Yoga Practice

Power in Numbers

9_to_5_still

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?

All My Yoga Peeps

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What if the entire DC Metro Region was your yoga community?  What if you felt like you — the unique body, heart and soul that is you —  felt at home stepping into a new place to practice yoga?  That you weren’t just invited, not just welcomed, but that you really, really already belonged?

We all have our own yoga DNA from our studios, our teachers, and training…but we are also yoked by common threads.  We long to create connection. We desire to practice compassion for self and others, to honor the lineage and all the creative, vibrant expressions of the practice in the world. Our yoga peeps are all over this city, this region, this country, the world.

In August of 2017, my creative impulses were called away from the canvas and the pen and notebook by change.  This change wasn’t theoretical — it was really, really real.  My home yoga studio changed hands.  And with that change, I took a look around to see that landscape of the local yoga scene had been changing all along.

So, I did what I do every time I felt lost.  I got on with the business of finding myself here and now, connecting with self and others.  And I found the most amazing vision for our big community of yoga peeps and we worked to make this vision a reality.  Please see where we’ve been together at Yoga=Union.  Want to belong?  You are more than welcome and invited.  In fact, you belong already.

Join me in this adventure.

A Dim Capacity for Wings

Detail of base

Detail of base

Apologies to Emily Dickinson for using a line from one of her poems, but it pretty much sums up the ache I have when I haven’t had a project to find myself lost in.  Each time I sit in my little corner studio, Bach on Pandora, brushes clean and waiting, paint tubes all lined up, I hope this will be the day when I catch the breeze and fly.  Sometimes, as with the quince or with the seed pods, it is just practice and preparation for the day when my wings unfurl.

Detail of base facade

Detail of base facade

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The Tart Taste of Fertility

Quince

Quince

I painted a picture I took of a quince as a way to keep creating.  We have a huge quince bush in our back yard — it blooms a delicate salmon-pink flower in the spring and then ripens about ten fruit in the summer that are so tart the squirrels won’t eat them.  Not much excited me about the subject as I sketched it, or kept me in a sweet flow as I painted.  Unlike the seed pods, it wasn’t a tortured process, but it felt like practice. Come to the canvas, mix the colors, listen to music, and fill a brush with paint.  Repeat.

But the universe was talking to me, I just wasn’t listening. As I became bored with painting, I grabbed one of my favorite books, An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols by J.C. Cooper (Thames and Hudson, 1979), and looked up “quince” on a whim. The quince is an ancient Greek symbol of fertility, the food of brides and sacred to Venus.  Like ancient Sarah, I audibly snorked  and chuckled when I read this — what a strange sign! I am now fifty, so my baby making days are well behind me.  I’m in a phase of my life where I see my children ripening into adulthood.

I put the book down and returned to the canvas  — a verdant sea of green.  As I played with hues and shapes and shades, I realized that the sign for me was that my life is fertile ground, not my body.

That is the lesson of yoga as well.  Asana (poses) is what most people think of as yoga, but it is only one limb of an eight limbed practice.  There are also the ethical disciplines of the yamas and niyamas, the appropriate use of the life force in pranayama, and the abiding in silence and cultivating stillness to deepen an awareness of our connection to true self.

The practice of yoga is a tool to help us till the fertile ground of our being.  Once we have prepared this ground, we can fully bloom.