Michele Vinbury

Interesting Reads for Current Times

Beginning in March, the Yoga on High Foundation will host monthly discussions centered around books and podcasts. Our hope with this series is to help encourage an educated, engaged and inspired community -- as well as to foster open, thoughtful dialogue around issues of the day.

Enroll in a book conversation here.

During the course of creating these community events, I had the opportunity to ask for book recommendations from some amazing, intelligent and caring people. What follows is a list I’ve compiled of their favorites, combined with my own picks for 2017 must-reads.  If you have recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

-- Michele

1984 by George Orwell

The Power of the Powerless by Václav Havel

The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz

The Rebel by Albert Camus

The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The New Jim Crow by Michele Alexander

Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: the strange journey from Ellis Island to the suburbs by David Roediger

Borders: A Very Short Introduction by Alexander C. Diener and Joshua Hagen

Hope In the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit

The Age of Fracture by Daniel Rodgers

Neither Beasts nor Gods by Francis Kane

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy by Jeff Sharlet

Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy by David Daley

Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty by Anthony McGann

The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer

White Trash: The 400 year old untold history of class in America by Nancy Isenberg

Listen Liberal: or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People by Thomas Frank

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Stopping Rape: A Challenge for Men by Rus Ervin Funk

Transforming a Rape Culture by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela Fletcher and Martha Roth

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ain’t I a woman? Black women and feminism by bell hooks

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

A Bond between Women: A Journey to Fierce Compassion by China Galland

Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

When Abortion Was A Crime by Leslie Reagan,

This Common Secret: My Life as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Cents and Sustainability:  Our Common Future by Gro Harlem Brundtland

Mobilizing the Green Imagination: An Exuberant Manifesto by Anthony Weston

This Changes Everything: Capitalism and the Climate by Naomi Klein

World as Lover World as Self: Courage for Social Justice and Ecological Renewal by Joanna Macy

The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

To Repair the World: Paul Farmer speaks to the next Generation by Paul Farmer

No god but God: Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Raza Aslan

The Bible and the Sword by Barbara Tuchman

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

A Path Appears: Transforming lives, creating opportunities by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle

Choosing Peace: New Ways to Communicate by Ike Lasater and John Kinyon

Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu

Full Catastrophe Living, John Cabat Zinn

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America by David Whyte

Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden

Podcasts:

On Being

John Lewis: https://www.onbeing.org/programs/john-lewis-the-art-discipline-of-nonviolence/

Ruby Sales: http://onbeing.org/programs/ruby-sales-where-does-it-hurt/

David Whyte: https://www.onbeing.org/programs/david-whyte-the-conversational-nature-of-reality/

 

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Real Yoga

Yoga Class-3247by Michele Vinbury

Morning Practice.  I step onto the smooth, familiar coolness of my mat.  The pre-dawn yellow of a street light spills across the floor.  I yawn and spread toes, feeling my feet ground into the well-worn grooves scuffed through the mat’s surface.  My body, at first stiff, begins to sense and then move with the fluid streams of breath that glide in and pour out.

Inhale.  Honey sweet, the breath enters, expands and unfurls.

Exhale.  All effort undone as the breath slowly recedes and then fades away.

Inhale.  Opening. Receiving.

Exhale.  Surrendering.  Releasing. Read More…

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Songs of Wholeness in Women’s Prison

Women'sPrisonProgramShall I write about their crimes? Their gross errors in judgment? Poor timing? Bad luck? Shall I tell stories of the children they cannot mother? The families left behind?   Perhaps I should write about their suffering, the trauma, the dysfunction that has, without exception, helped to land them here – sitting in this circle with me – behind bars. As I begin to teach, fluorescent lights hum, and from outside the door, sounds of shuffling feet and voices mix with the loud static discharge of handheld radios and the metallic rattle of keys.   The dissonance of sounds in this place, ubiquitous. Never a moment’s rest.

I sit in this circle every Friday with the women prisoners. In a make-shift classroom that serves as our yoga and mediation studio. Some are here for months, some for years, some for the rest of their lives.

Read More…

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EMBER Series – A Social Worker’s Review 

Alana Becker Photograph

Alana Becker Photograph

Working for a number of years in the mental health field with those who have experienced trauma has allowed me to develop a greater understanding of the scope of treatment needs, as well as approaches, that work for survivors. After having the opportunity to participate in the EMBER series with Michele Vinbury through Yoga on High, I would highly recommend it as part of a treatment plan for anyone recovering from trauma, and as an adjunct to other treatment modalities.

The EMBER series incorporates approaches including body movement, mindfulness skills, distress tolerance and emotion regulation, all of which have documented benefits in mental health treatment. The most current research is showing us how the body and the brain are directly impacted by trauma, and provides support for the incorporation of movement and mindfulness to traditional therapy approaches. The creation of a mentally and physically safe place through the EMBER program allows participants to explore being in one’s own body. Particularly for the trauma survivor, this is no small task. The practice of this type of purposeful, mindful, body awareness is an imperative aspect of the healing process.

More traditional talk therapy approaches to managing symptoms stemming from trauma are a beneficial and often necessary part of a trauma survivor’s healing journey. However, with research indicating that the brain and the body quite literally hold traumatic events, the importance of re-connecting with the body and addressing trauma in the brain becomes more apparent. The use of mindfulness and grounding techniques in the EMBER series create a foundation for this deeper level of healing to occur.

Visit Yoga on High to sign up for our next EMBER series.  Sliding scale payment options available to those in need through the Yoga on High Foundation.

Michelle Dismore is a licensed social worker and clinician working for a private non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio. She obtained her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology, and a Master of Social Work degree from The Ohio State University. Michelle has experience providing therapy and interventions with children, adolescents and families across multiple levels of care including residential, intensive community based, and outpatient settings. Her approach in working with clients combines elements of mindfulness, regulating approaches and whole body awareness.

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Yoga & Trauma

My first experience with EMBER Yoga was over a year ago. I asked the Ember yoga instructor, Michele, kind of tongue and cheek, if she would teach me how to do a headstand. It was at that time that my whole life had changed. I know, I know, this sounds too cliché. My life now is learning to embrace being present through yoga movements. With this presence, I am also learning to cope with past traumas, and I am now looking forward to a future. I never thought I could live a life that I would enjoy.

With the EMBER series and Ashtanga Beginner class, I noticed that I felt included. Michele always ask us if we had any questions, comments, or concerns. Well, yeah. We’re doing yoga, right? I would practice what I learned in class, but couldn’t do it like I did just a couple hours beforehand. I was told patience, everybody is overwhelmed, and learning yoga can take lifetimes. My questions weren’t ignored or not heard. Different. Like, I mattered.

Okay, now the tough part. The triggers. I remembered specifically that Michele said that yoga is sometimes weird. I think at that particular time she was talking about the Ujjayi breathing technique. I admitted to her that I felt I was not able to stay present hearing this breathing. She said that voicing my concern was appropriate and she would help me stay present and would give me some reminders on how I could do this on my own.

During my struggles to stay present, I noticed that within these classes I felt safe. This took some time. At the end of each class, when we would do the Savasana, I am not sure why, but in both of these classes, sometimes, tears would roll down my cheeks. This was a pretty new experience for me. Didn’t understand how this was to be, the absorption of what I just learned had turned to tears.

As in other parts of my life, I started to make goals, challenges, for a yoga future beyond the six weeks series. I really did want to learn to stand on my head. Michele sent me an article on how to build up strength by doing the dolphin pose after teaching it in class one day. I read the article and looked at the pictures and got on my mat. I got my butt up in the air and I immediately broke down and started to cry. It was at this very time I learned about acceptance. I finally accepted the sexual assault. I accepted that I was not strong enough to do a headstand NOW, but I would work on this endeavor so maybe in a month or so, I could be closer to having my feet up in the air.

I can now talk about what happened to me. I don’t have to be strong enough. I don’t have to be anything enough. I just…be present.

Laurie R.

Michele Vinbury, lead instructor in the Ember program, in headstand.

Michele Vinbury, lead instructor and co-creator of the EMBER program, in headstand.

The EMBER classes are sponsored by the Yoga on High Foundation. For more information on the Foundation, please click here.

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EMBER Series – A Survivor’s Experience

Alana Becker Photography

Alana Becker Photography

Looking back, I don’t think there was anyway I could have known how powerful the EMBER series would be for me. The freeing emotional release I experienced moved me in ways traditional therapy hasn’t in years. I was amazed to begin a process of re-discovering my body, and what it means to be really in it. After spending so much time zoned out from my body and my life, the power of the restorative poses has healed me in ways words cannot adequately describe. To engage with the idea that I can create feelings of safety and comfort for my own body speaks to a level of self-empowerment I have only dreamed of before. Michele has an innate capacity to create a safe place from which healing grows. Read More…

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40 Day Reset ~ Aspirations

photo-5Jasmine. ENERGETIC, STRONG, LEAN, SEXY!

Sadhana -daily practice
Yoga Asana 6xweek (3 in studio classes)
Meditation/iRest Yoga Nidra Daily

Fitness -- kick start the 35+ metabolism
Run/cardio 4x week for at least 30 minutes
Weights 3x week
Plyometric/Core work 3x week

Nutrition – eat intelligent food for maximum energy and nutrition
Kapha Balancing Diet; no sugar, no dairy. Biggest meal is lunch with breakfast and dinner being easily digestable.
1 Gallon of water a day – includes lemon water and detox tea – sip all day
Triphala tea in the evenings before bed

Self Care – feeling good inside and out
Floss daily
Tongue Scrapping daily
Oil Pulling daily
Dry Brush daily
Ayurveda Oil Baths 2x week

Connectivity
Journal Daily – 1 page
List one thing I am grateful for each day
Have one friendship date a week
Chant daily – 10 minutes
Get outside for 30+ minutes each day

Michele. Strong, Lucky, Beautiful, Deserving.

mv-87

Clarity
I practice yoga 6x per week. 3 in-studio classes.
I make time to meditate daily. Minimum 20 minutes.
I get, at least, one 3-hour stretch of totally alone time weekly.
I spend a minimum of 1 hour outside a day. (20 mins for rain days.)

Physical Wellness
I eat whole, healthy meals as a form of self-care.  Five meals per day. Vegetarian, no sugar (fruit’s cool though). 1 “whatever” meal per week.
I drink 100oz of water per day to include herbal tea.

Fitness
I run. For fun.
I weight train 3 times a week -- Mondays: chest, shoulders, triceps, Wednesdays: back and biceps, Friday: legs with plyos and abs worked into each (follow me on my facebook page for some of the detailed workouts.)

Reality Check
I write love and appreciates daily.
I write gratitude items daily.
I list motivations and inspirations daily.
I take time to bask in the wonder of it all (daily!)

Connections
I am a patient and creative mother -- 1 art/science project a week with kids and minimum one legit outdoor adventure too.
I have 1 friend date a week outside of work.
I let my partner know that I appreciate him.
I volunteer my time 1-2 hours per week.

Here are my love & appreciates for today:
I love & appreciate my body, I love and appreciate myself.
I love and appreciate my body, I love and appreciate myself.
I love and appreciate my body, I love and appreciate myself.
I love and appreciate my fingers that allow me to type and communicate with friends.
I love and appreciate my throat, the tunnel my coffee takes to my belly, getting much loved caffeine to my whole body!
I love and appreciate my feet. Especially bare. Especially bare in dirt. Especially bare in dirt in the summer. (And fireflies, I love and appreciate them too.)

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40-Days to Reset, Renew, Revitalize!

1291864_10202017943797919_718946573_oIs there something to this 40-Day Transformation thing? Jasmine and I are determined to find out! Join us for the next 40-Days as we detox, meditate, stretch, strengthen and grow on our personal 40-Day Vibrant Wellness Journey.

Step 1: Contemplation and Journaling
Jasmine and I each take time to contemplate the question, “What might there be for me to learn/receive from the 40-day Reset, Renew, Revitalize Journey?”
After we sit with this question, each of us spent about 20 minutes writing about the feelings, thoughts and messages that came up during the contemplation.

Step 2: Defining our Aspirations and Intentions
Setting our aspirations for our 40-Days will help to keep us focused on our broad desires and also give us a framework from which to set our daily intentions. (Check out my blog on intentions).

For me, when creating concrete goals or aspirations, I follow this formula:

  • -- Write aspirations in the present tense, as if they’re already a statement of truth. Instead of “I’m going to eat healthy food” I would write “I eat whole, healthy food as a form of self-care.” Instead of “do an unsupported handstand.” I would write “I enjoy unsupported handstands that feel strong and stable.”
  • -- Make goals time bound and measurable. For instance, instead of saying “I want to do more yoga,”I would write, “I practice yoga three times a week in a teacher-lead class and three times at home for 60-90 minutes”. Or, in this aspiration language, I would write “I weigh xxx pounds by October 27th,” or “I am xx% body fat” or “I run a 5k in xx minutes on September 7th”.
  • -- Dream Big, but not crazy! While I want to allow myself to dream big dreams, I also want to make sure that my goals and aspirations are within my reality. I love to run, but I’m not terribly fast. Setting a goal of “I run a 17 minute 5k in September” is beyond my reach and sets me up for failure. A more realistic goal might be to shave some time off my PR (personal record). By looking at a training program designed to get me to that time, I can assess how many weeks/months I need to reach that goal and then state “I run a xx minute 5k on October XX”. Similarly, floating through my vinyasas is not a reality for me at the moment. I don’t have to give this up as an aspiration though. Instead, I might look at breaking “Floating” down into smaller pieces and set markers around that -- for example working on Lolasana first with big blocks, then with 1/2 blocks, then with hands on the mat, then rolling my shins parallel to floor, then step one foot back, etc.
  • -- Start by seeing the big picture. In my case, I want to feel content and healthy, and ultimately I wish to live as an expression of loving kindness. In living my “today”, I move toward that ultimate desire by devoting myself to what feel like more easily digestible pieces. I know that in order for me, personally, to feel content and healthy I must address my physical, mental and emotional/spiritual being. That means addressing what I eat, how I move my body, how I speak to myself and others, how much rest I get, how much time I spend outside, how much time I have with my family and also by myself, and there is definitely a component of how much fun I have! When I set goals/intentions, I address each of these. (Check out tomorrow’s blog for both Jasmine and my 40-day aspirations.)

Step 3: Sharing our Hopes and Visions (out loud!!)
From experience, I realize that sharing my dreams and goals out loud is a powerful and important step in the “becoming” process. By sharing my dreams/goals/intentions, I hold myself accountable and also admit to myself and the world that there is a specific direction I’d like to be headed. In the past, there were times when I shared my desires for the “future me” quietly, with fear of being judged and perhaps some self-consciousness or some bit of asking for permission. What I learned is that the more I spoke the desire, the more confident and clear I became in “owning” or integrating the vision into myself. It became a statement of fact. One without shame, without fear and without need for external acceptance or permission. I have grown strong in many ways from this “out loud” practice. If you don’t have someone to tell your dreams to, or if it’s still a bit on the scary side, write them down -- seeing them on paper can have a strong impact too -- like a contract (or promise if you prefer) with oneself.

Step 4: Prep Work
If your intention, for example, has something to do with eating whole healthy foods, and your 40-day Journey starts tomorrow, set yourself up for success -- go shopping and stock the house with fresh food. Pick out recipes that you can make ahead and fill the fridge with easy options that will meet your need for this form of self-care. If your intention is to go to a 7a or 5a yoga class, set your clothes out before bed (check out Jasmine’s blog on this). If your intention is to meditate daily, create a spot where this can happen…it doesn’t have to be big or fancy, but make it inviting and easy. Also, try to anticipate obstacles you might face. For instance, I’m on vacation this week. While this presents great opportunities for me to meet my fitness and time outside goals, eating in the way that I want is more of a challenge. I definitely need to spend some time coming up with airport food strategies. This helps ensure I’ll not have excuses to “fall off the wagon” when faced with booth after booth of unhealthy food options.1000600_10151681813011784_2019940012_n

Step 5: Find an accountability buddy
Jasmine and I will serve as each other’s accountability buddies. And in a way, you will be there for us too as we blog about our
experiences over the next 40-days. Get friends to meet you at the park or at yoga class, tell them that you’d love them to check in on your progress and ask how you’re doing. And choose people who will be supportive in a way that feels good and healthy to you.

Step 6: Here we Go! And we’re gonna have fun too!!

xo

Michele

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Savasana Armor

by Michele Vinbury

Every week in savasana, I ask students to allow me the privilege of helping them find comfort and to trust me, and the space we’ve created, as they close their eyes and begin to release tension in their bodies.  I stand watch, holding space, as they beautifully surrender to gravity and soften their physical armor.

I, on the other hand, am that student every restorative teacher knows, who would rather remain excruciatingly still while a blanket corner digs into my ribs than raise my hand to ask for help. This raised hand, a seemingly simple gesture, signals to me a vulnerability I needn’t expose. I admit that it is irrational – seen in my mind’s eye not as a form of self-care, but instead as a white flag of surrender, a signal of defeat. I need something because I can’t do it myself. I have no such judgments about my students though.  I often think the opposite, that it is the student with the more advanced practice that can accept and allow for comfort and ease. Read More…

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Pose of the Month: Ustrasana

by Michele Vinbury

Ustrasana, or Camel Pose, serves to stretch and open the front of the body (throat, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, ankles) while extending and strengthening the back of the body. Ustrasana is also a go-to for relieving fatigue and can be a great alternative to Urdhva Danurasana for those with tight or injured shoulders. As a heart opener, we thought it particularly fun to look at during the Valentine’s season. Read More…

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