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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yoga Voyages: Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre Vancouver

If you have been to a wonderful place on the planet to practice yoga, send me your guest post in 200 words or so and a few pictures. Let's share this transformative practice with every human being that wants to know.

In Vancouver we have so many wonderful choices about where to go to practice yoga. Almost every style and lineage is represented here and even yogis and yoginis from the suburbs no longer have to travel in to Kitsilano to find a yoga class, but can practice in their communities, in Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, White Rock, Maple Ridge, Mission and more.

If you like classical hatha yoga in a bright pranic room filled with inner and outer light, try the Sivananda Centre at 48th and Victoria. The studio is small, about 700 sqare feet, with a bank of windows along the east wall and heirloom carpets on the floors in the form of mandalas. The second floor view looks over the parking lot and the rooftops of the next-block neighbours, so as we prepare to practice we see sky, sunset bronzing clouds, cherry trees in springtime, and sometimes on a clear day a distant snowy glimpse of Mount Baker.

The Sivananda practice is meditative and relaxing, with variations to suit all levels of practice. Here we begin as we end, relaxing on the back in Savasana and allowing the mind to settle into stillness and inner focus. We chant the opening mantras, ancient Sanskrit verses which are energetic keys embodying a certain power of sound, and begin pranayama. In every class we practice the Shining Skull Breath, Kapalabhati, and the Alternate Nostril Breathing, Anuloma Viloma. These breath practices purify and balance the energy system and have healing physical effects as well.

Three to six pairs of Sun Salutations bring the class into unison with synchronized motion, breath, and mental focus. They stretch all the major muscles, get the blood moving to every cell and organ, and open and lubricate all the joints to increase flexibility and strength.

The class moves through a series of asanas that are arranged to open the energy system from the top of the head down through the seven main spinal chakras, or energy centres. At the same time these postures fold the spine forward and bend it back, squeezing and then stretching all the organs, and keeping the spine flexible as we age. These postures include headstand for those who practice it or want to learn it, shoulderstand, plough, bridge, fish, forward fold, slide, cobra, locust, bow, half twist, crow, standing forward fold, triangle, tree and sometimes other asanas for variation and growth of the practice.

Because we hold the postures for ten breaths or longer and relax in Savasana in between, there is a deep feeling of stillness in the Sivananda class. The class can be very strenuous without being busy. By the end of the practice, final relaxation feels like paradise.

This is a wonderful studio to come to in the late afternoon or evening as day turns to darkness, and the thoughts, like the crows alighting to roost in the cherry trees, come to stillness. Make a point to visit for a yoga class or for Satsang, meditation and chanting, on Sundays at 6 pm. Plan to attend the Free Yoga and Open House Days on Saturday, November 1 and Saturday, December 6 from 12:30-5:00 pm with sample yoga, meditation and chanting classes, door prizes and vegetarian refreshments.
Regular schedule and rates are on line at:

Mats and equipment are there. Parking is free. It is easy to reach by bus #20 from Commercial Station (15 minutes) and by bus#49 UBC from Metrotown (10 minutes).

2010 East 48th Avenue suite 280, Vancouver V5P 1R8 604-321-9039

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