The Living Yoga Blog

Taking Time To Pause

Take a moment to settle into this moment as best you can. Take a seat or lie down. Allow your eyes to close, or stay softly open.

Invite yourself to begin by noticing what is--shifting from thinking to awareness, from external to internal. Perhaps you start with noticing your breath and from there, ride the wave of each breath more deeply into your body. Or maybe you begin with a sound, and follow its subtle tones and vibrations more deeply.

Then, start to shift into feeling what is with as much detail as feels comfortable for you. If it feels ok to do so, allow yourself to feel into your body, letting sensation after sensation reveal itself to you. Noticing where tension is, where resistance and clinging are. Notice where is there space and openness too.

See if you can notice the natural gaps and space between breaths, and between movements of your body as your body responds to your breath. Allow time to stop sink into the pauses between the breaths. Learning to find this pause is sacred, as the pause is a tool you can learn to take with you in the moments you are prone to enter into automatic pilot mode, or into habitual ways of being that do not serve you. If you feel uncomfortable or nervous watching your breath, go back to noticing something external like what you see, hear, or touch.

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Going to any Lengths

BekindRichard, one of our volunteer teachers, shares his connection and dedication to the young men at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, and his willingness to overcome whatever it takes to get there: 

Yesterday at MacLaren we had 5 young men in class, one first timer and one second timer. I started our practice with a prayer on intention from the Dalai Lama, and then moved into belly breathing. We continued on the floor with some spinal twists, then cat/cow to downward dogs, and then to some standing poses.

As an opportunity to get to know them better, I went down to MacLaren on the previous Saturday to run the 3rd annual Fourth of July Half Marathon with some of the guys, so there was a lot of talk about the race and how sore we were. By the time we got into warrior III, there was lots of laughter and talk about sports figures who practice yoga and even ballet.

With 20 min left in the practice, we got back down to the mat and in "trying" to get a little quieter, we moved into bridge, spinal twists and savasana, with legs up the wall and a little guided meditation.

On a little personal note, it was my second day teaching solo. I was nervous about that! My day started off with a flat tire and pretty much stayed at that level. As I was driving home after our practice, I was so glad my flat tire did not happen while I was driving there. So glad I showed up… no matter how much anxiety I had. Without a doubt, teaching at MacLaren was not only the better part of my day… it MADE my day!

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 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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