Filming at Studio - Volunteers Needed!

Dear ones:

We are very fortunate to have some talented filmmakers donating their time to help us make a promotional video for the studio. Filming will be happening all day on June 8th, both inside the studio and outside at Wright Park. This is where you come in! We'd love to have you come practice with us bright and early at 8am in Wright Park, and we'd also love to see you in any one of our regularly scheduled classes that day. All classes, the entire day, will be free, and special consent forms will be on hand. (We also understand that some folks will not want to be on film, so we will remind the community as the date approaches in case they want to avoid the studio that day.) 

Interested? Click here and fill out this form. We'll send more details as we get closer. 

Thank you!

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I always appreciate an opportunity for a David Bowie reference. (May he rest in peace.) And there’s no time like Spring to reference this particular song, a time when the world changes right before our very eyes. Daffodils that are closed tight in the morning are opened by lunch, rainbows appear as if out of nowhere, and cherry blossoms bloom overnight.

We’ve been moving and continue to move through some changes at the studio. One big change is that Kate has transitioned out of her role as co-director, after many years of service in leadership, and into the role of staff teacher.  Our long-time community member and accounting goddess, Emilie, is adjusting to the sudden loss of her partner. Our long-time teacher Heidi is finding her footing as the director of Yoga Soleil in Puyallup, while continuing to teach here. And we’re of course working on the summer schedule (current class schedule goes through end of May) and the changes it will bring.

My favorite phrase from David Bowie’s afore-referenced song is “stream of warm impermanence”. Despite the fact that we live in a physical world that is constantly changing, we just as constantly forget that the nature of all things is to change, transform, and renew. (How humorous that even our awareness of impermanence is impermanent!)

What does it mean to be in the stream of impermanence? I know sometimes I want to climb right on out of the stream, plop down on the riverbank and make like a stone. As if resisting change slows it in any way. Even the stone that appears to be stable was once just grains of sand, and is slowly being worn away by sun and water and air.

I had a step-mother for a time who used to say to me, “Don’t fight the current baby – you’re gonna lose.” My 12-year old self knew she was right and it’s been proven over and over again. So, for me, being in the stream of impermanence means trusting the current. Knowing that things change and transform because they must. Remembering that we can both honor transition AND keep moving forward. Resting in the wisdom that everything and everyone is in a constant state of becoming.

Thank you for being co-creators of the constant becoming that is the SKY community. The stream of impermanence is most certainly warmer for having all of you in it.

Love,

V

 

Some things to put on your radar:

2 April, 4 to 5pm – Once monthly Kirtan

8 April, 1 to 4pm – Unique You with Linden Griffiths

29 April, 1 to 4pm, Restorative Alchemy with Sara Corbishley

5 June, 8pm, An Evening with Girish

Episode 17 of the podcast is up!

We’ll have a reduced schedule over Memorial Day weekend and our summer schedule will begin June 1st.

Give Big Month begins June 22nd and Yoga in the Park will be on July 22nd!

Ready: A Message from Kate

In the traditions of my Celtic ancestors, today was considered the first day of spring: St. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc.  A feast of hearth and home, this was also the day when the Goddess Brigid began bringing the world out of the womb of winter’s dark and into the awakening of the seasons of light, sparking the new growth of tree buds and sprouting plants.  Winters in the north Atlantic can be dreary (I happened to have lived in Ireland during the the rainiest it had seen in 60 years!  It was dreary indeed) so it seems reasonable that spring would be so anticipated.  It is also fitting that it marks my first day back from my winter sabbatical.

For anyone who wasn’t involved at the time, I went on leave back in early December for mental health (read that post here).  After a good long rest, I am returning today to my teaching and administrative duties.  I feel well and ready.  

I know what you’re saying: Really?  That’s it?  Do you really feel well?  Yes.  Truly. My own journey through and with depression has I’m sure been both unique in ways and mundane in ways.  I can’t speak at all for what anyone else may experience.  But what I can say about this last period is that, with the great privilege of my position, and with the help of so many, I got to take the space to experience what I was experiencing.  I am deeply humbled and full of gratitude for the opportunity to have done this.  That it was possible to ask for what I needed and have many forces rise to make it happen was a healing in itself.  

Beyond that, I can’t fully explain, but here’s what I know. There was a period of feeling very lost.  And then a period of incredible opening.  A new energy flooded through me.  Ideas came and I felt such a sure presence of Unconditional Love.  And the depression just simply passed.  It moved through.  It lifted.  It circled the perimeter of my experience as if guarding what was happening inside me.  It I-don’t-really-know-what.  I am coming out this side feeling peaceful and trusting the forces of Good that have brought me through.  I am coming out feeling sure about a few things, and opened to a good many still uncertain things.  And though I can’t say that I will never experience that again, though I can’t know why I experience depression the way I do, I know my relationship with the experience of depression—and what is possible for me within and through it—has forever changed.

There are many more things I could tell you about this time—wacky things that happen when you follow the trail of breadcrumbs of your soul: an image from a dream that re-occurs in a comment made by a person who gives you a book that tells a story about an animal that you encounter the very next day, that you find out is the symbol for some ancient wisdom and on and on.  Subtle messages and mysteries unfolding.  

I passed the time in beautiful and normal ways.  I prayed the Psalms and fasted with nuns;  I took lots of walks in the trees and by the water; I daydreamed—literally laying on the floor and waiting for an impulse or a thought that came or didn’t; I binge-watched the OA on Netflix and read sacred texts (ie. Harry Potter and books about the Goddess); I had lots of talks with a few dear friends and elders; and lots of not talking and just being in the fluctuations of my Being; I had moments of insight and revelation; moments of desperation; moments of “this again?!” I had beautiful and sad nights of prayer for our nation and all of us tasked with living and loving in this time.  I got a lot of care, healing treatments and delicious food from my community.  I practiced ceremony and ritual and also frivolous things.  I spent the New Moon (this past weekend) on Shi-Shi Beach, out at Neah Bay, just barely escaping the rain to arrive home for a hamburger, fries, and a bath.  In short—I just was alive, having a lot of human time.  

About a week ago, I started to peer between the threads of my cocoon at the world I’ve insulated myself from over this time—the heart of a seed pressing up through slivers in the casing, an urge to move up and out at Brigid’s beckoning.  I started listening slowly to the podcasts and news stations I follow, popping on social media for a few minutes here and there—not posting, just peering.  I see you, World.  And I’m ready for you.

I don’t have a cohesive analysis to deliver on my return.  I have lots of little messages: Think less.  Feel more.  This is the Voice you can’t ignore anymore.  We have always been loving you.  Whatever you reject is an abandoned part of your heart.  Let your grief rest in the Loving Earth.  Let your Warrior self be in service to your highest purpose.  Don’t be afraid to Let Life In…) so I’m just going to ask that you let me re-enter gently and share of myself gradually.  I’m still me of course!  Hopefully all the more so.  And I’ll be returning gladly as me to my classes and offerings at SKY.  But like any wintering or time of metamorphosis—precious, essential times—there is always something fundamentally changed on the other side.  What that is exactly is still unfolding, integrating and finding its way into my story.

With love,
Kate

An image that came to me after a breath work practice during my sabbatical: me, standing on Earth in my Life surrounded by loving angels.  Yes!  I am ready!

An image that came to me after a breath work practice during my sabbatical: me, standing on Earth in my Life surrounded by loving angels.  Yes!  I am ready!

What, why and how – Yoga for a Vibrant Life - A guest post from Nina Rook

So what had just happened?

I was standing outside the improvised yoga studio where I had just taken my first class for 20 years.  The poses were familiar, the feeling was not.  I was tired, tingling and energized, all at once.  Every cell in my body seemed to be reminding me that it was there.  My body and mind felt light.  My mind had been so focused that 90 minutes had felt like 9 minutes – or 9 hours.  I had no idea what had just happened to me, but I knew I wanted more of it.

Over the next few years yoga, in my case in the Iyengar tradition, became an important part of my life. I found my teachers, studied hard, practiced, and slowly built confidence in the reality of what my body and mind were experiencing. I appreciated the physical benefits of improved strength, flexibility and balance.  I also appreciated the slow retreat of anxiety and mental dullness, replaced by calm and a sense of vibrant energy.  Subjectively I could feel that my yoga practice was helping me maintain my health and mobility over time, but, as an engineer and a researcher, I wanted to understand the what, why and how using a more familiar frame of reference than the yoga sutras or ayurveda.  But when I looked at what the Western scientific tradition had to say about what I was experiencing there was almost complete silence. 

Move forward a couple of decades, and I am still experiencing the extraordinary benefits of yoga.  And Western medicine is catching up with our lived experience.  Within the last 10 years we have seen well-designed experimental studies that demonstrate the efficacy of different practices – to which long-term yogis tend to say “What took you so long?”  But real advances from physiology to brain imaging to modeling body mechanics cast more light on the “what”, the “why” and the “how”.  And it works – when I know how specific techniques address what specific challenges, I am able to focus in my practice and be clearer in my teaching.  Understanding why something happens helps me recognize the strengths and limitations of yoga.  If I can communicate basic rules that can be incorporated into a home practice, people are more likely to do that practice. And I see what relating yoga to Western frames of reference gives to my students.  Often, working with familiar concepts gives people confidence to explore and build.  And as the body of Western work grows, it becomes easier to incorporate yoga into a range of health practices, allowing Western medicine and yoga their appropriate complementary roles.

I have had help along the way, especially from the great people at “Yoga for Healthy Aging”.  This group of researchers, teachers, Ayurvedic practitioners, doctors and therapists – all longterm yoga practitioners – straddles yoga and Western medicine, and has built a wonderful knowledge base embedded in their blog.  I had the privilege of being among the first class of certified “Yoga for Healthy Aging” teachers.

Today, I see my work as sharing the good news of what yoga can help us with, while sharing the why and the how in Western terms. Yoga is not a quick fix or a miracle cure, but if practiced diligently it allows us to take some responsibility for, and exercise some control over, our wellbeing.  Think prevention first, not radical intervention.  The 8-hour program, “Yoga for Vibrant Living:  Preparing for the Second Half of Life” that I am offering at SKY this year shows concrete ways in which yoga can support your physical, mental, and emotional health as you age, with practical preventative strategies for bone strength, muscle strength, flexibility, agility, balance, stress management and equanimity.  All yoga based, all supported by Western studies.  I hope that you will be able to join me to share them.

You can register for Yoga for Vibrant Living here.

New Year, Same You

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I’ve found that change, for me, does not come on specific dates but rather in specific circumstances. When I’m feeling seen and understood - exactly as I am and not how I hope to be - I feel safe to notice and explore the areas where I’d like to change. 

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been influenced by the prevailing culture of bigger, better, faster, thinner, stronger, etc. So many “–ers”.  We can be forgiven for believing that we’re meant to be on an ever-increasing-in-speed treadmill of self-improvement. The yoga industry, like so many others, has played into this, selling a gospel of happiness and peace as long as you get with the program: Learn to stand on your head to get a new perspective! Twist out the negativity! Meditate the hate away!

What feels true for me today as I sit with a challenging year behind and a fresh year ahead, is that the world will be needing us. We’ll be asked to show up in ways we can imagine and in ways we can’t imagine. And I believe we’ll need to keep reminding each other that we are needed exactly as we are.  We don’t have to be better, stronger, smarter, thinner; we don’t have to be more flexible, more successful; we don’t need to have it all figured out. But we do need to show up and remember who we are.

For this work of remembering who we are, community is essential. In the eyes of each other we see ourselves reflected and in the hands of each other we feel ourselves held, exactly as we are. In each other’s strengths our weaknesses are met and in each other’s wounds, we find our capacity for mutual healing. In true community, where everyone thrives, we can trust that if we listen and are willing, we will know the next steps and changes needed.

I spent the last day of 2016 in community on a day-long retreat through our friends at Source Yoga. This beautiful poem was offered and I offer it to you now. 

Happy New Year to all! See you in the studio. 

With immense gratitude for who you are,

V

Sharing More of Me

Dear Friends-

I’m not really sure how to talk about this in such a public way, so I’ll just try to be honest and direct.  In my classes and writings over the years, you may have heard me sharing at times that I’ve struggled with depression off and on throughout my life.  I am seeing now that for the most part I shared about it as something in the past.  It is, however, something very present.  Over the past month or so, I’ve been experiencing a particularly acute depressive period.  Consequently, I will be taking a sabbatical from teaching and administrative duties through the end of January.  This feels like a miracle to me, and is possible thanks to the way we’ve set up our organization and the loving care of my community.

I want you to know that I am ok and have a lot of resources and support, and am in an odd way excited for this chance to go deeply into my own healing and discovery and bring back what I find.  I am already learning so much.  I have been studying my patterns of depression for years, and have an awareness of it this time around that already feels deeper and different and more spacious.  I can trace its progression in direct correlation to the events occurring in the world right now, that have set all my own traumas humming.  I am certain I’m not the only who has been equally impacted, or more so, and some days wonder how anyone is functioning at all in the world right now.  

I am seeing that, for me, depression shows up to cushion the places where I’m still just raw and wounded—pointing me towards the places I’m being called to heal.  I can feel, just beneath the depression, some really big mads and sads that I’m thankful to now have the space to feel, process, and integrate.  This awareness, I’m finding, is allowing me to orient towards my depression in a much kinder, almost (almost!) grateful way.  I can, at times, appreciate the genius of survival that is there in my own psyche’s capacity to dampen the intensity of traumatic events—those in my own person and history and ancestry, and in what I believe is sweeping through our collective consciousness.

I have a worry that sharing all this may feel burdensome.  I have a worry of being judged—which perhaps points as much to my own self-judgement as to the cultural stigma—knowing the privileged nature of my situation and choices, and that what I struggle with isn’t nearly the worst that others may experience in their life.  I also feel a little worried about drawing this kind of attention to an aspect of myself that has been difficult to love.  

I am choosing, though, to share because it felt like the most integrous way to fulfill on my commitment to my community, to my path as a teacher and healer, and to my self.  I share to be honest about what’s going on for me and to practice showing up in my wholeness—even the parts I’d rather keep hidden. I share because of the double-whammy of depression—which may be true for mental illness of any kind—is first the struggle to be functional while living in a thick weighted fog.  And second, the un-nameability of it—the silence, the shame, the stigma, the barren isolation.  I know too that I’m not the only one who lives with depression—and my prayer is that, in sharing my experience, there is, if not a little more light shined on the experience of another, then at least companionship on the difficult and often lonely path.

Healing, for me, requires not hiding that this is my struggle.  I’m not excited about it, but I’m not afraid for it to be known and named and seen because it is simply what is so.  And this not hiding is making a difference already.  In the past when I was in a place like this, I’d be so averse to the company of others—not so much because I didn’t want to be around people, but because I felt like a black hole of emptiness that sucked the life out of everyone else.  I cannot express to you what a blessing it is to be able to just name the black hole, and then carry on.  I can already feel the texture of the depression shifting because I am not having to pretend it isn’t there.  As it shifts, I feel my Self, just there still, deep at the center, a little distant, a little fragile, but intact.

The response to my asking for this kind of space and support has been humbling and awesome.  It is something I wish so profoundly was possible for everyone at those times of great need, which we undoubtedly will all face at some point in life.  It’s the kind of thing that my practice and long labors of friendship have gifted me the trust in others and self-worth to be able to ask for and receive.  When guilt hits, I try to remember the gift of being able to support others when they’ve asked for what they needed and when I truly had something to give.  When I worry that I’m asking for too much, I am practicing trusting that those around can and will say no to anything that feels like too much. I am, in these long Advent nights, listening and praying constantly.

My deepest bow of thanks to Vania, who has responded with such genuine care and understanding, and is literally kicking administrative ass right now.  Please bring her chocolate.  An equal bow of thanks to all our teachers, staff, and Board stepping up to support while I’m on leave, and for believing in and helping to shape the vision of a community and organization that would allow me to do this--where what we are up to is healing, and where it is happening is on every interpersonal and institutional level.

I will see you around!  I’ll be taking class and doing things here and there.  Don’t be shy about asking me how I’m doing, as long as your ok with my honest answer.  I’m taking my turn to occupy space as just another one of the precious bodies that we serve through love, connection, and mutual healing within Beloved Community.

Ever journeying,
Kate

Thriving in Winter: 7 Ayurvedic Tips from Pamela Higley, AYS

Winter is my favorite time of year, but for many it is not. Winter brings colder, damper, and darker days, which is not always a motivator to be active and engaging; we may be experiencing a lack of motivation to do much of anything, frankly.

Inviting just a few self-care practices into my daily routine helps me to stay focused and healthy during these gloomier months. I do this through the practice of Ayurveda, a sister science of Yoga that has been practiced for thousands of years and teaches us to live in rhythm with nature.

In Ayurveda speak winter is ruled by Vata and Kapha. What does this mean in English? Well, it means a whole lot of moist, cold, and windy weather is whirling around. This energy impacts us both physically and mentally. Physically, you may be feeling cold and sluggish; you may even have dry, rough skin. Mentally you might be feeling anxious and fidgety, or you could be experiencing forgetfulness and a lack of motivation.

Here are a few nurturing and healing practices you can invite into your daily routine to help:

Wake by 6am or a smidge earlier if you can. The hours between 6 and 10 am and pm are the Kapha time a day, so if possible, wake before 6am – 5:50am would do the trick. Creating a Sankulpa, or an intention for your day can help as well. This could be a word, a phrase, or an idea that you are inviting into your life. Take a moment to breath in the new day and set your intention before getting out of bed.

Drink a cup of hot water with lemon. This will get your digestive fire moving in the morning, also know as agni. It will also help you eliminate easier.

Use a tongue scraper. If you do not have a tongue scraper you can use a spoon. Ama are toxins that our body produces when out of balance and over night while in rest. It’s often present as mucus and as the coating we sometimes find on our tongue. You know? The funky whitish brown stuff. By scraping the tongue every morning – about 7 passes with the scraper – we are removing excess ama and bacteria.

Move. Practice a few rounds of Syura Namaskar/Sun Salutations or any other form of movement that creates heat. Circulation is essential this time of year and even heating pranayamas, or breath controls, such as Kapalabhati are beneficial. Here is a link for instructions and more about the practice.

Get out into nature. Try to get out into nature for at least 30 minutes every during. This is the time of year when days are getting shorter so taking advantage of the natural sunlight is very important for our physical and mental health. This can be a particularly good mood booster and a daily dose of vitamin D.

Eat warm whole foods. This is not the time to eat raw. We want to invite in deliciously cooked foods that are in season and as local as possible. Now is the time to eat foods that are cooked and notorious for us and incorporating foods that are pungent, bitter, and astringent is especially important. Spices such as black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, curry, and sage will add flavor and heat. Eat grains such as barley, basmati rice, or millet. Drink warm water or hot herbal teach throughout the day. Some great teas for this time of year are cinnamon, ginger or licorice. Avoid raw, cold food or drink.

Oil your feet. This is especially helpful if you are feeling anxious or have a hard time settling down for sleep. Oiling the feet with warm sesame oil at night helps you to anchor and slip into rest.   

By adding a few of these practices, or all, into your daily routine, you’re sure to stay vibrant and anchored this winter.

 

 

 

Gratitude on this National Day of Mourning

My 10th great-grandfather arrived to what is now known as Plymouth, MA on the Mayflower in 1620.  This means that a not insignificant amount of my family legacy involves direct participation in the colonization, genocide, and erasure of Native peoples and the theft and resource extraction of their lands. This was very present to me as I stood in solidarity with the Protectors at Standing Rock.

Also present was the ancestral trauma that our Native relatives bear. Science is confirming what many have instinctually known for generations: that the diseases that disproportionately affect the populations in the US who bear the brunt of institutionalized white supremacy – diabetes, heart failure, and addiction – are diseases of trauma. If my Native brothers and sisters have to bear the weight of the trauma, the legacy of the ongoing war that has been waged on them for 500 years, don’t I have to bear the weight of participation and complicity in that war?

My family, for multiple generations now, has been populated largely by socially progressive well-meaning white folks who have, knowingly or otherwise, benefitted greatly from the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy. All my ancestors that I have known have been good people with good hearts and good intentions. And yet, our collective impact has not always reflected those good hearts.

I want to be clear: I’m not consumed with guilt or self-hatred because of this legacy, a common hallmark of white fragility. Rather, I am grateful to have the clarity, courage, and power to participate in the dismantling of a system that has benefited me and my family, while doing unspeakable harm to so many. The thing is that right now, the harm must be spoken. It can no longer be deemed unspeakable, hidden in the shadows, or whitewashed and mythologized. (It is also important to name the participating in these structures has compromised our own humanity. We have harmed ourselves.)

The last day I was in Standing Rock, I said goodbye to the elders, thanked them for their hospitality, for their bold prophetic voices, and for showing the world what prayerful, peaceful resistance can do. As I looked into the eyes of a man in his 70’s I told him of the legacy I bear within my bloodline and I told him I was committed to building a new legacy. He hugged me for a long time, thanked me, and wished me well on my journey home.

A National Day of Mourning has been organized by the United American Indians of New England each Thanksgiving Day since 1970. This day questions the Pilgrim Mythology and centers the ongoing struggles of Native peoples. I’ve been aware of this day for many years and have tried each year, in my own way, to observe the day in that spirit. Too many times, my observation has been quiet and personal because I did not know how to reconcile customs with the realities of history.

This year, I am going to accept the invitation into paradox. I am going to practice gratitude with my family and loved ones while openly rejecting whitewashed versions of history that only serve to perpetuate the violence that has brought us to where we are today. I am going to follow the example set by my native relatives at Standing Rock and commit to building relationships where we can uphold each other’s dignity, share in truthful storytelling, and break bread with broken hearts and soaring spirits.

As a sacred activist, I cannot describe the feeling of seeing sacred activism at work on a large scale at Standing Rock.  I felt very grateful for my years and years of yoga practice, which have taught me how to hold myself accountable in love, how to be uncomfortable, and how to participate in the restoration of myself and others into wholeness. On that holy ground I was given the opportunity to feel the immense pain of what people – my people – have done AND be shown the path forward.

This path is not an easy one. It will require some collective mourning, some collective amends-making, and a collective commitment to dismantling all the interlocking systems of oppression. On this National Day of Mourning, I am especially celebrating with a grateful heart the opportunity to live at this time when the veil has been lifted. The work that needs to be done on a personal and national level is very clear now. The unspeakable has been spoken. So, we listen deeply and we respond with mournful, grateful, open hearts.

Love, 

Vania