December 29, 2008

New Year...New Opportunities

Happy New Year to all of you! I truly believe 2009 holds great promise in so many ways. May we all enter into it with a positive spirit and a willingness to live fully and freely!

With the beginning of the New Year we have a figurative moment to re-evaluate our dharmic path, and a fresh opportunity to work a little more towards that path. Hopefully for all of you that includes Yoga! I encourage all of you to take this auspicious beginning as an opportunity to not only deepen your level of yoga practice and study, but to share the gift of yoga with those you love. Imagine a world where everyone just had a chance to breathe before they acted or reacted. I believe the setting in the world is perfect right now to embrace the strong, positive vibrational power that Yoga has...and what better way to spread the peace, stillness and strength than to encourage your friends and family to begin a practice. To help facilitate this I'm offering gift certificates for Yoga with Tracy Von Kaenel at a discounted rate. Purchase a certificate for 2 classes or more and get one class free! This offer is good for new students only.... Let me know if you'd like to purchase a gift certificate for a friend. This is a limited time offer so hurry! Expires Jan. 31st 2009. Gift certificates good for one year.

New beginnings also bring changes. Please see the additional posting for class changes and additions. Blessings to you all in this beautiful new year. May it bring you moments of great joy, great peace, and great strides on your dharmic path.

Class Changes and Additions

Starting January 1st, 2009 there are a few changes and additions to the current schedule at the Tai Chi Center.

First,unfortunately, due to lack of attendance, the Wednesday 12:30-1:30 class will no longer run. There may be a chance to re-establish this class in the future if there is enough interest.

On the flipside, I'm happy to announce that I will now be offering private lessons. The current sheduled time available for privates is 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, right before the Tuesday night class. Other times may be available as well. This is a wonderful opportunity to work on something specific that we may not get to in class, or if you are working with an injury and need modifications to help you in class. It is also a great chance to learn how to deepen your practice.

In addition, I'm offering a new style of privates called YOGASSAGE. What's that you ask? It's a combination of passive yoga stretching (meaning you lay there, I gently stretch you), gentle accupressure, a little Reiki, a little traditional massage, a little meditation, and a whole lot of tension release. It's very similar to Thai Yoga Massage, but with added stuff (Tracy style). Sessions are done on the padded floor, you stay fully clothed, and they last about an hour. It's very peaceful and soothing.The fee for all private sessions are $85 a session and usually run about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. If you would like to schedule a private lesson of any sort please contact me either in person, email or phone.

November 10, 2008

Holiday Schedule

The following classes will be cancelled due to the holidays. Take advantage of the classes that are still running! Anyone is welcome at any class and will be challenged appropriately.

I hope to see a lot of you during this busy time!

Cancelled Classes:

Wednesday November 26th 12:30-1:30 only
(the evening class WILL run)

Wednesday December 24th 12:30-1:30 and 6:00-7:30

Wednesday December 31st 12:30-1:30 and 6:00-7:30

'Tis the Season

Once again the busy holiday season approaches and our normal routine is thrown out the window. It is challenging during this time to remember to include the things that make us feel and function our best, like sleep, yoga, proper nutrition and exercise. I invite you to deepen your awareness this year of the things that allow you to fully experience the joys of the holidays without the stresses they often include. As the season brings colder weather it is a great time to deepen or begin a meditation practice. Just a few minutes a day can make a difference. A home yoga practice can also help offset the mood changes that come with changing weather and changing schedules. And of course, the more yoga classes you can attend the more likely you'll stay grounded and focused, as well as open to the joy. This can truly be a special time if we enter into it with a connection to our bodies, minds and spirits. No matter what you celebrate, may it bring you a multitude of love, light and laughter. Namaste, Tracy

September 17, 2008

My Life in Yoga by Molly Moynahan

In 1977 I was studying History and English in Dublin, attending Trinity College as a one-year American student. After being cast in a production where I played Sylvia Plath with two other women, one of whom would remain my friend for many years to follow, I saw a sign advertising a yoga class in one of the common rooms costing, I believe 50p. My Irish actress friend and I decided we would attend but first we would visit our favorite Pub and run some lines, drink hot sherry, smoke some cigarettes and eat some crisps (potato chips). Thus fortified we tumbled into a dim room where a candle was lit, something mystical was spinning on a record player and several people were in corpse pose. This we could do. Later we managed a few other poses except my friend attempted a standing backbend and landed on her head. Our teacher, a no-nonsense German, stood over my friend and suggested we not drink before yoga class. Afterwards, she reassured us, was fine. We were hooked.
Later that year I would wind a scarf around my head and attempt to levitate in what was billed a “Man-powered flight contest”. I ended up on the front cover of the Irish Times, my bottom securely anchored to the ground in a passable lotus. My bank manager, even the destitute in Ireland had bank managers, laminated the newspaper clipping and hung it in his window. I was a celebrity.
Thus it started, my lovely relationship with yoga. It has lasted through three husbands, countless jobs, many geographical alterations, moments of incredible joy and personal tragedies. When a drunk driver killed my sister in 1984 I didn’t eat for a long time. One day a friend persuaded me to attend a yoga class and when we were finished I discovered I was still breathing. I traveled to a Buddhist monastery in the Catskills for a weekend workshop and ended up moving in part-time for nearly two years. The Renzai Zen tradition was a harsh discipline. We sat Zazen for many hours in the Zendo and frequently rose at 4am to chant and sit and do work practice. But we also practiced yoga. It was Iyengar with references to skin sliding down bones and props to open and strengthen your body. My teacher sent me to see a famous Iyengar instructor in Manhattan who told me I had fat feet and implied I would be on his list of sexy students if I could drop more weight. “I love my fat feet,” I said, having recently returned from the near dead. I walked away and never returned. For me yoga meant acceptance, it meant non-judgment, it meant I was breathing and above all, safe.
In 1993 I was living in London, hugely pregnant and blissfully happy. The birth practice I was in specialized in water births and yoga practice for its mothers. It did not believe in Caesarians or pain medicine unless absolutely necessary. We did yoga twice a week, countless kegels, squats and various other things to build our strength and flexibility. I was in hard labor for 72 hours. My son, who had been turned in my stomach from a breech position, ended up in a bad place for a speedy birth, his back against my spine. Days passed in a blur of boredom, fear and anticipation; finally he was born with me standing up after a long epidural inspired nap. I was able to take a walk that evening, no tearing, not a single physical scar except the usual pregnancy related body issues. (Oh my God! Is that my body?) When the doctor asked me how I managed to last so long and recover so fast I said, “Yoga.”
We moved to Dallas from London and Texas was not a positive fit. I worked out hard with a trainer who listened to me complain about the shopping malls, driving everywhere, football and big hair. I was restless, lonely and discontent. I avoided Yoga like the plague afraid of confronting my own personal demons in a practice that forced me to see things as they were.
When we moved to Chicago my marriage was on thin ice, I had not published anything in ages and, just like Dallas, I knew no one. Within a year I was separated from my son’s father and facing my forties as a divorced mother who had two novels published, taught at several schools as an adjunct, and who felt like a huge failure. My son attended a child’s camp where there were yoga classes and I found myself back in a dimly lit room trying to quiet the voices in my head.
From that point, I stayed. Tracy taught so perfectly in her imperfection, her support, and her challenging sometimes really hard, sweaty classes. She had a sense of humor but she was dead serious. I went to yoga in the heat, the rain, the snow, after 9/11, after another break-up, when my novel was purchased for lots of money, and when the same publisher rejected the two that followed. I got divorced finally, remarried, my son became a teenager and did terrible things, my father became horribly depressed and twice a week (when possible) I picked up my mat and went to yoga. I remain a beginner in this sanctuary, I remain flawed and in need of adjustment. I remain humble and grateful for the flexibility and soft discipline of my teacher and yoga.

August 06, 2008

The Day That Counts

YESTERDAY: There are two days in every week that should be kept free from fear and worry. One of these days is yesterday; it has passed forever beyond our control. We cannot undo a single act we performed or erase a single word we said. Yesterday is gone beyond recall.
TOMORROW: The other day we should not worry about is tomorrow, with its possible problems or promise. Tomorrow is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow will come, but until it does we have no stake in tomorrow; it is not yet a reality.
TODAY: That leaves only one day- Today! Anyone can fight the battles of just one day. It is only when we add the burden of those two awful eternities-yesterday and tomorrow-that we can break down. It is not the experience of today that causes the most anxiety. It is the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday, or the dread of what tomorrow may bring. Thus only one day in the week requires our very best attention and action---the TODAY we live one day at a time.


July 18, 2008

Vacation Week

Just a reminder that there will be no classes the week of July 28th through August 3rd. Take this time to deepen your home practice or do your yoga on the beach! Enjoy the week and be ready to go Monday August 4th!

June 26, 2008

Beat the Heat

It's Summer! And with summer comes heat. For some of us this is welcome news to our internal and external beings. But for some the intensity of the heat can bring lethargy, aggravation and discomfort. Try this simple Pranayama (breathing technique) to help cool you from the inside out both during your yoga practice and anytime you begin to feel overheated. The names of the techniques are called Sitali and Sitkari, which are done by inhaling through the mouth and exhaling through the nose. To do Sitali, sit in a comfortable position, make an O shape with your mouth, like you are going to whistle, and curl the tongue lengthwise. Then, as B.K.S. Iyengar instructs in Light on Pranayama (Crossroad, 1998), "draw in if drinking with a straw and fill the lungs completely." Withdraw the tongue, close the mouth, and hold the breath for five to 10 seconds. Exhale through the nose. Repeat this cycle for five to 10 minutes and then rest and breathe normally. If you can't curl your tongue, try Sitkari, which is similar to Sitali except that the tongue is kept flat. Part the lips and allow the tip of the tongue to protrude slightly. Practice gently and without intensity. Both of these techniqes help to cool the air that is being brought into the system...sort of like our modern day air conditioning! So don't sweat the heat--Be cool!

May 17, 2008

Memorial Day Holiday

Class will be cancelled on Memorial Day, Monday May 26th. Enjoy the day!

March 25, 2008

Welcome Spring!

Finally it seems we are leaving winter behind. This is a time of great renewal and that includes our yoga practice. Spring is a wonderful time to re-energize your practice with some time honored techniques. Many of these techniques help to cleanse the body of the sluggishness of winter, much like spring cleaning your house. Try these simple yet effective techniques to clean your energetic house and let that fresh air of spring in.

1) BREATHE: The stale air within our houses and indoor spaces takes its toll on our bodies. Now that the weather is turning warmer get outside and do some deep breathing. If you can’t go outside sit by an open window to practice this pranayama technique.
Sit comfortable and close eyes. Rest hands on belly. Breathe in through nose until belly is fully extended then hold that breath in for a second or two. Slowly exhale until you feel the belly contract…try to push out the last bit of breath. Take two normal breaths in between and then do the extended breath again. Repeat up to 5 times. This will help to wake up the lungs, the nervous system and will give you increased energy.

2) MOVE: Get moving with a more energized yoga practice. Spring is a time to get the cobwebs out of the body and re-awaken the fluid, youthful you. If you take one class a week, spring is a great time to bump this up. You will definitely notice major advances when you practice more often. If that’s not possible, this is a wonderful time to start a daily home practice, especially one that starts your day. Remember that you don’t need to do a whole hour class to benefit. A couple of significant poses every morning help to jump start the body and balance the mind. Good ones to start your day are Sun Salutations (or half suns), Triangle pose, Cobra pose, and Tree pose.

3) MEDITATE :Don’t worry…you don’t need to dedicate much time to this either, just a few minutes (perhaps after your asanas) dedicated to sitting quietly and perhaps envisioning the beautiful day you are lucky enough to enter into…. It can really change how your day rolls out.

4) PRACTICE RANDOM KINDNESS: Even when you are at your most grumpy, try being kind and considerate to others. You will find it changes your negative energy to positive, and in the meantime sends wonderful vibrations into the universe. Imagine that with every kind act or thought another flower blooms somewhere!

5) DETOX WITH DIET: Fasting is one way to cleanse the digestive system but it’s not for everyone. If you want to try it, this is an easy one as posted by Elson Hass, author of The New Detox Diet. “For starters, try a simple three-day liquid fast. “After three days, your energy starts to free itself,” says Haas. Take in only liquids: juices, vegetable broths, and teas as well as at least 8 to 10 glasses of spring or filtered water a day (2 of them when you wake up). Herbal teas made with slippery elm bark, dandelion, milk thistle, and licorice root will cleanse your digestive system and your liver. You can make fresh juices from fruits and veggies and add a little spirulina for extra flavor and amino acids. Take advantage of the natural inclination to slow down by going for long walks, meditating, taking naps, and writing in a journal. After your fast is done, start by eating whole grains and steamed vegetables.” If you feel fasting is not for you, try just lightening up. Dr. Deepak Chopra, a noted Ayurvedic M.D. recommends reducing dairy products, and eating foods that are more pungent, bitter and astringent rather that sweet, sour or salty.

Regardless of how you welcome Spring, enjoy the ritual of renewal. Celebrating rituals is an important part of our feeling connected to the earth and one another.
Happy Spring!

February 20, 2008

Important Class Announcements

Due to my upcoming dance performance with AMEBA dance company there will be a few changes in the schedule for the first two weeks of March. They are as follows: Tuesday March 4th, Beginning Yoga 6-7:15p.m. will be taught by Maryann Lewis.
Wednesday March 5th, Intermediate Yoga 6-7:30p.m. will be CANCELLED.
Wednesday March 12th, 12:30-1:30p.m. will be CANCELLED.
All other classes will run as normal.
Thanks for your understanding...and come see the show!
Shanti, Tracy

January 16, 2008

Recommended Reading

I am often asked for recomendations of books to further ones Yoga journey. Here are some books that I think are wonderful.

1) Living your Yoga by Judith Lasater
2)Yoga-The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffman
3)Start Where You Are-A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron
4)Yogi Bare-Naked Truth from America's Leading Yoga Teachers by Philip Self

Happy Reading!

Yoga Etiquette

Here are some reminders to help you and your classmates get the most out of your yoga classes.

1) Before entering into a yoga classroom, please remove your shoes. It is a sign of respect for the practice as well as a symbol of transitioning from your daily life to your practice.

2) Try not to eat for two hours before a yoga class, and if possible, for one hour after class. Food in the stomach makes some of the poses uncomfortable, and can actually create digestive and circulatory problems. Food and drink also dampen the internal fire or “agni” that is an important aspect of the practice. Never bring food or drink into the classroom. If you feel you must drink during the class, please be discreet and use water only.

3) Try to arrive five to ten minutes early for the class. This will give you time to sign in, get situated, and calm and clear the mind. It will help you let go of the days events and bring yourself into the present moment. Try to use the time for this purpose. Out of respect for the practice and the fellow yogis, anyone arriving more than five minutes late will not be allowed to join class.

4) Do not leave class early. It is quite disruptive to the class as well as unsettling for your body and mind. The Savasana at the end of class is extremely important. It helps to calm the mind and connect the preceding asanas to the spirit. Schedule your time appropriately so that you can enjoy the whole experience rather than having to rush in or rush out.

5) Yoga is a journey within to please be sure to turn off all outside disturbances such as cell phones, pagers, watch alarms and any other external distractions.

6) Make sure to let your instructor know if you have any conditions that may affect your practice such as injury, emotional disturbances or pregnancy. And be sure to always work within your comfort level.

7) Avoid wearing strong scented products. Yoga increases our awareness of all the senses and perfumes or other strong scents may be disturbing for others.

8) If you have any questions about the practice please ask me! I want each and every one of you to get the very most out of your yoga practice. Communication is a key aspect of the learning process.

9) Consider beginning a “sadana” or daily personal practice. Whether you take class everyday or practice at home, yoga was meant to be a daily practice. It is hard to maintain the physical, emotional and spiritual gains of the practice by only taking one class a week. You needn’t do a whole hour each day, but see if you can commit to at least a few poses everyday and a moment of meditation. You will be glad you did.

Reach within your spirit, and execute yama and niyama, two of the basic principles of yoga –---codes of respect and restraint for yourself and respect for others-----


Keeping a Clear Head

Winter is often the season of colds and flu. Besides the obvious recommendations of washing our hands regularly, eating well and getting plenty of sleep, there are some yoga techniques that help to stave off the possibility of catching these conditions. First and foremost, a regular yoga practice (3-5 times a week) is already going a long way to boost your immune system and strengthen your respiratory system. So you are already ahead of the curve if you are a regular practitioner. In addition there are some specific poses that help to support the immune system by stimulating toxin release. These include twisting poses such as Pavritta Trikonasana (revolved triangle), Marichyasana II (one legged seated twist), and extending poses such as Adho Mukha Svasana (downward facing dog), and Bhujangasana (cobra).

If you do get stricken with a cold it is best to practice poses that help the body heal. These can include Balasana (child pose), Adho Mukha Svasana (downward dog) which help keep the mucus out of the lungs, and Ustrasana (camel pose) to help open the lungs and sinuses. Easy restorative poses also help the body to heal by reducing the stress hormones. These include Supta Baddha Konasana (reclining bound angle pose) and Supta Savasana (supported corpse pose).

It is also helpful to practice specific Pranayama techniques. To help keep the sinuses and bronchial airways clear, a short daily practice of Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) is very helpful. Also Sectional Breathing (1/3 into belly, 1/3 into ribs ,and 1/3 into chest) helps build lung resistance to cold symptoms.

If you are familiar with nasal cleansing, this too can be an enormous boost to keeping the sinuses and head clear. An ancient Ayurvedic technique (the sister science to yoga), nasal cleansing incorporates what is commonly called a Netti Pot. It is a small pot that has a long spout that is directly inserted into one nostril. A saline solution is then run through one nostril and pours out the other. The procedure is then repeated on the other side. It is greatly effective, although it takes awhile to get used to. Recent findings from a Penn State University study involving 294 college students support this. Those who irrigated daily with saline experienced a significant reduction in colds.

The flu carries a slightly different set of circumstances because usually there is a fever. It is best not to practice yoga with a fever as it increases body heat. However, there is one pranayama technique that is recommended to reduce fever. Sitting in Sukhasana (easy pose) breathe slowly and deeply with tongue extended and curled like a U. Inhale through the tongue and exhale through the nose. This is a cooling breath called Sitali Pranayama. Practice for 1-3 minutes.

Remember that no matter how hard we try, sometimes even the healthiest of us get caught by the cold or flu bug. Should it happen to you, listen to the voice of your body and let yourself heal. Resist the temptation to keep going at the rapid pace you are used to. It is probably that pace that lowered your immune system in the first place. According to William Mitchell, N.D., a Seattle-based practitioner who teaches advanced naturopathic therapeutics at Bastyr University, studies show that many viruses and bacteria quietly reside within us until something within the body's internal environment becomes unbalanced. Then they rally into action and attack. So your best defense is to remember to pace yourself, take nutritional care of yourself, and do your yoga!


My Path To Yoga - By Janet Mullet

Eight years ago, I spent an evening complaining of chronic neck pain, bad posture and general lumpiness, lamenting a dissatisfaction and rootlessness in my life. My friend responded by inviting me to join her for yoga. It was a small class in the attic of a church, and from the first sun salutation I knew I’d found something special. The combination of physical exertion, mindfulness, and respect for individuality drew me in. My commitment was erratic – I’d go each week for a couple months, then skip several weeks as life got busy, pick it up again, and then lapse – and still, yoga made me feel better. When we bought our first house, I stopped going for almost six months. To my surprise, I found that I really missed it, that I had started to develop an awareness of my body and to appreciate the increased mental clarity. I discovered Tracy’s classes at this point, and dedicated myself to the mat with renewed vigor.

I’ve now been practicing with Tracy for four & a half years, starting with one class a week, then twice per week, and adding a daily home practice about two years ago. Each increase in frequency has made a huge difference – being able to repeat an exercise from class at home, experiment with balance or rotation or extension, makes all the difference in the intellectual and instinctive understanding of each pose. Over time, my home practice has become a living thing, as I learn more about asanas and their effects on body and mind. I’ve discovered how to tailor my practice to my mood, level of energy, particular injuries or discomforts. Mantras heard first in class have become old friends, repeating “I breathe in compassion, I breathe out and release fear” as I work through difficult poses – or difficult times. I’ve learned to be comfortable in my skin, both with greater physical grace and deeper compassion. I am calmer, more patient (though that’ll never be one of my strengths!), and more generous. My sense of place in the world, in ‘the family of things’ is stronger than ever, and I am learning every day to be present in the moment. This summer, I spent a weekend at Kripalu, a yoga center in western Massachusetts, and was amazed by the ease of joining their practice, by how well Tracy had prepared me to be open to new ways of thinking, and by the strong sense of belonging to the world that was physically present in my chest.

The poses still aren’t easy – I discover something new in every class – and I struggle along with my fellow yogis to improve, breathe, and deepen. I am determined to be able to stay in a lunge endlessly, to develop a handstand away from the wall, to release all judgment about my body and my life. Each class inspires me, challenges me, and grounds me, providing new possibilities for my home practice, which reinforces our collective work and builds strength as nothing but repetition can.

The community I’ve found in class is warm and welcoming, and I enjoy sharing our journey as much as I value my personal growth. The gentle support of peers provides a strong platform on which to stand. Tracy’s leadership is invaluable, setting the tone for everyone who participates – and she has an uncanny way of targeting my particular issues each time, so that I feel as if she’s speaking directly and only to me as she guides our fluid and challenging classes, though I think all of us probably feel that way.

Discovering that yoga is a journey, mind and body together, has enriched my life in ways I never could have imagined those eight years ago, and I believe that I’m still only at the beginning of this path.