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. 

Q&A: Ross Rayburn

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Ross Rayburn travels the world teaching  yoga. He will be at Pulsation Yoga April 17-18 leading three workshops that focus on hip openers, hand balancing, and forward bends and twists. Get all the details here, and call 847-989-7792 to reserve a spot. 

How long have you been teaching yoga?

17 years.

Why did you become a yoga teacher?

I started doing yoga because of a knee injury. I’ve been influenced by so many teachers from just about every style of yoga out there.

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

It has helped to to have a softer heart, sharper mind. and to feel more alive.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

Always be in service of the students.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

Remember to be a student first and always.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

Teaching 600 students at a conference in Seoul Korea, five hours after landing from New York.

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

Do your best and do your best.rossanjaneasana

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

With self-forgiveness…because I often forget to.

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

The first time I did Bakasana without cheating (which took me 10 years!).

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

It completely depends; it changes all the time.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

Can’t pick … there have just been too many. But in the top five, three are beach locations (love the beach!).

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

Easy…showtunes.

What else do you want students to know about you?

That I’m actually funny sometimes (all evidence to the contrary).

What is the best part of traveling to different studios and leading workshops?

Again, easy…I love people, especially meeting people who are interested in the work it takes to grow and thrive.

 

Q&A: Marian Kraus

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Marian Kraus is hosting a gong sound healing workshop Feb. 21 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Lake Zurich studio. Check out all the details here and join us for an evening of relaxation.

How did you become interested in playing the gong?

Having been a hand drummer for the past 38 years and a full-time photographer for 15 years, the gong found me and captivated me from the very first moment I heard the plethora of tones being generated by it. It was during a photo assignment for a client of mine that I was introduced to the gong, and I have been fascinated with its power ever since. It is a natural extension of my path and I now create pictures also with sound.

How has gong sound meditation benefited your life?

Gongs have been used for close to 4,000 years throughout history in different cultures as psycho-acoustic gateways to heightened states of awareness. So when skillfully played, a gong meditation has the potential to raises one’s aware consciousness. And from that point, there is no limit to one’s potential for personal transformation. So essentially, it has assisted me to continue “peeling the onion” of various layers that make me “me.” Gong sound is one of the keys or vehicles to uncovering, discovering, and discarding one layer after the other of learned behaviors, thinking modalities, accumulated patterns, etc… It has proven to be a very powerful and potent holistic approach to self-transformation and healing for me.

What can people expect at the workshop? 

I will be playing three large gongs (each 32-40 inches in diameter), seven Himalayan singing bowls from Nepal, four Burmese whirling gongs, a harmonic set of tuning forks, and an ocean drum. People typically lie down in one spot and relax, let go of all that pulls on them, and travel to different realms that they typically may not be able to access as rapidly as on the waves of sound. Participants will learn what they are meant to connect with. Transformation and healing occurs on the inside and in many ways. We all have the power residing within us. Everything, however, begins with and rests on awareness…Come check it out and have no expectations. Also, wear comfortable clothing and be open to the experience!

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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.

Got Stress?? Get Restorative!

 

With the final days of 2014 before us, many people spend their time battling holiday crowds at the mall, entertaining guests, and traveling. And let us not forget the daily stressors that go with running countless errands, commuting to work, and dealing with household chores.

Stress can cause the most important things in our life our own health and happiness-to fall through the cracks, and that can have a ripple effect. Enter a room in a disheveled and harried state, and the stressful vibration is felt by others. On the other hand, when you are relaxed and in the present moment, you send out a grounding, calming vibration that can inspire others to take a deep breath and relax as well.

To survive the holiday chaos, it is essential to take time out to recharge and de-stress-it not only keeps you sane, but it can keep your immune system strong. We have three special restorative classes that focus on helping students at any level of practice put themselves first so the big stressors in life begin to melt away. Classes are held throughout the week in the serenity of our studio.

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Therapeutic Classes

WHEN: Tuesdays from 5:15-6:15 p.m. in Lake Zurich; Wednesdays from 5:15-6:15 p.m. in Arlington Heights.

The class, taught by studio owner Kathy, focuses on two things: Using therapeutic yoga to relieve chronic pain and stress, and restoring the body back to optimal health with relaxing poses. There is a heavy use of props, very few standing poses, and a main focus on seated and supine poses. Therapeutics will help you to get grounded and eliminate stress, and is a great way to bring the body back to balance after work or air travel. The class is beneficial for beginner to advanced students.

Gentle Class

WHEN: Thursdays from 5:15-6:15 p.m. in Arlington Heights.

Whether you have chronic pain, limited flexibility, or need to decompress, our Gentle Yoga class is for you. We include basic breathing exercises and a variety of foundational standing, seated, and floor postures. This class is beneficial for all levels.

Yin Classes

WHEN: Sundays from 6:15-7:15 p.m. in Arlington Heights; Sundays from 4:15-5:30 p.m. in Lake Zurich and Thursdays from 5:10-6:20 p.m. in Lake Zurich.

Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures or asanas that are held for comparatively long periods of time, typically three minutes or longer per pose. Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues-the tendons, fascia, and ligaments-with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. Yin Yoga poses are also designed to improve the flow of qi, the subtle energy said in Chinese medicine to run through the meridian pathways of the body.