Wednesday, July 20, 2011
“Anyone can be great because anyone can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” -MLK Jr.
What does “selfless service” mean to you?
Seva, a Sanskrit word springs from two forms of yoga: karma yoga (yoga of action) and bhakti yoga (yoga of worship inspired by divine love). Seva asks, “how can I help you?” or “how may I serve you today?” and does not expect to be paid back in return. We experience our interdependence when each of us fulfills our duties as a family member, friend, partner, parent and above all – as a member of society. When we perform duties not thinking of the reward, but as a contribution to life, we renew our spirit of seva. From this perspective, seva is an attitude and consciousness we bring to what we do.
In Sanskrit, seva means “string”: symbolizing the interconnectedness of our being and our action. We are the beginning of the string, with the capability of reaching out to all corners of the earth. By practicing yoga, we are nurturing ourselves physically and mentally so that we may be of service to others. We are taking our yoga practice off the mat and into the world.
Vibe Yoga Studio strives to empower clients and teachers alike with the spirit of service. At Vibe, we are always looking to extend our string of seva with local businesses in Bloomington. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and support organizations like Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, Community Kitchens, Hoosier Hills Food Bank, IU Outdoor Adventures, Wonderlab and United Way in 2011.
How do you see Vibe Yoga connecting with other organizations in the Bloomington community? How can we roll up our sleeves in selfless service to others and empower people along the way? Use this blog as a sound board for ideas, questions or comments about lengthening our string of connectedness to all corners of Bloomington and beyond.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Last year, my husband Todd and I spent six months living and working in Kenya. During our time there we began practicing yoga and working with the Africa Yoga Project (AYP). Over the last five years AYP has trained more than 40 Kenyans as yoga instructors. AYP’s mission is to use the transformative power of yoga to empower communities and change lives. Their programs foster peace, improve physical, emotional, and mental well being, facilitate self-sufficiency and create opportunities to learn and contribute across the communities of East Africa.
As we came to know the teachers and visited their classes in the slums of Nairobi we were truly inspired by their dedication and service to others. Here in Bloomington we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful studio space at Vibe. We never have to doubt that the space will be clean and comfortable, the floor will be level, and we will all have mats to practice on. That’s not the case in Kenya, where students show up day after day to practice on an uneven dirt floor, often without mats or yoga clothes.
Many of us have experienced first hand the many benefits of a yoga practice in helping us build strength and find clam and balance in your lives. However, in the U.S most of us practice in calm, comfortable well accessorized studios. That’s not to say that we are not challenged and given the opportunity to be inspired by each other and so many wonderful teachers, but our time with the Africa Yoga Project showed us how powerful yoga can be for everyone – anywhere. In Kenya we found a gritty, enduring, and dedicated group of young people bringing yoga to their communities in the face of tremendous challenges – challenges that are hard for us, coming from a place of such relative wealth, to even fathom.
The teachers of the Africa Yoga Project have been empowered by their yoga training and are now bringing that empowerment to their communities – the urban slums of Nairobi and the rural Maasai villages of Amboseli. The urban slums are chaotic patchworks of homes and livelihoods, lacking nearly all public services that we take for granted – clean drinking water running from multiple taps in our home, consistent electricity, in-door plumbing and city-wide sewage treatment, garbage collection, paved streets, sidewalks and more. When we walked through these communities, yoga, finding peace, or taking a deep breath were the last things that came to our minds.
The teachers of AYP showed us that compassionate service to others brings hope, joy, and love to people who are facing what seem to be unconquerable odds. Through their on-going dedication to their communities, the AYP teachers bring smiles and a sense of accomplishment to children of all ages; they bring a sense of solidarity to those who feel isolated by their HIV status; they bring empowerment to single mothers, and renewed hope for the future to recovering addicts. You can see portraits of these teachers in the display case at Vibe and look for a book of them coming out later this year.
We witnessed the AYP teachers’ unwavering perseverance and peace in the midst of chaos, fear, and poverty, as well as the positive impact they are having in their communities. In addition to the benefits yoga has brought to the teachers and their communities AYP has built two classrooms and refurbished 5 others, they partner with a women’s micro-finance group to provide sustainable livelihoods, and they brought yoga classes to the refugee camps after the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya as a way to promote peace and reconciliation.
This is why we have continued to work with AYP and this summer my husband and I will be leading a group of yogis from around the world on a 12-day “Seva Safari”. Vibe yoga instructor Jennie Anderson will be joining us on this service trip. We will be building a new community center in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum. The community center will provide a space for AYP teachers to teach free community yoga classes, as well as a meeting place for one of AYP’s partner organizations, Shining Hope for Communities, which runs a local girl’s primary school and health clinic. We will work alongside the AYP yoga teachers and students to build the community center. This is a great opportunity for the Vibe yoga community to participate in the practice of seva, the yogic idea of service, at the global level.
If you are interested in learning more about AYP’s Seva Safari trip go to:
Spots remain if you wish to join us on the trip!
To read more about AYP’s work go to:
You can also be involved in this powerful opportunity right here from Bloomington by helping support these efforts. On an average day what will you spend $2 on? Maybe a mat rental, a bottle of water or a coffee? In Kenya 40% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. Any contribution that you can make to help support this project will go a long way. Your donations will go towards helping construct the community center and ensuring AYP’s long-term positive impact in the communities in Kenya. Contributions can be placed in the donation jar on the display case at Vibe.
Additionally, Vibe is selling AYP “namaste” t-shirts, with the proceeds going to support this project in particular. You can also contribute by attending the upcoming DJ donation class on March 13th at Vibe. Bring a friend! Look for other upcoming events this spring for ways to get involved.
Videos: Here is a link to part of a documentary on AYP
Monday, February 21, 2011
Hi everyone! As the teacher of Restorative yoga every Sunday, I just wanted to give Restorative a shout-out on the Vibe Yoga blog!
Why make the time for Restorative Yoga?
Our personal well-being can suffer if we don't take time for relaxation. A stress reaction is a very physiological, as well as psychological, result of our interpretation of the world. Dislike for a boss, anger at a friend, being too overwhelmed with this or that to get enough sleep creates stress reactions. These are commonly known stressors, but they can actually be categorized as distress, or bad stress. The same harmful stress reactions occur with eustress, or good stress. A new relationship, planning a wedding, or preparing for a new baby also create stress reactions in our bodies and minds.
Regardless of type, any stress can take a toll on each and every one of us as we move through our day-to-day lives. Judith Lasater, author of Relax and Renew states that "a life lived on overload affects health, sexual function, reproduction, relationships, job performance, athletic performance, and most important, one's sense of self."
Don't worry, there is a simple solution to creating a more well-rounded well being: Relaxation! Relaxation is the antidote to stress reactions. As I hinted at earlier, the mind and body are very connected. Stress in one creates stress in the other, thus, relaxing one will, in turn, help relax the other. I think this is the premise of Restorative yoga, and this is how I teach each Sunday evening: as a relaxation, rejuvenation, and renewal for mind and body.
What can I expect?
In each of my Restorative classes, I strive to create an atmosphere of peace: low, relaxing music, candlelight, and tons of props! I usually start with some simple, gentle movements—some spinal stretching and twisting, one downward dog, some lengthening of normally tight muscles. I like to do this to work out the restlessness, fidgety-ness, and busy-ness of our bodies, to warm the muscles and create space in the body to prepare for relaxation. Then we can settle in.
There are a handful of key Restorative poses. I try to mix these up a little, but there is so much benefit in them already. I figure, why reinvent the wheel? In these poses, which we stay in for 5-10 minutes each, props are used to provide comfort and support. Props include blankets, to bolsters blocks, to straps.
What is Restorative yoga?
Yoga is and has always been about more than asanas. Yoga is used in India to prepare the body for meditation, so one can meditate without distraction, without the nagging neck stiffness or restlessness legs. What about preparing the mind for relaxation? Every one of us has a mind that can run rampant if allowed, thinking of this, worrying about that, regretting this, thinking "I need to do" that. It's exhausting! Yoga itself is about stilling the mind to bring rest. Rest is different than sleep. Being able to rest quietly in the present moment is the ultimate goal of Restorative yoga.
With time and practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment—both on and off your mat.
I am committed to help you along in your process of relaxation training and exploration of mind and body relaxation, renewal, and rejuvenation in Restorative yoga. I am ALWAYS open to feedback to improve my class for you, so feel free to let me know what you do like, don't like, and want more of!
See you all on Sunday!
Best and Namaste,
Sunday, January 23, 2011
In yoga we often talk about connection of mind, body and spirit. We work to bring a conscious effort to that union throughout our practice. Imagine a teacher blending humor, spirit, and physical challenge in a way that invites this beautiful connection. This was my personal experience of taking a Master class with Janet Stone.
It was nearly a year ago, and I had just completed one of the most wonderful and demanding experiences of my life. I had just completed my 200-hour yoga teacher certification. I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, yet excited and hopeful.
I stepped into a warm, spacious studio in Chicago, full of eager students. Janet created a sense of community between us right away as we circled closely around her and chanted to Ganesha. From there she led us through a practice that artfully connected poses in a way that asked us to dig deep on every level. She encouraged us to call to mind our obstacles; she requested that we listen to our bodies instead of our egos; she created a space to laugh as she playfully integrated her “west coast humor.”
So the invitation is to consider what you need today. Perhaps you need to rejuvenate your practice. Perhaps you need a deliberate chance to connect deeply to yourself. Perhaps you need to work through difficulties on a physical level. Perhaps you need to explore humor as part of your yoga practice. Perhaps you need it all. This class may be just that opportunity.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
I have been to Yoga classes in Australia, Chicago, Costa Rica, New York and Toronto. I have spread my mat on many lawns, beaches, porches, canyons and hotel rooms. I have sprung a down dog in gas station parking lots, buddhist temples, living room floors and yes, even in the shower. But no matter if I find the the most enlightened guru or the the most serene view, I will always say that my yoga roots started in a little studio in Bloomington, Indiana called Vibe.
Ignite Power. Infuse Energy. Inspire Peace. If you have ever read these phrases on the website or worn a tank top with a portion of it printed across the front, then you have participated in some sacred moments not only in my personal practice, but in the practice of an entire community. Laura Patterson offered me a job behind the desk at the studio before I even knew what Vibe was. In typical fashion of a recent IU graduate I was not quite ready to leave but not entirely sure how to stay in this magical little town of Bloomington. But behind the desk at Vibe I was given the opportunity have a stake in something I believed in, to invest in something burgeoning and to invite the many joyful and weary spirits that walked through the door every day for class. When Laura asked me to help create a tag line for what Vibe was as a community it was not difficult to find potent and true words to match my experience.
Although I spent many hours on my mat in the studio at Vibe, I also spent a lot of time sweeping the floors at Vibe. Although I attended my first teacher training at Vibe, I also observed every day the talented and compassionate teachers that came to teach class. While I lived in Bloomington, Vibe was more than just a place to practice, and it was much more than the place where I worked. My experience at Vibe ignited a power in my practice on my mat. It infused me with an energy to pursue that practice off of my mat. And it inspired with the peace that when it was time to leave and grow, I had what I needed.
So, maybe you can imagine how great it feels for me to come back to Vibe. After time away of travel, training, and practice, it feels like a true experience of yoga to return--the union of a dream and a manifestation of that dream.