Monthly Archives: August 2009

Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy

Recently I completed Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) Level 1 Training. This training has made such an impact on my life that I wanted to share some highlights.

I’ll begin with a quick explanation of PRYT. Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a combination of yoga techniques and psychology to encourage a deeper connection with the self. Therapy sessions are one-on-one, last one to two hours, and include assisted yoga postures, breath work, and non-directive dialogue. The dialogue is led entirely by the client and not influenced at all by the therapist, whose sole task is to continue to provide the client with opportunities to express her feelings at that precise moment.

Michael Lee is the founder of this healing technique, which was established in 1986 while he was a resident at Kripalu. Through his personal experience and knowledge of yoga and psychology, he was able to create a new approach to mind-body healing.

I was drawn to Phoenix Rising because of the combination of yoga and psychology and my personal experiences in yoga classes where shoulder-opening poses would cause me to cry. I couldn’t understand where the tears came from and have wanted to get to the root of the cause. However, I realized that traditional psychotherapy would not uncover the mind-body connection; Phoenix Rising takes into account the whole person and creates an environment where you can explore the emotions that are stored so deeply in your body.

My curiosity and passion then took me to Kripalu where I took the 6-day, Level 1, PRYT Training. The training was amazing, and I feel very lucky to have had two incredibly compassionate teachers. Karen Hasskarl, the teacher leading the training session, is the Co-director of Phoenix Rising. Her kindnesses, passion, joy, and knowledge makes her one of the most inspiring teachers I have ever encountered. After the weeklong training I now feel thoroughly educated on the basics of Phoenix Rising, but I remain curious and thirsty for more knowledge – that is what Level 2 and 3 trainings are for!

Mandy Sergent was assistant teaching with Karen, and we were so lucky to have her with us. Mandy is a yoga instructor, yoga therapist, and holistic health counselor. As all of the work was done in pairs it was beneficial to have her as our 6th group member, and partnering with her helped us to receive an understanding of the work with a practicing yoga therapist.

As an introvert I was pleased that the training group was small. There were only four other people so we were able to share and connect on a deeper level than we would have with a group of 20+. (You can see all the students and teachers in the photo above.) The safety and trust that I felt during the training allowed me to let my authentic self out and not worry what everyone thought of me. I felt free to burst into laughter or tears and was not embarrassed by my behavior. I often find that it is too easy to hold myself back, closely monitor all my words and actions, and try to please all those around me.

This week enabled me to see again that I can be smiling, happy, and free. I know that this is not going to be how I feel at all times, but now that I know it is possible it will be easier to keep this feeling close and not let it get away. The laughter and the overflowing happiness I felt reinforced my passion and desire to share these methods with others. I want the world to feel that same uninhibited joy that comes with releasing a well of emotions.

One morning I woke up to find myself situated in one of the yoga poses we had been practicing in the training! I also remembered moving in and out of the poses while I was sleeping and dreaming that I was having a Phoenix Rising session. Even in my sleep it was a powerful experience; I woke up refreshed, relaxed, and energized for my day.

Although my experience was a form of liberation through laughter, these sessions can be very different for everyone. The sessions can bring about fear, anger, joy, and countless other emotions across the spectrum; however, I highly recommend you try a few sessions if you are working through a difficult time or are searching for more understanding of your body and mind. (Click here to find a practitioner in your area.)





Kripalu is a hidden paradise for yogis, spiritual seekers, and those desiring time for reflection. The Kripalu center for yoga & health is located in charming Stockbridge, MA, hidden away from bustling towns and cities. The untouched purity of the Berkshires rings true across the 300 acres surrounding the Kripalu buildings.

You can travel to Kripalu for a retreat & renewal to let go of stress, for a professional training program, or programs directed by the leaders in the yoga, health, and wellness industries.  No matter which program you choose, there are daily yoga classes in the mornings and afternoons. If the class times don’t work for you due to your program schedule you can also look into Personal Yoga Space, where there are certain program rooms available for your use. Classes are Kripalu style: gentle, moderate, or vigorous. The classes were relaxing, but I craved the Yoga Works style or any yoga class that had at least 2 sun salutations. I didn’t know how much my body enjoyed those movements for building heat until they were no longer a part of class. An alternative is the Kripalu YogaDance offered over lunchtime. YogaDance blends stretching, yoga, and dance for a low-impact aerobic exercise. Due to my program schedule I was unable to make it to a class, but everyone I spoke to loved YogaDance. I’ll have to try it next time!

The amenities are many, and if your schedule is packed you may not find time to enjoy them all. There is a sauna, whirlpool, fitness room, café, shop, lounge, meditation room, solarium, and sunroom. In each location around the building you will find peace and quiet so you can relax and reflect.

There are evening programs at Kripalu 365 days a year. The programs range from chanting, concerts, and movies, to educational speakers. One evening program that moved me was the belly dancing. During my week at Kripalu there was a program called ‘Wild Hips Gypsy Heart: Belly dance as Self-Empowerment’. The teacher of this program, who has been belly dancing since she was 7, mesmerized the crowd as she moved and balanced her body in ways that I have never seen before. Once her beautiful show was over, her 22 students went on stage to perform what they had learned in the workshop. What touched me so deeply was the courage of these 22 women who had been belly dancers for all of 3 days to be on stage and dance! They were all so beautiful and I was so proud of all of them even though I didn’t know any of the women.

Dining at Kripalu makes you feel so healthy that it is hard to know what to do when you get home and don’t have time to make the very delicious yet healthy meals you’ve grown accustomed to. There is always something for everyone, either at the main buffet, Buddha Bar, or at the Sandwich Bar. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are offered at each meal. The breakfast is the only meal that is silent, which can be a serene way to start your day. If you prefer to talk at breakfast you always can bring your food outside, to your room, or to the café. As a coffee addict I was so please to know that you can purchase coffee at the café. It is not available till 7:30 am, which is difficult for those early risers looking for their fix. However, I can’t complain as I am just happy it is available!

The cost of your stay can be inexpensive or expensive if you choose a private bath, but no matter the sleeping arrangements you choose, all of your meals are included. Accommodations range from dormitory style to private rooms. In dormitory rooms there are 8-22 people, bunk beds, and a shared hall bath (2 nights = $190). Standard rooms are for double occupancy with twin or queen size beds, and a shared hall bath (2 nights = $220-274). Standard Plus rooms are for double or single occupancy, twin or queen size beds, and shared hall bath (2 nights = $374). There are also Standard Plus rooms with private baths for single or double occupancy (2 nights = $416-500, double) (2 nights = $612-730, single). I have been pleased with the accommodations, the stark décor lends to the retreat feel.

Outside, as well as the inside Kripalu, there is plenty for you to explore. There are many trails and parks nearby. The Labyrinth is a personal favorite to take time to meditate and reflect. Another soothing destination is the Lakefront, not only is there a beautiful view of it from the building, but when gazing at the lake the stillness of the water helps to still the mind.

The serenity of Kripalu allows you to fully recharge. The seamless movement from one workshop to the next allows for freedom to enjoy everything rather than stress about what to do, how to do it, and where to do it. The large connected community and compassion everyone shares creates a beautiful, nonjudgmental, open environment. If only we could all keep these feelings of serenity, compassion, and respect for others and ourselves when we return to our chaotic lives.




Being mindful…

For those of you who know me one of my vices is coffee. One of my favorite things to do in the morning is have a nice steaming hot cup of coffee. I usually only have 1 or 1.5 cups, which helps me justify this addiction, its a “small one”. In addition to this coffee addiction without fail I spill a good amount of the coffee on myself and sometimes on the floor. So in reality not much of the coffee goes into my mouth, but this is a sort of ritual I have had for many years now. As I try to live my life more mindfully, one of the mindful acts I am trying is to not spill my coffee. This morning when I went to get my cup of coffee I found that there was no lid for my cup, so I had to walk down 2 flights of stairs and a long hallway with an uncovered cup of coffee. It sounds like nothing, but if this was a few years ago the entire cup would have been on the floor and I would be going back for seconds. However, I am proud to say that today I took the time to walk mindfully and make it back to my desk without any casualties. It did take me three times as long, but it was good practice. The art of living and being mindful is something that needs to trickle into every aspect of your life. Start simply, with how you carry your coffee or how you enjoy your morning oatmeal or how you practice your surya namaskaras. Whatever it may be that you practice mindfulness is a way for you to start taking one small step to a more present life.