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


Feb 17 2012

Holy Yoga-PMS!

Rae

Embrace the Time of the Month, Ladies!

A majority of women can relate to the time of the month right before their menstrual period, where irritability, anxiety, depression, and cravings for sweet and salty foods are extremely heightened.  There is an awareness of water retention in the body, perhaps bloating, acne, and fatigue.  Yes–PMS!

I have been battling old Aunt Betty every month with Flip Chocolate Pretzels and lots of naps and there just comes a point where the mind and body are tired of fighting the natural the rhythms of the feminine cycle.  If you search “PMS,” you will find tons of studies of which foods to eat and not to eat, exercises, traditions, etc., which may absolutely be helpful and life changing, and I encourage you to explore those.  But I want to share with you a discovery as someone who has been experiencing PMS every month for the past 18 years.

During this time, there is a battle going on with my mind and body.  I am sharp with my tongue and become easily irritated, then go through this vicious cycle of feeling guilty because of the feelings I am having…ladies, you know the cycle.  My husband can simply look at me and I immediately jump into defense mode.  What is that?

I decided to ask God to help me understand my body in the way He created it, to give me wisdom and insight to the root of my PMS.  Besides my estrogen and progesterone levels changing during that time, creating a significant flux, deep down there are issues in my tissues.  I researched the Bible about women’s cycles and discovered that in Leviticus 15:19 it says, “Women were set apart for seven days.” I thought to myself, “I want to be set apart from life for seven days to rest, cleanse, replenish, and then enter back into everyday life.” Of course, I shared this with my husband; he was not so keen on the idea, however!  In our culture, we just don’t take the time for ourselves to replenish.

I contemplated being “set apart” and realized “set apart” means to be holy or sacred. I have been teaching Holy Yoga for years, connecting my faith with my practice, but did not connect this aspect of myself with God until now.  WOW–the time of the month is holy?  Yes–it is a time for purification and we need to celebrate and relish in RESTING.

Meditating on the idea of my cycle actually being holy and sacred, I remembered reading this interesting passage from “The Psoas Book” by Liz Koch: “A young girl begins her cycle of bleeding between 9 and 16. Insecurity, shame and embarrassment are often associated with menstruating. The feeling of one’s body being out control can feel scary. Our culture has no ritual for assimilating or celebrating the profound changes in a young girl’s life when her body begins to bleed. Tradition, religious and sexual taboos add what is already an extraordinary experience.”

I started to reflect back to the reactions and feelings of my cycle beginning and sadly, remember the shame and insecurity that so often takes root in heart, mind, and body.  There are certain places in the body that hold this tension.  When our emotional tensions begin to manifest in our physical bodies, it leaves certain places tight and tense, which can cause monthly cramps in the low back or abdomen.  Liz Koch also states that, “fear is always sensed through the psoas muscle and so it is through sensing the psoas that we can release old fears.”

Are you wondering what the relationship between the psoas and fear is? She expands, “rather than the cramps occurring from within the uterus it is often a contracted psoas muscle that presses on the reproductive organs; constricting blood circulation and impeding, possibly irritating the nerves that enervate both the muscle and specific organs.”  When we let go of old fears surrounding our sexuality and embrace this time instead of resisting, our muscles, specifically our psoas which attaches from T12 vertebra and wraps to the front of the femur bone allowing hip flexion, relax and let go. The relationship between mind and body reveals itself during our monthly cycle because we are super sensitive and aware.

This month I decided to experiment by releasing my psoas muscle in pigeon pose during my PMS week, to see if the letting go of this muscle reduced my severe cramping. Ever since I had my children, I have suffered severe cramping, been hospitalized twice, and was prescribed 800mg of ibuprofen every four hours for the first two days of my cycle. I am thrilled to share that this month, I had one day of moderate cramping with one dose of Alieve and was not laid up in bed for two days! I resumed my everyday activities pain-FREE! So, my physical body totally benefited from releasing my psoas. My inner body experienced a release from fears of not feeling worthy or accepted. As my head and upper body melted prostrate before God in pigeon pose, my breath labored through the discomfort of my hips; as my muscles relaxed, my breath softened and my heart surrendered to the Truth in Psalm 139:12-17.

 

Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
      At night I’m immersed in the light!”

It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful!

 

How do we embrace this time of month ladies?

  1. Accept this time of rest.
  2. Take time to set yourself apart.
  3. Explore and surrender your fears.
  4. Meditate on Truth.
  5. Practice Restorative and Deep Yoga stretching.
  6. Write in a sacred journal.
  7. Connect with other women and God, because when—SHAME AND FEAR ARE DIMINISHED and BROUGHT INTO THE LIGHT, healing happens from in the inside out.
 
 
Rachel Glowacki
Instructor at Holy Yoga
www.holyyoga.net

 


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