The Living Yoga Blog

A Powerful Exchange

exhangeHere is a powerful class moment shared by our teacher Heather. It's a great example of how when we give we often times get so much back in return. It's one of the most beautiful things about the work here at Living Yoga. Enjoy.

5 men today at WCCCC (Washington County Community Corrections Center). I arrived extra early. I was pretty riled up about a current life situation and what has been reflected back to me as of late. I was feeling "at my edge"with the whole thing. The extra time was just what I needed to ground. As soon as I focused on my breath, I felt a softening and release. I was not expecting that at all. Also unexpected were the tears that followed (oh gee-now?really?). I wiped my eyes and headed in.

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The Beauty of Practice

20130903 DePaul Youth LY 0067Enjoy this interview with Living Yoga teacher Christine Alex as she shares her experience teaching to teen girls in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. 

1. How long have you been teaching for lY?

I have been teaching for just over 1 year.

2. What do you notice the girls receive from class?

I notice (and have received feedback) that they receive immense relaxation and a time to be quiet and just do nothing. It also helps them to sleep better and also connect in and feel emotions, which start to bubble up when we get very still and quiet together.

3. Why is yoga an important tool for them?

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Believe in Goodness

michael“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.- Walt Whitman

In times of extreme stress, it's easy to forget our potential for basic human goodness. But this current is always there - a renewable resource ready and waiting to be revealed and shared whenever we need it.

And that’s why Living Yoga works—it taps into this current. Every day our teachers access this resource by extending kindness and generosity to those who need it most. And that act of goodness is infectious.

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When Chaos Surrounds You, Turn To The Peace Inside

groupcrciEvery once in awhile something happens that brings into crystal clear focus why I volunteer for Living Yoga. Recently at our Coffee Creek class an older student came up to me after class and said, "I just wanted to let you know that today I was waiting in the Canteen line and there was chaos all around, and at first I just wanted to go running to the MHU [Mental Health Unit] and pound on the door, and beg them to let me in. But then I remembered what I've learned in yoga and I just looked around and realized that what was going on around me 'out there' had nothing to do with my peace inside." I was smiling ear to ear and we chatted about being the observer and finding the still pure place in your heart that you carry around with you wherever you go, always there to tap into when things get crazy.

It was so powerful to see and feel the tangible benefits that this prisoner experienced from their yoga practice was truly heartwarming. -Laurene Mullen

Coming Home

2011 1 24 LY Columbia A Harley Photo -83“Wow, that was really, really something”- Student at CRCI

This past week I was fortunate to sit in on a class with Reiko, one of Living Yoga’s volunteer teachers at Columbia River Correction Facility. And, it was really something!

Reiko led class off with a theme of connecting to our body as our home. To not only discover and use the body as a resource, but also one of refuge, recovery, and renewal.

And rather than focusing on a home improvement project, the class became an opportunity for the guys to explore and embody their home. Reiko encouraged the men to look into all the rooms and see what was there. If they didn’t want to stay, they could move on and keep exploring. And, if there was a room that was interesting, or needed attention, they could keep their focus there.

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Science of Compassion

by Sarina Saturn

“Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”-Pema Chodron

Living Yoga encapsulates compassion beautifully, by reaching out to the afflicted and offering them time and place for peace and personal growth.

What is compassion?

Compassion is described as an authentic desire to help those who are suffering.  It involves empathy, defined as experiencing other’s feelings, and a heartfelt pull to aid others.  Although compassion has been practiced for centuries, it has only been studied empirically in recent years.   New scientific evidence illustrates the biology underlying compassionate acts.  This new “science of compassion” is an exciting new frontier and yields insights on how cultivating compassion can lead to beneficial changes to the body and the brain.

Compassion seems to be an evolutionarily adaptive trait that has propelled the welfare and survival of many species.  This notion trumps older theories spouting that we are inherently selfish and that it behooves us to only tend to our own personal needs.  On the contrary, by looking out for others, we create an infectious environment of kindness that allows the community to flourish as a whole.

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How Trauma Affects The Body and Brain (and how yoga may help with the healing)

Sarina headshot

Sarina R. Saturn, PhD

How trauma affects the body and brain

Trauma leaves enduring marks on the brain and the body.  All traumatic experiences recruit the stress response, which involves an array of physiological and hormonal changes that impact the central and peripheral nervous systems.  In the short term and in moderation, the stress response is designed to aid in safety and self-preservation during threatening events.  The stress response includes the release of stress hormones from the adrenal glands.  These stress hormones include cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  During a threatening event, they are responsible for increasing cardiovascular tone, boosting blood pressure, and mobilizing stored energy into muscle to allow for action.  These stress hormones, in turn, provide feedback to the brain and influence brain areas that are responsible for emotional and cognitive processing.  During trauma, permanent physiological and psychological changes are carved into the brains and bodies of victims due to an overdrive these physiological events.

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You Were There For Them...

Down dogA couple of weeks ago I visited the women's minimum security prison in Wilsonville, and after class "Carly" approached me. After excitedly introducing herself, she told me she was getting out soon, and couldn't wait to come to Living Yoga classes on the outside.

Her excitement was infectious. Smiling with her, I asked, "When are you getting out?" "In two years!" No irony, no sarcasm, nothing but unadulterated joy in her voice. Two years is what "soon" means in prison.

"Carly" said she had only recently transferred from Medium, where, for ten years, she had been a Living Yoga student. She proudly motioned to our volunteer, Anna. "Her and Lauren. They're my rocks. I couldn't have made it through this place without them."

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Sweetheart Savasana

Enjoy this short story by Heldi Pollard-Hermann, one of Living Yoga's newest teachers at Donald E. Long.

hopeMy heart is continually opened by the sweet and sometimes rowdy moments I am able to share with the teen girls while teaching yoga at Donald E. Long juvenile detention center. A couple weeks ago, inspired by an activity we did during my Living Yoga teacher training, I brought to class several colored cut out hearts. During our class opening I encouraged the ladies to write a word on their heart that represented something they wanted to create during their practice that evening. Words such as “peace, love, strength,” decorated their multi-colored hearts.

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