Monday, June 9, 2014

defining who we are

The practice of Yoga is both ancient and broad.  Given the wide variety of interpretations of yoga teachings and the range of skill and intentions amongst teachers and studios, it can be hard to know what to expect when entering a yoga class setting.

As director of Shelburne Falls Yoga, the process of defining and redefining the practice, aims, and tools of yoga is ongoing.  My aim is to provide a nurturing and challenging environment in which you will learn the skills for discovering and sustaining long-term health and vitality. 

Listed below are just a few of the practices you will have an opportunity to explore as a member of our unique yoga community:

Safe and Efficient Movement PatternsLearn to identify which muscle are in use in a given posture, how the spine, pelvis, and limbs relate to one another, and where to initiate motion for efficient, safe, and easeful movement.

Non- Judging Awareness- Practice suspending judgment while anchoring attention to the present moment, cultivating a more meaningful and realistic relationship with your body and your surroundings

Stability and Mobility- Find a functional and safe balance between strength and flexibility, allowing for optimal range of motion while avoiding the potential dangers of hypermobility.

Balance- Promote balance in thought, in motion, in breath, and in the systems of the body to create a strong foundation from which to choose your next course of action both on and off the mat.

We look forward to welcoming you to Shelburne Falls Yoga this spring!

E-RYT 500, 
Director Shelburne Falls Yoga, 
Co-Founder and Director Living World Yoga School 

Saturday, April 26, 2014





Mindfulness in thought and deed is an important topic for many of us who take up the practice of yoga.  But what is it?  A wise teacher of mine, Jonathan Foust, once defined mindfulness very simply as non-judging awareness, a definition which continues to resonate for me.

Non-judging awareness, or compassionate observation of self and others, is deeply embedded in many branches of the yoga tradition.  Those of us interested in the undertaking return to our practice each day with an intention of calmly observing and making room for each experience that presents itself.

Non-judging awareness is a simple practice, and also one that can take a lifetime to master as it continually brings us into contact with those parts of ourselves that we may prefer to keep hidden from our own and others' view.  But it also has a lighter, gentler side in its ability to invite us into the joy and fullness present in each moment with no need to change, judge, or achieve.  It presents an opportunity to celebrate our lives as they are right now.

In the practice of non-judging awareness, we cultivate the ability to see beneath the patterns and habits of the rational mind, allowing a deeper wisdom and intuition to be revealed.  Through this intuitive wisdom we may begin to see ourselves and our surroundings with a little more clarity, we may begin to live our lives a bit more boldly.

The practice of non-judging awareness is available to any of us at any time.  All that is required is a willingness to try suspending judgement and striving, if even for a moment, to rest in the convergence of breath and sensation, and to observe the results of your experiment.  You may be surprised to discover that a consistent practice of mindfulness in your relationships and daily activities has the ability to change your world! 
-Kate Pousont Scarborough 
E-RYT 500, 
Director Shelburne Falls Yoga, 
Co-Founder and Director Living World Yoga School 

handstand 2

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Creating Space:
Supportive Practices for Greater Vitality

It has been a long, cold winter here in the northeast and many of us are more than ready to transition into the warmer days of spring. As we bid a fond farewell to winter, we might also consider adding a few new practices to our daily routine.  In addition to a posture practice, Yoga and Ayurveda offer many tools to support balance and growth, creating space in our lives and bodies for greater health and vitality.  Below are just a few that I've chosen to incorporate into my own daily practice:

Tongue Scraping
When I first heard from my teacher that the "undigested metabolic waste" that appears on the tongue after sleep is better removed than swallowed, it made a big impression! Tongue scrapers can be purchased at many health-food stores and pharmacies.  A spoon is equally effective.  I do this first thing each morning before hydrating with warm lemon water.

Salt Water Gargle:
I was pleased to breeze through some repeated exposures to the flu after being reminded to add this simple and effective practice to my morning routine by Kripalu yoga teacher and Dean of Kripalu School of Ayurveda Larissa Hall Carlson.   A brief gargle with warm salt water once or twice per day helps to remove pathogens from the throat before they enter your system.

Oil Pulling:
There's been quite a bit of talk about oil pulling lately.  What is it? It is a practice of swishing organic unrefined sesame oil in the mouth (as you might do with a mouthwash, but for longer).   Though it may sound like a long while, twenty minutes passes quickly if you begin before entering the shower.  This practice helps support oral health and hygiene, but is also said to pull toxins from the system.  I swear by it!

Gentle Movements:
Try rotating the joints several  times  (ankles, shoulders, wrists, hips) and adding a gentle twist to your morning routine.  Gentle movements help to lubricate the joints, free the spine, and prepare the body for the day ahead.

Conscious Breathing:
Even a few moments of conscious, steady breathing can help to align the systems of the body and calm the mind.  If you have a pranayama practice, a few minutes each morning can make a big difference in your day.  If not, try sitting comfortably, allowing the breath to find a natural rhythm, and noticing the sensation of the abdomen or torso moving in response to the breath.  
-Kate Pousont Scarborough 
E-RYT 500, 
Director Shelburne Falls Yoga, 
Co-Founder and Director Living World Yoga School 

Monday, February 17, 2014

holding steady
Last month brought the beginning of another class session with my beloved young students.  Working with children often magnifies my understanding of traits and struggles that are common to
us all, and I know, as we embark on another season together, that these young students will be teaching me even as I instruct them. 
The concept of "stretching" is notorious for bringing out an attitude of striving and discontent in any age group.  And yet, expanding our range of motion in a mindful way can be a deeply healthful and balancing activity.  It is also essential to opening new doorways of expression for our young dancers.
One afternoon, as we gently approach the often sensitive activity of "splits",  I watch a range of reactions not unlike what might surface in an adult's yoga class.  Defeat was present,  and some pride,  and enthusiasm, and much desire to possess the desired outcome, now.  Just as I am about to speak to the need for awareness and patience, the entire group decides to try a "trick", a dubious activity involving pushing defiant limbs into the wall in hopes of attaining success, now.
As I watch and wait for a moment, giving an opportunity for the idea to run its course, I ponder the words I know I will offer as we reconvene, words that may be of relevance to those of us grown-ups who might also, on occasion, push blindly into the next threshold.
I will say to them, "How can you know where you're going if you don't first know where you are?".
And I will say to them, "How can you have the strength to move forward if you don't first have the strength to hold steady as you are?".
And perhaps they will not understand.  But perhaps they will, now or someday.  And what might the invitation to pause, breathe, and look clearly awaken for them?  What might it awaken for all of us?
On this particular afternoon, we settle again in our colorful circle of yoga mats, take a deep breath, and learn one small lesson in patience as we hold steady,  just as we are.  And then, in the small, clear space we have created with our own awareness, we begin to dance.  
~Kate Pousont Scarborough, E-RYT 500, Director Shelburne Falls Yoga

Friday, November 1, 2013

How We Grow:

Each time we turn our attention inward, a curious process is initiated.  Our first steps can feel awkward or humble, so simple that it can be easy to miss the landscape that might arise from the first seed of awareness.

We begin with self-observation, the non-judging awareness that forms the soil of our practice.   

With patience and attention, clarity arises, allowing us to see more clearly what is truly happening within us and around us.

This clarity gives rise to courage, which gives us strength to move forward toward an uncertain future regardless of what the outcome might be.

Our courage inspires love, the ability to give selflessly to others with no guarantee and in the face of certain loss.

Love leads us on to grace, a practice of celebrating victories and making room for shortcomings in ourselves and others equally.

And grace may deliver us to wisdom, giving us the tools to choose wisely the paths that serve our highest purpose and the humility to begin again each day.

~Kate Pousont Scarborough, E-RYT 500,
Director, Shelburne Falls Yoga
Co-Founder, Living World Yoga and EARTHjourneys

Friday, June 28, 2013

a life well woven

In the sunniest corner of the studio lives a hearty jade.  It has always been there,mountainsas long as I can remember at least.  It gives the impression of a timeworn desert visitor, thriving but perpetually red-brown and gnarly as it soaks in the hot sun on its upward trajectory toward an unknown destination.  On occasion it sheds a piece of itself, one of which I recently took home to rescue at the suggestion of a plant-loving friend.  

This daughter of the jade is thriving too, but bears little resemblance to its parent.  In the cool corner of my kitchen it is stocky and dark, with its fat, succulent leaves exuding patience and ease.  It is far less wild. Of the same stuff, yet so very different.

These plants are living example of the way all things are shaped by circumstance and environment. They also serve as a reminder to me to meet each unique variation of the human condition with compassion and respect for that which created it.  Like the plants, we are so often handed our circumstances and left to grow into them to the best of our ability.  

Unlike them, our human state affords us the ability to shape our environment in return.  And shape we do, to such wondrous and disastrous effect.  On some days I feel like a bedraggled weaver, handed a set of strings upon awakening with no choice as to their color or size.  But while I may not be able to change them, I can weave them into a tapestry that is uniquely my own, a dynamic fabric of experience that reflects my choices as well as all that is beyond my control.  In this process of creation, pain and poverty become just another pattern, joy an unexpected sweep of color, our entire lives a rich and varied work of art.

Each of us is presented with a choice each day, each moment.  And this becomes our practice; Are we allowing the threads of our lives to hang limp and tangle in despair, or forcing them again and again into a pattern that no longer fits?  Or are we deftly weaving all we have been dealt with attention and with joy?

~Kate Pousont Scarborough, RTY-500, Director Shelburne Falls Yoga~

Thursday, April 25, 2013

.... and fly

Once, in my wanderings, I came to know a place that held within it the voice of the world like no other I had ever encountered. I don’t know why this place spoke to me so. It may have been the small brook that had, through gentle persistence, carved its way to the soul of itself with a sound like the whisper of grace in motion. Or the old and gnarled maples, still towering and stately, who gave their secrets only to those who sat with them long enough to understand the deep stillness that created and was created by them. I love this place.  

The place though was less affected by the play of the human world than was I, and the time came when I was to leave it behind. At first I felt the recoiling that still accompanies the threat of loss even though the passage of time has taught me often that I needn’t be afraid; new possibility awaits on the other side. I came to understand that this loss, like so many others, was determined by choices and circumstance set in motion long before I had ever known it as a gain. It was never not to be.

This understanding gave me strength and I did not turn away from its heartrending beauty in my final days with the place that had grown into my soul. Instead I leaned in to hear the words this unlikely love of mine might say. She whispered in my ear: Truth and love were not meant to be held in place but to be carried and shared with those who have not yet known them. Take me with you. And fly.

~Kate Pousont Scarborough,  E-RYT 500, 
Director Shelburne Falls Yoga~