OWY Blog

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Andrea

    Welcome Andrea Petersen to OWY's Vulnerability Project!  Same as all of us, Andrea really struggled to write her list.  As I've said before the process is nerve touching and to do it you have to contemplate your own abyss.  

    I love Andrea's list because it captures how complicated we can be inside.  She shows us the messiness of life - our ability to hold confilicting opposites, to be confused by that and to keep on going anyway. "Keep on going anyway" seems to be one of the emerging themes of these Vulnerable Shares and Andrea's list is one of the best examples we've had of how we love what we love and do what we do despite our vulnearbility and fear of getting hurt.  

    Trusting and not trusting, thinking the best and fearing the worst, as well as some of the risks that come when we put ourselves out there - these things are all a part of making sense of the big and messy lives we're born to.  Thanks Andrea for showing up with us!                  - Shannon

    Andrea, Camp Cook at Hookaville

    10 things about me. (Hint: I'm pretty much a hot bag of emotions all the time)

    1. I have a difficult time feeling worthy of the truly amazing group of souls that I get to call friends. It blows me away on a regular basis. For real, who let me in? When they notice that I snuck in, someone's getting fired.

    2. I'm a Kitchen Witch. Baking and cooking are talents that are in my DNA. I put my soul and love into process and it feels like magic.

    3. I have a very dark sense of humor. It's twisted and I laugh at the most inappropriate things. I also get bouts of hysterical laughter from pain. I'm fairly certain I have some wires crossed. 

    4. I treat profanity as a sport. I could burn off your ears and send sailors running for their mothers. I secretly wish it was and Olympic Sport, I would medal in creativity and unusual application. This is not always appreciated.

    5. I assume altruism is also the default intention of others. Obviously this isn't the case many times and I'm always blindsided and deeply hurt by duplicitous and manipulative people. The upside is the deep connections with a lot of really amazing and equally genuine people.

    6. I'm an optimist. The terrible and scary things will happen regardless, but I will persevere. It's really weird to have anxiety and also believe that everything will shake out fine.

    7. I struggle with passivity. Its been super difficult for me in the past to take charge of my direction in life. My instinct is to just roll with whatever happens. I am always fighting that urge and trying to ride the line between.

    8. I live in a strange symbiotic state of constant existential terror and fearlessness. Just this week I sat and cried about the unfathomable the amounts of evil acts going on in the world. And then I turned around and made strides toward some big changes in my future. I mean, if everything is terrifying what's the worst that could happen? Might as well jump in with both feet. Once I've made up my mind, I become singleminded.

    9. I'm Loyal. Fiercely. If you've shown me love and respect I'll help you bury a body. When I was younger it was a hard lesson for me to realize that this wasn't always reciprocated. Now that I'm more mature, I don't give my loyalty away immediately just because I initially like someone.

    10. I'm a nerdy, hippie, punk-rock, sci-fi, bookworm, artist weirdo. I used to be self-conscious, but I've found that the less I concern myself with what people think the more I find those that love me for my strangeness.

    Plus 1.  Turn it up to 11 and rip the knob off: 
    My Daughter is the greatest thing I’ve ever had a hand in creating.  22 years and I still haven’t processed my immence love and gratitude for her mere existence,  She’s my ultimate vulnerability.

    So, clearly I'm a big mess of conflicting feelings that shouldn't be able to function together without implosion yet somehow I find balance (most of the time, hahaha).

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    Andrea in Bound Extended Side Angle Pose

    Andrea's OWY Teaching Schedule

    9:00 - 10:15 AM Yoga Flow Norwalk        

    5:00 - 6:15 PM  All-Level Yoga Norwalk  

    Andrea is also well known in our communities as a skilled massage therapist.  She currently offers massages at Christian Roberts Salon & Spa in Norwalk.

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Mallory

    Mallory’s list really lights up the effects of self-judgement and avoidance.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t suffer from severe self-judgement and the avoidance behaviours which make self-judgement bearable.  We all (at least everyone I know) believe that there is something inherently flawed deep down and that if this/these parts are seen or discovered by others we will be found unworthy of love, respect, and esteem.  These beliefs create such painful wounds that the only thing we know to do is avoid or numb the pain of believing; this is the impulse that drives our numbing and addictive choices.  

    It is way easier to own the bad, hard, difficult parts than it is to believe they should not be there.  The spiritual path is one of finding these fragmented parts of self, understanding that they are a part of our unique wholeness, and accepting them as such.  Once we’ve seen, understood and accepted, there is nothing to do but keep on keepin’ on in full knowing that we’re imperfect and will always be.  This is my personal definition of courage. (See intro. to Kara’s list.)   

    When we own this, not just to ourselves, but also out in the world as we’re doing with these lists we are trying for something new.  We let other's see us as we are and model showing our vulnerabilities up to the light.  This makes it easier for others who want to give it a try.  Have you written a list yet?  Write it for yourself!  Then, if you want, share a bit of it with us on our Huron chalkboard or on social (#owyintentions #owyvulnerability).

    Thanks Mallory for helping us all see once again that everyone is the same....  Everyone is the same.                 -Shannon

    PS.  I'd also like to nod to Mallory's owning of some of the effects that porn has had on her self image.  This is an epdemic issue in our culture.  Thanks for saying it out loud.

     What Does Vulnerability mean to me? by Mallory

    Taking off the mask.
    Allowing oneself to be exposed, seen, heard and felt.
    Fear of knowing my truth, of knowing myself, Fear of self.
    Uncertainty, lack of self-knowledge, unknowingness of who I am.
    Insecurity, comparison, judgment, ideas of who I want to be.
    Withdrawal, unwillingness to share my thoughts, emotions, art, or express myself.
    Authenticity, Honesty, Facing Self-Deception
    In order for connection to really happen we must allow our true selves to be seen, heard and felt. 

    1. I repress and avoid my emotions and feelings. I am so good at it I don’t even realize I do it sometimes. I’m always going, going, going, often not giving myself the chance to just BE. It is hard for me to S L O W D O W N. To be in my body and aware of how I feel. To give myself space to process, accept what is and let go. It is foreign and uncomfortable and as soon as those feelings start to arise I want to immediately distract myself. 

    2. I’ve used coping mechanisms most of my life to help me repress and avoid my emotions. We live in a culture that thrives on our unhappiness. The more inadequate we feel, the more we consume. Consumption has been an incredible distraction for me, allowing me to avoid facing my emotions and dealing with the root of my insecurities. I have used EVERYTHING as a coping mechanisms in the process of avoiding my emotions. FOOD, Nail biting/ picking, screen time, shopping, gossip, drama, masturbation, sex, alcohol, marijuana, etc… 

    3. The emotional trauma I’ve held on to has fragmented me. By avoiding and repressing my emotions instead of integrating my experiences I have created separation within myself, deeming some parts of my truth to be too much to share, accept or love. These are the things I have kept hidden, my darkness, my shadow self. Basically the parts of myself that I have deemed unworthy of love or unlovable. This created a false self, a people-pleasing, attention-seeking, ideal version of myself that isn’t the truth. It’s the way I want to be perceived by others; my mind’s idea of the “perfect self” (or social media self.) I lost touch with who I was for a while and turned into what I thought everyone else wanted me to be. I was just going through the motions of life feeling unfulfilled and wondering why I wasn’t happy. 

    4. I am a chronic over-thinker and I suffer anxiety and depression. I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK ABOUT ME THAT I (used to) LET IT PARALYZE AND DEFINE ME. It is exhausting to spend so much time thinking about yourself. This is the epitome of self-absorbed. I don’t mean to be so selfish, but sometimes I just can’t stop thinking about myself and worrying about how people are perceiving me. I end up stuck in my mind bouncing back and forth between anxiety (fear of what others will think) to depression (the limiting and defeating beliefs that I believe and play on repeat)

    5. I am critical, judgmental, harsh, expecting perfection and constantly punishing myself for being human. I can seriously lack compassion towards myself, which ultimately translates out to how I perceive and interact with others. Some of the thoughts that have played over in my head for years are…
    “You aren’t good enough.”
    “You have no friends.”
    “You are a failure.”
    “You are socially awkward.”
    “No one cares about you.”
    “You are undeserving of …. Love, Support, Happiness, Success.” 

    6. I have a tendency to be scattered and ungrounded, disconnected from reality because I am stuck in my head, lost in incessant thought, literally exploring these other realities…SPACED OUT. This makes it incredibly hard to focus, listen, recall and remember because I am literally not present in the moment. At times I feel like I am going through the motions of life Unfocused, unconscious, unintentional. Lacking in direction, planning, goals, drive and motivation. 

    7. I fear being seen, expressing the truth of who I am. I have withdrawn and disconnected for so long it scares me to hold my own power, to look people in the eyes and actually share with them my thoughts, my opinions, my art, my life. I am afraid of true authentic connection, but it is what I desire more than anything in the entire world. I fear rejection, ridicule and failure for not being accepted for who I am. I often feel unsupported, unloved and alone because I don’t let other people in.  

    8. I am dishonest. I find that I frequently lie by omission. I leave things out of conversation because of fear of judgment, sometimes I feel like I won’t be able to explain it well. Sometimes I feel like others won’t understand or it will cause more problems in the relationship if I do speak up. I have a fear that stems from high school, thinking that the less I shared the less people would have to gossip about me behind my back 

    9. In exploring this topic I found myself asking where I felt most vulnerable in my body. (Where do you feel the most vulnerable in your body?) I have a belly that I have struggled with accepting my entire life. There is so much hate and disgust that was directed at and lodged in my stomach for most of my life. It truly made me hate my body and in return hate myself for not looking like the thin women I adored. From years of sucking in my belly it caused me to become a shallow breather. It is still incredibly hard for me to let my belly completely relax when practicing pranayama, to literally let it all hangout, I have to let go of all of this bullshit. I developed an eating disorder (Bulimia) around my senior year of high school that I struggled with throughout college and after. Because I was emotionally binging on food my fear of gaining weight caused me to resort to purging. I still suffer with these thoughts and tendencies. I also carry embarrassment and deep shame in my genitals. Not as talked about, but women are like flowers and we all are just as unique as men in the way that our vaginas appear. I felt from an early age that what I had wasn’t acceptable or love-able. (This idea was mainly based on false ideas / images from porn and rude judgments from friends.)  I carry every single negative comment, remark or interaction like a scar of rejection proving my unworthiness. 

    10. I am spiritual. I have always had a deep connection with the Divine. It was innate. I always felt one with nature, the elements, the earth, the moon, the sun, the stars…. I can remember never wearing shoes, connecting with trees, talking to plants and animals with my mind, losing myself in the sunset and feeling deep peace standing in the rain or floating in the lake. This part of me was unconsciously suppressed as I grew up and felt pressured to conform to the Catholic religion, which told me what and how to think about divinity. This ideology contributed to the suppression of my intuition, my voice and my authenticity. I stopped thinking for myself and took on what others told me as truth. I became disconnected from my spirituality, religion became something I did, not who I was. 

    I now practice my own form of spirituality through Yoga, sacred ceremony, and my own personal experiences with the divine. Spirituality is individual and experiential. From my perspective I believe that we are all divine, powerful creators intimately connected by a consciousness of LOVE that pervades us all and is the truth of who we are. We are here to experience, to learn how to release resistance to what is and to surrender to our divine truth allowing that love to flow through us and be expressed uniquely. Through Practicing Yoga I continue to develop deeper and deeper self awareness, I become more integrated, intentional, compassionate, loving, open, honest, real… 

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    The following are two pieces of Mallory's art she would like to share with us!

    Mallory's OWY Teaching Schedule

    8:30 - 9:45 Yoga Flow Sandusky         

    9:00 - 10:15 AM  Yoga Flow Huron

    5:30 - 6:45 OWYoga Flow Sandusky

    6:00 - 7:15 PM OWYoga Flow in Huron

    9:00 - 10:15 AM Yoga Flow in Norwalk

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Kara

    I love all kinds of humor, especially raw and risque humor - this is one of many reasons I'm such a fan of Kara's.  When Kara had been in teacher training long enough to feel comfortable, the rawness of her wit and intelligence started to shine out through the chinks in her armor.  Behind Brian and my back she (and a few others) refer to themselves as Bad-Yogis, which cracks me right up.  An unapologetic skeptic, Kara has always seen through the illusion that there is a perfection we can attain through our yoga.  She embodies this truth vulnerably with her shares here.  

    We're all in the imperfect club with Kara whether we acknowledge it or not, and her honest owning of this makes it easier for everyone else to own too!  Imperfect, flawed and breakable we show up for our lives and live anyway.  

    Thank you Kara for going this deep.  I didn’t expect anything less... and you fully belong to our “thing” (see #8) if you want to call it that ;-)                   -Shannon

    Kara, yoga on the wall with her daughter.

    *I can't believe I'm doing this but...

    Vulnerability: A Satirical, but Honest, Review of the Experiences That Make Me Feel Like I’d Rather Be Sitting in a Burning House With the Roof About to Cave in Than Actually Write This Shit.

    1. This is like the 3rd draft of this writing. Every edition was too edited. Too not me. It's like my life was an explicit rap song, but I kept writing the edited version just for the radio - Even though most people like the explicit version of songs anyway. I just wanted these parts of me to be palatable for people despite my general attitude of not giving fucks about what other people think of me. That means....here we go: I care what people think of me. Ew.

    2. I curse like a really drunk sailor. Interestingly enough, that's how I spent most of my 20's. Drunk that is. Not sailing. I actually hate large bodies of water and boats make me nauseous. I really do love cursing though. It's so expressive and just so darn cathartic. Try screaming fuck sometime: at the top of a mountain, in a pillow, or underwater. Also, if you are someone that doesn't like those words, I'd suggest not reading the rest of this.

    3. Even though my career/hobby is a practice rooted in spirituality - religion and ultra-spirituality still make me uncomfortable. Let's all chuckle at how funny life is sometimes. It's hard for me to not see those concepts as inherently dangerous, but I have seen and felt the damage those tools do in the wrong hands. Not that that experience gives my statement credibility, the exact opposite maybe. My practice has helped me reestablish a place in me that I would call spiritual. My experience helps guide me as a teacher. For all that I am grateful, but still sometimes stuck in my own conundrum.

    4. I've been my own personal fucking terrorist. Most of my life has been a self-inflicted horror story: drug/alcohol abuse, eating disorder, self harm, etc. Its like I've been on a control-based game show called, "No one can hurt me like I can hurt me." The worst part is I was the host, contestant, and audience.  Truth is, the parts of my life that are the hardest to look at are because of the versions of myself I have to see and not the things that people have done to me.

    5. I have anxiety. I've had it ever since I can remember. It still makes me feel weak. Like it's the vulnerable part of my armor or a big red target. People offer advice from the best places, but yes, I've tried running, counseling, logic, breathing, and benzodiazepines. I've smoked, drank, and tried to drown myself. It's just there, and that's ok. But, I can still have that and be confident, be happy, be powerful, and pursue all my dreams-- I just also have irrational fears, panic attacks, and a relatively constant hum of anxious energy. I wish people understood that. Like it's not this or that, its complex, strange, and I finally think it's beautiful.

    6. Emotions aren't hard for me to feel just to Express. Some people in my life need to reread that. In fact, most people do. 

    7. My kid has dwarfism. I don’t tell many people that. I just don’t want that to precede her before she enters a room.  It will sometimes, and that fucking hurts. I just know there are days that her physical and emotional pain will be out of my ability to fix. Right now she is happy, confident, and hilarious. I hope I am capable of teaching her that those things are internal and completely hers and no one is powerful enough to take them from her. Have I mentioned I also lack confidence in my mothering abilities?

    8. I feel like I don’t fit into yoga land sometimes. It's all in my head. Part of it is the imaginary standard of what a yogi is and then this imaginary version of myself. Both of which are bull shit. Another Part of it is, I've never been much for groups of people. I'm rebellious by nature. Yet, still somewhere in there is this longing to like belong to a "thing."

    9. Yoga ended up being this huge risk I took in life--teacher training an even bigger one. Teaching is a whole other set of risks. I wanted to be where I am, but never thought I'd be here. So much of my life, everything felt out of my reach, and now it feels like everything is completely in my grasp. It's terrifying and amazing. 

    10. Thank god, last one: I have no idea what I am doing. Not a clue. Although, I think any one who does is lying. 

    There it is. Parts of my insides. Enjoy!  -Kara*

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    Kara in flying side plank.

    Kara's OWY Teaching Schedule

    4:00 - 5:00 PM Sculpt Yoga  Norwalk

    8:30 - 9:45 PM Yoga Flow in  Sandusky
    4:30 - 5:45 PM Sculpt Yoga in Sandusky

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Brian

    It is extrememly challenging to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to admit our weaknesses and insecurities, but it is waaayyy harder for men.  Male culture has historically laughed in the face of anything that could be perceived as weakness; this culture starts on the playground before boys are even 10 years old.  Boys are shamed if they cry, admit to fear or own any feelings at all except for anger.  Men are allowed to feel and express anger and that is pretty much it.  

    When we decided to do these lists as a part of our look at vulnerability we left it up to the teachers to decide if they wanted to participate, but I did ask Brian specifically.  Some of our insecurites are universal, but some relate more specifically to gender.  For example, women almost always feel insecure about some aspect of their appearance and men can too, but men are much more likely to feel insecure about things like how sucessful they are than women (though women can feel insecure about it also).  Brian's list captures several of the vulnerabilities that tend to show up mainly in men.  

    Thanks to Brian for jumping off the high dive... these are the real deal... the stuff that can keep him up at night.     -Shannon

    I'm trying really hard, but look, I still can't get my heels to the ground!

      1.  I still get nervous when I teach…  Every time I teach.  I don’t think fast on my feet, I don’t like being the center of attention and I can never tell if what I’m offering is useful to people

    2.  I love coming to work, I love interacting with people individually, but other than that I’m pretty anti-social.  I feel bad about it, like there is something wrong with me.

    3.  I feel insecure about my lack of material possessions and success at this point in my life.

    4.  This one is embarrassing.  I behave in the most irrational ways in fits of rage and anger.  Don’t even ask me about it... It’s way too embarrassing. 

    5.  I deflect positive attention and don’t like to take credit for my strengths.  Even saying this feels like bragging to me. 

    6.  Deep down I secretly think I’m an awful person.  I fear death because if there is such thing as gates-of-entry to an afterlife I don’t want to be there for that accounting.

    7.  I worry that I’m too soft and trusting in the way I relate to people; at times, I get taken advantage of and not treated with respect.  

    8.  Even after 20 years of practice I can’t get my heels to the ground in downward facing dog and I’m embarrassed to do my wheel pose in public.

    9.  When I was 12, I was carrying my shotgun and without thinking it through I impulsively shot and killed a bird in a tree (not hunting - it was random).  I saw the bird fall and was immediately filled with horrible feelings of shame and guilt.  Shannon tells me slmost every man and some women she’s known have a story like this and that it is some sort of universal learning experience, but to this day I still feel bad.

    10. With all the yoga and meditation practice I’ve done I feel like I should be a cross between Gandhi and Mother Theresa, but in reality I’m still 100% me, bumbling along, failing and falling short in all the ways I always have.


    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Patricia

    One thing this vulnerability project is revealing to me and the others writing these lists is that there is a basic I-Care-What-Others-Think alive in all of us.  We care:  There is no clearer way to say this.  Even though all of us feel this way we mostly don’t acknowledge it, which can make it extra hard to step up and admit to anything. 

    We do a project in teacher training, where each student picks a Yama or Niyama and does a deep personal study of their relationship with the chosen concept.  Patricia picked truthfulness (Satya).  When the time came to talk in group we laughed as Patricia confessed to lying about picking up the chicken feed, but we knew where she was coming from.  She was owning that she tailors the stories she tells in attempt to shape other’s opinions of her.  We all could relate - not one person in the room that day was free of this.  We tell our stories to our own advantage.  We All Do It.  Owning this begins the process of freeing ourselves.  When Patricia acknowledged the limitations of her truthfulness she freed the rest of us to take an open-hearted look at our own relationship with truth.  This is what we give each other when we share these vulnerabilities. 

    Writing one of these lists and owning the places where we personally care can feel a bit like walking the plank…. Good job, Patricia for walking this plank with us.  It turns out the water’s fine because we’re all in it together!             -Shannon   

    Patricia pole dancing

    1. I spent years not listening to my body. I had a “go hard or go home”, “no pain, no gain” mentality which lead to several injuries that have created have created a difference from one side of my body to the other.  This drives me to encourage others in ways to tune in to the sensations in their own bodies.

    2. I am not naturally flexible. It was almost 2 years into my yoga journey before I could touch my toes. Before yoga, I was lucky to touch my knees after stretching.

    3. I have struggled with feelings of shame over the things I love. For one, I pole dance. I always admired pole dancers for their physical strengthen and their gracefulness as well as their ability to move undisturbed by the comments of males.  I lacked a lot of self-confidence and wanted some activity that was only for me. It actually led me into yoga, power lifting, and various aerial arts (circus-like activities). I have been very selective about sharing my hobby because of the stigma associated with pole dancing.

    4. I am a contradiction. I love to walk the line and experience both sides of everything. Sometimes I'm not sure if that also makes me an indecisive person. 

    5. There are still days when I struggle with heartbreak. Time may not heal all wounds, but time does allow you to deeply explore and connect with yourself.

    6. I do not diet and I admit I’m not the healthiest eater. As soon as I say I’m not going to eat something then I start to crave it and no other food appeals to me, thus I will not eat at all which is less healthy than satisfying the craving. (Different then overindulging. Unless cookies are involved than I have no self-control. Please feed me cookies.)

    7. I have a pair of leggings that I adore but never wear in public. The mistress leggings look like a playing card, the backside a black and white design and the front the queen of hearts.  The reason I do not wear them out is because when they were assembled a portion of a heart ended up right in the crotch seam. I became aware of this when someone informed me I bleed thru my bottoms. They were embarrassed for me and I was embarrassed for them, thus the leggings are restricted to home only.

    8. I am a sloth according to Fit Bit. I love to curl under a blanket, propped and surrounded by pillows getting lost in a book. Fit Bit however reminds me twice an hour that I have not moved enough to its satisfaction and I have to decide to crawl out from my cozy quarters or to ignore it and continue reading. Typically I continue to read unless nature calls, resulting in days of less than 2000 steps.

    9. I have discovered I cannot listen to guided meditations while driving. Every single time I have tried I closed my eyes with my foot on the gas pedal. This is only one of the reason it is necessary for my car to have a “Caution Asian Driver” bumper sticker.

    10. I tend to be quiet. I have known what it is like to feel unheard and when I am in a conversation with someone I want to give them the chance to say everything they need and want to say without feeling rushed or interrupted.

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    Patricia's OWY Teaching Schedule

    12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch TIme Yoga in Norwalk
    6:00 - 7:15 PM Gentle Yoga in Sandusky

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Erin

    Welcome Erin Percy to OWY's March investigation of Vulnerability!  A few summers ago Erin Percy lost both of her brothers in the span of a few short months.  After the overdose of her twin, unable to work or really function, Erin moved to Huron to be closer to her mother and older sister.  She was shell-shocked and raw the first time she stumbled into yoga, but it turned out to be a new beginning, the beginning of her finding her way forward into a new life.  After that first time she came to yoga every single day - sometimes more than once, she signed up for teacher training and dove into the experience; when she hit the mat as a teacher for the first time a little over a year ago it was clear to all of us:  Erin had landed where she belongs.  I'm sorry for the tragedy that brought her to us, but I am beyond grateful that she is here...  in many ways she's the face of OWY.       -Shannon

    Me with my twin brother Sean 5 days before he died.

    1. I carry immense guilt for both of my brothers passing. I think if I had been a stronger role model my little brother might have made better life choices and would still be alive. I think if I had acted faster and gotten my twin the help he needed, he'd still be alive.

    2. Sometimes I feel like my survivors guilt is too heavy. Maybe somewhere deep down I feel bad for having joy in my life. Like, "how can I enjoy these things, when they're not here anymore to enjoy them with me?”

    3. The hardest thing to admit is that I am a more fulfilled person after experiencing this loss and suffering. Being "broken open" adds a richness to your life. An understanding you may not get without your world completely shattering. 

    4. I have struggled with different coping mechanisms to deal with my grief. Drugs, alcohol, tv, social media, food, sex. Anything to fill the void. It's like walking through a field of tall grass, looking for a clearing. 

    5. I can be so mean to myself. "I am not enough", "I am ugly", "I am all alone." It's a script I've said for so long, it's so hard to break that cycle.

    6. I allow my fear of failure and my self doubts stop me from following my dreams. 

    7. I am surrounded by so many amazing, strong, brilliant, and creative women. Sometimes I compare myself and wonder if I deserve to be working next to them.

    8. I have never wanted children. Sometimes I fear I'll always be lonely. Then I laugh as I remind myself there are 7 billion people on earth, if I'm lonely it's my own damn fault!

    9. I miss my mom so much. She moved away, and I hate the fact that I need her. I've always been so independent and it makes me feel weak and uncomfortable. 

    10. I love myself so much. Seems like such a contradiction. I love all of me though. Ups and downs, beauty and the real ugly. I know I'm precious and perfect, flawed and broken. More than anything, I am love. 

    -Erin Percy

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Shannon's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    My twin brother Sean with our younger brother Ryan.

    Erin's OWY Teaching Schedule
    10:30 - 11:45 Gentle Yoga in Norwalk

    6:00 - 7:15 PM Yoga Flow in Huron 

    9:00 - 10:15 Sculpt Yoga in Huron

    8:30 - 9:45 Yoga Flow in Sandusky

    8:30 - 9:45 Yoga Flow in Norwalk

  • An Interview With Senior Stretch Teacher Bev Henderson

    Like mother, like son - Brian and Bev are big believers in the benefits that come with the discipline of a little bit of daily practice.  Both like to start their day with small practices that set the stage for feeling good thorughout the day and maintaining health throughout life.  Bev is the loving and generous matriarch of our family, and to our OWY community she is an inspiration - she offers a much needed alternative to the modern aging-narrative by living an active life on her own terms.  Through her teaching of Senior Strech she inspires others to do the same.   We asked local writer and OWY student Elisabeth Sowecke to sit with Bev and dig for some details about her life and her current work teaching Senior Stretch at OWY.  Senior Stretch in Huron is on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM and in Sandusky on Wednesdays at 10:00 AM.  The following are excerpts from Elisabeth's interview.    - Shannon

    Bev pictured in the center with Judy Tann and Phyllis Wassner.  

    Upon first meeting Bev Henderson, it’s difficult to guess her exact age. She has a timeless beauty, ethereal white hair and seems as hard-core at the glorious age of 82 as she is delicate. While her younger friends express the desire to emulate her, she insists that she has no secrets. 

    “I’m just working on Bev. That’s a major job,” she says with a laugh when we sit comfortably on the couch for an interview at the Open Way Yoga studio in Huron one Tuesday morning prior to her Senior Stretch class. 

    If she seems nonchalant about her accomplishments, it is likely because she’s still busy living. In addition to teaching two classes a week at Open Way Yoga and occasional classes throughout the community, she’s an avid reader, knitter, gardener and kayaker and belongs to a regular card group. She even does cardio and weights at The Gym a few times a week, while admitting, “I was never a gym person.” 

    A retired first grade teacher, she was fortunate to share much of her life with her late husband—a wonderful, kind and patient person who always encouraged her to broaden her horizons. They raised two sons, including Brian Henderson, co-owner of Open Way Yoga. Though, she’s quick to point-out that she doesn’t do as much Yoga as Brian.

    It turns out that the woman who raised a local Yoga legend and is responsible for the name “Open Way” had some of her own meaningful wisdom to share.

    What brought you to Huron?
    The Lake. I live between Huron and Vermillion in a little cottage that we transformed into a year-round home. I raised my family in Akron then Norton. Once my children were grown, instead of going South, I headed North. 

    Describe your path to wellness? 
    I got to the point where I did more to take charge of my health. I was always active—running around as a child, working-out to VHS programs as an adult. But, I developed cancer. After treatment, Brian—chock full of information—helped me develop a vitamin regimen and I began reading more and more about health and wellness. For example, Dr. Wiel’s newsletter inspired me to incorporate new habits, such as eliminating white flour from my diet and practicing Tai Chi. 

    Tell me more about your Tai Chi practice? 
    Over 15 years ago, I kept reading that it’s good for coordination, good for blood pressure, good for memory, good for this and good for that, and I thought, “I’m going to try that.”

    My parents didn’t make me take dance lessons and I was never a cheerleader. It took me a long time to learn how to move my arms and legs. I was going to classes at the YMCA six days a week because I was determined to get it without having to read my notes. Now, I do Tai Chi at home every morning and I’m to the point where I don’t think about it. Though, I recite the moves as I go so I don’t lose track and can continue to teach others in small groups. 

    One day, Brian and I were practicing Tai Chi in the studio and someone said to me, “Oh! You are so graceful.”

    And, I said, “You are my new best friend.” Because no one had ever said I was graceful. 

    Do you teach Tai Chi at Open Way? 
    Brian and I created a class for Elder College at BGSU Firelands that was a combination of Tai Chi and Yoga. Brian suggested that we offer a similar class at the studio so we started Senior Stretch, and the more we did it, the less he did it. Now, I teach it, which is fine. I enjoy it.  I do a lot of research to decide what to do each class.  That is definitely good for my brain. 

    Tell me more about Senior Stretch, the class you teach at both the Huron and Sandusky studios? 

    Every class, we do:

    1. Joint Warm-Ups - We start with warm-ups for the joints because that’s something everyone should do.  Head to toe.  
    2. The Eight Treasures - Movements for the inner body, including energy centers, the chest, kidneys, stomach and spleen. 
    3. Qigong Movements  - An ancient practice that has been around for 3000 years. 
    4. Yoga- Light stretching and strengthening.
    5. Balance Exercises - As we age, we lose our balance so we work on balance exercises that change from week to week. 

    I always make allowances and help people find modifications that fit their body. The thing I say in the very beginning is, “If anything causes undue stress in any part of the body, don’t do it.” Bodies are different.

    How would you describe the type of people who attend your class?
    I have regular students from many walks of life. I think we’ve developed a camaraderie that is nice. I consider them my friends. They are lovely, lovely people, and we look forward to meeting new people. Everyone is welcome. We are not overly serious. 

    You’ve led a full life and are a seasoned teacher; has teaching at Open Way come easily to you? Even as a teacher by trade, teaching Senior Stretch took time to learn. It is hard to teach, do and help. What I’ll always love most about teaching is the creativity. Many days, something inspires you to go on a tangent and that is the fun part. 

    Why are you passionate about Open Way?
    I’m happy to see people attend and to coordinate their bodies to perform new moves. I enjoy the people and seeing them feel better. 

    It’s clear that Bev is leading a fine life, dedicated to gradual growth and transformation, honoring the promise that small acts have the power to create big change. While she does believe in a higher power, she is most driven by her natural instinct to help others, which she does gracefully and with refreshing candor. 

    As our interview is coming to a close, one of Bev’s regulars for Senior Stretch, Jerry arrives, winded from climbing the forty steps (he counted). He was dragging, he confesses, but he knew he needed to get to Senior Stretch. Without missing a beat, Bev provides a hearty welcome. 

    “I’m here, Jerry says. “I always feel better once I’ve been here.” 

    by Elisabeth Sowecke

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Shannon

    This month at OWY we are focusing on the theme Vulnerability.  Throughout the month several of our teachers will be contributing to this project by offering up a Vulnerable Share:  10 things About Me list.   Writing one of these lists is hard and nerve touching, the thought required takes place at the true edges of our vulnerabilities.  I don't believe in asking people to do hard things without being willing to do them myself, so we're going to start with my list.  Here goes a deep dive into vulnerability.

    Join us in this conversation on the studio chalk board or by sharing on social media #owyintentions #owyvulnerability. 

    Me on the porch of my hut.

    1. I love my kids (more than anything), but I sometimes hate parenting (more than anything) 
    2. I have a temper and my anger often explodes out in the most humiliating ways. For example: I once broke our refrigerator in a tantrum.  Worse than anger, I also (wrongly) believe that anger is bad and this self-judgement has been the justification for the most horrific self-vs-self psychological violence. 
    3. My favorite thing about myself is that I have a gift for seeing the bird’s-eye-view in almost every situation that does not personally involve me.
    4. Least favorite thing:  My gift for seeing the bird’s-eye-view does not seem to show up in situations that personally involve me.  I kind of feel like I got ripped-off. 
    5. I’ve always struggled with commitment.  My relationship with Brian is the first relationship I’ve had where I experience the feeling of a voluntary deep commitment.  Open Way Yoga is the first work I’ve done where I’ve stayed more than 2 years.
    6. Because I appeared on the show Naked & Afraid (my episode) men sometimes send me pictures of their naked parts...  As if being a survivalist who took on a survival challenge naked is an invitation.  It’s the shocking virtual equivalent of being flashed and it creates a whole host of uncomfortable feelings.  (My biggest fear in revealing this is that some people will say "she asked for it."  I'm sharing anyway because as we move into a post #metoo era I believe-hope-pray the "she asked for it" attitude is going to go the way of legal wife beating.)
    7. I self-medicate.  In a variety of chemical and non-chemical ways.  I justify it by saying this is a hard world to live in, but I know the dynamics relate to avoidance and I do it anyway.
    8. Sometimes I worry that my life experiences make me weird and un-relatable. For example:  For a year and a half I lived in a hut built around a hole in the ground in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  I drank water from a spring and sometimes in the winter I had to break a layer of ice on the stream so that I could bathe. (Picture of hut above and of ice below.)  Another example:  I majored in English with a concentration in The Creative Writing of Poetry.  I write poetry as a way of seeing, interpreting and interacting with the world.  (Poem I shared on Instagram @vitalwild pictured below.)  Weird?... Maybe a little.  Un-relatable?... I hope not.
    9. I’ve been uncomfortable at the studio more than once when I’ve been caught listening to my personal playlists.  I listen to all kinds of stuff, but in the past few years I transitioned from being strongly anti hip-hop into an avid fan of hip-hop and I’m not talking pop hip-hop here (though I like that too), I’m talking about the type that inspired the parent advisory labels in the record industry.  I worry if people hear my music they will be shocked and judge me, I assume they are expecting to hear peace and love yoga lyrics instead of "XXX" by K. Lamar. 
    10. I have IBS with varied triggers - some physical, some psychological.  I spend way more time in the bathroom than I’d like to. I often feel like I’m failing at health because none of the many of approaches I’ve tried have eliminated it.  Please don’t send me ideas - It will only re-enforce my feelings of failure.

    -Shannon Leigh

    Other Vulnerable Share pieces from the series:
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

    IG poem @vitalwild

    Here I am skating on a layer of ice that will be broken later the same day for bathing.  

    Shannon's OWY Teaching Schedule
    4:00 - 5:00 PM Yoga Flow in Norwalk

    9:00 - 10:15 AM Inner Core in Huron
    10:30 - 11:15 AM Gentle Yoga in Huron

    10:00 - 11:15 AM OWYoga Flow in Sandusky

    8:30 - 9:45 Yoga Flow in Huron

  • Bodies Aren’t Bad Guys

    The other day I was supposed to teach yoga, but I got sick, the run-to-the-bathroom-regularly kind of sick.  I knew I couldn’t teach and we couldn’t find a last minute sub, so I had to cancel class.  After the decisions and calls had been made I was feeling all upset, disturbed and irresponsible.  I noticed my mind thinking things like, “Stupid body, why can’t you just do what you are supposed to do (not poop every few minutes), so I can do what I am supposed to do (teach my yoga class)?”  As if my body were separate from this “me” I imagine.  

    It was shocking to me when I discovered several years ago that I often think of my body as the Bad Guy.  And then, how I treat it in my mind… positively scandalous… I get frustrated with it and verbally abusive towards it  (again, as if it were something other than me.)  And there my body is, humming along, doing its thing to the best of its ability anyway.  

    I used to give my mind too much credit and my body too little.  When I let my mind dominate or override my body (in my case this relationship has historically been pretty brutal and abusive) one part of self (mind) oppresses another part of self (body) and I’ve fragmented my experience and am not able to interact with myself as a whole being.

    My body didn’t care that I had a class to teach, something needed to leave my system, so body evacuated.  It wasn’t wrong or bad for doing that.  It was right.  My mind was confused and thought I wasn’t actually supposed to be sitting on the toilet, which I clearly, clearly was. The body knew what it needed to do and it went ahead and did it, with or without my approval.  

    Because I’ve isolated this tendency before, it can be easier to override when it pops up.  I knew that my body wasn’t being a Bad Guy (despite my mind’s insistence) and that it is never “wrong” - wrong is a construct of mind only.   My body was just doing what it does… balancing and rebalancing, seeking equilibrium…  So not the Bad Guy.  In fact, my body does everything in its power to keep me alive and safe.  (All of ours do!)

    Secret theory about death:  I think that the mind feels like it has all this say and control over what happens with the body in part because the mind fears death.  The mind sees death and thinks:  Body can’t have too much power or we’re in real trouble.  In facing this fear we begin to really see:  The body is not going to live forever, it will ultimately stop living, and that isn’t wrong either.  It is just what happens to everyone, every life.  Not wrong, it just is.  When we realize this there is nothing left to do but enjoy the ride.

    So on my sick day, I realized I’d made my body wrong and I changed course.  Mind and body are a partnership, they work together to help me navigate this physical life, so I tuned into the sensations my body was offering up.  I calmed down, got soft in my mind towards my body and finally allowed my self to cuddle up on the couch, rest, and wait for my next run to the bathroom.  Nothing left to do but enjoy the ride.  I was better the next day.

    Here are just a few examples of ways that I have experienced or have witnessed others making the body into the Bad Guy: 

    Shaving the legs.  
    Body is wrong because hair grows back and mind doesnt want to shave again tomorrow.

    Body is wrong for not looking the way the mind thinks it should.

    Too skinny.  
    Body is wrong for not looking the way the mind thinks it should. (I know people who struggle with weight roll their eyes at this one, but trust me, body loathing is not just for the overweight, it’s for everyone.)  

    Body is wrong for not conforming to the mind’s standard of flexibility.  (So many of us do this in our yoga practices. If my body isn’t flexible enough according to the mind, the mind, which does not like to be wrong, decides that it must be the body that is wrong, instead of recognizing that the inflexibility is in the mind - not the body.)

    Body is wrong for not being as strong as the mind wants it to be in the moment the mind wants it.  (Same as above it’s the mind that is confused, not the body.)  

    Body is wrong for getting sick and pausing the flow of life.

    Body is wrong for not making or retaining a healthy baby.

    Body is wrong for sagging, wrong for wrinkling.

    This list is by no means complete, these are just a few to get you started in your thinking.  Where do you make your body the Bad Guy?

  •  Guest Post: Mary Reese Folger on Yoga and Social Justice

    Mary Rese Folger is a Huron native with strong committments to community and life long learning.  When I thought of including something on our blog about yoga as it relates to social issues Mary was the first person I thought to ask and she didn't hesitate before accepting the opportunity.  I'm grateful to have a soul like Mary's around; she is always ready to dig deeper and learn more.  She teaches Iyengar Yoga in Huron (Wednesday 7:00 - 8:15 AM) and Sandusky (Monday 5:30 - 6:45 PM).  

    Mary bases her discussion below on the both the 8 limbs of yoga (described in greater detail in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) and also on her understanding of how the physical practice of yoga can contribute to the world at large.                      -Shannon Leigh

    This picture of Mary was taken at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2014 when they hosted an exhibit called Yoga: The Art of Transformation 

    In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the primary philosophical texts of yoga, Arjuna is told by Krishna that yoga is “perfect evenness of mind” (2:48) and “skill in action” (2:50).

    Most of us come to class and develop a yoga practice for personal reasons, perhaps for physical flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination; perhaps for mental calmness and clarity; perhaps for emotional equanimity or perhaps for spiritual spaciousness.  We practice the physical postures (asanas), breath work (pranayama), directing senses inward (pratyahara), and begin to practice concentration (dharana) and meditation (dyhana) in order to develop physical, mental, and emotional stability and mobility.

    However, we are told that classical yoga is an eight limbed path and that the first two limbs, the social moral injunctions (yamas) and the personal ethical practices (niyamas) are focused on the social order and one’s action in the world. The yamas include nonviolence (ahisma), truth telling (satya), non-stealing (asteya), choosing that which serves or continence (bramacharya), and non-grasping (aparigraha).  The niyamas include purity (sauca), contentment (santosa), self-discipline or burning zeal (tapas), self-study and study of sacred texts (svadyaya), and surrender to that which is greater than one’s self (isvarapranidhana).

    So what is the relationship between our personal practice on the mat and our action in the world? Between equanimity of body/mind and skillful action?

    I like to center that relationship in another yogic principle, that of from the core to the periphery and from the periphery to the core.  If we think of the middle limbs of yoga, (asana, pranayama, pratyahara) as the core – we may start our practice there, moving and breathing mindfully, taking our attention inward. We start to see ourselves more clearly. We are more aware of our physical self, we become more clear about our physical and emotional boundaries. And consequently we are more able to be present for others. Our practice moves from the personal core to the interpersonal periphery. Perhaps we are able to be more patient, kinder, less judgmental (ahisma) with our family and friends. Perhaps as we develop consistency in our practice (tapas) we are able to decrease the urge to accumulate (aparigraha) and we find ourselves more content with our current life situation as well as that of others (santosa). Perhaps our practice extends from the personal core to the periphery of the natural world and we become more committed to a more sustainable lifestyle (bramacharya, sauca). Perhaps our practice extends from the personal core to social activism (ahisma, satya) as we strive to create a world where the benefits of yoga are available for all.  

    In whatever way we move outward from our personal practice on the mat to the larger world, from a yogic perspective, we balance that movement by returning to the core. We continue to seek for our essential self and to understand how we fit into the universe (svadyaya). We balance Krishna’s injunctions of skillful action in the world and evenness of mind. Sometimes this movement from the core to the periphery and back to the core is sequential, sometimes simultaneous.  Perhaps as the movement continues, we transcend to a more seamless way of being; we tap into the eighth limb, samadhi (absorption).  But even in samadhi, we are not separate from the greater world, we are at the periphery of all that is while also being in the core of all that is. 

    In this way, yoga is not separate from life in the world.  As we maintain and develop our on-the-mat yoga practice, our action-in-the world becomes more infused with our essential self. We move in the world with equanimity of body/mind and with unique skillful action.