Yoga
My yoga journey My yogic path began almost 12 years ago, in my first year in university, when I was introduced to Sivananda yoga by a good psychotherapist friend. Even though I instantly felt a deep connection with the practice and this inspired me to read and research further into yoga and spirituality, it wasn’t until 2006 that I truly engaged in a ‘formal’, regular sadhana and yoga became an indispensable part of my life. 2006 was indeed a very important year in my yogic journey, since I got in touch with three approaches that were destined to inform my practice and teaching in the years to come: Vinyasa flow (=breath synchronized with movement) through Ashtanga yoga; classical integrative yoga, based on the ancient sacred teachings, and the living relationship with a spiritual teacher, through the Bihar School of Yoga; and chakra yoga, through Agama Yoga School. Since then, I have travelled around the world, to train in many different styles and systems of yoga, while I completed my foundational teacher training with Shiva Rea and Twee Merrigan, in the tradition of Prana Flow Yoga. Prana Flow Yoga is a vinyasa flow system, with a Tantric foundation, incorporating elements of Bhakti Yoga; the Yoga of Love and Devotion, Ayurveda; the yogic ‘Science of Life’ and Western Somatics. In addition to that, I have been trained in Yin Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation with Sarah Powers and in Chakra Yoga with Anodea Judith. I have always been fascinated with the human body, the way it works, the grounded wisdom it holds and its amazing potential to bring about deep healing and transformation. Alongside my yoga studies, I have had the fortune to train in Jungian psychotherapy, Somatic Movement therapy and Energy Healing (Reiki). My immersion in these fields has deepened my appreciation of the universal nature and limitless potential of yoga, and has allowed me to creatively combine elements from all those approaches, in order to create a truly transformational, holistic and all-inclusive experience. My passion for the wisdom and potential of the ancient tradition of yoga and of the Tantric system of the chakras, in particular, inspired me to concentrate my postgraduate research project on the parallels between Tantra Yoga and Medieval Alchemy, and I have completed a dissertation, titled: 'Turning base metals into gold, Spiritualising the human body; The Stages of Medieval Alchemy and the Chakra System of Kundalini Yoga as parallel paths to Individuation', which is now under review for publication. The process of researching this fascinating subject has significantly enhanced my understanding of the art and science of yoga and has greatly enriched my teaching with elements that highlight and promote its authentic purpose, as a holistic system of psycho-spiritual development. Yoga for me Yoga for me is more than just a practice… It is a way of life, a way to understand life, to make meaning out of it, to live life to the fullest, to be able to stay centred, present and grounded, whatever life may offer you. Yoga is a complete system of personal and spiritual development. One of the most efficient ways to live a balanced, healthy on all levels, creative and fulfilling life… Yoga is therapy…movement therapy, psychotherapy, massage therapy… Yoga is a refuge, a close friend, a warm welcome of the whole self, the whole person, the dark and the light, the mind and the body… Yoga is integration, release, empowerment, acceptance, love and presence. It is coming close to your heart, becoming one with your breath, balancing the right with the left, rooting down to rise up, integrating the opposites within yourself and meeting all there is in the present moment with a curious mind and an open heart… Yoga is the art of life and the science of life…Yoga gives life, expands life, adores life… …Yoga, to me, is Life at its best… Influences My approach to teaching yoga is a blend of different elements from each of the following approaches: Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow Yoga… The Tantric view of the body as our personal temple, in which the whole Universe resides. The embodiment of the movements of Prana (Life Force), as a way to facilitate natural alignment and enhance the optimal flow of energy. The creativity, spontaneity and freedom arising from fluid and free-form movements, pulsations and multi- dimensional sequencing. The integration of asana, kriya, mudra, mantra and bandha, as a way to cultivate certain states of consciousness, connect with the subtle or energetic body, and awaken its dormant, unlimited potential. The use of myth, poetic language and yogic archetypes, in order to invoke and embody the Universal unconscious forces that underlie and orchestrate our human experience. Sarah Powers’ mindful flow and yin yoga… The precision and focus on correct anatomical alignment, in order to build on the body’s strengths, without abusing them, and strengthen its weaknesses, while respecting its limitations. The slow pace, which facilitates and emphasizes awareness of the body and movement and grounded presence in the ‘here and now’. The stillness and depth of yin yoga and its potential to provide a safe container for the exploration, embodiment and release of deep-seated emotions. The cultivation of embodied mindfulness; the art of acknowledging, staying with and breathing through bodily sensations, states of mind and currents of emotions, as a way to better know and effectively support ourselves.   Bihar School of Yoga… The classical, ancient and holistic approach to yoga, incorporating all the different branches; hatha, karma, bhakti, jnana, mantra, nada, raja, tantra and kriya. The strong philosophical foundation, drawing both from the more traditional system of Vedanta, as well as from the groundbreaking tradition of Tantra, to honour and connect with yoga’s roots and origin. The emphasis on the cultivation of awareness, yoga as development of the personality and as a way to live a more balanced and fulfilling life. Yoga for every-body, regardless of age, physical fitness or limitations, cultural or religious background, etc. Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga… The chakras as the psycho-spiritual map of transformation and as the theme and foundation of the class. The integration of traditional yogic techniques, including asana, pranayama, meditation, visualization, mantras, etc., with elements of contemporary approaches, such as bioenergetics, energy work, body psychotherapy and movement therapy. The exploration and activation of each chakra on all levels of its manifestation: physical, as in body parts, organs and glands; emotional, as in certain emotional and mental states, both related to the present and arising from the past; and spiritual, as in states and levels of consciousness related to each chakra, as well as their esoteric, mystical aspect and powers. Therapy and Healing… My classes are also greatly influenced by my background in Transpersonal/Jungian Psychotherapy, Somatic Movement Therapy and Energy Healing (Reiki). Arc of chakra yoga class A chakra yoga class begins with a short introduction of the specific chakra(s) we will be focusing on, followed by chanting the universal mantra ‘Om’ and, potentially, other yogic mantras, to tune in and energetically prepare for practice. We then take a couple of minutes to reflect and set the intention for the class. The physical practice begins with either one or two yin poses/deep stretches, or some warming exercises, to get our energy flowing and our muscles and joints ready for asana practice. We then flow through 3-5 rounds of chakra-specific sun salutations, drawing from Shiva Rea’s Chakra Vinyasa tradition, Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga teachings and Stella’s personal creative variations. Sun salutations are followed by longer-held yoga asanas, in which we stay and concentrate on the particular chakra each asana is related to and stimulates. In this section of the class, bioenergetic exercises and partner work are also occasionally woven, to further explore each chakra’s nature and embody its qualities. The asana practice prepares our energy body for pranayama. At least one yogic breathing exercise is practiced separately at this stage, even though pranayama techniques may be woven into other parts of the flow as well. At this point, both our body and mind are ready for the practice of meditation. Techniques are drawn from different traditions and schools, and include, among other: breath awareness and mindfulness, concentration on a symbol, object, mantra, or yantra (ritual yogic geometrical shapes), chakra meditation and visualisation, movement meditation, etc. Classes always finish with a shorter or longer savasana, or deep relaxation, to return to the earth and allow the energies we have cultivated through our practice to settle and integrate into our bodies. Visualisation, progressive guided relaxation or yoga nidra can also be incorporated here, for enhanced healing and relaxation effects.
Stella Stathi Certified Instructor London UK Journey Dance yoga-dance
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