The Living Yoga Blog

The Power of Yoga

presenceIn June, we bring awareness to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Harry Dudley, a Living Yoga volunteer teacher and forensic & clinical psychologist, shares the impact of yoga on PTSD and traumatic experience:

 

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah, the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, defines yoga as being that which stills the fluctuations of consciousness. I am basically paraphrasing the various interpretations and translations that I have read over the years, but for me, if the content of a yoga class, regardless of whether it is asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dhrana, or dhyana, is not in service of this definition of yoga, then it is simply not yoga.

 

Nowhere is the need for the stilling of the whirlpools of the mind more needed than with people who struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder, whether it is due to childhood trauma, war, accidents, intimate partner violence, crime, sex trafficking, torture, or the myriad of other circumstances where trauma is possible. There is the abundant research documenting how PTSD is prevalent in the populations served by Living Yoga, and how various yoga practices help ease the suffering of those struggling with PTSD. I will not go into that here, rather, I will simply share some of what I have witnessed of the powerful capacity of various aspects of yoga to ease such suffering, which includes flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, nightmares, panic attacks and hypervigilance, emotional and physical numbing and depersonalization, as well as high risk behavior where the trauma may be compulsively acted out, and traumatized individuals seek alcohol, drugs, sex, and self-injurious behavior to cope with the sequelae of trauma.

 

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A Class at Columbia River Correctional Institute

picRachael King, our program coordinator, shares her first experience observing a class at Columbia River Correctional Institute (CRCI):

When I returned to Oregon earlier this year after completing my Peace Corps service, I could not have imagined that I would one day walk through the doors of an all men’s prison to practice yoga as part of my work. As the program coordinator with Living Yoga, meeting our students and teachers is a highlight and privilege of my job. I recently participated in a class taught by Laurene Mullen, one of our amazing volunteers at Columbia River Correctional Institute (CRCI), a minimum security facility located in North Portland. The experience left me grateful and more than a bit awed by the beauty of our work and community.

The first thing that I noticed when I arrived at CRCI was the juxtaposition of daffodils blooming inside the chain-link gates surrounding the facility. Throughout my brief visit, CRCI seemed to be a contradictory mix of openness (inmates walking freely around the facility) with an ever present reminder of containment (guards and very clear and visible security). Our class was held in CRCI’s chapel, and a full room of students greeted Laurene with evident fondness and respect and accepted my sudden appearance without a question. The first part of class involved some brief catching up that organically helped to identify new students as well as any injuries.  One student who had previously been skeptical about yoga was excited to share how the previous week’s yoga class helped to relax muscles that had been painful and cramped in his neck. 

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I Love Yoga

2011 1 24 LY Columbia A Harley Photo 311 copy"I love yoga and I love all my teachers, such an effort to come here and teach me yoga. Thank you, don't stop."

-Student at Columbia River Correctional Institition 

Episode 1: What if we funded public infrastructure like we fund mental health?

 
aloneSince May is Mental Health Awareness month, we are doing our best to shed light on the work that is being done to fight the stigma that often comes along with Mental Health. Our friends at Trillium Family Services are back with a second season of their #KeepOregonWell comedic web series. 
 
This season they ask the question "What if we funded public infrastructure like we fund mental health?" 
 
#MentalHealthMatters #FightStigma #TraumaInformedComedy 
 
 
 

Making Sense of Chaos: Connections between Trauma, Mental Health, and Addiction

mentalhealthIn honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Our MSW (Master of Social Work) intern from Portland State University explores the connection between trauma, yoga, and mental health. 

While one hat I wear is ‘social work intern’ at Living Yoga, I have worn a lot of hats during graduate school- student, intern, partner, advocate, nanny, child, friend. These hats are always complicated by my experience of generalized anxiety disorder. Challenges with mental health unearthed themselves before I can even remember. Being an anxious child meant perfectionism, stomachaches, rumination about anything and everything, trouble sleeping, and a deeply seeded disdain of change. There was a hot minute while in college when I began to ask hard questions of my anxiety in therapy. But then, trauma turned my world upside down. After I was sexually assaulted during my sophomore year of college, I began to relate to my anxiety in ways that I never knew were possible. It was my coping mechanism. It was a way for me to seek control. It was familiar. But it also morphed a lot as I embarked on the first few years of my lifelong healing process. Anxiety always felt big and counterintuitive; but, layered with trauma, it felt even more confusing.

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Mental Health Awareness Month

mentalhealth

 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness month and we are fighting to #EndTheStigma. Interested in taking the pledge to fight stigma in Oregon? SIGN THE PLEDGE HERE to Keep Oregon Well.

 

 

 

Donald E. Long: Young Men

20130903 DePaul Youth LY 0144 copyIn April, our amazing programs team, combined with our trainers and volunteer teachers worked to start a new class at Donald E. Long, Young Men. Richard and Emily, two of our dedicated teachers, showed up for the first class, and here are Richard's reactions:

First day of classes at Donald E. Long! It has been a long time in the works and I must say the class went very well. There was a little confusion at the front entrance about who we were, but it was straightened out quickly and Emily and I were ushered into the gymnasium. The boys arrived at 8:45, and we began with our introductions. We asked the boys to introduce themselves and say if they had any experience with yoga. A few said they did and even commented on what poses they enjoyed. Then we made a semicircle with Emily and I in the middle. We started with simple warmups (ankles, wrists, necks, shoulders, arms etc). Then into mountain pose with emphasis on the breath and the movement of the body. Then arms over head once again emphasis with the breath and the movement of the arms. Side stretches, forward folds, all reminding how the breath and body move together. Down to plank, cat /cow, spinal balance, (which received lots of fun and laughter) then back to some standing poses with eagle and tree pose. And then we ended with figure four into spinal twist. I led them with a guided meditation in savasana and ended with an explanation of the word namaste. 

It was a great experience all the boys said they were looking forward to the new class. Emily and I are both really looking forward to working together with these wonderful, amazing young men.

Thank you to everyone who is making this new class possible!

Letter from Board of Directors

Letter from Board of Directors 

It is with much gratitude and well wishes that the Board of Directors and staff of Living Yoga bid farewell to Executive Director, Michael Faith. We want to thank Michael for his three years of dedicated service and highlight the milestones we achieved under his guidance:

  • 50% growth in our number of classes offered
  • 70% growth in our operating budget
  • Increase in staff from one to five employees

Over the next few months, we will conduct a search to find the new Living Yoga Executive Director. Our priority is to find the best individual to lead, grow and champion Living Yoga. We are excited for the next chapter of Living Yoga as we continue to support our community through our important work of providing trauma-informed yoga to vulnerable and marginalized populations.

In the interim, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas you’d like to share, please do not hesitate to reach out to Sara Morrow, our Board President, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

From Michael Faith, Executive Director, Living Yoga

After three years with Living Yoga, I decided to resign from my role as Executive Director. The decision did not come easily as I am extremely proud of all that Living Yoga staff, volunteers, board members, and donors have made possible during the past three years. But I am ready for a change, and I look forward to taking some time off as I transition into the next phase of my career.

I want to give my deepest gratitude to all who have been so supportive of the organization and of me personally over the years: staff, board members, and, of course, our partners and donors. Without you, the organization would not be as strong and vibrant as it is today. Mostly, I want to give thanks to our amazing students. I have been humbled and inspired by your resilience, courage, strength, and vulnerability.

All my best,

Michael Faith

National Volunteer Appreciation Month: Barb Stroud

MSH July 05

April is National Volunteer Month, and since we have 200 ACTIVE volunteers, this is an exciting month for us! In celebration, we are highlighting our volunteers and humbly bow to their service to Living Yoga.

Next up, Barb Stroud! Barb Stroud has been volunteering with Living Yoga for about three years and is currently teaching at Multnomah County Assessment & Evaluation, a short term residential program for teen girls. Her thoughts on volunteering with Living Yoga:

"When a friend of mine was incarcerated about 5 years ago, I felt a need to do something.  I'd heard of Living Yoga through one of my yoga instructors and then found out that Living Yoga volunteers taught yoga to people in rehab or prisons. As I'd never taught before, the idea of "sharing" my practice allowed me to feel more comfortable with the role. After practicing for some 30 years, I am now a volunteer teacher and it is wonderful to observe how yoga can make a difference in people's lives."

Barb, on behalf of all of us at Living Yoga, THANK YOU for your service. You are a delight to work with!

National Volunteer Appreciation Month: Karen Leib

karenApril is National Volunteer Month, and since we have 200 ACTIVE volunteers, this is an exciting month for us! In celebration, we are highlighting our volunteers and humbly bow at their service to Living Yoga.

Next up, Karen Leib! Karen Leib is one of our amazing board members who oversees our annual Gala, as well as a volunteer teacher at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. 

Here is what Karen says about her service to Living Yoga:

Since yoga is such a large component of my life, I wanted to give back to the community. Being on the Living Yoga board, teaching yoga in the correctional facility, and fundraising are all enriching and rewarding for me. I enjoy witnessing the positive and transformative benefits that yoga brings to the students and being an integral part of their growth. It's wonderful working alongside my fellow board members and staff, with all of us aspiring toward our common goal. This experience has broadened my sense of involvement with the Portland yoga community, and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Thank you for your service, Karen!

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