88 Orchard Road
Skillman, NJ 08558

Princeton Center for Yoga and Health is marking 20 years of healing

By Susan Van Dongen,

2016_07 Labyrinth walking (6)Deborah Metzger, founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health, has a special connection to a certain line from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Fellowship of the Ring” — the first book in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

”Not all those who wander are lost,” is part of the poem in a letter from Gandalf the wizard to Frodo the hobbit, which goes on to have layers of meaning within the book and trilogy.

Ms. Metzger has taken this particular line to heart, because the idea of “wandering with meaning” not only resonates with her journey watching PCYH evolve over the last two decades, but connects beautifully with the new labyrinth that was built on the center’s grounds this summer.

”The labyrinth is part of that same idea,” Ms. Metzger says. “In the labyrinth, you’re wandering around and there’s no ‘right’ place to go, there are just circuits.”

Because the labyrinth had its inaugural event in late August as the sun was going down, the participating walkers had to trust in the carefully laid paths to find their way.

2016_08_24 Walking the labyrinth Picture by Chris Gabaly 15   ”I myself had a tiny moment of panic,” Ms. Metzger says. “Sometimes you think you’re getting close to the center, and then you’re on the outer rim again — but you can’t get lost. The labyrinth is a wonderful metaphor for living, because sometimes you’re also meandering around in your life.”

All those years ago, Ms. Metzger’s idea behind PCYH was that it would be a place for mindful experimentation, where you could “try things on for size” — like labyrinth walking, meditation, drumming and dancing, and any number of yoga styles and practices — and ultimately see what fit your personal journey, your heart’s desire.

Even if something was not a perfect fit, however, at least coming to PCYH and discovering all there was to offer might point you in the direction of balance, healing and mindfulness.

”I believe everybody has the knowledge inside themselves, and all we need is a quiet place where we can access our intuition and get the answers,” Ms. Metzger says. “I wanted to create a space where people would do that, would join me in this experiment.”

On Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 PCYH — located on Orchard Road in Skillman since 2012 — will celebrate 20 years in the Princeton area with an afternoon and evening of yoga, dance, drumming, chant, food, community and connection.

The free festivities begin at 3 p.m. with a special one-hour Hatha Yoga class led by Denise Corsini, and capped with a guided relaxation/meditation. A little later, there will be a drum and dance session, featuring percussionist Mark Wood and Arielle Wortzel, yoga teacher and JourneyDance facilitator.

Celebrants can nourish themselves with a pot luck supper, and then, at 6 p.m., head over to PCYH’s new labyrinth, for a special group “walk” and blessing, guided by Deborah Ketter, a labyrinth facilitator who led the building of the labyrinth earlier this summer.

”There were things I had envisioned from the beginning, and this labyrinth was one of them,” Ms. Metzger says. “Ours is the classic design of seven circuits, but we made the center a bit larger and we put a big boulder in there so people could gather.”

2016_08 Labyrinth the box of intentions (3)  ”It was wonderful to work with Debbie, she really has studied it,” Ms. Metzger says of Ms. Ketter. “We picked out the materials, including many, many river stones, but we also used found objects that have come to us from time to time. We also have a box in the center we call ‘The Heart Box,’ and you put your intentions in there.”

The culmination of the anniversary jubilee will be an evening of kirtan chant, featuring kirtan artist Suzin Green, with Daniel Johnson and David Freeman. These master artists of the tradition — rooted in ancient Sanskrit mantras and rhythms — weave rapturous kirtan, the focus of mantra, and the exhilarating rhythms of the drum.

Ms. Metzger says Ms. Green essentially got her start at PCYH, and that she had moved to the Princeton area in 1996, around the time PCYH was opening its doors. The physical practice of yoga was just starting to take root, and yogic mantra, kirtan chanting and meditation were still on the fringes of the mainstream.

2016_10 Celebration (4)”Suzin Green started coming to our yoga classes, and came up to me and said ‘I do kirtan chanting, do you think the community would be open it?’” Ms. Metzger recalls. “So, basically, we brought kirtan to the area.”

While looking back, Ms. Metzger is simultaneously planning for the future at PCYH, and is especially pleased to present guests such as Dr. Larry Payne, the author of “Yoga for Back Pain,” “Yoga Therapy RX,” “Prime of Life Yoga” and more, who will be at PCYH in November.

”He usually only appears in Hawaii and California, but he loves coming to see us,” she says.

In the spring of 2017, PCYH will welcome Dr. Mala Cunningham, who developed “Yoga for Cardiac Care,” a therapeutic modality of working with people who suffer from heart disease and related ailments to incorporate the practice of yoga. As Ms. Metzger notes, Western science is catching up with what the ancients knew about yoga’s physiological and mind-body benefits.

”There’s been so much research about how the brain changes with yoga, how blood pressure goes down, how issues of aging are helped through yoga,” Ms. Metzger says. “It’s being used for veterans and other people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These are all benefits of the mindful yoga practice, and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing yoga from a seated position or you’re doing all these dramatic poses.”

”We’re really happy that we’ve been able to host nationally and internationally acclaimed yoga educators, and bring deeper understanding of yoga and meditation practices to yoga teachers and our community,” she says.

Ms. Metzger reflects that PCYH is the first place of its kind in the area and is the oldest, at a time when there seems to be a yoga studio opening every week. Interestingly, many of the people in the area launching their own studios once practiced or took classes at PCYH.

”There are a lot of new things out there, but we remain here,” Ms. Metzger says. 2016_07 Building it Labyrinth  (1) outdoors“But, it’s not about us, it’s about this beautiful space where people can try things, and we’ll support them. I still have ideas, I still don’t know exactly where it will go.”

”(When I started PCYH), I wasn’t attached to what it was supposed to be,” Ms. Metzger continues. “The whole center is my practice, and part of my practice is not to be attached — which is a paradox. How do you have a goal and not be attached? Yes, we all have aims, we all want ‘to get to California,’ but you never know what might happen along the way. You don’t have a clue, you just enjoy the journey.”

The Princeton Center for Yoga and Health will celebrate “20 Years of Commitment to Yoga and Health,” at PCYH in the Orchard Hill Center, 88 Orchard Road, Skillman, Oct. 1, starting at 3 p.m. Free, but reservations are required for planning purposes. For more information, go to princetonyoga.com/20thanniversary/ or call


Planting seeds….Deep roots… New pathways

Twenty years for the experiment called Princeton Yoga!

by Deborah Metzger, Owner and Director

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

~J. R. R. Tolkien

2016_10 Celebration (1)Over twenty years ago, following a personal healing crisis which led me to a path of yoga and alternative healing practices, I set out to create a warm, inviting environment for all to explore different paths to health, healing and personal growth. The studio was the first of its kind in our area and we are humbly proud to have trained and/or inspired many other new teachers to follow their own vision to open their own studios, planting even more ‘seeds’ of yoga. Today, thanks to the community’s support, our oasis of calm and comfort has evolved to serve the greater Princeton area, much of Central Jersey and beyond. Now in our third location at 88 Orchard Road, Skillman – a scenic 5 acre campus – our light filled and serene new home offers an abundance of opportunities to fulfill that original vision and mission as we continue to evolve.

 In honor of this milestone anniversary, we’ve created a labyrinth for all to enjoy. Many people find profound effects in walking the labyrinth, often in times of transition or when seeking inspiration – or simply finding a stillness and peace – and so I found it a fitting and meaningful addition to our Center.

As many of you may know, I am intrigued by mystical and Kabalistic symbolism in all the many realms. The Hebrew letter for 20 is Kaf and means ‘palm’ (its early ancient form is represented as an open palm of the hand).  Thus it can be viewed as a symbolic invitation to open to life and activity, or a way to “allow” something.  The number 20 also represents a powerful awakening, bringing new purpose in our ongoing evolution. The essence of the number represents wholeness, inclusiveness and infinite potential. Comprised of two numbers, it realizes itself best while part of a team, or community in our world.

Deborah standingWith much love in my heart, I thank all of you who come through our doors on your journey to health and well-being and appreciate all your support, dear friends. As I look to the future, I am dedicated to keeping the Center the region’s premiere quality yoga studio that our community has come to love.

So on this 20th anniversary of the experiment we call Princeton Yoga, I extend an open palm to each of you in an invitation to continue to wander with me and place my open palms together in deep gratitude for your ongoing support.

Please join us on Saturday, October 1st, 2016 for an afternoon and evening of celebrating, yoga, dancing, drumming and kirtan.
Click here to learn more.

Unveiling of New Labyrinth – Walk the Labyrinth with Intention

by Deborah Metzger, Founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health

2016_07 Labyrinth walking (6)What is a labyrinth?  The labyrinth is an ancient symbol seen in cultures around the globe. Exactly when it became a walking path is a bit of a mystery, but today they are popping up in schools, hospitals, community centers, and places of worship world-wide. Many people find profound effects in walking the labyrinth, often in times of transition or when seeking inspiration or simply finding a stillness and peace.

In speaking about the impetus for creating the labyrinth at Princeton Yoga, Director Deborah Metzger notes: “This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health. My early vision for the Center was to create a 2016_07 Building it Labyrinth (1) outdoorshaven for people to follow their unique path to health, well-being and self-actualization. As Maslow taught, this need for self-actualization does not always follow a standard progression. Part of my vision for the Center included having a labyrinth (initially metaphorical) as a way to support people on their path. Though it seems that one meanders along the circular walking pattern, the labyrinth has one path which leads to the Center. In fact, one of our early ‘tag lines’ was Find your center at the Center. This year (now fully settled into our new home, a scenic 5-acre campus at 88 Orchard Road, Skillman), seemed the perfect time to bring the labyrinth into being.

“In contemplating the labyrinth, one phrase which came to me again and again 2016_07 Building it Labyrinth (1) with Deborah Ketteris:  ‘Not all those who wander are lost.’ ~J. R. R. Tolkien.  There is no right way or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. You make a choice to go in, go around and around its circuits, yet always find your way to the Center. For some, it represents a journey to our own center, a meandering but purposeful path that always leads back out into the world.  A perfect metaphor!

“I searched for someone to help in with its implementation and found a Kripalu colleague, Deborah Ketter, who is a certified, advanced Veriditas labyrinth facilitator, Kripalu Yoga teacher and artist. She and I together choose and modified a classical 7 circuit design to allow for extra gathering space in the center and came up with a plan to make it so.  She completed the project beautifully with heart and intention – from initial layout/measuring, finding organic materials like the stone and mulch, recruiting the people to help build it and together, with some of our teachers, students and volunteers, worked for days in the hot sun yielding the what you now see. We envision adding additional landscaping and other features to the project (benches, found objects and the like) over time – this too will grow organically as there is no rush and no “ending” to the circular path!”

2016_07_27 Almost done Labyrinth (4)On Wednesday, August 24, 2016 (7:00 – 8:30 pm) Princeton Center for Yoga & Health welcomes Deborah Ketter, a certified Veriditas Labyrinth Facilitator for a special program – Walking the Labyrinth with Intention . This event inaugurates the new Princeton Yoga labyrinth.  Following a short talk on the origin, meaning and ways of walking the labyrinth, participants will be guided in the custom of preparing “despachos”, or prayer packets, with objects of symbolic significance, and ending with a candle-lit walking the labyrinth.

Traditionally, Andean despachos are made as offering of thanks-giving or atonement, or as a petition for guidance. Bundles are carefully arranged, wrapped then burned as a way to “dispatch” prayers. In the August 24th workshop participants will make their own artful prayer packet and use it as they walk the labyrinth, planting intentions in the quiet field of pure potentiality.

Sign up here for the workshop.

2016_08 Labyrinth building almost complete (3)About Deborah Ketter, BFA, E-RYT 500, is a certified, advanced Veriditas labyrinth facilitator, Kripalu Yoga teacher and artist. She presents nationwide, including Kripalu, North America’s largest yoga training center, and has been building labyrinths and facilitating labyrinth walks at yoga studios, schools, community centers and hospitals for 15 years. Trained by Lauren Artress at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Debbie also studied labyrinth design with master builder Robert Ferre. As a yoga teacher, she uses a creative and therapeutic approach to teach the art and science of yoga, with a focus on guided relaxation. www.deborahketter.com

Worried about breaking those new years resolutions – try thinking like a yogi

by Deborah Metzger, Founder and director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health

Humans have been making – and breaking – New Year’s Resolutions for thousands of years. Improvements in health are perennial favorites: losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more, and taking time for relaxation, are likely to top many people’s lists.

Unfortunately, research and surveys show that a small minority of resolutions last even one month. According to Deborah Metzger, Director of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, the problem is not in the resolutions themselves, but in our mindsets as we make them.2015_12_31 Sound Journey (70)

Metzger explained that according to Yogic principles, most people make three serious errors as they set their resolutions. First, they judge themselves harshly. This leads to the second error, choosing unattainable goals. They magnify the gap between where they are and where they want to be. That causes the third error, thinking that the only way they can climb such a tall mountain is by beating themselves up until they reach the top.

“This combination of errors sets up a spiral of failure,” Metzger said. “The minute you start with negative judgments, you lose the ability to make positive changes.” For example, a woman who attends yoga class to “fix” her stress-related problems may actually spend the class berating herself for not attending every day: “This feels so good, why do I only go once a week? She’s just given herself a negative message for doing something positive for herself. Why would she want to keep repeating that experience?!”

When judgment leads to unattainable goals, the first misstep can spell the end of the resolution. “If someone who loves ice cream vows to stop eating ice cream all together, that’s just not reasonable. So the minute they have a single spoonful, they just give up and say, ‘Hey, why not eat the whole half gallon?’”

When resolutions can only be kept by discipline and fear of self-inflicted punishment, Metzger asserted, they are not sustainable. “In the end, we only do things that give us pleasure or help us avoid pain. If we think of the change we want to make as essentially negative, as requiring us to give up something we love, then we’re fighting against ourselves. Our old habits will prevail.”

The Yogic model of personal change, by contrast, consists of three simple decisions: awareness, acceptance, and adjustment. “Awareness, as opposed to judgment, means knowing where you are right now. If you want to follow a map to get to a destination, the first thing you need to figure out is where you are on the map. It’s not to beat yourself up, but simply to allow you to make good decisions.”

Acceptance means acknowledging your situation without wishing it were different. “Once you accept reality, and stop fighting against it, you can make a conscious decision to try something new,” Metzger explained. Often, non-judgmental awareness all by itself causes a shift, or adjustment – the change feels natural and effortless.

With this mindset, there can be no failure, only more information to help make better adjustments in the future. “Awareness is the key to the whole process. But in our culture, we have learned to prefer numbness to awareness. We run around and keep busy rather than quiet our minds and pay attention to our inner needs and wisdom.”

And, yes, the yogic tradition has a name for this – sankalpa or resolve (a key part of the practice of yoga nidra). We can begin by quieting our mind to ask what it is that is our heart’s desire and then asking what specific things need to happen to move us forward on this path. This does not need to take the form of words, but may also be visualized symbolically as an image, or you may have a “felt sense’ in the form of a sensation, a feeling or simply a quiet knowing. And, as with a meditation practice, forgetting this resolve from time to time is not a problem – rather, when you remember it and make the choice to return to the path, that is the practice. Each time you do so, you strengthen that ‘muscle’ of resolve, or create new habits.

To help people get into the right mindset for keeping New Year’s resolutions, the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health offers some 45 classes per week in addition to special weekend workshops and immersion. “We offer different ‘doorways in’ for people to be supported on their journey to health and well-being. We want people who are curious about yoga, who would like to experience difference styles, intensities, and other practices to see what feels right for them.”

Metzger said that the Center’s motto was, “Yoga for everybody.” “You don’t need special clothing, you don’t need to look like a model or show your yoga ‘moves’– you don’t even need to be able to stand up! We welcome you as you are, and our morning, lunchtime, evening, and weekend schedule accommodates virtually everyone.” In addition, the Center offers varied payment options to fit every budget, from drop-in classes, to sampler packages, unlimited class memberships and $5 Lunchtime and Hatha classes and Community: By Donation classes. This season, new auto-renew options afford additional savings.

The Center offerings include Hatha, Hot, Gentle, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Restorative and Yin Yoga, Pre-Natal and Yoga for kids and teens, as well as meditation, Yoga for Beginners, Yoga for Stress Reduction, Drum Circles, teacher trainings, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, other healing experiences and just plain fun. For a complete schedule or directions to the Center, visit www.princetonyoga.com, call (609) 924-7294 or like the Facebook page: PrincetonYoga. Website visitors can download a free 20-minute guided relaxation in mp3 format to help ease stresses of the season.


Find Relaxation this Holiday Season

by Lauren Swanekamp, HHC, RYTGiving

One of the biggest themes of the holidays is giving to others, doing for others, and spending time with friends and family.  It’s a beautiful time of year for giving and being thankful, however, many of us go slightly overboard with this theme and end up exhausted, resentful and just plain burnt out come January.  So how can you give and celebrate those in your life without the burnout?

Easy – give to and celebrate yourself too!

At first glance this may sound selfish but the point here is simple, you cannot give from a well that is empty.  In other words, if you don’t take time to replenish yourself you will have nothing left to give.

So the question I have you for today is this: what can you do for yourself, now and all year long, so that you can give from a place of joy and not from a place of obligation?  What refills your “well”?

I encourage you to take the time today to reflect on this question and create a list of 5 pleasurable things you can do this week that bring a smile to your face and melts the tension from your body.  It doesn’t have to be a massive list because often what restores you today will work tomorrow too.  To help you get started I’ve jotted down some ideas below:

Go for a 5 minute walk in the middle of your work day.  You’ll be amazed at how leaving your surroundings and getting some fresh air can change your energy and your mood.

 Lauren Swanekamp, HHC, RYTSchedule a yoga class at Princeton Center for Yoga and Health.  With a wealth of amazing teachers and a variety of classes, PCYH is an excellent place to build into your holiday routine to help keep stress levels low and keep your body strong and healthy.  For class descriptions and schedules visit their site here.

 Schedule a massage. This is especially great to unwind and help relax and detoxify your body.  Try scheduling an appointment for the day after a holiday party you are hosting or a big day of errands, this will help you relax the day of knowing that you have some self-care already scheduled for the following day.

Unplug.  Turn off your phone, your laptop, your iPad and your TV and curl up with a good book or your favorite magazines.  Enjoy the slower pace, get cozy by the fire, and pour a cup of tea (or glass of wine!)

Take a bath This can be a simple way to relax after a long day.  Bonus points if your Google DIY spa tips and make some fun masks or scrubs to make it feel more luxurious

 Say “no” more.  This two-letter word can really change your life.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be generous with your time and attention when it feels right, but I know that you know you’ve said “yes” to things that you really didn’t want to do.  Start reflecting more when you are asked for a favor or to take on a responsibility and really honor the answer that feels true.  Need help on how to say it?  Check out this great post by Alexandra Franzen and this one by Brene Brown, two of my most favorite teachers.

Lauren Swanekamp (1)For more tips and recipes that will help you stress less and feel great this holiday season, join me at Princeton Center for Yoga and Health on Friday, December 18th at 7pm for a Healthy Holiday Happy Hour – it’s like a nutrition class, yoga class, and spa party all rolled into one!   Enjoy specific yoga poses for digestion and relaxation, healthy recipe samples that you will not believe are good for you, and easy to manage health and wellness tips that will give you headstart on your New Year’s resolutions!

Register now