Seeking teachers

Since September 2015 I have been volunteering at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), teaching yoga, with my friend Jim Dunn.  Jim and I have a vision of creating a yoga program in all seven of Vermont’s correctional facility, but we need help.  The most immediate need is to enlist other teachers to help at CRCF.  We have moved our weekly class to Saturday afternoons, and it is difficult to be consistent when Jim or I have to be elsewhere, or are sick (I currently have laryngitis!) and cannot teach.   So many teachers I speak with seem to LOVE the idea of teaching in a prison, but few actually follow through.  I get it – we are all busy, but with the plethora of newly graduated yoga teachers, I truly hope to find a few instructor to commit one, maybe two, hours per month to teach this profoundly grateful group of people.  What are the qualifications we are looking for? Confident, mature, yoga teachers (at least 200 hour training) who are capable of teaching a Hatha yoga class to a diverse group of women, possible men if we get more facilities going.  Teachers should be able to make modifications for all types of bodies and mindsets, maintain a sense of humor, and be able to ditch their egos at the door.  Teachers should be flexible (more mentally than physically), own a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt (leave your Lululemon at home), and not have  a criminal record, i.e. no felony convictions.  The women we work with do want to create some heat (there are limited opportunities for them to exercise), yet they don’t want to be embarrassed or feel more ashamed of their bodies than they already do. IMG_2993  To volunteer at the prison who can shadow me or Jim a few times, then you’ll be asked to attend a two-hour orientation at the facility.  A background check will also be done. Contact me if you are seriously interested.

Namaste

 

 

Current class schedule

When I’m not driving Miss Daisy (pictured), working or making time for all the people and activities I love (including yoga), I can be found teaching at Balance Yoga in Richmond, VT Sundays 9:00 am. – 10:15 and at the Good Shepherd Church on Rt. 15 in Jericho, VT Thursdays evenings 6:00 pm. to 7:30.  Jim Dunn and I continue to volunteer teach at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (women’s prison) Tuesday evenings.  We continue to want/need more teachers to volunteer teach, even if it’s only once or twice a month.  We all benefit immensely and the women are so very grateful.  As it does for all of us, yoga gives them a way to mitigate suffering.  That’s my fall teaching routine.  I will also be offering a donation class in November for the Veteran’s Yoga Project (TBA).  All proceeds (100%) of that class will go toward providing yoga for veterans.  Though we all knew it is beneficial, there is now efficacious research showing that yoga ameliorates the effects of trauma.

Love you all!  Love my dog!

Balance

It has been a long time!  Rather than abandoning a too long ignored blog, I have chosen to resurrect it!  Let me get you up to speed with as few words as possible: Since September, 2015 I have ceased to teach at my home studio and have been teaching at Balance Yoga in Richmond, VT (www.balanceyogavt.com). In addition, I now teach yoga as a volunteer at a women’s correctional facility.  In December I completed my 300 hour training (so now I’m a 500 hour registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance), and last, but not least, I had the honor of completing a Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery Yoga Teacher Training: Level 1 in February with Daniel Libby, Ph.D. founder of Veteran’s Yoga Project.

What’s the take away?  I continue to learn, practice, teach, fail, slack, pick up the slack, and continue on along the path, which I must say is often over-grown, imperceptible, full of holes and other obstacles, but somehow I return to the right track.  That’s what we must do.  Don’t get mired in the mistakes, however big or small, and don’t be encumbered by regret, guilt, shame, etc.  It’s not that we don’t have these feelings, it simply does not serve us or anyone else to allow them to stop us from moving forward, making progress and finding the joy in this wild and amazing existence.  So I’m back!  Namaste.  IMG_5841

Tapas

Week three of the six-week series exploring the Niyamas focuses on Tapas, or deliberately acting in a way that causes positive change in ourselves  The Sanskrit root tap means “to heat”.  The heat generated from one’s practice of yoga and pranayama helps purify mental, emotional, and spiritual impurities. Tapas can also mean cultivating the necessary discipline that is required to create lasting change.  Now the irony here is that my intention has been to write my blog every Friday; almost a week later, here I am!  But when working to effect change in our lives we must expect setbacks.  The key is to keep moving.  Someone once asked me, “If you drop your cell phone on the ground, do you then jump on it or hit it with a hammer?”  Of course you don’t.  You pick it up, wipe it off, and place it in a safer place.  When we falter, fail, etc., tapas allows us to pick ourselves up and keep going.  To quote Nicolai Bachman (The Yoga Sutras Workbook, 2010), “Habitual behavior causes stagnation.  When we consciously change a habit, discomfort (duhkha) arises and creates heat in the body. This is the priceless heat of real change.  Because we are consciously challenging long-standing patterns of behavior, tapas burns up those deep samskara-s [or “cow paths” in the brain that result in habitual, negative behaviors].  The heat generated by tapas results in spiritual and physiological transformation.”

Santosa

Week two of six-week series exploring the Niyamas focuses on Santosa. (Pronounced “Santoesha”).  This is my favorite because it challenges, rewards, and guides me every day. Santosa is the practice of being grateful for what we have and content with who we are and where we are right now at this point in our lives.  It’s about practicing a sense of equanimity and calm even in the midst of a teenage class V hurricane, ranting boss, co-worker, partner, etc.  I’m sure we can all give an example of when the craziness of life has made us feel like we’re becoming unglued!  The opposite of Santosa is discontentment and dissatisfaction, which is a form of suffering, or duhkha.  Recognizing our constant grumblings, complaining, self-criticism, blaming, etc. is the first step toward the practice of Santosa.  Practicing Santosa, and thus cultivating equanimity, does not mean we sit back and say, “Oh, well!”  On the contrary; we must continue to be doing something in the spirit of moving toward positive change.  As Nicholai Bachman wrote in his fine book, The Yoga Sutras, “Contentment is not stagnant because of the changeable nature of our life and the world around us.”  Stay calm, accept what is happening in the moment, keep your wits about you, be grateful for what is (and is not), learn, and move forward.  Santosa allows us to roll with the punches, but not become stuck or discouraged. It allows us greater peace, insight, and the wherewithal to persevere and make positive changes in our lives and the lives of others.

Living your yoga off the mat with the Niyamas

The Niyamas (third limb of yoga) represent personal practices that promote self-reflection, inner wisdom, and freedom from suffering.  The first is Sauca, which literally means cleanliness.  Our asana (physical) practice of yoga helps burn away impurities of the mind and body, as do other actions, such as emotional release (crying, laughing).  Sauca is relevant to what we put into our bodies, our minds (what we read and watch on television), who we hang out with, and the state of our environment: Got clutter??Spring is an excellent time to think about Sauca and how we can purge the dregs of winter inside and out.  For me, I’ve decided to give up caffeine (coffee, in particular), alcohol, sugar, and processed foods for an indefinite amount of time.  I’ve also begun to organize some closets, get rid of clutter, and in general celebrate the light and warmth (okay, the light) of spring here in northern Vermont.  To truly embrace the Niyamas, I am also teaching a six-week yoga series: Living Your Yoga.  Each class will focus on one of the five Niyamas, with the last class being a blending of all five.  In the spirit of service, and truly living my yoga practice off the mat, I am donating all proceeds from these classes (taught at my home studio in Underhill, VT) to the Liberation Prison Yoga project’s campaign fund.  Anneke Lucas directs this endeavor that brings the healing power of yoga to those who are incarcerated.

It pains me to know that my country harbors the largest prison population on this planet, and I know rehabilitation is not the norm.  For me, supporting yoga in prisons helps counter the culture of mass warehousing offenders.  Don’t get me wrong, people are responsible for their actions and some people do very bad things; thus, they suffer the consequences.  I also know that our system and treatment of prisoners does not actively pursue educating and rehabilitating.  Too often, our prisons make for better criminals.  Offering a practice of yoga is healing and therapeutic.  It may help a prisoner know that though her body is fenced in, her mind and spirit can never be caged, and with this knowledge she might heal old wounds, perceive her innate goodness, grow confident, and eventually move beyond old habits and behaviors that led to this suffering in the first place.

So come check it out: Living Your Yoga, Saturdays starting 3/28 (no class April 25) 8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. at Yoga in the Woods. Can’t make it? Consider donating/supporting the Prison Yoga Liberation project.

Mindlessness

It seems these days we hear, read, and teach about mindfulness often.  Sometimes to understand what something is, it can be helpful to consider what it is not.  In this case, the opposite of mindfulness is, obviously, mindlessness.  I doubt this requires much explaining. How many times have I been baking bread and in the midst of measuring and pouring flour I stop and ask myself, “Is this cup number three or four?” I seriously have had times when I poured it all back and started again, but with intentional mindfulness (or focused attention).  That is a minor, and ultimately inconsequential, example.  There are also those times when mindlessness can result in more serious consequences, and yet somewhere between the mundane and the fatal, i.e., walking across a street without assessing the traffic, there are many ways that mindlessness diminishes a fully awake, grounded, centered, compassionate, and purposeful  life.   Besides stunting self-image, diminishing control in one’s life and success, mindlessness can result in unintended cruelty.   Consider the friend, partner, or teacher whose mindless comments and actions (or inactions), do not get consciously registered (so thus are not even remembered), because the actions were mindless; however, the receiver of those comments, deeds, or inactions feels the mindless cruelty acutely.  As a teacher, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and more, my intention is to be mindful and not fall into the stupor of mindless words and deeds.  Like all good things, this is a practice.  So for me, I maintain my sense of humor (I’ve produced some interesting dishes!), and practice being present and really seeing the person I am with.  I believe from this right action will follow.

Can’t have it both ways

Judith Lasater in Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life writes, “There was no way that I could be harsh toward myself and, at the same time, be compassionate to others. Sometimes it is so much easier to be gentler with others. Self-acceptance and love, without narcissim of course, allows us to be honest, gentle, and loving towards ourselves, which promotes honesty and objectivity. With this, and a sense of humor, we are able to cultivate practice and self-discipline, especially when we’ve strayed from our intentions. Your practice may wax and wane; I believe this is normal. Allow the past to be the past and set an intention for each day, but do not be a slave, or perhaps a prisoner, to the outcome.

Difficult times

A few weeks ago I wrote the following with the intention of posting it here:

Yehuda Berg reminds me to be grateful for hardships.  Indeed, they teach me so much and allow me to savor the calm that inevitably follows all storms.  Like clay on a potter’s wheel, I can only find center when I am pushed just beyond that point. 

I wrote this (and a bit more) right after an incredibly challenging week that was full of worries, stress, unknowns, and a lot of sadness.  Now that I re-read what I wrote, I don’t disagree at all, but I am in awe at how quickly we bounce back, and how what felt unbearable at that time is no longer even a part of my daily thoughts.  I think unconditional love, forgiveness, a sense of optimism, and gratitude for what is right here at this moment allows for this perspective.  I am learning to not live in the past.  I can learn from it for sure, but I need not dwell there.  

Words to live by

     With the vastness of the internet, and ample social media options, words of wisdom careen onto my laptop with lightening speed.  There are so many fabulous quotes and poems that are shared; after a while they may roll by without sufficient depth of processing.   The exception for me is the following poem by Dr. Seuss.  These are words I can truly live by:

Be who you are and

Say what you feel

Because those who mind 

Don’t matter, and

Those who matter don’t mind

                    -Dr. Seuss