Mentoring a Healthy Community

This April, the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) held their annual student leadership conference in Columbus, Ohio.  The Conference was hosted by the Charles School at Ohio Dominican University, a local 5-year early college high school.  The students in these programs are from under-resourced and under-served areas around the country, most will be the first in their families to attend college, some will be the first to graduate from high school.
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Moving on from Cancer Day Long Retreat, May 2013

By Marcia Miller

Thanks to our donors to the Yoga on High Foundation we were able to host 37 women with cancer for a day long retreat designed to give them rest, rejuvenation and tools for dealing with the stress and symptoms of their disease.  Thanks also to our 17 volunteers who took a day off to be with us for this special program. In addition to offering them the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy modalities of simple movement, restorative yoga, guided relaxation, reiki, and essential oil therapy, all participants were trained in basic reiki techniques.  Participants from our previous retreat requested to learn reiki for their own self-care and to be able to offer it to others in their families and community.  We were very happy to give them what they wanted.
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If you never get stuck you never get better…

By Jennifer Whittemore

For me it was headstand. Every time the teacher said the word—in English, in Sanskrit—it didn’t matter, I felt my forehead tighten and my breath seize. I just couldn’t do it. Or I should say, that I could physically move into the posture, but never without paying for it with panicky feelings, soreness in my neck and between my shoulder blades.

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Featured Teacher: Lee Kelly

Why do you practice?
I practice to remind myself that the box I tend put myself into is only a perception.  True freedom comes from contacting the
f e e l i n g
of unlimited inner space that fully embodied movement gives me.  I practice to remind myself that that imaginary box is made of my illusions that I need to be perfect.
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Some Facts about the Breath

By Linda Oshins

Yoga students in asana classes are taught several forms of the “yoga breath.” In Ashtanga classes, the entire practice, excluding Savasana, is done while using a breathing technique called ujjayi. Ujjayi, which translates as victorious breath, slows, smooths and regulates the breath by slightly narrowing the throat, thereby providing a little more resistance to the passage of the breath in and out of the lungs. In Hatha classes, students are taught the 3-part breath which has them fill the lungs from the bottom up, making sure that they breath low in the body rather than high in the chest. Before doing some of the other pranayama practices (yoga breathing practices) students must have trained themselves to breathe in a healthy fashion. So what is a healthy breath? Read More…

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Featured Teacher: Linda Oshins

Why do you practice?
Honestly, I don’t know how anybody makes it through life without a yoga practice or something like it. I’ve practiced for different reasons through the years, depending on the challenges in my life, and yoga has always been the basis for change, growth, acceptance and, at some point, joy.

Why do you teach?
I teach to be part of the big practice—mine and other peoples’ experiences.

Inspirations?
I am grateful to a large number of teachers who have helped me through the years, but true inspiration for me comes from nature. The body/mind, part of the natural order are endlessly miraculous.

Who have you trained with?
Too many to mention. Right now, my teacher is Richard Miller. Also, Marcia Miller was my first yoga teacher and continues to be a inspiration today.

What style do you teach?
I used to teach what YOHI calls “hatha,” a style that uses props and sequences each class or personal practice differently, depending on the class feels at the time. Discerning ours actual needs is a practice in itself. Now I teach breath awareness practices, pranayama, and meditation, especially yoga nidra.

What’s your favorite food?
Bread, and I try not to eat it. But I love to cook and eat a wide range of veggies prepared in all different ways.

Do you own any animals?
I don’t have any live-in pets but I’m an avid bird watcher and know the birds at my feeders personally. Some are trained to take seed from my hand.

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
Round bolster.

What style influences your teaching?
Iyengar; Angela and Victor’s energy based, internal practices; Richard Miller’s body sensing practices; Richard Miller’s iRest yoga nidra work.

Favorite yoga pose?
Back bend, any variation. Love to  open that front body!

What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
Lily or Rose

Your favorite item of clothing?
Loose pants!

What did you want to be when you were little?
A fiction writer

Best trip you’ve taken, or dream trip you’d like to take?
A trip to Morocco for a friend’s wedding. Being part of those festivities was unforgettable.

What is your mission?
My mission right now is to leave a legacy for younger yogis as I move toward retirement. I want to make opportunities for other people to realize their dreams.

What is the kindest thing anyone has done for you?
Marcia and Martha, along with a small group of my other close friends, saw me through the death of my husband. That was a long commitment. They were there supporting me for a couple years through the most intense period of grieving.

What books are you reading right now?
Rereading The Heart of the Yogi by Doug Keller because Jasmine asked to me write up a short, concise summary of the difference between dualism and non-dualism. I checked a couple good quotes and before I knew it I was deep into philosophical history again. Dipping into Making Love with Light as a daily contemplation; this book was a present from Marcia and has already earned a place on the bookshelf forever. For fiction, I’m reading Fall of Frost by Brian Hall, and poetry-wise it’s Stanley Kunitz’s Passing Through. I’m also addicted to Japanese Death Poems (my non-yoga friends think I’m crazy). They were written by Japanese monks on the verge of death. Here’s one by Daido Ichi’i.

A tune of non-being
Filling the void:
Spring sun
Snow whiteness
Bright clouds
Clear wind.

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Misunderstanding Mysore:

5 Common Misconceptions of a Mysore Style Ashtanga Practice

By: Taylor Hunt

The Morning Mysore group was started by Jasmine Grace and me about a year ago.  I had recently moved and no longer had a place to practice at my house. So, I asked Jasmine if I could practice with her at the studio before work. We originally started practicing at 6:00 am, but soon moved the time to 5:00 am so that we could still make our practice a priority in the midst of our busy schedules and family commitments. Word began to spread and a few people started to join us in the mornings until there were about six of us. The Morning Mysore group was born; and I eventually moved my own practice time even earlier so I could teach the class. I never imagined it would get much bigger and to tell you the truth it was a hard sell at first.  “We practice Ashtanga yoga at 5:00 am, everyday!” “Huh, you do what!?” But, more people continued to show up to practice with us in the mornings. A lot has changed over the past year and the Yoga on High community has embraced this new program with open arms.  Morning Mysore has grown into a group of amazing people! And, I feel really blessed to be a part of it all.

Here are five common misconceptions to help everyone understand what happens in a Mysore style Ashtanga class:

1.      Time…You don’t actually have to show up at 5:00 am. Yay! One of the many benefits of a Mysore practice is that you may show up when it suits you.  If you need to be at the studio at 5:00 am to fit your practice in before work, you are welcome to join us at this time, but a lot of people arrive closer to 6:00 or as late as 6:30. You can come to our Morning Mysore classes at any point as long as your practice is finished by 8:00 am.

2.      The sequence…You don’t need to know the sequence before you come. It would be ridiculous if you had to memorize over 50 poses of the primary series before you stepped foot into the Mysore room! Poses are taught one at a time based on the individual’s ability. In the beginning, you start with a shorter practice allowing time to learn the fundamentals of breath and movement. As you begin to commit the sequence to memory and gain understanding in the postures, poses are gradually added in subsequent classes. This is the traditional method of learning Ashtanga yoga and is the safest way to approach the practice.

3.      Commitment… It would be difficult to understand what is happening in the Mysore room by just coming to one class. If Mysore class intrigues you, the best thing to do is commit to practicing for a month. In the beginning, learning occurs gradually allowing you time to adjust as you develop more strength, flexibility, and familiarity with the sequence of poses.  Throughout this time, transformation begins to occur.

4.      Led class vs. Mysore style…Led classes are a great way to learn about the breath and vinyasa, but Mysore-style is where you follow your own breath to deepen your focus and meditation skills. Both styles are beneficial and teach the same postures, but come from a different place.  In a led class, the student follows along to the teacher’s count and everyone does the same pose at the same time.  In a Mysore class, the practice can be tailored to fit each person. Everyone in the room does their own practice and progresses at their own pace.  In a led class, you may just skim over a difficult pose, but in Mysore style you have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the teacher.

5.      Teacher Involvement… In a Mysore class, each person in the room is receiving private instruction within a group setting.  In the beginning, new students receive more attention.  As they become familiar with the practice, they are allowed more independence, getting adjustments and assistance only when needed.

And, this one goes without saying, but just in case you didn’t know…Mysore is open to everyone from new beginner to advanced practitioners.  All levels and all ages are welcome!  Oh, I guess that’s six misconceptions.

Interested in what’s going on in the Mysore room? I encourage you to join us and experience it for yourself. We practice Morning Mysore every Monday through Friday from 5:00 am to 8:00 am; and Sundays from 8:00 am to 11:00 am. We have also recently added a Mysore Beginner Drop-in class on Wednesday at 7:00 am and Sunday at 10:00 am. Check out the online schedule for more details.

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Featured Teacher: Michael Murphy

Why do you practice?
I practice to learn about myself. Using what I learn on the mat to help me live a better life off my mat. I practice to create more space within myself, so that I have more room for prana and feeling.

Why do you teach?
I teach because I love yoga and have experienced how it can improve my life. I want to share this love with my students but mostly I want my students to learn about themselves.

Inspirations?
I am inspired by anyone with a smile on their face. Seeing other people happy makes me happy and inspires me to live with an optimistic outlook.

Who have you trained with?
Devarshi Steve Hartman, Megha Nancy Butterheim, Jovina Chan, Richard Freeman, David Swenson, Cyndi Lee

What style do you teach?
Vinyasa, slow flow, and power flow

What’s your favorite food?
Pho

What’s on your playlist right now?
My playlist is always changing but right now I’m probably listening to alt-j and the xx the most

What’s your favorite yoga accessory?
My 85” Manduka Black Mat!!!!!!!

What style influences your teaching?
I blend the mindfulness of Kripalu with a powerful Vinyasa practice

Favorite yoga pose?
Bakasana – I love the lift through the bandhas and balance it takes to come into bakasana. It also takes trust in myself as I move my weight forward out over my hands.

Favorite quote?

“Through practice, I’ve come to see that the deepest source of my misery is not wanting things to be the way they are. Not wanting myself to be the way I am. Not wanting the world to be the way it is. Not wanting others to be the way they are. Whenever I’m suffering, I find this war with reality to be at the heart of the problem.” --Stephen Cope

What is your favorite TV show of all time?
Firefly, and I’m still kinda upset about it being canceled.

Your favorite item of clothing?
For practice and teaching nothing is better than Lululemon Run: response shorts.

What drives you every day?
I absolutely love what I do and know that it brings joy and benefit to others.

Whom do you admire?
David Williams

What books are you reading right now?
I’m always reading “Light on Life” by BKS Iyengar, “Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy” by Gregor Maehle, “The Radiance Sutras” by Lorin Roche, and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The new book I’m reading currently is “The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephan Cope

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OM: An Instant Cosmic Tune-Up

By Marcia Miller

I have just finished 22 days of a 21-Day Immersion in OM, and I’m not done yet. The practice has been simple: I have been chanting OM for at least 5 minutes a day. Some days I have done it twice a day and sometimes, once I get going, I lose track of time and go on for much longer. I’m not ready to stop; the way I’m feeling now I may keep this going indefinitely.

I LOVE the feeling of OM resonating in my body. I can feel the vibration of it especially along the soft palate at the back of the roof of my mouth. When I notice it here I often feel it expanding into my whole body with a resonant inner pulsation. This resonance feels so delicious it attracts my full attention and I am easily and fully engrossed in meditation.

Sometimes when I am chanting the OMs my mind can also be active. This morning my mind was busy throughout, thinking about this blog post that I was intending to write when I got up from my practice. The meditative experience often opens up space for creativity to flow and sometimes that flow is named as “distraction.”  In this instance, I was grateful that my mind was already at work AND I was simultaneously able to ride the waves of vibration that started along the palate and flowed throughout my head, chest and belly.  I didn’t have to become attached to my mind and my ideas—I could let this creative flow move through me as a way of starting the writing process, so when “I” showed up about 20 minutes later I was ready to write.

After my daily practice of chanting OMs for 5 to 10 minutes, I sit in “silence” for up to 20 more minutes. Even though I am quiet at this point I can still sense the pulsations and I feel like I am riding the waves of the cosmos. I feel plugged into something bigger than what I generally think of as myself and oriented in a way that leaves me feeling fresh and energized when I get up.

Here is what Swami Satchidananda says about OM in his commentary in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali:

“When we vibrate in the same way as the cosmic vibration, we get in tune with the cosmos. That is why when we repeat OM, we feel a cosmic peace. That cosmic vibration vibrates in our own body. It brings a sort of realignment in the cells of the body, an adjustment or a new rhythm.  When the cells of the body run restlessly in all different ways, we feel sick. But, when we arrange that vibration to make it run smoothly, we feel happy, and we get healed. By constant repetition of OM, you will be able to heal many physical ailments and, ultimately, the mind also.  Then you will experience physical health, mental peace and pure happiness.”

There is also an astounding sutra about OM in the Vijnana Bhairava. The translation I love best is from the Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche.  Here are some lines from sutra #16:

“The roar of joy that set the worlds in motion
Is reverberating in your body
And the space between all bodies……
The ocean of sound is inviting you
Into its spacious embrace,
Calling you home.
Float with the sound,
Melt with it into divine silence.
The sacred power of space will carry you
Into the dancing radiant emptiness
That is the source of all.”

If you are inspired to try your own 21-Day immersion, or even one day, here are some tips to make it fun and personal.

1. Use the sound of a tamboura in the background. The tamboura is a fretless stringed Indian instrument used as a drone in the background for singing. Because of the overtones in this instrument, chanting OM with it can feel like chanting with a whole choir and gives you many choices of tones.  I’ve heard that you can get an app for this on many smart phones, or follow along with a YouTube video, or get a CD.

2. Speaking of tones, when chanting OM feel free to change your pitch. Each tone, higher or lower, creates a different sensation in your body. Find the ones that feel most delicious at the time you are chanting. I tend to hit a wide variety of pitches in my practice each time I chant. I love chanting with my husband whose low, sonorous, Zen-monk-like tones create a strong base for my higher pitch.

3. You can also experiment with different vowel sounds. All of the vowels are present in OM somewhere and each one affects different parts of you. I like sending the “e” sounds into bones all over my body and “ah” gives me a sense of vibrant spaciousness that seems to open up anything in me that feels compressed. Send the sounds into any injured or sick areas and see what happens.

4. Have an OM buddy. Sometimes you can chant together, other times you can encourage each other to do the practice on your own.

5. Experiment doing your OM practice after practicing asana. You may find that the openness and relaxation of your body changes the way you experience the tones.

It’s also fun to remember the OM practice even when you don’t want to take time for the full 5 minutes. Simply add an OM or three to anything you are doing for an instant cosmic tune-up.

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