As you explore yoga and your interest deepens, lineage often becomes a topic of conversation, especially when choosing a specific studio, class, or teacher. I asked this question of my own teacher, Carla Stangenberg of the Brooklyn, NY-based Jaya Yoga Center. In her challenging, 6-month teacher training, Stangenberg defied the convention to particularize a defining yoga — Hatha, Iyengar, Bhakti, or Jivamukti for example — and instead offered her interpretation of what happens in the synthesis where East meets West. She calls it simply, “The Yoga,” a combination of words I’ve come to love. Stangenberg studied the yoga at the oldest yoga institute in the United States, Jivamukti Yoga Center, earned her first certification through Cyndi Lee’s OM Yoga Center, and continued her education through courses with Rodney Yee, Amy Matthews, and Sarah Powers. In turn, Carla Stangenberg taught me, Holly Zadra, among so many more others before and after me.
Though neither teaching nor yoga are new to me, teaching the yoga is. I maintain humility about the limitations of my practice while continuing to learn as much as I can. I have been honing my skills through private instruction with former School Street Co-Owner Jeri Wilson, continuing education through Yoga International and Yoga Alliance, ongoing training including an Yin Yoga Teacher Training with Josh Summers, and most importantly, daily practice combined with listening to the intuition of my own body and encouraging the same in practitioners.
So it is that I bow to and follow my teacher’s subversive insistence that we needn’t identify a particular type of yoga when we practice it, although I acknowledge and honor my teachers and those most influential sources.
What you experience at Sundew may follow Carla Stangenberg’s krama (Sanskrit word roughly translated as an intentional sequence of postures), “The 12 Steps to Bliss.” You may learn derivations of the precise alignment and postures of BKS Iyengar whose book Light on Yoga has seen more wear and tear than any other book in my yoga library, second only to TKV Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga. Iyengar’s book offers complete descriptions and illustrations of hundreds of poses, while Desikachar’s ushers one into yogic philosophy and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sundew classes may call on the strength-building practices of the Vinyasa tradition where movement is closely linked with breath and poses lead from the simple to the more complex. Or classes may focus on a specific part of the body, theme, or type of pose. There will be gentle, beginner’s classes; restorative classes; intermediate Jaya Flow classes; and Yin classes. Class themes explore life choices, mindfulness practices, and meditation techniques codified in the Yoga Sutra including the Eight Limbs of Yoga: the Yamas and Niyamas (ethical restraints and observances), Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breath work), as well as exploration of evolving forms of meditation — Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Most classes taught at Sundew pay homage to the roots of South Asian Hindu culture and storytelling and song, though, as with everything where East meets West, variation and evolution occur continually.
And yet, like those first few years of a child’s life, one’s first teachers inevitably occupy positions of great influence. Carla Stangenberg is that woman for me, and so is Shiva Rea who I know only via that other, less equanimous influence in our lives — the screen.
As a stay-at-home mom with two young children in my care, my ability to attend yoga classes was limited for many years, so I resorted to Shiva Rea DVDs. As it turns out, I still find Shiva Rea to be an admirable lady despite the difficulty she might have in being taken seriously around Central Mainers simply because of her name. Further, among the more spiritually enlightened — tongue firmly planted in cheek — I probably lose all spiritual credibility when I admit my first teacher came via encoded digital data, rather than a live guru. Nevertheless, it was her yoga videos that first catalyzed my internalization of the multiple layers of meaning — both symbolic and physiologic — that the yoga elicits, for example, when one “opens the heart.” Her videos challenged my post-baby body and mind while also offering a digital panacea for the stress I carried around in my neck and shoulders, heavy from the slouch of breastfeeding and the fear of losing any professional credibility in a world that isn’t always welcoming to women who don’t remain on the career train. So, thanks Shiva, thank you.
But in real life — skin and bones, it is Carla Stangenberg of Jaya Yoga to whom I tip my hat, curtsy, and lean forward with hands in Anjali mudra. Carla showed me the tools I always, already had. She helped me find my teacher’s voice. She silently witnessed and embraced without judgement the unfolding of my own and others’ foibles within the intensity of asana practice. She made resources available to help others find their own sources, their own wisdom in all of these infinite, widening circles we call life... And one more of Carla’s gifts was to bring her business partner Ramit Kreitner to our Yoga Teacher Training. Ramit disarmed me with her authentic love for every body in the room. Ramit reminded me of the beauty one can see in every living being if we but choose and practice seeing.
And then there's Josh Summers who introduced me to the radical beauty of Yin Yoga. But that, my dears, is an entirely new post. Check it out here.
Sundew Studio brings yoga to people in the Pittsfield, Maine, region and is guided by the following beliefs:You do not have to be "good" at yoga for it to benefit you.The breath guides movement and meditation; the body remembers. Yoga asana, the seat of attention, can be found anywhere; you determine how that happens. We practice yoga in its many forms on the mat to improve life off the mat (or, at least, to take a mini-vacation from the stressors of life off the mat). Sometimes, yoga does not feel like a vacation: this is especially true when confronting Industrial Yoga, privilege, and fragility.Yoga practiced in community can create a contagious feeling of unity, otherwise explained through polyvagal theory and the stimulation of the parasympathetic response.Practice is an expansive, lifelong endeavor. Practicing together reminds us of our perpetual interdependence and vulnerability and opens pathways for deeper connection with all those we encounter. This heart-centered practice occurs in a safe and comfortable environment that welcomes all bodies and genders and races and religions as well as those who eschew such definitions. Personal discernment about how the practices and teachers work -- or do not work for us -- is fundamental.
Sundew Studio 113 North Lancey St.Pittsfield, ME 04967