A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary.

The Sanskrit word “vidya” means wisdom or knowledge—and it can refer more specifically to the wisdom earned through deep practice and experience. 

The prefix “a” before a word indicates lack or absence. In the yogic sense, “avidya” means lack of wisdom or lack of knowledge, but refers to something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness about reality.

A mild way to consider the idea of “avidya” is to suggest it means, “I forgot” or I have a lack of clarity around the idea that I am more than my body, thoughts and mind. A more strict interpretation assigns a deliberate refusal to come into that clarity and stay rooted in that unclear state. Remind you of anything? 

Grouped into five “kleshas” or afflictions, the klesha avidya causes suffering because it refuses to acknowledge the connection of the self (the Atman) to the Self (the Brahman). It is important to come to understand “avidya” because it is said to be at the heart of the other kleshas.

When I’m teaching yoga, leading a group of students through an asana practice, there is usually an asana we visit more than once in a session. My reason for this is to allow the body to make the shape, assume the asana in a gradually more full or deep way each time. Sometimes the asana taps into a sense of power, balance, flexibility or lightness that I want the student to experience a few times and observe how it changes as it repeats. 

Many times I’ll even say – we’ve been here before, where can you find clarity of your position, how can you refine the way you are assuming the physical posture of this asana… in this way, the physical practice can help us achieve clarity or wisdom (vidya) within that pose. 

In life, we see patterns and repeat our positions on experiences and things we’ve seen. How are you finding clarity in your response to those experiences?

I got an example today. It so happens that my mother in law was having a good day. It stood out because she’s been wavering in a sleepy, disengaged place. She was upbeat, talkative and even allowed the home health aide to take her to the backyard to sit at the picnic table and do puzzles. She enjoyed a snack too. This is huge. Prior to this morning, she wasn’t interested in doing much of anything. With the two of them set up outside on a lovely morning, I went to work.

When I came downstairs to take a break and have some lunch, I went out to move my car off the street. That’s when I noticed she also had enough energy to yank up all my blooming clematis that had grown into my front flower bed. I assume she asked the health aide to do it or did it herself with help. 

Before being ripped from the ground

A couple of years ago, this would have pissed me off. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t mad to see she’d treated flowers I’d planted like weeds and summarily ripped them out by the roots. But I didn’t have the ignorant reaction of just getting mad this time. I responded with a level of acceptance. I was able to use my wisdom and knowledge of extenuating circumstances to at least find gratitude that she was feeling spritely enough to do yard work.

Flowers can be replanted. Clarity helps me see that.

So when you find yourself in a familiar experience and you have a familiar response, ask yourself – am I refusing to find clarity about how I can respond to this? Break away from stubborn avidya and open yourself up to the possibility that you can find a new way to be present with that experience.

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!