Chair Yoga is still YOGA

Chair yoga at Take Me To The River Yoga
Getting ready for Chair Yoga at Take Me To The River Yoga

Chair Yoga is still YOGA. Still, meaning in the future, as in the past (an adverb). I’m not talking about “still” as an adjective (not moving)! It’s the real deal. When you do yoga in a chair you are STILL doing yoga. You do yoga with all the benefits of movement, breath, and mindfulness. Even if you swear by your uber-active Ashtanga or your hot flow Vinyasa, Chair Yoga may STILL have something to offer you.

We’re still doing Chair Yoga at Take Me To The River Yoga studio in the Wednesday morning 10 am class. It started out with one of my students needing a few more options to the poses in our regular Hatha Yoga practice. She was uncomfortable in our reclined poses. So I combined our favorite yoga poses with Chair Yoga for seated poses, and several options for standing variations using the chair.

As an aside here… people often ask what its like in a typical studio class. My usual response is that it depends on who shows up! My classes do have brief descriptions and titles like Kripalu Yoga, Kripalu Vinyasa Flow, Mindful Yoga, HRV Yoga, Energy Body Yoga, etc. But “It is all Hatha to Me” (I need a t-shirt with this slogan). Hatha Tantric Yoga. Traditional Yoga. Classic Yoga. I teach YOGA to the class. I check in with the students who show up, and adjust the class accordingly. That often means offering several options to the poses, depending on the ease and preference to the anatomy and the energy in the room!

Chair Yoga combines all the elements of a typical Yoga class using the chair as a “prop.” Props like blankets, blocks and straps will be familiar to those students who have practiced yoga. The chair is just another prop. The special prop-erties of the chair are support and comfort for weight, balance and mobility.

Students wary of sitting on the floor, or getting up off the floor come to appreciate the support of a chair in their yoga practice. People with conditions such as ankle, knee or hip pain, low back pain, lack of flexibility, fatigue, shortness of breath may find greater ease by practicing yoga in a chair.

One of the first Chair Yoga practices I experienced was in a 2012 youtube video posted by the Moffitt Cancer Center here in Tampa, Florida. It’s called Gentle Yoga in the Chair. The practice is wonderful and the comments below the video post tell the true story of what this kind of practice can mean for many, many people. I have gone to Chair Yoga school on this video and with many online Chair Yoga videos. Even with a long running personal practice, I find Chair Yoga is still YOGA!

If you relate to the popular yoga meme, “I just came for the Savasana,” you simply must experience Savasana in Chair Yoga. It’s still Savasana!

Saturday Yoga in the Garden

Yoga in the Garden - Saturdays 9:30 - 10 am - Seminole Heights Community Garden
Photo credit: Ellen Leedy Photography

Yoga in the Garden every Saturday 9:30-10 am at the Seminole Heights Community Gardens (SHCG) at 6114 River Terrace in Tampa, FL. That’s just two doors east of Take Me To The River Yoga studio! Every Saturday, Take Me To The River Yoga studio is hosting YOGA in the GARDEN from 9:30-10 am. It’s a real short class, no mats needed, standing poses only, but shoes are recommended.

This is a donation class with proceeds going to the garden, and it’s open to everyone! What a good way to get warmed up and well-stretched for the day, and also to get acquainted with the full organic fabulousness that is the Seminole Heights Community Gardens! The weed pulling pose will change your quads for the better (just kidding!) Come do yoga in the garden and LIKE the Seminole Heights Community Gardens on Facebook, too. #seminoleheightsyoga #tampayoga #takemetotheriveryoga

we are all ONE

We are all ONE. Why not start acting like we are all ONE? Why not practice like we are all ONE? Come to any Take Me To The River Yoga studio class, bring up to 3 of your friends and pay for just ONE. What’s better than BOGO? FBO: Four becomes ONE. Practicing yoga with your friends is relaxing, enjoyable and can bring your posse together in a meaningful way. Like eating dinner out, doing a friends weekend, or throwing a pajama –yoga brings you and your friends together as ONE. Your group of friends will enjoy moving your bodies with asanas, deeply breathing in and breathing out in the practice of pranayama, and mindfully sitting in meditation for the shared experience of yoga.

Tired of feeling separate and separated? Worn out by divisiveness? Nauseous from all the quibbling? Flattened by explosive news? Transfixed by evil? Paralyzed by general ugliness? Confused by who you really are? Unsure of your identity? Here’s a little secret . . . that’s not really so secret. It is something you should know. It is something you DO know. It is something the person who you think you are DOESN’T know. I’ll whisper it now, “we are all ONE.”

International Day of Yoga – Wednesday, June 21

June 21
International Day of Yoga, June 21

What will you be doing on Wednesday, June 21, 2017?
Since June 21 is the International Day of Yoga, take a yoga class. Or participate in a yoga-inspired event. It seems like the best idea is to check out the local yoga studios in Tampa. So that definitely includes yoga classes at Take Me To The River Yoga Studio! Celebrate International Day of Yoga with us. We will have our regular Wednesday classes (10:00-11:15 am and 7:00-8:15 pm).

Which Mudra for this day?
On International Yoga Day we will be practicing Prithivi Mudra, gesture of the Earth. There are several reasons for the choice for this mudra, aside from the obvious! Prithivi means “Earth.” This mudra directs our breath and awareness down through the body for a feeling of being more grounded. Grounding to our Earth in yoga and mudra practice helps us feel stable, secure and safe. It sends the message to our body that we are grounded.

When we are grounded we are better able to inhabit our bodies and connect with our natural world. It is important to love, honor and ground into the Earth right now. It is important to remember how our beautiful Earth supports us. We thrive because our Earth creates a most awesome experience for all Earthlings. We must protect our Earth and tie ourselves closer to its power. We must share in protecting our planet to preserve our own existence. It’s that important!

More about I Day of Yoga
The UN General Assembly declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga in 2014. The idea began at the suggestion of the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi. He addressed the assembly saying, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”


June 21 – International Day of Yoga

InternationalDayOfYogaLogoIn 2014 the prime minster of India, Shri Narendra Modi spoke before the United Nations and called for setting aside a day as “International Day of Yoga.” The date is June 21 and is celebrated all over the world with inspired yoga studios and yoga teachers everywhere celebrating the practice of yoga. Many studios offer free yoga classes and other special events to mark the importance of the practice of yoga in their communities.

Resources to learn more about yoga and International Day of Yoga can be found on the government of India’s page on International Day of Yoga. Particularly helpful is the 44 page pdf document “Common Yoga Protocol” that can also be viewed online as an interactive “flip book.”  The document gives extensive explanations on what yoga is, several pages on asanas, details on pranayama, references to the eight limbs of yoga, health benefits and more.

“Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” – Shri Narendra Modi

InternationalDayOfYogaAsanaRead through the Common Yoga Protocol document and check out the section on asanas. Each asana is clickable to a window that pops us listing the steps of the posture and a  link to a video on how to practice the posture. It is interesting that each asana video comes from a different source. The different videos truly represent yoga in the modern world where we experience a wide range of yoga styles and many different teachers that use both traditional and unique approaches to the postures and to the sharing the practice in a yoga class.

More Yoga Playlists

RauryGodsWhisperMusic sets the mood in just about every situation and it can certainly set the tone for a yoga class. There are as many ways to use music in a yoga class as there are asanas to warm up, build heat, cool down and end in Savasana. The choice to use music ranges from providing background sound to fill in or cover up the sound of heavy breathing, feet slapping the mat, or the sound of puffing and groaning. But music can also begin to move practitioners from posture to posture, touching personal chords that may involve a history with a particular song or a syncopation that rings with emotional frequency.

For yoga practice, my personal preference is to choose a playlist that moves along the lines of the classic yoga class structure starting with centering on the mat. For the playlist below I start the class with the magical, ice-tinkling sound from Bjork. “Frosti” is like a switched on version of the miniature child’s piano. We then move on to ambient house music and then “Strange Overtones” by David Byrne, taking the class into the first stages of warming up. By the time the class is into 16 or 17 minutes it seems just right to rip into Led Zepplein’s “Ramble On” as we begin moving the body into a spiraling, kundalini awakening. Hands clasped overhead, tracing the ceiling with circles and rotating the hips into a first chakra wake up call. Toning it down a bit, after all THAT excitement we move onto “The Seven Souls,” a far out rendition by Material that mashes up the unlikely combination of spoken word by William S. Burroughs and The Notorious B.I.G. backup singers doing the chorus “God save our souls…” At this point we’re a mere 30 minutes into class as Raury, the amazing 18 year old Indigo child from Atlanta sings “God’s Whisper.” Oh, my.

From here, it’s the Black Keys, Kailasa, music from Mali, a touch of Alicia Keys, some melodic Storyhill, back to some ambient chill stuff from Paul Van Dyk, some mystical, groovy Stoppa & Nobby and then grounding down/winding down the class with yoga’s anti-message from Orbital, “Attached.” The whole thing wraps up to a fine finish with Suphala in KCRW’s Jason Bentley remixing of something he calls “Piscean Dreamer.” And it’s off to Savasana we go!

Here’s the playlist. Be sure to check out the links below to sound versions of all of these songs.



If you’d like to sample some of these tracks, listen to them here on soundcloud and youtube (many of these are remixes, personal renditions by fans and are a bit different than the originals, but you’ll get the drift!):

Frosti, Bjork
Saratoga, Ultramarine
Strange Overtones, David Byrne
Happy Day, Talking Heads
Ramble On, Led Zeppelin
The Seven Souls (featuring William S. Burroughs), Material
God’s Whisper, Raury
In Time, The Black Keys
Guru Ghantal, Kailasa
Niger, Mali Music
Lovin U, Alicia Keys
Paradise Lost, Storyhill
Nothing But You, Paul Van Dyk
Sweet Lassi Dub, Stoppa & Nobby
Attached, Orbital
Piscean Dreamer, Suphala

Music credits go to all the artists mentioned in this post. I have purchased each and every one of these songs, along with thousands of other recordings by these artists and others that I have in my personal music collection. I recommend that you support musical artists by actually buying their music, talking about their music with your friends and supporting local and international musicians by going to their concerts and purchasing their music. Music makes a difference!

Dr. Ray Long comes to Tampa Bay

RayLongYogaAnatomyBookCoverDr. Ray Long, MD FRCSC (FRCSC is the designation for Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada) will visit the Tampa Bay area November 7, 8, 9 for an event sponsored by the Suncoast Yoga Teacher’s Association. The multimedia workshop titled “Anatomic Yoga,” will be a great opportunity for yoga teachers and yoga practitioners in Tampa and the surrounding area to get under the skin of the yoga asanas through an intensive peek at anatomy.

The author of several books on yoga anatomy, Ray Long is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who has studied hatha yoga for over two decades and has trained with several yoga masters including B.K.S. Iyengar. His distinctive books are immediately recognizable for the fabulous illustrations by Chris Macivor.

Learn more about yoga anatomy and the work of Ray Long on his website, blog and his “muscle of the week” on Facebook.



Facebook: Bandha Yoga – The Scientific Keys

Yoga Music Playlists

Music is not a necessary element to the practice of yoga. Sometimes music in a yoga class can be distracting in that it is annoying or even worse, if it is so good that you find yourself listening to the music instead of your breath! Whatever the circumstance, music has a way of tapping into our senses and into our emotions. Most everyone has had a profound experience with music through its effect on mood and emotion. Right now you are probably recalling hearing a song that made you incredibly sad, one that kept playing over and over in your mind, a catchy melody that you found yourself humming at some random moment, a song that went perfectly with a ride along the ocean or one that made you jump to your feet to get out on the dance floor.

So it is with care that music for the yoga class is selected carefully. Some yoga teachers play ambient music at a real low volume to act as a soft buffer, others like to play popular or rock music to lighten the spirit and enliven the energy. For me, I gravitate toward music that sets me in mind of the ancient wisdom of yoga. I also like to time my music to start off slow and contemplative, building to high energy and then coming down to a cooling, soothing musical space to carry the class to Savasana. I like an element of surprise in the musical selections, choosing eclectic sources that one might not consider for yoga.

I’d like to share a dozen of my yoga class playlists. Check these out on iTunes or SoundCloud and use them in your own practice. Or, come on over to the Take Me To The River Yoga studio for class and hear them first hand!







The first responsibility of love is to listen

Themes in my yoga classes are often influenced by podcasts that I listen to. One of my favorites is from Tara Brach, a Buddhist teacher combining Western psychology and Eastern spiritual practice. She founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC and has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

I listened to a podcast where Tara was presenting a teaching titled, “Listening to the Song.” It was an appropriate theme for this year’s Valentine season and the message grew so large for me that I continue to excerpt ideas from what she shared.

The full version of Tara Brach’s talk “Listening to the Song” is on her website and can be played as audio or video.

Here are the “Cliff Notes” from her discussion:

  • Paul Tillich quote, “The first responsibility of love is to listen.”
  • Mark Nepo quote, “To listen is to lean in softly with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”ChineseCharacterToListen
  • The Chinese characters that make up the phrase “to listen” include symbols for ear, eyes, undivided attention and heart.

Three energetic conditionings that keep us from listening:
1. Wanting – approval, control, someone or something else, having an agenda
2. Self Protection – need to appear a certain way to others (right, smart, etc.)
3. Inattention – being distracted or “blanking out” when none of our particular wants or fears are being addressed

Gateways to listening:
1. Opening your senses
2. Awakening with undivided attention
3. Invoking a tenderness of heart

The whole discussion combined an approach similar to how and why we practice yoga. We set an intention, we practice, we become very still and listen to our own reaction within our bodies and within our hearts. Listening to ourselves and listening to others is a similar exercise needing no less than 10,000 hours to gain competence.

Tara does not lead us into the final yoga posture of “savasana” near the end of her talk but it would have been wonderful if she would have asked the audience to come into the corpse pose and be still while she red the poem “Lost” by David Wagoner. For it is in our stillness that we find ourselves “here” and bring ourselves in the present moment, listening to the forest that has made a place around us. Now, if we can only let it find us!

by David Wagoner
from Collected Poems 1956-1976 © Indiana University Press.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.


A gift for the Lotus Pond Center for Yoga and Health

Please make a donation toward the purchase of the two gifts to be given to the Lotus Pond Center for Yoga and Health.

The gifts will be presented with love and gratitude by the 2013 Spring Infusion (graduating December) & Immersion (graduating October) 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training classes.

Donations in any amount are acceptable, with the suggested amount being between $25-$40.

We’re still accepting donations.

If you cannot pay online and need to pay in cash or check, please email Tish Ganey at to make arrangements.