the Hudson Valley, NY region where I can be outdoors and climb at the Shawangunks cliff range. Rock climbing would be another great passion of mine as I love feeling the movement on the rock and working past so many physical and mental obstacles on a challenging climb. When I take a rest day I’m usually slacklining with a focus on longlining and a new found passion for highlining which takes all of these practices of balance and trust to a mentally challenging place trying to walk a line so far above the ground. Oh and I love gardening and working with plants, especially flowers and medicinal plants and herbs.
Please add anything else!
I’m a sucker for cute animal videos posted on facebook…these videos have contributed to countless hours of procrastination in my life.
Check out the video of Adi here: https://vimeo.com/94719455
Posted on April 2nd, 2015
Green is the color of Spring, the season of rebirth. As the world bursts to life with young green shoots sprouting from the earth, we too feel an natural internal desire to expand and awaken. Help your body wake up from Winter’s hibernation by increasing your intake of green in all it’s forms. Try adding a daily green juice during the Spring to help clear out congestion and stagnation from Winter’s slumber. Wear Green. As part of your Spring meditation practice, visualize trees resplendent with green leaves, fields of long flowing green grass, sea grass or just the color green. As the weather gets warmer, meditate outside and let your eyes rest on the lush green life all around you.
Eat plenty of green veggies. All the leafy greens especially young tender Spring greens with their young yang energy are delicious and very cleansing for your liver and gallbladder, our spring organs.
Nishanga Bliss, my dear friend and author of Real Food All Year, writes on the benefit of greens and many other tasty recommendations in her fabulous blog Gastronicity.
“Greens were likely one of the most reliable foods of humans during our evolution, as they appear in most climates at least part of the year, therefore our systems run well when we munch on a steady supply. They are a very appropriate food to eat as spring approaches, as they are supportive to liver function. Greens’ natural bitterness stimulates the gallbladder to release bile, aiding in fat and protein digestion, and their high vitamin, mineral and fiber content comes with very few calories.”
Leigh’s green favorite juice!
3 pieces of kale, or few handfuls of young spring mixed greens
1 celery stalk
1/2 green apple
1/2 daikon radish