Tag Archives: yoga

Yoga Resume?

It’s 2014, ya’ll. I’ve seen so many modern clashes with yoga, especially in the last four years or so, I’ve had to take a step back and contemplate whether or not to remain a part of it all.

Twerking in a “yoga” class (for real, though?? Another blog is coming of that one…), America’s cursed classism/racism divides, yogi-preneur courses, and the iconoclasm of asana (my unintentional contribution below! Please definitely read some of my posts on asana if these images lead you to believe I equate asana with yoga ;)).

But I can’t stay away from sharing a practice that’s not just transformed me for the better, it’s literally saved my life. That and … the universe keeps talking to me, “Teach again, Jogini, it’s time!”

Back when I was friggidy fresh out of teacher training, I always had a yoga resume handy. For a good few chapters in my life, I moved countries or states almost every year, so re-establishing myself became a fine art and science.  I still have a yoga resume, though I haven’t really needed to use it much since coming home. This time ’round, I made a conscious decision to work at a non-profit full time and not pursue teaching opportunities.

Now, those opportunities are pursuing me, through friends, family, new acquaintances, and other teachers I’m meeting along the way.

First of all, I’m honored. And at the moment, I’m not sure how necessary a yoga resume is any more. Going through the latest iteration of my resume, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing something, some training, or experience . . . some crucial part of the story that’s not being told. It doesn’t specify that each class includes pranayam and meditation. Nor does it really say all the places where I’ve taught. There are no images (though I use them in online mediums), and definitely no stories.

Then again, let’s face it, resumes are fairly limited in their narrative capacity, and is a “resume” even an appropriate summation of a yoga teacher’s ability? Is a resume too Western or modern a way to present a yoga teacherʻs skills?

Whatever the answers to those questions may be, as part of the process of transitioning from “consciously not teaching” to “opening to teaching again,” I’m posting the short version of the resume, along with my asana photo album, as a symbolic gesture 🙂 And it feels really good to do it!

JoanneOSKellyYoga

 

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Week-O-Gratitude

Big transitions a gwaan.  It only seems right to sum things up in weekly doses for the next month or so, just to keep time plentiful.  If this style seems a bit banal, my apologies; but I’ll definitely do my best to keep posting interesting/inspirational/useful/humorous tid bits, even if they’re in list formation!

Monday

How I love good old reliable yoga classes on DVD.  I know there are a few excellent online streaming yoga sites out there, and most of them are affordable and very high quality.  My travels, however, took me to a few places where streaming online just wasn’t an option, so DVDs were my only external teachers.  One of my favorites is the Richard Freeman Ashtanga Primary and Intermediate DVDs – and I practiced to the former to start my week out proper.  Sweet, sweet yoga DVDs.  Convenient, free and so reliable 😉

DSC06905Tuesday

Vino rouge!  After a long day of packing and sorting out logistics, I had to appreciate the calming effects of a glass of merlot.  Wanna read about the health benefits of this drink of kings?  Check out what the  Mayo Clinic has to say here.

Wednesday

You know when you just need to be in the ocean?  Today I took a jaunt out to Coney Island, home of the NY Aquarium, rides galore, and fine white sand, even if it is sprinkled in old hot dog holders and straws!  After a short walk down the festive boardwalk, I settled in just feet from the waves.  So worth a trip to South Brooklyn.

Thursday

OK, I know this is old, but I showed to a friend for the first time and we re-lived the hilarity with giggles and guffaws.  You need to be familiar with Ryan Gosling to find this even remotely funny, but I’ve seen so many of his films – and love him! – but this is a classic-spoof-to-be!

IMG_20130725_174740Friday

One of my favorite feelings is the one I get from cooking for friends.  Creating an exciting menu for someone you care about is exhilarating, and the preparation meditative.  Of course, eating together is no doubt the best part!

Saturday

My Sayoonara Party!  Friends came out to celebrate the turning of the page and we did not hold back with the laughter – or the hula hoops!  I’m so grateful for the love I felt that day, such a beautiful send off.

 

Instant Balance – Anuloma Viloma

Lawd knows I love me some pranayamSitali for cooling, ujjayi for warming, and anuloma viloma for boosting your energy (prana), focusing the mind and balancing the nervous system.  I find the practice is best done in the morning, bringing clarity and concentration for the rest of the day.  It’s been absolutely indispensable in this transition phase, a time full of visitors, traveling, meticulous logistics of moving, and the inevitable emotional fluctuations that follow.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Sit very comfortably.  This could mean any number of seated postures: padmasana, virasana, swastikasana, or even sitting on a chair.  If you’d like more room for your hip flexors to breathe, place a pillow under you sit bones.  Ideally, your spine is straight, giving your diaphragm and ribcage maximum mobility – thereby giving your lungs the space to expand (and contract) fully.

2. Close the eyes.  Tune into the breath.  Relax all the muscles of the face from the top of the forehead, systematically relaxing all the way down to the chin.  Relax the tongue, but allow the tip to make contact with the back of the two front teeth, right where they meet the gums.  Keep the eyes closed but bring your gaze to the space between the brows.

3. Bring your left hand to chin mudra (the connection between the thumb and index finger symbolizes the unification of self with greater Consciousness).

ChinMudra
Chin Mudra

4. Bring your right hand to Vishnu mudra. Vishnu Mudra is  meant to bring the three bodies (spiritual, mental, and physical) into alignment.  While the index and mid-finger are drawn into the palm, the remaining digits, associated with Earth, Air and Fire are left extended and engaged which can bring a sense of stability and focus.

vishnumudra
Vishnu mudra

5. Inhale in abundance, filling the belly, ribcage and chest.  Exhale in gratitude.

6. Bring your right thumb to cover the right nostril and inhale through the left.  Try inhaling for 4 seconds to begin with, then you can progress toward 5, 6, 7, 8 seconds.  This might elicit more ease-full concentration, and is a nice alternative if Vishnu mudra is not compatible with your hands.

7. Hold both nostrils and retain for 16 seconds.  The retention – khumbaka – is held for four times the length of the inhale.

8. Exhale right for 8 seconds, twice the amount of the inhale.

9. Inhale same side (right) – 4 seconds

10. Retain – 16 seconds

11. Exhale left – 8 seconds

12. Inhale left – 4 seconds, and continue like this.

General Tips

Start out doing four rounds.  If that feels comfortable, add more rounds.  The more rounds you do, the more significant the benefits.  According to Prahlad, the head of asana at Sivananda, it’s best to do more rounds of anuloma viloma than to try and add seconds to the counts.  Remember, the ratio to inhale-retention-exhale is 1-4-2.

You may wish to skip retentions, and simply inhale left – exhale right – inhale right – exhale left.  If you are 100% new to the pranayam, this is probably a good place to start.

noretention

In these directions, I’ve asked you to start inhaling through the left side; to finish the round you will end with an exhale on the left.  Other schools begin with an inhale on the left side; just be sure both sides are balanced when you’ve completed the cycle.

Be sure to keep the shoulder relaxed away from the ear; feel free to adjust if the body becomes uncomfortable.

Just what are the benefits?

The left nostril correlates to the parasympathetic nervous system.  Breathing in and out through this nostril will calm your nervous system, creating feelings of peace and spaciousness.  In yogic philosophy, this side stimulates the ida channel and is associated with moon energy, the cooling calming yin to the yang.  The right nostril is said to stimulate the pingala channel in yoga, igniting firey energy, more closely associated with yang.

Anuloma viloma balances the nervous system, trains one’s ability to focus, and increases lung capacity.

Science for the curious and skeptics

If you’re interested in reading studies on pranayam techniques from an empirical point of view check out a few from PubMed here:

Sitali Breath

Beads of sweat merging on my brow, hair stuck to my neck,  long yoga pants and a two layers of tops covering most of my skin, no air conditioning, a subway car full of French people (and their respective body odors), I’d been traveling for 10 hours and still had 13 stops til my destination.  The air quality may not be ideal, but the best way to cool down – sans icey cool water – has got to be sitali breath (Monday’s source of gratitude).

The Cooling Breath

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.

Benefits: Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.

sitaliTry it: Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

How to: Sitali Pranayama: Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

Sitkari Pranayama: Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

(cheers to Kate Holcomb at Yoga Journal for that)

Authenticity

(The first in a series of catch-up blogs inspired by a weekend at the Omega Yoga Service Conference.)

There’s something thoroughly disarming about authenticity.

With no ulterior motives, no painting of facades, all you’re left with is pure, unadulterated self-ness.  Children have it down pat (a point not unrelated to the linguistic origins of the word ‘unadulterated!’) – they show up sans filters, developing brains and personalities blossoming right before our eyes.

Finding authenticity in an adult may come easy to some; if you’re in a position of service, medical, social or otherwise, you may find authentic people cross your path on a relatively regular basis.  Needing help is another distinctly disarming state of being.  Thinking back on my days working in the music and film industry – before I knew the first thing about satya (the yogic concept of truth in thought, word and action) – I found authenticity hard to come by.  It was one of the reasons I decided to focus on meatier endeavours.

Authenticity is pretty simple, as a concept.  The Oxford Dictionary defines authenticity as “of undisputed origin; genuine.”

The real deal, no fakers need apply.  Knowing where you came from and who you are.  Authenticity is all about walking your talk, your thoughts, words and actions in alignment.  It might sound easy, but so much wisdom sounds simpler than its application in real life, especially if you’ve spent years building protective walls, creating self-serving narratives, or trying to be someone you are not – in other words, being human.

As an adult, to be authentic requires a distinct knowledge of self, as in whole self, all those layers of thought, emotion, impulse, memory, physicality and vibe we’ve formulated over the years.  It takes mindful observation to become aware of how our “many selves” interact with one another and the external world, and then keen viveka (discernment) to determine what is “true” and what is not truly “self,” and where the contradictions in self might lie.  And even after all that work’s been done (well, it’s never really done!), then there’s the sometimes painful next step: transparency.  The process ebs and flows in a cyclical way, a never-ending life project of sorts – thank Jah for sangha!

DSC06601This weekend I had the joy of meeting Nikki Myers, a former addict who, despite her professional and academic achievements, experienced struggle after struggle keeping clean.  Nikki opened by making her “failures” just as known as her successes, because at the end of the day, everything we’ve done up until now has helped to bring us to where we are.

And where Nikki is now sounds pretty amazing.  She tours the country educating people about addiction and yoga, and is the director of a renowned yoga-inspired relapse prevention program for addicts in Indiana based on the 12 step program.  The workshop with her this weekend was full of heartfelt story-sharing, some of the science behind addiction, and an in-depth presentation of how yoga philosophy relates to addiction, its causes, symptoms and treatments.  The Y12SR program she created with her now ex-boyfriend is multi-substance, open to both addicts and their immediate circle, and references Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras specifically in both intention (“Future suffering can be avoided.” 2:16) and diagnosis (1:30).  Although we only got a trailer to the epic that is Nikki’s offering, I left the room feeling comforted in the depth and scope of her service .

That very same day was the birthday of my Aunty Gail, a former addict herself, who saved me from drowning when I was five years old, right on the beach in front of my grandmother’s house.  Aunty Gail passed away in her sleep due to complications with her prescribed psychiatric drugs.  I couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if I had known about yoga as a treatment for addiction 15 years ago.

But the past is the past, and the present is exactly that: a present.  Similarly, authenticity can be seen as a gift, an offering to your true self, and to whomever you cross paths with.  Allowing your unique light to shine isn’t always easy, until you’re willing to let go of ego’s firm grasp on pride or self-pity, or whatever else might be filtering your flow.    Through yoga we get there . . .

Shine on, sister, and thank you for the reminder.

DSC06599

Ira Israel: Asking Dem Questions

Today I’m grateful for writer, yogi and psychotherapist Ira Israel . . .

for asking questions in the public sphere like, Are Yoga and Capitalism Fundamentally Incompatible?  The way yoga is devolving in America, lawd knows we need a skeptical eye, and an honest pen, to be sure we’re moving mindfully forward.  His piece On Yoga and Bondage: Pimping Spirituality and Sex as Art was my first introduction to his writing – an intriguing mix of reverence and irreverence, of vernacular and intellectual commentary.  And so I read more . . .

I’ve been questioning whether or not to offer a space for yoga one day, but in the current climate, I find myself terribly disheartened.  Israel’s  The Business of Teaching Yoga perfectly speaks to why, as does Chris Courtney’s piece in Yoganonymous.  Like thousands of teachers out there, I’d been thinking to myself, there are just too many teachers in our field molded out of the factory line in a matter of weeks.  I’m all for yoga becoming as popular as it can be, but maintaining integrity is key to the safety and mindful evolution of the practice in this country.  Observing the the corporatization of yoga in America (which I only just returned to 14 months ago) ignited an old brew of cynicism I thought I’d meditated myself out of over the course of the 17 years or so.  It’s been a wonderful challenge to my practice, and knowing there were so many other people in the yoga community deeply concerned about these issues came as a great relief.

I’m currently a collective owner at Third Root Community Health Center, where social justice meets holistic health.  One of our founding members, Jacoby Ballard, is also doing his part to ask heated questions to ignite transformation in the yoga community.  It’s important for me to be surrounded by so many talented, compassionate and socially-aware healers – like Jacoby – who understand yoga (and acupuncture, herbal medicine and massage) to be a spiritual technology, a healing force, a tool for transformation, one that deserves to be offered with sensitivity to all populations.

If all this talk about the politics of yoga tickles your brain as well (and possibly pulls on a few heartstrings), Matthew Remski’s essay, Modern Yoga Will Not Form a Real Culture Until Every Studio Can Also Double As a Soup Kitchen, and other observations from the threshold between yoga and activism, is another brilliant read (despite its comically long title!).

With so much to contemplate and improve upon in this modern American monster, I’ve been arriving at the decision to stop teaching yoga for money.  If I offer classes as seva, I can remove myself from the capitalization effect.  On the other hand, I want to play an active role in improving the situation, in helping future teachers to be truly prepared for the broad range of experiences students will bring to the yoga space.  I must teach.  It’s part of who I am (or, it’s part of what my ego believes me to be.  Technically, I’m just a vibration and space, a series of events in this everything/nothing we roll through ;o)).

What to do, I know will come.  In the meantime, I’m grateful for the work of Ira Israel and for the yogis participating in this necessary – and somewhat overdue – analysis and dialogue.  Onward and upward, friends.