A Taste of the Victor Yoga Studio

Warrior I

Last Friday marked the five-year anniversary for the quaint and enchanting Victor Yoga Studio, and the condensation dripping off the studio front windows displayed that it was, indeed, an invigorating celebration.

Warrior II

Warrior Jill

Located in the heart of the village of Victor, New York, Victor Yoga Studio provides a respite for busy locals by offering weekly yoga classes, mediation workshops, reiki, and special events focused on health and wellness.

“I was inspired to start the studio to create a sanctuary where people could come and be comfortable without an intimidating atmosphere,” shared studio owner Mandy Ziegelmann. Mandy began the studio with fellow yoga teacher Debbie Smith five years ago, and together they aspired to build a community where people of any fitness level could walk through the door feeling secure in their own skin.

Victor Yoga Studio “The studio has grown over the years not just in population, but also in honing in more with what the community’s interests are,” Mandy shared.  “The people who come to Victor Yoga Studio love what I call ‘raw yoga.’ There are no bells, whistles, or frills….just great classes with amazingly talented and authentic instructors who love what they do.”

To accommodate the studio’s growing population over the past five years, it has expanded from two instructors that offered about eight classes a week, to ten instructors and more than twenty-four classes to choose from weekly.

VYS tree

Well, where the studio may lack in frills, it compensates in its tranquil ambience. Upon walking in the door, one is presented with warm golden and earthy hues, peace tree murals, chakra prayer flags, and quotes from Patanjali, the Buddha, and other renown Eastern philosophers and yogis. Exotically stitched pillows and wicker chairs encircle a small, but homey waiting area for yogis and visitors to convene between classes.

Friday’s anniversary celebration, titled Taste of the Victor Yoga Studio, included a 90-minute yoga class co-taught by four of the studio’s instructors, followed by delectable hors d’evours, wine, Mandy’s fruity sangria, and compelling (and sometimes amusing) conversations. As I had just concluded my fourth year teaching at the studio, I was delighted to have the opportunity to co-teach this celebration class with three other skilled and vibrant yoga teachers at the studio.

VYS teachers #3

Over 27 people attended the event.  Each inch of the humble space was occupied by mats, water bottles, and smiling yogis who were ready to stretch, flow, sweat, and celebrate.

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Mandy began class in her soothing, gentle voice with a moment to center in balasana (child’s pose) before leading us through her unique variation of sun salutations.

Mandy - opening class

After several graceful flows, the temperature in the room began to rise, the gentle yoga music picked up to a more upbeat rhythm, and the participants were getting energized.

Mandy assisting

Mandy Sun salutations

That is when Beth stepped in and asked the class, “Are you guys ready to party?” Beth followed Mandy’s Surya Namaskar with a more vigorous flow of warrior series poses and strengthening balancing poses to the funky rhythm and blues of musicians such as Blackstreet.

Beth teaching

Beth’s classes are known for being fun, upbeat, and rigorously challenging, and her section of the class offered her best sampling of her specialty. We were definitely sweating after twenty minutes of vinyasa yoga with Beth!Beth teaching #2

Humble warrior

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, the sweat didn’t stop gushing from our temples yet, because Jill stepped in with some more energetic vinyasa series, followed by her famed abdominal series repetitions.

Jill - boat pose

If a strong core is what you are seeking, then Jill is your woman! In addition to being a yoga teacher, Jill has over fifteen years of experience as a practitioner of Pilates, and she has been teaching for over eleven years. Her expertise in core strengthening definitely shined through during her section of the class. Just as we thought we were on our last navasana (boat pose) crunch, we had another series.  – But, the physical payoffs motivated the class to persevere until she was finished.

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When I stepped up to conclude the class after Jill’s abs series, one student in the front asked, “Oh, what are you going to make us do now?” “I’m going to slow it down,” I replied, “after fifty more boat crunches.”

Well…I was kidding, of course.

Amy - Anjaneyanasa

Slow it down we did, sinking deeply into some of my favorite hip-opening poses, such as lizard and pigeon.Amy - Malasana

This is the part of class I always look forward to. Although my breathing slows down at this point and it seems the practice has moved to a place of more idleness, nothing reaches the muscle layers and connective tissue in the body more deeply than hip-openers do. It is here that I often connect emotionally to myself in the practice, too. This  when I mentally notice and feel the transformation that has just occurred in my body from an hour of practicing yoga. I felt honored to be a part of teaching this class, and especially to have the privilege to bring the practice to a close.

We ended in a peaceful savanasa (corpse pose – final relaxation). A yoga practice is never complete, after all, without savasana. The four of us traveled around the room to each yogi applying essential oils and gentle massages.

After class, we all indulged in tasty food and Mandy’s famous sangria, and lively conversation.Jill, Beth, Amy

Mandy shared with me that just as yoga is often translated as meaning to unite, that her greatest wish is to offer the Victor Yoga Studio a sense of unity and connection amongst those who visit and become part of the studio. If Friday night is a reflection of what the studio has become during the past five years, I think her wish has been granted, and so much of it is because of the love and energy she has dedicated to this lovely space.

 

Thank you, Mandy, for giving Victor this peaceful haven.

Mandy

For more information about the Victor Yoga Studio, visit: www.victoryogastudio.com

 

The Yoga Diary (and other random musings) – June 2013

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My blog is titled “Memoirs of My Wayfaring,” but during these interludes of little travel, most of my wayfaring is inside of my mind.  Perhaps this is the true respite, though. As the wise mystic poet Rumi once said, “Remember, the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.”

Lately, I’m been pondering on how imperative it is in my life to feel I have control and choices about what I put in (and choose to do with) my body. Although I’ve felt this way for many years, this feeling has increased significantly since I developed a regular yoga practice.

I recently visited a medical expert who had given me a prescription to assist with a minor medical procedure. Since I had been in agreement with this intervention, I rather blindly started taking the medicine without much regard for what it actually contained. It wasn’t until days later, when I gave myself time to actually pay attention to what I was putting in my body, that I was moved to research the medication’s name and learn more about it. As I searched for information about the medication, I became horrified as I read about the negative side effects of the drug. Furthermore, the “simple name” of the medication was one I am familiar with. If I had known what the medication really contained, I would never have voluntarily ingested it. My first inclination was to feel angry and violated by the fact that the drug wasn’t explained to me in more detail. But….then, I had two distinctive thoughts that entered my mind. For one, I believe I am ultimately responsible for checking labels myself, but also…. what do many of us voluntarily put into our bodies daily that we aren’t even aware of? If packaged appealingly enough, we often don’t pay very close attention to ingredients, especially during times of overwork or travel. Indeed, we may have grown accustomed to seeing ingredients like BHA, BHT, sodium nitrate, and polysorbate, and pay little attention as we consume these strange concoctions disguised in attractive packaging, perhaps boasting natural or vitamin-rich ingredients.

 So, as I entered yoga class today, these thoughts were mulling through my mind during my first child’s pose. But, as I entered more deeply into my breath and allowed my external life to fall away, so did these thoughts. Instead, I paid attention to my body in that moment. After practicing yoga for over a decade, I am struck by how stiff my body feels in the beginning of my practice, – almost akin to a rusty crane. I reflected on my youth, when I was a dancer. I remembered how, within minutes after putting on my pointe shoes, I could effortlessly pirouette and lift my leg in an arabesque as if my tendons and ligaments were made of rubber bands. But lately, I’ve needed to start my practice with the heat of the room, several invigorating sun salutations, and slow, intentional transitions into poses to feel the freedom I once did. The magic often happens about midway through my practice. Yes, I call it magic, because it feels as such when the transition occurs. There comes a time during the practice when all of a sudden I’m not thinking about my tight lower back or my crackly ankle. I begin to move freely and fluidly like the dancer of my youth. My leg lifts into Svarga Dvidasana (Bird of Paradise) as if lifting my leg as high as my most exalted arabesque I did as a teenaged ballerina. But, it is over twenty years later now.…

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Yoga is a choice I make for my body. Unlike the medication, it is not something I put into my body, but it is a method for wringing it out. As I laid in savasana, I marveled at how I felt as if I had shed over twenty years in just over an hour. Many sects of Tantric and Hatha yoga acknowledge the human body as being a microcosm of divine bliss. In more simplistic terms, the body is viewed as being an individual’s temple. This may sound like a cliché esoteric concept, perhaps, but it is also one that is fundamental, and perhaps even pragmatic. Ultimately, when all other objects fade away, we are left with the shell of our bodies in which our minds and emotions have always dwelled. Perhaps this is why, as I grow older, I am so profoundly affected and aware of what is in my body…the medication, synthetic foods, etc. But, exploring methods for wringing these things out is just as significant. Bodies breathe. We take in, but we also need to release and purge, just as we do with our breath when we take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Yoga gives our bodies an opportunity for transformation…. a transformation back to our youth, without sacrificing the gifts of wisdom and experience that age inherently brings.

 Amy - Wheel

 

 

Raising the heat in a Winter Wonderland – Yoga Raving in western New York

When most people think of Rochester, NY, the first thoughts that come to their minds are not likely to be “cosmic,” “vibrant,” or “spirited.” – But they did not see what was happening last night at the Harro East Ballroom in Rochester’s downtown city center.

For three hours last night this city I call home, which is so often dreary and ever- grumpy during the mid-winter months, lit up with incandescent lights as over 215 people gathered to laugh, dance, stretch and move in an exhilarating yoga practice. This is what happens here when we have an event like a Winter Wonderland Yoga Rave.

A yoga rave is an event that is part yoga practice and part dance party, and uniquely weaves together high-energy music, a spirited vinyasa yoga practice, and an overflow of florescent color in the form of glow sticks, “bling rings,” and glitter. The expertise of professional DJ’s and some of the area’s most acclaimed yoga teachers led the event.

The concept of bringing a yoga rave to Rochester was introduced by Aimee Senise Bohn.  Aimee is a registered yoga teacher with over eighteen years of experience in the practice. In addition to teaching various yoga workshops for both yoga teachers and those who are new to yoga, she also leads yoga study trip to India and teaches her own eclectics style of yoga called Shri Vinyasa Yoga.

Rochester’s first yoga rave was held in March 2012, and the response was so favorable that another one was planned for this January. The event was co-taught and coordinated by Aimee and fellow renown Rochester yoga teacher Randi Lattimore, who is also the Mind-Body Coordinator at Rochester’s Midtown Athletic Club.  Breakthrough Entertainment’s DJ NAPS and DJ A provided a dynamic amalgam of high voltage music to create a perfect blend of party, yoga, and savasana.

 

 

 

 

 

Who would have thought this was happening on an 18-degree (F) evening in western New York? Well, what many people outside of our city may not know is just how amazing (and large) our yoga community is here.  During these months when I start to feel nostalgic for Thailand’s sunshine, or wonder why I didn’t move to southern California or Santa Fe fifteen years ago, our yoga community is one of the things we have in Rochester that makes me most proud to be here. I’ve visited yoga studios in dozens of locations in other cities, states, and even countries, and I am always struck by some of the talented teachers and beautiful studios there are here in Rochester.

We have over twenty-two yoga studios in the greater Rochester area (including surrounding suburbs), and thousands of local yogis who are practicing styles ranging from vinyasa to Iyengar, from restorative to Bikram, to name just a few. So, if you do have a reason to venture into western New York, I recommend stopping in Rochester, and place taking a yoga class (or several) at the top of your list of activities to partake in. And, if you are really lucky, maybe there will even be a yoga rave event while you’re here. I’ll see you there on the mat…or maybe even with a hula-hoop.

Until next time, namaste.

*A special thank you to Juliette Pellegrino and Diane Harris for sharing photos for this post*

The Yoga Diary – January

About a year ago, I was resting in savasana (“corpse pose,” or final resting position) at the end of a yoga class, and without anticipation, a flood of thoughts drifted in and out of my mind…thoughts that were inspiring to my life in that moment, or were just introspective and meaningful to me. Unfortunately, these ruminating moments would often escape me as swiftly and as unexpectedly as they arrived in my mind. I began to bring a journal in my car with me when I attended other teacher’s yoga classes this year so I could write down some of these thoughts that came to me while they were still new. Although I cannot capture every fleeting one that drifts to me during the practice, I am able to at least reflect on some. So, for fun, I thought I’d periodically share a few of these entries with you. I call these musings (which are at times silly) my “Yoga diary.”

Entry #1, January 2013 – Shifting my perspective

Have you ever misread a person based on what you have become accustomed to in your own life, and enjoyed that moment of transformation when your perspective changes? That is what happened to me today when I attended a yoga class.

All day, I had been looking forward to my evening yoga. The chill of western New York’s winter makes my joints stiff, and a heated vinyasa yoga class often feels as healing for me as a burst of warm sunshine.  As I excitedly arrived to class, I laid out my mat and descended my back upon my bolster, peacefully awaiting an inspiring and invigorating practice. I’ve been to this teacher’s class before, and I’ve always left feeling uplifted. A moment later, however, I was abruptly distracted by the person who placed her mat next to mine. An attractive young woman whipped her mat opened and flung it on the floor with a thud. She proceeded to plop down on it, and then began to madly type on her Iphone in what appeared to be a heated and overwrought text discussion. The chomping of her gum sounded like clamps grinding inside of my ears.

Well, we all have our peeves.  Some people get annoyed by loud groans or overtly expressive yogis, or exponentially heavy breathing. These things have never bothered me in class or otherwise. But, chomp loudly on a piece of gum, or chew incessantly on food with a gaping open mouth, or go for an hour madly sniffling the uncontrollable flow of mucus as it dangles from un-blown nostrils, and my yogic disposition quickly goes awry. Whether I’m on a flight, in a yoga class, or next to someone in a meeting, these peeves can challenge me. So, as you can imagine, having this woman park her mat about three inches from mine while engaging in these activities brought an abrupt halt to my previously blissful pre-yoga state I was entering. I reminded myself of what I learned from a Buddhist monk once, who suggested I try meditating in the middle of a busy parking lot to challenge my concentration. That, he said, would make me truly centered. Alas, this reasoning rarely works for me in real life, especially if I try to self-impose it in a preachy way.

Class began with the teacher instructing us the settle into child’s pose (balasana) and release our hips while focusing on our breath. I half followed her instructions as I irritably listened to the semi-rhythmic incisors of my neighbor, wondering how she will keep her gum in her mouth when she is flipped upside-down in a standing splits pose…would she still try to chew it? I wondered. Perhaps she would give it a rest for a while and wedge it behind her molars or under her tongue? Hmmm…I started to think of the potential options she could choose from to keep her gum in her mouth.  Meanwhile, as these “unyogic” thoughts plagued my mind, she quickly exited her balasana for a moment to reply to a text mid-pose.

As we proceeded through the practice, however, a shift occurred. We began to flow through our sun salutations, and I noticed that she was quite lost in the practice. She frequently looked over at me, imitating my movements. I glanced at her from the corner of my left eye, and she smiled at me. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m glad I’m next to someone who does. I’ve been wanting to try yoga for a long time, and I’m finally at a class!” she exclaimed. At that same moment, the teacher stated “our actions and feeling in life will be guided by our thoughts and perceptions, so make the choice to shift your perceptions to those that make you feel good.”  I suddenly saw this young woman in a different light. She had never tried yoga before. Instead of seeing an annoying, gum-chomping, ignorant girl, I suddenly saw someone who is just conditioned to the use of modern technology and external distractions as most of us are in our outside lives. Having never previously practiced yoga, there was not any reason for her to act otherwise in class. Her intentions were not even slightly malicious. I found myself wondering if some of those who are new to yoga come to class and see these experienced yogis lifting their legs over their shoulders with ease, or launching effortlessly into parsva bakasana (side crow pose), and feel too intimidated to ever walk into a class again. Most of us are conditioned to a paradigm of constant distractions in our daily lives…texts, e-mails, social media, etc.  Becoming disengaged from this, even for an hour, can seem almost foreign to someone who has never been introduced to the concept.

As I switched to a place of compassion, I thought instead of how great it was for her to just be there. It changed the entire experience for me in class. I remembered how much yoga transformed my life years ago, and how unaware I was in the beginning of the yoga concept of Dharana, which means (in short) to cultivate inner awareness, and how often I still don’t practice this outside of (or in the case of today, even inside of) the yoga room. I was able to laugh at the situation, and at how my reaction and judgments were just as affecting to my practice as the gum chomping and texting may have been to hers. But I was even more struck by how profound a smile and a friendly face is. It can literally transform everything about a person, making our initial judgments of someone change entirely. This concept is far from new to me, but being reminded to stay aware of it still felt new in that moment.

My practice that day had turned into one of the best yoga classes I have attended in weeks. I felt revived after this experience, noticing how simple and powerful shifting our own thoughts can be. I then trailed off into a blissful savasana before reenacting my senses.

I Love Samahita

*This post was originally published on October 16th, 2011 on amywarcup.com

I’m beginning to realize that paradise may have multiple levels. As soon as I thought I had reached this unworldly destination in Bo Phut, I have found an even greater utopia at Samahita Yoga Thailand, located in the south part of Koh Samui at Laem Sor Beach. Here, not only do I have another perfect view of the gulf, but I also am practicing three hours of yoga every morning, followed by an hour long mediation session, and afternoons of lecture in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Although the private beach has been lovely and the detoxing Ashtanga yoga classes have been invigorating, perhaps the greatest pleasure about being here is the people. If I may project my personal opinion here, “yoga people” are just friendly. This has always been the case wherever I have traveled. So far, I have met people from England, Denmark, the US, Holland, Australia, France, Morocco, and a number of  other countries.  

During my 8-day stay, I am enrolled in a course titled “Tibetan Buddhism, Yoga, and Psychotherapy,” taught by Dr. Miles Neale and Dr. Emily Wolf. I will share more about this course as the week progresses. Also, on my next post, I will give a brief overview of the major Buddhist sects… I promise!

failed to mention in my last post that almost everyone on the island of Koh Samui travels by motorbike. Although there are cars, they are rare. If local travel is too far of a distance to walk, this may give way for a perfect opportunity to hire a motor taxi. They are plentiful here, as well as inexpensive. Helmets, as you can see, are not in abundant supply, but my driver was cautious (with me on the bike, anyhow). Here, I am on my way to the post office in Chaweng.

Buddhism will be the topic of my next visit. In the meantime, I am contemplating whether or not I will ever get used to living away from the sunshine and the ocean (or a gulf of it) again….

4 Responses to I love Samahita
Elvira says:
October 18, 2011 at 11:12 am
Maybe you may want to add a twitter button to your blog. Just bookmarked the site, but I had to make it by hand. Just my suggestion.

My blog:
Rachat De Credit Simulation En Ligne http://www.rachatdecredit.net
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Breeanna V says:
October 19, 2011 at 12:32 am
Amy, Thailand looks beautiful especially those beaches! Hope all is well, I cannot wait for the trip. Any idea of what the first payment would be approximately?
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Amy Warcup says:
October 19, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Hi Breeanna! I don’t know exactly when the first deposit ($500 to secure spot) will be due yet, but most likely, it will be sometime in early February. I’m so glad you are planning to come! You’ll love Thailand! The people are so nice here, and of course, it is sunny and beautiful, too. I’ll be going to the Thai massage school in Chiang Mai next week.
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Karen Taylor says:
October 21, 2011 at 4:03 am
You don’t have to leave the sunshine just move on down to the southern portion of the USA!! I also have been begging Aaron for a pet elephant…even before I saw you riding one from the news story about the one in the US who is best friends with a dog…so amazing! I was in love ever since but Aaron said he wasn’t going to poop scoop if we did happen by a pet elephant.
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