The Living Yoga Blog

Boats of Compassion

Boats of compassionOur Living Yoga volunteer teacher, Paul Telles, shares his remarkable insight and heartfelt experience inspired by the "Journey from Mind to Heart" Trauma Resilience Workshop, hosted by Living Yoga:

Certainly, I learned teaching tips and techniques that I've already put to good use. And I gained a whole new vocabulary for describing the neurobiology of trauma. And I met interesting mental health professionals, people of deep feeling who had recovered from their life traumas by helping others.

But what really rocked me was one simple conclusion: Yoga really does work!

During my first three years as a Yoga teacher, I have intuitively followed threads of connection and caring as I've sought to apply my training to the needs of others. I have often seen the power of the practice written on my clients. I’ve seen smiling, relaxed faces, bellies swelling with breath, muscles soft and relaxed in śavāsana.

But, somehow, the notion has lingered that my work, beneficial as it is, may not be capable of addressing truly profound suffering. The seminar proved otherwise. As I’ve reviewed my notes during the past six weeks, several key points have come to mind again and again, sometimes ratifying the techniques I already use and sometimes challenging me to search out new tools and ways of presenting them.

 

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Our Path To The Future

unnamed"A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more." - Rosabeth Moss Kanter

This past month, Living Yoga's Board of Directors passed our 2016-2018 Strategic Plan. Amazingly, our planning process began back in November and included many hands and hearts who contributed to the vision of where our beloved organization will go from here.

As a living and breathing organization, we began our process by taking a moment to pause and reflect on all that we had been and all we were becoming. We knew it was time not just to become better, but to become stronger too.

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Best Friends Forever

Cat and DogEnjoy this great story shared by Living Yoga teacher Ivy Katz:

Today at Trillium Edwards School we started class by naming that the start of summer begins this weekend. Naming that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, but that for half the world it will be the shortest day of the year. We emphasized that when one person experiences something, another might have a very different experience at the same time (this was brought in as a way to integrate what was shared a few weeks ago about how kids here having a hard time with summer since they are still in school).

We each went around at check-in saying one thing we like about summer and one thing that is a challenge. I led the class in a fairly dynamic warm up with lots of standing poses to get us moving and breathing together. Everyone participated in this part of class. At about the half point of class, we decided to transition into a game by request of some of the kids in check-in. 

After the games we ended class with a short guided shivasana having them imagine being in a place outdoors that they enjoy, and an animal friend shows up with guidance for them. One student asked if she could add something to the meditation. She shared that animal friends could be your "best friend forever". It was pretty cute!

Who Me?

pc384 who meEnjoy this story shared by our recovery yoga teacher Tony Roberts!

Today at our recovery yoga class I shared how a friend had told me it seems I've lived life from a place of "Who Me?" and should start living life from Who Me! It seems that as good things continue to unfold and come to me, the underlying narrative for me is one of "I'll fail, there must be someone better, or if they knew the real me"....etc.  And the direction to move into is to learn how to accept and be in a state of equanimity...

It was a truly, a wonderful class to share. A gentle, focused movement class with lots of heat and energy in the room despite the open windows! After class a student shared how this week he had been congratulated by many people over a project and how he had felt he was shutting down inside, from all the praise......now he felt Who Me! and left to enjoy his Saturday! With Gratitude. Who Me!

The Forest Through The Trees

tree poseOur volunteer teacher, Sophie, shares a new teaching experience:

Taught my very first all-male class at Lifeline Connections (21 great guys)! Class was lively and upbeat. The guys were very respectful and even laughed at all my jokes smile emoticon They grunted through all the strength-building stuff - plank, chair, warrior - but with great humor. Big request for tree pose...great concentration and focus on their part. I told them they make a lovely forest, to which I got a big collective, "Ah shucks, how sweet!" Great class overall...looking forward to many more to come.

Thank you for your service, Sophie! We appreciate your passion, creativity and support!

The Gift of Presence

presentmomentLiving Yoga teacher, Kasey Stewart, shares the gift of the present moment: I had 14 ladies at Coffee Creek minimum last night. I focused the practice around residing in the present moment and the everyday cues we can use to drop into that -- the breath, the bodily sensations, and the beautiful sights in nature. I centered the asana practice around easy heart and shoulder openers, physically opening to the "now".

In closing, I invited the women to let that presence carry them through their walk across the courtyard as they returned to their dorms or wherever they were headed next. To find a favorite flower in the garden and really take it in for all it is. To look up at the sky and appreciate its colors. To take some deep breaths and remember that we are all part of this vast and mysterious universe.

 

Youthful Joyful Journey

rumblemonkeys552Here's an inspiring story from our volunteer teacher, Ivy, who creatively engages a group of energetic kids:

It was fun teaching two weeks in a row, certainly helpful in remembering everyone's name and building rapport! There were 7 kids and 2 staff. The theme of the class was about story telling. We went around for a check in saying how we felt as well as our favorite story, could be a book, a tv show, a movie , a play etc... One kid said her favorite story was the story of her life because she currently is really liking how her life is going! That was super sweet to hear.

 

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A Standing Invitation

20130903 DePaul Youth LY 0045 copyOur volunteer teacher, Sophie, shares her experience teaching a new women's class:

I had the opportunity to teach the very first women's class at a drug & alcohol treatment center last Saturday. I didn't know what to expect, but came with an open heart and an attitude of "everything is welcomed." I had 11 lovely ladies participating in class, with only one having any prior yoga experience. I began talking about yoga as an invitation to be present in body, mind and spirit, instead of an attempt to become a human pretzel, which can elevate anxiety.

We got on our feet right away with some gentle movements, which seemed to relieve nervous energy. Then, we all sat in chairs and began with some breath sensing and some stretches that were accessible to everyone. Soon we came to some standing poses, with the chair close by for support or balance. I talked about how our experience on the mat often mirrors how we deal with situations in our lives. I asked them to notice where the mind goes when asked to hold a pose that is challenging. Do you give up right away and then feel bad about yourself? Does the ego take over and you bust through at any cost to prove something? I suggested to pause, notice, feel, and see if there is any place that will allow a softening, a release.

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Teachable Moments

20111005 OSCI aishaharleyPHOTOGRAPHY 0053 copyOur new teacher, Debra, shares her first teaching experience at our new class at Lifeline Connections in Vancouver:

In preparation for teaching my first Living Yoga class, I met with Teri, the co-teacher, to discuss sequences and to learn what I should expect from a Men’s recovery class. She advised me to expect the unexpected, get the class moving, have some modifications in mind, and have more tools in your tool belt than you will ever need. Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

We had a large class of 20 men. There were more men then mats! My first challenge was acclimating to the fact that this was not a yoga studio. The age range was late 20's to early 60's, with an assortment of abilities and limitations. About half of the men were apprehensive about taking the class, and at least three men were physically unable to get on a mat at all.

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A Young Boys Transformation

20130903 DePaul Youth LY 0145 copyHere is a story from Liz, who teaches at a school for youth who are working through their life experience with trauma:

Five kids & two staff members were present for the class today, with one timid new boy participating from the doorway. I taught alone today. We each said our name and something we had seen when we were walking: rosemary, mallard ducks, stone turtles, a bird, a salamander, my bare feet, and a snake with a blue stripe. I used the rosemary as a point of focus and as an incentive for participation- each student was promised they could have some at the end of class. We all listened to the sound of a shaker toy while each participant got the chance to shake it, make sounds, and name a hidden object they located within the toy.

We started and ended our active practice with this exercise for focus & continuity. Fairly quickly I got them up & standing to help keep their focus & find their feet. We talked about the breath and a few students took turns leading us with the Hoberman’s Sphere. We focused on gentle active movements because it was important to keep the two very active boys from getting overly wound up/dysregulated. Because of this, no active games today. Some poses we did: Standing breath work with arm lifts/lowers & calf extensions, forward fold with opposite inner thigh presses, chair, squat, and table with opposite arm/leg lifts. Each of us went around and instructed a different balance pose. What kept the focus? Multiple reminders to listen and take turns talking one at a time, to keep one’s body & attention on own mat and returning many times to Mountain Pose to calm & center.

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