FREE Yoga in NYC!!

Please join me for a FREE Yoga class for Veterans & U.S. Military this Sunday, April 24th from 9-10AM at Broadway Dance Center. Beginners are welcome, and all you need is your military I.D. to register. Mats & blocks will be provided by the studio. Please help spread the word about this FREE class! For directions and details, please visit http://www.broadwaydancecenter.com

In other news, I’ve created a YouTube channel that highlights both my worlds: Acting and Yoga & Meditation. Meditation videos are coming soon, and please enjoy my acting clips in the meantime. All you need is a gmail account to subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUN1bXMRPsdhSPgxJeRbrBg

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Wanna Sleep On the Job? Try Savasana!

Alvin

I know it’s a shocker, but many people misinterpret savasana as sleeping! Despite all the wrap-your-leg-around-your head-and-balance-on-one-hand poses I might teach, savasana is the yoga pose that is most challenging for people to understand. Why? Because it’s so simple. And so important. In fact, it’s the most important pose of the entire yoga class.

In Myths of the Asanas, authors Alanna Kaivalya and Arjuna van der Kooij assert that savasana “represents the surrender of all things that are foreign to our soul. When we have completed our yoga practice and given it our best, it is time to let go.”  Maybe it is this mystery of letting go that leads people to crowd at the door or window of the studios, boardrooms, and classrooms where I teach and whisper: Why are they lying on the floor with their eyes closed? WHY ARE THEY SLEEPING ON THE JOB?!?

Adult mid-day nap jealousy aside, savasana really is the most important pose of the entire yoga practice. Yoga asana is designed to prepare the body to sit for meditation, and savasana is the pose at the end of class that allows the body, mind, and spirit to integrate all the benefits of the physical practice. It can also be a transition pose between asana and meditation, easing your concentration from external to internal practices.

How do you do it? Lie down on the floor on your back, let your feet and hands relax open, and close your eyes. Think of savasana as a re-set button for your mind, body, and spirit. If you fall asleep during those precious 5 minutes, all it means is that you are relaxed. And that you need more sleep! Savasana is the one pose that most leads to wide-eyed wonder for my first-time yoga students. As one of my freshly minted yogis excitedly asked me after class on Sunday, “How do I return to this ecstasy?”

Simple: Take a yoga class. And at the end, rather than rushing off to your next pressing engagement, be sure to take 5 minutes to close your eyes and relax on your back. It is healing, transformative, and the very best gift you can give yourself. And after recharging your batteries, integrating the benefits of your physical efforts in asana, and just plain relaxing for FIVE MINUTES, you’ll no longer need that nap at your desk!

The Great Meditation Mystery

My students LOVE meditation! Whether in the boardroom, college classroom, dance studio, or veteran’s center, they enjoy meditation’s gifts: the sense of serenity, connection to higher consciousness, and the ability to solve challenges from a spiritual viewpoint. But the most common comment I hear from my blissed-out students at the end of class is, “I love meditation! But what IS it?”

So let me Nancy Drew this situation for you! When hearing about meditation, some folks may conjure an image of half-naked men walking unscathed on hot coals or people hiding in a mountain cave and signing strange chants. Although these experiences are part of some meditation traditions abroad, this ancient practice is just as accessible to the modern Westerner living in the most expensive, fast-paced, and fabulous metropolis in the U.S.-New York City!

Meditation includes everything from simple concentration exercises to achieving enlightenment. People of all spiritual backgrounds can practice meditation, and most forms of worship already contain meditation, although called by other names. The practice of meditation results in common human experiences across gender, culture, age, language, religion, and educational background.

The actual practice of meditation can be done seated, lying in savasana, walking around, with the eyes open or closed, and for the lucky few, lived as a state of existence 24/7. Like learning any new skill, meditation is designed to be practiced (not perfected!) each time you feel the desire to go within and calm the mind.

Meditation trains the mind to concentrate steadily on a point of focus (breath, mantra, even thought itself) so that the mind relaxes and higher consciousness has a chance to expand. With practice, even this focus falls away and you’re just in a state of meditation. Our minds are designed to think rapidly, so gratitude and compassion for your thoughts is often the first step in relaxing the mind. There are as many methods for achieving this goal as there are global cultures, and all that matters is that you find the right one for you!

To that end, I teach a guided meditation class every Friday in Midtown Manhattan from 1:30-2PM at Reflections Yoga. This class is donation-based, so it’s FREE for all who need it to be. Donations are welcome but certainly not required. Each week, I teach a different style of meditation focusing on universal themes. Beginners and students of all spiritual backgrounds are welcome. So if you’d like to solve the Great Meditation Mystery for yourself, come join me!

FRIDAY, 1:30-2PM

Refections Yoga, 250 West 49th Street, 2nd Floor (Just off 8th Avenue), NYC 10019

http://www.reflectionsyoga.com

I also teach weekly Yoga & Meditation classes at Broadway Dance Center in Midtown Manhattan. This class follows the format of 1 hour of gentle vinyasa yoga followed by a 30-minute guided meditation. For class rates and schedule, see below:

Broadway Dance Center, 322 West 45th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue), NYC 10036

http://www.broadwaydancecenter.com

Both locations provide free mats and meditation props. See you in Blisstown!

FALL INTO BLISS

We’re deep into Fall, the season of discipline, hard work, and the loooong school semester. I’ve got a brand new schedule of MEDITATION and YOGA to help you relax and unwind….

All classes are in Midtown Manhattan, including my weekly donation-based meditation class!

BROADWAY DANCE CENTER (www.bwydance.com)

322 West 45th Street, 3rd Floor

MONDAY through FRIDAY-All Levels Vinyasa Yoga

3:30-4:4:30PM

SUNDAY-Yoga & Meditation

3-4:30PM

One hour of relaxing vinyasa yoga followed by a 30-minute guided meditation. Beginners and students of all spiritual backgrounds are welcome!

 

REFLECTIONS YOGA (www.reflectionsyoga.com)

250 West 49th Street, 2nd Floor

FRIDAY-Donation Meditation

1:30-2PM

Enjoy a 30-minute guided meditation on your lunch hour! Donations welcome but not required.

NEW Yoga and Meditation Classes

Spring has sprung, and with the new season come a lot of great additions and changes to my teaching schedule!

YOGA @ BROADWAY DANCE

My beloved Broadway Dance Center has expanded, adding two more floors of spacious new studios. I have new class times and larger studios, so no more getting waitlisted for yoga when you really need it! My new permanent schedule as of 4/23/12:

MONDAY, WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY

3:30-4:30PM

TUESDAY, THURSDAY

1-2PM

FRIDAY

9:30-10:30AM

Check out all the great new classes, and I look forward to seeing you on the mat!

http://www.bwydance.com

 

MEDITATION @ REFLECTIONS YOGA

I’ve started a new guided meditation class with my meditation partner, Jeff Cannon, author of the amazing meditation book “The Simple Truth.” Starting April 27th, I’ll be  teaching guided meditation every Friday from 1:30-2PM at Reflections Yoga, a gorgeous oasis conveniently located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.  Students of all spiritual backgrounds are welcome. Donations are greatly appreciated but not required.

http://www.reflectionsyoga.com

 

MEDITATION @ THE YOGA COLLECTIVE NYC

After a great response to my inaugural meditation workshop at the Yoga Collective, I’ll be presenting Diving Into Bliss: Meditation for the Modern Practitioner on Saturday, May 5th, from 6:30-8PM. The workshop focuses on practical, easy meditation techniques you can begin using immediately in your home practice. Beginners and students of all spiritual backgrounds are welcome. To register, please visit the Yoga Collective website and click on their “Workshops” tab:

http://www.yogacollectivenyc.com

My Summer of LOVE

Aha! Looking for some romantic gossip?  The Western, and particularly American, fascination with romantic love has always intrigued me. But more on LOVE later…

Many of you noticed my absence from these pages over the summer and wrote to ask if I was still alive…and teaching. The answer-YES! In fact, I taught 19 classes a week, 7 days a week, for 3 months this past summer. My students are probably wondering why and my fellow instructors are asking, HOW?

The answer to the first question is simple: Check out my earlier blog post: From Type A to Ahhhhhhh. Summer 2010 was an attempt to work my way out of debt, the result of a 2 week break in my health insurance coverage in 2005, during which time I had a car accident (of course). Thank you, karma! I had reached a point last summer where I could no longer cover both my debt payments and my pared down living expenses. The Universe responded to my prayers with a deluge of yoga classes.

As to HOW, the answer is simple: LOVE. Many instructors will insist that it’s impossible to teach that much and give consistently good classes. The work was coming my way, and I had the opportunity to teach since I wasn’t booked for any acting projects over the summer. So, how to teach 5 or 6 classes a day, with some days starting at 9:30AM and ending at 9:30PM?

I used everything YOGA has taught me thus far….and it worked! I started each day with my own meditation practice and the prayer to best serve my students. I considered each class as the only one I was teaching. At the start of each class, I looked at the group of people in front of me and asked how yoga could best serve them as a whole. Even if I was physically tired, the moment I saw all those smiling faces looking up from their mats-my fatigue lifted.

So what is LOVE (yoga don’t hurt me!) ?

We Westerners often think of love as the Hollywood version of romanticized connection- an intimate relationship between two adults. I discovered over the past year that it’s so much deeper than that. Love can be a beautiful connection between two humans-any two humans. It doesn’t have to involve romance and can be as simple as connecting with the light of the soul in another’s eyes.

Unbeknownst to me, my former student (and acting coach extraordinaire) Seth Michael May had nominated me as NYC’s Favorite Yoga Teacher for the 2010 Backstage NYC Readers Choice Awards.  I was humbled to be voted runner-up and the only individual teacher featured in the awards. As a result, my classes were crammed to overflowing-with students from all over the world.

I walked into each class to a babble of languages and a chorus of  “Can we do pigeon?,” “Play the Latin playlist!”, and “We want restorative!” Imagine being greeted so warmly every time you walk into work. I am blessed with amazing, creative, and enthusiastic students in ALL the environments where I teach- from the conference room of the high end fashion house to Broadway Dance Center to the NYC university where I teach yoga in the aptly named Combatants Room.

And my students taught me something about LOVE this summer. We all face deep heartbreak at some point in life, and I learned that LOVE doesn’t have to be confined to a single partner or relationship.

At Sonic Yoga, I learned from assisting Jen Whinnen to give a shoulder adjustment at the start of savasana. As I lean over my students, I learn a lot about them as individuals. I see the talismans they wear around their necks, their piercings and tattoos, and who’s survived a tracheotomy or open heart surgery. On some well-known faces, I see the refinements of the plastic surgeon’s scalpel. As their faces relax into savasana bliss and I press their shoulders to the mat, I think of LOVE passing through my hands. Not romantic love, but an acknowledgement of the humanity that we all share.

Even after my workaholic summer, I still face several years of debt payments. But my students gave me a gift far more valuable-the knowledge that LOVE can come in many forms. In fact, there are limitless forms of pure and peaceful connection.

As I raced up and down Ninth Avenue between classes, I noticed a lot of strangers smiling at me. Oh dear-was my hair standing on end from too many headstands? Had I put my yoga pants on backwards-again? I finally realized that I was radiating unconditional love, and strangers on the street were responding to my unconscious smile. In order to receive such LOVE, I had to be sending it out.

LOVE can be: a friend helping you up the stairs after ankle surgery, a warm smile between friends, the willingness to listen and hold someone’s hand when they’re troubled and struggling, taking a walk together under a deep blue sky. All the simple pleasures that we share as humans, when the connection is soul to soul, positive , and uplifting.

So the next time you see a friend-or stranger-give a little LOVE by smiling at another human being.