Monthly Archives: February 2012

Thoughts on Retreat

By Linda Oshins

To see with as little gloss as possible. No rush to interpret. No need to compare.
To hear without naming the sound-maker. To taste without greed.
To think without grasping……..
All the gifts of silence.
Anticipating entering silence……..
The silent retreat in Southern Ohio that Marcia and I lead, filled with students from Yoga on High, is next week, and the 10-day retreat I attend as a student every year is in a few months. My mind fills with impressions from past retreats.

Marcia, Martha and I dressing early in the dark, moving from room to room and chanting the sleepers awake.

Lighting the candles on the ledge of the big window at the end of the meditation hall. Watching them dim as the sun rises over the fields to the east. Cows looking like peace itself.

Faces softening over time. Brows relaxing, breath lengthening. All eyes widening.

Walks to the graves of the nuns at Grailville with a grieving woman whose time in silence lets her mourn, neither of us wishing to be elsewhere. Winter in the air but crocuses making promises.

The fountain in the California courtyard which is always silent, not just for retreat. A hummingbird hovering in the fountain, bathing its belly on the wing.

A daily walk to visit the poppy garden, watching the bright, flimsy tissue of the California poppy blossom edge out of the hard fat bud. Sitting, alert, long enough to watch a flower move with the sun. Green vegetative muscle flexing.

During gazing practice, watching my own thoughts flit across the weathered face of the woman opposite me. I don’t know her personally, have never spoken to her, but have beliefs about her. All fabricated. Fabricated even if I knew her well. The shock of seeing her when the veil falls away. Have I never looked an anyone before?

Time slowing. Stopping. Dissolution. No self.

All those on retreat have their own memories that instantly return them to retreat. The ones that come to mind bring me joy. I have to ask for the ones born of pain.

Nothing familiar remains. Fear. Grief as a pathway into letting go. Emotions so violent they are seething. A core belief in my unworthiness.

It’s all there. Open to everything. This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke describes being open without being able to close, unable to protect oneself by closing.

From Sonnets of Orpheus

Flower-muscle that opens the anemone’s
meadow-morning bit by bit,
until into her lap the polyphonic
light of the loud skies pours down,

muscle of infinite reception
tensed in the still star of the blossom,
sometimes so overmanned with abundance
that the sunset’s beckoning to rest

is scarcely able to give back to you
the wide-sprung petal-edges:
you, resolve and strength of how many worlds!

We, with our violence, are longer-lasting.
But when, in which one of all lives,
are we at last open and receivers?

I am like the little anemone I once saw in the garden in Rome, which had opened so far during the day that it could no longer close at night! It was dreadful to see it in the dark meadow, wide open, how it still absorbed into its seemingly frantically torn open calyx, with so much too much night above it, and would not be done. And beside it all its clever little sister, each gone shut through its little measure of abundance. I too am turned so helplessly outward, hence distraught too by everything, refusing nothing, my senses overflowing without asking me to every disturbance; if there is a noise, I give myself up and am that noise…

From Rilke’s letter of June, 1914

On retreat, as elsewhere, nothing to protect.


Making Friends with The Second Series

By Tom Griffith

Even in its infancy my yoga practice involved poses from the second series of Ashtanga yoga. I of course had no idea at the time that I would find Ashtanga and practice these same poses almost daily, or correctly for that matter. I would use deep forward bends and twists to crack my back and lots of backbends to help reset everything. My hobbies were very physical and I worked on my feet all day, as a laborer, cook and ultimately twelve years on a concrete floor selling beer all day. Back then I would sleep on the carpeted bedroom floor a couple nights a week because I couldn’t find a comfortable position to lie in otherwise. After about ten years into my beer-store-manager days I began taking classes at Yoga on High. I loved the flow and heat of Ashtanga. Some of the poses were familiar, and linking the breath with each movement was the missing piece in every other “practice” I had dabbled in up to that point: running, skateboarding, snowboarding and Tai Chi. The primary series became a place out of time where I could focus my mind to move meditatively into my injured body. I had significant low back pain, a pretty badly damaged hamstring tendon and a knee that would swell with any exercise at all. The set series helped to keep me focused specifically on what I was doing each practice (alignment in the poses, postural and structural alignment in my body, how I was moving in AND out of postures, and so forth). More importantly it provided insight into what my mental and physical blocks were—into what limits and changes, good, bad or otherwise, I could be aware of.

A year or so into my love affair with Ashtanga I began Teacher Training at Yohi, which meant I HAD to take a six-day workshop with Tim Miller. I was concerned that my teacher’s teacher would come to town and I would injure myself irrevocably. Thankfully at some point I realized what I was telling myself. I began to look much more deeply at what and how I was practicing. I also began to look ahead in David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga a Practice Manual to the second series. In many ways I saw it then as I do now, as a companion to the primary series. They are complimentary to each other. Together they help to balance the body. So Tim came to Yohi, and Sunday morning he led us through an improvisational class during which we worked into modified versions of second series poses and some from other, more advanced series. Following that introduction I began to practice the poses in the way that Tim showed us. Working with modified second series poses helped me to look more intelligently at the primary series as a whole, and it helped to balance my body structurally and physically.

Gratefully, since that first workshop years ago I have had more Sunday afternoons with Tim, some second series workshops and of course classes at Yohi. Over the last three years, the second series has become my main practice. Each day I am more honored to practice as a student and be a teacher in the Ashtanga lineage. As a teacher I try to interest people in practicing the second series. Not to progress or to get that next posture, but to balance and compliment the great work they are doing with the primary series. These first two series are a foundation on which anyone can build. By modifying poses appropriately, everyone can have an individual practice that is just right for them.

Oftentimes when students ask me about a specific pose I find myself saying something like, “Well, yes, let’s look at how that relates/resolves/reiterates in the next pose.” In my personal practice I have found a needed balance of thought or evolving theory about how each posture links to another, how each series links to the other and, again gratefully, a balanced physicality as a result of my ongoing Ashtanga yoga research.


Why I Love Doing the Same Old Practice Every Day: Why I Love Ashtanga

By Martha Marcom

Let me count the ways in Sanskrit:

Ekam: I love the ritual. We begin with an Invocation. We submit to the sacred fire. We build the breath and the sweat. We warm our bodies up with Surya Namaskara, ground them in the standing poses, open them deeply in the heart of each series and conclude the practice with the purification of the classical finishing asanas.

Dve: I love the guru. Our sweet teacher, Guruji, Pattabi Jois, was an incredible Sanskrit scholar. In answer to a question he would begin to chant a passage from the Gita, the Vedas, the Sutras, the Uppanishads--he knew all of these and many other sacred texts. He was infused with holy knowledge and he transmitted this through the teaching of the asana practices.

Trini: I’ve come to love every pose. I love that you have to butt up against asanas that seem inaccessible at first in your body, and how they demand the humility and determination required to work through both physical and mental resistance. Ashtanga requires us to embrace those poses that are unpleasant at first. Those difficult poses hold many openings for us. If we hang in there with a daily practice, over time, they become another flower in the mala.

Catvari: I love the energetic flow of the practice and the state I’m left in after Savasana. The morning practice readies us, steadies us for what the day may bring.

Pancha: It’s true for me that this practice is yoga chitiska, yoga therapy, and it works on all levels—physical, emotional and mental. I have conclusive proof of this. I am increasingly at home in my body and more skillful in working with my mind and emotions.

Sat:I love that the sequence is a known quantity. There is freedom and spaciousness for me in knowing exactly where I am, what comes next and where I’ll end up. After many years now, the Primary Series has become reliably comforting.

Sapta:I love and deeply admire the teachers of this system who have been practicing for decades—and I want what they have! Of the teachers I have studied with who will be at the Ashtanga Confluence in March:

I love Tim Miller’s huge grounded presence, his intimacy with the sacred texts, his connection with the movements of the heavens, and especially, his humor.
I love David Swenson’s joyfulness and kindness, his lightness of being, how he makes our practice so user-friendly and the fun and humor he finds in almost everything.
I love Richard Freeman’s immense mind and philosophical understanding, his generous sharing of the subtle aspects of the practice and his dry wit and humor.

Our teachers are filled with the good humor, dedication and wisdom that Guruji transmitted!

Though I’ve not yet studied with Eddie Stern, I love that he published Yoga Mala, and that I was fortunate to be at the Broome St. Shala with Guruji during one of the pujas that transformed his shala into a temple for Ganesha—a dedication full of beauty.
I love that Nancy Gilgoff was the dauntless pioneer who cleared the way for all of us ashtanga yoginis.

Ashtau:I love that some of the postures are humbling—a perfect balance to those that feel triumphant.

Nava:I love the meditative quality of the practice, and the physical ease that can arise out of resting in the breath; I love the ujjayi breath

Dasa: I love the invitation to keep progressing through the various series. There is no end to the challenge. But also there’s no end to the primary series—to just practicing the same ole thing every day, with love.

Martha is headed to the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence this March.  We look forward to hear about how her experience of studying under many of the world’s master teachers alongside over one thousand other practitioners deepens her love for Ashtanga.  If you are excitedly awaiting the Confluence stay connected with The Confluence Countdown.


The Silent Retreat: Five Reasons Why I Love It

By Colleen Leonardi

On the occasion of my first silent retreat with Yoga on High, days before I packed my things and headed to Grailville, I found the following quote by writer Ann Morrow Lindbergh: “Solitude, says the moon shell. Every person, especially every women, should be alone sometime during the year, some part of each week, and each day.”

I took it to be a sign. Perhaps I did have the courage to weather five-days of silence, even if it felt daunting and unfamiliar. And perhaps that bravery trickling through me was fashioned to a much larger weave of running wisdom—a sage river a lot of us must step into to honor our self and sense of balance in the world. I realized I was on the edge of an experience much larger than me. And this made me very excited.

I share these reflections because if you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering attending Yoga on High’s silent retreat this year, or perhaps you’re already signed up, which suggests to me a curiosity and questioning of what it’s all about. And what I can say, not seeing you as you read or knowing your thoughts as you scan the lines, is that it will be about you. In my experience, retreats are about you and what you bring to them. So I might suggest, then, that the curiosity becomes about what you’re all about. And I think this is a very luscious, loving place to be—a place that Yoga on High knows how to support and cultivate in such a smart, compassionate way.

And since I so deeply value the decision to take this time for yourself (and take it you must!) and the women at YoHi who make space for you to retreat in this way, I can only share what was true for me as I write. You will certainly find your own truth in going.

There are few things I love with such conviction in this world: my family, my art, nature, and my yoga practice. I stand by these things because they unravel and comfort my heart—they challenge and change me on a cellular level. This silent retreat and the way Marcia, Linda and Martha lead it makes my list, in spades. And I’ll give you five reasons why:

| Silence heals. It does. I did bring with me the intention, on both retreats, to sit with and heal some wounds, pains in me that needed my attention. And at first my fear of the silence overrode my ability to sit and be. But that knowing kicked in and silence became a way of being. It was so familiar. I realized I’d been scared of myself, and closing the doors of outward communication to open the door on me became such a gift.

| A regular yoga practice rocks. The structure of the retreat is such that you are fully supported all day by a routine and encouraged to take time for you, whenever you need it. Waking at the crack of dawn to practice pranayama, then moving right into a yoga practice, eating, walking on the trail at Grailville, napping, doing more yoga, and eating lunch. Well, you get the idea. It’s so healthy and rigorous one begins to glow. I watched my compatriots at the retreat mellow into such a sweet spot for themselves each day as we adjusted to going to bed early and waking early, taking time in the day to write in our journals and practicing yoga in all ways all day. There is a logic behind the regularity, one that my body and mind fell in love with and began to crave as the days passed.

| This is the season. This turning of winter to spring is a rich period. The Earth is coming alive, buds breaking out on the trees, birds singing, the light changing. Grailville as a center for retreats is a beautiful, peaceful swath of land. I find resting and rejuvenating with nature at this time of year to be the perfect moment to reset for the year ahead. Yes, New Year’s is when we make our resolutions, but it’s in spring that the Earth comes alive, and us with it. And to be rested and grounded in you for this awakening… well, it’s simply wonderful. And we all deserve wonderful, I say.

| The most beautiful thing. One of my realizations at the end of the first retreat was that I’d been witness to some of the most beautiful moments, ever. Everyone in attendance offers such compassion to the space. A collective effort begins to build to heal, nourish, restore, enjoy, and rest. The energy off this effort stirs up pure loveliness. Most of it has to do, for me, with being present. Slowing down and inviting silence opens up so many other windows for you to see, hear, taste, smell, feel the world. Magic means something. The way the light slides through your view and then a shadow of a friend appearing on the ground can become the most beautiful thing you’ve witnessed in a while. Grace happens.

| You matter more. It has taken me quite some time to realize this, but returning to the retreat each year always drives it home. To be present for myself means I can be present with others. I can return to my home and my family and give them the gift of presence. I can return to my community and be present with them. I do believe one needs to water the inner well as well as the outer well because YOU matter first and foremost. You may not feel like you have the time, the resources to take the retreat this year. And that’s when you must know that you truly need it most. By saying I matter, I’m saying you matter. To give to myself—to commit to the intention to heal myself, slow down and listen—I commit to being in the world with my head on my shoulders and my heart in each step.

And with that, I hope you take the step and join the retreat this year. And one last thing for your journey into the question of you—the remainder of the quote by Lindbergh:

“What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channeled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of a family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life, as a beginning. I can follow this superficial clue, and see where it leads. Here, I can try.”

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea


Nourish Yourself—and Others: A Balanced Meal in One Hour

by Martha Marcom

Here are the recipes and a cooking plan for a meal containing whole beans, whole grains and two vegetables.  Within the time frame of one hour for cooking and preparation, there is also an optional, highly recommended, sea vegetable dish.  This dinner is a beautiful thing visually, with the bright vegetables, and nourishing yourself is a lovely means of self care.  As this is a vegan meal, it feels pure in your body and treads lightly on the earth.

Brown Rice with Red Lentils
Steamed Sweet Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli
Hiziki or Arame Sea Vegetable (optional addition)

This menu could be used as a template for a balanced vegetarian or vegan meal: a whole grain, a whole bean and an orange and a green vegetable.  The additional sea vegetable adds minerals, a savory taste and color and texture. You could vary this meal endlessly by trying different beans and grains and using a variety of vegetables and cooking techniques.   Sauces, chutneys, or a sprinkling of seeds or nuts add interest and zest, as does experimenting with the grain, bean and seasoning combinations of traditional cuisines such as the red beans and rice of New Orleans, frijoles and tortillas of Latin America,  or Mediterranean chickpeas and couscous.

I’m guessing that a black sea vegetable could be a stretch for newcomers to whole foods. It’s worth a try for the minerals it offers as well as its impact on the plate and the palate—it brightens the other colors visually and is almost used as a condiment, it is so savory.

Note: This meal uses red lentils, the fastest cooking bean.  If you were to choose another bean variety the cooking time will be longer.  A forthcoming blog will address bean cookery.

This meal will serve 3 to 4 people.

Shopping list—choose organic whenever you can!

    • Brown Rice--Brown Basmati recommended
    • Red Lentils--if you buy one pound of each lentils and rice, you’ll have enough left over to keep some on hand
    • 2 large or 3 medium yams or sweet potatoes
    • 1 bunch broccoli
    • Butter, optional  (This takes the dinner out of the realm of vegan, but according to Ayurvedic wisdom butter makes the vegetables more digestible, and this meal is so inherently low in fat that butter here is balancing.)

For the sea vegetable:

  • 1 package of arame or hiziki seaweed
  • Sesame oil, or substitute any oil you have on-hand such as olive oil
  • Fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Tamari or Soy Sauce

Equipment needed

  • Two sauce pans
  • One steam-basket
  • A third small pan if you’ll make the seaweed dish

 Dinner in an hour, action plan

First, cook the Rice/Bean dish:The brown rice and lentil dish is a real time-saver since they are cooked together in one pot.  Use your heaviest pot for this one—enameled cast iron is ideal.

  • 1 cup brown rice--brown Basmati works well
  • 2/3 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 1/2 cups water

Rinse the rice and the lentils.  The lentils tend to foam a bit and will need 3 good rinses.

Put them in the pot with the salt and water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.  It’s really that easy!  The only thing to fine-tune is the water--if your pot is not heavy, some of the steam will escape and you may need a bit more water.  You don’t want to end up with soupy rice and beans however. This works best on the plate if the water is  absorbed in the cooking. If the dish is a bit soupy after 45 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and allow some of the liquid to cook off while you finish the vegetables.

If you are making the seaweed dish, soak 1/2 cup seaweed in a cup of water next.

Now for the veggies:

Put the steaming rack in a pot with water filled to a point under the rack and bring to a boil.

Rinse the broccoli and trim off the end of the stem.  The stem makes for good eating if it’s peeled, sliced and sufficiently cooked. Cut or break apart the florets into roughly equal sizes.

Scrub but don’t peel the potatoes and slice them into 1/2″ rounds.  When the water boils, place the potatoes in the steamer.  I like to add the broccoli stems now, too.  These veggies will cook about 10 minutes before adding the florets.

Now’s your chance to make the sea vegetables.

Drain the seaweed

Peel and chop the garlic

Peel a knob of ginger, slice it thinly and then cut across those slices thinly

In a small skillet  heat a tablespoon of oil on low.

Saute the ginger and garlic in the oil for 3 minutes or so.

[Meanwhile, back to the vegetables, add the broccoli florets to the steaming vegetables]

Add the drained seaweed to the ginger and garlic, raise the heat to medium and continue to sauté, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

Add a dash (about 1 TBSP) of the tamari and cook for another few minutes

Serve right away--a serving is about two tablespoons.  Everything else should be ready now, too.

Serve the vegetables with a dot of butter or a dash of sesame oil

Note: The sea vegetable dish was slightly adapted from The Natural Gourmet by Annemarie Colbin.  Marcia brought Annemarie to Columbus back in the day when Lazarus was still Lazarus and had a cooking school, La Belle Pomme.  Annemarie Colbin’s first book, The Book of Whole Meals: A Seasonal Guide to Assembling Balanced Vegetarian Breakfasts, Lunches & Dinners, is a great guide to vegan meal planning. This book is in the tradition of Macrobiotic cooking, and Annemarie includes one fish recipe for each season.  All of the recipes are dairy-free.


Home to Business, Home to a Mission

By Jasmine Grace

As many of you know, I just returned from a three-week vacation visiting my mother and family in New Zealand, my homeland. I went with my husband, Jeremy, and 4 year-old-daughter Isabella. It was an enriching trip in many ways. It was a gift to share my home country and extended family with Jeremy and Isabella. On this trip I rediscovered the beauty of New Zealand -- looking at things through the eyes of my daughter who had never seen a waterfall, or spent multiple days just hanging on the beach making sandcastles, or swimming in the salty Pacific ocean. We saw ocean caves, walked the beach collecting shells older than Isabella, going horseback riding, and of course being spoiled by my Mother (that’s Grandma to Isabella). In short, it was a trip of a lifetime.

In visiting my extended family I also rediscovered how proud I am of my heritage, the legacy left behind by my Mother’s parents. Sometime during the trip (after visiting one of the numerous businesses my family owns) my husband turned to me and said, “Do you realize that everyone in your family owns their own successful business?” I said proudly, “Yes, entrepreneurship is in our blood.” This conversation made me smile. My husband always has an uncanny way of pointing things out to me that ignite my creative thoughts. And so I began thinking about why I love the art of doing business and why my family excels in this area. What is it in all of us that makes us who we are? What did my Mother’s parents instill in us all that we all are in business? In searching my thoughts I found that they are all committed to details, quality, and personalized service. They see what they do as an extension of themselves and bring creativity, passion, hard work, and purpose to their endeavors. They go the extra mile and make a difference. I know these qualities came from my Grandparents and I feel blessed for the time I got to spend with them when they were alive.

So why do I share this, what does it have to do with Yoga on High? Well this Sunday I am teaching a workshop (with Linda Oshins and special guest Lori Guth Moffett), The Business of Yoga, and as I have been preparing this experiential and informative meeting I couldn’t avoid adding a section on vision & mission to help yoga teachers who are trying to understand more about branding themselves discover what drives them and how they can use this passion to attain their goals and manifest their dreams. Knowing your purpose, feeling it in your body and hearing it in your inner thoughts brings you one step closer to living your best life. Let’s face it, when you are living your best life, you are helping more people and contributing to the wellness of the greater community. Humanity definitely needs more of this!

Quite often we don’t take the time to write a vision or mission statement. At
Yoga on High we recently rewrote ours and we wanted to share it with you:

Yoga on High -- Our Mission Statement
At Yoga on High, we want to ensure yoga is accessible to everyone by offering various practices and forms of asana, meditation, Reiki, teacher training and various healing modalities.
We aspire
• To be an inclusive community of teachers and students, practicing and studying together for the purpose of health and fitness, wellbeing, self-awareness, and transformation.
• To have well-trained, experienced teachers that meet each student where they are, supporting the student’s intention for practicing yoga.
• To do this within an environment that welcomes diversity with a joyous spirit.

Our Values
Yoga on High is committed to the highest quality in all we do—from our staff, our teachers, all our programs, customer service and communication with our students, and the Yoga on High studio environment. We have highly trained, experienced and responsible teachers and staff who are caring and concerned about the goals of the students.
We ensure that everyone who enters Yoga on High is welcomed into an open-minded, non-judgmental and compassionate environment. Our goal is to provide yoga programs that offer something of value to everyone. We encourage students to come as they are, and we will meet them there! Can’t touch your toes, no worries, you don’t need to!
Yoga on High staff commit to being honest and authentic with each other and with students. Simply put, to being real. We strive to be ethical on every level—in our business dealings and our personal relationships. In our relationships we strive to be fully present and committed to living our yogic values and practices.
We are committed to facilitating profound, transformational self-acceptance. We strive to provide teachers, programs and an environment that sustain on-going, holistic approaches to all eight limbs of yoga and that represent and welcome different points of view. Our approach provides students multi-layered, multi-directional courses of study that support a clear, logical progression toward personal development and mastery at each student’s own pace.
Our community is a family that offers inclusive programs for everyone including people who are not able to pay for it. We offer scholarships to Yoga on High programs as well as funding for specially designed programs through the Yoga on High Foundation. We also support numerous local charities.
Our family community involves other yoga studios, local businesses with goals in line with ours, and we strive to establish relationships that are fair and mutually beneficial to all of us.
In addition to our local community, we are a part of a larger yoga community that extends beyond Ohio. Every year we bring nationally and internationally recognized teachers to Yoga on High and into our lives and the lives of our students.
From the moment you enter Yoga on High, you are in sacred space, embracing peace, comfort and refuge. You can put down artifice and defenses and embrace and welcome all aspects of yourself whether you feel joyous and celebratory or are coping with difficult challenges.
At Yoga on High, our programs promote fitness, resilience, wellbeing, self-knowledge, self-acceptance, family, healing, growth, beauty and balance. Yoga on High is a place to be who you are!

One of the many waterfalls we visited in NZ

Being the new CEO (Chief Energy Officer) of Yoga on High I look forward to continuing the legacy that has been started by Martha, Marcia and Linda. I am so proud to be part of this amazing group of ladies. Yoga is my passion, my life and I know this opportunity has manifested from having a clear vision for my life’s purpose. I am thankful for the tools and characters given to me by my family on entrepreneurship and the experiences and knowledge from my past careers (this reminds me to write a blog on gratitude exercises). We should never stop learning or reinventing our selves or the way we do business.

I encourage you all to take the time to create and express yourself with a mission statement defining or perhaps redefining your vision and purpose.

Jasmine Astra-Elle Grace

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