Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Finding Balance this Fall

Greetings students,

I hope you are well and enjoying this beautiful fall season!  As the cold weather moves in, we've been relishing the warm sunlight during our morning classes and the warm glow of candlelight once again in the evenings.  Our fall schedule includes all of your old favorites and some new favorites as well.  Please read below to see our full class schedule.

I'd like to thank you all for your well wishes and understanding during my illness and
subsequent studio closure at the end of the summer.  Two months later, I am in the final phases of healing and beginning to feel fully well again.  During this time, I've had many opportunities to reflect on yoga, its strengths and its possible pitfalls, and the ways in which the practice can help us to achieve our aims on a number of levels while building lasting health and well-being.

Each of us comes to yoga for different reasons and with different goals in mind.  We could be seeking physical strength, increased mobility, relaxation, clarity, healing, or any combination of these things.  And the range of practices available allows us to explore whether we prefer a vigorous class or a gentle one, a detail oriented class or a more experiential one, an exploration of movement or one of stillness, or something in between.

If you've been to any of my classes in recent years, we've also explored how these practices might influence those with whom we share our world through our actions off the mat, actions that are, ideally, rooted in the clarity and power we've cultivated through our practice.  My recent reflections have led me to another and equally important emphasis: self-care.

The transition to cooler weather and the busyness of fall make this a perfect time to focus on self-care and balance in our practice and beyond. They provide an opportunity to recognize the necessity of caring for ourselves while also preparing to share our gifts and strengths with others.  Toward this end, you'll have a chance to work with healing and calming breathing practices, movements and postures to stimulate the flow of energy while balancing the nervous system, and some extra integration time on the mat this fall.

While there is no one right method or reason for practicing yoga, it can be helpful to bear in mind yoga's call to union, its invitation to look at both sides of whatever coin we happen to have in our hands. And this can be a reminder to us that a love of giving is most effective when balanced by self-care, a desire for strength is most powerful when balanced by an ability to soften, and a quest for increased mobility is healthiest when balanced by a respect for stability and the tissues that hold us together. 

In calling us into balance, yoga asks us to reconsider the stories of our time.  It gives us a chance to experiment with the pervasive message that being in constant action and pushing ever harder forward is the best path to success.  It asks us to reside, if even for a moment, at the center of things, to see without reacting, to experience stillness, to listen.  Those who reside often in this place tell us that such grounding allows us to reach farther and to know ourselves better in the process. 

What will be the outcome for you?  
I hope you will join us this fall to find out!  

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

Tai Chi at Shelburne Falls Yoga

by Steven Howland

One of the questions I get frequently is about the different Tai Chi Styles. There are three main schools of Tai Chi; Yang, Sun and Chen. Yang style is the most common form practiced, but Chen and Sun Styles have increased in popularity in recent years. All the styles are named after the family
or person that developed a particular form.

Yang style, named after Yang Lu Chon (1799-1872) is was brought to the US by Cheng Man Ching, the subject of the upcoming documentary at Amherst Cinema, and it’s popularity spread from there. It’s what most people think of when they hear the word Tai Chi and it is a wonderful form with endless learning possibilities, including the solo form, two person forms, cane form, sword form, and long stick from. There is too much to say here, so if you want you can find more reading at http://www.beginnerstaichi.com/yang-tai-chi.html

All Tai Chi is, of course, characterized by the slow, fluid movements and meditative energy. The differences brought to the form by Chen Style, from General Chen Wanting, are the balance of fast and slow, hard and fast movements that make the self-defence aspects of Tai Chi more visible. It is a more demanding physical style.

Sun Style, from Sun Lu-tang, moves Tai Chi more toward the internal and health related aspects. It is done with a higher stance, less kicking and punching, and more built in QiGong (more on that later). More reading about Chen and Sun style is at http://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/comparing-chen-and-sun-styles/

In our classes at the Shelburne Falls Yoga studio we are practicing a modified Sun Style that is design to get at the core health benefits of Tai Chi and be simple and fun to learn. But a nice thing about this form as an introduction as it is just the opening to a whole big world of Tai Chi. I began with this style and have gone on to study both Yang and Chen styles. They are all fascinating and endless pools of learning.

Join us anytime and at any level
Steve Howland (showland@me.com)
Tai Chi for Health Shelburne Falls Yoga Studio
Thursdays: noon to 1