Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga: Cultivating a Specific Daily Yoga Practice with Robbie Norris



We are excited to offer our first full weekend workshop with guest teacher Robbie Norris.  These classes will take place starting at 5 PM on Friday, September 8th and conclude with a morning session at 9 AM on Sunday, September 10th.  Pre-registration is required, and the cost ($100, $125 after August 25th) covers the series of 4 classes offered that weekend.  See times/details below.


This workshop is suitable for people brand new to yoga, for regular yoga practitioners, and for yoga teachers.  It does not matter how stiff, weak, or old you are — Robbie specializes in helping people of all states learn to practice yoga according to their unique condition.



Friday 5:00-7:00 pm:  Sun Salutations

Discussion of Ashtanga Yoga as a healing and meditative daily practice.  Students will learn and memorize the specific Ashtanga Yoga method of performing sun salutations, which compose the first 15 minutes — and comprise the essential elements —  of the larger, 90-minute, Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga practice.  This will entail detailed discussion and demonstration of proper ways to modify the sun salutation for people of all ages and conditions.


Saturday 9:00-11:00 am:  Standing Postures

We will go straight through the 5 sun salutations A, and 5 sun salutations B, that we learned the previous evening.  We will then take ample time to learn the specific 15-minute sequence of the Standing Postures of the Primary Series.


Saturday 2:00-4:00 pm:  “Led” Practice with Closing Postures

Robbie will “call out” the practice we have learned so far, breath by breath — beginning with the 10 sun salutations and through the Standing Postures (without stopping to “workshop” the details).  Then we will learn the Closing Postures of the Ashtanga Yoga practices, including back-bending, shoulder stand, and headstand.


Sunday 9:00 – 11:00 am:  Led 1/2 Primary Series

Guided 1/2 Primary Series practice.  We will begin with the sun salutations, followed by the specific sequence of Standing Postures.  We will then experiment with the first half of the seated postures of the Primary Series, followed by the Closing Postures.


The Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga was conceived in Mysore, India during the last century, and has ancient roots.  Designed to strengthen and align the body, and purify the internal organs, this specific yoga practice is a world-renowned gold standard of meditative holistic healing.  Most practices referred to as vinyasa yoga derive from Ashtanga Yoga.  Because it is infinitely modifiable, the Primary Series can be learned by anyone — regardless of age, level of physical fitness, destructive habits or station in life.  This yoga practice encourages self awareness and self reliance, and it stimulates the body’s incredible healing processes.

Most people who attend yoga classes have little if any experience practicing yoga on their own, and many yoga teachers struggle to cultivate an effective and consistent yoga practice apart from their teaching duties.

However, as with any pursuit, consistent frequent practice is the key ingredient to deepening proficiency.  Everyone who attends this workshop will learn how to perform their own specific daily yoga practice.  Yoga teachers who attend will enhance their own practices, as well as learn various ways to help students approximate text-book postures in a way that is safe and beneficial for their students.

Robbie Norris teaches a specific fundamental yoga practice — The Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga – both privately in people’s homes (RichmondPrivateYoga), and at his Jackson Ward studio, Richmond City Yoga.  Robbie has been practicing daily since 2001; and he enjoys helping people of all ages and health statuses learn this practice, and adapt it to their particular situation.   It is infinitely modifiable.

 From April 2008 through September 2015, Robbie taught over 1,000 classes to inmates in the Richmond City Justice Center (formerly Richmond City Jail).

 Robbie welcomes and encourages students of all shapes, ages, cultures, races and backgrounds, bringing people together with a yoga practice that heightens collective abilities and good qualities, aiming to have a positive effect on the health and culture of the city of Richmond, Virginia.


Intro to Yoga: A 6-Week Series for Beginners with Jennifer Collins, RYT-200

This series is designed for the beginner student seeking a strong foundation of the basic asanas (poses) found in Vinyasa (flow) classes. Students will gain an understanding of the breath, how it links to movement, and the correct structural alignment of each pose, including appropriate modifications. Each class will incorporate guided meditation and restorative practices, as well as time for discussion.  Instructor:  Jennifer Collins, RYT-200.

Class is held on Sundays from 2-3:30 PM, beginning September 17th and ending October 22nd.  Pre-registration required.  $125 for all 6 classes.

Course Content:

  • Week 1:  Introduction to Vinyasa; coming into the body/gentle practice (focus on feet and grounding).
  • Week 2:  Connecting breath to movement and breaking down the sun salutations (surya A & B).
  • Week 3:  Square hip poses and yin (hips and shoulders focus).
  • Week 4:  Open hip poses and restorative (hamstrings and low back focus).
  • Week 5:  Connecting to core and pranayama (breath).
  • Week 6:  Bringing it all together.


Meditation Groups

Bodhi Tree offers two open group meditation sessions weekly.  Our Sunday group focuses mainly on Insight Meditation teachings and practice, while the Monday evening group, initiated by our friend Nate Hayes, takes its form from Zen. There are many styles of zazen (usually translated to mean “seated meditation”) and we tend not to be too doctrinaire about our practice.  That said, we do observe some basic forms of zazen practice, including walking and seated meditation, as well as chanting.  If you are new to meditation in general, or to zazen in particular, we ask that you arrive 20 minutes early for brief instruction and orientation.  Sessions are free and open to all.

But what exactly IS Zen?  What’s the wherefore and the why?  We asked fellow practitioner Brandon Jaeger to share his thoughts on such questions and what follows are a few of his reflections on the (not)zen of Zen.  Thank you, Brandon.

What Is Zen?


What is Zen? A religion? A mystical philosophy? A psychological science? A way of seeing and living? A spiritual medicine? A lifetime of devotional acts? After hundreds of years, the question continues to be a more effective teacher than any one of its answers.

More than a quarter billion (and perhaps as many as 1.6 billion) people around the world identify with the understanding and teaching (Dharma) of a mind fully awakened (Buddha/Bodhi) to the actual reality of our existence, which is that the suffering of all sentient beings comes from the same root cause: putting too much stock in the dualistic stories that the discriminatory mind creates to make sense of and navigate our experience with the universe.

These dualistic stories our minds tell about the world, such as good/bad, self/other, birth/death, holy/sinful, are often useful tools in surviving as an individual organism in our everyday lives, but belief that these countless stories are the entire truth of our existence is ignorance of the fact that nothing is permanent, and nothing has a finite self that is independent of the rest of the Universe.

“To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening”. – Genjo Koan, Master Eihei Dogen Zenji

Through the centuries, and Westward across Asia, various Buddhist practices have been developed for training the mind to be conscious of both the “storied” world and the “un-storied” world simultaneously, until they are not actually two separate worlds at all. This practice cultivates happier, healthier, and more skillful bodhisattvas, who are in turn content to devote their lives to helping all beings be free from their suffering. This Bodhisattva Way is considered the ultimate culmination and purpose of the practice.

With cultural and philosophical influences ranging from Indian yoga, to Daoism in China, to Shintoism in Japan, and now infusion into every continent of the world, Zen practice and training have been said by many to be a pinnacle in the refinement of Buddhism’s teachings of non-duality, impermanence, and dependent co-arising (emptiness of any distinct self) as the true nature of reality, the practice and realization of which are considered the key to freedom from needless suffering.

In the Soto Zen tradition, initially attributed to Chinese teachers in the lineage, and transmitted to Japan by 13th century teacher Eihei Dogen Zenji, it is maintained that the Buddha mind is not something outside of us that we must attain or acquire, but rather the essential and ever-present nature of all consciousness, only obscured from realization by confusion brought about by our excessive identification with the dualistic mind. This view is often referred to as Original Enlightenment.

“To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to become one with the entire Universe” – Genjo Koan, Master Dogen

To cultivate the realization of emptiness and non-duality, Zen practice starts by calming and concentrating the mind, helping it become more relaxed, supple, and flexible enough to allow its dualistic thoughts and stories to appear without interfering with or excluding them, while maintaining a “witness” perspective that does not identify with or attach additional meaning to them. In addition to sitting meditation (zazen), this tranquility practice includes concentrated attention on performing ceremonial forms, such as chanting, bowing, offering incense, and walking meditation (kinhin). Finally, the Zen practitioner may be presented with stories, poems and Dharma-doctrine teachings, referred to as “Koans”, able to be appreciated and fully realized by all kinds of minds and through all sorts of approaches. In addition to being windows into reality, Koans are an invitation to analysis, puzzles that are unanswerable by the dualistic mind, thereby obliging the dualistic mind to give up and make way for realization of the non-dual awakened (Buddha) mind that pervades all existence.

“Our practice is to go beyond the realm of good and bad and to realize the absolute”. – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, founder, San Francisco Zen Center

Through its unusual, seemingly contradictory, and sometimes irreverent approach, Zen tradition is even careful not to allow itself to be confused with something that has inherent meaning, or a self, separate from the rest of the Universe.

“If you see the Buddha on the path, kill the Buddha”. – Koan attributed to Master Linji.

It’s no wonder that a tradition that calls into question the very underpinnings of our sense of the world and our selves would have such an enigmatic reputation as Zen does. Please join us in unraveling the Great Mystery and discovering its rewards together, for the benefit of all beings.

“Real practice has orientation or direction, but it has no purpose, no gaining idea, so it can include everything that comes.” – Shunryu Suzuki Roshi


Support, Space & Balance: A Day of Restoration at Bodhi Tree benefitting Women For Recovery


Schedule for the day:

10 AM- 12 PM         Slow Flow with Liz and Yoga Nidra with Mary Beaton

12 PM – 1 PM           Lunch

1 PM – 1:30 PM       Walking meditation

1:30 PM – 2 PM      Tea tasting

2 PM – 4 PM            Mindfulness through the senses with Carissa Rose, LMT

Basic Sun Salute Workshop

Saturday, May 13th, 2:00 PM- 4:30 PM

Cost, $35.  Online registration available.

This workshop is designed to refine and improve the basic postures and flow of Surya Namaskar A (basic sun-salute).  The focus will be on improving postural alignment/muscular energy in each pose, exploring poses that can be used as preparation for sun salutes, as well as detailed instruction about breathing techniques such as ujjayi pranayama, diaphragmatic breathing and kegel exercises that support a calm mental state, toned diaphragm and pelvic floor and activation of yogic energy locks (Bandhas).

Postures include:

  • Tadasana (mountain pose)
  • Urdhva Hastasana (upward salute)
  • Uttanasana (forward bend)
  • Ardha Uttanasana (half standing forward bend)
  • Plank Pose
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff)
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward-facing dog)
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog)

There can be significant physical and mental benefits when these postures and breathing exercises are practiced correctly.

Benefits include increasing strength and flexibility in the whole body, training for standing poses, inversions, arm balances and backbends, enhancing digestive function, supporting internal organs, calming the nervous system, increasing attention span and decreasing likelihood for injury in other activities and daily life.








Beginner Tai Chi Series

Join us this April for a six-part Tai Chi beginner’s class that meets on Sundays from  11 AM – 12 noon.

If you’ve considered (or even tried) Tai Chi before and felt confused or overwhelmed by all the moves, then this is the class for you! Designed specifically for the beginning student, this class will acquaint you with Tai Chi fundamentals and introduce you to the first set of moves in the Yang style.  You will also learn how to improve your balance, strength, motor skills, and coordination–while at the same time learning to relax.

Common health benefits include improved blood circulation, leg strength & balance, body awareness and proper posture, a focused mind, and controlled breathing.

Learning is the first step, but only through daily practice will the results show.   Come take that first step in a warm and welcoming environment.

Pre-registration required.  Register here.


Visiting writer/scholar, Wendy Garling

On Saturday, April 1st, 2017, Athens Center for Integrated Arts is hosting a day-long visit with acclaimed author and Buddhist scholar, Wendy Garling to discuss and consider her new book, Stars at Dawn:  Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life, published by Shambhala Press.  The day will include meditations, discussions and dharma talks.

Morning Session 9:00 – 11:00 AM: Beginning with a brief meditation, we’ll focus on stories of key women in the Buddha’s life, his mother, stepmother and principal wives examining their roles and influences together with their personal challenges and aspirations on their own spiritual paths.  The session will conclude with reflective group discussion and questions.

Lunch 11:15 AM – 1:00 PM:  Option to join Mamerto for Tai Chi in the Studio ($10, all levels) from 11:30-12:30, OR bring lunch to enjoy on location OR drive to local businesses for lunch or any combination of activities.

Afternoon Session 1:00 – 4:00 PM:  Continuing the morning conversation, we’ll explore the sacred feminine as expressed through stories of women, goddesses, the natural world, and symbols of wisdom and nurturance that appear in the earliest biographies.  Buddhist teachings, as woven through the stories, will be highlighted.  In conclusion, we’ll reflect on the day, discussing ideas and themes relevant to our daily lives and the world we live in.

Potluck Dinner at Bodhi Tree Studio 4:30 – 7:00 PM:  Informal gathering with author and participants.  Tea & water provided. No alcohol, vegetarian dishes preferred.


There is no pre-registration required.


For 20 years Wendy has taught women’s spirituality focusing on Buddhist traditions, including original research into ancient Sanskrit and Pali literature. Seemingly “forgotten,” many early sources hold an abundance of women’s stories that were originally integral to the earliest biographies of the Buddha. In Stars at Dawn, Wendy re-introduces these ancient women’s stories, weaving them into a refreshing new biography that aims to shift the traditional patriarchal paradigm to a more accurate, gender-balanced and female friendly understanding of early Buddhism.

Wendy Garling has a BA from Wellesley College and MA in Sanskrit language and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. A scholar, Tibetan Buddhist practitioner and dharma teacher, she is the author of the acclaimed new book, Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life, published in 2016 by Shambhala Publications.

Farm Internships Available


Are you interested learning  about intensive, organic farming?   Do you want hands-on work experience and that will earn you a Certificate of Completion for best practices?  Do you have energy and enthusiasm in abundance and want to learn all you can about growing and selling produce at our local farmer’s market?

Then consider applying for Bodhi Tree’s 60-hour internship program!  We are accepting 3 interns for this growing season, with an average work week of just 5-10 hours.  Weekly schedule can be tailored to your availability.   Internships are volunteer-based but do include a free market share of produce each week and a $300 honorarium upon successful completion of the program.

To learn how to apply, email Russell & Randy at

Book & Magazine Giveway

Years ago when I was new to meditation, a new acquaintance named George Hartley gifted me a big pile of Buddhist-themed magazines: years worth of Shambahala Suns, Tricycles, Buddahdharmas and others.  I devoured them, reading at least an article or two every morning and every night for years. In reading these short and digestible articles by leading scholars and practitioners, my eyes were opened to the vastness and mystery of the dharma, and my interest was piqued enough to start searching out longer works by these same writers.  It was a time of spiritual longingness for me, and of loneliness, and these writers became my friends, in much the same way that George Eliot and Jack Keroauc and Henry David Thoreau had become my friends at other times in my life.  I felt comforted by their presence, turned to them for guidance.  It may seem dramatic to say it so plainly, but the magazines saved my life.

This week at Bodhi Tree Studio we are giving away those magazines, as well as dozens of books on yoga, health, wellness and conscioussness themes that were also gifted to me.  I know that labels are limiting, but I consider myself a secular Buddhist, meaning in part that I am skeptical about beliefs that are not “evidentary.”  And so many of the book titles are, for me, pretty far out there in the belief systems they are built on or espouse.  Some of the books even seem simply wrong-headed to me, and I almost put them in the recycle bin rather than wishing them on the world.  But then I thought, who am I to decide what to give and what to hold?  My father, a Methodist Bishop and a lifelong practicing Christian, says often that we must all work out our own salvation.  So the books and magainzes are all there, and whatever guests of our Studio find that might be useful to them for working out their own salvation, then so be it.

I recall in 2012 immersing myself in one of those issues of Shambahla Sun that my friend George Hartley had gifted me.  One of the articles was a profile on actor Richard Gere, a thoughtful and dedicated Buddhist and social activist, and some reference in the write-up made me flip to the front cover to find the date of the original publication.  It was from 2002.   I thought that I was reading something newer, but here the magazine was already 10 years old!  The winds of time had blown through Gere’s life just as they had blown through my life for the past 10 years.  Many things had changed in the space of those years, for me, for him, for the world.  And now 5 more years have passed since then, just as 2500 years have passed since Siddhartha took his seat beneath a bodhi tree, lonely and filled with longing, just like me.  And all of it in the blink of an eye, gossamer thin threads carried along on wispy ropes of smoke, with mystery, still and quiet, ever at the center of it all.

All of this is Russell’s long-winded way of saying something simple.  The books and magazines are old and used.  But they are free!  Take some or many.  We’ll leave them there for a week until they are gone, and then our lovely community of yogis and meditators and searchers all will have back their cubbies where they can again properly put their shoes and jackets.

Introduction to Meditation Series

Are you interested in learning more about meditation, but not sure where to start?  Join Nate Hayes and Russell Chamberlain for a relaxed and informative course that will explore the basics of meditation, including postures, techniques and practice sessions. This class is geared for beginners with little or no meditation experience.

Class begins Monday, March 13th and runs for 4 consecutive Mondays.  Class begins promptly at 6 PM and ends at 7:15 PM.  Participants are welcome to stay after class and join the Monday night Zen group for the 1-hour zazen. Anyone of any faith or non-faith is welcome to attend.  Preregistration is required and class size is limited. Register here.

Note: For those with back pain or other physical discomforts, we will explore options for sitting as comfortably as possible. Dress is informal and loose clothing is recommended. Shoes are left by the front door so wear socks if you like! If you want to ask questions about the workshop before signing up, email or call Nate at / 740.856-1222 or Russell at / 740-541-3251.