Sunday, September 8, 2013

Children, Yoga and Mali List

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart:  I am, I am, I am.  ~Sylvia Plath

I am so excited to introduce this month's YogaSole Student of the Month: Mali List! During every yoga class we set intentions for ourselves and it was beautiful to see that Mali's intention while pregnant and after pregnancy was to keep at her practice. I asked Mali a few questions. Why did you start your yoga practice? When? Where? What or who inspired you? Mali was happy to share her own story with everyone looking to deepen their practice and anyone looking for inspiration while moving forward. This is her story:

I started Yoga when I was pregnant (my daughter is now 8.5 years) because a close friend, Lisa, told me to, since it helped her during her pregnancy (she had health issues). I continued going after my daughter was born for mommy and me yoga until she was crawling and wouldn't sit still. I was going in Park Slope and the schedule did not work for me to go on my own, so I stopped. When Yoga Sole opened, I was excited. It was right around the corner from where were living and the schedule fit with mine. Even though we have moved the schedule still works for me to attend after school drop off. I love yoga because it helps keep me in shape with my orthopedic injuries (too many to count) and my chronic asthma.

When you have a child, life can be hectic and tempers can flare. Yoga helps me keep perspective in these times and hopefully remain calm by practicing the breathing exercises that Evalena has taught us. I have not been going much this summer as I launched a new business. I look forward to returning in the fall and getting back to my quiet self.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Introducing the One, the Only....Cathy Brown

YogaSole's Students Of the Month Cathy Brown speaks to us about Yoga, what inspires her and being kind. Read on Yogis :)

How and when and why did you first discover yoga?
I discovered yoga in high school and have practiced on and off throughout my life. But I never felt as comfortable with yoga as I do now, practicing at Yoga Sole. There is such a warm, family vibe here. Evalena has built an amazing community and her beautiful inner light infuses it. There are so many different types of practices offered and they’re all wonderful. I especially enjoy the Therapeutic Yoga and Gentle Flow. There’s actually another yoga studio on my corner but I happily walk the 3 blocks to Yoga Sole because it feels right.

What do you take off the mat and into the world from your yoga practice?
I try to take that wonderful sense of calm yoga brings, that sense of being present in the world and of breathing deeply and fully. Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Why can’t you breathe right without Evalena directing you?’ Although all of the instructors are wonderful, I must confess that Evalena is my favorite. Even her voice is soothing. Her positive, nurturing energy is contagious and I try to carry it around with me. I also love the sense of community that Yoga Sole instills. The clothing swaps, spoken word readings, it shows that yoga can be an integral part of our day-to-day lives and make a positive impact on the community. I was honored to be invited to take part in the first Yoga Sole Literary Salon back in April when I got to read excerpts from my ebook THE EL.

What's your favorite pose? What does it mean to you?
Besides shavasana, I love goddess pose. It feels so fierce and solid like you’re taking strength from the earth and from everything that comes from the earth.

Who is your hero and why?
My friend Danielle Watson. Two years ago, she had an accident that almost ended her life when she fell 300 feet while rock climbing. At age 27, Danielle became paralyzed from the chest down but she never lost her amazing smile or her zeal. She’s learned how to mono-ski (and even skied with the medical team that saved her life), kayak, drive and hopes to get back into physical therapy school. Even when faced with challenges, Danielle reminds me to never give up.

What's your favorite book?
It’s hard to choose because I’m a writer and I’ve loved books all my life. I guess it would have to be Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It’s beautiful, simple and never gets old.

What's your favorite food?
Chicken molĂ©. It’s dinner and dessert rolled into one.

What's a quote that inspires you?
They change all the time, depending on what I’m going through. Today, it’s Nietzsche’s ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’ But I also like Sir Edmund Hillary’s ‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.’

What's your favorite hobby besides yoga?
Hiking. I love discovering new, beautiful places with my husband and son and taking long walks through them. I feel like I can really experience the landscape, feel it underfoot—or under your hands if it’s a scramble. One of my friends used to say, ‘The best part of a hike is when it’s over.’ You can sit back and reflect and enjoy it again—and again.

What's a change you wish to see in the world (small or large scale)?
It sounds simplistic but I’d just like to see people be kinder to each other. The world would be a much better place if everyone just kept to the Golden Rule: treat people as you’d like to be treated.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Welcome To The Wonderful World of Hollis Glaser

      "Everything was going wrong" Hollis says to me one Sunday over brunch. "I mean, nothing was going right. I was stressed out, tired, my body felt bad, my mind just every aspect of my life felt like it was going in the wrong direction."
     These words sounded so familiar which is why I was so happy that Hollis had been nominated by some fellow yogis to be this months S.O.M. (Student of the month) at YogaSole. The fact that her story began with the strain she felt on her own life during a period of time made me open to hearing more.
     "I had done yoga a few times but I wasn't really serious about it." The food came to the table and Hollis seemed to go far back into her mind to the place she stood so many years ago. "So, I spoke to Evalena" she continued. "I said the same thing to her that I'm telling you now. I said 'Evalena I'm unhappy' and she asked me what I was unhappy about and I told her. I think I ran down a list of like fifteen things until I was tired of complaining. Then Evalena just looked at me and said 'oh yeah, well, I'm sure yoga will take care of that'. You know something? Once I committed myself to a did. It really changed everything."
      I thought about this for a while. Commitment is a big word for some people. The most interesting part of yoga is that it is unique because it is a commitment to ones inner and outer being. Yoga is about saying "everything is wrong and that's o.k. I'm beginning here, right where I am". I had forgotten that about yoga until Hollis reminded me.
     Because her story seems so relevant, I probed her for more information. "I had been sick. I had an operation and I felt my whole body change after that," she added. "I just didn't feel the same and after I had the conversation with Evalena I started going to the studio more. I used to complain when I started. I would be sweating and tired and I would moan and grunt. Just the other day in Merav's class she turned to me and said 'Hollis, I hardly notice you're here more noises'. I laughed because I remember those times where I felt like I couldn't do it, but I stayed with it in the moment. When I kept up my practice everything in my life began to change for the better. I was more open and positive. I was so happy all the time people thought I was going crazy. I used to start whistling and saying how great everything was."
     I see Hollis frequently in the mornings at the yoga studio and like all of YogaSoles students her light is visible and it rubs off on others. You can't help but smile when you're surrounded by so much light. "You know," Hollis says when the check comes to the table, "Yoga really changed me, but it didn't just change me, it changed my whole life. It helps, it saves and it conquers."
     Hollis hopes her story will help get most of us in the room. Many of our challenges are about showing up. Hollis is so happy she decided to show up to the studio during such a crucial transformative time in her life.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cynthia Spence Student of the Month and her Inspiring Story

           I’m never quite sure what to expect when I ask people about their experience with yoga. Some people start doing yoga for exercise, others for a spiritual awakening and many of us want both the spiritual and physical incorporated into one. Whatever the reasons are, yoga is becoming an important part of many people’s lives. This month Cynthia Spence volunteered to be YogaSole’s new student of the month. She has been a student since YogaSole opened and it’s a gift from the universe that she chose to share her story, especially during the month of Thanksgiving.
            Cynthia and I e-mailed back and forth about how to tell her story. Yoga is a personal journey for each of us and sometimes it’s hard to articulate what it means to each of us on a personal level. When Cynthia shared her story with me via e-mail I was on the Q-train and immediately took on the role of “woman crying while reading an e-mail on Blackberry.” Cynthia’s story has a piece of everyone’s story, which is what makes it so unique. I continue to be blown away by the peaceful energy of students and teachers at YogaSole. There is a silent warrior revolution happening at the studio in Windsor Terrace.
            I’ve thought of many different ways to tell this story. Cynthia tells it best. It is her own. Here are her words. This month, this year, this lifetime I am thankful for them:

Yoga is important to us because it’s non-competitive, no-cost, and can be done at any age and with any handicap. Each person who practices it eventually finds peace of mind in the moment, and those moments begin to add up and make big changes.
I was not scared in starting, just limited in beliefs of what was possible with my physique. The first time I touched my toes in Seated Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana) I cried. It was this little quiet goal since childhood and I never thought I could do it. What I ended up finding terrifying is the important component to yoga – meditation. No one told me how scary it is to sit with one's thoughts for a specific period of time. I find I do better sitting with a group. So savassanah isn't scary because I just spent an hour with all of my classmates. But meditation alone can a very difficult practice to maintain.
I have a few auto-immune dysfunctions since childhood (with the prognosis was that I’d be crippled at old age and there was a constant threat of blindness in childhood). I developed slight arthritic joint scarring that formed some limitations in movement in adulthood. So my way of emotionally coping has been somatic and I had always been so focused on ‘fixing’ my body and managing chronic and, often enough, undiagnosed pain.
I had occasionally taken yoga classes (and really liked them) over the last twenty years, but it wasn’t until YogaSole opened that I built a yoga practice. About ten years ago, I attended yoga classes twice a week at a gym, and anger would show up so fiercely that I’d often have to leave in the middle of class. Either I was never given instructions about staying present, accepting life as it is, or it WAS given throughout those classes and I wasn’t ready to hear it.
Also, I had a deep desire to have ANY kind of committed physical regimen. I’d look at the people in my life who, daily, ran or cycled or did the gym thing with total commitment, whether they liked it or not. I couldn’t wrap my head around sticking to anything like that, even as I suspected it could be a life-changer for me. I really dislike gyms, and was never encouraged to exert myself.
I joined YogaSole shortly after it opened. And because I had been to other studios I was watching for what made this one so different. Was I the more ready, pliant student, or was Evalena and her teachers building a community of us new yogis of all ages and shapes? Many mornings a week, I got to actually feel my body as I calmed my mind, and I felt connected to my fellow students as well as Evalena and her other amazing teachers.
Anger didn’t come up very often, but tears did. Yogasole is such a safe, nurturing place, with really good INSTRUCTION about observing and feeling and accepting as we faced poses. Because my poses opened up lots old emotional hurts. There was much laughter, too! Every new person coming in had such disbelief about being able to do certain postures, and always the message driven deep into our muscles was that we are where we are, stay curious, use this time to care for ourselves, and be vigilant about not comparing ourselves to others. I think about a year into attending classes regularly, one gray morning I was in a crappy mood, trudging up the hill to the studio. It dawned on me that I had the commitment: whether happy or sad, achey or feeling energized, I was practicing yoga. A nearly life-long dream of having a personal, committed physical regimen came to be!
I remember the first New Year’s day class as another turning point: It was an all-level party/class and I got ‘stuck’ between two ‘advanced’ students. I didn’t push myself to do what they could do; rather, I felt a soar of inspiration for the beauty of watching them in their poses. It was breathtaking, and I did none of the comparative stuff that we can all do. This milestone has been so helpful. Because I then DID reach the athlete’s mental and physical commitment: I DID go to the studio six days a week for at least a year and a half and my cut body was able to do the poses I had seen that New Year’s day, as well as many more. I went on a cleanse and discovered some food allergies. Along with changing my diet and my near-daily yoga practice, I lost about 25 pounds, which is a lot on a 5’ frame. My pains changed, energy rose, life felt more whole. I was no longer just in my head, but in my body. This was difficult to get used to; my life opened up very quickly and I had to adjust to so much energy and pleasurable movement. I was way better over 40 than any age under it. 
Right now, I am not able to take advanced classes. For about a year, too much repetitive pain arises if I do. If yoga was any kind of sport, I’d now be depressed, feel failed, searching for the miracle doctor to ‘fix’ my body so that I can keep pushing towards physical goals.
I now attend the therapeutic and restorative classes – that’s what my body wants. Do I miss all of the awesome poses I used to be able to do? A teeny bit. I miss challenging myself physically. But I realize that my current challenges are to honor my body as it is, to keep doing yoga to feel everything just as it is. And, always, whatever was hurting before class dissipates greatly. If it weren’t for yoga, I’d still be stuck in my head, on the hamster wheel with doctors, fixes, relief for what I had found unacceptable about myself.
As I got stronger, I became softer on myself. I rarely personalize my pain anymore. I’m not THRILLED with it, but I’m not flawed because I experience it. This I wish for others – it’s an amazing place to be. This was a really important part of the yoga journey for me: I had worked with not feeling too much pride when I was accomplishing advanced poses, so now that I do different, simpler poses, I’m not so attached to pushing my body into some ideal that could actually be harmful to me.
I always believed I was a sickly child, and not remotely hardy as an adult. It made me feel different and envious and fearful about pain in old age. Yoga has really changed much of how I see myself, and it’s exciting to know that it will be a part of me and will continue to change many of my perceptions as I age. Who says I won’t gain even more energy at 80 than I have now? With yoga, I get to revel in whatever movement is possible at the time. And I often really revel in it! Each time I step through that door, greet Evalena and my Sole neighbors, I release my physical and emotional cares, reboot my whole system and get my shine going again.
Yoga helps us to be more contented with what we already have, and we’re more mindful of how desire distorts, how it’s fed to us around the clock. Yoga calms things down long enough to help us figure out what we actually need, and sorts out what we truly want.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Yumi Kobayashi YogaSole's Very First Student of the Month

     This month YogaSole was lucky enough to have a volunteer for our first student of the month and we couldn't think of a better ray of light to shine on all of you brighter than Yumi Kobayashi.  I first met Yumi on a Monday morning at YogaSole when I was first beginning my spiritual journey; she was smiling and peaceful and ready to start her morning with some serious yoga practice. We asked her a few questions about her yoga practice and how she came to incorporate yoga into her life. 

* How and when and why did you first discover yoga?
I have been a runner since moving to Brooklyn in 2007. After my knee injury last year, I changed my exercise regimen to incorporate yoga. After trying numerous yoga studios in NYC, I fell in love with Yoga Sole, and I have been a happy yogini every since :)

* What do you take off the mat and into the world from your yoga practice?
Thanks to yoga, I now know how to breath and try to calm myself down even during stressful situations, from braving the morning rush hour to presentations at work. 

* What's your favorite pose? What does it mean to you?
Half moon pose! I like feeling open and balanced at the same time.

* What's your favorite book?
Anything by Haruki Murakami. Growing up in Japan, I have been a big fan of his novels and essays since middle school. I love his sense of humor and surreal Murakami world.

* What's your favorite food?
That is such a hard question since I love to eat! I love everything from Indian food to sushi to Ethiopian. I also like to cook, so the farmer's market across the street from Yoga Sole is my "must stop" after my Sunday morning class with Merav.
* What's your favorite hobby besides yoga?
I love taking photographs with my Canon. Also my husband and I love traveling to explore history, cultures, nature, and local foods of places we have never been. Now that yoga is part of my everyday life, I try to continue my practice at each destination that I visit.  Last summer, my best friend and I drove cross country and we took a yoga class at every city we stayed in! 

* Why do you practice at Yoga Sole?
Great teachers + beautiful studio + community of amazing people = happy student 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Seed of Anger

       Anger is perhaps one of the most complex of human emotions. Tich Naht Hanh compares it to a Tiger we have to tame. The Buddha compared it to grasping a hot coal. Famous proverbs tell us that anger is like a fire that spreads and spreads until it burns everything in sight. But, what is anger really? The dictionary defines anger as: A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. Sometimes it seems that the whole world is angry.
       At the coffee shop in the morning we are angry about the long line. On the subway we are angry about the commute. At our jobs we are angry about the amount of work we have. At home we are angry....why are we so angry? I once read that anger is a blanket for hurt. Under anger lies hurt, betrayal, sadness. This was the only explanation that made sense to me. We are angry because we are hurt, or we've been hurt, or we don't know how to sit with our hurt. It's too painful to sit with so much pain and so we get angry.
      How do we remedy our anger? We care for it. We sit with it and we observe it. We look deep into the eye of our anger and we hold our gaze there. If there is one thing we don't do, it's feed our anger. But we do hold it. Anger, how are you today? Why are you so angry? You are sitting there brooding like a baby. Come out into the sunlight and be present. Anger, you can't stay angry forever.
       Anger is a closed flower and we must give it sunlight and water so that tomorrow on line in the coffee shop, on the subway, at work, at home we can smile in the face of it, we can cradle our hurt and dissipate this feeling of anger.

Friday, June 22, 2012

In Jackson Heights Queens, in the basement of a tall grey house with brown window panes, the Hindi woman wearing silken white robes asks us to please take our seats. The room is hot and chairs are set up in rows of four that go all the way to the back of the room. At the front there is a great point of light on the wall, a bouquet of fresh yellow roses and a candelabra that has statues of three women holding hands reaching up to guard the candles. The lights dim down and the point of light on the front wall lights up and we, which is only five of us, close our eyes.
"You are a point of light" a recording whispers. "You were born into this body, but you are not this body and you are not this mind." We breathe, some of us deeply, others as if we haven't taken a breath in years. Some of our breathing is light, other breath is heavy, many breaths are sad or joyful.
There is no right or wrong way to breathe, the same goes for meditation. The importance lies in the showing up. We have shown up.
Rumi once said "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." We sit and we seek those barriers. We breathe. The meditation goes on for thirty minutes. Some of us have fallen asleep. Some of us feel relaxed. Many of us are perplexed. We show up every week. We breathe.
At 7:00 p.m. after our meditation the Hindi woman in the white silken robes sits underneath the point of light at the front of the room. She does not speak until she is ready and she glows. It is not the light on the wall that makes her glow, but rather an inner light, an understanding, a breath.
She smiles a smile that reminds us of our mothers. A smile so sweet and sad and joyous all at once. She asks us how we are. "How are you?" she whispers. "Did you enjoy your meditation?" she asks.
One of us nods, one of us says yes, many of us are silent. "How are you?" she whispers again.
"Did you meditate? Did you sleep? Did you go farther than sleep? Deeper than sleep? Where did you go?" She smiles as if she has a secret. "Let's talk about the river" she says, "how it flows even over the sharp rocks. How in the face of tragedy it sings, it sleeps, it roars. Let's talk about the river."
We think of water. We think of how it cleanses, we think of swimming, sprinklers, bathtubs, showers we think of the river. Our thoughts are still. "We must be like the river" she says.
"Your task is not to seek for love..." We come back again and again to find our breath. Every week we walk down the narrow stairs at the back of the tall grey house with the brown window-panes. We are points of light learning to flow through our days and our situations, learning to fulfill our task and awaken that which we thought had vanished.

Fall Renewal Weekend 
Yoga & Meditation Retreat

with Evalena Leedy, Ariel Kiley
 & Genno Linda King

Friday, September 14th thru Sunday, September 16th 2012

Revive, reconnect and re-center at this inspiring yoga/meditation retreat held at Dai Bosatsu Zendo, a Zen monastery high in the Catskills. Take the opportunity to regain your own natural rhythm and reconnect with yourself and with nature. Immerse yourself in two daily yoga sessions, practice zen meditation, and pranayama. 
An introduction to zen meditation will be offered for those wish to attend. Refresh your spirit by taking a leisurely walk around the lake, or hike through 1,400 acres of unspoiled forest. 
Enjoy three delicious vegetarian meals,plus snacks, tea and coffee throughout the day.

Arrive Friday by 4pm for our opening Yoga Blend Restorative class and optional meditation. 
Depart Sunday 2pm and return home renewed, refreshed and revitalized.

Cost: $350pp includes all yoga/meditation,

shared accommodations for 2 nights and all meals
*Single Room add $50
*Single/Double Room w/private bath add $75 (limited availabilty)

To reserve your space or for more info contact: 718 541-1382

Transportation options: Car Pool (expenses shared) or bus from NYC. 
For more information on the
practice and driving directions go to to