OWY Blog

  • OWY's Limitless Project: Shannon (Leigh) Thomas

    It's strange to be introducing myself in the context of this project where I've been introducing everyone else, but here goes...  I'm generally a creative person.  A lot of my creativity these days is spent running OWY - my partner Brian oversees the operation and the more analytical aspects of the business while I manage the marketing, outreach and creative direction.  I love being able to use my creativity in my work, but it is not enough.  I am also artistic and crafty in a variety of ways (drawing, beading, fiber arts) and for the past few years I've settled back down with my first love: Poetry.  Opposite of what I write for this blog, most of the poetry I write is totally for me.  I vigilantly notice and self correct if I catch myself trying to impress, be clever or get noticed.  I don't write for others.  This allows writing poetry to be part of the relationship I'm having with myself and the world around me; it's a conversation - literally how I make sense of things, and come to understand what I know and think about myelf, others, the world, the body I inhabit, and the life I am living.  The personal value this work has for me is limitless!

    Like Mallory's work, mine is very strongly influenced by yoga.  More specifically my poetry is often rooted not in yoga itself but in exploring and understanding having a body/being in a body - understanding that develops as a result of a yoga practice.  I am strongly interested in the cross-over between spirituality, social justice and being alive -- my poetry often straddles these concepts.  I also write short little meaning driven poems that I share on Instagram (@vitalwild), I am intersperseing a few of these IG poems between a selection of deeper work.                    -Shannon Leigh

    Pledge of Allegiance 

    I do not pledge allegiance to the bottom line 
    of the Corporate State of America,
    or to the laws of a nation
    upon which corporate rights stand:
    By law--Always grow, 
    human needs invisible,
    with grotesque abundance 
    and freedom from consequence 
    for the One Percent.

    I pledge allegiance to wholeness of self 
    and the spanning everything I Am,
    and to the Earth,
    to which I belong:
    One Being, within god,
    with liberty and justice
    for all in me.

    "Pledge of Allegiance" is one of those very rare poems (for me) that came to me in its entirity out of nowhere, like it downloaded into my brain from the universe.


    on top of a waterfall--
    bright blue algae, warm smooth stone--
    I slip.  Going down for sure —
    I become body without bones,
    and slide like water over the fall.

    In the shallow pool at the bottom:  
    A miracle.  99.9% unhurt,
    I nurse a tiny cut.  My chin
    gave in to a sharp edge
    flowing over the top shelf.

    I look up in a mirror
    and remember the hidden scar.
    Each time, for a moment
    I’m water.

    Hours deep in the mountains— Red rock.
    Ancient Utah sun and blue--
    Warm mineral water from the hot spring
    tumbles over a ledge and pools.

    "Surrender" is one of my most recent poems.  One of the personal themes of my summer has been surrender.  I'm not doing very well with embodying surrender, but this poem came out of considering the moments in my life when I have truly surrendered.  Turns out, as this poem shows, things often go better when I find surender.

    6:00 PM, July 7 and July 21  

    Sirens came earlier, now 
    helicopters weave a pattern
    searching for the body
    (or the person)
    still unnamed.

    Lakefront-neighborhood close
    the news moves fast,
    even as we’re pushed back
    from access to the lake.

    We wait--
    everyone does --
    to hear.

    Local lore -- we know 
    the wait will end.
    Within days,
    if no person is found
    a body will float.

    At our house we sit 
    and eat -- summer grill.
    Silent thanks:
    We’re all at the table.

    Helicopter blades 
    thump back around.

    We talk in low voices,
    we remember our dreams.

    For most of you who live local, "6:00 PM July 7 & 21" needs no introduction, it came out of feeling the quiet that settled over our lakefront neighborhood on these tragic evenings this summer.  For those of you who don't live locally, both of these missing persons drowned at our local beach when they got caught in structural currents off the pier during a strong ENE wind.  
    Plants Teach Posture 
    (Among other things)

    ki: animate it.  as in: Look at that flower.  Ki is radiant. 
    kin: animate plural it.  as in:  Look at those flowers.  Kin are radiant.
    as defined by Robin Wall Kimmerer

    Bloodroot shows me 
    how to pull my shoulders back, 
    shine from the heart out and hold.
    At first, I don’t know kin is teaching me 
    how to be in my body.

    Then the Sunflowers start.
    Before the weight of their fertility
    pulls them to face gravity,
    they lift their chins to the sun.
    I imitate and align. 
    Truth in my physical structure:
    My spine, a stem assuming posture.

    I start looking everywhere:
    Who else has something to say?
    I stop learning their names 
    and start observing their ways 
    how they stand and where they grow,
    what they do and what they know.

    Bee Balm, long friend, Monarda Fistulosa,
    Breathe spicy red-violet and take a look closer.
    Sink to the center where your feet meet ground.
    Radiate up and out, as if you wear a crown.

    Imitate.  Align to arrow-like spine.
    I reach out of the tall grass. 
    I grow toward divine.

    I love plants and this poem came out of a shift in my thinking.  I've always been sort of a "learning naturalist", with nature journals and plant id books, etc.  This way of looking was interesting, but ultimately too objective.  Around the time I was having the realization I describe in this poem, I started to feel the plants as beings and recognize them as individuals.  I started to understand "plant language" which came out of and applied back to my understanding of body.  

    Spring Green 
    seeps up from the ground first.
    Green grass, growing up past
    last year’s brown.
    Willow leaves from pussy willows,
    silky grey to vital yellow,
    verdant undergrowth between.
    At last, sap sucked up to the tips by sun
    swells, and the forest top flares green.

    Sap rises same as this in me.

    "Spring Green" doesn't really feel relevant to this time of year, but I wanted to share it for local interest.  It won 3rd prize in the Huron Library poetry competition this past spring!

    Shannon's OWY Schedule

    9:0 - 10:15 AM  Inner Core  (Huron)
    10:30 - 11:15 Gentle Yoga (Huron)
    4:30 - 5:45 Inner Core (Sandusky)
    10:00 - 11:15 AM  Yoga Flow (Sandusky) 
    9:00 - 10:15 PM  Yoga Flow (Huron)

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
  • OWY's Limitless Project: Mallory Saunders

    Of the artists we've seen so far in the Limitless Project Mallory's is the most yoga focused.  Mallory has divided the art into three sections.  A series of paintings, a series of collages and finally 2 photographs of bead malas.  The vibrant acrylic paint series is featured first.  
    One of the points of yoga and one of the reasons it makes people feel so good is how the physcal postures and breathing exercises activate and work with the subtle energy body.  The subtle energy body is feel-able in all of us - ever had a broken heart that left an ache in the chest?  That's the subtle energy body manifesting in the physical body.  In life we often interact as if the suble energy body is not there, the physical body is so much more obvious and present.  This series flips that idea, these paintings capture the subtle energy body as primary and show the physical body not quite as an after thought, but as a containter or a vehicle for the energy that is our life force and the art's dominant focus.  I love how this series shows an energetic truth:  The physical body is limited, but the subtle energy body extends outward limitlessly. 
       -Shannon Leigh

    Acrylic Paint Series                           

    I create art because art helps me make sense of this world. Intense emotional life experiences on earth can’t always be captured, expressed or even comprehended through words alone. I’ve used art and creativity my whole life to express my emotions and to better understand who I am and what I’m going through. Life is traumatic and beautiful and indescribably weird and Art is a platform I can use to process, develop and express my perspective. 

    Growing up when I wasn’t given the time or space to express or felt that I couldn’t, art was there to assist me in holding space for myself.

    My emotional struggles and traumas deeply impact all of my creative expression. They are the raw authentic dark nourishment from which my roots feed. My awareness creates knowledge of self, light and clarity, clearing stuck energy and transforming it through inspiration and creative action. I have and continue to work through resistance. Judgment and insecurity. Creating to please others, Attachment to the outcome. approval seeking. Wanting to be seen as “good.” comparing myself to others. Negative self talk. Doubt. Lack of self compassion and self love. Fear. All Emotions that have held me captive, that have slowed and prevented me from creating and expressing myself. I became repressed. Unable to communicate my truth. Paralyzed. Traumatized from loss. Trying to comprehend life and death. It has been a process learning how to be persistently holding space for whatever arises. Even when you hate it. Confronting Ego. Expectation. Frustration. Disorganization. The rushed messy Lack of planning. Skipping steps and not making time. Ungrounded. Unstable. Chaos. Lacking structure. Laziness with no direction. immobilized. 

    Art just like Yoga is a self study, developing awareness of the true self through disciplined practice. The discipline is not about the outcome, the finished artwork, the perfect posture, it is about the journey of self discovery, presence through the ups and downs along the way. We develop knowledge of our truth, our core values and beliefs as we shed layers, limits and boundaries letting go of the weight of what is not us and moving deeper inside. Through continuous practice we develop intent, focus, direction and creativity. We become resilient, empowered and proficient. We grow from our struggles and learn from our mistakes. The more intentional and focused I am the more crisp and clear the results. I create to honor the divine. I create to honor myself. Art and creation have helped me to comprehend and understand life in my own way. Seeing the interconnections through a visual representation helps me understand concepts on a different level. I use art to learn and grow. 

    This acrylic painting series I’ve been working on for about 2 years now has been a slow process of evolution. I’ve started these paintings on separate occasions but have progressed into working on them together, several paintings at once, building up layers and refining edges. The series is an attempt at me trying to find a more personal understanding of the deeper philosophies of yoga and exploring their connections with modern science. Subtle energy, the subtle body, Electromagnetism, the Nadis and Chakras/ energy centers, Prana, the Vayus, Balancing feminine Ida Magnetic energy with masculine Pingala Electric energy and drawing Kundalini the creative life force energy up the spine through the Shushumna. Activation of the higher energy centers. Connection to the divine. Enlightenment. What does this all mean to me? What is my own experience? 

    Much like my current teaching it is an intuitive series with a vibrant style that honors the elements. It has been a journey and unfolding of sorts into myself. I have learned through it all, shifting beliefs and perspectives opening my mind and making new connections. When I work on these pieces I feel it affecting my own energy field as well as positively influence the collective energy field. This creative endeavor has honed my senses helping me to focus, sharpen, perceive and remember the more subtle layers of life. It has helped me to shift my focus, bring my attention to neglected areas and break through blockages. If I’ve learned anything through all of my practice and self study it is that INTENTION IS EVERYTHING. Through creating this series It was my intention to honor the divinity in all and to allow spirit to work through me. I became a witness to a visual documentation of my own energy imbalances and density. It has been challenging uncomfortable and interesting to witness the process take place, and I mean process because I have been processing the life experiences, the memories and shedding the emotional weight of whatever arises within me by choosing to holding space, to create and work through it all I releasing the fear and resistance and I grow and evolve. 

    Collage Series

    I consider myself a multi media artist I love exploring different ways of using and looking at materials. Collage was always one of my favorite ways to create as a child and remains something I always come back to. This 3 piece collage series titled Rite of Passage was an artistic exploration of my emotional transition from pregnancy, through childbirth and postpartum into new motherhood. These collages were created on Plexiglas over extended periods collecting little moments, experiences, pieces and scraps of my life during these different phases. 

    Rapid Growth

    The first collage Rapid Growth depicts the range of emotions I experienced after finding out I was pregnant. It was unplanned and I made the decision early on to go through the pregnancy on my own. This piece shows the evaluation of my life and choices. It shows immense frustration and grief as I let go of the life I thought I would have for myself. The uncomfortable, gut wrenching, feeling that your life is being ripped away but also just starting at the same time. Fear. Inadequacy. Excitement. Instability. Chaos. Divinity at Play. 

    Light of my Life

    This second collage Light of my Life The euphoria of birth and bringing new life into the world mixed with a complete identity crisis trying to figure out who I am as a person in this new role as mother. Surrender to the divine. Adjustment. Feeling lost and unimportant. Finding a new Balance. 

    Love the Land

    My third Collage, Love the Land is about grounding and reconnecting to the mother earth through becoming a mother. The feeling of being rooted and stuck. Taking on the softer more gentle role of nurturer and caretaker. Radical self acceptance. Patience. Blossoming into motherhood 

    Japa Malas

    I have also recently began creating affirmation bracelets and Japa Malas which are traditional prayer beads used for mantra. By incorporating a mantra or affirmation into a breathing practice which energizes the intention you can create one pointed focus which calming the nervous system and begins to transform the subconscious mind shifting old beliefs and programs. Mantra Yoga has completely altered my practice into one of more intention and devotion. I use my bracelets everyday to give thanks for and affirm the reality I choose to create. I am grateful for this tool and love to share it with others! I am currently working on some custom orders but more pieces will be available soon at the Open Way Yoga Studio in Huron. 

    Mallory's OWY Schedule

    8:30 - 9:45 AM  Yoga Flow  (Sandusky)
    9:00 - 10:15 AM  Yoga Flow (Huron) 
    5:30 - 6:45 PM  Yoga Flow (Sandusky)
    6:00 - 7:15 PM  OWYoga Flow (Huron)

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry
  • OWY's Limitless Project: Patricia Hecker

    I love that Patricia's chosen medium, stained glass, has so much interplay with light.  It is interesting to me that her chosen art form is literally about letting in the light.  

    Below Patricia shares her story of discovering that receiving validation from others was a block to her creative flow.  In Patricia's case, validation for a job well done ignited her fear of failure, a fear of letting people down.  The opposite happens even more often - you pour your heart into something and no one notices, no validation comes.  When this happens, if the creator was basing the value of their work on whether other people value it, they feel stunted, limited.  Patricia's story shows us that validation can be a block to the limitlessness of our creativity whether we receive it or not.  Becoming enlightened to this tendency in ourselves can free us from the desire for validation, releasing us back into the limitlessness out of which creativity springs.  This seems like what happened to Patricia when she let the light in!                         -Shannon Leigh


    Favorite Quote: "Art much like yoga brings our souls out of the darkness and into the light."

    Hometown Pride:  The colors used in this piece are the high school colors of Fremont Ross and here the glass comes together marks the town of Fremont. Fremont is not where I grew up but this area is beginning to feel more and more like home. It's where I landed my first yoga teaching position and its currently where I sell my art.

    About Patricia:
    I had never considered myself a creative person until this year, actually two months ago to be precise. In May I took a leap and showed off my stained glass work for a chance to be part of an artists’ co-op.  It was the first time I had considered that possibility that someone would want my creations in their home and on top of that they would value the time and energy I placed into the piece enough to be willing to give me their hard earned dollars for it. In June we [the artists’ co-op: Buckland Arts] opened. I was nervous and intimidated, but some pieces have sold and others have not yet (or may never will) and all are okay. I have been encouraged and am embracing stepping out of my comfort zone and am willing to create whenever and whatever speaks to me- and somethings that don’t.

    I have dabbled in all sorts of expressions of creativity ranging from the written word, pencil portrait sketches, cartoons, papier-mâché, forged metalwork, stained glass. These have changed with age and what materials have been available to me. The younger me would dabble in whatever media up until someone gave me “good” feedback “that’s beautiful”, “you should do more”, “can you make one for me?” etc. and for whatever reason I would stop and give it up. Maybe because I thought I could never amount to the quality others thought I was capable of and thus effectively gave up on myself in some traverse idea that I would not be letting them down. I still limit myself and struggle with identifying as an artist or a creator.  I think “oh I could never make something that beautiful” or “I’m not talented”.  I’m realizing that my fear of failure and my fear of exposure has limited me from not only from self-expression but also from my own growth. 

     Looking back, creating has always allowed me to be fully enthralled in the present moment. Creating (without my knowing) was my first meditation. When life felt chaotic and confusing, the act of creating silenced the external world and allowed me to explore my own internal world thru a visual and physical medium. The truth is that if what you do connects to the expression of your soul- it’s art. If what you do doesn’t feel like it connects with your soul but it connects with someone elses’- it’s art. We may limit our expressions or our willingness to create, but when we create we experience and can share the ability to be limitless.

    Amethyst Cluster Bookends- The only Disney princess I ever wanted to be was Belle and solely to be surrounded by books. I have books in every single room. I wanted to add a little flare to my books and decided what better way then to create a my own personal bookends inspired by amethyst crystal clusters.

    Origami TRex- Not only is my home full of books. It's garnished with an array of plants. If i can't be outside all the time, I'll bring the plants in to me. But my plants seemed lonely which thus resulted in the creation of my plant buddy stakes like this origami inspired T-Rex
    Sunrise Monolith- Some people awe to catch the sunset. I am a sunrise person. Being around Lake Erie inspired this "sand below, sun above, water as far as the eye can see in between" monolith.
    Water Life- There's something about cattails and dragonflies that reminds me of family. Maybe it was all those childhood memories of the 4 of us fishing, kayaking, or walking in creek beds but one day I was reminiscing and day dreaming and this piece came to be.  
    Patricia teaches at our Sandusky and Norwalk Studios. 

    6:00 - 7:00 AM Yoga Flow - Sandusky
    10:30 - 11:45 AM  Gentle Yoga - Norwalk
    6:00 - 7:15 PM  Gentle Yoga  - Sandusky

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry
  • OWY Limitless Project: Kara Myers

    Welcome Kara Myers to OWY's Limitless Project!  Kara's contribution explores visual representations of verbal communication and fragmentation in a display of limitless expression and reflection.  Kara contributed more art than any of our artists so far, so I broke it into two loosely defined groups.  

    One of the primary theme's in the first group of Kara's work (The Voice Series) is self-expression.  Even the best of communication is limited by the form of communication itself, and this selection of pieces isn't about the "best of communication", it's about the most difficult.  To me it captures the choking weight of that which cannot be spoken or expressed verbally.  Words don't capture everything and images say some things that language cannot.  Kara captures the feeling of verbal expression being limited, cyclical and occasionally poisonous in her art.  I like the juxtaposition of the limits of verbal expression shown up against the unlimited power of witnessing.  

    After the images that primarily reflect voice, a second group (The Purple Series), held together by their purple backgrounds, takes a look at fragmentation and compartmentalization.  The images are mostly dark, they capture parts of the struggle or the journey that we hope will lead us to wholeness, though there are no guarantees.  The moment or feeling captured in many of these images feels like moments in time or mind that were severely limited, then freed in the process of creating the art.          
    -Shannon Leigh


    Kara's thoughts on her art: I caught the art bug long ago and much like my yoga life, I had a little something and managed to have some of the best teachers guide me in my craft. For me art has always been having the ability to remove the yuck from inside and throw it on a "canvas." My art has really been mostly guided by trying to heal the things I needed to at times when I had no idea how to even process or form sentences about the things. Blank, stark white canvases give me anxiety, so I love to utilize scrap paper, card board, whatever to throw my feelings on. Art, much like yoga, allowed me to take my trauma give it some space to breathe without judgement and allowed room for healing. Both my expressions of art and yoga really allow me to break through my own confines and find little bits of moment where I feel completely free. Limitless.

    *R.I.P. Chorba. Without you're teaching, I would not have had one of the only coping mechanisms that got me through some of the worst things in life. Gratitude, always.

    The Voice Series: Contemplating Self-Expression

    The Purple Series:  Contemplating fragmentationFinal piece  Self Portrait in Marker.  Because so much of Kara's art can be dark, she offered this piece for a bit of light-hearted fun.

    Kara teaches at our Sandusky and Norwalk Studios. 

    9:00 - 10:15 AM  Sculpt Yoga - Norwalk
    4:30 - 5:45 PM  Yoga Flow - Sandusky
    9:30 - 10:30 AM  Yoga Flow - Sandusky
    7:30 - 8:45 AM  Yoga Flow - Sanduksy

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry

  • OWY's Limitless Project: Larry Smith

    Inspiration comes to us in limitless ways.  Larry doesn't just expore the limitlessness of his own creativity, he also inpsires and nurtures it in others.  Larry is a poet/writer who has worked throughout his life writing, teaching and promoting creative writing in a variety of ways.  Not only does Larry write his own poetry, but he runs a small publishing company where he publishes the work of other writers and poets.  Along with weekly Converging Paths meditation sessions that he hosts (with his wife Ann) on Tuesdays evenings in our Huron studio, Larry hosts a monthly poetry reading followed by an open mic at Mr. Smith's in Sanduksy on second Saturdays.  The first poem that Larry is sharing was inspired during a Converging Paths session.                                 -Shannon

    About my work:
    I call these photo-poems because they blend the arts of writing and photography. I often partner with my son Brian's fine nature photographs...take them in  sensing the moment, then become moved by something that speaks to me and others. It's a kind of meditation in itself. Besides ignoring genre limits, the poems open a new shared vision.
    To me poetry and photography seek to say what can't be said and yet we try, through steady attention and clear intention something emerges. Brian took the candid photos of Ann and me while standing at the boat house out at Marblehead Lighthouse. They capture a moment of presence. The one of the floor boards of Open Way Yoga studio speaks itself, just as the floor did that night as we walked it in silence. 
    One more thought, for me, the poet needs to disappear in the work...ego vanished, the images speak. 

    A bit about Larry:

    Many of you know Larry Smith from around the studio.  He regularly attends Gentle Yoga at the Huron studio and, along with his wife Ann, Larry hosts the Tuesday evening Converging Path's meditation group which gathers in our Huron Studio at 7:30 PM.  He taught Creative Writing at Firelands College for 35 years before retiring and he is the founder and director of Bottom Dog Press in Huron.

    Converging Paths Meditation Group:
    Tuesdays at OWY Huron 7:30-8:30 PM 

    Coffeehouse Reading Series
    Mr. Smith's
    Second Saturdays at 2:00 PM

    July's meeting will be on July 13th and will be a general open mic, readers are encouraged to start with a poem about summer, either their own or by someone else.

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry
  • OWY's Limitless Project: Brian Henderson

    Unlike the other artists in this series I have an inside view of Brian and his creative process.  To me he really is the embodiment of limitless creativity because, as he describes below, there is much about inspiration and very little about intention in his creative process.  

    The biggest limit Brian faces when it comes to creativity is one that is common to most of us, he owns a home and a business which leaves him with little time to create.  Finding ways to express the limitlessness of creativity within a life or time structure that feels limited can be a huge challenge.  

    With constraints on it, sometimes creativity doesn't come out the front door, but it can come out in other ways.  In Brian's case, he finds ways to express his creativity through his work.  Screen printing and painting the studios are his main methods of creative expression these days.  He does all of the OWY screen prints, and much of the installation art you see in the studios was either painted by Brian or inspired by his vision.            -Shannon Leigh

    Brian on his process:  I like to make stuff, really out of anything.  I'll pile rocks in a design, alter my clothes, decorate my bike, etc.  

    I didn't start making art until I was in my 30's, and truthfully I'm not even comfortable calling it art.  It started out as an overwheling urge to stand against the bombing in Afganistan.  I started by spray painting anti-war slogans on anything, even used clothing.  I was interested in up-cyclying before up-cycling was even a thing.  

    Because I am not an artist in any of the conventional ways of thinking about it I don't have any constraints - meaning, it doesn't matter to me if anybody likes it, I don't need to sell it, or show anybody, or create on permanant materials, it doesn't matter if I improve, or even if anyone knows it was me who made it.  This gives me the limitless freedom of creating what I want when I want to.  The down side of this is that I often get things 80% finsihed and then stop.

    Since I was a child, I've always been facinated with the Huron Lighthouse.  10 years ago I spent one summer sketching and painting images of the lighthouse.  I've included several pieces from that series in this post.  My favorite part of painting these was working on the abstract backgrounds.

    The following painting used to be part of the water wall in the Huron studio.  It has since been painted over and photos are the only record.Brian's Bio:  Teaching, learning, and most importantly practicing yoga continue to be the main foci of my life. Although I incorporate many different modern styles, as well as Tai Chi and dance into my personal practice, I am predominantly an old school yogi. In addition to the postures, a large portion of my yoga consists of breathing exercises, cleansing exercises, chanting, meditation, and studying philosophy. When I’m not teaching yoga, you’ll most likely find me being quiet, growing food, petting dogs, getting paint on my good clothes and walking in the woods. 

    Below is a self- portrait I painted during the same period as the lighthouses.  I have a lot more grey in my beard now!

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry

  • OWY's Limitless Project: Keelie Suzann

    Introducing OWY's Limitless Project

    If you go to our website and land on the first page, the "About Page" the very first sentence reads:  Open Way Yoga is a gathering place for people interested in yoga, mindful movement, holistic health and the arts.  

    Yoga... mindful movement... holistic health... these things make total sense, but if you haven't been in our studios (which are filled with art and creative expression) you may be wondering: What's the art doing in that statement?

    At OWY we understand that creative expression is one of the pillars of well-being and health.  Life itself is a form of creative expression, so we don't put creativity into a special category that is only accessible if society agrees you are an artist.

    Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this idea in her book Big Magic.  The premise of the book is that humans were born to create.  

    We agree.  Creative expression is as human as walking upright.  (Though you don't need to create -or walk upright- to be human.)  Somewhere in history, something gave us the idea that creativity is reserved only for children, people who are paid for their work or those who everyone agrees is an artist.  

    We disagree.  We reject the idea that creativity is exclusive. A good half of our teaching staff are active artists and crafters.   In fact, for some of us, creativity ranks with movement as necessary for our mental and physical health.  For those OWY teachers who don't self-identify as artists most consider creating yoga classees to be an active expression of their personal creativity.  Creativity is LIMITLESS and it is for everyone.  We're going to prove it to you this summer.  

    The Limitless Project is a series of blog posts we'll be unrolling throughout the summer months featuring the art and creative expression of different teachers at the studio.  For this first we're featuring the art work of Keelie Suzann.  Scroll to see a few of her pieces and read her thoughts on her art and creative process.    -Shannon

    About this piece:

    Atlas was forced to carry the celestial sphere for eternity and has thus become a symbol of strength and endurance. In this piece, I wanted to depict the burden as a strange & floating balance on the apex of a triangle. Whenever I have placed myself at the edge of my comfort zone, there is this moment of soul crushing vulnerability that makes me want to run back to safety. I have learned that when I sink into the sensitivity, life naturally leads me to the community I need to be surrounded by and the projects that I’m meant to be a part of. The more I accept my inevitable truth and the story that I was meant to carry, the easier it is to share it.\

    More of my work:

    Keelie's thoughts on the Limitless Theme:

    when I am in a creative flow I am infinite
    there are no bounds to the potentialities
    that lay beneath my fingertips
    the power of my hands, my gaze, my voice
    I am limitless
    when my mind aligns with my soul
    when my body move in rhythm
    through a journey of familiar shapes
    the boundaries of coulda shoulda woulda
    I surrender myself to the creator
    to myself
    to limitless potential

    Artist Bio

    I am Keelie Suzann, Ohio-born artist who loves to travel. I spend most of my time teaching & taking care of the people that I love--my husband, my daughters, my friends. Any free moment I have, I go to the water & connect with the natural world. I paint, draw, write, and collaborate with other artists. I would say that I am a spontaneous artist. I don’t have structured time to create, or much free time to explore my expression like I did in my early twenties but when I have the space for inspiration, I dive in and get lost in the process. Most of the time I am creating a series of work at a time, rather than just one piece.  My greatest inspiration comes from raw “in the moment” emotion. When I can process how I feel through my art I feel vulnerable and alive. I use meditation to help me slow down and inform me on what creative adventure to spend my time on, but it doesn’t always work. I am prolific, scattered and passionate about the inner workings of the spirit, women’s rights and public art. I have had artwork at Carrington Art Gallery, Negative Space Art Gallery, and other local shows & festivals. I have a B.S., M.A., Montessori Certification and 500+ hours of yoga and meditation training.

    Keelie Teaches at our Norwalk Studio and is the online facilitator of The Creative and Compassionate Women's Group. 

    All Levels Yoga 6:00-7:15 PM

    Yin Yoga 6:00 - 7:15 PM

    Other Limitless Project Posts:
    Keelie Suzann - Painting/drawing
    Brian Henderson - Painting/drawing
    Larry Smith - Poetry
    Kara Myers - Painting/drawing
    Patricia Hecker - Stained Glass
    Mallory Saunders - Painging / Collage / Beads
    Shannon Leigh - Poetry


  • Sherrena's Yoga Journey

    Video Link to Sherrena's Yoga Journey

    Sherrena's daughter Yavay made this mini-documetary about Sherrena's experience of evolving into a yoga teacher.  It took confidence for Sherrena to break out of her old patterns.  It takes confidence every time she put herself in front of people to teach yoga.  It takes confidence to step up to live the life she's creating for herself.  Finding confidence has been the major theme of Sherrena's journey.  It's been rewarding to watch her grow into herself.  She's an amazing yoga teacher in part because of how much self-doubt she had to overcome on this journey.      -Shannon

  • Guest Post: Tonia Copsey on My Near Death Experience (NDE) and What Yoga Means to Me

    There are a million things that can happen in our lives that have the potential to either increase or decrease the sense of confidence we have our bodies.  Some of these things are lifestyle related: What we eat, how much and how often we move, what we do for work, etc.  But some things that cause us to lose confidence are outside of our control.  Things like sudden illness or injury can undermine our sense of agency and we can quickly lose confidence in a body that is not acting as we feel it should.

    Tonia has had this experience.  In this post she shares her story of a near death experience and the aftermath, which includes rebuilding body confidence, in part, through yoga.  

    We are so excited that Tonia joined our teaching staff this summer.  She teaches Tuesday 6:00 PM All-Level Yoga at our Sandusky Studio location.  Her years of nursing inform her yoga teaching, she is an incredibly compassionate soul with a warm heart and a lot of enthusiasm for helping people.  -Shannon 

    My Near Death Experience (NDE) and What Yoga Means to Me

     Where do I begin? I’ll start by saying that the events from 9/3/16 changed me forever. I haven’t felt like the same person since that day. In May of 2018 when I had my second surgery (to move my pacemaker to a more secure location in my chest) I finally felt comfortable enough to begin to explore my thoughts and feelings about what had occurred in 2016. Oh, and yes, I did say pacemaker, so let’s begin there.

    The top and bottom chambers of my heart stopped communicating with each other (according to my cardiologist) on that Saturday morning. In my case it was called complete heart block and my heart was pausing for 6 seconds at a time. I was physically experiencing a darkness that came over my eyes and then the feeling of fainting and suddenly coming back to the present. To say it was the most terrifying experience in my life would be pretty accurate but at the same time there was an odd sense of extreme peace as well. As scared as I was, the great sense of peace each time the darkness came over me comforted me. I remember telling myself to just breathe and everything would be alright. 

    That Saturday will very likely be the most memorable day of my life in many ways, both good and bad. I’ve always said that I have a blessed life, starting with my soul mate Chad, my other soul mate, Nicole (my twin sister), loving and supportive parents, a circle of friends like no other and a career that I love (I am a Nurse Practitioner). Often times I would think to myself:  You are so lucky, your life is so great, everything has just fallen in place for you. 

    That Saturday made me question everything in my life. I questioned my existence: Why was I still here? I questioned my way of life: why did this happen to me, what did I do to deserve this, had I been a bad person who was being punished, what was the universe or some higher being trying to tell me?  (Slow down?- because that is exactly what my heart was doing.) I questioned my strength, both mental and physical: Can I make it through this? Above all: Why Me? 

    I was told that there was no medical reason. I was tested for so many illnesses that could have been the cause and was ultimately told that I have a completely healthy heart. It was summed up for me by my cardiologist when he said that things like this sometimes happen to younger people like myself (I was 39 yrs. old) for no reason. Accepting that there was no medical reason/diagnosis was extremely difficult for me. I have been a nurse since 2001 and I felt that certainly if we kept searching we would find the medical answer. 

    I struggled so much with not feeling like the same person. I remember telling a very dear friend of mine that “I am not the same person.” I could not then and still cannot put into words precisely what I mean when I say that, but I just feel like I am different. I felt so disconnected from my family and friends (at times I still do, like no one really understands). I felt like I was constantly living outside of my body; going through the motions of day to day activities but not really feeling anything or enjoying anything. Was I depressed? Was I suffering from PTSD? I began to do some soul searching and decided that I was going to tackle these feelings on my own and this is when I came across Happy Yoga with Sarah Starr. I started recording her daily and practicing with her. I then found apps on my phone to practice yoga. I realized that the breathing techniques were exactly what I needed to calm my mind and nerves. I finally gained the confidence to step into a yoga studio in June 2018. I never expected how life changing that experience would be for me. There was something very special about being taught in person by someone passionate about yoga and life in general. I realized then that yoga would play a huge role in my health journey and my future.

    I now look at my experience as the change that I needed. It took me years to make peace with that but I wholeheartedly believe that it has “changed” me in positive ways. I connect better with my patients because I have learned what it is like to be a patient. I connect better with myself and I feel like I am more honest with myself. I realize that life is too short and I need to slow down and enjoy life (this is still a struggle for me but I work on it each day). I look at my loved ones differently and appreciate them in ways that I hadn’t before; appreciating the pure honesty in the bold, outspoken person because they are comfortable in their own skin and wondering if the meek and mild individuals are holding back so much and torturing themselves on the inside. I say this because I was and still partly am the latter person but continually move in the direction of the former person every day which I find very freeing. Rather than saying that yoga saved me, I will say that my NDE saved me because it led me to yoga. Yoga, which means Union, united the old and new me and now I am that perfectly flawed being that you know today.

    Two of my favorite yoga quotes, because they sum up in a few words what I feel when I practice on the mat and off:

    Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself- Bhagavad Gita

    Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind- Patanjali

  • White Guilt and What I Did With Mine by Shannon

    As we finish our look at community this month at OWY, I want to share something I’ve been thinking about and working on in myself over the past two years.  It relates to our broader world community.  Yoga, with all its talk of inclusivity, is not a very integrated activity.  There is plenty of diversity in this geographical area (okay, maybe not in Huron), yet we don’t see very many minorities making it in to the studio. I’d like to see that change, so I’m putting my personal experience out there to shine a light forward for those of us seeking to de-polarize our own thinking around issues of race.  When we depolarize, it is possible to make inclusivity an internal experience that then can radiate out into our communities.   

    I'd also like to say that I’m not writing this to convince you that institutional racism exists.  It does.  I’m not here to argue about it.  And I’m not writing this to convince you not to be overtly racist. If you are, all I can say is: Dig into your heart and get rid of it.  Hating (or mentally marginalizing) anyone -especially entire groups of people - doesn’t just fragment the world, it fragments your soul.  If you are knowingly racist, it is possible to stop and heal yourself.  Do it - for yourself and for all of us.

    I’m writing this for the middle, white people who see what’s going on racially in our culture, are struggling to make sense of it, and don’t know what to do about it.

    For a bigger conversation on the general topic of how to end internal polarization (do it - you’ll feel better!), join me on May 11th from 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM at the Huron studio for our first Mind Stretch:  Mindful Conversations discussion.  We will be focusing this first session on polarization and how to work on it internally.  This blog post is an example of taking steps in the direction of ending internal polarization as it applies to the single issue of racism.  - Shannon

    White Guilt and What I Did WIth Mine

    Like many suburban / rural / northern / middle white-Americans, I was shocked when I first heard about Black Lives Matter.

    I now consider myself to have been the typical self-identified pre-#blacklivesmatter non-racist.  I thought the Civil Rights movement in the 60s had taken care of things, and I was glad.  I thought things like “I don’t see color” and “color-blindness” were good, kind, and thoughtful ways for white people to interact with a historically oppressed, but (I thought) now no-longer-oppressed population.*  

    When Black Lives Matter started to hit the news and I began hearing about institutional racism and white privilege, I didn’t know for quite awhile if they were even a thing, what they meant, or if they applied to me. I was frozen in place.  I felt like a deer stopped in headlights, caught out in the open: Seen but not seeing. 

    I’m not afraid of the dramatic shifts that understanding can bring, so I am willing to look at the culture and look inside myself to grapple with issues until I understand them better.  I have no interest in polarizing, I’m interested in integrating diverse opinions.  So I set off to explore the idea of racism.  

    In this case though, with that frozen animal-in-headlights feeling, I didn’t know what to do.  I didn’t know it then, but I know now that frozen feeling came both from feelings of guilt and the ungrounding feeling of my cultural understanding starting to shift.  I felt guilty I hadn’t known what was going on, guilty I’d internalized some racist attitudes, guilty I’d unknowingly spoken hurtful words and perpetuated hurtful attitudes.  I wanted to be able to place myself (in my own mind, at least) as separate from the system.  Turns out I couldn’t.  I had to accept myself as part of the system before my vision could clear enough to see.  As soon as I realized it was guilt that was freezing me in place, I unfroze and started to look.  I didn’t want just to be seen.  I wanted to see for myself.  

     I’m sharing my story because I know I’m not alone in this confusion.  I live in a very white community; I participate in white activities; I understand whiteness.  I know that the majority of people do not want people of color to be marginalized and targeted, but I also know that white people from very white lives like mine might not know how to go about developing an understanding about what is going on in our culture. I’m writing this to make a few suggestions.  I’m not writing to convince you of anything.  I’m writing to show you a way to convince yourself.

    I found art and alternative media to be the medicine for my confusion.   My suggestion here is to dive into the art that is coming out of these times.  There is a rich conversation unfolding in the world of art and media around race - it includes all the “facts” you find in the news, but art also includes emotional content which was what got its hooks in me and opened up the places where I was confused.  Part of the work of understanding comes from witnessing the world, and an essential part is the work of self-reflection, considering one’s place as a part of the system, good and bad - a product of and participating in the system.  By finding where we reflect certain attitudes, we empower ourselves to interact with the system differently.

    Choose whatever medium you like and relate with best.  I’m including a list of a variety of media, art and artists that have contributed to reshaping my internal landscape on the subject of racism.  If you don’t know where to start, consider starting here.  Almost every one of these pieces/resources I’m suggesting was created by black people experiencing black culture.  Hamilton, Orange is the New Black and Serial: Season 3 are exceptions.  As a general rule, if you are looking for art that reflects an aspect of culture, look to people living the experience.

    All this is a beginning, and it’s not my story; it is the story of a culture divided from its inception by oppression, slavery, and their legacies.  As whites, we don’t get to define the experience of people of color, but we do get to define our responses.  If you feel frozen, mobilize.  My list here is a compilation of the art and media that brought me to empathetic understandings. Find your own!  Get curious, seek with no intention other than to understand and understanding will come.

    *(For those of you who still might think and say things like “I don’t see color,” understand that statements like this announce that you DO see color, obviously, or you wouldn’t be making such a statement in the first place. At the same time, when you say this, you deny the unique experience of people of color - that is why these statements hurt.)

    Shannon’s Short List of Art to Inspire Thinking on Racism:


    I love hip hop in general, but I want to suggest one artist in particular here.

    "DAMN."  by Kendrick Lamar  (Amazon Link)  (Spotify LInk)

     You know how sometimes you love an album so much you have to listen to it over and over and over until it becomes a part of you?  Well, this album was like that for me.  I listened to it until I could sing every word -I listened until I could anticipate every break, every hook - I took the music into me in a very deep way.

    Particularly the final four tracks on DAMN. (XXX, Fear, God, and Duckworth) bring the listener into a narrative about modern black America that is feel-able.  Feel-ability is what I looked for in all the pieces I’m recommending in this post.  Even though I live in a very different world from the one K. Lamar describes, I can feel it in his music, the tenuousness of the grip each of us has on our own lives.  This album was the first non-classical, non-jazz album to win the Pulitzer.  This is not random; it is an incredible album, and it stands on the shoulders of many amazing hip hop artists who have been narrating their experiences in music for the last few decades.

    Kendrick Lamar’s albums "To Pimp a Butterfly" (Spotify Link) and "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" (Spotify Link) are also evocative and revelatory.

    2018 Grammy Performance by Kendrick Lamar  (Vimeo Link)

    The performance from 2018 is the single most emotionally intense musical performance I’ve ever seen.  You do not have to understand the words to feel it.  Words fail anyway.  Just watch it.  (His 2106 performance is worth seeing as well.) 

    (Hip hop is a quick and easy place to connect with some of what is going on, and there are some amazing artists writing about the modern black experience.)  

    Hamilton the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Spotify Link)

    Listening to the music of Hamilton brought to my attention for the first time that the issue of equality in America was hotly contested from the beginning, that we are living the cultural legacy of our forefathers.  The Civil War was a major shift in this initial failing, the Civil Rights movement was another major shift, and Black Lives Matter is creating another hopefully equalizing shift.  Seen in context that these challenges are not new, they are old and have been with our nation since its beginning, makes it less personal - failing of a culture, not of me, the person - and it feels more fixable.  Looking at history, it appears to me that we are on a course correction that will resurge as many times as it needs to until the scales are balanced.


    Citizen:  An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Amazon Link)

    In her book Citizen Professor of Poetry at Yale University, Claudia Rankine illuminates the subtler and deeply painful way this modern racism creeps into casual and friendly interactions. It showed me the places I was still speaking and thinking in potentially damaging ways.  This book won so many awards that I’m not even going to list them except to say it is the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category.

    March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Graphic novel series. (Wikipedia Link)

    I only had a vague sense of how violent the Civil Rights Movement was until I read this series.  More than 800 bombings one summer against Civil Rights groups and workers during the peak.  It brings tears to my eyes to think of the bravery of these people working to right unbearable injustice.  Historical context helped me to wrap my head around some continued injustices, and personally it helped inspire my way forward.


    Orange is the New Black (Netflix Link)

    I appreciated the varied backstories, windows into other lives and ways of being. The series showcases similarities and differences in the modern female experiences, and you better believe color plays a part. 


    Serial:  Season 3 (hosted by Sarah Koenig)

    The tagline for the season reads (in part):  A year inside a typical American courthouse. One courthouse, told week by week.  

    I got a much better understanding of how and where and why our modern legal system is failing to be just.  The fact that the season took place in a Cleveland courthouse didn’t just add local interest, it added an urgent understanding of how the modern legal system is failing our current! present tense! right now! Northern Ohio communities, particularly communities of color. 


    The 13th, Documentary by Ava DuVernay (Netflix LInk)

    I watched the documentary The 13th, which gave a historical context to what I’d learned by listening to the Serial Podcast, and felt while watching Orange is the New Black.  It explores the intersection between race and mass incarceration.  It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2016. 

    Grass is Greener (Netflix Link)

    As I think about these issues, I don’t just want to dwell in the problems, I also like to look forward and imagine healthier futures.  This film makes a compelling case for forward thinking reparations within the business structuring of legal cannabis.  This film explains the intersectionality between racism and the enforcement of marijuana laws.  It suggests reparations directly related to how African-American and Latin-American communities have been decimated by strict sentencing and drug laws relating to marijuana. 

    (The 13th, Serial, Orange is the New Black, and Grass is Greener explore the intersectionality between race and issues with our criminal justice system.)

    BlacKkKlansman:  by Spike Lee

    I loved this movie so much.  It really embodies the feel-ability I’m talking about here.  Extra interesting because it creates an experiential understanding of how racism feels from black and white perspectives.

    Behind the Myth of Benevolence.  Titus Kaphar, artist, sculptor

    This is a painting of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.  Thomas Jefferson has been called a “benevolent slave owner,” it wasn’t until I saw this painting that I really understood.  Consider this:  It is commonly believed that their relationship began when she was 14 and he was 44.  In modern times, he’d be in jail as a sex offender and statutory rapist.  Also, he OWNED her.  I am embarrassed to say that in the past I  have actually spoken the words “benevolent slave owner.” I will not again, in part because of this image.   This doesn't mean Thomas Jefferson was all bad.  He was living within the context of his times, but it is not fair to the people who are descended from slaves (or any of us) to leave this part of his story out of our cultural narrative.

    There are so many more, this is a personal list - what has touched me and changed me.  I left off many well know and game changing works of our times because I haven’t interacted with them yet or they didn’t have the personal impact of the pieces I included on this list. 

    A final thought on de-polarizing in general…

    In this example, I suggest art and alternative media as a means of depolarizing.  Art and media work well with racism, but are not always the answer.  If you want to depolarize an issue within yourself, seek out information and also the feelings behind information.  Sometimes that is done through art, sometines through open conversation, sometimes through a deep soul search - exploring both sides within, and there are many ways beyond these few I've mentioned.