Barrie Raffel Yoga

“I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible enough” is the phrase I hear most often when meeting someone new, but I love yoga precisely because it is “come as you are.” Everyone has ways of being flexible or inflexible beyond the realm of just the yoga poses. I enjoy working with people of all ages, sizes, backgrounds, learning styles, and, yes—varying degrees of “flexibility.”

In his poem “Lost,” David Wagoner writes: “Wherever you are is called Here.” That line expresses exactly how I think and feel about the yoga practice. I encourage each person to find their own natural alignment and breath, and we always try to maintain some sense of humor about our limitations, whatever they may be.

My Inspiration
Having been a modern dancer for many years, I have gravitated toward practices that involve movement. So, like many others, I started taking yoga classes with the body in mind. At the time I began yoga, I was not physically well. I wondered how to warm up for dance rehearsals without having to put out the same degree of physical energy I would in a dance class. There was something in the yoga classes that pulled me in—there was time to observe, new approaches such as keeping my body, mind, and heart “suggestible,” as renowned yoga teacher Donna Farhi calls it. It was like reading a passage in a book—something I had only previously thought of in a visceral, nonverbal way.

My Training
In 1997 I completed a teacher training course with Cyndi Lee of Om Yoga, which opened up so many new ways of thinking for me. It was also my first encounter with Buddhist practices. I began to teach privately and at Om Yoga. I continued to take short workshops and trainings with incredible teachers including Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Genny Kapuler, Jeanne Marie Derrick, Rodney Yee, Roxlyn Moret, Liz Koch, and Donna Farhi, to name only a few. Each one of these teachers has shaped my practice and my teaching. In my many years of teaching, I’ve taught a range of classes, including Vinyasa, Hatha, one on one, Restorative, yoga for fertility, children’s classes, Baby Om (classes for moms and babies), prenatal, and family classes at Eco day events.

Restorative Yoga
As time marched on, I began to understand the need we have (and often ignore) for relaxation practices. The years of sleepless nights I had with my son eventually brought me to Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew as well as the Advanced Relax and Renew Restorative Yoga trainings in 2004-2005. Restorative yoga has taught me so much. My favorite poem (by Issa) sums up my thoughts on the practice:

Napped half the day
No one punished me.

Receptive Nest
I am also co-director of Receptive Nest (www.receptivenest.com), a yogic approach to fertility, along with Karen Safire. Receptive Nest includes workshops, lectures, and classes dedicated to helping anyone in the process of trying to conceive a child. The workshops are a direct result of our own experiences.

Dance College Advisement
I am currently an affiliate of COPA (College Options for the Performing Arts) (http://www.performingartsoptions.com/).   I work with dancers in high school looking into college dance programs.