OWY Blog

  • 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
    Thursdays  

    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
    Monday
    10:30 - 11:45 Gentle Yoga in Norwalk

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

    Wednesday
    9:00 - 10:15 Sculpt Yoga in Huron

    Saturday
    8:30 - 9:45 Yoga Flow in Sandusky

    Sunday
    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
    Wednesday
    4:00 - 5:00 PM Yoga Flow in Norwalk

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

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

    Saturday 
    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.

    Overweight.  
    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.)  

    Inflexible.  
    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.)

    Weak.  
    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.)  

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

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

    Aging.  
    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.

    Namaste,
    Mary

     

  • Exercise: Compassion for the Body Letter

    Compassion for the Body is an idea some of us around the studio have explored this month as a part of our monthly theme Compassion.  For many of us the idea of applying compassion to ourselves, especially our bodies, is a completely foriegn idea.  We've never considered cultivating compassion for ourselves, instead we think of it as only something we do or don't offer to others.  

    To get started... if you're reading this and are like, "What, compassion for myself?  That's crazy!"  Go back and read Compassion for the Body.  

    If you'd like to join us in our exploration here is an exercise shared by Valerie Parker.  Take this idea deeper, it's life changing!   - Shannon Leigh

    Valerie in Fish Pose at the Huron studio.  Valerie teaches in Sandusky (Mondays 8:30 - 9:45 AM, Wednesdays 12 - 1:00 PM) and Norwalk (Tuesdays 12 - 1:00 PM)

    Exercise:  Letter to the Body

    Compassion, OWY's theme this month, reminds me of a very powerful exercise that I completed at a Kripalu workshop.

    Compassion is empathy, understanding, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth,  love, gentleness, mercy, kindness.  What we practice in ourselves shines through to others. Yet, for many of us our feelings about ourselves and our bodies are less than compassionate.    

    Body image is an area where so many of us experience critical self-judgement, and lack of compassion.  This exercise can help to illuminate the truth about your body.  

    Consider the following:

    Who has been part of your life from the day you were born until present?
    Who has never let you down no matter what, even when you didn’t make the best choices?
    Who listens attentively to your every word and thought?
    Who reveals every life sensation and emotion?
    Who is with you 24/7, 365 days a year throughout your life journey, through peak moments of joy and your deepest struggles?

    Answer:  Your dear friend, your body.

    Exercise:  Write a letter to your body as if you were writing to a dear friend: 

    Example:  (Both examples were written by Valerie)

    My dear body,
    This is what I have to tell you:

    I have to tell you thank-you for tolerating and being resilient to my ever changing judgemental mind.  I thank you for providing me with a healthy vehicle to do my daily work and giving me 4 beautiful children.  I want to thank you for allowing me to see, hear, feel, touch nature and others around me.  Body, I want to say I am sorry for loathing you and torturing you at times.  Body, thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking care of me.  

    Sincerely, Valerie

    Exercise:  Give your body a chance to respond.  You'll be amazed when you give voice to this part of yourself.  The body is very forgiving. 

    Example:
    Dearest Valerie,
    Here is my response to you:

    I have tirelessly given you my all, totally understanding your need to question and push me.  I have joyfully nourished you, pumped your blood and protected you from the environment.  I have without thought or concern served your needs through joy and sadness.  I will continue to do my very best every moment of every day.  

    Love, Your Body

    Thanks Valerie for this vulnerable share!  Stay tuned for more on Vulnerability - up and coming as March's theme.

  • Love:  From us to you!

    Love: From us to you!

    At OWY many of us are artists and lovers of art.  The heart above is a pour-painting made by Erin Percy and gifted to Sherrena for her birthday.  We are sharing it with you along with this medatative love poem to bless your Valentine's day! 
    xoxoxox-Shannon

    Whether you are coupled or single love is for you!  

    Contrary to popular opinion love does not move from the outside in, from others into us.  Love is an experience that radiates from the inside out.  This is such a relief, it means love is here - all the love you could ever want and need, already yours...  Be a fearless explorer of the terrain of your own heart, sink into yourself and find love!

    Love
    by Czeslaw Milosz

    Love means to learn to look at yourself
    The way one looks at distant things
    For you are only one thing among many.
    And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
    Without knowing it, from various ills.
    A bird and a tree say to him: Friend. 

    Then he wants to use himself and things
    So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
    It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
    Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

    (From from New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001.)

  • Converging Paths Meditation Group at OWY

    Have you met Larry and Ann Smith?  This Huron couple is such an inspiration to me.  I love how they look around and see what they would like more of in the world and then work to create it.  Ann has her PhD in nursing and taught nursing at the Medical College in Toledo for 18 years; she had her own practie as a psychiatric mental health clinical nurse specialist, providing counseling & reiki; she is well known and loved by many in our commnity.  Larry taught English and Creative Writing at Firelands for 35 years before he retired, he is a writer, founded and directed Bottom Dog Press a local publishing company now in its 34th year, and hosts monthly writing workshops and poetry readings at Mr. Smiths (2nd Saturdays in Sandusky).  Meditation is a big part of Ann and Larry's lives and they have attended retreats with Thich Nhat Hanh and Tara Brach.  They have been hosting Converging Paths Meditation at different locations for 11 years.  We are happy they have found a home with us at Open Way - they meet Tuesday evenings at the Huron Studio!          -Shannon 

    Welcome to Converging Paths Meditation!

    Imagine sitting quietly feeling safe and comfortable. Your breath is calm and slow. All of your muscles slowly relax. You feel the air on your skin and the cushion or chair beneath you; you are aware of any sensations in your body. Thoughts about the future or worries about the past float automatically into your mind and you notice but you don’t become attached to each one or start a worrying cycle. Instead, over and over you bring your attention back to the sensations of breathing. 

    In this state of relaxed awareness, breathing becomes slower and deeper sending oxygen into the blood. Your blood vessels dilate and oxygenated blood flows freely into each cell, tissue and organ of your body. When breathing slows down, it automatically slows the heartbeat and decreases blood pressure. The brain calms down to slower brain waves and the mind is relaxed and alert. Muscles can loosen and relax thus decreasing tightness and pain. All of these physical changes have been proven through much research.

    This slowing down gives the body and mind a pause, a chance to rest and renew. Learning to pause can affect how we respond to and deal with difficult situations. We learn to take a pause and give ourselves space to think before we say or do something that is regretful. We learn to live in the moment noticing what is around us and who we are within the moment rather than ruminating over the past which is over or obsessing over the future. The best way to deal with the future is to live in the now. 

    There are many physical and emotional problems that can be positively affected by meditating regularly. Some of these include lowered blood pressure, decreased anxiety, improved sleep, decreased jaw clenching, decreased neck and head pain, higher brain function, Improved immune function, increased attention and focus, increased clarity in thinking and perception, experience of being calm and internally still.

    If this experience appeals to you, please join us for quiet group meditation every Tuesday evening at 7:30 – 8:45 at Open Way Yoga in Huron. We are an eclectic group of people who enjoy sitting together. Each session begins with guided meditation for a few minutes helping us to settle in and find our quiet to meditate, followed by slow walking meditation, calming yoga stretches typically led by Sharon, and we end with silent meditation pulling the mind and body together.  –Ann Smith

    This is a poem by co-founder Larry Smith, it presents some of the intention and broad acceptance of the group as we converge each session.

    Converging Paths  

    Is our name for it
    a center where we come
    to stretch and sit
    breathe silence together.

    We’ve chosen the labyrinth
    as symbol, the one from Chartres
    that slowly winds into itself
    in darkness and light.

    And so we come from diverse ways
    into one, a union of acceptance,
    unforced but found,
    as though we’ve all arrived
    at the same anonymous station.

    Not destination, but paths
    we find within ourselves.

    May you be well…

  • Featured Pose: Eagle and Variations

    Our February Focus is Eagle Pose (Garudasana) as we explore the theme Compassion.  I like to think of Eagle Pose as a self-hug... and it is so much more!  Strengthening, stabilizing, focus building, shoulder & back-of-heart opening, and, as it opens the back of the torso, it can be helpful for those with lower back pain and sciatica.  

    Eagle Pose and a few of it's myriad of variations are explored in these photos of Keelie at the Huron studio.  

    1.  Eagle Pose: Full Variation.  Arms bound so that palms touch.  Legs wrapped so that the top of the bound foot tucks behind the standing leg.  Stasbilize this pose by grounding through the standing foot, squeezing the legs together, tucking the tail bone slightly and compacting through the front of the pelvis. (Solidity in the core is essential for standing balance poses.)The next two images explore leg modifications.

    2.  Eagle Pose: Kickstand Variation. Arms bound, toes of the wrapping leg touch the floor for stability.  This accessible variation offers extra stability through the legs which allows the practitioner to stabilize the core and focus on the arms without the added challenge of balance.3.  Eagle Pose: Lifed Leg Variation.  Wrapping leg lifts to challenge balance, but does not tuck behind standing leg.

    Men especially can have particular difficult with Eagle Pose in the upper body.  The three following variations are arm modifications.  

    4.  Eagle Pose: Hooked Finger Variation.  If you cannot bring your palms flat together, hook the thumb and fingers.

    5.  Eagle Pose: Self-Hug Arm Variation.  Arms cross and wrap around the back, grasp and gently pull the shoulder blades apart.5.  Eagle Pose: Stacked Arms Modification.  Lift the elbows to deepen into the upper back.The following two images are fun variations for deeper exploration.

    6.  Eagle Pose : Seated Modification.  Cow-faced legs with eagle arms.  Lift the elbows and pull the shoulder blades onto the back for a nice stretch across the tops of the shoulders, then release the elbows down and bow forward, letting the weight of the arms pull the shoulder blades apart behind the back.

    7.  Eagle Pose: Inverted.  Eagle legs can be done in shoulder stand or headstand to add variety and a host of benefits to your inversions.  Squeeze the legs in toward the mid-line.

    Thanks Keelie for the lovely photo shoot!