Posts by: yogaonhigh

Featured Teacher: Tom Griffith

Why do you practice?
I feel better on every level with each day.

Why do you teach?
I absolutely love it. Very literally helping others to help themselves, what better way to share ones passion?

Inspirations?
Martha and Jerry Marcom, the love, compassion and skill with which they live life in addition to their dedication to teaching and practicing Ashtanga yoga. I have watched as they have both shared this practice with so many happy people. I have also watched as they have both profoundly healed physically and all kidding aside aged gracefully as a result of practice and non-attachment.

Who have you trained with?
The Marcoms, Linda Oshins, Marcia Miller. For Ashtanga specifically Tim Miller every April at Yohi since 2005 (except one), Richard Freeman for a week long teacher training in 2007 and just last year here in Columbus, Maty Ezraty and a little with David Swenson and Manju Jois. So many great teachers at Yohi past and present.

What style do you teach?
Ashtanga but as they say around the studio I go both ways. I love to break things down into doable bits so that what may in fact be difficult becomes more approachable with a different perspective.

What’s your favorite food?
Southern BBQ.

What’s your nickname?
Tall Tom, Tbird and Tag. About three people in the world call me Tommy.

Do you own any animals?
I live with a cat called Persephone.

What’s on your playlist right now?
About this time of year I have Krishna Das’ Flow of Grace on constant rotation in the car.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
The half block. What can’t it do?

What style influences your teaching?
Tim Miller’s Surya Namaskara C and Richard Freeman’s metaphors have allowed me to stay rooted in my personal Ashtanga practice but to present what I know in fun yet challenging ways. Somewhere in there is a consistent repeated practice that is similar enough each week to know what changes (and what doesn’t) and subtle enough to stay with the experience long enough to experience it.

Favorite yoga pose?
This week, Bhujapidasana-arm pressure pose.

Favorite quote?

“Spread the toes of your buttocks.” -- Freeman

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Looney Tunes

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
Tom

Your favorite item of clothing?
Blue leather blazer jacket.

What did you want to be when you were little?
Professional skateboarder / photographer.

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be?
Flying squirrel
Why?
Ok, maybe flying monkey.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?
Honeymoon in Prague.

What word describes you best?
agreeable

What drives you every day?
love

Whom do you admire?
Teachers

What is your mission?
To learn and help others

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
It is a very long story but the answer is bought me a leather jacket.

Fun fact about you?
Rymocerous

What books are you reading right now?
Just finished a reread of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

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Pose of the Moment – Bakasana

As a new contribution to our blog we will be doing a Pose of the Moment. Moreover, on any given day, if you visit one of my Vinyasa or Hot Yoga classes you may just find the pose in the yoga sequence! One of the definitions of Vinyasa yoga is to place in a special way. Personally, the poses I share with you will be thoughtfully placed into my sequences using preparatory asanas that open and stabilize the body. In these articles in addition to looking at preparatory poses we will review the anatomy of the pose, modifications, what the asana is a preparatory pose for, counter poses and possible therapeutic and emotional benefits. I hope you find the information useful and I look forward to seeing you in class.

by Jasmine Grace

Pose of the Moment
Have you been to one of my classes lately? If not in almost every class I have been working on Bakasana. Have fun exploring this fun pose!

Sanskrit Name: Bakasana

Other Name/s: Crane or crow

Instruction to Come Into the Pose:

  1. Squat down and place palms flat on the floor with middle fingers facing forward. Elbows can be bent.
  2. Bring knees high onto upper arms and as close to the armpits as possible.
  3. Come to the tippy toes with feet coming close together. Squeeze the knees into the armpits and lift the feet, lift the pelvic floor, and straighten arms as much as possible.
  4. Gaze forward down the nose.

Modifications and Playing with the Pose:
I like to practice this at home with pillows in front of me for crash landings. It helps with the fear factor.

If you are still building strength, try to lift one foot of the floor at a time and work on the stabilizing poses listed below.

You can also place a block under your feet to get the height. Then try a lift feet of block.

As always, practice daily and build strength, coordination and confidence.

Play with the concept apana (downward) prana (upward). Ground (apana) through the hands to and finding lightness in the pelvic floor and feet.

Gaze/Drishti: Tip of nose

Anatomy & Preparatory Poses:

What needs to be open:
Hip extensors, Ankle dorsiflexors, back extensors, shoulder elevators and retractors, wrist flexors.

Marichysana A

Preparatory Asanas for Opening:
Balasana (child’s pose), Bidalasana (Cat Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Malasana (Garland Pose), Marichysana A (Sage Marichi’s Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana A (Spread-Leg Forward Fold Pose A), Uttana Prasithasana (Flying Lizard Pose), Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend).

What needs to be stable:
Wrist synergists, elbow synergists, shoulder stabilizers, external rotators of the arm, chest, abdominals, hop adductors and flexors, pelvic floor, knee flexors.

Preparatory Asanas for Stabilizing:
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), Chaturunga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose), Malasana (Garland Pose), Navasana (Boat Pose), Phalakasana (Plank Pose),  Marichysana A (Sage Marichi’s Pose), Bidalasana (Cat Pose).

This Asana Prepares You For:
Tittibsana (Firefly), Parsva Bakasana (Side Crane/Crow), Eka pada Koundinyasana (One-leg Sage Koundinya’s Pose), Sirsasana II series (Tripod Headstand), transition pose by hopping from Arho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog).

Counterposes:
Balasana (Child’s Pose), Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-facing Dog), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog), Wrist Stretches, Vinyasa.

Resources: Stephens, Mark. 2012. Yoga Sequencing; Designing Transformative Yoga Classes. Berkeley, CA : North Atlantic Books
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Featured Teacher: Janet Braden

Why do you practice?
I practice to become a better person.  Practicing yoga brings me a deeper sense of calm, inner strength, balance and a clearer perspective on EVERYTHING.  I have more to offer others when I practice.

Why do you teach?
I want to share all of the benefits that I gain from yoga (and Pilates) with others.

Inspirations?
I am inspired by my family -- my husband and two children.  I am inspired by my students, my teachers, my friends and nature.

Who have you trained with?
Linda, Marcia and Martha and the rest of the amazing teachers at YoHi.   Tim Miller, Maty Ezraty, Cyndi Lee, David Swenson, Richard Freeman, Doug Keller and Rodney Yee.

What style do you teach?
I teach Vinyasa, Prenatal and Mommy & Baby yoga.  I also teach Stott Pilates.

What’s your favorite food?
Anything spicy!  I LOVE Thai food, coconut, avocados and dried mangos (the ones rolled in chile powder are delicious!).

What’s your nickname?
Mom!!!!!!’

Do you own any animals?
As of now we have 4 siamese cats : Isis, Duncan, Zeus & Buddha, and 1 shepherd mix dog : Helios.

What’s on your playlist right now?
KMFDM, the Pixies, Bob Marley & Fleetwood Mac.  I love 60’s and 70’s music (the Beatles, the Doors, Marvin Gaye).

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
My turquoise Manduka mat -- it reminds me of the ocean.

What style influences your teaching?
Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Pilates.

Favorite yoga pose?
I am fascinated with handstands right now and having lots of fun practicing them at home.  I enjoy all arm balances -- they remind me that a good sense of humor is a wonderful thing to have while practicing and also they make me feel like I am about 5 yrs. old (when we used to roll down large hills just for fun).

Favorite quote?

‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, your right.’ -- Henry Ford

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
House Hunters International.

What did you want to be when you were little?
A ballerina or a marine biologist.

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be?
Definitely a cat.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?
I went on a cruise to Mexico and Jamaica with my Grandma when I was in my early twenties.  The entire trip was incredible and I will always hold dear the adventure that we had together.

What drives you every day?
Coffee :-).  Half joking on that  :-).  I guess trying to be the best person I can be whether it is Mom, wife, student, friend or teacher (all parts of ‘me’).  Every morning when I wake up my son, I say ‘It’s a brand new day!’, and we go from there.

Whom do you admire?
People who show kindness to others without requiring personal gain for themselves.

What is your mission?
To try to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
My husband turned me into a Wife and Mother.

Fun fact about you?
I could eat wasabi on just about anything and I am afraid of bugs.

What books are you reading right now?
The Ikea 2013 catalogue -- trying to find ideas on how to become a bit more organized at home!  I am also spending quite a bit of time ( A LOT) searching online for new recipes.  My husband and I are eating ‘Caveman style’ (natural foods) and it has been an interesting process.  Fun to try new things and see what makes ‘the cut’.

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The Strength of an Angel

In the fall of 2012, I taught a six-week yoga program to middle school students at St. Mary Magdalene in Westgate focused on yoga and the six attributes of strength: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Confident, Be in Control and Be Forgiving. I’ve been working with the children at St. Mary Magdalene for two years. One of my most dedicated students, Angel, shared a letter with me on the last day of class, detailing what yoga means to her. We at the Yoga on High Foundation felt compelled to share it here with you.

Namaste. —Colleen Leonardi

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Featured Teacher: Mary Ellen Bibyk

Why do you teach?
My goal in teaching is to help people live a more easeful, healthy life.

What style do you teach?
Hatha/Vinyasa -with an eye toward improving strength, balance and flexibility.

What style influences your teaching?
No one style influences my teaching.  Currently, the biggest influences are my personal practice and the people who attend my classes.

Why do you practice?
To remain strong: physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Favorite yoga pose?
I favor the combination of poses and warmups. I find a way to make each pose, each warmup compliment and support the others.

 

Inspirations?
My children, the people who attend my classes, the patients and families I’ve had the privilege to serve.

 

 

What books are you reading right now?
I admire Dan Silva’s writing style. I’ve read several of his books out of order. I’m currently rereading them in order.
I’m also rereading E. Tolle’s, A New Earth and L. Truss’, Eats Shoots & Leaves. My grammar teacher would be appalled by my wanton misuse of punctuation.

What did you want to be when you were little?
A nurse. I read every book I could find on Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. They were terribly romanticised biographies, but served to inspire me nonetheless.

What’s your favorite food?
My Hungarian grandmother’s recipes. I love to adapt and create new recipes; I’m working on making healthier versions of her delightful dishes.

Your favorite item of clothing?
Given the current season, scarves. I can knit one up on a whim, thanks to my generous yarn stash.

What is you favorite TV show?
Maybe LOST, until the writers got -- lost. The characters were wonderfully fun.
Firefly/Serenity
are entertaining distractions and Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, which I initially discovered on-line during the writers strike.

Favorite quote?

“I know it’s hard to be reconciled
not everything is exactly the way it ought to be
but please turn around and step into the future
leave memories behind
enter the land of hope”
-- Zhigniew Herbert

What’s on your playlist right now?
One Republic -- really, anything that Ryan Tedder has had a hand in.

Do you own any animals?
One mutt, a rescue. She is intelligent and playful, with a dash of crazy.

We recently lost our beloved cat to cancer. She was a gentle, loving soul and a wonderful snuggle buddy. I miss her very much.

 

 What’s your nickname?
My very best childhood friend called me ‘Ellie Mae’. She and her lovely family lit up my life during some dark times.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
I would simply use my initials ‘M.E.‘, pronounced ‘Emmy’.
‘Mary Ellen’ is such a cumbersome mouthful.

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How Katherine Framed Questions

By Linda Oshins

The many, many people who knew, loved and were helped through troubled times by Katherine Dufrane have been thinking about her and doing various things to honor her memory since she died a few weeks ago. I place a lighted candle and stick of incense beside a fresh flower, sit down and ask for the lessons she taught me to come to mind, and for me to embody them. This is a way of remembering her. One of the central, critical lessons she taught me was to question openly, letting the answer come to me, rather than trying to figure out the answer, usually by rejecting some aspect of myself or another person.

She was the first to introduce me to the idea of non-doer-ship. Non-doer-ship includes staying clearly within another’s process without co-opting it by introducing your own history into the discussion (for example, “My mother has died, too”); or trying to “fix” the other person’s problem for them (advice giving); or simply shying away from another’s anguished emotional or mental state. It sounds simple, but is really difficult to do. She taught us to be with someone else by asking questions that elicit a metaphorical narrative and experience in them during a Reiki session. Or we could use this same process on ourselves.

Katherine said the essential question is “What is it like?” This is a very open-ended question without any hint of judgment—an invitation to open any door. In our healing group, this was an invitation to locate a sensation in the body and explore it. For example, if I was fearful I would find the sensation of fear in the body and go from there. In exploring a physical sensation, I got to know it and develop a metaphor or narrative that brought it to life. I could look squarely at it and let thoughts, images and memories freely flow until fear was familiar. If I needed a framework to begin my exploration she might ask, “Does it have a shape? A texture? Is it inside you our outside you or both?”

In terms of working with the developing metaphor, she would ask, “When it’s like that… is there anything more about it? When it’s like that…is there anything else for me to know about this?” One of the most comforting things she would say during a session is, “Take all the time you need.” She said this allows time for the shifts in a person’s perception and reality to happen at the cellular level.

Many people have taught me, in different “listening” systems and healing techniques, to repeat a person’s words to them in order for them to hear what they have just said clearly and to let them know that I have heard them clearly too. Katherine called this “blessing the process,” using a person’s own words to create the next question. “When it’s like this (repeating person’s words here)… is there anything else?”

This type of language is the deepest kind of support, a deep respect and reverence for a person as they are in this moment and their own process. It is not a matter of semantics but of the deepest truth.

These are her principles for asking questions of someone else or of yourself—

· Clear all judgments out of a question

· Use open-ended questions that say exactly what you want to know

· No yes-or-no questions or questions where the answer is implied

· Make sure the question respects what is; it can allow for change but does not require it

· The question should bring loving awareness to what is true now

· Allow words to rearrange themselves so that the question feels true to the questioner

· Choose deep issues that seem unknowable

· Include the phrase, “what am I ready to know about…” to permit conscious boundaries; there is a difference between wanting to know and being ready to know or see

· Honor fear; force nothing

· Find the question that has the most juice or energy around it

For years we met to give Reiki to each other and receive it in turn, querying our unconscious, seeming to tap into a pool of wisdom beyond the workings of our limited minds—a place where Katherine was at home. We would take a question vital to one of us or to the group as a whole and spend time with it. We understood that the juice was in the question, not the answer, and that the trip was much more exciting than the destination. Finally, that there was no destination. We would never “understand”. That released us from being right or wrong and left us squarely in the mystery of life and death, just asking questions. What a gift!

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Inhale, Exhale, Pause

By Marcia Miller

Inhale, exhale, pause, inhale, exhale, pause

Can you observe and feel two cycles of your own breath, noticing each of these elements, before reading further? No need to change any of it—just be with your breath however it is.

I’m just back from teaching a retreat in Belize with students from all over the US and Canada, including of course some from our YOHI community. Inhale, exhale, pause turned out to be one of the main themes for our week together and to be a very useful theme to me personally during experiences out of class as well.

In our first class together we met in an outdoor palapa.

All of us had traveled 12 hours or so to get there and starting with a breath practice seemed like a good idea. The next morning we met at 6:30a to experience a mist-enshrouded class. Because we were in the Macal river valley with tall mountains on either side of us, the mist gradually rose so that by the end of the class the tropical sun had risen above the mountain top and we were bathed in light. Inhale, exhale, pause seemed to honor this whole experience. Inhale—take in the gift of the breath right now in this moment; exhale—let go of that which is no longer needed; pause—feel the refreshment, the awe and the integration of this moment.

I love these pauses. A pause is not a “hold.” which implies effort or tension of some kind to keep the breath out when it would prefer to come in. It is an opening into spaciousness that can be the briefest of moments or a luxuriously intimate dip into eternity—the mind quiet, the mouth and nose relaxed as if I just smelled a fragrance at once mysterious and delicious. These pauses, however subtle, give us a chance to stop and see the effects of what just came before, whether it be a yoga pose or a climb up a mountain. These days we seem to move so quickly, even in yoga class, that I relish these simple moments of noticing the effects of my actions, my thoughts, my heart. Inhale, exhale, pause has a rhythm that seems natural and is enhanced by being in a jungle or by the beach as we were last week. All of life is both movement and stillness and it is not always possible to see clearly how each aspect relates to the other. Even as the inhalation is mostly nourishing, it can also be deeply quiet and receptive. The exhalation can be more active and is also a time of deeper absorption for all that was just inhaled. The pause is a time to be with the mystery, the koan, of all of it.

As we continued through our week I remembered this theme many times when I was not in class and experienced many moments of awe and beauty, and a few of fear and confusion.

Early in our trip we visited nearby Mayan ruins. The whole area felt sacred. As I paused on purpose I felt tingling all over my skin and the hairs stood up on my arms. It felt delicious and holy, and I might have missed that feeling if I had not paused. As we climbed the ruins our talented guide of Mayan descent, steeped us in stories of Mayan civilization. These were the stones and stories of his people, and we were captivated by his presence.

And at the same time, my body was terrified of being on narrow ledges up that high. I could hardly breathe and my belly tightened and clenched with fear. “Get out of here now!” it kept saying. But to “get out of here” I had to go down tiny stairs, at times with nothing to hold onto—not a great resolution to this fearful experience. I remained on the ledge, as far away from the edge as possible and stayed with myself. Inhale, exhale, pause. I felt the sensations of fear in my body and continued to breathe my mantra of the week. I’d love to say that the breathing practice completely calmed my fear and that I was able to dance my way down the stairs. Not so. But the gift of the breath offered me a way of being with myself as I was fearful and that felt huge. When I noticed judgments arise, wondering what was wrong with me, asking how I can call myself a yoga teacher if I have this much fear, I would return to my breath with gentleness and compassion. I don’t know why I am afraid of heights but I am, and yet I was able to see the site and sort of enjoy myself. By staying with my fear that day, I have the sense that I might be a bit less afraid another time. Somehow, I trust myself more. And I was able to laugh at myself as I sat on my butt and went down the stairs that way!

As we went through the week, there were so many moments of awe, of learning about the natural world we were a part of and a few other moments of discomfort but inhale, exhale, pause was with me. I paused to see a red-rumped tarantula that was coaxed out of its hole by our fearless guide. I stood atop a mountain, again with a quivering belly, to see the entire river valley laid out before me.

 

I saw a rare basilisk lizard that rested so peacefully on our guide’s arm that we all got to take pictures. I saw thousands of stars and the sweep of the Milky Way that are not visible where I live. I saw and heard Howler Monkeys with their call that sounds like ujjayi breath gone evil. I saw a pelican land on the ocean less than 10 feet from me and frigates floated overhead as we practiced yoga. While snorkeling, among dozens of miraculous sights, I saw a Spotted Eagle Ray that looked like it was slowly flying under water and a tiny juvenile damsel fish that looked like sparkling stars in a deep blue night. Because of our practice of inhale, exhale, pause in class and in my own personal practice over the years, I could remember to take the time to be with all the beauty that I saw.

Inhale, exhale, pause.

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Featured Teacher: Ambre Emory-Maier

Why do you practice?   I practice to feel in touch with my true self, for the physical and emotional benefits and the enjoyment of moving.

Why do you teach?   Teaching is the act of sharing yourself and your gift’s from God with others. I teach to learn and be of service.

Inspirations?   The great saints, my family and the many people and students I come into contact with during my life.

Who have you trained with?  Many fabulous and wise teachers from the dance and somatics field.  Yogis-Marcia Miller, Linda OshinsDoug Keller, Swami Ramananda, Martha Marcom, Gail Sky among others.

What style do you teach?  Hatha, Vinyasa and Restorative and I have been known to teach Ashtanga in a pinch!

What’s your favorite food?   I love cookies, fruit, cheese, cucumber salad and hummus.

What’s your nickname? As many of them as you care to share.   Ruby  or Chief (given to me by my dance students from long ago).

Do you own any animals?  Yes--two dogs-pit bulls-Karma and Margie.  Would love to have more animals but we do not have the room. I have an adopted turkey in Western New York on a farm that rescues farm animals called Cracker Box Palace. I went to high school with one of its founders.

What’s on your playlist right now?   Christmas Music, R & B and Big Band.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory A block.

What style influences your teaching?   I come from a dance background so much of my classes are filled with movement or vinyasa type flow. Since I started off as an Ashtangi-I have a tendency to structure my classes similar to the Primary Series format. However, I add in somatic and physical therapy exercises work depending on the theme of the class. I also love to offer restoratives and chanting to my students.

Favorite yoga pose?   Right now, Gomukasana-Cow-faced pose.  Great hip and shoulder opener.

What is your favorite TV show of all time?   I cannot say I have a favorite but I loved Bewitched, Scooby Doo and I Dream of Jeanie as a child.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?   I am okay with my name but I probably would have chosen the more traditional spelling.  Thanks Mom!

Your favorite item of clothing?   I love fuzzy socks and dresses. Dressing up is fun but I do not do it much.

What did you want to be when you were little?  A veterinarian and a TV star.  I aspired to be on the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid.

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?   I love going to the Keys-Key Colony Beach or traveling overseas.

What word describes you best?  Can any one word describe someone?

What drives you every day?  To live my life well as it is a gift and to try and be of service in some way to others.

Whom do you admire?   My husband, my teachers, my mother and fabulous friends

What is your mission?  Same thing that drives me every day plus what is on the to-do list.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?  I have been shown innumerable kindness in my life.

Fun fact about you?  I have sailed across Lake Ontario to Canada many times

What books are you reading right now?   The Hobbit--it is the 75th anniversary of the book. The Life of Abraham.

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All The Space You Need

By Angie Hay

Years ago I came across this quote from supermodel Cindy Crawford: “They were doing a full back shot of me in a swimsuit and I thought, “Oh my God, I have to be so brave.” See, every woman hates herself from behind.”

I was recently reminded of this arguable statement when I received an invitation from my colleague to be photographed doing yoga for the studio’s new promotional materials. The instructions specified that one’s hair should be neat, and included hopes that clothing for the shoot would be provided by a fancy national yoga gear chain known for their behind-flattering pants.

My brain, known for occasional moments of cruelty, instantly flooded me with images of my out-of-control dreads, my big butt, and the package of vegan cookies I ate almost entirely by myself the week before. They sent this to everyone, my brain said, but clearly they didn’t mean you. I mean, let’s be realistic.

Oh. Right. You’re probably right.

I took my first yoga class when I was twenty-one through Gahanna Parks & Rec. One day, unannounced, a guy from the local free paper showed up asking to photograph our class. The other yogis refused, but I was feeling fearless and said yes. In class I felt like a gazelle, like a water lily, like the Grand Canyon, and it was new feeling for me. Why not capture it in pictures? I practiced like he was shooting a feature and waited anxiously for the paper to come out. The image that made it to the cover was my face in profile in Trikonasana. My round cheeks. My soft neck. Me, just me. Not the yoga model I expected to see. My face was as serene as a bonsai tree, but it was difficult to see that through my disappointment. I didn’t even save a copy, not one.

These are the facts: there has never been a body shaped like mine on the cover of Yoga Journal. Lululemon’s snazzy yoga gear isn’t made in my size. They don’t look at me and see a yogi. But, miraculously, I do. Almost every hour of the day, almost every day of the week. When seeing myself as a beautiful and valuable person is the hardest thing I have to do all day, I stay in the fight. But not in that particular moment when I was invited to have my picture taken. In that instant, it was a fight I couldn’t win. It was bravery I didn’t have.

As a fat lady, professions other than belly dancer and yoga teacher might have made more sense. Maybe there are jobs where a big gal is just the thing. I worked in a café for a year where the boxy men’s chef coat I had to wear because the ladies sizes didn’t fit made my eyes sting with tears. For two years I sat in a basement office where all anyone talked about was how few calories they allowed into their bellies. The truth is that there are no safe havens for fatness, not yet. So I take my body to the dance floor and the yoga mat, the places it feels best in the whole world.

This is the type of bravery I do have. To stick with it. The courage to be the fattest lady in class so another woman doesn’t have to worry that it’s her. The courage to come to the mat as I am, even if I’ve never received the “yoga body” promised by the world’s ad men with the purchase of your first mat. The body I see in the mirror is a yogi’s body shaped by fifteen years of practice. A dancer’s body shaped by sixteen years of undulations and shimmies. The body of someone’s favorite aunt, someone’s beloved girlfriend, a girl who watches hours of vampire TV and eats too much ice cream, who rides her bike singing down High Street in the spring. A body created by two lineages of exceptional women who I am proud to call my ancestors. I am shaped exactly like myself. On this point I am unfalteringly, unshakably clear.

Though the yoga industry does not make space for all of us, the practice of yoga does. I believe there is a room somewhere with a vacant space that is exactly your size, waiting for you to roll out your mat. I promise to greet you there exactly as you are, with my head bowed and my palms pressed together in front of my heart.

If what we want does not exist, it becomes our responsibility to create it. Knowing this, I will put on my own clothes, and, when invited, turn to face the camera.

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Featured Teacher: Jill NielsenFarrell

Why do you practice?
To remind myself I am a spiritual being having a human experience and not the other way around.

Why do you teach?
To spread the love.

Inspirations?
Exceptional people with exceptional challenges.

Who have you trained with?
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Tej Kaur Khalsa, Jai Dev Singh and others.

What style do you teach?
Kundalini Yoga, Yo!

What’s your favorite food?
Sweet potato fries with vegan sour cream.

Do you own any animals?
A one-eyed Boston Terrier and a portly French Bulldog.

What’s on your playlist right now?
The Staple Sisters station on Pandora.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
My sheepskin, of course.

What style influences your teaching?
Chill humor and an inner awareness of the inter-connectedness of everything.

Favorite yoga pose?
Probably Ego Eradicator but it changes depending on what I’m working on.

What are you reading?
Traditional Chinese Medicine books.

Favorite quote?

Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear. – Lao Tzu

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Six Feet Under.

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
Forest Princess

Your favorite item of clothing?
My new Yoga on High sweatshirt!

What did you want to be when you were little?
A veterinarian

In the animal kingdom, which animal would you be?
A wolf

Do you dream in color?
Yes

What word describes you best?
Effervescent.

What drives you every day?
Curiosity.

Who do you admire?
Short list: My mother, Elyn Saks, Paramahansa Yogananda, Annie Lamott, Leonard Cohen.

What is your mission?
To explore my own consciousness while living with courage and grace.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
After a particularly difficult time, a friend watched my sons every Monday night for about a year so I could go to Kundalini Yoga class. It saved us.

Fun fact about you?
I can curl my tongue into a clover shape.

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