OWY Blog

  • Celebrating Our Community

    You give us a reason to be here!  Our students make our world go round.  I wish we had a picture of every single person who has been in this month - these lovely faces are just a few of the souls who have blessed our coummunity this April.   - Shannon

  • Yoga is for Every Body by Emily Perry

    As we contemplate community this month at OWY, the idea of inclusivity has been foremost in my mind.   Looking around the studios, I'm asking myself:  Who is not here?  

    One group of people who are under-represented are people living in larger bodies.  Larger-bodied people (truly, people in general) are often intimidated by yoga, yoga teachers and the students in a yoga room.  These fears and feelings of intimidation get in the way because the reality is that every body-type can benefit from the mindful movement of yoga.  Yoga is not just for the stereotypical yoga-body (whatever that is), it is for anybody with a body or mind.  This doesn't mean that everybody can execute the fancy stuff we see on Instagram, but that is not the point.  Yoga is a highly individualized practice all about getting deep with the body you're in - getting to know it, maximizing your health (right where you are), learning to love yourself (right where you are)...  And everyone can benefit from that.  

    It can be so helpful to have a teacher who has experienced both intimidation and the validation of pushing through.  To that end, I'm so very excited to announce that Emily Perry will be joining our staff starting May 1.  Emily knows first hand what it is like to live in a larger body AND show up for herself, because she knows this experentially she can skillfully guide others in taking those first, hardest steps.  Read on to hear about Emily's journey and thoughts on yoga!  Welcome Emily!😘      

    Yoga is for Every Body

    Sometimes showing up unapologetically as yourself is the most rebellious thing you can do. I have found this to be true as someone in a larger body who leads a moderately active lifestyle and now is starting to teach yoga.

    Size inclusivity in active spaces is becoming more common, but we still have a long way to go. Most fitness facilities claim to be open and welcoming to people of all shapes, sizes, and abilities, but they can’t control the biases of staff or gym-goers. When you walk into the gym and become immediately aware of being the largest person in the room, it’s hard not to feel like what that really means is: “We’re one-size-fits-all, except for you!” I go to the gym to mind my own business and do my HIITs, not get unsolicited weight-loss advice or judgmental looks, or to inspire people with my “courage.” 

    There should be nothing remarkable or brave about this. People in a wide range of sizes accomplish all kinds of physical feats every day. Fat people (curvy people, large people, people of size - pick your euphemism):

    And yes, we can - and do - practice yoga

    It has been transformative to see the proliferation on social media of yogis in all different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and economic backgrounds, because I might not have known this practice was for me otherwise. Even after immersing myself in #fatyoga on Instagram, practicing on my own, and taking a series of Big Body Yoga workshops with the fantastic Julie Brown in 2013, I hesitated for years to set foot in a “regular” yoga class because I was still embarrassed to use the props and modifications I needed among other people who (I assumed) didn’t. But knowing that my eventual goal was to teach yoga, I also knew I was eventually going to have to go to actual classes with actual humans that didn’t look like me.

    Before I ever set foot in Open Way Yoga, I did what I (an introverted weirdo) always do before going somewhere new: Looked at their website, perused their social media, read some of their teacher bios, and thought maybe this might be a place I could feel at home. Obviously, I ended up being right. The whole place – and everyone in it – exudes authenticity, warmth, and unconditional acceptance. While the atmosphere there is wholesome, it never comes off as stuffy or dogmatic; there’s room for everyone to be or believe however they want. It also has a colorful, distinctively DIY vibe that underscores the sense that it belongs to everyone. 

    Although I was initially self-conscious about being the biggest person in every class, I was always treated with the same respect as everyone else. My teachers encouraged me to go beyond what I thought was possible for me (hello, Flip Dog!), but equally praised me when I modified poses effectively. I realized these people really didn’t care what I looked like – they just recognized me as a fellow practitioner.

    It was in this nurturing environment that I was able to start inhabiting my body in a way that hadn’t felt safe before. I had come back to yoga not just to pursue teaching, but also to complement my exercise regimen and stretch sore muscles. What I didn’t anticipate was how the less “active” practices – restorative poses, pranayama, meditation, and savasana – would give me some relief from my overactive, hypercritical mind. I began to notice the ways I judged myself and pushed myself to prove that I could do the most challenging, active practice!  That compensatory attitude felt increasingly out of place, as did the ways I punished and restricted myself off the mat. The more I sat with myself and watched my mind, the less hospitable it became to self-hatred and inadequacy.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t still harbor ambivalence towards myself. It can be uncomfortable to sit with the dichotomy of self-acceptance vs. self-improvement, but my time on the mat has increased my capacity for both. Being okay with how I am in the moment isn’t defeatism; it’s acknowledging - and not rejecting - current reality. It’s trusting myself to do the best I can with today and let the rest go.

    I’ve also learned that “advanced yoga” isn’t about executing the “full expression” of every pose; having the thinnest, strongest, or most flexible body; or being able to keep up with the rest of the room. It’s about tuning in to breath and sensation, using whatever modifications you need to maintain alignment and comfort, and resting when you need to. 

    I want to see more and more yoga classes attended by people of all different sizes, shapes, ages, and abilities doing their own versions of each pose, maybe sweating bullets, joints occasionally cracking, props everywhere, sometimes falling out of a pose, laughing it off, and getting back up again. That’s the real shit. That’s the kind of practice I want to facilitate.

    If you’re reading this and thinking, “They say all bodies are welcome and affirmed there, but I know that doesn’t include me,” I get it. It’s intimidating to come to a new place and make yourself physically vulnerable with people you don’t know. But I’m glad I finally showed up (and kept showing up), because the relationships I’ve gained and the benefits to my mental and physical health have been priceless. These will always be mine, no matter what happens to my body.

    So if you’re at a size where you think yoga isn’t for you, I hope you’ll give us a chance to prove you wrong. And if you’re not in a larger body, but still struggle with self-image, then for real – welcome to the club. There is no minimum or maximum size to benefit from this practice. We could all stand to make more space for ourselves in a world that constantly tells us the best thing we can be is small.

    Emily will start teaching on May 4th.
    Yoga for Every Body:  Saturday Mornings 9:00 in Sandusky. 

    This class offers students of all sizes, shapes, and abilities the tools and confidence to make yoga work for them. Expect accessible flows, standing and seated poses, breath work and affirming meditations, all while using props and modifications to make space for the body in each pose. Everyone's practice may look different, but no one gets left behind, and all gain the same benefits. 


  • OWY Statement of Inclusivity

    As a part of our community-focused theme this month we are also updating the About Page of our webite to reflect our beliefs about inclusivity.  The inclusivity statement that follows is a direct statement of welcome to all people interested in yoga.  As we continue to grow we want the ideals and values of inclusivity to be foremost in our minds and reflected in the way we do business.  Please reach out to me directly (shannonlthomas@mac.com) if you have questions, comments or ideas. When Brian and I founded Open Way Yoga, our intention was to create a gathering place for people interested in yoga, mindful movement, holistic health, and the arts.  Community was at the heart of our vision.  

    Our studio’s mission is to create an affirming community passionate about using the traditions, evolution, and philosophy of yoga as tools for growth and self-healing.  

    Our goal is to bring all kinds of people together to practice as a group, to deepen individual yoga practices, and to create shared authentic experiences that inspire each student to discover personal paths to well-being.

    These intentions are still true today, and we’ve grown into an incredible community.  We are so thankful for our teachers and the many yoga students who make OWY such an welcoming place.  As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary, we’d like to expand that original vision to make a specific statement about community inclusivity.  Our Mission and Goals are listed on the first page of our website, and from now on, this statement of inclusivity will be included on this page as well. 

    We’re open to all at Open Way…

    Diverse communities are the key to healing individuals and the world. We are working to create an environment where all people can come together for shared, authentic experiences.  Currently, our studios (along with the greater national yoga community) lack diversity.  We acknowledge this and are passionate about evolving into a community that represents and affirms all.  We welcome people of any age, race, ethnicity, body type, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status, religious or political affiliation.  At Open Way, we’re committed to holding the space for ALL people to discover their own personal paths of self-healing.

    This inclusivity statement is just the beginning. We are working to promote values and implement programs that reflect this commitment.  Stay tuned…


  • From Vulnerability to Community: 5 Years as OWY in Huron

    In curating the Vulnerability Project last month, I learned that our secret insecurities get in the way of us moving towards what we want in all kinds of ways.  One major way our perceived inadequacies block some of us is in our connections with other people.  In deep, often unnoticed places, we believe if others truly knew us, they would agree with our secret self-judgements and not like us as we are.  On this subconscious level, many of us feel like our personal challenges make us unworthy of love, friendship and companionship. Our process last month involved encouraging each other (and you) to get a little more comfortable with this “shadow” side by writing on paper or speaking insecurities out loud, allowing them to be seen instead of keeping them hidden.  This process can be key to unlocking a sense of belonging.  You have to reach out and connect as you are, not wait until you become some idealized version of yourself. 

    OWY's Purpose:

    “We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is more than to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is more than simply to generate profits).”  Ed Freeman 

    At OWY, our purpose for being here is and always has been community.  When Brian and I started Open Way Yoga 5 years ago this month, the idea of yoga community was foremost in our minds.  Over the years, many students and staff have spoken to us about their experience of a deep loneliness, a sense of isolation, and a feeling of disconnect as life rushes by. Some of these same people have described finding a sense of community at OWY.  That’s what we’re here for.

    Our dream to create a community inspired by the evolving traditions of yoga, mindful movement, holistic health and the arts has flourished.  We hope you already have a sense of this by just coming to the studios and meeting our fabulously community-oriented team, or reading about us online, but we’d like to emphasize this even more as we continue to grow and evolve.  

    A few of our team members:  
    Valerie Parker, Julie Huntley, Jamie Fitzgerald, Shannon Thomas, Jamie Bishop,
    Sam Vettel, Erin Percy, Mallory Saunders, Sherrena Bilgen

    Over this month, we are celebrating community! 

    OWY Studios:

    Community Celebration:  5-Year Anniversary of OWY in Huron  
    108 guided Sun Salutations, followed by dancing and socializing.  
    This event is free for all pass-holders.  (Non-pass holders $13.) 
    Date:  April 13th 
    Time:  2:00 - 5:00 PM
    Full details are on the website.
    *NOTE:  You do not need to be able to do 108 (or any) Sun Salutations.  You are welcome to stop, take rest breaks or meditate throughout.  You will not be the only one! 

    Focus Pradctice:  OM!  Come to class and OM.  As a focus practice for the month, many of our teachers will be offering the opportunity to OM during their classes.  This is a chance to lift your voice in an affirming community setting, something that many of us haven’t done since childhood.  Come give it a try, or feel free to opt out - just sit and feel the vibration.

    OWY Online: 
    We’re going to be sharing some lovely photo blogs of the people and places at the center of our community, as well as inspiration and information to challenge you to examine some of your patterns of thought as they relate to the broader idea of community. 

    OWY Up and Coming: 
    Watch for more opportunities for engagement throughout the rest of the year!

    Mind Stretch:  Mindful Conversations  (Second Saturdays starting in May)
    Huron Studio:  May 11th 10:30AM - 12:00PM
    I will be hosting a monthly discussion group for people interested in deeper conversations around living the experience of yoga philosophy and spiritual  concepts, including the ideas touched on in classes and OWY’s Teacher Training Program.  Depending on group interest we will also discuss books and draw inspiration from the podcast On Being, but it will not be necessary to read or listen to participate in the topics of discussion. 

    Needles and Hooks:  Fiber Arts Society  
    Norwalk Studio TBD September
    Starting in September Andrea Petersen will be hosting a fiber arts get together once a month in the Norwalk studio.  This will be an opportunity to connect with other artist and crafters in the lovely light of our Norwalk space.

    We thank you more than words can express and we appreciate you as a part of our community.
    -Shannon Leigh

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Valerie

    Last but not least, on this final day of March, Valerie Parker closes our month long look at vulnerability with a brilliant list.  Valerie's list is interesting because it arcs across time and illuminates how our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy follow us and color our experience and relationships in every phase of life.

    Here is what I have noticed and learned as I've helped to organize this project.  When I own my truths (especially the hard ones), I open the door to the possibility that I might live in wholeness.  When I face my failings, flaws and weaknesses they lose their power over me, the self-imposed barriers fall away and I am better able to show up to live my life and do my work anyway.  Living this way I can assume others will see me with grace (whether they do or not), because I see myself with grace and forgiveness.  When I see myself with grace I reference my worth from inside instead of worrying about what other people think about me.  I recognize and know from experience that if others don’t see me with grace, it’s because they haven’t made peace with their own demons, it's about them not me.  An internally-referenced life, the foundation of personal power, starts with the seed of allowing myself to feel vulnerable by honestly taking a look, seeing and admitting.  Then I pick myself up off the ground where I've fallen under the weight of my own self-judgement, shake it off and move forward into this life, which has been there with me, waiting for me to notice it and live it all along.  

    Thank you Valerie for this intimate view on how the quest for perfection does not serve us as it plays out across time.  You open up the door and invite wholeness inside by owning these truths and you show us all how by sharing!  

    To those of you who have been following us on this journey:  Thank you for witnessing.  This process turned out to be deeply healing for many of us who wrote lists, which wasn't exactly what we expected when we started.  If you haven't written your own list, give it a try, you won't be sorry.   -Shannon Leigh

    Skiing Warrior in Colorado

    For days I pondered, ruminated, twisted and turned as I contemplated my vulnerability.  As I wrote my list, a common pattern, or a thread of deep fear emerged.   My emotions are covered with deep internal pressure and tons of self-criticism.  In writing this I realize I have run away from my life. -Valerie

    1. Reflecting back I uncovered a fearful child that still exists today.   Being perfect is the mask that covers the fear of being me, perfection is an attempt to manage family emotions and to keep the peace.  I manipulated myself into a family role where I rescued my parents’ feelings, especially my mom’s.   Perfection gave me a vehicle to prevent situations that would cause emotional discomfort, creating the strong belief that I could keep things smooth.  The “perfect child” followed the rules, completed daily tasks and chores even without being asked and of course to the best of my ability.   My drive for perfection actually revealed to me that I was failing miserably.    I did not have the magic wand to keep my home calm or the ability to stay out of trouble.   In fact, the reality is that all I feared was delivered back in full force with going from an A student to failing my junior year of high school and then bringing shame to my mother by becoming pregnant shortly after graduation.

    2.  I ran away from my childhood home into the role of the “perfect mom” being super attentive, cooking, cleaning, going to church etc. striving for all the images of a perfect mom.   Again, the fear of not being good enough caused the drive for perfection to bring out the mean mom.   Losing my temper if you didn’t take a nap.   The mom that had the perfect schedule and put her children to bed on time, even on a beautiful summer night when they could hear the other children playing.  The mom that placed every toy back in order.   Perfection was the drive to run away from feeling insecure about being a mom and the fear of failure.   With perfection, my children were manipulated to keep the peace, again covering my fear of anger and rage.  But,  I missed the joy and simple moments of life’s pleasures raising my children all for perfection.  I passed on the belief of perfectionism with all the anxiousness and worry, and now witness it play a role in their lives.  I feel deep guilt and regret that my children had a “perfect mom”,  but not the freedom of self.  God gave me the greatest blessing of a home filled with light and love, but I ran away.   I covered my fear of not being good enough with endless to-do lists and self-defeating chatter and many days of a dark side of me that even wished to die.

    3. I strived for the role of “perfect wife”.  Making all decisions based on external references.  I was all about appearances by looking great with a clean and orderly home and well-behaved children.   But inside,  I was destroying myself with self-judgement and constant criticism.   I soothed the anxiousness with becoming a good cook and baker.  Which was a great excuse to eat too much, gaining weight, but I had the appearance of a good wife.   Truth is no one could see how terrified I was of being hated and unlovable, my deepest fear.  Again, my wifely role ended in a horrible, hateful divorce.   The scars of the divorce have followed for 30 years.   The mask of perfectionism led to incredible failure and total social embarrassment.

    4. I failed again when I took on all of the shame and guilt of my marital failure and ran away from being a daughter in-law a second time when I remarried.   I hid behind an almost invisible silent role.   Believing with all of my heart that if I just stay away, the ex-spouses would remain calm, no one would be angered and stir the pot.  This time perfection took on the role of growing very silent and going inward using social avoidance.   I soothed myself with the justification that I had empathy for the family members caught in the fall out of a divorce.  Again, my ridged self-judgement, and criticism caused me to run away.  It was much easier to avoid than face my failure.   Hiding and covering I didn’t allow my mother in-law to really know me.   I cared for her behind the scenes, always staying at arm’s length.  Telling myself that I was sparing her the pain of knowing me and keeping peace for her and her grandchildren.  Actually, I failed her and myself.  I never told her I loved her until the last day before she passed.   I was perfect at hiding, but I ran away from my feelings.  All to hide the truth that I am imperfect.

    5. Those that know me closely know that I will joke that my drug of choice is education.   I love learning.  The more I know, the more I hunt for information.  I think, read, seek and think, read, seek like a hamster on a wheel.  I soothe my imperfection by chasing perfection.   Believing I will find the answer and know enough to feel safe and secure and not make a mistake.  I became a teacher - a perfect profession to learn constantly, to over work, to direct all of my attention to striving for “my best” and  a way to feel the needs of others rather than myself.   Another thread in the pattern of chasing perfection to hide fear of failure the universe delivered a district strike.  The universe revealed we are all replaceable.

    6. I have run away from my voice chasing knowledge that will finally give me perfection to help others.  My self-loathing has driven me to become something striving to improve: a teacher, a personal trainer, nutritionist, yoga instructor and now “Shake Your Soul”.  Always striving to be the best and fix myself so I have confidence to help others.  The desire to be something, perfect, covers the fear of not being liked or accepted.   It is the vehicle to run away from me and all of my imperfections.   It is driven by a pattern that generates the realization that the more I know the more I know I don’t know.  The search for perfection never leaves me feeling competent to share my voice and knowledge.   The end result is just the opposite I feel I will never be good enough.   Striving for perfection silences my voice.

    7. I am so fearful of regretting life, yet I am chasing it away.  I am always running to nowhere with mental distractions.  My mind has a running tape of regrets and failures that plays over and over.   As time passes the pile of perceived failures grows and perfection becomes even more elusive.   All of the self-doubt and dislike increase the desire to hide and run away.  The deep hole of depression is ever present.

    8. I am fearful of the construct of age.  When I was young, I was too young to have four children.  Too young to be a wife and mother.  Not the perfect age.  Now I am too old to dream of a new career.  Too old to chase my dreams and use all of the knowledge I have gathered.  I am too old to right all of my wrongs or mend my path.  Not the perfect age.  A great excuse to perpetuate procrastination a distraction from the paralyzing fear of perfectionism.

    9. I am not unlike others in that I am fearful of my image in the mirror.  I prefer to hide inside with my mental image of how I appear running away from the imperfection.   My body has received all of the anger and rage that I fear most from others, from me.  I have dissected my body to find every imperfection and every way it could  possibly be judged by others.  Choosing to be mean to myself rather than acknowledge that not everyone will like me. Seeking perfection, I treat myself worse than anyone else.   At times I have dieted, severely restricting foods, obsessing about foods labeled good or bad all to punish my body for failing to meet the perfect mental image.  I have worked out  hard in the gym for two hours a day, seven days a week; lifting, running on a perfect schedule chasing perfection.  Running away from worthlessness.  Poor body, the punching bag.  The fear of not measuring up generated the search for perfection, a perpetual cycle.  This cycle that led to isolation,  I allowed the mind to run the show and hide the true buried emotions of fear.  Seeking to finally love my body has led to a dark place of self-hate and deep sadness.

    10. As I wrote this list, I am fearful of failing at everything.  I am fearful of the dislike and judgement of others.   I am fearful of emotions and numb myself by striving for the impossible “perfection”.  I am fearful of sharing me, the totally imperfect human.   Striving to not be vulnerable with imperfection I have run away from life.  Only to find that life has a way of truly delivering the opposite.  Perfection does not exist and the real me really knows how to screw up and fall flat on my face for the whole world to see.  I am fearful of death and what follows.  Will all of my failures great me on the other side?

    FInal Thoughts from Valerie:  It really isn’t important how the pattern formed, we all have a story.  The revelation doing this written exercise was that the pattern shadows my life, it seems to follow me into every situation   The belief colors my reaction and the outcome.  
    Now the WORK begins!

    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
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List

    Stillness to feel so small and grounded in a perfect place.     This is my zen space above the mammoth bones in Colorado.

    Traveling with strangers to Bali - beginning to release of my fears and being open to what is.

    Valerie's OWY Teaching Schedule

    8:30 - 9:45 AM  All Level Yoga  Sandusky   

    12:00 - 1:00 PM  Lunch Time Yoga  Norwalk

    12:00 - 1:00 PM   All Level Yoga  Sandusky

  • Practice: Write Your Own Vulnerability List

    You've been reading our lists... You've identified some of yourself in our lists... You've been thinking about what vulnerabilities you have that you would NEVER admit to.  It's time.  Just do it.  Sit down and write your own list.  This is a process of externalizing things that you maybe thought you'd never let ot of that dark little cave inside.  By letting our insecurities, vulnerabilities and feelings of inadequacy out into the light, we dissolve some of their power over us.  This in turn helps us to move forward in spite of these feelings that may have been holding us back.

    Here is how to do it:

    1. Find a quiet time and sit down with your computer or pen and paper.
    2. Write a list.  You don't have to stop at 10, but aim for 10.  This will force you to dig a little deeper than you might have.
    3. Once you've written your list, read it and reread it to yourself.  This helps to desensitize you a bit.  Everything on the list stops feeling so horrible when you familiarize yourself with this shadow side of self.  Expand upon it, clear it up, get in touch with the feelings underneath the words.  Spend a little time with it.
    4. If you're comfortable, share.  FInd a friend to exhange lists with and get together for a discussion, or choose an item or two and share with your partner, or share with us at the yoga studio.  We are happy to witenss you in this process, especially those of us that wrote our own lists and shared them publicly.

    That is it.  It's simple, but oh so powerful as an exercise.  It will start to change how you feel about how you act and who you are.  Give it a try!

    For inspiration here are the lists written by the OWY teachers who participated in this project:

    Shannon's List
    Erin's List
    Patricia's List
    Brian's List
    Kara's List
    Mallory's List
    Andrea's List
    Keelie's List
    Valerie's List

  • Vulnerable Share: 10 Things About Me by Keelie

    Giving voice to our vulnerabilities, insecurities, and perceived weaknesses requires what can feel like a super-human effort.  It is humbling, triggering and reveals to the writer places where they may be experiencing deep shame or self-hatred.  It is a practice of expression, of finding and allowing our voices to move up and out of our secret, inner realms. 

    Voice:  Not having, finding, using.  This is one of the themes of Keelie's list and has been a huge part of her life path.  This list shows how deeply embodied Keelie's voice has become, but, in my opinion, the true gift of this list is Keelie's visual voice.  She may still at times struggle with her literal voice, but her voice through image and art is full-bodied and radiant.  The photograph and art pieces she chose to share with us capture the rawness of lived experience better than words ever could.  Looking at them takes me to the roots of feeling behind the words; they reflect universal aspects of self.  We can know ourselves better and see ourselves more clearly by considering the images and owning the emotions they mirror.

    Thank you Keelie for this brilliant and evocative mixed-media representation of your vulnerabilities.        -Shannon Leigh

    Keelie and Roz

    1. I never understood how to express anger throughout my childhood and still have a difficult time with it in my adult life. My toddler-level understanding has lead me to some wild moments: I have screamed in public places, punched walls, thrown things, broken objects. 

    2. My lack of understanding of anger has also led to inward manifestations of anger: depression, self doubt, fear and shame. 

    3. I labored naturally in my home for over 30 hours and ended up having Rozzy by c-section. I handled it like a champ, I did. It feels vulnearable to be proud of myself. It feels disappointing that we didn't get the homebirth that we wanted. I still keep going back to the thought that it's my fault or I did something wrong.

    4. My post pregnancy body is different. My connection with the core is different. My yoga practice is different. I have diastasis recti and it's a daily frustration at this point. I'm trying to accept the process, but often find myself dreaming of a future or past body that may not ever exist. 

    5. I'm not afraid of dying but I'm terrified to think about losing the ones I love the most, especially my husband. In the process of writing this damn list, I had a panic attack about it.

    6. I used to have panic attacks regularly from ages 17-25. Establishing a pranayama & mindful practice is something that keeps me calm & grounded, but clearly this is a life-long lesson for me.

    7.  I hated yin yoga the first time I tried it. What hindered me, and still does, is restlessness. 

    8. Which explains why I get so annoyed with laziness & lack of follow through. My restlessness leads me to getting involved in too many projects and causes. I tend to think that everyone is on the same level and wants to achieve the same goals at the same pace as me. 

    9. I'm caught in a loop of worthiness and shame. I am worthy in one moment and not good enough in the next. I use mantra to heal the pain of my past, but it is a challenging cycle for me to break. 

    10. My core fear is isolation/rejection. Teaching yoga, and really teaching at all, has been a vulnearable path for me. I was a young child with selective mutism and a teen with anxiety. I have always been soft spoken. The first time I had a public speaking event I broke out in hives. The old fear of isolation/rejection creeps in each time I speak in front of people. My quiet voice is the most regular complaint I hear from students.

    Keelie's further reflections on vulnerability:

    I arrive in a state of vulnerability every day. I expose my feelings, my emotions, my heart, my face. Each time I practice yoga, teach, paint, communicate and exist in community--I am vulnerable. Whether I'm alone, with my partner, on social media or face to face--I experience vulnerability every day. I know I'm not alone. I know you may feel connected to vulnerability and the preciousness of life, just like me. We are one and the same, you know. To be human is to be vulnerable to varying degrees. 

    I've been physically vulnerable in sexual situations, my home was broken into, and I was approached with a gun on the streets in Puerto Rico. (Sorry mom and dad, I never wanted to tell that to you face to face). I'm a lady, new mom, a stepmom and a true friend. Emotional vulnerability swirls about my space constantly. From time to time I get caught up in comparing my vulnerability, feeling that it is less or more than others. Those are hard times. When vulnerability becomes consuming, I try to remember that an easy, peaceful moment will come around again. 

    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
    Andrea's List
    Valerie's List

    Keelie's OWY Teaching Schedule

    6:00 - 7:15 PM  All Level Yoga  Norwalk    

    6:00 - 7:15 PM  Yin Yoga  Norwalk   

    10:00 - 11:15 AM  All Level Yoga  Sandusky

  • 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