Monthly Archives: April 2012

One More Yogi Jumping On The Blog

By Linda Oshins

When we began writing this Blog, the three good friends and practicing yogis who started Yoga on High in 2001, Marcia, Martha and Linda, were collectively known around the Center as “the partners.” As in, “the partners think we should do this” or “let’s ask the partners.” Yoga on High is run pretty much as an elaborate exercise in consensus building among all the staff, including the partners. Then along came Jasmine Astra-elle Grace, who accepted the newly formed position of CEO at Yoga on High. You see her touches everywhere—a brighter look in the bookstore, the new website, power hour or “hot” vinyasa classes on the schedule, additional staff members, and collaborations with other businesses like The Nest in Upper Arlington. She’s a great communicator—she insisted on our facebook page, the blog itself, our twitter feed, longer hours in the bookstore ,and fantastic pictures everywhere of YOHI yogis of every size, shape, age, and physical ability. She formalized our mission statement and reads it to us at every Board meeting. Because she was new to the center, we had to tell her about the programs that are currently running and all our hopes and dreams for the future. And in doing this we looked at ourselves and the Center again and were newly inspired.

So of course Jasmine became one of “the partners.” In her case, it means she owns stock in the business and is listed on all the legal documents. We’ve asked you to welcome her in that capacity. And now it’s Four Yogis Walk into a Blog, each telling our own story and the story of life at Yoga on High from our individual perspectives.

People often say to me, “You must be very proud of Yoga on High,” as though I can take credit for it. And I usually deflect that comment to keep my ego in check while acknowledging their gratitude, a gratitude I feel myself. I can’t take credit because partnerships at Yoga on High are the lifeblood of the Center and are of every type. If you could peek behind the scenes you would find that staff members are invested fully in their work and in living life as yogis, non-violently and with integrity. To the extent that fallible human beings are capable, every voice is heard and every one counts. All the teachers are committed to lifelong learning and an honest dialog with their own mind/body and their students’. And the students themselves, who teach us as much as we teach them, are an active part of the collaborative, collective, unwieldy, messy, living entity that is Yoga on High.

If this picture is too good to be true, let me say that there is dissention at YOHI, a lot of it. Mistakes are made, feelings are hurt, and apologies are offered, sometimes belatedly, and accepted, sometimes grudgingly. Courses of action are adopted that not everyone fully embraces (“I can endorse it and accept it but it’s not my favorite idea; prove its worth to me”). Ill-starred initiatives are launched and fail. But the process of partnership, the covenant itself, is inviolable. What happens when challenged makes all the difference. All the asana practice, meditation, non-violent communication, use of clean language, Presence Process practice, Field Center training on intentionality and counter-intentionality, Reiki, and general good will makes for as sane a life at YOHI as possible. The pieces of the puzzle fit together.
So welcome Jasmine, the fourth Yogi in the Blog, and congratulations to all of us for the work we do together at YOHI.

To Be Of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
Has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
And a person for work that is real.

--Marge Piercy


Meditation Secrets for Women

Camille Maurine will be leading the workshop, Meditation Secrets for Women on Friday, May 4 from 7:30 to 9:30p. There are a few spots left. This excerpt is from her book of the same name, co-authored by her husband, Lorin Roche.

An Invitation
What woman doesn’t yearn for time for herself, without having to be anything for anyone else? To rest, to restore, to settle in. To catch up with all the thoughts that fly in and out all day. To sort out her feelings from the tangle of everyone else’s. To be in touch with herself, her body, her rhythm. To clarify her own sense of things. To get back to her essence…

We hear this all the time from the women we work with. But when we mention meditation, resistance rears its head: “I want to meditate, but I just don’t have the time. I can’t sit still, forget about cross-legged – it hurts my knees. Cleanse my mind of thoughts? Are you kidding? Be calm and love everybody? Get real. I can’t stop the whirring in my head. I don’t have the discipline. Meditation’s supposed to be good for you, right? But it sounds so dry and boring. I would never want to deny so much of myself.”

What if we told you that there really are no odious rules to follow – that meditation is just being yourself? What if we told you that you don’t have to change yourself in any way to reap the benefits of meditation?

Well, that’s what this book is all about.

The marvelous truth is that you already know how to meditate. We’re just here to give you permission to do it – and to do it in your own unique way. If you set up favorable conditions, meditation happens spontaneously. This book is about how to set up those conditions for yourself. Meditation is a rest deeper than sleep, and is refreshing and rejuvenating. It’s good for your health, enables you to better deal with stress, and helps you live in harmony with your world. Hundreds of scientific studies map out these beneficial effects. But you’ll receive these benefits most fully if you figure out a female way that works for your individual life and not against it.

There is one sobering but ultimately liberating truth that you need to understand right off the bat. The ancient meditation techniques were not designed for women’s bodies and psyches. For years Lorin and I have asked, “What is a female-savvy approach to meditation? Why do some women thrive in meditation while others languish or quit?”

In listening to women talk about their meditation experience, there is something we have both consistently heard and seen. Women are natural meditators. Given the chance, they will settle into deep meditation and stay there for quite awhile, even if they have never meditated before. Lorin has discovered that many people spontaneously invent meditation techniques and practice them for years with very good results – often unwittingly recreating those in the classic texts. Likewise, many women have come to work with me because they want to explore in an embodied mode through subtle sensing and movement. As we stretch their understanding of what meditation can be, they enter profound and transforming states of awareness.

Bottom line: women need a different kind of meditation approach. Every woman needs a handful of techniques, not just one. The old rigid time frames, rules about immobility, and devices for blocking feeling deny a woman her basic rights to crave, taste, and experience life as she truly does. Women live right inside the natural rhythms of life – an emotional and physical connection that must be honored and satisfied.

In Meditation Secrets for Women, we invite you to use meditation as a way to connect with that natural rhythm, not contort it, to embrace yourself and all of your experiences, whatever mood you’re in, without having to deny or push away what’s really going on. Meditation should be joyful, sensuous, engaged, alive. It should be rooted in pleasure.

The Secrets are so simple that they could easily be overlooked. Why is the value of deep pleasure for women such a secret? It is a state so natural and fundamental, so life-affirming, that you would think we would all celebrate it, almost take it for granted, accept it as second nature, or in fact, as the first nature it really is. Many of us find it difficult to allow ourselves to dwell in that most basic and nurturing of states. As if we need permission! As if the world will fall apart if we let go, or we will be stoned to death or burned at the stake if we give in to our natural sensuality. When we relax into ourselves with pleasure, we eventually encounter deep-seated cultural taboos against sensuality, against loving our bodies, against resting in our feminine selves. There is a hidden judgment that this is hedonistic, selfish, base, naughty, shallow, frivolous, or sinful. (Care to supply your own adjectives?) So when you meditate, you will probably have to face those taboos – all the control structures that you’ve been taught as a woman. All your judgments and criticisms about yourself are sure to surface too. The beautiful thing about meditation is that it gives you the chance to rest in your own nature and learn to celebrate it.

Enter Secrets as you might a doorway into a world you’ve always longed for and suspected was there all along. And please, please come as you are. Don’t feel you have to change or “improve” yourself – you don’t have to be reverent, you don’t have to be serious. Come any way you are at the moment: curious, laughing, tired, rebellious, loving, grumpy, nervous, playful, buzzing with energy or sleepy. Come on in. Step into this wide-open embrace. Welcome all of who you are, from the small to the vast, the tender to the wise, the mundane to the divine. You’ll find that meditation nourishes your heart, and like a visit to an inner therapist, a quick vacation, an emotional tune-up, or a magic healing treatment, you’ll emerge more whole and real and empowered to be your best self.


Revolutionizing Self Care

by Jasmine Grace

Recently I was introduced to Lori Guth Moffet who inspired me with her concept of a “Self-Care Revolution in 2012”. When I heard this it sparked something in me that I wanted to embrace for myself, my students, and all of Yoga on High. Knowing that Lori was going to be teaching the Urban Zen classes, classes, thinking about the values of Yoga on High, and our personal missions we decided to embrace this self-care revolution at the studio.
Like most things in life we should always start with ourselves before we can even hope to reach others. As a teenager I think back to how I would start my day:
Wake at dawn and go for a run. Go for a swim in the ocean and watch the sunrise over the Pacific at Kings Beach, Queensland, Australia. (This is such a meditative, contemplative, grounding and inspirational act. I know living in Ohio we don’t have the ocean but if you are ever traveling and have the chance to do this safely I highly recommend it. If you are not a morning person sunsets work well too.) Eat a healthy breakfast, shower and get ready for school. Bike or walk to school (at least a 30 minute walk).
Besides the surfers I was perhaps the youngest one awake. There were the familiar faces of all those invested in a similar morning routine. In what could have been one of the most traumatic times of my life (perhaps another story) I was grounded by the beauty of nature, the positive effects of exercise and the power of a self-care ritual. Somewhere in my twenties I lost this connection, strayed from my source, discovered different priorities, had adult responsibilities, took on too much, and forgot how to care for myself.
My personal journey of rediscovering self-care has been one that has happened over the last few years. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I became quite sick and was forced to care for myself. My hope for everyone is that we can create healthy and balanced lifestyles that help us cope in today’s high tech, overcommitted and low connection society. We are all different and so are our personal needs to maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit. It is about striking a balance that works for us, our schedule, our health, and our current resources. I recently attended the Aveda Nurtur Salon Stress Fix event as a “stress expert” sharing stress reduction techniques like breathing, yoga and basic Aurevedic principals. I giggle at this title because like most I am still learning to balance it all but a few things that I have discovered along my journey are:
1. Start the day with gratitude and a personal meditation practice.
2. Use a dry skin brush and Auryevedic body oils like sesame and coconut oil.
3. Sweat once a day – yoga, run, walk, and be fit – move!
4. Drink lots of water.
5. Eat colorful fresh fruits and vegetables.
6. Get out in nature.
I call this my sunshine recipe. In moving to Ohio after spending the majority of my life in the sunny lands of Australia and Florida I created this personal recipe of wellness. It is essentially what I need to do daily to feel good, to take care of myself.
I recently spent 6 days with Ashtangi Tim Miller during his annual trip to Yoga on High. One of the many things he said that inspired me was that doing your yoga practice is like brushing and flossing your teeth. It is part of your daily hygiene routine. Simple. The discipline is there for my yoga practice but not for my self-care strategy. As soon as I get busy and stressed the first things that goes away are the extra things I do for myself to feel good, and it is a downward spiral from there. This brings up my passion for cultivating a daily self-care ritual and how the small things we do for ourselves can make a huge difference to our quality of life. My husband Jeremy Grace is an inspiration to me in this way. He has his routine and takes care of himself and in return he seems to have plenty of energy left for work and family.

Jeremy Grace - my husband and self-care guru! Photography by me taken Whangamata, New Zealand.

It is interesting to observe what you resist and avoid in life, especially if it is something that is good for you! If you need help figuring it out I highly recommend Victoria A. Vetere. She wrote the recent blog on the benefits of restorative yoga, is a personal life coach and friend of Lori Moffat Guth.
What is your self-care ritual and how do you fit it into your day?
Classes at Yoga on High that promote self-care include our restorative, Urban Zen, and meditation classes. We have taken the self-care concept a step further to say we have a Yoga on High self-care team, although come to think of it just taking time to do any style of yoga in your day is self-care!


Practicing Pranayama

by Linda Oshins

For years I tried to establish a home pranayama practice, which I abandoned over and over again. I knew how to perform each technique individually, but not how to put them together into a set of varied daily practice sequences. Today there is much more information available on pranayama, but then it was hard to come by. Mr. Iyengar’s text, Light on Pranayama, included everything I needed to know but was overwhelming in its detail and ultimately discouraging to me as a beginner. And the admonitions against practicing without the oversight of a guide were sobering. What could go so very wrong? In my case, emotional disturbance. After practicing for several weeks, I would notice that I had flashes of temper during the day, sometimes outright rage. I would abandon my practice again. I couldn’t take that lovely early morning experience on my meditation cushion out into the world.

Then along came Amy Weintraub. As part of her workshop on Yoga for Depression she teaches a number of breathing techniques that alter mood. I watched her either calm down or stimulate a roomful of students at will. To me it seemed as though she had such fine control that she could dial the mood up or down like I controlled the volume on a radio. I was missing something here, and I wanted to know what! I studied with Amy further and with every teacher I heard about who mentioned pranayama in the title of their workshop.

During this time I also become a Reiki practitioner. Every week a group of us spent time watching energy flow in ourselves and in each other. I watched the effects of different vibrations in myself and could elicit vibratory states at will. Each state seemed like a different “room” to me. I could walk through a door into a room where certain feelings were uppermost—physical sensations, emotions, mental states, and invitations to action or inaction. And this piece, along with the gifts from many different pranayama teachers, was the missing element in understanding pranayama.

Sculpting a pranayama practice is an art, but it’s based on listening closely to yourself and choosing techniques based on how you feel when you sit down on your meditation cushion to practice. And it leaves you in a state you choose yourself—either ready to get up and act in the world, ready to retreat into long periods in meditation, or somewhere in between. It’s not magic or incomprehensible. Its rules and gifts trace back to the body and to your and my ability to listen to ourselves knowingly. And to me, its gifts are stunning and lead easily in to meditation.

Teaching pranayama class yesterday I was awash in gratitude for the practices, amazed again as I noticed the subtle difference in tone between the inhale, the exhale and the pause at the end of the exhale. Even within a single breath we are introduced to waves of prana and to awareness itself.

I am teaching ongoing classes in pranayama,  offering a web-cast class on establishing a home pranayama practice, and a workshop for yoga teachers on teaching pranayama. If you are interested in practicing together, join in.


1,800 Limbs

By Martha Marcom

In early March, Jerry and I traveled to San Diego, to the Ashtanga Confluence, to join some 450 others in celebration of our path. Much has been written about this, as reported in the Confluence Countdown Blog. After a good month of reflection, here’s a bit of what I would like to share —
the love and beauty, respect and devotion and great fun of this swirling together.

The honoring of our guru, Sri Pattabhi Jois, was precious. And now, his early students, our teachers at the Confluence, are our honorable and beloved gurus.

The conference began with a puja to Ganesha. On a glorious evening, we were seated at tables with flowers on a green lawn that swept down to the bay. Eddie Stern was a marvel, guiding us through the Vedic sacraments, chanting verse after verse and also telling jokes in English all the while. The hearty laughter as part of the holy ritual marked a beginning where anything was possible.

Three hundred of so students practice in a lovely ballroom. Here is an image of the altar.

I noticed many yogis working through the 3rd series. This is a remarkable practice to witness, and they were moving through their jaw-dropping asanas with matter of fact naturalness and ease. I felt as if the whole room was a garden and on each mat was a flowering of wonderfully wild, yet contained beauty. Through the sequence they flowed, with ease, speed, efficiency. Staying within the space of one sticky mat among many, a yogini entered handstand, arched into backbend, stood up into Samasthitihi-over and over, as a form of breath meditation.

Imagine the joy of having David Swenson arrive to help you in Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana, and Tim Miller give you a guiding, informative touch in Down Dog, and Mary Taylor release your entire body back into her hers to find a whole new revolved triangle. There was a strong, thrilling energy of just being present in that space, with all of the good intention and focused attention, and with us all loving our practice and each other.

We were living together in paradise..walking to class, we passed through tropical gardens in bloom and ponds with coy, ducks, turtles, and parrots. You might run into an old buddy at any time, and you could smile at everyone, knowing you shared something very dear.

All 450 of us gathered for panel discussions in the exploration of the yamas and niyamas. It was rich and moving to see how deeply each teacher had embodied these qualities. As the teachers spoke in turn, it was beautiful to see the depth of love and respect they had for each others’ understanding of these aspects of our eight-limbed path. Guruji often said that through a long and devoted asana practice, the other limbs become easy; the Confluence teachers shined with this truth.


The Secret of Happiness

It’s true, I’m selfish. I want to be happy as much of the time as I can. The secret seems to be in how to do this. If you watch TV or listen to our ever louder and persistent media you “know” that happiness comes from shopping. Buy that perfect and popular item and you will overcome all obstacles.
But, here is the real secret—if you want to be happy, serve others. The joy in contributing to the well-being of others is long-lasting and leaves you with a buoyant and light heart and the knowledge of your deep interconnection with all others.

yogi with kale mudra

There is a name for this yoga—Karma Yoga—the practice of attending to work in the service of others. Just as you pay attention to breath and body sensations in asana practice, you can do the same in Karma Yoga. And there are so many ways of doing Karma Yoga that your whole life can become a practice ground.
Preparing breakfast for your family can become an offering to them as you tend to each moment of the task and remember the love you feel for them. Filing important papers at work can be done with grace and ease as you serve your business and all the people it serves. Cleaning windows can become a metaphor for polishing the jewel of your own inner nature.
I’ve been musing about Karma Yoga lately as we begin our fourth year of the Anahata Food Project, a community service project of Yoga on High. The project’s mission is to grow organically grown food and donate it to food pantries in distressed areas of the city. Its other mission is to give the Yoga on High community a way to practice Karma Yoga by giving back to our neighbors. Anahata is a Sanskrit word that refers to the heart center and the work we do comes from our hearts for sure. We work hard, get sweaty and dirty and take time out of our already busy lives to do so. Out work matters to the people who get FRESH and delicious produce, and it makes a difference in our lives as well.

Moving fencing so the peas and beans can climb.

So I’ve been musing about why a group of us shows up week after week, year after year, and why each year more new people are drawn in by our excitement and dedication. In asking myself and some of the other volunteers we came up with a few reasons.
Making a difference: the satisfaction that comes from serving others is one obvious reason. There is so much hunger in our city and we want to offer the kinds of food that we like to eat—vegetables! We could offer canned foods but these don’t have the vitality that we long for in our own bodies. Doing what we can do to help others brings satisfaction to us and meets our needs for care and consideration of others.
Community: Working together out in the fields has forged deep and meaningful friendships. In the beginning, most of us didn’t know anyone else in the group, but working side by side we have learned about each other’s lives and what matters to each of us. We have also forged a community between us, the people who work at the food pantries, and the local businesses that helped out last year.
Learning: A surprising number of our volunteers came to the farm without knowing much about gardening. As we welcomed them into the project, they learned about preparing beds, planting, weeding (we all get loads of practice) and harvesting food. We all taught ourselves how to clean and bag the food in ways that worked best for pantry distribution. And we all watch the miracle of a seed growing into a plant. Our Swiss chard is emblematic of that. Each planted seed grows nutrient-dense greens all season from May through November. Every week we harvest the dark green wrinkly leaves, and every week the chard plants grow many more. They are not deterred by hot, searing sun, torrential rains or hard frosts. They just grow and grow and grow. They are much anticipated and appreciated by the people receiving them in the pantries.
Fun in the Sun (and occasional rain): Working outside using our bodies in physical labor is a great joy. The fresh air and sunshine, the pastoral, rural setting with a wide sky overhead is in contrast to the computer stations where so many of us work much of the day. As we farm we can see wide green fields with cows, chickens, blackberries, fruit trees and a pond. And, the soundscape is equally delicious with the screechy calls of red-winged blackbirds and the peeping and trilling of frogs in the background. (As a special treat here is a short audio clip.)
If you are moved to join us you can contact me at Our Facebook page is Anahata Food Project—like us there! We post news about the garden and the volunteer schedule there.

Chloe, Janine, Abby and Marcia taking food to be readied for delivery.

And remember there are many ways to do Karma Yoga. Whatever you are doing as work can be transformed into yoga with your attention and love.

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