In addition to being a yoga instructor, Laurie is a writer. Contact her for additional published writing samples and more information about screenplays.
The following article appeared in THE REDDING PILOT, March 2005
Power Yoga Workshop gets Attention in Georgetown
By Laurie Mayper
"It's not about twisting yourself into a pretzel. Yoga is about learning to pay attention," Beryl Bender Birch told a group of yogis at The Yoga Shala in Georgetown on Wednesday night. Birch, best-selling author of "Power Yoga" and "Beyond Power Yoga," conducts yoga workshops, classes, and teacher trainings nationwide.
Her visit to Georgetown is only one of two in Connecticut this year. The other Connecticut studio is in Madison, then she travels to Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington, DC, Orlando, Santa Fe, and Virginia Beach.
Power yoga, also called astanga yoga, is a challenging sequence of postures, with connecting movements which flow together with a strong breathing technique, called ujjayi, meaning powerful victory. Widely considered to be the leading expert of the astanga style of yoga is Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India, who has been teaching the practice since 1937. Pattabhi Jois taught the series to his first American student in India in 1972, who taught it to Birch in 1980.
Thirty people attended the 3-hour workshop, called "Celebrating Impermanence," including serious students of all levels and a few yoga teachers. The majority of the participants are regular students of The Yoga Shala, who live in Redding, Georgetown, Wilton, and Weston. Attendees also came from as far as Pound Ridge and South Salem, NY and Roxbury, New Fairfield, New Haven, and Norwalk, CT.
The presentation began with a discussion of why the attendees do yoga. Practice of yoga, Birch explained, is effort toward steadiness of mind. Realistically, she continued, we can’t suppress thought, but we can focus and pay attention to the present. The postures prepare us to pay attention. When asked why they practice astanga yoga, a physically demanding style of yoga, participants responded, "it’s fun," and "it’s a challenge."
The workshop contained a traditional astanga class, beginning with an invocation chant, followed by sun salutations, a series of forward and back bending movements designed to warm up the body. Next came a vigorous series of standing postures, sitting poses, backbends, and arm balances. Then followed the closing sequence, which included such poses as shoulderstand and headstand. The class concluded with a well-earned relaxation pose, lying on the back.
The event closed with discussion of why participants choose to practice together in a class setting, as opposed to alone at home. Responses reflected the sense of community, in supporting one another in efforts to remove obstacles, in both the challenging practice and in life. A question arose about fitting in yoga with other sports and activities. Birch responded, "To do yoga, you don’t have to be still in the rest of your life. Yoga can support other activities that bring you joy." She explained, regular practice four or five days per week will give "greater flexibility, range of motion, and focus in other activities, such as running or skiing. Three minutes of yoga stretches after sports can help prevent stiffness," she said. Birch is truly an expert on combining yoga with athletics; she began her career as a yoga teacher in Colorado in 1971, teaching yoga to skiers. She first began to teach astanga in New York City at the New York Road Runners Club in the early 1980’s, where she coined the term "power yoga" to convey the athletic nature of the practice to the runners.
Participants were very enthusiastic about the event. Carol Burr of Redding, who has practiced yoga for 6 years, the last 2 years at The Yoga Shala, said it was "fantastic." She said Birch is, "knowledgeable and a pleasure to listen to; she makes it real, not mysterious." She said the energy in the room with such a huge group was amazing; the "energy helped you continue, even though you’re exhausted."
Marlene Tate-Tower, of Redding, absolutely loved the workshop. She has been doing yoga at the studio for about 6 months, at first just for exercise, but then found it helped her focus. She explained, "with four kids, my head and my feet are rarely in the same place. When I practice, it’s the only time I’m in the moment. It’s great just to be where I am."
Studio owner, Valerie Schneiderman, was very pleased with the presentation. For the second year in a row, the workshop was full, with a waiting list. The Yoga Shala specializes in astanga yoga and other complimentary yoga styles, and welcomes students of all levels.
Basil Jones, one of the instructors at The Yoga Shala related, "it was a pleasure to be immersed in such great spirit and energy at this workshop. As a yoga instructor, I gained tremendous insight into the process of supporting students in their practice through her mantra, ‘stay connected to your breath’. I thought Beryl did such a wonderful job of communicating the heart of yoga to us all...that the practice should compliment our lifestyles by bolstering us in our growth and discovery of our radiant selves." He continued, "Beryl helped us see that we can discover that seed inside of ourselves...the seed of our own truth. Through Beryl's wisdom, I rose the next day feeling awake to the clarity which allows me to keep that seed in the palm of my hand as I prepared to teach my students and help them too discover their own."###
The following article appeared in HAT CITY ENTERTAINMENT,
Danbury's Source for Live Entertainment, on 6/20/06
by Jaime Blantin
I have found and put into practice one of the greatest workout classes I've done to date.
Yoga-Pilates Fusion taught by Laurie Mayper at YogaSpace in Brookfield has strengthened my core, stretched my limbs and warmly patted my spirit and soul.
This fusion class is so fundamentally focused on the body that it's difficult not to involve the spirit. The class begins in a type of traditional yoga-esque way with a bit of a meditation and a short inspirational reading; either poetry written by Mayper or passages from meditation or yoga related books.
Mayper explains, "Yoga-Pilates Fusion is designed for people who want the mind, body and spirit benefits of yoga, but also want a bit of a workout as well." This expectation has been dutifully met by the knowledgeable yet gentle teacher Mayper. She knows the importance of the mind to body connection resulting in many people seeking and has come to find in this particular class.
Mayper held positions in, "diverse industries in the corporate arena." After a decision in 2000 to leave a career in marketing management to spend more time with her children Mayper began to explore a career that would develop, "a better work-life balance." She explains that her classes help to, "integrate a deadline driven, results orientation with yogic concepts such as contentment and non-attachment," and believes, "the classes attempt to help the students do just this and most importantly enjoy the journey along the way."
The Yoga-Pilates Fusion classes are 75 minutes long and include a gentle inspirational moment early on that extends into moderate exercise, meaning it's not quite for beginners. Most students in the class are familiar with either the practice of yoga or Pilates. However, Mayper has no trouble introducing variations of the poses in order to accommodate those who have not practiced before or who are slowly introducing their bodies to this form of exercise.
"Pilates’ segments focus on activating the core muscles of the abdominals, buttocks and lower back. Although yoga and Pilates traditionally have different intentions, they are combined to meet the needs of the class," explains Mayper. “I have not yet met a pose that doesn't have at least three modifications. This class doesn't focus on the perfect position, just positions that feel joyous to the body.” Mayper extends to the class that you may not look perfect the first few times you try this class; the poses are not for looking great. It's the practice of the pose that connects the mind and body and learning comes with time.
Mayper is taking this Yoga-Pilates Fusion class on the road; the class at YogaSpace in Brookfield is every Friday from 12:15 p.m.-1:30 p.m. The class is however new at the Redding Community Center, registration is necessary and classes began May 8. However, students may join mid-session for a pro-rated fee and this class takes place on Mondays 9:00-10:15 a.m. For more information on classes and upcoming events please check out Maypers website at InnerFlameYoga.com.