Linda Oshins

Why Yoga Teachers Read Poetry

red-love-heart-typographyA year and a half ago, I moved to Seattle where I don’t know many people, formed a book group at my condo with my one good friend in the building, and the nine of us met to pick the books we would read in the coming months. I suggested a non-fiction book, What the Stones Remember by Patrick Lane, and a work of fiction, Gillead by Marilynne Robinson, and on a whim I included a book of poetry, The Way It Is by William Stafford. In the discussion about which to pick, several people mentioned that they don’t know how to or don’t like to read poetry, but a couple people were really interested and their enthusiasm carried the day. I was stuck leading a club meeting on poetry for people who don’t like to read poetry. Read More…


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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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…


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.

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.


Thoughts on Retreat

By Linda Oshins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time slowing. Stopping. Dissolution. No self.

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

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

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

From Sonnets of Orpheus

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

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

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

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

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

From Rilke’s letter of June, 1914

On retreat, as elsewhere, nothing to protect.


Awash in Gratitude

By Linda Oshins

Last week in pranayama class, one woman had her heart and mind open all the way. She stood in front of me with eyes so big I could see right through her, her body like a doorframe, pure consciousness on view. She walked out into the world like that.

This week we practiced Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya. Kapalabhati is a breathing practice made up of a series of sharp exhalations alternating with longer, rebound inhalations. It’s stimulating, warming and a powerful energy mover. Mudras are hand gestures. And Kriyas are cleansing, purifying practices. So Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya is a purification practice done by keeping up a continuous, rhythmic breathing technique while holding different hand gestures. I showed everyone the mudras, and we formed them with our hands. Then the class practiced kapalabhati as I led them through the mudras, explaining what each one does. Chin mudra activates the lower abdomen and back and the lower lobes of the lungs. Chinmaya mudra activates the middle chest and back and the middle lobes of the lungs. Adi mudra activies the upper chest and back and the upper lobes of the lungs. Continuing in this fashion we activated the entire torso and lungs, up the spine and the chakra system, and into the brain. Shraddha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and brings attention into the front brain. Medha prana kriya mudra slows respiration and activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom in the brain. Suddenly I’m awash in gratitude.

I have been taught a practice that activates the discriminative centers of higher wisdom! And I’m in a room full of people so practicing! From a still place we watch subtle shifts in energy flow and consciousness. Sometimes I take this for granted.

The breathing and mudras continue… Prajna prana kriya mudra, witness consciousness unfolds and the entire brain relaxes. Vishnu mudra, calms the mind and induces meditation. Dhyana mudra, brings breath and prana (energy) into the heart chakra. Dhyana Mudra 2, grounds the body for deep meditation. Dhyana Mudra 3, brings breath and prana into the whole body and bring multi-dimensional awareness into the foreground.

At the end of the practice we sit in meditation until Shari Speer chants Om Nama Shivaya. My body feels like a struck bell vibrating to her voice. Sometimes her voice appears in my mind like smoke from incense winding upward in offering, but today I simply resonate with it. And I’m so grateful.

Like the woman last week, we stilled the habitual chatter for a time. Thank you to my teachers and to the community at Yoga on High who practices together.

Mahat Kapalabhati Kriya was taught to me by Richard Miller, whose teachings, research and writing you can find on

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