Yoga Practice

Weeds and Seeds

Cancer has been a summer weed for me, but I’m happy to report that the doctors plucked it out by the roots. My breast cancer was stage 1, no node involvement and I do not need additional treatment. Only a 5% chance that it returns somewhere else in my body. So I’m cancer free, and I feel so very fortunate and blessed. I will always keep a huge space in my heart for women and the people that love them who have not had this kind of prognosis.

As I return to the ordinary ways of my life (I start teaching at YogaWorks again tomorrow), I have some resolutions I’d like to plant in cancer’s place. One is to practice keeping my heart open at all times, not just special times. To remember the wounds every being I encounter has and perhaps hides. To be part of the healing rather than the hurting. (This is a big order for someone who can leave a yoga class completely blissed out and then be in a snit about a driver who refuses to use a blinker when turning.)

The second resolution I am making is to set aside time for intentional creativity. I was so happy teaching 12 classes a week — 3 of them were art classes for older adults through Iona. Each lesson was a flowering of my own creativity but it had an extrinsic purpose. I had to have the right materials, make sure that I could teach this lesson in an hour and a half and think through modifications for those with physical challenges so they had the resources they needed to create. The paintings I did these past four weeks were intrinsic — done just for the love of doing it — and in this way they were healing. Though I’ve shared some with you here, there are others I’ll never share.  They are just for me.

So: two resolutions grown during the summer of breast cancer.  As I’ve gotten better and I’m getting used to new limitations and new body parts (!), I’ve been aware of the healing energy that has shone down on me every step of the way. I’ve soaked up all this love and warmth and I’m ready to give back now. Thank you for helping me get to this place of harvest.

I’ll continue to post about how the practice of yoga can heal, sharing the way my practice as a yogi, teacher and creative shows up for me.  But for now, thank God, no more about cancer.

 

 

Cooperative — more a way of life than a business model

Yoga Equals

Big news.  We’ve had our first official Board Meeting and we’ve drafted our Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.  From a foundation of compassion and inclusion, we will offer quality teaching and support to professional yoga teachers through transformative programs including continuing education.

As we take this step, we will change our name.  We are no longer the DC Yoga Co-op.

Why abandon this name?  First, we want to avoid confusion with two wonderful online communities of yoga teachers in the region.  The Yoga Co-op DC and the DC Yoga Teachers Collaborative are doing great work getting the practice out to people in the community, communicating workshops and classes and offering a forum for teachers to pose important questions and receive answers from peers.

Secondly, a cooperative is a very specific business model and as we have worked with teachers in the community, we see that our aims and purposes as an organization are much more charitable and educational than profit or benefit sharing.  There is so much more we can do together to bring quality yoga teaching and transformative education to local communities.

Finally, we’re here to serve communities and teachers from around the region — not just the city. (And maybe even farther beyond? Dream big, we say.)

We chose a name that reflects the passion we have for in-person community and the connection we have through this practice.  We wanted to reflect the fact that the word yoga comes from the Sanskrit seed word “yuj” meaning “yoke.”  Right in the middle of our name, we placed a symbol of what excites us mostan equals sign that is a constant reminder to break down barriers that divide us as yogis, yoga teachers and as people on this earth.

Dear friends and colleagues: I introduce you to Yoga=Union, for short in conversation: Yoga Union.

Yoga Teachers: want to be part of Yoga=Union?  Sign up here for news and information you need as a teacher, like debriefs of educational events – you have our promise that we won’t spam and we won’t share your information.  And follow us on Facebook and Instagram for information on upcoming social and educational events.

Next:  More Norma…Ray of Light. What Yoga=Union will do for local communities and yoga teachers.

On Insta soon:  Meet our Board and hear their thoughts and aspirations.

 

Significance of Touch

Tony RobbinsBy now, we’ve all seen and heard self-help guru Tony Robbins tie a noose of ignorance around his own neck at his $3,000 weekend conference and then swing in the hot winds of swift societal condemnation. As someone who uses the power of touch to teach in my yoga classes, I was struck by the significance of using touch to illustrate his point in this clip. (If you don’t have 11 minutes to spend on this cringe-inducing video, just forward to 3.29 to see this part.)

He illustrates his point with touch — asking his “student” to make a fist and then pressing on it with his hand, asking all the while, “why are you resisting?” as she backs away from him. It is menacing, considering that he is the voice of authority in the arena and he is over 6 feet tall.  It is humiliating, since he upbraids her verbally and when this doesn’t seem to change her mind, he asks her to come to him for this instruction.  It is inhumane, since he doesn’t for even try to empathize or connect with her as a fellow traveler on this planet.  He has his power, his prestige, his persona — barriers to the human experience.

Thanks to the #metoo movement and the consciousness it has raised in our society, I see this video with even more depth than I would have before.  The sexism would have made me mad at the age of 13, but with the #metoo movement and the facts I’ve learned about the trauma of harassment and sexual violence, I am appalled that Robbins didn’t for one moment think about what trauma his touch might trigger in this woman.

As a yoga teacher who was trained in and expected to perform hands-on assists,  the #metoo movement has made me want to examine my own philosophy about touch in the classroom.  The DC Yoga Co-op’s first event, Hands-On Assists in the Era of #Metoo will present a panel discussion of seasoned local yoga teachers and therapists with a variety of philosophies about touch so that we can learn about, and set or reconnect with our intentions about this aspect of our teaching. Continuing education credits will be available to those who ask for them. To register for this event or to become a member of the DC Yoga Co-op, please click here.

The DC Yoga Co-op was launched this month. We’ve got a big vision: to keep local DC yoga communities alive and well in an increasingly corporate yoga climate by offering topical, innovative and interesting continuing education programming taught by local DC yoga and mindfulness teachers, helping us to become better leaders in our communities and teachers for the people who need yoga the most. To join, please click here.

 

Power in Numbers

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9 to 5 cast: Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda. From hollywoodreporter.com

A long time ago now, I was the Director of Admissions for Trinity College’s Weekend College. Weekend College was a premier adult education program in the city, at one time enrolling over 600 women for their undergraduate liberal arts degree. Most of the women were mid-career professionals in the government and all of them made tremendous sacrifices to attend, since all the classes happened on the weekends. Not one of the women in the program failed to inspire me with her drive and her fortitude for breaking glass ceilings of race, gender or social status.

This was so long ago that the main way to market the program was to be invited to an educational fair at the some of the larger government agencies. Even though Trinity enrolled plenty of women from these places, it was still really hard to snag an invite. A friend at Johns Hopkins’ extension campus in DC was also having a hard time, since most HR folks at these government agencies wondered why they should invite a Baltimore school to their fairs. We decided to combine our energies and create a collaborative group of adult education professionals to get a bigger foot in the door.

By the time I left Trinity, there were over 20 adult education programs working together to meet students where they worked. It was a win/win/win.  Human Resources professionals only needed to make one call instead of 34 to arrange an education fair; those of us in working together collaboratively not only met our enrollment goals, but we met colleagues who could support and help us in our work; and students had a range of options — weekend college, graduate programs, credit for life experience, nascent on-line programming — that offered them choice, the right price for their personal budgets and access to education that wasn’t afforded to them when they were younger.

The DC Yoga Co-op could be win/win as well. Not only would we have the support of a broad and diverse community of teachers and practitioners, there would be power in our numbers.

Using my imagination, I see that together yoga teachers could…

  • provide quality continuing education to one another at a much more affordable rate.

I am lucky to work in a studio where there are more than a handful of teachers who E-RYT and/or over 500 hours of documented training.  Many of them are recognized for their expertise and their ability to run wonderful educational programs.  Yet I see many studios reaching out to nationally known names and these programs are costly to studios and to students. Couldn’t we do this for ourselves?  Speaking of education — couldn’t we educate each other on keeping physically and emotional safe on the job?  About keeping ourselves informed about sexual harassment or the latest in trauma-informed teaching practices so that we keep our students safe?

  • reach a broader and more diverse group of students than we can on our own.

I’m a lot like of my colleagues in that I teach other places in the community beyond my studio, but I have a hard time getting this information out to people.  I have this website — a blog really — but very little cash, expertise or time to get my message out to a wider audience.  If I pool my resources with other yoga teachers in a co-op, I could have a larger marketing footprint.  And this could be win/win for students:  right now, a yoga student must Google to get to a listing of studios near by or turn to Yoga Alliance for a list of registered independent teachers.  Then comes time spent researching every single one to arrive at an appropriate practice. Together teachers could not only market ourselves, we could educate new and seasoned practitioners alike about the diversity of yoga practices that exist in the DC metro region. And, just following my imagination to the nth degree:  What if the co-op was the best source for a new-to-yoga class in the area? What if we could get grants to take this program to places that need yoga the most? I know that together we could create something incredible for the community.

  • share information about job openings.

Likewise, as a collective group of teachers, we could be that one stop shop for studio owners and corporate entities looking to fill a yoga teacher position, or businesses looking for a yoga teacher for that lunch-time class.

  • sub each other’s private clients.

Right now, when I go on vacation or take a continuing education break, my private clients have to take a break from their practice.  I would love to develop relationships with others who work with older adults in their homes so that we could sub each other’s private sessions when we need a break or are sick.

My imagination about power in numbers can take me lots of different places — how about advocacy around job security and safety?  Or helping each other out with the basics of running a business — accounting, taxes and the like?  Could we share  professional services like these? A friend with a bold imagination even mentioned the co-op eventually owning a piece of land for a no-frills retreat center…all I can say is: wow.

The sky’s the limit in what we accomplish better together.  What value are you looking for from a yoga co-op in the DC region? Write me or better yet:  attend the meeting on January 21 so we can discuss in person.  Leave a message for me here and I’ll write you back with details.

 

Islands in the Sun

IMG_3538 Though I belong to a large and incredibly supportive teacher community at my studio, I sometimes feel isolated from others, since usually we’re dashing from class to class.  As Carol and I have been talking with yoga teachers about forming a DC Yoga Co-op, we know that this feeling resonates — and is even more keenly felt by independent yoga teachers. (One described it as being an “island” in her teaching practice.) To counteract this feeling, in the fall I unmoored myself  and let the tides drift me to Upper Marlboro, MD to see how far out my yoga peeps live and work.

I was very early for the noon class at Spiritual Essence, but nevertheless warmly welcomed by Jakuta Dunmore, my instructor.  While we waited for her class to begin, we delved deeply into what was important to us as teachers, practitioners, and community members.  As our conversation turned to taking this practice to people who need it most, she shared the exciting news that she just been hired to teach yoga in the county prison. I could see that this new position was an expression of her compassion and practice of loving kindness.  As I said goodbye and we took pictures of each other and fellow students, I hoped that I would get to hear about how that first class went at the prison.

I’m always happy when I leave class blissed out after savasana, and I’m over the moon if I have learned something new — a few new moves  to incorporate into my sequences or a new perspective on ancient teachings.  This time I left buoyed by the knowledge that I had connected with someone who shared my values and my practice on and off the mat. Definitely a fellow yoga peep, my friend Jakuta.

When I envision the DC Yoga Co-op and what it could be and do for yoga teachers and serious practitioners in the region, this is what I imagine:  A place where we can gather, share support and wisdom.  For a brief moment, we could be islands in the sun.

If you are interested in hearing more about the DC Yoga Co-op, drop me a line.  Happy to include you in our work to create this community.

 

 

 

Big Mind’s Vision

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The Last Day in the Garden

When Erich Schiffman was in Yogaville, he spoke about his understanding of the connection we all have with what he calls “Big Mind” (what some of us would call the divine, and others might call universal consciousness.)  You can tune into Big Mind  by quieting your own little mind through practices that allow you to get out of your own way and “plug in” to the truth of this connection, and insights and sparks of intuition. As you saw from my horoscope recently, Big Mind has some plans for me.

So let me lay out the vision that has been laid on me and ask for your help, as Big Mind’s penchant for connection demands of me.

The Washington DC region needs a yoga co-operative. 

Yup.  I’ve been visited by a vision of an autonomous association of yoga teachers and practitioners united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned, democratically controlled enterprise.

Kinda nerdy was my first thought.

But though it is very different from the other creative visions I’ve played with here, it seems to fit the bill for a heart that has longed for a bigger, broader, deeper and more meaningful in-person connection with others who practice yoga.  [Nice going, Big Mind!]

I’ve shared this vision with close friends, and friends of friends and each time I’ve seen the spark ignite again, like it did in me. As we’ve talked the vision through, considered all the questions that arise, reached out to even more yoga teachers and practitioners for more listening and conversation, the spark has turned into a small flame.

An initial group met in person a few weeks ago to consider whether a DC Yoga Co-operative could come to fruition.  We decided to continue to reach out, to listen and to gather sometime in January to develop a focused mission.  Who do we serve?  How? What positive change do we hope to bring to our region? How would it benefit those of us who already practice or teach yoga?

As you read this, do you feel the warmth of this spark?  Want to know more? Go to Yoga=Union.   I’ll ensure you are part this connected current.

 

 

 

 

 

Learn, Grow, Be

IMG_3570My cohort for the 300 hour teacher training at Tranquil Space was very small:  Suzy, Marjorie, Kelly, Kris, Sharlene and this beauty, Angela.  Found her mat right next to mine for Yoga and Meditation one Sunday this month and was transported back to a time when we spent long weekends immersed in the practice. Slowly, we dropped what we thought we should be and got to be our true selves.  We found that our vulnerabilities were embraced and loved.

I am grateful for this kind of community when I can find it.  Is it possible to build a community of yoga teachers and practitioners where everyone feels that they can learn, teach, grow and be accepted for who they truly are?