lessons learned: A ParaYoga Immersion at Willow Street Yoga Center

It’s been three weeks since I snuck away to study again with my teacher — Yogarupa Rod Stryker — at Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.  For a gal who prioritizes yoga, community building and travel as regular parts of her life, these opportunities are an extra special treat. But this trip was incredibly needed for a variety of reasons.

ParaYoga collage 1

The immersion started on a Friday with the Gheranda Samahita Immersiona day long dive into an ancient text that deeply influenced and shaped ParaYoga. A theme for the weekend seemed to quickly arrive that morning, summed up by a quote by Thomas Hobbes posted by Yoga International that I saw during the weekend: “The first and fundamental law of nature is to seek peace and follow it.” 

hello my name is

I’ll admit: in the months leading up to this weekend, my personal practice would be called, at best, sporadic. I did my best to commit to a daily meditation for ten minutes, but was derailed easily. (This YogaGlo video of Rod’s is my go-to — a great place to start if you’re new to meditation.) There was no regularity to my physical asana practice and my additional studies/reading was put on the bookshelf.

I am going to cut myself some slack here as there’s been a great deal of change in my professional and personal life this summer. A new full time job and settling into a new yoga teaching schedule, plus throw in a busy social calendar and trying to sell our house — one can easily understand how something like a self-care and self-development practice could get loss in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, it has also been a season of loss — two close friends from high school passing away this summer not easy by any means. My great aunt passed away last month (the week of the immersion actually) and I knew many others who were dealing with ill loved ones and grieving in their own lives. This hyper sensitive soul was physically feeling the pain from all that sadness.

I arrived in D.C. that weekend emotionally broken down — a bit lost myself. I knew it was time to move on, but needed a reminder of the tools to do so. It was all very fitting that Rod dove into the Awakening the True Power of Yoga on Saturday morning, where he took time to guide us through Moon, Sun & Fire practices — and in that order. That’s when that Thomas Hobbes quote — and Rod’s teaching especially — started to reveal its magic as the hundred (ish?) people at Willow Street that weekend eased into finding the light within themselves.

parayoga yogitea saying

We worked through a Moon practice Saturday morning, a Sun practice Saturday afternoon and a Fire practice Sunday morning. By the end of the progression, I found myself emotionally cracked open again, but in the way where I was ready to receive the opportunities of life that were being presented me. I was no longer paralyzed by fear, by “what if?”  Instead, the question became “what’s next?” and I was ready to answer it.

Being and staying open was the key to this transformation. I think of when I was younger and just starting to plan special events, I would hesitate to ask for help, thinking I could handle all the details myself. I learned quickly that wasn’t the case, and by asking for help, I was able to accomplish tasks, achieve goals faster. I have to remind myself to do this in my own life — and with my yoga.

During the day on Sunday, I had the chance to chat with Rod one-on-one about some of what had been going on in my life. By the end of that afternoon and his Asana & Contemplation to Access Intuition & Inner Guidance session, my teacher shared some incredibly helpful guidance on what I could focus on next in my personal practice. If I would have sat their on my mat that day and not said a word (first to Pat, one of the teaching assistants that weekend; next to a fellow student — both who gave me some encouragement open up & share), I wouldn’t be three weeks into a daily japa based meditation practice and a deeper commitment to my studies today. Putting myself out there and asking for the help I needed was the bravest thing I could do for myself that weekend, and I am grateful I did just that.

Three days and eighteen pages of notes later, the main lesson I was left with was apparent:

ParaYoga I have more work to do

At a previous training where I studied with Rod, he spoke of how he travels to study with his teacher at least once a year. Since they are separated  geographically, this journey is incredibility meaningful for a variety of reasons — in the very least, to rekindle the excitement towards a personal practice. I find this to be true each time I visit Yogarupa. My knowledge base and my faith in the sciences of yoga and tantra expand. I’m again presented with the reminder that we have the tools to create peace, confidence and transformation in our own lives. Why wouldn’t we tap into them to find the best versions of ourselves on a regular basis?  Even in the times when we “forget” we already have the tools, we need to know it’s okay to ask for help to get us back on the path. So accept that loving nudge, that kind encouragement. Allow yourself to move on to bigger and brighter things. That’s my plan, at least.

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This entry was posted in Yoga.

TOMORROW: Join me for #cleYPweek “Night Time Grind” Yoga at Evolution Yoga

Have you heard of Engage! Cleveland? Founded in 2012, this non-profit is “a resource for Cleveland’s young professionals to connect them to the organizations, nonprofits, events, businesses and individuals to help them become better integrated to the city.” (from their website) Sounds great, right?

It only gets better as EC is hosting its 2nd annual Cleveland Young Professionals Week (AKA #CleYPWeek) from June 1-6… hey, that’s this week!


There are plenty of events that are taking place this week, including Rise and Grind workouts, Lunch and Learns, Network After Work and Night Grind Workouts… including yoga with yours truly.

Tomorrow night (Wednesday 6/3), join me at Evolution Yoga (at 4640 Richmond Rd., Warrensville Heights, OH 44128 — Google Map here) for a vinyasa “Sweet Heat Flow” yoga class. Class starts at 7:30pm, is geared to all levels, and cost is only $5 — it includes a NOOMA drink for the ride home.

Register in advance to save your spot at the Engage! Cleveland website.

Support a good cause and follow Engage! Cleveland’s website, as well as on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram at @engagecleveland.  And come on out for some yoga tomorrow night at Evo!

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on the mat: Prana Shakti ParaYoga Master Training at Flying Dog Ranch

Following my Instagram last week got you another round of vegetarian meals, yoga mats and training manuals shots. It could only mean one thing: I was off at another ParaYoga master yoga training session — this one in Carbondale, Colorado.

carbondale 2014 Collage

My yoga-teaching partner-in-crime, Kevin (pictured in the last photo in the collage above), joined me for another adventure out West. I had never spent much time in the state (other than a layover at the Denver airport), but I can now say that Colorado didn’t disappoint.

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 Our rental outfitted with our own ranch and horses. Best homeaway.com property ever.

So while we enjoyed all that the valley near Aspen had to offer, we had work to do. The 5-day “Prana Shakti” Intensive lead by ParaYoga’s founder, master teacher Rod Stryker, was just as stimulating, inspiring and educational as the other sessions I’ve experienced. (He is the same teacher who lead The Four Desires immersion we attended in Cincinnatti in September 2013 and the Tantra Shakti master training we attended in California this April.)

The intensive description from the ParaYoga website: “Prana is the force of life. In yoga it is everything essential. Without its grace, transformation would literally be impossible. The science of Prana (Prana Vidya) is the knowledge of awakening the fullest potential of yoga and life.“ 


The time spent at the Flying Dog Ranch (pictured above – from my IG) were more than just a “yoga retreat” even though it might sound like one: every morning started off with some sort of grounding practice (meditation and/or chanting mostly), followed by a lecture then an extended practice with asana, pranayama (breath work) and meditation.  Our lunch break — which was catered by Rod’s wife’s catering company — was filled with some of the best vegetarian meals a yogi could hope for, plus plenty of opportunity to connect with the rest of the ParaYoga community members (something I greatly appreciated and felt a tad bit lacking during our visit to Berkeley this spring). We’d then come back for another four or so hours of lectures, group work and more practices for the afternoon. As you could imagine, there was a lot of information to soak in.

Five days and thirty pages of handwritten notes later, I put away my notebook (vowing to bring my MacBook next time), considering all the lessons of what this practice of yoga, tantra and ancient teachings meant for me at this time in my life.

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As you can imagine, it’s hard to figure out which of those many lessons to start with after completing a training like this. You want to come home and implement everything immediately. That awesome sun salutation variation you learned during a kundalini practice. The various ways to manipulate the breath to help move energy. How you can take your rekindled excitement for your own personal practice back to Cleveland with you.  

But to start, the lesson from this training that will be easiest to implement/recommit to was that thought follows energy and energy follows thought.  That would be a #whatyoubelieveyoucreate FTW.  Change your thinking. Change your world. It’s that simple. But first, let me start with Northeastern Ohio. Watch out, Cleveland — I’m coming for ya…

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