What is yoga?

Thousands of books many hundreds of pages long have been written to try to answer this question. So, very briefly, it is the merging of the individual soul (awareness) with the universal soul (consciousness or awareness). What this means on a practical level is a discipline that inquires into the nature of body, mind, breath and the relationships within them. It is a wisdom tradition that seeks to find the precise harmony of parts to whole, whether that is through meditation, physical movement, breath work, self-investigation, chanting or deep relaxation.

Yoga is a vast discipline. Here at River Yoga, we offer the full teachings and practice of yoga. Every part is intrinsic to the whole and over a period of time the student is introduced to all the areas of yoga practice.

What should I look for in a yoga teacher?

A yoga teacher must be well trained, mostly through their direct experience. A yoga teacher goes through the discipline of learning anatomy, physiology, alignment and form, asana, adjustments, sequencing, yoga philosophy and the vast subjects covered by the yoga scriptures.

Obviously, such thorough training requires dedication and discipline. All River Yoga teachers are thoroughly trained in the Saraswati River Yoga method, and have devoted many years to this discipline. Many of our teachers are also trained in other styles of yoga, or have obtained specialized training in yoga philosophy, meditation, mantra, therapeutic yoga, yoga nidra, and massage. Every RY teacher is also an ongoing student of yoga–this practice and training flows into each class, fostering growth and relevance for each student, on and off the yoga mat.

River Yoga is also certified by Yoga Alliance to offer yoga classes in all subjects and teacher training at the 200 and 500 hour levels. Several of our teachers hold an E-RYT 500 level certification, the highest level of certification offered by the Yoga Alliance.

What can I expect in a class?

All asana classes (the ones on the schedules that are labeled by Levels 1-3) will have chanting, breathing, asana practice with hands-on assists, and deep relaxation. The class may also include meditation and more varied breath work. The class will also cover a pose and subject of the month. ‘Pose of the Month’ allows a deeper experience of an asana so that over time the student has in-depth experience in each of the categories of asana.

Every class will have a sequence that addresses the full body, highlighting one particular pose. There is also a subject of the month that allows the teachers to bring in aspects of the yoga practice that don’t readily lend themselves to a classroom setting. These are teachings from the world’s wisdom traditions or related topics and practices. Many students tell us that this is the aspect they like the best about classes at River Yoga!

Meditation and chanting classes cover the how-to and the whys with practical step-by-step instruction. Meditation and chanting classes do not include asana practice but may include breath work, visualization, and deep relaxation.

What should I wear and bring to a class?

Wear loose comfortable layers of clothes. Many people like to wear tighter stretchy clothes as you might for physical exercise. It is nice to have a shawl and cushion for meditation. Blankets, mats and cushions are available for use at the center. It is nice for hygiene purposes and to build the energy to have your own yoga mat, shawl and meditation cushion. Pre-registered classes and workshops may require other items that will be listed on the registration sheet.

How do I get information on classes and events?

Call 215-794-1890. The information on classes and teachers is updated each day, as are cancellations and special events. If there is a change in the schedule, due to inclement weather or for any other reason, 215-794-1890 is your best source for accurate updated information. We also update our website class schedule daily whenever possible.

For information on new classes and workshops, sign up for our email newsletter. You can also join us on Facebook, Twitter or in the River Yoga Lounge, a social interactive site exclusively for River Yoga students!

Is this a religion or institution or something that I join? Do I have to change my beliefs and affiliations?

Yoga is not a religion but many people find that their current religious feelings and practices deepen through yoga practice. River Yoga honors the ancient wisdom traditions and does not promote the institutionalizing of ideas. Yoga is a practice of discovering the self and losing identities, not gaining more identities. There are no beliefs you must ascribe to or anything you must affiliate yourself with. Yoga is the practice for one who wants to do more than get by, one who wants to thrive. This, ultimately, is about serving truth, and truth is not about ideologies and organizations. Yoga is not a religion or organization. You will not be asked to join anything or to donate any money.

Why do you chant in class?

Chanting is an integral part of the yoga practice. Nothing attunes body, mind and breath like sound pulsation. We all desire a sound body and mind and what could create that better than sound itself? Nothing affects consciousness as much as sound. Whether it is the sound of our thoughts or of words and communication.

Sound has a large effect on the layers of the mind. It is obvious that certain sounds are soothing, while others are disturbing. The atmosphere of places has much to do with the sounds that are present, from the external sounds to the internal sound pulsation of intentions and thoughts. We all are quite sensitive to the effects of different atmospheres. Chanting allows us to positively affect our internal atmosphere. The yogis have used sound for thousands of years to affect actual physical functioning of brain, heart, and blood pressure as well as to affect change in the deepest regions of our consciousness.

Modern research is discovering the same powerful truth. Chanting, practiced regularly, will help improve functioning on many levels, from the regulation of breath to cultivation of a lack of self- consciousness. Chanting has also been demonstrated to reduce stress and promote healing. The chants that are used are deliberately chosen, and matched to the energy and level of class to positively create an inner and outer atmosphere conducive to yoga practice. Chanting ultimately becomes another way to experience the full radiance of life.

To chant is to find your true voice, celebrate gratitude and generate the inherent joy that we are born into as human beings. To chant is to be enchanted!

What is the best way to deepen my practice? I just started the yoga practice and I love it. I want to know more. What can I do?

To deepen your practice, start a meditation practice or treat yourself to a private session, or in-class private session. Learning the language of yoga deepens the understanding and experience tremendously. Taking a retreat, with a group or by yourself, is a wonderful way to usher in a new level. Changing your diet to a yogic vegetarian diet allows the body to be more flexible and takes a tremendous stress off of the environment.The heart opens more as we view animals as sentient beings rather than as food.

Wonderful books and tapes are available to deepen our experience and understanding–each teacher at River Yoga will be happy to make recommendations for you.

What kind of yoga is this?

This is actually a difficult question to answer because modern practitioners have created so many categories of yoga – within the categories and divisions there are brand names and styles that are fusions and hybrids. As well, people do not agree on the divisions and distinctions. So often the same names and terms are used differently. The practice and teachings at River Yoga are a combination of Hatha and Raja yoga, in a larger background of classical Ashtanga yoga. You will find elements of Bhakti yoga and Jnana yoga as well. The physical practice is taught in the flowing Vinyasa style, combining elements of the Iyengar and Ashtanga brand name styles.

Basically, you will find physical postures linked smoothly and inspired by breath. The postures are taught in the context of the eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga or classical yoga). Meditation, philosophy and chanting are included, in keeping with the Saraswati River Yoga Tradition. The Saraswati River Valley was the original settlement and dissemination of the yogic wisdom. The Saraswati River flows underground, and it is this symbol of the underground river of wisdom, bliss and creativity from which we draw our inspiration and thereby our experiences.

River Yoga also offers practices in the Shree Vidya tradition, the highest yogic science. These teachings come to us through our founder and teacher, Parvathi Nanda Nath (Kirin Mishra). Every teacher at River Yoga has trained with Parvathi, and continues ongoing study and practice with her whenever possible. We are grateful for all the teachings we have received through the ancient lineages of Shree Vidya and the Saraswati River Yoga tradition. We are also grateful to all those who have brought these teachings to us, including Parvathi and her teachers, Shri Amritanandanatha of Devipuram in Andra Pradesh India and Shree Siddhanti of Tamil Nadu.

Will I lose weight by practicing yoga?

It is possible to lose weight through yoga practice. Yoga brings the body to a natural state restoring proper and optimal functioning of the systems of the body. This can result in weight loss. Most importantly, yoga reclaims your natural and ideal weight when combined with a sensible diet. The physical practice tones muscles and organs and the outer structure of the body is noticeably benefited. Body image and esteem are changed through the practice as we see ourselves as we really are. Any weight loss or gain (as that is appropriate for some people) is a nice by-product of a discipline that is designed to improve your quality of life. If you are concerned about weight loss through your yoga practice, please speak to one of our teachers for suggestions that will support you as you bring your body into a healthy, radiant balance.

How many classes should I take per week?

The simple answer is as many as your life will allow! Know that you really need to take more than one each week. Taking 2-3 classes per week is ideal. Some people are able to take 4 or more which has an amazing effect on body, mind and beyond. The asana practice is different than other physical exercise and you do not have to take a day off as you might with weight training. Resting your muscles and taking breaks periodically is always advisable, but you could safely do a light to moderate practice 7 days a week. With a very intense practice, 6 times a week is the maximum. Choose to rest every now and then, if you have a steady intense practice, on a new or full moon. Know that the asana practice is compatible with all types of exercise and activities. If you like to, you can lift weights, run, swim, walk, horseback ride etc. However, you will find that other types of exercise are not necessary. Yoga is a cardiovascular exercise.

Beginning students will find it relatively easy to raise their heart rate, and certain classes will continue to take the heart rate to an aerobic level. Weight loss aside, reaching an aerobic level is necessary for a healthy heart. Advanced students (that no longer raise their heart rate in class) and students in non-aerobic style classes will still receive a full cardiovascular regimen for their heart through the yoga asanas, particularly shoulderstand. You may supplement with other activities but this is usually unnecessary.

Yoga is truly a complete discipline for your whole body, mind and life. Try supplementing your practice by taking a yoga class that doesn’t actively engage the body, like a philosophy, meditation, or mantra class.