linda-3829_0_0Years ago, an old friend of mine initiated the three of us—Martha Marcom, Marcia Miller, and me—into Reiki.   Then we began practicing together faithfully, each of us dipping into the mysteries hinted at when sensing energy flow in ourselves and one another, sensing that unfamiliar aspect of the world…obvious when sought, largely ignored otherwise. To sense energy in the world was not part of our normal cultural training and we were on new ground. We decided we wanted a guide through our experimentations so Marcia approached a long-time student of hers, Katherine Dufrane, who trained as an energy healer at Barbara Brennan’s college and went on to develop her own approach to healing through years of working with clients as a psychotherapist and energy worker. She asked Katherine to guide us.

Katherine refused to do so in the normal fashion, as an authority imparting wisdom to inexperienced students, but she agreed to lead us in mutual explorations of any questions we proposed to address as a group, and that has been the bedrock of all the work we have done since. Even learning to form open-ended questions took practice because the tendency is to ask a question that does two things—imply a judgment and narrow the query.

For example, suppose I am at a confusing and distressing juncture in my life and I want to know what to do. I’ve been schooled in the jargon of yoga and I propose a question like this one, “How do I know right action?” This seems open ended. It isn’t as small as, “Should I leave my current job, or how do I confront my teenager about his dangerous behavior or how do I cope with a diagnosis?” It’s not as small as, “How do I get rid of this fear, this grief, this anger that’s stopping me from doing what I think I should and from being a better version of myself than I am today?” But it still implies a judgment, which is “I don’t know right action; therefore, I am small, confused, and prone to wrong action.” And it implies a time line, I don’t know right action now but I want to in the future, how do I get there?

To open the question up, it could be rephrased, “What is the nature of right action?” While my life’s dilemma is not specifically addressed in that question, it’s held in its embrace.  As a group, we would decide on a question and “enter the energy” together—that is we would draw the Reiki symbols and enter into an open state of awareness, each of us contemplating the question personally, but the impersonality of the question inviting a large response, not one so bound up in our desires and convoluted by our conditioning. And, in this example, “right action,” is present now, not held for the future and some more perfect variant of ourselves. At the end of the contemplation, we would talk as a group about our experience, and each person’s vision would enrich all of us.

When working with open-ended questions, there isn’t one right answer for everyone, and any one person’s answer will change over time. The questions matter, not the answers. A “final” answer simply stops the inquiry. If you have a “final” answer, why look further? Why not see simply what you have seen before? Living with questions lets you see things from different perspectives—the answers to your questions can change, mutate as you work with them, evolve with your understanding and experience.

Answers are just echoes, they say. But
a question travels before it comes back,
and that counts. [1]

Energy work is well suited to learning to work with open-ended questions, side-stepping linear thinking and receiving intuitive insight into the nature of things. Insight that can inform life’s challenges, that can be taken back to the small, personal world as a reminder that we are more than our limitations, maybe even that we are not just this body/mind. Working with questions is part of the Reiki Masters training at Yoga on High and part of the training in the 9-month pranayama course. To learn to sense energy and to contemplate open-ended questions, you are invited to join these groups. Also, Marcia Miller works with students one-on-one in contemplating questions in Reiki privates.

At this stage in life, Linda teaches pranayama, iRest yoga nidra (meditation) and co-leads silent retreats. Her next pranayama training starts in February, 2016. The 2016 silent retreat led by Marcia and Linda is in April. Their Reiki Level 2 training is scheduled for August.

[1] From the poem The Research Team in the Mountains by William Stafford


May I Soften


AmyLybrook109For years yoga was all about the body for me. Long limbs, thin frame and a habitual over-achieving perfectionist, I was built for yoga. Early on, mind-body connection was, for me, the fullest expression of a pose driven by ego. The more physical the practice the better. I sought out the hottest rooms with the loudest music. “Centering” was the few minutes I had to settle down to organize my day and solve work issues. I inhaled and exhaled when instructed. I pushed myself to the fullest extent of every posture; to me alignment was never about safety or ease. Alignment was the right shape. During savasana I reflected on my “performance” during class or wandered into whatever room my mind took me. Dripping with sweat, I left the studio feeling cleansed, detoxed and sensational. Soon those feelings passed and I found myself settled into the familiar chaos of my life.

Looking back, I don’t recall an opening or space or realization. No shining beam of light illuminating my heart. Or any other woo-woo moment. I see an erosion. A chipping away of the expectations of myself.  I had begun asking myself two questions. May I greet my body with kindness? May I soften where life invites me to harden? When questions became statements, I began practicing Yoga. May I greet my body with kindness. May I soften where life invites me to harden. I don’t recall where or when I first heard these powerful statements. I’d never have come up with such a mantra on my own, I’m sure I owe a teacher somewhere credit. Today these two statements feel like gifts and are part of my daily practice. Fostering ease of breath, self- acceptance and hope. Three of the many things that have transformed my practice on the mat and encourage me to live my yoga off the mat.

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Yoga Teacher Training, a Vehicle for Change

teacherbiopicresized-5When I entered yoga teacher training in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2005, I wasn’t ready. My practice was okay, but not especially great. I leapt without looking, as was (and still sometimes is) my inclination. Before teacher training, I enrolled in an advertising portfolio school full-time while working at the District Attorney’s office. Busyness kept me from really taking a look at myself. I left the DA’s office to work in advertising, and despised my job from day one. Hives broke out all over my neck, and my appetite went away, both firsts for me. Lasting just a month before quitting and going back to my old job, I was humbled, disappointed, and confused. When a teacher I greatly respected encouraged me towards teacher training, I was blown away. Well, my ego really liked it, that I know. So, I went for it, not really thinking about why I wanted it.

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Welcoming the Gift of iRest

teacherbiopicresized-1During the silent retreat for my 200-hour teacher certification, I experienced iRest each day led by Linda Oshins, E-RYT 500.  I was five weeks past breaking my fibula while hiking in a rocky creek bed. On the third day of iRest I re-experienced the fall that caused the fracture, and my left leg straightened and lifted from the blanket supports. That movement might have prevented the fibula injury during my fall but placed my upper body and head at greater risk. I could picture and feel exactly which parts of my body had felt impact in the fall and finally understood the pattern of bruising that had followed. And while I gained this insight into the accident, I felt no pain nor any rush of adrenaline. I was calm and peaceful, lying with my fellow trainees in the dimly lit assembly hall as my neocortex made sense of the event.

From my training and practice in psychiatry, I knew that this was a form of flashback, a healing form that allowed me to integrate the previously frightening and hurtful episode into my conscious understanding. And then I smiled and thought, “iRest works! ” I thought of the clients I had been unable to help with medication and the many people I knew who had survived loss and painful events. And I smiled more broadly because I knew that relief for them was possible in a way I had never expected. Read More…


The Still Voice of the Heart

s-lopez-web_7Abandon all of these attitudes

Of wanting to prolong pleasure

And avoid suffering.

Let the heart be itself and feel

Whatever is there.

 - The opening of verse 103, The Radiance Sutras, Vijnanabhairava

To truly open to love we must open to vulnerability. It takes courage to bare our soul. Whether giving voice to an unmet need or sharing pure joy, speaking our truth makes us vulnerable. The practice of iRest® yoga nidra meditation opens us to the still voice of the heart. What does it take to honestly open oneself to the world, our beloved, or a stranger? Courage and trust help us meet life directly and speak our truth.

Freed from clinging and avoiding,

The heart regains its poise

And revels in creation.

When I sit with someone taking the risk to be vulnerable I feel respect, intimacy, and connection. This is a moment of liberation. Tenderness erupts in my heart if I don’t cling to or avoid what the other is experiencing. Also, fear may arise naturally as I meet the unknown of how the other will meet my response. Yet in these precious moments a window opens in the heart. What was hidden comes to light. We allow intimacy to blossom in our self and others.

Plunging deep into its center,

Discover that the heart is moved

By a pulse that is everywhere.

When we live in a wholehearted way we meet life with authenticity. It is an act of love to share our authentic self from moment to moment. This intimacy may reveal the truth of our Being. Our essential qualities shine through as the heart opens and we live undefended. Listen deeply and let yourself be moved by a pulse that is everywhere. Love opens up into itself revealing the beauty and truth of who we are.

With an open heart, Stephanie Lopez

Stephanie Lopez was a long time yoga teacher and psychotherapist in Columbus, Ohio, but she recently moved to California to serve as the Director of Operations at the Integrative Restoration Institute and to lead iRest trainings internationally. For her full bio, please click here. For information on Stephanie’s upcoming iRest Level 1 training, please click here. You may contact Stephanie directly through the IRI website.



Yogi of the Month: Ann

Meet Ann, this month’s Manduka Yogi of the Month. Ann has been a long time Hatha student of Marcia Miller, practicing at Yoga on High for 15 years.   Ann is a Children’s Librarian, nature lover and this Month’s Yogi of the Month.  Thank you Ann for being an inspiring part of our community!

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For the Love of Sanskrit

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 6.53.51 AMI was just out of high school when I heard my first Sanskrit word. My best friend was dating a musician and my favorite song on his new solo guitar album had the title ‘Ahimsa’. What a peculiar sounding word. Did he make it up, I asked? “No, it’s a Sanskrit word, from one of the oldest languages in the world.” I paused for a moment, and felt that little tingle of excitement when one discovers something new and mysterious. Fascinated by its antiquity and bearing in the lineage of human communication, I entertained myself with the notion that one day I would learn this sacred language.

Fast forward almost 20 years when I would begin my study of yoga and fall in love with its mother language, which is Sanskrit!

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The Timeless Wisdom of Sanskrit

The lease on the space that would become Yoga on High was signed on October 13, 15 years ago. To mark that occasion, this blog is a reprint from YOHI’s first newsletter and schedule. Those newsletters always contained one through provoking article, this one by Martha Marcom. It’s about the timeless wisdom of Sanskrit, a thread back through YOHI history and a nod to the fact that the studies and practices done at Yoga on High are indeed timeless.

Atha—now is the time for an auspicious beginning.

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Shining Lights in the Night

It was my husband, Kevin, who put me onto it. This morning, as he was busy with his preparations to leave for China, he paused and asked if I wanted to hear about the miracle he witnessed the night before. Of course I said yes and was glad to hear his description of awe in the midst of his anxiety-filled preparations. His telling blessed me too, those few moments of sweet connection before he left to travel half way around the world.

So there I was tonight, going out in the dark to close up the chickens into the safety of their coop. They live in our orchard about 100 yards from the house. As he had done the night before I was wearing a head lamp on my forehead. In its light I could see thousands of tiny, tiny insects flying in the night. Seeing them brought to mind the Jains, a religious sect that takes the tenet of nonviolence so seriously that they wear face masks to keep from breathing in such tiny life forms. Tonight I saw how many life forms there really are in the air in front of our faces.

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