KJHS

Teaching yoga online has been an opportunity to learn and grow. My style of teaching is not demo centered. I prefer not to do the whole class in front of a camera, but to observe my students so that I might be truly present with them, hold space for them, and guide them. I want to see them.

Rather than relying on using my body to show, (which I’ve never done too much of, it’s not how I learned) I am relying on my ability to cue more clearly. If I am doing the practice with my students, I am not really there for them 100%. Example, I can’t see their down dogs, if I’m in down dog too.

This is just personal preference. There is no right or wrong way to do yoga, or to teach yoga. There are those that might argue demo is the way to go.

Teaching online was really confusing at first. Each person in their own little Zoom box is facing a different direction. Some of the cameras flip the screen so it is mirrored. Everyone isn’t moving in unison. Ack!

There are usually one or two yoga teachers in each class I teach. At first, I attempted to cheat and watch them, to get my bearings, my lefts and my rights correct. I figured they knew what they were doing. But here’s the thing about yoga teachers. They do their own thing. They are the least likely ones in class to be doing what you tell them. So that backfired. lol

Better to watch the students more closely as you find your way.

About two weeks into online teaching I realized I was getting really anxious after classes. Really doubtful about whether the class was good. Whether the students were happy. Had I done something wrong? Said something wrong? I didn’t understand, because I never feel like that after teaching live classes.

The next day, I told a joke, and the dead silence of my students (who are on mute to avoid clashing background noises) hit me. That’s it! I am not getting feedback from the students. It is hard to read the room when you can’t hear them. When you can’t necessarily see all their faces.

I’d been teaching this group for years, and I knew they’d think what I’d said was funny. (Trust me, I’m hilarious). So I did a pivot in my mind, and decided to think,

“They laughed. They totally laughed.”

And it really helped.

This incident gave me insight into what it must be like for my daughter who is on the autism spectrum, to never know how what you said landed. To not be able to rely on social cues for feedback. It cracked my heart open a little more.

A couple of months in, I’ve got the hang of it now. I am enjoying teaching from my bedroom, seeing all the dogs and cats, the living rooms and guests rooms and patios of my students. It’s strangely intimate, at a distance.

We un-mute at the beginning and at the end of classes for that real-time, if not in-person connection.

I look forward to the day we can all be in the same physical room. I look forward to a day when it is okay to hug again.

This world has gone mad, but we have the yoga practice to sustain us. We find our way back to ourselves on our mats, over and over again. It is my great honor to be able to guide students in this way, and I’m so glad that for now we can do it online.

Mercy to the humans.

This breath in.
This breath out.

 

My current online schedule:

Tuesday: Gentle Flow 4PM EST
Thursday: Full-Soul-Ahead, prayer infused Vinyasa (more vigorous) 9:30AM EST
Sunday: 1PM EST Flow Writer, Self-expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

*Photo is my of my sister, in her Zoom box. She was practicing with me from her attic loft. I’d mentioned our late grandmother in the class, and how she always said,

“Go in the Light that is given you.”

And then…this.

 

 

 
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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Not reacting, but assessing a situation and then… making a measured response. Or choosing not to respond at all.

We don’t need to take the bait.
We don’t need to attend every argument we are invited to.

We don’t need to finish everything we started if it no longer resonates with our soul’s intention.

We don’t need to people please.

We don’t need to explain ourselves.

You know in your gut when someone is inauthentic. Don’t talk yourself out of knowing it. 

In yoga, if what the teacher is suggesting doesn’t make sense for your body, you don’t have to do it. Maybe you make an adjustment.

Variations of each pose exist. One is not better than another.

Moving the hips higher, or the feet back a smidge might make it better. Might make it worse. Take some pressure off the wrists. Activate your thighs. It’s okay to explore. To be present and discerning in each pose. And in each transition. 

Your teacher will guide you, but you are the boss.

What feels right? In this moment.

What do I need right now? More? Less? 

What about now?

Stillness is the key.

Calm down. 

You know what to do.

You do.

Discern. 

This breath in. 
This breath out. 

 

My schedule this week: 

Tuesday: Gentle Flow 4PM EST
Thursday: Full-Soul-Ahead, prayer infused Vinyasa (more vigorous) 9:30AM EST
Sunday: 1PM EST Flow Writer, Self-expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

 

 

 

 

 

Tues: Gentle Flow 4PM EST
Thursday: Full-Soul-Ahead, prayer infused Vinyasa (more vigorous) 9:30AM EST
Sunday: 1PM EST Flow Writer, Self-expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

Karma

Ilonka Michelle O'Neil

“And now I’m serving time for mistakes

made by another, in another life time.

How long til’ my soul gets it right?”

-Galileo, Indigo Girls

The theme this week at Sattva Wisdom Center is Karma. And boy is it a loaded one! Diving into it there are so many directions one could take, but I will be keeping it simple in my classes. Karma is action and reaction. The more conscious we are in our lives, the more we will reap what we want to sow.

This week, I enjoyed listening to a podcast on Karma with Vinny Ferraro. I’d never heard of him before, but he is a Dharma teacher who sounds a bit like Andrew Dice Clay. (Lots of F’s, which happens to be my first language, so I felt right at home, though I never curse in the classes I teach).

Some things I gleaned from listening to his talk:

We can use the concept of Karma as a way to judge or blame ourselves and others. Or we can use it to empower ourselves and take responsibility for our actions, past and present.

We cannot go back and change the past, (and forget it with previous lifetimes?) but we would do well to make amends where we can, right now, and to never underestimate the healing power of a heartfelt apology, both for the giver and the receiver.

We can, as my grandmother used to say, “Go in the light that is given us.” We know what is right and what is wrong. We can do what is right in this moment, which will absolutely affect the future.

Collectively we cannot expect to plunder the earth’s resources, to take more than our share, and have no consequences for it. Nor should we use the concept of Karma as a way to dismiss the suffering of others.

The concept of Karma is so vast, but at its most basic and manageable we can tune into our hearts and move through our days practicing Ahimsa, making every effort to do no harm.

That will put us in good stead.

We don’t have to make it so big, and so complicated. We are all works in progress, and can do the next right thing, on the way to becoming more of who we want to be.

 

My schedule this week: Eastern Standard Time.

Tuesday & Thursday: 4PM Gentle Yoga
Thursday: 9:30, Prayer Infused Vinyasa Flow
Sunday: 12PM (note time change for this week only) Flow Writer, Self-Expression through yoga & writing

Register here.

 

 

 

 

 

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In 2016, I was rear ended when I stopped for a pedestrian at a crosswalk. The car behind me didn’t break. My car was totaled. My neck injured. It’s been a long road.

While lucky I wasn’t more severely injured, the accident did result in me being in a lot of pain, for a long time. I’d never lived with chronic pain before, and it really opened my eyes to what people who have it feel like. For me, it was as if there were a leak in my life force, I was being drained of my energy…this pain that wouldn’t let up. It made me less patient. More cranky. More reactive. That went on for a couple of years.

I tried a lot of different things. Injections. Procedures. PT. Everything helped a little, and I got to the point where I wasn’t in pain all the time. But if I did Vinyasa yoga, I would be in quite a bit of pain for at least three days after. Finally my wonderful physical therapist told it to me straight. With my injuries, which were permanent, (skeletal stuff) that kind of practice was no longer a good idea. It would likely always cause me pain.

It was a blow. It’s what I loved. It’s what I taught. Something really important was taken from me. My identity and my “winning personality” took a hit for a while.

Over time, I have found other ways to move and breathe and even flow, but I wasn’t able to take a vigorous yoga class. Not without a lot of pain after. I’ve been practicing and teaching really gentle classes for a few years now. I’ve learned a lot. It’s been good for me as a student and as a teacher. I no longer have chronic pain every day, though it still comes and goes, depending on what I’ve been doing.

But recently, I’ve been learning a new way to flow that doesn’t hurt me. I’m excited to share it. Starting Thursday I am going to be teaching a more vigorous (prayer infused) Vinyasa flow, minus the chatarangas, and with a lot less forward folds. Maybe your body will like it too.

If you have shoulder or neck pain, if you’re sick to death of chatarangas but you love to flow, I hope you come try my new Full-Soul-Ahead! class on Thursday AM’s at 9:30EST at Sattva Wisdom Center. Starts this week!

I love Vinyasa.
Love shouldn’t hurt.

This breath in.
This breath out.

See you in your little Zoom square. Can’t wait!

Full-Soul-Ahead!

 

 

 

 

 

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The photo above is of a group of writers whom I adore in Cleveland, Ohio. We would get together once a month and read what we had written from a prompt assigned the month prior. The group was modeled after another local writing group that had been together for over a dozen years. Prior to forming our group, I asked one of their members, a dear friend of mine, what the secret to their cohesiveness was, and she said,

“No critiques.”

If you’ve ever been in a writing critique group, you might know how brutal they can be. Those who argue the virtue of critique groups say, “You’ll never get better if you can’t take criticism.”

I say, you’ll never get to the heart of what you’re needing to write if you do not feel safe.

So, the rule was no critiques. BUT, if you wanted to have your piece workshopped by one or more members of the group, you could do that outside the monthly circle. The circle would be sacred.

The writing that came out of this group was exquisite. I remember feeling buzzy, just surrounded by incredible talent, and held in sacred space. That writing group counted as one of my biggest losses when we moved from Cleveland. I’ve missed it/them dreadfully.

Very shortly after moving to Florida in 2013, I became a yoga teacher. Like writing, it was a practice I’d loved for a long time and the transition point in my life made it possible to take the plunge into teacher training. I absolutely love teaching yoga and count it as one of my greatest blessings.

This week, I am THRILLED to begin a new adventure combining writing and yoga. I honestly don’t know why I have not done this sooner. When a friend recently suggested it, I felt my heart do a happy leap. It was a “Hell, yes!”

With the COVID-19 “great pause” upon us, there could not be a better time. We all have a lot to process right now, and what better way to do that than through yoga and writing?

Flow Writer, Self-Discovery Through Yoga and Writing will begin with a gentle yoga practice, suitable for beginners. We will move some physical energy through for about 45-minutes. Then we will write to a prompt. Students will have the opportunity to read their work out loud, (if they choose to) which can be a profound and healing experience. Feedback will be very specific, directed, and short. No critique.

This is an ongoing class. People can drop in any week. You do not need prior yoga or writing experience. All are welcome. You are cordially invited.

It starts Sunday, May 3, at 1:00PM EST on Zoom, sign up via Sattva Wisdom Center.

I cannot wait.

* A portion of the proceeds from every offering at Sattva Wisdom Center goes to the Palm Beach Food Bank. So, while you fill your own cup, you are also giving to those who truly need it at this time. It is a very special center, and I am honored to be part of it. Check out   the many offerings, including two free Wisdom Lounge sessions here.

** First week was a great success! The students who showed up were open and brave.

 

 

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The other night there was a worldwide meditation. People from all over the globe visualized an end to the corona virus. It was so late on the east coast, I had a hard time staying awake, but I did it. The teens were pulled from their bedrooms, and our whole family flopped on the sectional sofa at the designated time and closed our eyes and imagined a better world for all.

Prior to the meditation, Todd and I listened to spiritual teacher Matt Kahn who was giving a FB live talk. The one thing I remember from it was the question he suggested we ask ourselves, “With this choice, whose life am I improving?”

It reminds me of the often cited teaching, which suggests before we speak, asking ourselves four questions:

Is it helpful? Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

With this choice, whose life am I improving? 

With this choice to stay home, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to call and check in with friends/relatives, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to criticize my spouse, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to continue to pay, if we can swing it, those who work for us with no benefits and no income right now, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to let the teenagers sleep til’ noon, whose life am I improving? (Mine. Yes, today I will allow it. Quiet time alone is improving MY life today and that is good for all involved). lol

With this choice to post whatever I am posting to social media, whose life am I improving?

With this choice to consume (food, media, whatever, _________ fill in the blank), whose life am I improving?

It is about mindfulness. About making conscious choices. About doing no harm, if we can.

I look out the window behind my desk, and see a blue-jay, flitting about. I see the tree branches sway in the wind, while the trunk is solid and unyielding. I note the overcast sky with the sun peeking through.

I make a choice to hold the suffering of the world in my heart. To not look away. I make a choice not to sink. Most of the time.

“I do not know what I am looking at, so I must not judge what I see.”

This line from A Course in Miracles buoys me.

I make a choice to be “willing to consider” there is a bigger picture here, one I am not yet capable of understanding.

Just the “willingness to consider” burns off an outer layer of despair.

This breath in.
This breath out.

Choice, by choice, by choice.

 

*I am teaching gentle yoga ONLINE at Sattva Wisdom Center, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4PM. During this time of crises, a portion of of the proceeds from each class will go to a local food bank. If you are inspired to, I would love for you to come take a breath with me, from the comfort of your own home.