Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stretch Beyond the Mat - Passport in the news!


Stretch beyond the mat

Reach your full potential with the Yoga and Pilates Passport
By nature, yoga and Pilates can involve extensive stretching and mild contortion, felt especially by those who don't roll out the mat very often.
But forcing a limb into an uncomfortable position for the sake of the exercise is not the way to meditation and inner peace, say yoga teachers Jennifer Spaziano and Jenn Thomas.
Rather, they believe that the exercises, with their numerous unique styles, should be doing some of the legwork, proving yoga and Pilates can be accessible to people of all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels.
"One size doesn't fit all," Thomas said.
That's the philosophy behind the Yoga and Pilates Passport 2013, an invitation to try different studios and classes around the state without committing to a single one.
Here's how it works: Pay $75 for a passport, available at , and spend the next year redeeming coupons to 41 studios, with deals ranging from free classes to free two-week passes. Clients can also purchase a 30-minute consultation along with the passport to get them started.
Yoga and Pilates teachers from around the state are involved, so those with a passport can try places by their home or work to find what fits.
Participating studios can be found in Cumberland, Foster, Pawtucket, Johnston, Cranston, Providence, Newport, Westerly, North Kingstown, Bristol, East Greenwich, East Providence, Portsmouth, Wakefield, Middletown, Barrington, Warwick, Warren, Peacedale, Block Island, Coventry, and Seekonk, Mass.
Its small size and many "amazing teachers," some of whom are masters of yoga who learned directly from those who created a new style, is an asset, Spaziano said.
"Rhode Island has the opportunity to raise the level of conversation around yoga," she said.
The passport was launched by their parent company, Rhode to Wellness.
While the passport mostly targets beginners, those who already practice yoga are also encouraged to try new styles or different teachers.
"It allows any potential or current students to build an intelligence around the practice," Spaziano said.
She admitted she was not a natural yogi.
"It didn't grab me," she said, adding she did not understand that there can be a type of yoga for each personality and body type.
But after living in New York City and taking advantage of low priced classes, the Providence wife and mother of two said something clicked.
"The fire was lit inside of me," Spaziano said. "I made it a lifetime practice because of the experience I had."
Thomas, an artist from Hope Valley, has been practicing yoga for more than 25 years.
She started at the request of a physical therapist after she was in a car accident in the 1980s, a time when she said yoga classes were only held in people's living rooms.
Now that the business of yoga has grown to what it is today, Thomas said there is a need to dispel myths that yoga is only for "young, lithe women."
Spaziano and Thomas said through partnership with seven YMCA locations, as well as a relationship with Lifespan, they are reaching a more broad audience. They said they are interested in working with organizations to promote wellness, especially for employees.
They will also reach out to vendors, like massage therapists and chiropractors, to sell the passport in stores.
If nothing else, Thomas said the passport could be a gateway through which someone starts thinking about their own health and way of being.
She said, "It's a road map to being alive."
Visit for more information and a complete list of participating studios. The 2013 passport expires Dec. 31.

Yoga teachers Jenn Thomas, left, and Jennifer Spaziano created the Yoga and Pilates Passport 2013 as a way to invite people to try different styles of yoga and Pilates at 41 different studios around the state

Time For You Yoga instructor Natalie Schiffer, left, and owner, Maria Sichel are participating in the Rhode to Wellness Yoga and Pilates Passport program.

Time For You Yoga instructor Natalie Schiffer, left, and owner, Maria Sichel, right, demonstrate a lunge, a position used in some of their yoga classes. The studio is one of many partipating in the Rhode to Wellness Yoga and Pilates Passport program. The passport will allow individuals the opportunity to try classes at different studios across Rhode Island. (Valley Breeze photo by Elise Manahan)

A Cup of Judgment and One of Discernment

I walked into the fourth grade classroom with two identical cups of water.  Placing them in the middle of our circle, I asked the children one by one to approach the cups - and - without touching them, tell me which cup was scalding hot and which was ice cold.

One by one, the students approached the cups and made their choice.  Very few students claimed they couldn't make such a decision (two actually).

When they were finished I asked for one student to volunteer to place their hands in both cups to discover which one was scalding.  There was a pause.  I kind of silence like, "is she serious"?  One brave student raised his hand and went for it, timidly toucing the outside of the cup (not the water itself).  A smile quickly formed on his face.  "Miss Spaziano, neither of the cups are hot - they are room temperature!".  A gasp and then giggles took over the class.  A few "nah ugh!"s and definitely more and more students started to test this discovery.  All going deeper, submerging their hands further, until the cups spilled over and the conversation began.

"What happened here folks?" I asked with a grin.

The students quickly clamored to respond.  They all agreed that they judged that the cups were hot.  And that wasn't true.

"Have you ever been judged by someone based on what you look like or what you were wearing?"

So many hands went up.  Many told stories of struggle.  Many of the girls started to talk about sports and not being able to do things that boys could do, or at least that's what others think.  Prejudices of all kinds, laid on top of these bright faces, poured off their skin and thickened the air.  Those faces turned a little sad when i asked: "Have you ever judged someone else based on what they look like?"  Most hands went up, albeit tentatively, more slowly this time.

The conversation turned the corner when I wrote two words on the board.  Judgment and if you read my previous blog post you probably you guessed the second word, discernment.

"So boys and girls, what happened when we experienced the cup and made a decision whether or not it was hot or cold based on that experience?"  That was the ah ha moment for most of the kids.  We talked about the fear we had of placing our hand in the cup.  How it's easier to slip into judgment.  But then we also had to recognize what judgment does.  It blurs our experience.  It makes it  impossible to know the truth.  And when this happens between people, it can have devastating effects for those involved.

All from two cups of water.

If you have ideas on how to communicate yogic philosophy and mindfulness practice to younger people, please share!  Check out Resilient Kids, a program dedicated to the integration of yoga and mindfulness in our schools.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vinyasa Yoga Book Club: Control and Courage #4

The three chapter per week rule is getting even more difficult to follow - not because the chapters are difficult to read, rather, they pack so much information I can’t possibly condense the wisdom into a five minute opening meditation for a vinyasa yoga class. So while we prepared this week by reading chapters 7 (Courage), chapter 8 (Compassion) and chapter 9 (Control) - I chose to leave compassion to the end. Oh, and flipped around the order too.

It was much easier for me to lay the groundwork first by describing control - and how it moves us. Ultimately, true courage is necessary to break down our need for power over our surroundings and to fully surrender to the truth in every moment. While compassion would have neatly fit as a third step - this alone was enough to ponder while practicing our handstands (yup, we did them again - only after full splits). What more could build up that courage muscle!?

Mantra: “Control is the greatest illusion.”

“Our attempt to control may seem like we are engaging with life in fact it blocks us from connecting with others and even ourselves.”

The more we try to control the less we are in control. You may have experienced this intimately in a close relationship, where you just wishes they would do X or say Y. Then everything would be perfect, right? The yoga tradition teaches us that such need for control only separates us from truth. It builds walls rather than inroads and definitely won’t win you any friends.

Find your Ground on November 9th!

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