January Calendar of Events

marcia-8518eSchedule Updates:
Tuesday 5:30 Ashtanga Mysore with Tom Griffith -- Location Change to TTI
Tuesday 5:45p Hatha Level 1 with Angela LaMonte -- Location Change to TTI
Tuesday 7:30p Big Asana with Michelle Winship -- Location Change to TTI
Tuesday 7:15p Sekoia Level 1 & 2 with Michele Vinbury -- Time Change
Thursday 7:45p Sekoia Level 1 & 2 with Amy Lybrook -- Day and Time Change
Saturday 10:30a Hatha Beginner Drop in with Colleen Leonardi -- Teacher Update

Workshops:
January 1 Ashtanga Mysore New Year’s Day Class with Linda Chun and Correna
January 1 Hatha New Year’s Day Class with Marcia Miller
January 1 Sekoia New Year’s Day Class with Jasmine Grace
January 1 Vinyasa New Year’s Day Class with Sally Walsh Roberts @ Grow Yoga
January 7 Sekoia Spirit Journey: Rabbit with Michele Vinbury @ Grow Yoga
January 15 Yoga 4 Kids with Jennifer Gebhart
January 29 Ayurvedic Goddess: Balms and Salves with Jasmine Grace & Meredith Bury

Series Classes:
January 7 -- March 11 Saturday 12p -- 1:30p MS Yoga with Jenn Gebhart
January 8 -- January 29 Sunday 9a -- 10a 4-Week Mediation & Pranayama with Michele Vinbury
January 8 -- February 12 Sunday 3p -- 4:30p 6-Week Ashtanga Foundations with Correna Startbuck
January 9 -- March 13 Monday 4p -- 5:15p MS Yoga with Jenn Gebhart
January 9 -- March 13 Monday 6p -- 7p Prenatal with Julie Carpenter @Step by Step -- Westerville
January 10 -- February 14 Tuesday 11:15a -- 12:00p Mommy & Baby with Janet Braden @Step by Step -- Westerville
January 10 -- March 14 Tuesday 4p -- 5:30p 10-Week Hatha Level 1 & 2 @All Life Center -- Powell
January 12 -- March 16 Thursday 4:30p -- 5:45p 6-Week Slow Burn Vinyasa Level 1 & 2 @All Life Center -- Powell
January 12 -- March 16 Thursday 5:45p -- 7:15p Prenatal with Mary Sinclair
January 17 -- March 21 Tuesday 9:30a -- 11a Prenatal with Jenn Gebhart @TTI
January 17 -- February 21 Tuesday 6p -- 6:45p Introduction to Meditation with Marcy Freed @Step by Step -- Westerville
January 17 -- February 21 Tuesday 7p -- 8p Yoga for Runners @Step by Step -- Westerville
January 17 -- February 21 Tuesday 7:30p -- 9p 6-Week Ashtanga Foundations with Tom Griffith
January 18 -- March 15 Wednesday 5:45p -- 7:15p Hatha Basic New Beginners with Angela Lamonte @TTI
January 21 -- March 4 Saturday 11a -- 11:45a Parent & Kid Yoga (Ages 5-10) with Mary Lynn and Julie @ Step by Step -- Westerville
January 23 -- February 27 Monday 5:45p -- 7:15p Ahimsa:Dissolving Enemy Images through Nonviolent Communication with Marcia Miller and Janine Harris Degitz
January 23 -- March 27 Monday 7:30p -- 9p Prenatal with Jenn Gebhart @ TTI

Upcoming Teacher Training:
Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Kickoff Weekend -- February 10 -- 12
with Jennifer Gebhart and Mary Sinclair

Pranayama Teacher Training Kickoff Call -- February 15
with Linda Oshins

200 Hour Teacher Training -- March 2017
Upcoming Free 200 Hour Info Sessions:
Tuesday, January 17th from 6:00p to 6:45p with Michele Vinbury at Yoga on High
Sunday, January 29th from 12:00p to 12:45p with Michele Vinbury at Yoga on High
*Enjoy $500 OFF the 200 Hour Teacher Training when paid in full by December 31, 2016.
*Off full price. Cannot be combined with other promotions or discounts.

Ayurvedic Health Educator -- May 2017
(equivalent to NAMA’s Ayurvedic Health Counselor)
Upcoming Free Ayurvedic Health Educator Info Sessions:
Sunday, January 15th from 6:30p to 7:30p with Jasmine Grace at the Yoga on High Teacher Training Institute
Sunday, February 12th from 6:30p to 7:30p with Jasmine Grace at the Yoga on High Teacher Training Institute

 

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The Yoga of Generosity

The holiday season is a time to gather with family and friends and celebrate their meaning in our lives. Chances are that we spend hours shopping in stores or online for the perfect gift to give. Yet, we can make the commitment to give year round, by sharing our time, energy, and talents.

Yoga Sutra II.37 shares the principal of Asteya, or non-stealing, and invites us to live with integrity and reciprocity according to Deborah Adele. She reminds us that ancient Vedic scriptures speak of taking nothing without giving something back. Imagine being challenged to give something back each time we took something!

As Astheya encourages us not to steal causing our hearts grow, it encompasses not only generosity of money and giving of things, but also generosity of time and giving of ourselves. We remind our students yoga offers a practice where we take care of ourselves so that we can better serve others, challenging them to take what they learn from their practice into the world and their own lives.

As you approach this season of wonderment, think of ways you can give back to those around you and to our world.

Be present. Have a meaningful conversation with someone. Give them your full and undivided attention by actively listening as they share a story or concern. Instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next, focus on what they are saying and offer no judgement.

Create memories. Share a story or talent with friends and loved ones. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe? Consider sharing the recipe and a plate of cookies with someone close to you. Some of the most cherished times in my life have been spending time with loved ones. I can still recall the memories of holidays spent with my Italian Nana. From her voice to her incredible cooking, she gave me the gift of memories that will remain with me for life.

Teach something new. We all have something to offer the world whether it is yoga or another offering. Give a memorable gift by teaching a skill or practice. Our students often report that in times of anxiety or even when they have difficulty sleeping, they can hear our voices leading them through a breath practice. They say it immediately calms them down and sometimes invites a full night of rest. One of my nieces still recalls the time I taught her to play a simple song on the piano. It took twenty minutes of my time and now that she has kids of her own, it’s this memory and not the holiday gifts received over the year that she remembers most.

However, you choose to give this holiday season, give from the heart with no expectations. In doing so, you’ll see great things happen and your heart will continue to grow.

Breath of Generosity

  • Become aware of your breath and notice how you are breathing.
  • Place your hands together at heart center as you begin to think of a time when someone was generous to you. After a few inhales and exhales bow forward in gratitude for this person and their actions.
  • Keeping the hands at heart center, think of a time when you were generous towards someone. After a few inhales and exhales bow forward in gratitude for your own actions and service.
  • Separate the hands placing one hand on your lower belly and one hand on your heart. As you inhale, imagine your heart becoming more open to receiving. As you exhale, envision your heart becoming more open to giving.
  • Bringing hands back to heart center, inhale as you draw the hands up, separating at the top and making an offering of your gifts to the world. Exhale as you circle the hands to the sides accepting the gifts of the earth as you bring the hands back together. Repeat a few times.
  • Pausing in stillness with the hands at heart center. Think of a way to expand your generosity towards others. It can be small or large. After a few breaths, bow forward sealing your commitment to generosity.daniel_sekoia_bw

About Our Writer

Daniel Sernicola (whose last name is appropriately translated to Saint Nicholas in Italian), teaches yoga in Columbus, Ohio, with his partner, Jake Hays. They are committed to the empowerment of their students and specialize in creating compassionate, safe, and inclusive yoga environments. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @danjayoga.

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Yoga for Cramp Relief

Hold supported poses for 3-5 minutes each.

yogaforcramps_1 Start by lying down in Supta Baddha Konasana. Option for sand bag or blanket on upper thighs.

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Simple warm up: inhale arms over head….

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Exhale hug knee in.  Moving back and forth with each breath.

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Supta Padangustasana A with strap (could be to block/bolster to stay)

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Supta Padangustasana B with strap (could be to block/bolster to stay)

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Supta Padangustasana C with strap (could be to block/bolster to stay)

yogaforcramps_6byogaforcramps_6aWide Legged Janu Sirsasana onto bolster(s) or block(s) x both sides

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Upavistha Konasana onto bolster(s) or block(s)

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Supported Balasana with bolster (sandbag on sacrum if available)

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Puppy or Down Dog (some women prefer not to invert when menstruating.)

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Gentle Cat

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Gentle Cow

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Supported Supta Tiriang Mukha Eka Pada Paschimottanasana or Ardha Supta Virasana (Sit on bock or bolster, left leg in Virasana, right knee bent sole of foot on the floor.  Option to extend straight placing blanket under knee.  Recline onto 1 or 2 bolsters x both sides

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Setu Bandha Sarvangasana with block under sacrum.  I know this is a little tiny baby inversion, but I find that students love this and find it massages the sacrum.

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Simple unsupported supine twist

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Supta Baddha Konasana

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Savasana -- minimum blanket under head, bolster under knees.  Blanket to cover.  Additional folded blanket to hold or place on belly.

Michele Vinbury, E-RYT 500, is a lead teacher in the 200hr YTT (Next YTT program begins March 2017) and Trauma Sensitive 100hr TT (Trauma Sensitive program kicks off December 9) as well as the co-director of the Yoga on High Foundation.  Michele infuses her joyful and creative classes with lighthearted humor while still integrating the spiritual and philosophical teachings of Yoga. She welcomes students to feel their bodies, feel the breath and to dive into sensations, riding them like waves. You can find Michele on our open class schedule here and teaching a series of Sekoia Spirit Journey workshops throughout the year.  

 

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Holiday Hours and Donation Classes

laraYoga on High Holiday Schedule:
Friday, December 23 Regular Hours & Classes
Saturday, December 24 Christmas Eve Closed
Sunday, December 25 Christmas Closed
Saturday, December 24 -- Sunday, January 1 Regular Classes Cancelled
Monday, December 26 – Friday, December 30 Boutique Open 11a – 7p
Saturday, December 31New Years Eve Boutique Open: 9a – 3p (No Classes)
Sunday, January 1 New Years Day Boutique Open: 9a – 4p (New Year’s Day Classes only)
Monday, January 2 Regular Schedule Resumes

Yoga on High Donation Classes December 26 -- 30:
( All Levels, 75 Minutes, Donations benefit the Yoga on High Foundation, Pre-Registration Required)
Monday, December 26: Vinyasa with Jasmine 6p
Tuesday, December 27: Ashtanga with Stella 12p & Vinyasa with Jeremy 6p
Wednesday, December 28: Vinyasa with Jeremy 12pVinyasa with Marcy 6p
Thursday, December 29: Vinyasa with Anne 12p & Hatha with Marcia 6p
Friday, December 30: Vinyasa with Jasmine 12p

New Years Day Classes:
Ashtanga Mysore New Year’s Day Class with Linda Chun & Correna Starbuck 9 – 11a
Hatha New Year’s Day Class with Marcia Miller 10a – 12p
Sekoia New Years Day Class with Jasmine Grace 1p – 3:30p

Grow Yoga Holiday Schedule:
Friday, December 23 Regular Hours & Classes
Saturday, December 24 Christmas Eve Closed
Sunday, December 25 Christmas Open for Christmas Day Practice only
Saturday, December 24 -- Sunday, January 1 Regular Classes Cancelled
Saturday, December 31 Closed
Sunday, January 1 Open for New Year’s Day Practice only
Monday, January 2 Regular Schedule Resumes

Grow Yoga Christmas Day Practice
Sunday, December 25 Christmas Day Practice with Lara Falberg 10a – 11:15a

Grow Yoga Donation Classes December 26 -- 30:
( All Levels, 75 Minutes, Donations benefit the Yoga on High Foundation, Pre-Registration Required)
Monday, December 26: Hatha with Holly 6p
Tuesday, December 27: Vinyasa with Anne 6p
Wednesday, December 28: Vinyasa with Teresa 6p
Thursday, December 29: Vinyasa with Jeremy 6p
Friday, December 30: Vinyasa with Sally 6p

Grow Yoga New Years Day Class:
Vinyasa New Years Day Practice with Sally 4p – 5:15p

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December Calendar of Events

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Yoga on High Schedule Updates:
Tuesday 5:45p Hot Flow Level 1 & 2 with Julie Kennel
Friday 4:30p Hot Flow Level 1 & 2 with Jeremy Grace

Workshops:
December 2 Sound Journey with Gongs, Bells and Singing Bowls with Crown of Eternity
December 3 Sekoia Spirit Journey: Bear with Michele Vinbury @ Grow Yoga
December 4 A Yoga on High Foundation & Enzo Tattoo Event
December 5 Reiki Share
December 9-11 Ember Trauma-Sensitive Teacher Training with Marcia Miller, Michele Vinbury and Marybeth Hamilton
December 9 100 Hour Trauma Sensitive Teacher Training Kick Off with Marcia Miller, Michele Vinbury and Marybeth Hamilton
December 10 Holiday Restorative with Gail Sky
December 14 Holiday Restorative with Marcia Miller
December 18 Sekoia Aerial Restorative with Stella Cornett and Dale Anne Gray
December 18 Art of Earth and Plant with Jessie Laux of Planthropy

December 30 Ayurvedic Goddess: Herbal Oils and Ghee with Jasmine Grace & Meredith Bury

Upcoming Teacher Training:
200 Hour Teacher Training -- March 2017
Enjoy $500 OFF the 200 Hour Teacher Training when paid in full by December 31, 2016*. *Off full price. Cannot be combined with other promotions or discounts.

Spirited Giving Deals:
Be on the look out for special holiday discounts and promotions online, via social media and in your inbox all month long!

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A Yoga Sequence to Help Transition You to Sleep

On nights when I feel restless, racing mind, uncomfortable body, tossing and turning in bed…I’ll hop out of bed and either stop, drop and yoga right there, or pad over into my yoga room to do a sequence like this to calm and soothe my body and mind.

Start with 3 sun salutes of your choice to warm the body a bit and expend some energy.

Depending on your level of flexibility and energy today, these poses can be done freestanding, with blocks or with a chair. Practice unsupported poses 5-10 breaths or up to 1 minute in each.

Active Poses:

Triangle -- to ground your energy. Let the legs work, invite them to be quite active and strong here.

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Uttanasana -- with or without a chair. Tradition and experience tell us that forward folds are calming to the nervous system. Let this pose work on your subtle body to chill it out.

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Down Dog – An active pose here and also an inversion to smooth the mind. Arms and legs active here -- you might place a block under the head to touch into more grounding energy.

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Prasarita Padottanasana A -- wide legged forward fold. Again, strong active legs, hands pressed firmly into the mat, allowing forehead to ground on block (or on the seat of a chair). 5 to 10 long smooth breaths here.

Restoratives:

At this point, you can transition to lying down. Depending on your availability, you might do one or all of these (1 to 10 minutes per pose). Over time, and with practice, you’ll learn which shapes are most soothing to your nervous system.

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Mt. Brook (1-5 minutes) -- I start this pose by applying some Sekoia Lavendar essential oil to the soles of my feet. After the previous forward folds, this heart opener feels amazing. Whole body supported. Take your time to align the blankets and bolsters just right -- when you get it “right”, you’ll lie down and your whole body will say “ahhhhhh”.

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Supported Paschimo (1-5 minutes) – The restorative version of this seated forward fold isn’t about feeling a stretch, it’s about allowing the body to rest deeply in this shape. A rolled blanket under the knees, or a folded blanket under the hips -- or both can feel awesome. Build the bolsters and blankets on your lap until you feel you can drape your torso forward and let go.

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Supported Twist (2-5 minutes per side) -- This is one of my absolute favorites. It feels like wringing tension out of my belly -- a place where nervous energy likes to roost.

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Supported Balasana (1-5 minutes) -- One final forward fold. Child’s Pose gently opens the hips and invites a strong grounding energy.

If you’re not asleep already -- Savasana/Bedtime, have a pillow supporting the head, a rolled towel or blanket or pillow under the knees and cover yourself. A practice I often use is to count the exhalations down 21-1. If you lose track or come to 21, just start over again.

Happy zzzz’s

Michele Vinbury is leading Sekoia Spirit Journey: Bear on Saturday, December 3 from 2:30p -- 4:30p at our sister studio, Grow Yoga.  This workshop will focus on the root chakra, bear symbolic medicine, plants, herbs and crystals to create comfort and to nurture and protect as we move into the winter.  Click here to register.

 

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A Post Election Sutra

You are stunned, powerless,

You thought you knew

What was going on.

Now you realize you don’t have a clue.

 

You are stopped in your tracks.

Everything within your skin is shaking.

Enter this shaking.

 

Right here, in the midst of commotion—

Get curious and look around inside with wonder.

Unmind your mind.

All the walls have fallen down.

Go ahead and dissolve.

 

The One Who Has Always Been,

Who has seen much worse than this,

Is still here.

Did you know there is a sutra even for this moment???

Yogis! We have skills to keep our hearts open in the face of deep challenge. We need them now; let’s use them. Find what makes you feel alive right now and do that—especially if it is tears or terror. And do an extra restorative pose while you are at it. The world will be glad.

Thanks to Lorin Roche and his translation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra called The Radiance Sutras.

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EMBER Yoga program in action at the Ohio Reformatory for Women

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Annette Dominguez is Director of Tapestry, Therapeutic Program at the Ohio Reformatory for Women

November 7, 2016
To Who It May Concern,

I am writing this letter in support of the EMBER Yoga program here at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. The program began in April of 2014 and is facilitated by Michele Vinbury and Marybeth Hamilton. Each cohort provides weekly services for up to 12 participants of the Tapestry Therapeutic Community. Tapestry is a holistic treatment program for women with substance abuse issues. The program is highly structured and community focused. Most program members have an extensive history of physical, emotional and sexual abuse making the need for trauma informed care an imperative.

The EMBER program has made such a positive impact on the lives of the women who have had the opportunity to be involved. The women have gained new tools for effectively addressing their difficult experiences and finding ways to mitigate their feelings while staying engaged and receptive to change. Being able to share that journey with their peers while being gently guided by the compassion and expertise of their instructors, has fostered a deeper sense of community among participants. This support helps members feel both empowered and connected.

The impact of EMBER is evident in our community in so many ways. Members who practice meditation and speak with their sisters about the benefits, sisters who have found the courage to share their experiences on a deeper level and peers who find the ability to trust that whatever is painful, is less so when surrounded by those who understand how hope can carry you through.

It is that same hope that drives us to advocate for the continuation of the EMBER program here at ORW. Our members have come to think of the yoga sessions as an integral part of our program, an experience that each sister aspires to be a part of. Michele and Marybeth are family to us and are part of the fabric of our community. Their generosity and commitment to our family is beyond compare. Their sincerity is without question and their belief that touching lives, saves lives, is a mantra we can all live by.

Sincerely,

Annette Dominguez
Tapestry Program Director

Inspired by what you’ve read?  You can support the Yoga on High Foundation’s important work by attending our Daylong Wellness Retreat this Friday, November 11th or donating at www.yogaonhighfoundation.org/donate.

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November Calendar of Events

cc_november-01Schedule updates:

Michael Murphy will be traveling to India for the next several months!  We wish him safe travels.  In the interim, his classes have been subbed or removed from the schedule while he is traveling.  Please see PDF or online schedule for most accurate class listings.

Monday 6:30a Hot Flow Level 1 & 2 Ashley Hackbarth
Tuesdays Gentle Yoga with Michael -- Cancelled while in India
Wednesday 6:30a Hot Flow Level 1 & 2 Marisa Barsotti
Friday 6:30a Hot Flow Level 1 &2 Amy Lybrook
Saturday Hot Flow level 2 with Michael -- Cancelled while in India

Workshops:

November 4 Sekoia Yoga Date Night with Jasmine & Jeremy Grace
November 5 Reiki and Contemplation: Practices in Trust with Barbara Held
November 6 Restorative Yoga & Music with Holly Moretti and Abby Dorn @ Grow Yoga
November 11 Slow Burn with Jasmine Grace @ Franklin Park
November 11 Your Nourished Life: A Yoga on High Foundation Wellness Retreat
November 18 Ayurvedic Herbs: Making tinctures & Tonics with Jasmine Grace & Meredith Bury
November 18-19 Reiki Level 1 with Marcia Miller & Michele Vinbury
November 25 Sekoia Gratitude Practice with Jasmine, Michele & Karine

November Reiki Shares: 7, 14, 21

Series Classes:

Tuesdays 4:00p November 4 – December 6 6-Week Hatha Level 1 & 2 with Melanie Miller @ All Life Center – Powell
Wednesdays 5:45p November 5 – December 7 6-Week Advanced Ashtanga with Tom Griffith @ TTI
Fridays November 7 – December 16 6-Week Sekoia Series with Alissa Jackson @ All Life Center – Powell
Tuesday November 8 – December 13 Yoga for Beginners: 6-Week Foundations with Marcy Freed @ Step by Step -- Westerville

Upcoming Teacher Trainings:

November 5 Ayurveda Heath Counselor (A.H.C.) begins November 5, 2016
December 2016 -- 2017 100 Hour Trauma Sensitive Yoga Teacher Training
February 2017Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training
March 2017 Teacher Training – Early Bird: enrolled and paid in full by December 31 -- $2650
300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training – Ro
lling Enrollment

Email applications@yogaonhigh.com for questions or to apply to any of our Teacher Training programs.

 

 

 

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Coming Out Comes Full Circle

By: Daniel Sernicola

awardMy hand shook as it unfastened my seatbelt. I slowly climbed out the broken window of my overturned car and examined the wreckage. Tires were still spinning and Jim Brickman’s Rocket to the Moon was playing on a continuous loop from the speakers. The roof of the car was smashed down to the driver’s seat. Help was needed, but on the quiet back road in my hometown it was unlikely to arrive quickly. I slowly walked towards a house that sat back from the road and standing on its porch, knocked on the door. No one was home.

A woman’s voice screamed, “There he is!” As I turned around, people were coming out of the woods where they had been looking for my body. The woman ran towards me and held me as tears ran down her face. She whispered in my ear that God must have been with me. A man placed me in his truck and drove me to my home just a few miles away. I was numb and could barely remember how to get there as I gave him directions.

My dad was in the kitchen cooking pasta as he did every Sunday. As I stood next to the man, he knocked on my parents’ door and told my dad that I had been in an accident. My dad calmly thanked the man for bringing me home and put down his spoon as he prepared to put on his shoes. Anger filled his face and the veins in his forehead were popping out – I just wrecked a car owned for three short weeks. Yet, he didn’t say a word as he grabbed his keys and drove me back to the scene of the accident.

As we pulled up, we saw the flashing lights from police cars and an ambulance. We got out of the car and the moment my dad saw the wreckage, he grabbed me, holding me tight and sobbing. It’s the only time I ever saw my dad cry. Thoughts of anger turned to compassion as police told him I was lucky to be alive.

Home from the hospital, I rested on our living room couch. Looking over at the coffee table, I saw my keys and began to scream and cry wondering what had happened and trying to piece together a sequence of events.

I was a senior in high school during the fall of 1996. It was October 12th and there was excitement as the camera flashed during my senior photo session. An hour later I had a date. Sure I had been on dates with girls before, but this was the first time I went on a date with a guy. I was nervous, but as the night progressed I realized that we were basically two guys hanging out and having fun. It was care-free and on the drive home, I couldn’t stop smiling.

From the age of four years, I recall feeling different and looking at other boys. The word, “gay” wasn’t part of my vocabulary and wasn’t talked about in our home, though I remember my mother and sister laughing at a very flamboyant man selling his items at a yard sale. Kids at school made fun of me calling me the dreaded “f” word. In my conservative church, sermons preached that homosexuality was wrong and a sin. Confusion filled my mind as I struggled to fight off feelings of attraction towards the same sex. Hours of prayer didn’t erase the feelings as they became stronger and more intense. I wrestled with feeling that even though I was born gay, everyone around me told me it was wrong.

I was on my way to church the morning of the accident. It also happened to be the day after my first same sex date. In my 17-year-old mind, the only sense I could make out of everything that took place was that my maker was punishing me for finally acting on my feelings. It wasn’t fair! I may have walked away from the accident with a concussion and no broken bones, but one thing was broken for sure; my spirit.

The following week at school, I passed notes back and forth in my Algebra class with one of my best friends. I decided to tell her about my date, knowing she would be accepting of me. It felt amazing to finally share with someone the secret I’d been keeping for my entire existence. I had an outlet in her to discuss my thoughts and feelings. It was enough.

A few weeks later, I knew something was different as I walked down the hallways of my high school and people turned away from their lockers to look at me, whispering to each other. It was surreal and appeared to happen in slow motion. This was interrupted by a football player knocking my books out of my hands and my belongings being scattered all over the floor. My friend’s boyfriend found one of our notes in her locker and shared it with the rest of the school. Being bullied was not new to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the year that was ahead of me.

I was beaten up weekly and weighing 140 pounds, it was futile to fight back. I’d take the punches and kicks waiting, hoping for the torment to end. When I finally had the courage to talk to school administration, I was told that I brought everything on myself since coming out. My parents, sensing something was wrong and knowing of my gay friend, started asking if I was gay. Finally, I told them the truth, my truth. They weren’t accepting, but witnessed my intense emotional pain and depression. A trip to the family doctor was supposed to help, but instead worsened my situation. I was put on heavy anti-depression and anxiety medications which brought on suicidal thoughts and feelings. I tried taking my life a few times and, fortunately, I survived. Later, I stopped the meds on my own having realized that prior to being on them I had never once thought of ending my life. A year later, reports were published stating that the two medications I was on caused suicidal thoughts in people under the age of 18.

My entire world as I knew it had changed and it felt like I had no control over anything. There was also the heavy feeling of being alone. My family, peers, church, and my maker all seemed to have abandoned me. Hope didn’t seem to exist, and I was beaten down.

meditation20 years later, it’s 2016. I’ve been out as a gay man for over half my life and I’m 37 years old. Life has changed. My family is now accepting; I’m surrounded by loving and supportive friends; and best of all, have my own family consisting of an incredibly amazing partner and big, goofy dog. Society has changed. Gay marriage is legal in all 50 states when it seemed like a huge and unfathomable dream at one time. Ellen DeGeneres now has the number one talk show in the country after her sitcom was cancelled in 1997 when she came out. And schools now have gay/straight alliances and student groups.

It appears everything is moving in a positive direction, but sadly, this isn’t the case. As a society, we witnessed the shootings at Pulse Night Club in Orlando this past summer. We also saw the State of North Carolina pass an anti-transgender restroom law. While we hope that youth don’t have to face the same situations I went through twenty years ago, the truth is that they are facing worse situations. Behind the closed doors of the family unit, parents are still struggling with acceptance of their LGBTAIQ+ children.

A few years ago when my partner, Jake Hays, and I began our 200-hour yoga teacher training, we were asked what groups we’d like to work with and what our goals were as teachers. We immediately thought of LGBTAIQ+ youth and decided we wanted to start a yoga program for them in Columbus. Through our practice teaching, we held classes and asked participants for donations to the Yoga on High Foundation that would be earmarked for this program. The Columbus Coyotes and local performers Nina West and Virginia West also helped raise money to go towards the development of this program.

Kaleidoscope Youth Center was thrilled when we approached them with our idea as yoga classes had been on the list of programs they desired. We made fliers with our standard publicity photos on them, and were excited when the first night of our classes finally came. Not one student wanted to come to yoga. We were saddened, but not defeated. We realized that in our photos, we are big guys and look exactly like some of the people who bully the youth on a daily basis. So, I went to the center to meet with the youth. Through tears, I shared every detail of my personal story hoping to make a connection with them. The following week we tried again and the room was packed!

mindfulness-practiceWho are the youth of Kaleidoscope? They are you and me. They have had to face adversity and trauma at young ages. Many have had horrific struggles including bullying, homelessness, human trafficking, rape and more. Yet, they have hopes, dreams, and bright eyes ready to conquer the world. They come to their mats each week, looking forward to the peace and calm the yoga program provides.

The yoga program was developed specifically for them and has evolved and changed to meet their needs. Kaleidoscope Youth Yoga incorporates a variety of yoga tools including physical postures, mindfulness practices, breathing exercises, meditation, relaxation and Reiki. The program is designed to inspire and empower the youth, offering them an opportunity to begin to heal from difficult life experiences. Through these practices, students are invited to find a connection to their true self by learning valuable coping skills in addition to fitness and body positivity in a safe environment infused with compassion, humor and empathy.

Together, we practice yoga and their personal stories slowly come to the surface. In the spring a young male to female transgender youth showed up to class in a dress, proudly proclaiming that she’s probably our first student to practice in a dress. We shared her pride, knowing the dress was more than clothing to her, it was an identity. We celebrated as a girl who was homeless and has practiced with us for over a year was excited to tell us that she was able to graduate high school and moving into her first apartment. And the meaning of joy was realized when another girl rested in savasana receiving Reiki for the first time. At first, her face showed pain and uncertainty. As soon as she felt Reiki, the corners of her mouth turned upward and she beamed, later proclaiming that Reiki made her feel safe. These are just some of the stories and there’s many, many more to tell. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve practiced yoga – together.

On October 2nd, the Board of Directors of Kaleidoscope Youth Center, upon the recommendation of staff and participants, presented Jake and me with an award of Distinguished Community Partner of 2016. Amy Eldridge, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope stated, “The Yoga program that you have established at Kaleidoscope is a tremendous contribution to the well-being of our youth, and is providing them with skills that will support their well-being well into the future.”

It seems fitting that this takes place twenty years after my own coming out as a gay teenager. It feels as though everything has come full circle and yet we know there’s more work to do. As Robert Frost so eloquently wrote, The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

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