By Leah Sugerman, Summersalt yoga teacher
Yoga, above all else, is a practice of balance: a balance between effort and ease, a balance between strength and flexibility, a balance between power and surrender, a balance between yin and yang, and a balance between practice and theory. So, above all else, my classes manifest as practices of balance.
Yes, sometimes that means balancing in Tree Pose but, more often that not, that means balancing internally. My classes focus on balancing energy centers and chakras, balancing thoughts, balancing temperaments, balancing breath, balancing reactions, balancing physically but, mostly, balancing mentally.
My teachings and my practice are both firmly rooted in balance or at least a striving toward equanimity. Meditation and the physical asana practice both emphasize this balance in many different ways.
My meditation teachings are simple and open-ended. I invite my students to explore the inner workings of their own minds, to become observers of their thoughts and thought patterns to be able to more clearly see how their minds work. This simple understanding can lead to infinite possibilities, allowing for both control and surrender over the power of the mind, which, in turn, creates a more balanced relationship with oneself.
My asana classes focus equally on balance. I do offer many balancing asanas (as most yoga classes do) to build strength, power and, of course, balance in the physical body. But these physical changes manifest and grow into emotional and spiritual balance in many different ways as well, whether we recognize that or not. Tiffany Cruikshank eloquently expresses this transition and transformation from the physical to the mental practice: “Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change. As you build strength, you start to believe in your own potential.”
My teachings are very precise. I carefully instruct alignment of the body to promote a healthy physical practice and I continuously invite my students to explore beyond the physical, noticing how their minds may react to a certain posture (or a certain hold of a posture) or how their breath fluctuates throughout their practice. I invite my students to work toward equanimity on all accounts in their movements, their breath and their thoughts: striving toward a greater sense of overall balance.
Balancing the seven major chakras of the body is a great way to move toward physical, mental and emotional equilibrium. The seven major chakras are energy centers that travel from the base of the spine up through the crown of the head that are said to harness and contain all the significant energy of the physical, mental and spiritual bodies of a person. These centers each represent a different physical part of the human anatomy that, in turn, correlates to a different emotional and/or spiritual part of a person’s being. Imbalances, blocks or hyper activity in any of these major chakras is said to completely imbalance and destabilize a person.
What better way to spend a week-long retreat (in paradise, by the way!) than focusing on these energy centers, striving to balance these seven whirling vortexes of energy to bring balance and peace into your life?
Each day we will examine a different center, both meditating upon this area (and its respective color, mantra, symbol, meaning, representation, manifestation and sound) as well as physically practicing asana that correlates to the specific epicenter that we’re working with.
The balance of these chakra centers is crucial to finding balance both on and off the mat, so we will work to target these areas with playful asana and in-depth breathing and meditation techniques.
Every morning we’ll begin our journey through the seven chakras with a deeply restorative and peace-invoking meditation practice. Using different techniques and practices, we’ll each adapt our meditation practice to find one that suits all of our own individual needs.
We’ll then spend some time working with different pranayama (or breath work) practices to ignite our inner fires or to soothe our tired bodies and minds, depending on what we may need in that moment.
From here, we’ll move on to the physical practice of asana, playfully syncing movement with breath while carefully aligning our bodies to blossom in each posture in our own individual manifestations of these delicate and graceful poses. A vigorous (but accessible) Vinyasa Flow class will awaken our bodies and minds each morning as we journey up the spine to explore our chakras filled with different energies and power.
Each evening, we will join together in a deeply restorative Yin practice to relieve tired muscles, restore fatigued minds, and rejuvenate as a whole.
With the specialized practice of working with different chakras in each practice, we will have the opportunity to explore and awaken our Kundalini spirit, allowing energy to flow freely throughout our bodies, spirits and minds as we connect to our highest selves.
The practice of both yoga and meditation are practices of balance that are continuously evolving. As we work with these different techniques, we are all striving toward the same goal: finding balance within and without. Energizing, awakening and clearing the channels of the seven major chakras will help us to move toward greater balance in our bodies, minds and souls. I hope that you will join us on an in-depth journey through the seven chakras and across the depths of our souls in a playful and explorative retreat as we release stagnant energy and awaken the dormant all to find a greater sense of overall wellbeing and balance.