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

rossashtavrksana

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: Linnea Kramer

 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  linnea

I have been teaching yoga for six months at Pulsation Yoga, after completing the training program with [Owner] Kathy.

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

When I started practicing yoga I fell absolutely in love with the community and the practice and I knew I wanted to be able to share that with others, and that’s why I became a yoga instructor. Kathy and Jim Simonik were and are a huge influence and inspiration for me; I would not have the practice I do today without them!

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

Yoga has helped me and is continuing to help me become the best version of myself that I can possibly be. And I think the biggest way it does that is by making me be present and aware not only of myself but of everyone else around me. It really changes the way you look at the world.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

My personal statement/goal as a yoga teacher is to promote self-love. I want every person who comes to my class to leave feeling better, confident, and happy.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

I think a genuine/authentic yoga teacher who is dedicated to his or her students is what makes an excellent yoga teacher. Every person has a unique style of teaching that they bring to a class, and I believe that as long as you are staying true to who you are, your authentic self, people will respond to that in a positive way.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

My most challenging teaching experience was when I taught my first solo class. I had started out co-teaching, and it felt safe having someone else in the room with me. And while “going solo” was my most challenging teaching experience, it was also my most rewarding. My students once again proved to me how supportive, accepting, and loving the yoga community is and why I am so grateful to be a part of it!

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

To the beginner student, I say relax and have fun. Don’t be hard on yourself and remember that everyone started in that same place. Everyone is nervous and hides in the back row when they start out (myself included). If you fall over, giggle and get back up. Love yourself. And to the seasoned student, I say keep a beginner’s mind.

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

I take my yoga with me everywhere I go! I have learned to love myself on the mat during my practice, accepting myself for where I am in each pose. I need to be aware and present as I move through each asana, just like I need to do off the mat in every day situations.

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

The pose I am most proud of getting into is forearm scorpion, or “Vrschikasana.” I worked so hard on gaining strength and flexibility and it was awesome seeing myself progress on the pose over the year it took to master it.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

I don’t actually have a favorite time of day to practice yoga. I love it whenever I can fit it in. Although I will say it feels great to do a few sun salutations first thing in the morning.

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

The best place I have ever practiced yoga would probably be on the rooftop of my old high school. It was so empowering!

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

I don’t have one specific genre that I listen to during yoga. In my classes, I play anything from Bob Marley to alt-J to Lana Del Rey. I think it depends on what theme the class is centered around, or if I am practicing at home, it depends what mood I am in.

What else do you want students to know about you?

I want my students to know that they can always ask me anything. Whether it’s about their practice, an asana, or really anything, I always want to be approachable.

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

I love teaching at Pulsation Yoga in particular because of the community they have created. I feel so lucky to be a part of it, and it is such a wonderful and supportive bunch of teachers and students.

 

Linnea Kramer teaches at the Pulsation Yoga studio in Arlington Heights. Check out the class schedule to attend her classes.

Q&A: Inara Kim

 

How long have you been teaching yoga?  inara

I started teaching in 1991.

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

I’ve studied with many master teachers over the years, but my biggest influences are the students that i meet in class!

How has yoga helped you to be a better person?

I hope that I am a more open, curious, and accepting person, but it’s hard to compare “before and after” yoga because I’ve been practicing a long time.

What is your personal mission statement as a yoga teacher?

Create spaciousness so students can explore, discover, and play.

What do you think constitutes an excellent yoga instructor?

I think it’s finding the right match of instructor and student. What one student thinks is excellent, another student might think is poor. A popular instructor might or might not be an excellent instructor. A teacher I might not think is excellent might be the best for my practice in that moment. I’m learning over time not to judge.

What was your most challenging teaching experience?

I had a bad case of laryngitis and had to do silent classes for a few days. I received the most amazing feedback–who knew???

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

For beginners: a five-minute practice counts as a practice! Don’t think that if you don’t do a full class it doesn’t count; 99.5% is getting to the mat. So practice, even for five minutes, on whatever days you can! If you don’t know what to practice, then each week take one new pose or technique you learned in class and practice that. At the end of the year, you’ll have a great repertoire of poses.

For continuing students: remember that yoga is powerful, and that if you are a regular practitioner your body and mind will change over time. This means what worked for you in the beginning might or might not be serving you now. Be open to new instructions, poses, techniques, and traditions. The more you practice, the more you change; make sure your yoga changes with you!

How do you take your yoga off the mat?

I attempt to be as present as I can throughout the day, savoring each moment. It’s still a work in progress!

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

Headstand. It took me three years to get away from the wall, and now it is one of my favorite poses.

What is your favorite time of day to practice yoga?

My favorite time of day to practice is right before dinner, but if I don’t practice first thing in the morning my practice never happens, so early morning it is!

Where is the best place you have ever practiced yoga?

Next to the Seven Sacred Pools in Hana, Hawaii.

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

Depends what type of yoga I’m practicing. I have a special playlist when practicing Kripalu yoga, and silence for Ashtanga yoga. For other types of yoga, I tend to lean toward chants, my favorites by Jennifer Berezan. When I attend a class as a student, I’m up for anything.

What else do you want students to know about you?

Even though I stand up in front of others and teach yoga, I’m quite the introvert.

Why do you love teaching at Pulsation Yoga?

Kathy and Jim have created a vibrant, loving, connected community. That doesn’t happen everywhere. I feel very fortunate to be a small part of Pulsation.

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