Teacher Spotlight: Rachel Haley

Part of our monthly article series from Supersoul Yoga teachers on a variety of relevant topics. We hope you enjoy reading their words and through them, learning more about your teachers and their insights. 

Being With Discomfort

Our world is hanging on tight for another turn of the wheel.  New Year, 2017.  In a time of unknowns, many are seeking anchors to ground the inevitable feelings of uncertainty.  As humans, we often look to material comforts or distractions to mollify our discomfort.  Short-term fixes can be fed by shopping, eating, using drugs and alcohol, social media and other screens, and even things like excessive exercise.  We have become skilled at not feeling, knowing that there are ways and substances to avoid pain.  

As we feed the addiction to have a "pain free" life, we are also burying the inherent contentment and moments of joy that carry us.  The feeling-life is not always bliss, it is honesty.  The honesty is sometimes a slow revelation, sometimes liberating, and sometimes excruciating.  The welcoming of the dark stuff and the ability to sit in the sludge transforms discomfort into strength.  It becomes a learning of the heart and realization of our capacities. 
There is effort in living a bit vulnerable and unsure -- cultivating anchors in times of uncertainty call for us to seek solace outside of addictions and distractions.  When things become dodgy, take a breath and try using one of the following tools.

CONNECT with Human: Reach out to a friend and schedule face to face time.  Make the effort to be curious about them.  Listen intently and ask lots of questions.  Sharing in another's experience can create a comforting heart-tie.

CRY: Don't hold the tears back.  Step out for a few minutes, or a day and release the sadness or fear.  

LAUGH: Through pain, there is powerful medicine in humor.  Spend time with people who can make you laugh and offer lightness to situations that feel oppressive.  It's ok to let the laughter get hysterical; it creates the same release as crying.

CHANGE the view: Perspective shifting is different than escaping.  There is value in stepping away from a situation, geographically and emotionally/mentally.  This could be get-away or vacation, or just a walk in the woods.  A time out without going to a default distraction, like as a substance or media.

SIT: What no one wants to do is to do nothing.  However, feel the discomfort.  Become knowledgeable in identifying the triggers in your experience.  The uncertainty can slowly become less and less frightening as we take an intimate, hard look at pain.  

Gratitude: Flex Your Good-Finding Muscles

Teacher Spotlight: Alexandra Sullivan 

We will be sharing monthly articles from Supersoul Yoga teachers on a variety of relevant topics. We hope you enjoy reading their words and through them, learning more about your teachers and their insights. 

"If you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you." Jon Kabat Zinn

This month I will start a gratitude journal, a daily practice of writing down 5 things I am grateful for each night before bed. At any given moment we seem to have the choice to focus on what's "good" in our lives and in the world or what's not. Unfortunately there's a catch. The human brain has evolved with a negative bias to scan the external environment for threats, a part of our reptilian brain that is wired for survival from predators or other dangers. Cultivating a gratitude practice can encourage my brain to tilt toward looking for, and appreciating, the good stuff around me, in others and in myself.

 "Grateful attention is the key to joy." says Brother David Steindl-Rast, co-founder of a A Network for Grateful Living, "If we can shift our lens to be more cognizant of what's happening for real in the space around us and among the people around us, as opposed to what we're worried about, we're set up for more happiness".

This is not Polyanna talk. Research has shown that it takes five times more positive feedback to the brain to counter the negative bias it has toward seeking out "the bad stuff" in life. The great news is that just as a regular physical yoga practice can recondition my body-mind to be relaxed, strong, stable and flexible, I can train my thinking to see more of the light than the dark, to be more appreciative and less critical, to be open hearted and happy. As one gratitude expert puts it "This doesn't mean that life is perfect; it doesn't ignore complaints, burdens and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life." 

I know it's easy to be grateful when things are going well, the harder part is learning to be grateful when they aren't. So in addition to keeping a gratitude journal this month I will challenge myself to also look for ways of appreciating the not-so-good stuff, remind myself to appreciate others in my everyday life, appreciate myself and become less dependent upon praise from others and use a gratitude tool in difficult situations such as asking myself "what can I appreciate in this situation?" or "what lesson can I learn from this?". 

This way I don't have to wait for Thanksgiving to be grateful, I can experience it everyday this month...without the vegetarian turkey and pumpkin pie!

Alexandra teaches Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm.


Appreciation for Judi Croft

Please join us in sending out hugs of appreciation and love to Judi Croft who is leaving Supersoul Yoga and our town of Chatham next week. She has been teaching the 7am classes in our community since the first yoga studio opened in Chatham over three years ago. Her dedication to her students has been unwavering and her spirit, joy, and compassionate teaching will be missed. We wish her happiness with her family in her new home in Maryland!

Thank you so much Judi for being a vital presence in the Supersoul Yoga community!

Judi's last class will be September 21st.

Teacher Spotlight: Wendy Rusk

Meet Wendy Rusk!

Why do you teach Yoga?  
I teach yoga because it makes me feel very happy and connected to something greater than myself.  
I really enjoy working with kids, and love to share something that brings me so much pleasure with others.

What style/type of yoga do you teach?
I have studied all types of yoga and my style is a vinyasa / flow / ashtanga / goofy-ish thing.  
The students really guide what happens in the class - I am just there to try and read the room and act accordingly.
With the "family" class I have had a 4 year old and a 70 year old in the same class.  Making class fun and getting people moving, stretching and breathing is the goal!  

What is your biggest hope for your students?
To find a moment of peace and self acceptance in class that they can take out into their lives, and to find a love being active and trying new things.
I love the feeling of acceptance in a yoga class - where we are all pulling for one another and not competing - and I want people to feel that community.

Who have been your most influential teachers?
Sondra Loring, Raghunath, Paramananda, Constanza Roldan, Melanie Green.

How has your own practice and teaching evolved?
I started doing yoga at a gym by my office in San Francisco in 1994 and was hooked. It was an era of step-aerobics, mirrors, loud music and spandex and I thought fitness was something to be endured.  Yoga was gentle and warm and acrobatic and spoke to me right away.  I have a squirrel-like disposition so yoga has been crucial for helping me to slow down, breathe and find a way to still my mind.  As I got stronger I enjoyed trying harder poses and loved loosing myself in the class. Yoga is a huge part of my life and I will be doing it as long as I possibly can.  It has brought me many gifts - strength, health, focus, calm, stillness and a wonderful community of like-minded-super-cool people.

How do you stay inspired?
I teach a class to some wonderful teens in Valatie, NY who are in a transitional housing situation.  They are either waiting for foster care, to go back to their homes, or to turn 18 and be on their own.  They have all been though so much, and I find it very rewarding to get to spend time with them and help them find some balance in their chaotic, stressful lives.  The feeling of giving is so overwhelmingly fulfilling and inspiring - it has been the true lesson of yoga in my life.

Teacher Spotlight: Dale Hills

Meet Dale Hills

Why do you teach yoga?
I teach in service of my teachers and my students. Yoga is a centuries old tradition passed down from teacher to student. As I developed my practice and explored the history and philosophies of yoga; it became a natural consequence to then teach. And I have found that developing my classes and teaching my students has matured my own practice and deepened my own understanding. I learn from my students every time I teach. It is such an privilege to be allowed to share what I have been taught. 

What style / type of yoga do you teach?
To answer this, I need to give a little background. I am a retired teacher. Almost all 32 years of teaching English was with 7th and 8th graders. I loved the age because they were all emerging adult readers, writers, and communicators. Now I find I teach students beginning their exploration of yoga. Just like my middle schoolers, I hope to awaken the sense of possibility within. My classes are vinyasa flow classes with careful attention to alignment and self-awareness. We use props to access asanas (postures) with steadiness and ease. It is the same when I teach more proficient students. Each class, I try to give my students something to take with them into their day. 

What is your biggest hope for your students?
People come to yoga for many, many different reasons. Generally, they are looking for something. I hope they find it or something else that is useful. At age 57, I started practicing yoga to feel better in my body. Five and 1/2 years later, I am 35 pounds lighter, one inch taller (truly), healthier than I have ever been, my mind is less frenetic, and my heart is infinitely lighter. Practicing yoga teaches you to find peace within first. I guess you could say world peace is my hope for all beings. Teaching yoga is a contribution to further that end. 

Who have been your most influential teachers?
Dan Hills, the kindest person I know, has a huge influence on my yoga journey because he has been understanding and encouraging every step. Krishna Kumari helped me begin my study of yoga and continues to be a touchstone of support as I continue along my path. From TJ Macchiaroli (Bodhi Spa and Yoga), I have learned and now teach at pace that allows the pose to be found within. With incredible patience, he has helped me deepen my practice on so many important levels. His classes explore the richness of yoga beyond the postures. From Raghunath and Brij (Supersoul Yoga), I have learned alignment, brilliant assists, and the joy of living and loving on this path. I do believe they will teach me to fly. Sondra Loring (Sadhana Center for Yoga and Meditation) had my heart the first time she read a poem in class. Poetry is often the essence of an experience shared by the poet and made whole by the reader. Each class, Sondra creates the poetry of yoga through inspirational text, artful asana sequencing richly set to music, and a deft touch- all of which we interpret with our own body, mind, and heart. Her classes are a mindful path to wholeness. And I must add, when either Sondra or Raghunath chant, my heart just soars. 
My teachers live as they have been taught, and they inspire me to do the same. It is an incredible honor to be their student. 

How has your own practice and teaching evolved?
My practice is one of both slow evolution and slow devolution. It has evolved as I have learned the truths to be learned from the asanas, my breath, my mind, and my heart. And for each truth I learned, there was always something I had to unlearn. The same is true of my teaching. When I first began teaching yoga, I had pages of notes prepared for my classes . I had so much I wanted to share. I still do, but now I talk to the students who show up. How are they today? I watch as they warm up and adjust my plans accordingly. After all, my classes are dedicated to their experience. Much of the time, yoga is about letting go of what does not serve. 

How do you stay inspired? 
My teachers inspire me every time I take a class. I watch. I learn. And I borrow... 
My students inspire me every time I teach a class. I watch. I learn. And I give back... 
Life inspires me every time I pause. I watch. I learn. And I am grateful. 

Teacher Spotlight: Alec Butterfield

Meet Alec Butterfield, Yoga Teacher & Youth Mentor

Why do you teach yoga? 
Teaching has, for me, become a natural progression to constantly asking myself how am I best suited to serve others. This idea of coming together for a yoga class is a very modern one. On the mat, we all come from different places. In our yogasana, we go to so many different places. I teach in celebration of this!
What style/type of yoga do you teach?
At Supersoul, I lead moderate Vinyasa classes. Through sequences of deep hip, hamstring, and heart openings, we build on the foundation of modern Ashtanga (Eight Limbed) Vinyasa Yoga.
What is your biggest hope for your students?
I hope my students find for themselves over and over again that maitri, the practice of love and compassion for the self, is more important than the most advanced physical contortion. Who we once were, who we want to be, or who we can never be brings us to the most challenging yogasana of them all: being who we are, now!
Who have been your most influential teachers?
Sondra Loring, TJ Macchiaroli, and Raghunath & Brij Cappo have each impacted me profoundly, and they are my direct links to Sri Pattabi Jois, Sri Dharma Mittra, and Radhanath Swami, respectively. Along with these and many other public figures, I draw from BKS Iyengar, T. Krishnamacharya, Pema Chodron, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan.
How has your own practice and teaching evolved?
Yoga has given me control in my life, not always to make the change I want, but allows me to be ok with who and where I am moment-to-moment. Once, I thought of yoga as a great way to get "in shape" or "fit." Now, years later, I see my practice as a perpetual cultivation of my spiritual self. I constantly look to apply my Self day to day, regardless of what I'm doing.
At first, teaching meant simply doing what I like to do. Then I started to weave in other subject fields, such as current events, or human biology. I love giving a dharma talk talking about cells and cosmology, and their relevance to yoga. Now, teaching is to me a joy in the personal journeys each one of us is on. Let us revel in coming together while we travel!
How do you stay inspired?
Our lives are inextricably physical. These days, just touching your phone the right way can make just about anything happen. This is a very heady experience. In fact, so can exercise, sports, making money and chasing success, pleasure, comfort and ease and so on. It's not our fault that we live such heady lives, it is all around us in New York and beyond. Herein lies a great inspiration: come home to the body. For me, it is paramount to turn my mind to my body and listen to it, and to engage in the mind/body conversation.
There are countless ways I stay inspired. All I have to do is look around me and look inside myself. It is a blessing that so many things in my life bring spiritual awakening. On the radio I hear about a scientific discovery backing up what is, in essence, an ancient teaching. I make a home cooked meal and share it with someone. I get into deep conversations in the supermarket and at the gas station. I sing and chant. I study human biology and the brain. I count my good fortunes. I ask myself the questions that all the great religions and scientific communities have always asked: Who are we? Why are we here? What are we supposed to do?
At the end of the day, what I take for mere consciousness, is really inspiration of a divine sort. I am looking for the me in you. 

Teacher Spotlight: Raghunath Cappo

Meet Raghunath Cappo, Yoga Teacher and Co-Owner of Supersoul Yoga  

Why do you teach yoga? 
I fell in love with India and yoga culture and lifestyle when I was about 20, and have been passionate about studying it and teaching ever since.

What style/type of yoga do you teach? 
I teach a strong vinyasa style approach with advanced asanas, arm balances, and tricky transitions. I love arm balances and handstands...that being said the entire class is generally peppered with Bhakti inspired philosophy, stories, and chanting in an encouraging but non-competitive atmosphere. Classes are tough but very fun.

What is your biggest hope for your students? 
To be happier.

Who have been your most influential teachers?
Radhanath Swami is my teacher. His book, A Journey Home: Autobiography of an American Swami, is such a contemporary classic! It reminded me of Autobiography of a Yogi, which I read and loved in my late teens.  I'm 50, so when I started yoga in my late teens there weren't many yoga studios around. I was fortunate enough to stumble into Dharma Mittra's Yoga studio when it was in Greenwich Village. Those classes changed me but his demeanor as an urban sadhu also touched my heart.

How has your own practice and teaching evolved? 
I still like to challenge myself but have become less competitive with myself. It's one thing to compete with others but self competition can also be exhausting.

How do you stay inspired?
The trick to staying inspired is to hang out with people that inspire you. I also like to spend time outside...nature itself is inspirational...and I love to sing kirtan...I find that so inspiring!

Teacher Spotlight: Jennifer Capala

Meet Jennifer Capala

Why do you teach yoga?  
It was never my intention to become a yoga instructor but the practice of yoga is full of surprises and when I realized during my training what a powerful gift yoga truly is, I knew I had to do something to pass it on.  Yoga is a technique with extraordinary physical benefits but in subtle powerful ways it benefits the universe as a whole and in the end that is why I teach.  It is my small offering which will hopefully help make the universal community just a little bit better.  That yoga has taken hold in our modern culture is validation that this sweet, powerful, ancient technique is exactly what society needs at this time and should be passed on.    

What style/type of yoga do you teach?  
I teach using the Vinyasa style of yoga.  My focus is the importance of the connection of breath and movement, which I hope will allow the students to experience the joy of a moving meditation. Focusing on your breath is a powerful form of meditation but when breath and movement are connected the subtle effects on one's sense of well-being is profound.

What's your biggest hope for your students? 
My biggest hope for my students is to find the desire to keep yoga as a life practice.  I read from and recommend the readings of Donna Farhi because she presents yoga is a straightforward way which makes the practice less mysterious and more approachable as a life practice.  

Who are your most influential teachers?  
My most influential teachers have been Parmananda, the former owner of Govinda in Chatham, and of course, Supersoul co-founder Raghunath, and Sondra Loring, owner of Sadhana in Hudson. Parmananda presented yoga in a sincere, playful, yet challenging way which sparked my interest to delve deeper.  Raghunath has inspired me to challenge myself physically and to explore the harmonium, whereas Sondra is my inspiration to explore the history and philosophy of Yoga.  To have study all too briefly with this dynamic duo will be one of the greatest gifts of my life.  

How has your practice and teaching evolved? 
Staying physically active as a way to stay healthy and have fun has always been important to me. As many do, I originally explored yoga for the physical benefits.  It wasn't until recently that the bigger picture of yoga came into focus for me. When I realized that yoga could also support me mentally and spiritually I was ready to take yoga to a higher level and participate in a teacher training program.  I have never considered myself a spiritual person but most recently the inescapable awareness of our interconnectedness has made me look at the universe in an entirely new way which is immensely humbling. 

How do you stay inspired?  
My inspiration comes from the belief that yoga is sneaky and full of surprises and realizing that if one keeps the practice as a life long exploration and inquiry the gifts will be many. I also believe that the art of yoga is meant to be passed on and being in a position to teach keeps me inspired to study even deeper so that I can continue to grow and be the best teacher possible.