December 14, 2015

Look for The Good by Renee Schwartz

For several months I have been thinking about writing a follow-up to the student discovery blog I wrote in March 2014 about my Dharma lessons with Tracy.  What I’m writing now is quite different than what it would have been if it had been written even two or three weeks ago.

Loosely defined, Dharma is your life’s path, how you live your life responsibly, knowing and respecting your authentic self. Each person’s dharmic path is different.  Dharma lessons bring awareness to reducing suffering and remind us to live in the present.

My Dharma lessons have covered the Yamas (moral restraints, such as non-violence and nonstealing) and the Niyamas (self discipline, such as cleanliness and self-study).  The principles of the Yamas and Niyamas have been applied to experiences as wide ranging as fear, aging, injury, obstacles and challenges faced and overcome, spirituality, the wonder of nature and our role in it, death, life, and everything in-between.

Tracy leads the lessons with wisdom, compassion, and patience, which doesn’t mean that she doesn’t also challenge and make me look deeply at things I might rather ignore.  And we don’t always agree.  But the lessons, always instructive, sometimes difficult and painful, sometimes incredibly illuminating and freeing, have made a real difference in my life.

What I have come to realize these last few weeks is that the Dharma lessons have changed me in ways I hadn’t fully appreciated.  I knew that I was more open to people and experiences, and sometimes, at least, less fearful.  I knew that I could at least sometimes pause before I responded so that I didn’t say or do something that would hurt someone else, or me.   I more often than before have a better sense of my authentic self, and can more often make decisions based on my truths rather than on what I think others might expect.

What I wasn’t as aware of was how the Dharma lessons have influenced my actions and reactions to the events of the world.  The last few weeks and months have been particularly difficult locally, nationally, and internationally.  News about violence and hatred spews out from radios, TVs, newspapers, computers.  It is overwhelming, and I feel intense sorrow and despair.

Now, however, I am also more aware of my ability and responsibility to shift my energy.  The world is suffering and there are grave ills to be addressed.  From my Yoga practice in general, and the Dharma lessons in particular, I can focus on sending love into a hate-filled world.   I can better look for ways each day to add light rather than darkness, hope rather than fear, peace and healing rather than hatred.  It is not all that can be done, but it is surely a better place to work from than where I would have been without Yoga and the Dharma lessons.

 ‘Look for the good’ Tracy often says. ‘Be present, trust your intuition, pause before you act.’ I often resist.  But step by step, I grow.

As always, I’m eager to share if anyone would like to know more about my Dharma lesson experience.

November 19, 2015

Update from Maureen

In April 2015, I wrote some of my life story and the positive role the practice of Yoga has made to my state of well-being.
Now, I have an update. 
On October 6, I had a left hip revision , which resulted in a new ball and socket. This was the fourth surgery on this hip and I was told it should last until "they throw dirt on my face".
After three years of Yoga, 3 to 4 times per week with the very best Yoga instructor, Tracy Von Kaenel and her Yoga community, I knew that I was stronger and more flexible going into the surgery than I had ever been. However, it wasn't until after the surgery, when I first stood up and started doing therapy that I knew for a fact that this was going to be the best outcome I have had post any previous surgery. Decreased pain and a rapid return to functionality where proof that Yoga really does make a difference.
I am deeply grateful to Tracy and to my Yoga family for the love and support you gave me and continue to give me as I slowly progress on toward a full Yoga practice once again. 
Thank you  Thank you
Maureen Littlefield

September 08, 2015

Yoga Experience is thrilled to be participating in this years Ravenswood Art Walk.  Come by and see what's going on in your local neighborhood yoga studio.  Here's the line-up of activities.

Saturday 9/19
10:30-11:00 a.m. FREE mediation class (start your day right with peace and harmony!)
11:15-12:15 FREE beginning level yoga class.  Class sizes very limited.  Come early to get a spot.  Please bring your own mat!

Sunday 9/20
12:30-1:30 p.m.  Come be inspired as you watch an entertaining Yoga Demo, Aerial Yoga Demo, and Aerial Yoga Dance performed to music by the students and staff of Yoga Experience, then be a part of something great as we invite everyone to join us in a Chant for Peace.  Also on Sunday there will be a raffle for free classes, and refreshments.

Ravenswood Art Walk is a great chance to check out all the wonderful businesses, studios, artists and more along this busy section of the city. Hope to see you there!

July 08, 2015

Five Feathers of Aerial Yoga by Donald Gecewicz

1. Balance
We rely much on the floor remaining where it is and on distributing our weight upon it on our two feet and, sometimes, a hand. Even Warrior 3 is bound to the floor. Black silk changes that relationship and re-balances. I like to swing wrapped in the “pod” at the end, feeling my ears and the little bones in the ears re-calculating balance and equilibrium. Once back on the floor, and in floor positions, I find that my balance is reset and refined.

And here’s a haiku
like any pose balancing
on slim fingertips.

2. Strength
In floor work, we both become strong and experience our strength through standing still. Standing still is a sensation with much meaning, given how unsettled everything is. Aerial involves more movement—but movement that is strengthening because it is steady. Hefting the body. Testing the arms. Lifting yourself up. Using the hips to pivot slowly. Muscles engage differently from positions on the floor, and the body becomes toned differently.

The daily forces
hold us up but wrist locks
unlock new strengths

3. Harmony
In Chinese poetry, a poem harmonizes with another if it reflects the tones of the words and the structure of the rimes. The poses in the air harmonize with poses on the floor. We are familiar with being dogs, warriors, and birds on the ground. Insight comes as we reconfigure the pose while suspended. A tree on a cliff, a dancer mid-leap, a tiger climbing. The poses in the air test muscles in a new way. It’s good to go from floor to mid-air, from aerial yoga to more traditional floor work, harmonizing the two styles. Hovering also realigns the skeleton, sometimes with a crackle toward symmetry.

That stork hovering
above the shining wood
may be me, airborne.

4. Antigravity
Aerial yoga is an easy experiment to feel what else supports us: Our arms suspended, our feet wrapped in cloth, the air itself, our hips and legs pointed up rather than down. Even if only a few feet off the ground, aerial positions alter our body’s anticipation of heft and perception of weight. We also feel, again, that air has mass. We slide and glide within the air as birds do. I am reminded of a Thai carving that I have of a hamsa, the sacred swan. The flight of the hamsa symbolizes moksha or nirvana--release. All that, and a good workout.

to arrive at perception
that there is no down

5. Learning to Fly
If you have misgivings about flipping over and remaining suspended, the way to dispel hesitancy is to do it. It enhances health to experience a minor fear melting away. Doing yoga with winged feet makes me a better airline passenger, a better flyer. I have felt my own body cutting the air, much as an airplane does. So there is a practical, psychic benefit.

That flight to Zurich
chocolates and levity:

cloudless, so much light.

April 14, 2015

Yoga IS For Everyone! by Maureen Littlefield

If you are 65 or older, with one or more joint replacements, you may think YOGA is not for you.
Consider my story:

     It begins when I first started to walk and my parents noticed I walked with a limp. My left leg was smaller and shorter than the right leg. Years of traction, braces, and physical therapy did not make me better. The Physicians did not know what was wrong. My parents had Pulmonary Tuberculosis and there were no cures in the early fifties and they passed away. When I was nine, my mother’s sister and her husband took me in their home, and my brother and sister went to other relatives. In those days no one could afford to take all three of us and raise us together. My Aunt Ruth, who I loved very much, took me to the University of Illinois where they said I had Tuberculosis of the left hip joint. My siblings did not contract the disease and I see it as fortunate that it settled in my hip and not in my lungs as I would not be here now.
When I was 15yrs old, my entire hip joint was removed and replaced with a portion of my fibula bone which is called a hip fusion. After 2yrs of medicinal treatment and the surgery my TB was gone. That hip fusion served me well for 31yrs, but the down side was that all of my muscles on the left side from the knee to lower back shriveled up
due to lack of use. So, in 1993 at the age of 47, they took down the fusion and put in a new artificial hip joint. What a joy this was as after much therapy I could ride a bike, bend over and tie my shoes and do many other everyday tasks.

     So, this brings me to the present. In 2012, at the age of 65, I had a left knee replacement and I was told “you need YOGA”.  This is not a direction in which I would have gone for exercise as I did not know or understand the value of YOGA. Now, after three years of taking YOGA classes, at least three to four times a week, my strength, flexibility and peace of mind have greatly improved. I had then and still have the good fortune to have Tracy Von Kaenel as my YOGA instructor. Tracy’s YOGA community is energetic, warm and supportive. She consistently brings a creative skill to each class (no two classes are alike) and more importantly she mentors each of us individually according to our need. She walks around the studio during class observing and making suggestions to modify our YOGA practice to our benefit.

     I am grateful for the progress I have made, in spite of many limitations, thanks to the unfailing skill, encouragement and good cheer Tracy brings to each class.