Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yoga From the Heartland Regional Conference a Great Success!

A few of us from Harmony Yoga attended the Yoga from the Heartland Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference last week, September 15 -- 18.   It was a great success!

I heard positive comments from the other Harmony Yoga people who attended, although one also said that "there can be too much yoga" (it was definitely a lot of yoga, and I do agree -- I actually "played hooky" during one class...).

The first scheduled event, after registration was the "Meet and Greet Reception" with upbeat music and chanting by the kirtan group Devi 2000 , along with stilt walker (and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher) Koren Paalman in a Ganesh costume, walking and swaying to the music and greeting people.

Later that evening, we walked to the Chicago Cultural Center to hear paraplegic certified Iyengar Yoga teacher Matthew Sanford give an inspirational keynote address about his personal experience with Iyengar yoga, followed by cellist (and certified Iyengar Yoga teacher from Ann Arbor) Alicia Rowe, accompanying film footage of B.K.S. Iyengar at different stages in his life.

You can read a summary of Matthew Sanford's speech on the well-written blog post Behold Yoga: Yoga from the Heartland (also see a photo of the author doing Sirsasana with the back drop of the beautiful Palmer House hotel ceiling).

If you haven't already, I strongly recommend that you find a copy of Matthew Sanford's book, Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, about his journey of recovery after the devastating car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down when he was 13, and his experience with Iyengar Yoga as a way to help him more fully live in his own body.

The yoga classes were well-taught by Senior teachers in the morning, and Junior teachers (including me) in the afternoon.     I came away from each class that I took, both pranayama and asana classes, with gems that I can incorporate into my own practice, and into my teaching.   As I mentioned above, I played hooky for one class -- the backbending class -- because I had gotten about 4 hours of sleep the night before, and figured I had no business taking a difficult level 3 backbending class with so little sleep!   I missed a great class, but I also was able to refresh my batteries, so to speak,  by taking a nap, then walking through Chicago's Millenium Park, and on down to the lake to take in the sun and the view of the water.

The conference ended with a pleasing Closing Event, including Yoga Poetry by Peggy Hong, and chanting led by Leslie Freyberg.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What were you doing on 9/11, 2001?

Many of us remember exactly what we were doing the day of the 9/11 attacks.

I had just entered the yoga room where I was teaching my Tuesday 10am Gentle Yoga Class at the Ann Arbor YMCA, and one of my students said she had heard that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers.   I envisioned a small private plane that had gone astray, and thought it was tragic for the plane occupants, but I didn't think much more about it during class.   After class, while still at the YMCA, I found out it had been a commercial plane, and it had probably been a terrorist attack.   While I was shocked and dismayed, I still didn't realize the enormity of that event.

It was only when I returned home that the pieces started coming together.  One of the towers had already collapsed, my husband said, and another plane had crashed in PA.  And the bad news kept on coming in.  I remember sitting down, feeling bombarded by the ongoing horrible news, and not being able to stop crying for a long time.   Of course all of us were shocked and saddened that day and for a long time afterward.    

One of the senior Iyengar Yoga teachers (I don't remember who) wrote to B.K.S. Iyengar, asking how best to teach yoga classes to help those who had been directly or indirectly affected by the attacks.   We were all affected to some level.   Iyengar sent out a sequence which was rapidly dispersed and practiced throughout the U.S.

It was a restorative sequence that was developed to help depression and post traumatic stress syndrome, if I remember correctly.   Unfortunately I can't find the sequence now, but I do remember that B.K.S. Iyengar suggested that many people would benefit more from an eyes-open Savasana and in other quiet poses, especially those who were near ground zero and the other attacks.   Keeping the eyes open feels safer to many people, and we want our students to feel emotionally safe in their practice.   For some people when they close their eyes, all of the terrible visions that they've seen on television, or first hand, come rushing back.  With eyes open, they can see the immediate world around them, and be reassured that they are safe in the present moment.

Many of us taught this sequence, with some variations, for the next week or two, partly to help our own students deal with the stress of this horrible situation, but I think also partly in solidarity with yoga students near ground zero who experienced this tragedy first hand.

I hope on this 10 anniversary of the 9/11 attacks you are all feeling healthy and safe, and enjoying the company of people who are near and dear to you.