Jan 24 2013

Hometown Yoga Heroes: Trace Bonner

Erica Rodefer Winters

When I first moved to Charleston a couple of years ago I was thrilled that my apartment was only a few miles from Holy Cow Yoga Studio (little did I know that a “few miles” could take up to 30 minutes in Charleston traffic). The first yoga class I went to here was led by Trace Bonner. From the first Downward Dog, I knew I’d found a teacher I’d be able to connect with—this lady says what she means and means what she says. She’s direct, relatable, and funny in a way that comes so naturally I don’t think she even thinks about it—it’s just who she is. This is a quality that, for me, is the difference between a good yoga teacher and a great one. So I wanted to talk more to her about her approach to the yoga practice and find out what makes her tick.
Here’s what she had to say:

What’s one thing you wish you had known about yoga when you first started practicing?

That it is not about becoming flexible. I think in the beginning years of taking yoga I strived toward attaining the perfect posture. However, after some time I realized that it was more about being more flexible in my mind. I slowly let go of the rigidity of things in my life being a certain way. I let go of pacifying my ego’s wants and desires without deeper contemplation. And so, I think yoga has the ability to slowly transform one’s mental suffering.

 What’s your favorite pose at the moment? What are you learning from it?

I have always loved Downward Facing Dog. It remains the most evolving posture I do daily. Something about being tipped upside down and feeling the power of my arms and legs working in unison. I consistently find a deep and prayerful space to watch the breath and mind at play while hanging in there viewing the world from a completely different perspective.

What’s the best advice someone ever gave you?

Truth is one, paths are many. This is the famous teaching from my teacher, Swami Satchidananda. When I was younger I grew up believing that there was one way to connect to my highest spiritual self (God).. And yet, during those years I never bought into that way of thinking. It felt so exclusive, and I didn’t feel God could ever be that way. So, when I met my teacher you can imagine my joy of discovering that it was OK to have varying beliefs, and each one held a valid way of experiencing the divinity of God. I felt a wave of relief that we could each find our own path and they were all equally going to get us to the same place. I continue to share that teaching.

To read more visit: http://spoiledyogi.blogspot.com/2013/01/hometown-yoga-heroes-trace-bonner.html


Jan 9 2013

Hometown Yoga Heroes Series

Megan

In 2004, I visited a friend in Seattle, Washington who had gotten into “yoga” and couldn’t wait to bring me to a class.  My only prior yoga experience had been a do-yoga-at-home video that my spine doctor had recommended to help my scoliosis.  I did it twice, got bored, and decided that I didn’t like “yoga.”  Since my friend really wanted me to try her class, I went.  I figured, how could a bit of stretching hurt at all?  However, just a few minutes into the class, I was shocked to learn that this “yoga” was nothing like the video version.  I felt like I was going to pass out and die the entire time- I was miserable- and decided that “yoga,” whatever it was, wasn’t for me, again.

A year after college I moved down to Charleston and was spending a lot of time on the beach.  I still hadn’t lost my freshman 15 (plus the sophomore through senior 15) and I needed a new workout.  My good friend, Ali, suggested I come with her to a “yoga” class.  I remembered my first two attempts and told her I didn’t like “yoga.”  She somehow convinced me to come with her to a class, and I was surprised once again.  Her class was very different from both the video and my Seattle venture.

I ended up trying a dozen other classes over the next few months and realized that even though the titles contained the word “yoga,” they were all incredibly different.  Even when the subcategory names were identical, each teacher created a different experience.  There was one class that I found myself attending every week.  It kicked my butt to the level I needed, mentally and physically.  At the end of the class, the teacher always seemed to have the perfect message that was exactly what I needed to hear to conquer my issues at the time.  I loved it.

A few years went by and yoga had changed my life in remarkable ways.  I would try to influence everyone I crossed paths with to try yoga.  Most people would say they had been to a class or two but didn’t like it.  I would explain how there were many different styles of yoga and tell them that it took me trying at least a dozen different classes before I found what fit me best.  This is what motivated me to start CharlestonYogi.com.  With teachers writing about yoga from their unique perspectives, it gives practitioners (and non-practitioners) a chance to see the wide range of options available in Charleston.  My hope was that it would help people find their style before giving up on yoga- as I did several times.

As it turns out, there are others who share my vision.  Local yoga teacher and writer, Erica Rodefer Winters shared a similar desire with me recently.  In an attempt to get to know some of what Charleston has to offer yogis from all walks of life, she decided to interview some of the biggest movers and shakers in the yoga community and understand what makes them tick.  And she wants to share their stories with the community, too, so we can all benefit from their collective wisdom!  She’ll be posting the interviews on her blog, SpoiledYogi.com, and we’ll also share some here.  It is a bi-weekly series all about Charleston’s hometown yoga heroes.  We hope it will inspire your health and fitness goals, and maybe even entice you to mix up your practice by trying a new class or two in spirit of the New Year!

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year- with lots of sweating!

Megan

 

 

Hometown Yoga Heroes:

Andrea Boyd

Interview by Erica Rodefer Winters

 

Jivamukti Yoga is known for its dynamic classes including chanting, lessons from yoga philosophy, and challenging poses set to music. Jivamukti Yoga Charleston founders Andrea Boyd and Jeffrey Cohen have a close relationship with Jivamukti Yoga founders Sharon Gannon and David Life. And one of the things that makes this studio so special is that Jivamukti Yoga Charleston is the ONLY Jivamukti Yoga School outside of New York City. You won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else!

I caught up with Andrea to learn more about her, the studio, and the yoga scene at Jivamukti Yoga Charleston. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s one thing you wish you had known about yoga when you first started practicing?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I guess if I had to say something it would be knowing about a compassionate diet sooner.

What’s your favorite pose at the moment? What are you learning from it?

At the moment, I am lying down on my teacher’s daybed, which is indeed a favorite pose. I like being with my teachers. What am I learning from it? The details.

A vegan diet/lifestyle is an important part of Jivamukti Yoga, correct? Can you briefly explain why?

Yes, that is correct. Vegetarianism is an important part of yoga, period. Not just the method that we teach. The yoga scriptures state very clearly to avoid eating animals. Eating clean and gentle food is wise if interested in having health of the mind and body—skin, organs, etc., a healthy earth, and earthlings.

It is a feeling decision. Yogis strive to live harmoniously with all other beings to the highest capacity. Limiting the amount of suffering we cause to all—humans included. Kindness and compassion for animals can lead one to feel their own essence, which is the same as that of the animals. It brings great joy and peace to oneself and the atmosphere to not kill gentle, innocent animals. Love has no limits or boundaries, unless we create them.

To read the rest of the interview visit: http://spoiledyogi.blogspot.com/2013/01/hometown-yoga-heroes-andrea-boyd.html


Jul 31 2012

7 Steps To Getting Grounded Today

admin

Being “grounded” has become somewhat of a buzz word these days, but what does that actually mean? Well, the actual definition of “grounded” according to the Miriam Webster dictionary means “mentally and emotionally stable; admirably sensible, realistic and unpretentious”. With our fast paced lifestyle and stress mounting upon us due to relationships, finances, job woes, care giving, etc., staying “emotionally and mentally stable” can be a challenge to say the least. This instability can lead to disconnect from our true nature and birth right to happiness.  Leading a life “realistic” and “sensible” is often not on our radar when stress is upon us. We end up living our lives unconsciously rather than deliberately.

Have you ever been driving and realized you lost 5 (or more) minutes of time as if on autopilot? You can be washing the dishes and thinking about your never-ending to-do list or you can simply fly off the handle at the smallest incident. Yup, those are all examples of being ungrounded. Your body and mind are playing for two different teams. Your body is physically present on the earth, but the mind is lost in space.   All our energy can get trapped in our heads without being connected to the physicality of being in our bodies.  This disassociation leads to reactions that are less than “admirable”.  If this describes you, don’t worry!  You are certainly not alone.

Life has so much more to offer us when we reverse the flow of energy that perpetually hangs out in our head.  Being grounded in our bodies puts us in the here and now. The present moment is the place where we are at any given time. That’s reality so why try to escape it? When we are grounded we can fully appreciate all that we are and have in life and feel less stressed and anxious about the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Being grounded in the here and now, allows all the thoughts and daydreams we have to actually manifest and become reality. Our connection to the earth provides the container for abundance freely flow to and from us. Without this container there is nothing to hold life’s gifts. The earth is always here for us offering her unrelenting support and nourishment so enjoy and soften into that space of safety and love.

Yes! You have managed to stay grounded enough to make it to the  7 Steps of Getting Grounded!

  1. Develop a loving relationship with your feet! Appreciate and show some gratitude for these body parts that connect us to the earth and take us where we need to go everyday.  Show your feet a little love with a massage with your favorite lotion or oil. Get a pedicure! Why do pedicures feel so good? Not because we know our feet will look pretty, but because loving out feet is grounding.
  2. Turn OFF the technology! Take a break and disconnect periodically from your emails, facebook, twitter and all that jazz. I’m not sure why it’s called “surfing the net”. That phrase implies some level of groundedness. Technology keeps is in our heads not in the here and now of our bodies. Disconnect to Reconnect.
  3. Stop, Drop and Breathe! Ok, not the drop part unless you really want to, but breathe. Connecting to and slowing down the rhythm of your breath is the quickest way to ground you in the present moment. Feel your breath come into to your body, graciously expanding your lungs and leaving your body taking with it anything that is not needed.
  4. Set a grounding affirmation. Using the power of affirmations can help you develop a more positive outlook on life and get you out of the negative self talk that traps us in our heads.  If you are going to “talk” to yourself you might as well have life-affirming thoughts. Here are some suggestions for grounding affirmations. The earth nourishes and provides for my needs. I am safe and loved. I trust in my body. I am grounded.
  5. Get some exercise- Walking,  dancing, yoga, tai chi and swimming are examples of how you can energize your feet and legs to feel more grounded and present in your body.
  6. Get Dirty. Literally touch the earth. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, dirt, etc. Repot that plant your have been meaning to do or plant the herb garden that has been on your to-do list. Whatever it is, connect with the earth in its truest form.
  7. Be a Mountain. Mountain pose, the foundation of all standing yoga poses, is very grounding when done with intention. Plus, you can do mountain pose anywhere and not look like a crazy person…Warrior II in line at the grocery store? Maybe not…

Stand with your feet slightly apart and parallel to each other. Put your mind in your feet and their connection to the earth. Press all parts your feet equally into the earth (or your shoes). Allow the muscles of your legs to firm giving yourself a gentle hug. Draw energy up from the bottoms of your feet into your belly and send the energy back down into the earth. Breathe and stand firm in all that you are in this very moment.

In these times of the world moving so fast our feet barely get chance to find their ground I hope you find these tips helpful!

Peace to All!

Leigh Crowder MOTR/L, PYT-C

YoPro Therapy


Jan 5 2011

11:11, The 1/11/11 Countdown, And Sweet Relief From The Typical New Years Resolutions

Kris Ward

How many times have you suddenly stopped what you were doing––just for a split second––to glance at the clock (for no apparent reason, kind of like an impulse or reflex), and when you did, the clock read 11:11, or maybe 1:11?

 For me, it’s an almost everyday occurrence.
 
 
Now I’m not hugely into numerology (and I’m certainly no expert on the subject), but this has always intrigued me.
 
I’ve read a little bit about this phenomenon, which apparently happens to buckets of people, and there are a few theories out there. (Note: When it comes to stuff like this, I always take it with a grain of salt and use it more for entertainment than anything else. But I must admit, it is good fun.)
 
The most common theories I’ve seen say that the sightings of 11:11 and 1:11 tend to occur during times of heightened awareness and that it can be a sort of spiritual confirmation that the person being triggered to see these numbers on the clock is on the right track, aligned with her highest truth. That’s pretty cool.
 
But my favorite of all these theories is that, when the 11:11 or 1:11 appears to you, it is your wake-up call; a reminder to reflect on whatever you are doing for a moment and remember the Big Picture; to take a good look around you and see what is really happening; to see the opportunities that surround you to step into Greater Love.
 
That makes me smile.
 
Because it’s such a feel-good theory, I’ve always loved the 1/1, 1/11, and 11/11 dates on the calendar. I tend to schedule really special, fun, and transformative events and outings on these days. Which is why the Secret Sauce Society officially kicks off on 1/11/11 and wraps up 10 months later on 11/11/11.
 
In my last email broadcast, I explained how I was doing a special little countdown leading up to to the the kick off on 1/11. And that countdown begins TODAY, officially 7 days out.
 
The content I’ll be sharing as we lead up to the big day is dedicated to YOU––geared towards helping you make 2011 the most glorious, delicious, earth-rockin’ year you’ve ever had on this planet. 
 
 

So here is your first little tidbit. Take it to heart:

We’re at the origin of a brand new year. It’s like you have a fresh new ball of clay in your hands and you can mold it any which way you choose.
 
So now is the time to:
 
  • Make amends;
  • Ditch 2010’s bad habits;
  • Decide on what you really want; and
  • Map out your plan of action.
Right?
 
Not exactly.
 
You can do that, but only if you’re okay repeating the same process all over again at the end of THIS year!
 
Look back at that list.
 
You’ve attempted something pretty close to that in years previous, haven’t you? Perhaps more than once…
 
So, just for kicks, how about try something DIFFERENT this year?!
 
Instead of forcing the old, “buckle down, focus, strive, and commit to fixing what’s broken” technique, try this on for size:
  1. Find all the things in your life you have to be grateful for NOW… because what you appreciate, appreciates.
  2. As for all the OTHER STUFF, look at it and say, “Thank you for the lovely contrast. Because of it, I now know what I REALLY REALLY want… and I’m READY for it!
  3. As you define this experience, this circumstance, or this thing that you REALLY REALLY want, focus on WHAT you want, and WHY. Trust that the HOW will show up at the perfect time, in the ideal way, and that when it does, you’ll know it because it will feel so “in your flow”. Claim your desires, own them, feel proud and worthy of them… because you are.
  4. Take action as inspiration, insight, and inner hunches lead you to (never out of obligation). You really can’t get the action part wrong as long as you follow your pleasure, trust your gut, and do what excites you and makes you come alive! And if you ever hit a wall where you don’t know what to do, just engage in something… ANYTHING! And remember to be easy about it because nothing you want is upstream.
  5. At all costs, DO NOT sit and “spin”. Spinning in your monkey mind––worrying, doubting, comparing, fearing, what-if-ing––it’s never your truth. Your truth is likely right behind what scares and excites you the most. So run, don’t walk, straight towards it with an open heart.
If that’s the Secret Sauce Society for you, click here for your next step.
 
If it’s something different. Go get it.
 
2011: Take it…. take it… it’s YOURS.
 
Mmuah!
 

 

P.S. You know that teaching what you’ve just learned, discussing it, or writing down your thoughts on it helps you integrate it, right? So I suggest you do it… NOW.

Thinking about it is one thing, but expressing/sharing this desire of yours brings it another step closer to you. And I want to support you in that so spill the beans.

Leave me a comment below and tell me about YOUR “lovely contrast” from 2010, and what, as a result, you’re now SUPER CLEAR that you’re READY for now…. in 2011!! 

Read more from Kris at www.abundantyogi.com


Dec 19 2010

Mind/Body Harmony

Matthew Foley

I had a really phenomenal experience this past Sunday morning teaching a yoga class to a dance group at the College of Charleston. About a dozen people showed up for the class, which took place in a beautiful dance room located inside the brand new Cato Arts Center on the CofC campus. In preparing for the class, I did a lot of thinking about what a yoga practice might offer people who are passionate about dance and creative movement.

One of the central aspects of yoga is cultivating a harmonious relationship between mind and body. Such harmony is of course essential to creating beautiful and graceful movement in dance. In many Eastern spiritual paths, the mind and the body are seen as equal halves of an integral whole. This is the philosophy of yin and yang: things that appear to be opposites – light and dark, tall and short, earth and sky, spirit and flesh – are in fact inseparably connected with one another.

In Western culture, however, there is a very rigid division between mind and body. In the last year, I’ve stumbled upon a number of brilliant Western thinkers who have addressed this division and the disharmony is creates in individuals.

The first is Sir Ken Robinson, an expert on human creativity, who gave a brilliant address at the 2006 TED Conference on creativity in children and whether or not educational systems around the world do an adequate job of fostering that creativity. (The whole talk is worth watching, but the part I’ll be focusing on begins around the 9:00 minute mark).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

During his talk, he spoke about the fact that almost all schools around the world tend to place a great emphasis on language and mathematics over the arts, particularly drama and dance. He says: “As children grow up, we start to educate them progressively from the waist-up. Then we focus on their heads – and slightly to one side.”

He goes on to describe what type of person this emphasis on head-only education creates, particularly in the form of the stereotypical academic professor: “They live in their heads. They live up there – and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads. It’s a way of getting their heads to meetings.”

Another brilliant thinker I’ve come across in the past year is Alan Watts, who came to popular attention during the 1960’s as an interpreter of Eastern spiritual traditions (especially Zen Buddhism) for Western audiences. In one of his talks featured on YouTube, delightfully illustrated by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, he addresses this split between mind and body that exists in the West and how it shapes our sense of self.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAVM_Xk_o9E&feature=related

“I’ve always been tremendously interested in what people mean by the word “I” – because it comes out in curious lapses of speech. We don’t say: “I am a body.” We say: “I have a body.” Somehow we don’t seem to identify ourselves with all of ourselves. We say “my feet,” “my hands,” “my teeth,” as if they were something outside me. As far as I can make out, most people feel that they are something or other about halfway between the ears and a little ways behind the eyes, inside the head. That’s what you call the “ego.” That’s not what you are at all, because it gives you the idea that you are a chauffeur inside your own body – as if you your body were an automobile and you are the chauffeur principle inside it.”

The point that both Robinson and Watts are making is that when we identify primarily with our mind and our thoughts, we disconnect ourselves from our bodily existence. The results are usually disastrous, particularly in our modern culture. We stuff food into our mouths that are deeply gratifying to the mind (products high in fat and processed sugar) but which are nutritionally disastrous to the body. On the opposite extreme, we flock to gyms in order to sculpt our bodies into an idealized mental image of what we should like like – usually based on digitalized media images of the super skinny or ultra buff.

What is lacking is a deep listening to the wisdom of the body. Oftentimes, we only start to listen when we are forced to, usually as a result of an illness or life-threatening condition. Many people then realize that they must flip their entire life-style upside down and start living from a more holistic understanding of themselves.

Many of these people, of course, find their way to yoga classes and meditation retreats.

A great deal of the popularity of such practices as yoga, tai chi, and seated meditation are found in the fact that they help cultivate a holistic way of looking at ourselves and our place in the world. These practices are based on the realization that the mind and body form an inseparable wholeness – just as each individual human being, animal, or plant is an integral part of the interdependent environment in which they live. The process of yoga, in my mind, is a process of extending the feeling of identity outwards, away from the narrow confines of our egos, and connecting with our bodies, our communities, the planet, and the universe.

In the yoga class I taught to the dance group, I continually encouraged the participants to focus on their breath. The breath is an incredible tool for helping us cultivate mind/body harmony. Mindful breathing helps us turn down the volume on our mental noise so that the wisdom of the body may begin to be heard. A yogi or dancer can then begin to truly feel his or her body. They can begin to discover where they are tight or sore, where they hold anxiety or stress, in what movements they feel confident or terrified. This deep listening to the body can give us insight into the ways we live and in what ways we may need to change.

When the body and mind begin to move and function as one, we become more effective in what we do, we become more graceful and effortless in our actions, we become less worried and anxious in our inner lives. This is obviously helpful not just on the yoga mat or on the dance stage, but in all aspects of our lives.

So the question is… What might your body be trying to tell you? And if you start to really listen, what changes would begin to happen in your life?

~ Matthew Foley