Q&A: Rob Murray

Yoga Instructor Rob teaches at the Lake Zurich studio

Yoga Instructor Rob teaches at the Lake Zurich studio

How long have you been teaching yoga?  

I have been teaching yoga for about one year, since completing the teacher training with Kathy and receiving my RYT-200 registration.

Why did you become a yoga teacher? Who and/or what are your biggest influences?

I decided to register for the teacher training with the objective of establishing a solid foundation in the principles of yoga and to deepen my practice. I had been practicing for 10 years but was interested in better understanding alignment, practicing safely, and extending yoga beyond the mat. I had been a youth hockey coach for 10 years and really missed teaching, sharing, and learning alongside my players. When I finished the training program, Kathy really inspired me to take the next step and teach.

Who and/or what are your biggest influences?

As it relates to yoga, I have two: BKS Iyengar – I have practiced different forms of holistic health for over 20 years and one day picked up BKS Iyengar’s book “Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health.” I was absolutely amazed at the breadth of what yoga could provide in terms of healing and wellness. In addition, my dad has practiced and taught meditation for more than 40 years, and hearing the stories of how meditation influenced people’s lives has really touched me.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

First of all, I learned that yoga is much more than asana. We studied the Yamas and Niyamas in teacher training and they have become a guide for what I strive for: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. One of the practical ways I try to apply these principles on a daily basis is focusing on how I can be of service instead of what I can receive. And when I fall short of these ideals, I realize that our beauty is in our imperfection and strive to better.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

To spread joy, happiness, and peace through the community practice of yoga.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Authenticity – being yourself, teaching what you know, being prepared yet flexible, and most importantly being kind.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

The most challenging experience is still in front of me. I was asked to do a workshop at a studio I visited last summer on Long Island, Hamptons Healing Arts. I’m working on a theme, content, and music and feel a little intimidated as the guest teacher.

What do you recommend to the beginner student? To the seasoned student?

Be open to the experience and try not to have any expectations. And to the seasoned student: Share your gifts!

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

I try to be kind and giving. It’s one thing to be all Zen when inside the studio, but the real reflection of progress is how you treat others.

What is the one pose you are most proud of getting into?

Astavakrasana, or Eight Angle Pose. I first saw this pose in one of the many yoga books I have and thought it was completely beyond my physical abilities. When I stopped trying to muscle my way into the pose and used my breath and just relaxed, one day it just came.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

All times of day! In the morning I enjoy the peacefulness of yoga; in the afternoon, it’s a time restart and re-energize; and practicing in the evening provides an opportunity to leave the chaos of the day behind. I also love to do mini yoga’s throughout the day. Whether it’s a brief pranayama or a quick forward fold, taking a few seconds or minutes is so refreshing.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

On the beach in Westhampton Beach, Long Island.

What is your favorite music to listen to while practicing yoga?

I curate different playlists for all my classes and try to match the music to the theme of the class. My playlists include classic rock, reggae, classical, kirtan, jam bands, and live Grateful Dead shows.

What else do you want students to know about you?

I enjoy teas from around the world (come to one of my Saturday classes – I brew tea for each class), all kinds of sports (hockey, golf, skiing, tennis, etc.), and love being at the beach. I have a passion for live music (nothing like Ravinia on a summer evening) and have attended well over 100 Grateful Dead Shows.

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

Jim and Kathy have built Pulsation into a real community. It is a safe and non-intimidating environment that is grounded in the principles of yoga. Many of the students and teachers I practice with have become true friends. A really cool example of the essence of Pulsation is one recent Saturday morning, when a student brought in fresh herbs and flowers from her garden and shared them with everyone at the studio (thanks Susie!).

Rob Murray teaches at the Pulsation Yoga studio in Lake Zurich. Check out the class schedule to attend his classes.

Prop Up Your Yoga Practice

By: Megan Miller

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 “Sthira Sukham Asanam”

                                                Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.46

An Asana should have the dual qualities of stability

and comfort, strength and stillness, steadiness and joy.

Yoga props can profoundly improve your practice. Instructors often incorporate the use of blocks, bolsters, blankets, and straps to help to make postures more accessible, stable, aligned, safe, and comfortable. By providing support, these props enable you to focus on relaxing both the body and the mind. This guide can help you become more familiar with the uses and benefits of yoga props, and enhance your practice.

BLOCKS

Blocks are used to open up space, allowing you to go deeper and to stay in postures longer. Using blocks can improve alignment, which brings an ease to many of the postures. These props are especially helpful if you have very tight hamstring muscles during poses such as Uttansana (Standing Forward Fold), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), Trikonasana (Triangle), Parsvottanasana (Pyramid), and Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).

With a brick-like design, blocks can be used at three levels, offering varying degrees of support. Sitting with a block between the feet in Virasana (Hero) can make the pose safer and more comfortable by eliminating knee strain. Sitting up on a block in seated positions such as Sukhasana (Easy Pose) is a terrific modification if you have tight hamstrings and/or hip flexors (quads). The tighter the muscles are, especially the hips, the more height helps. As your practice progresses, your muscles will begin to lengthen and blocks can then either be lowered or perhaps may no longer be needed.

BOLSTERS AND BLANKETS

Both of these props are utilized to cushion or elevate various body parts for comfort and relaxation. Just like with blocks, they can be used in seated postures such as Sukhasana if your knees are higher than your hips or your low back is tight while legs are crossed. If your hamstrings are very tight, sitting up on the edge of a folded blanket is especially important in seated forward folds (Paschimottanasana/Upavistha Konasana/Janu Sirsasana) to bring the pelvis to a neutral position and protect the low back. Bolsters, which look like cylindrical or rectangular cushions, can be used to help recline in poses such as Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose). Using these props under the hips in Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) or under the knees in Savasana softens and relieves tension leading to a more restful pose.

STRAPS

Straps are a fabulous tool to stretch and open areas in the body, including the hamstrings, shoulders, and side bodies. In either Reclining Head to Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana) or Standing Extended Head to Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana), straps can safely increase flexibility and provide stability. They bridge the gap between the hands in binding postures like Bound Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) and create a bigger stretch in the upper back in Natarajasana (King Dancer). Straps can be used between the hands when the arms are extended to take standing side bends, or behind the back for shoulder openers. These props can also be looped and used in many ways to strap arms, legs, and feet together and create stability, teach alignment, or maintain key actions or elements of poses.

 

 

meganMegan Miller is 200 RYT in both Forrest Yoga and Anusara Yoga (through Kathy Simonik and Pulsation Yoga). She is currently completing a 500 RYT  Advanced Teacher’s Training at Prairie Yoga, which is influenced by the teachings of Iyengar Yoga. Practice with Megan during her classes on Monday and Friday in the Arlington Heights studio. 

Our Weekend with Desiree Rumbaugh

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Desiree Rumbaugh recently spent a weekend at Pulsation Yoga, leading four workshops on hip openers, backbends, arm balances, and therapeutic poses for the neck and shoulders. Desiree is an internationally recognized yoga instructor, and it was wonderful to have her share her extensive knowledge and to help students strengthen their yoga practice. Check out some pictures from our weekend!

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Photo credit: Katherine Okon

Pose: Warrior II

Yoga instructor Katherine poses on Abby Road in London

Yoga instructor Katherine poses on Abby Road in London

 

Name of Pose: Warrior II; Virabhadrasana II in Sanskrit
Difficulty Level: Easy
Benefits: Stretches the hips and shoulders; lengthens the spine; stimulates digestion and circulation; and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles.

How to Get into the Pose

1. Begin in Tadasana pose (feet shoulder-width apart, arms by your side). Step your feet wide apart, inhale, and extend your arms.

2. Turn your right leg out directly to the side. Turn your left foot in slightly and align your right heel with the arch of your left foot.

3. Exhale and bend your right knee to 90 degrees. Hold for several breaths. Pull your legs toward each other to engage the muscles, inhale, and rise up out of the pose. Repeat on the other side.

Pro Tip: “Get your foundation set BEFORE raising your arms,” said yoga instructor Katherine Okon. “You can even look down at your feet, feel them grounded firmly on the mat. Once you raise your arms, soften your shoulders. Coordinate your breath with each movement.”

 

Q&A: Katherine Okon

 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  

Since May 2014.

Why did you become a yoga teacher? Who and/or what are your biggest influences?katherine okon

Becoming a yoga teacher was a domino effect. I had been practicing yoga sporadically for three years at studios and at home. Then I found Pulsation Yoga, and after a while co-owner Kathy suggested that taking the Yoga Studies program would be beneficial, since I was always asking questions after class to deepen my yoga understanding. I decided to go all-in and take the Teacher Training, though not to teach—just to really immerse myself in the world of yoga. It wasn’t until after the training ended and I was a registered yoga teacher that I thought about actually teaching. A fellow Pulsation teacher asked me to sub her class, and I absolutely loved it. My family really encouraged me to take the leap and become a teacher, and the training I received from Kathy resonated so much with me.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

I am not sure if I am better, per say, but I feel different. I feel calmer, more grounded, more content, and happier. I feel more connected to life.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

I aspire to teach with a beginner’s mind. I guide each student safely and compassionately, and invite everyone to experience yoga as empowering, fun, and joyful.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Heart, knowledge, and skill. I think it is especially important that when a teacher is speaking, they really connect with each student, whether they are talking about the theme at the start of class or making adjustments during practice.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

My first time teaching. I was nervous, yet excited. I was prepared, yet I overcompensated with copious notes. It was both challenging and enlightening. I really hope I have more days like that.

What do you recommend to the beginner student? To the seasoned student?

For the beginner student: Practice on the mat with a variety of teachers, and practice as often as feasible. I have learned so much from each instructor because they each have something different to give.
For the seasoned student: Take a beginner-level class once in a while and really listen to the instructor. Going back to the basics brings you closer to your authentic self.

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

Every day, I find myself using the tools of yoga that I have been given: breathing, connecting, non-judgment, getting grounded, being present…so many things.

What is the one pose you are most proud of getting into?

I am most proud of getting into Warrior 1. There is a lot going on in Warrior 1, and whenever I would attempt it, a lot of emotions rose up in me. It was a struggle to even stand firmly grounded. The first time I got into Warrior 1 where my body reacted with confidence and beauty, I knew I had found my heart in the pose. I knew my yoga was working.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

I do not have a favorite time of day. I have had amazing practices early morning to late evening. Every day, my body responds differently to the practice, so I mix it up and find that the class I chose to attend was exactly the one I was meant to do.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

I went to Europe for a month with family, and while I only practiced on the mat once, I took my yoga off the mat every single day. Navigating foreign lands proved to be a bit daunting at times and caused me to be somewhat hyper-vigilant. Remembering to breathe helped me to center and be more present and mindful, which allowed me to experience everything to the fullest and safely. However, I did keep up my asana practice in front of the Colosseum, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Stonehenge, and over canals in Amsterdam and Venice!

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What is your favorite music to listen to while practicing yoga?

I have a huge variety in my iTunes, and I play them during my classes. If I had to pick one genre, it would be classical. Though in my classes, you could very well hear Ray Charles, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Frank Sinatra, and the soundtrack to Royal Tenenbaums.

What else do you want students to know about you?

I am an avid reader and I love music, photography, and cooking. While I am a serious student of yoga, I have a playful side, and whether I am practicing on the mat or leading a class, both sides show through.

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

Pulsation Yoga is an amazing studio, and guided by the passion of Kathy and Jim, it has taken on its own positive energy. Without fail, every class or workshop I have attended has helped me feel more and more a part of the Pulsation Yoga community. To have the opportunity to teach there, along with being a student, has only increased the benefits yoga has to offer.

Katherine Okon teaches at the Pulsation Yoga studios in Arlington Heights and Lake Zurich. Check out the class schedule to attend her classes at either location.

Q&A: Lin Li

 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  lin-li

Since August 2014.

Why did you become a yoga teacher? Who and/or what are your biggest influences?

I did the teacher training to have a better understating of yoga and deepen my own practice. I also wanted to overcome some of my fears. [Pulsation Yoga owner] Kathy is my biggest influence. I have studied with Kathy for more than six years.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

Yoga helps me to be more focused in life and to learn how to slowly respond to things rather than quickly react.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

To share my practice with students and help my students understand that yoga is a spirit practice, and Asana yoga practice is not about what you can do or how good you look in a pose, but how you feel in a pose.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Authentic, and confident to teach poses that she/he may or may not able to do.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

As a new teacher, every class is a challenge for me.

What do you recommend to the beginner student? To the seasoned student?

Practice with an open heart and focus his/her own practice. Be patient.

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

Don’t hold my breath and be more openhearted to things in life.

What is the one pose you are most proud of getting into?

I am still working on my crow.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

Anytime I can.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

At Pulsation Yoga!

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

I enjoy the community atmosphere that Kathy and Jim create for Pulsation Yoga.

 Lin Li teaches at the Pulsation Yoga studio in Lake Zurich. Check out the class schedule to attend her classes.

Co-Owner Jim Simonik

 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  

Nine years. I have been practicing almost 11 years.

Why did you become a yoga teacher? Who and/or what are your biggest influences?jimportrait

I didn’t have any burning desire to teach. [Co-owner and wife] Kathy and our first teacher were up in Wisconsin at a workshop and they called me on a Sunday around noon and said they were not going to be able to make it back in time for Kathy’s class at 4:30 that same afternoon. They both convinced me I could teach the class. Anywhere from seven to 17 students could show up, so they discussed the class with me, and I took lots of notes. As it turned out, 17 students did show up, but I had my notes. I ended up doing the whole class from my mat and never looked at the notes, because I had everything memorized! From that day forward, I taught and subbed every chance I could get to gain experience. The hardest thing was to start teaching off the mat—to walk around and truly start to notice foundation and alignment with the students. I tell any new teacher to get out and help the student. That is one of the things that separates us from our competition: We don’t teach from our mat.

My biggest influences are the masters; the ones who started teaching yoga 30 or 40 years ago. They are not going to be around forever. We are going to slip into their shoes someday, and we better know what we’re talking about. That is why I encourage my teachers and our students to take it all in and continue to expand their education. Go to the workshops. Invest in yourself.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

I find when I am of service to the student or to others outside the studio, it not only makes them feel better, but it makes me feel better. When I can inspire an individual, it not only inspires them, but it inspires others around the individual. If we are all inspired and motivated, then collectively, we can change positively and continue to pay it forward.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

The mission of Pulsation Yoga is to bring some of the finest instructors together under one roof, creating a cohesive community that works toward common goals.

These goals are to:
• Create a safe and inspiring environment where a diverse student clientele can experience yoga and grow at their own rate.

• Teach alignment so people can take charge of their well-being and heal from injuries.

• Help guide the students to experience transformation and shifts in a way that opens their hearts to bring them closer to their authentic selves.

We frequently start class with the chant. It helps center the class and brings the energy together. The chant reminds student to honor the light within themselves and others. The physical yoga practice helps the student to connect to something deeper and bring more meaning to their lives.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Take it off the mat. Just get off the mat. A good yoga teacher should be able to teach from a wheelchair if that is the case. I heard a comment one time from a student: “I will never go to a yoga class if the teacher can’t do all of the poses.” I feel sorry for that student; she is missing out, especially with the bigger picture. It is not just about the asana practice, but also an exploration into the other limbs of yoga. The asana practice starts the process, and from there you begin to change. All of a sudden you might start taking a closer look at the yamas and the niyamas and start doing something positive with your family and job setting.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

We just opened Pulsation Yoga in Lake Zurich. It is our second location (with Arlington Heights) and so some students have never heard of us and what we are capable of with teaching. They hear language they have never heard before. I look at their faces and they are not quite sure what to do with it. They go through the motions trusting I know what I’m talking about, but with some skepticism. By the time they get to the middle of the class, they love it. I love at the end of class when they say, “What was that?” And when they keep coming back, to me as a teacher, it is cool how they are getting it and are literally changing in front of my eyes—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What do you recommend to the beginner student? To the seasoned student?

To the beginner student: Any Basic class or the Yoga 101 series. Some students figure it out quite quickly, while others take a little longer, but it doesn’t matter. I try to tell them to not get caught up with whatever everybody else is doing.

To the seasoned student: Go to as many workshops as possible to find what the masters we invite to the studio are doing. Learn from them first-hand. We call it continuing education, even if the workshop is restorative, like a lot of the workshops Gabriel Halpern teaches at our studio. This can be just as satisfying as an arm-balancing and inversion workshop I might teach. Attending workshops are especially important to help you become a more well-rounded teacher if you plan to teach someday.

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

I try to set an example by not having any attachment. I try to quickly let things go. I’ve seen just about everything imaginable. If I see an opportunity, I will talk to whomever for however long it takes until they are inspired and motivated enough to change their own lives by coming to us to try a class. It always seems to start with the practice and then shifts to a student’s internal challenges.

What is the one pose you are most proud of getting into?

Handstand, unassisted in the middle of the room. Handstand took me nine years, but once you learn how to fall out of pose softly, it isn’t so scary. I also learned a lot from some of the masters we have invited to the studio. Some of these teachers have been on the cover of Yoga Journal. Betsey Downing, Desiree Rumbaugh, and Ross Rayburn are probably some of the most inspiring teachers to help me with handstand.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

In the morning and evening. I don’t know why; I guess I’ve gotten into a routine that works for me with my schedule.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

The best place was in St. John, U.S. Virgins Islands, by myself on the beach with no tourists around. The sand was deep and the water was beautiful. It was a hard practice.

What is your favorite music to listen to while practicing yoga?

I love Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Pearl Jam, Beck, The Black Keys, Benjy and Heather, Wah!, and Cat Stevens. Kathy and I have seen so many groups perform live. We made a list one time and it was about five pages long. I love the energy.

What else do you want students to know about you?

I have this stigma I’m too hard for students to try my classes. But I adapt my teaching to reach all levels. I teach the Yoga 101 series and I’ve been teaching senior citizens at a private club for five years. I have become a detailed, biomechanical type of teacher, and my style of teaching has naturally evolved with my education and personal experience. To be a good teacher, you have to have an imagination; you have to envision you are doing the pose. I imagine what I would be experiencing if I were doing a pose, and then I relate it to what I have learned from the masters.

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

It is our baby. We will do what is necessary to keep it fresh. We love our students. We love our teachers. When our students show up, it’s like, “Thank you for coming to our party!” We want everyone to get to know each other, because the Pulsation Yoga community is an excellent support system. We are friendly, and still get the work done.

 

Jim Simonik owns and teaches at the Pulsation Yoga studios in Arlington Heights and Lake Zurich. Check out the class schedules to attend his classes at either location.