Subject of the Month ~ Nov 2017 Maitri and Tonglen Practice

Practices in Yoga and Buddhism have been used for thousands of years to stabilize reactive thought patterns so that we are better equipped to deal with life when times are difficult. Why are these so useful now? The human mind processes information in a way that amplifies the effect of anything we perceive as a threat to our well-being, and also prioritizes input that supports the viewpoint we have already established. With the continual reactionary feed of news and social media in the electronic age, it is easy for our nervous system to get looped in a high stress state of alarm, with its resulting overwhelm, irritability and energy depletion. This month we will explore one way toward balancing our emotional and mental states so we can stay informed, involved, and appreciative, without feeling constantly stressed out.

The essential practices of Maitri (Loving Kindness) and Tonglen (Giving and Taking)  establish steady ground in us by instilling clear-seeing, gratitude, and compassion. In recognizing that our suffering in all its guises is only alleviated when we reach beyond our own concerns, these practices align our intention with the greatest good and allow us to see all the places we do have enough. In these meditations, we touch our own humanity at its depth of love and of fear to understand and connect to what others are experiencing. The connection is not made (as we usually do) by assuming that we know another’s experience by relating it to our own, but rather by connecting at the level of equanimity, that all humans have the same basic needs and wants and by starting from there.

In removing the separation caused by our pre-conceived notions, we become less likely to diminish and judge another person due to the problems brought on by their unique set of circumstances that we couldn’t begin to understand from a distance. As we begin to listen, we have a chance to move through our assumptions and prejudices, and to bring ourselves side-by-side others in true compassion. We do this first in these meditation practices, yet once the connection is established, it spontaneously overflows into our daily thoughts and activities. We shift from being consumed with how it all threatens “me”, allowing tension to release from our nervous system. We free up energy to serve, and can do what we need to do with more calmness and grace. We embody gratitude, and abundance in any aspect of life becomes a great gift, the opportunity to extend to others what can be shared, taught or given.

Our aim in each class this month is to include a Maitri or Tonglen practice. They are simple in approach, and no prior experience is necessary. You can also set aside a few minutes each day to practice on your own at home as we build a community of compassion. If you come up against resistances, be gentle with yourself. Begin with the first link to strengthening a loving relationship with yourself through Maitri practices if you are newer to these.  If you have some experience, either Maitri or Tonglen will be wonderful as a daily practice as you can.

Give it a try…as they say ( and with Thanksgiving coming up)…the proof is in the pudding!

Sraightforward steps to follow from Pema Chodron through links below (there are also many Youtube videos of Pema on these topics):



Extended Maitri:

POM- February 2017 Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Related Backbends

The backbend series Bhujangasana (Cobra), Shalambasana (Locust) and Dhanurasana (Bow) include backbends that allow us to explore heart-opening in ways that can be safe for the trickiest low back if we stay close to the earth or expansive and free as we lift higher off the ground. Remember, the strength in these poses comes from the inner core and moves outward, and not from pushing and pulling yourself to where you want to be. Develop grace, strength and flexibility as your heart gently opens to what is!

Lie on your belly with your arms resting alongside you. Bend your knees and reach back with your hands to grab hold of your feet or ankles. Be sure to reach both hands back together (not one at a time) to avoid twisting your pelvis. Spread your toes to activate the muscles of your legs. Resist your shins in toward each other to avoid splaying your knees. Press your feet (or ankles) back against your hands to lift your thighs away from the floor, and lead with your chest (not your chin) as you rise up into the backbend. Broaden your collarbones, lift your sternum, and allow your head to follow the movement of your chest, lifting it slightly but still maintaining length in the back of your neck.


If you can’t reach your feet or ankles, wrap a strap around the fronts of your ankles (or feet) and hold on to the ends of the strap.

SOM- February 2017 “When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times”

How do we stay open-hearted and effective in an increasingly confrontational world? In discussions with people from many points of view these days, it is apparent that pretty much everyone has a heightened level of uncertainty about the future. “Feeling what we feel” has long been taught as a valued practice in yoga, but what do we do when those feelings begin to overwhelm us? We want to stay present, yet get lost in the emotional smokescreen produced by the escalated tension, callousness, and rhetoric that is the new norm. Pema Chodron, in this month’s focus, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times cuts through the smoke to the clarity and reason needed to stay strong and united right now.
Methods for working with tough emotions have been taught in the Buddhist tradition for thousands of years, and are expounded upon in this text. We train, sometimes for years, in developing the skills to access courage, compassion, and clarity through our yoga practice. Now, on the playing field of life, we are called to embody these skills, not as concepts but as our tools as conscious individuals, and communities.

Boddhicitta, the space of the awakened and courageous heart, acknowledges the pain and fear, and yet holds the transformative space that allows us to move through fear to the presence. We uncover the strength of boddhicitta by holding a mirror to our fear and seeing what in us is afraid, and starting there. We are given instructions on where to look for our fear by examining the eight dharmas which show us how we get constantly caught in a never-ending ping pong game between our likes and dislikes. We learn how to feel and sit in our fear with more steadiness through tonglen, a meditation practice in which we connect directly with suffering that all beings have. And we develop strength and resilience of mind by practicing the six paramitas which allow us a non-moralistic way to courageously act with an open-heart and unrelenting focus.
As a lived process, our exploration will allow us to feel our fear, while bringing a new perspective on how our opinions, language, and reactions can contribute to more aggression if we are not careful. It will show how we can spiral when “how we want it to be” or “how we thought it was” smacks up against the cold-edged reality of “what it is”. It will reveal the places where we want to be heard and respected, but find it difficult to fully listen and remain skillful in communication with different viewpoints. Ultimately, it will demand that the smokescreen of fear be dispersed in us to find what is relevant, practical, and efficient in bringing the strength we need to light.
The teachings and practices we will explore this month are not easy, yet either are these times. They ask us to dive into the undercurrents of emotions we may have spent many years avoiding. As bodhisattvas, warriors of light, it is necessary to exchange our crutches for the finely- honed tools of courage, integrity, clarity and steadiness. Feeling fear in difficult times is natural; the space of boddhicitta is vast enough to hold the fear, understand it, and use it to guide us to where our presence is needed the most.

August 2016 – Pose – Forward Folds featuring Marichyasana A

Good news! Our pose of the month teaches us to stay cool, internally and externally! Forward folds featuring Marichyasana A and variations will be explored in our classes. Honor and cultivate the wisdom necessary to slow down, move skillfully into and pause in this class of asana, finding in the stillness all the information that is needed to guide you!

From Yoga International


Setup and Key Actions
Sit with your left leg long on the floor, bend your right knee and place your right foot on the floor, a good distance from your inner left thigh. Press the back of your left leg, the sole of your right foot, and your palms or fingertips into the floor to first lengthen your spine upward, and then tilt your pelvis forward, bringing your torso between your right thigh and left leg. Wrap your right arm around your right shin. Work your arm around your bent leg and behind your waist, and bind your left wrist with your right hand, or clasp the fingers of both hands together. With your hands bound press your right arm into your right shin. Your right hip will lift off the floor, but continue pressing your foot into the floor. Lengthen through your spine as you fold, keeping your shoulders level and the back of your neck long.

If you’re unable to hold your wrist or clasp your hands together, hold a strap between your hands, or press your hands into the floor to help move your torso forward over your leg. You can keep your hands on the floor as you press your right arm into your right shin, working all of the other parts of the pose without the bind.


Teacher Feature: Lisa Rostelli-Visco


Lisa Rostelli-Visco joined the Yogasphere teaching community in November of 2015.  She has been dedicated to her own practice for 30 years and teaching for over 20 with formal training in Iyengar Yoga. That training has been the foundation of both her own daily practice and her teaching, although she has also studied Viniyoga (yoga therapy) and Dharma Yoga more extensively. Lisa is a lover of learning and travels often to practice with other teachers from various backgrounds in order to expand her own understanding, to deepen her own practice and to share those experiences with her students. She believes that we as humans, are a sum of our experiences and our yoga practice should reflect same. Keeping an open heart and an open mind to what others have to offer is necessary for self-awareness and growth. Lisa has also been pole dancing for three years, competing for two. She has placed 2nd/3rd in the North American Pole Dance Championships – Masters Division, 1st place in the Masters Division in Paragon International 2014, and 1st Place in the Masters Divison of the Pole Championship Series 2015. Even her experiences as a competitive pole dancer has deepened her yoga practice and her love of movement. She lives in Doylestown Pa, where she and her partner raise their three children.

Lisa took her first yoga class at 16. “I thought it was weird and my parents were worried I was joining a cult,” she says. At this time she was also a ballet dancer so she already had an understanding of movement and body awareness. It was several years later that she would seek the path of teaching yoga. “I actually taught my first class because the teacher didn’t show up! So occasionally I would fill in here and there. Keep in mind this was a very long time ago. There were very few teacher trainings and many teachers weren’t ‘certified.’ I attended my first teacher training long after I started teaching.”

For any teacher or practitioner there are always poses or sequences that feel amazing, whether it is from the challenge, the feeling of expression and openness, or simple delight. For Lisa it is Backbends. “I love backbends. Love love love. There is something about all that front body opening that is so freeing,” she says. This is no surprise to me because when you meet Lisa whether it is in class on on the street she exhibits genuine warmth and kindness. When you open the front body you are also opening your heart center (Anahata Chakra) which is our center for love and compassion. As a teacher she is also always encouraging students to trust and believe in themselves. She says, “I want you to know and believe that you are limitless. Any limitation you may feel is a false perception.”

Lisa also has many other passions in life. She is currently training with a contortions trainer via Skype. “I would like to sit on my head in a chest stand by my 50th birthday. I may or may not do. That end result isn’t the point. The fact that I am trying is,” she says. Lisa has a zesty and courageous spirit that wholeheartedly embraces all there is to learn from the journey no matter the outcome. She never gives up. This could because to her, “Inspiration is everywhere…all I need to do is open my eyes in the morning and I am set.” Among other things she enjoys is football. She says, “I am a die hard Steelers fan. And can be quite unbearable during football season.”
If you haven’t tried one of Lisa’s classes I highly recommend it. Her knowledge of anatomy and alignment is superb. Her classes are wonderful if you are trying to advance your practice. She will challenge you to believe in yourself and face certain fears we all experience in our practice. You can follow Lisa on Instragram @LisaRostelliVisco Facebook @Lisa-Rostelli Vissco

Her current class schedule at Yogasphere Doylestown is:
Wednesday 7:00 PM Yoga Lab Level 2/3
Saturday 9:30 AM Power Flow Level 2/3
Article by Ali G

February Pose of the Month ~ Natarajasana ~ Dancing Shiva



From Tadasana~

 Both feet placed firmly into the earth. Pada bandha.

 Place right hand on hip firmly planting the right foot into the earth.

 Reach left arm straight up into the sky.

 Bend left knee as thighs are level.

 Extend left arm behind grabbing the inside of the left foot.

 Gently press the foot into the hand and the hand into the foot creating a counter action.

 Extend right arm out and lift as high as comfortable.

Lift from your heart. Be expansive, be open.

A beautiful option is gyan mudra, index finger to thumb.

This mudra, hand seal, envokes change.

Try this pose wholeheartedly.


August Pose of the Month ~ Ustrasana ~ Camel Pose

ustrasana camel pose

  • Come into child’s pose, Balasana, elonging the spine and breathing deeply relaxing the belly and releasing low back.
  • Move onto knees, with blanket under knees if necessary. Curl the toes under or point feet straight back which will deepen the the mid-back bend.
  • Knees are hip distance wide with hands on hips gently assisting the tailbone down.
  • Hips are forward with leverage of lifting the sternum. This will create a feeling of lifting the heart center, expanding the lungs and chest.
  • Rooting down through the legs and feet, gently press hips forward as the tailbone continues reaching downward.
  • Staying here or options of hands to heels, ankles or blocks.
  • Please pay attention to lower back and neck. There should not be any pain or discomfort in these areas.
  • Breathe in and breathe out for 5-10 breaths.
  • Counter pose with Balasana, and/or gentle twists to release.
  • It is beneficial to do three is a series but not necessary to fully open into the posture.

Enjoy Ustrasana

Open Heart ~ Open Mind


The Adventure begins…flowing energy towards a higher purpose.

Brahmacharya is one of the Yamas, a way of right relationship with the outside world, in the Yoga Sutras.  Brahma means “God or Creator”  and  Charya translates “to follow” ~to follow God!

Common understanding of Brahmacharya comes from classic  Vedic teachings –  celibacy or restraint.   In Tantra teachings, the householder remains in the world and integrates spiritual practices like Brahmacharya into daily life.     Utilizing and directing our vital energy/life force for our highest purpose is also the practice of Brahmacharya.  This higher purpose comes in many forms, one being  service.

My immediate family leaves Sunday July 6th for India.  We are excited for this adventure together which will take us from Delhi and then to the foot of the Himalayas.  However, meeting the beautiful little souls and the teachers  at The Children of the Ganges School in Rishikesh and uncovering ways we can help serve this mission in the future is our “higher Purpose”.

Things have been shifting in our lifes and we are so intrigued to see what beauty and insight India will show us.    We go with open hearts, immersed in Durga’s love and energy.

Om Shanti – Laura, Greg, Alanna, Noa , Scott and Troy

July Subject of the Month ~ Brahmacharya ~ Having Enough



Christina L. Kaplan


Bramacharya, yoga’s sacred, ethical practice of non-excess: Taming our overindulgence in the name of satisfaction. We, as human beings in our modern society, are known to overdo everything in almost all aspects of our daily lives. We seem to follow the phrases, “The bigger, the better” or “The more, the merrier.” Why must we feel the need to want MORE?

Food, sex, alcohol, even exercise, work, etc; these everyday aspects of our lives all hold a place of pleasure, satisfaction, comfort, ease, stimulation, and power; however, too much of these external sources often surpass that sense of pleasure and suddenly, we find ourselves in a difficult place of feeling “full.” So full that we feel almost numb or even dull at times. One of the greatest challenges we face in our world today is recognizing when enough is enough. In order to avoid this sense of overindulgence we must truly be present in the sensitivity of our desires. Notice that sacred pleasure in that space of enough, in that state of pure satisfaction, non-excess, Brahmacharya.


Food for thought~

Maybe, we don’t indulge in that extra scoop of ice cream on top of our apple pie after Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe this time, we just watch ONE episode of Orange is the New Black tonight to catch up on Piper’s life instead of re-watching a few episodes of that Breaking Bad series (which we actually already have finished in it’s entirety this past December), and we don’t try to finish off this bottle of wine just because we worked overtime today and we feel the need surpress, yet, overindulge in our guilty pleasures. Tomorrow, we may feel hungover, and heavy like we gained 8 lbs overnight, but on the plus side, we would then finally understand what REALLY happened in that episode of Breaking Bad that we didn’t seem to understand the first time AND we would be caught up on the life of Piper Chapman. Would it be worth the excess, would we be truly satisfied, would that extra scoop of ice cream, television episodes, hangover, and extra weight gain genuinely serve our lives for the better?

10th Anniversary Special on Private/Semi- Private Sessions!

We love to celebrate our community and see our students grow!
Introducing a 10th Anniversary special offer on private/semi-private sessions to assist you in finding your yogic groove! New to yoga and want to learn the basics in a personalized, friendly way to have your questions addressed? Been practicing a while and have that pose that is always challenging? Trying to figure out how to smooth out your vinyasa, steady your breath, or take special care of your back, knees, wrists or any sensitive area? Or just want a specialized session with a Yogasphere teacher to receive individualized instruction, assists and attention? Here’s your chance to explore!

1 Private Session (1 person, 1 hr)plus 3 classes
Newtown or Doylestown ~ $75
Richboro (Hot Yoga) ~ $85
Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga ~$90

1 Semi-Private Session (2 people, 1 hr) plus 3 classes/each
Newtown or Doylestown ~ $100
Richboro (Hot Yoga) ~ $115
Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga ~$120

Offer may be purchased for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one, friend, coworker, teacher! Perfect for Spring Holiday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Graduation or Teachers gifts.


How to register: Purchase the desired package online at (, or by calling or stopping in any location. Once purchased, schedule your session by emailing, or calling 215-579-6130 and leaving a message for Cathy. Please indicate the location/days/times that work best, and also specify if you would like to request a specific teacher, and we will do our best to accommodate. As a gift, purchase a gift card in the desired amount, and have the recipient email or call as above to schedule.

The small print….These sessions are offered by select Yogasphere teachers, begin March 20 and must be scheduled by June 21. All sessions and classes must be used by July 15. Classes will be added to class cards for class card holders, and 1 week added to the next month’s expiration for unlimited memberships in lieu of 3 classes. All others will have 3 drop-in classes added to account.