Yoga is our true nature. It is who we are before we become enmeshed in the illusions of the world. Yoga practices are designed to release us from the bondage of these illusions and return us to our natural state. Yoga practices allow us to know the truth, which is that we are already free.
Shakti is the Divine creative force which moves in all life, the cosmic energy proceeding directly from God, the Queen. Raja Yoga is the King of Yogas, the stilling of the mind which leads to Samadhi. Samadhi is transcendental consciousness, oneness with all Creation, Divine bliss. By directing our Shakti, our creative power, onto the path of Raja Yoga, we merge the power of the Queen with the Authority of the King.
The Shakti Raja Yoga class includes a well-rounded variety of asanas, as well as chanting, control of the life force (prana) through breathing exercises, yogic philosophy and spiritual teachings, relaxation and meditation.
Shakti Raja Yoga is designed to purify the physical and subtle bodies, to discipline the mind, to ignite the spirit within and to awaken the bliss body. Over time we build the pranic energy so that even as we walk through the world and encounter illusions and challenges, we can maintain a constant joyous awareness of our true divine nature.
Instructor, Maher Benham Biography
Maher Benham is the Founder and Artistic Director of Coyote Dancers, a modern dance troupe recognized for its highly theatrical and deeply spiritual dances. The Company gave its debut performance at the Festival de Musique on St. Barthelemy’s Island in 1993. Coyote Dancers has since presented its New York City seasons at the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.
Ms. Benham is widely known for her acclaimed epic, “Sipapu”, a dance for men of all generations, which has been hailed as “a masterwork which vividly renders a process of transcendence and spiritual renewal” (John Koroly, WRSU-FM). Her signature solo, “Maher, It’s Donald”, was noted by Jennie Schulman of “Backstage” as “one of the most profoundly moving solos seen in many a day.” Distinguished guest artists who have performed with Coyote Dancers include Stuart Hodes, partner to Martha Graham for 20 years, Dudley Williams, principal with Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham, Gus Solomon, Jr., dancer with Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham, Daniel Maloney, David Chase, Steve Rooks, and Maxine Sherman, principals with Martha Graham, Rael Lamb, soloist with Maurice Bejart, and Ted Dalbotten, music and dance educator.
Ms. Benham has danced with the Martha Graham Dance Company, Pearl Lang, Daniel Maloney, Kenneth King, Cornfield Dance and the Balinese American Fusion Dance Company.
She has been a member of the faculty of the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance since 1987, where she taught not only the company and adult professionals, but the children as well. Her unique and creative teaching brought great joy to Ms. Graham, who personally authorized her to teach the Martha Graham Technique anywhere in the world in her name. Ms. Graham was particularly touched by Maher’s ability to inspire and build confidence in her young dancers, ages 7 to 18. Some of them are now members of Coyote Dancers.
Ms. Benham is also a member of the faculty of the Alvin Ailey School of Dance, and she has taught at Marymount Manhattan College. Ballet Hispanico, and Pratt Institute. At the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, she taught the Movement for Actors course which Martha Graham instituted in 1928 and taught until 1968. She has a large following of enthusiastic and devoted students.
Ms. Benham graduated from Reed College with a B.A in Cultural Anthropology. She has her M. Phil and Masters Degree, and ABD for the PhD, in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University.
In 1992, Ms. Benham was initiated into Kriya Yoga by Paramahamsa (Supreme Swan) Hariharananda Giri, God-realized Master and living saint.
In 2003, she established The Hummingbirds School, the first studio of dance, yoga and music for people with special needs. The School received a citation from United Cerebral Palsy of New York for excellence in dance classes for those in wheelchairs. Currently she continues as the President of Hummingbirds.