A few days before the Christmas of 1994 my family packed up our belongings and began our journey south to Alabama where my dad had been called to be the rector of an Episcopal Church. Ten miles out of town the odometer broke in our recently serviced van beginning a comedy of errors that saw the cat getting lost under a hotel bed in Connecticut; crossing the Seventeen-Mile Bridge in the wind, the rain, and the dark; Christmas in Raleigh with Granddad; and the van dying on I-85 in Greenville, SC where a nice man let us use the cell phone he’d received for Christmas the day before. A tow truck, the retrieval of our other car from Raleigh and an extra night on the road later, we pulled into the parking lot of Regions Bank on December 27th. There we opened new accounts and signed mortgage papers. We stayed the night at the home of a parishioner and moved into our new house the following day.*
We were pros at this, having moved at least seven times in my 14 years. Most had been utilitarian: better jobs, my father’s call to the ministry followed by a time in seminary and a period of internship. But of all our moves this was the strangest and not just because of the events that transpired during the actual relocation. The short version is that things just hadn’t worked out as expected and so it was that we, consummate Yankees, found ourselves driving down I-95 to begin our adventure in the Heart of Dixie. Moving to Alabama felt like an exile from the sweetness of New England but the excitement of a new beginning was palpable.
Everything was changing: Yankee Thrift to Southern Hospitality, Old Colonial home to new construction, 100 year old-stick-in-the-mud parish to one formed in the ‘70s out of a desire to assist the civil rights movement, and a transfer from an all-girls Catholic High School to a public one. With boys.
The one constant in all of this was our family. Things could always have gone another way but it was a combination of my parents love for us and each other and our collective need for something to stay the same that kept the four of us close. Houses, furniture, and people had shifted so often they sometimes felt like props and extras in a movie. But we always had each other. That, and the jar of roots given to us when we left Maine in the mid ‘80s. (And that still sits atop the refrigerator to this day.)
Now, sixteen years later, another move is underway. Things did not work out as expected. The yoga studio that I and so many others have called home for the last several years is closing its doors. The sadness is real, the possibilities vast. Our community of yogis is heartbroken. We are mourning the loss of a room of our own and fearing the loss of each other.
Yet we are not defined by lavender walls and bamboo flooring: we are a community knit together by the shared experience of the practice rooted in the power of Grace. Our collective love for one another will keep us close. Many of our classes will be held at another local studio and so we will still have a physical space to meet.** Together we accept the end of one cycle and embrace the beginning of a new one — one with unlimited potential to grow and welcome new friends.
In two weeks time we will gather to move furniture and props out of the studio. Maybe we’ll find a lost cat hiding behind the shelving. Hopefully no one’s car will break down and there will be no need to cross a long bridge in the wind and the rain and the dark. When everything is out we will say our goodbyes to the lavender walls and the bamboo floors, we will close the doors and we will leave, knowing that as we carry our roots with us, we carry our Love.
I admit it. When I see pictures and blogs about a wonderfully expansive yoga festival or workshop I get a little jealous and sort of persnickety. I sigh, humph, then remind myself that we all have different paths and I have chosen mine.
Back in college I read this book that essentially said we can have it all, just maybe not all at once. This is very comforting as I am the kind of person who wakes up and thinks I can clean the whole house, make phone calls, finish emails, nap, write a novel, learn a language, go climb a mountain or ford a stream and make dinner in a single day or weekend. While all of these things can be done and I intend to do them, they are certainly not all going to happen today, or this year, or possibly even this decade. Especially since it’s already past noon and my motivation to clean is waning. (Not to mention that I don’t live near any mountains or ford-worthy streams.)
A student once said, “One day I woke up and asked, when I am on my deathbed do I want to remember that I had an immaculate house or that I practiced yoga on the last friday in June twenty years ago.” I love this because at the heart of the question my friend is determining the true goals of her life.
In a weekend workshop a few years back John addressed this discernment process. The key, he said, to yogic decision making is to consider the four aims of life: Artha, Kama, Moksha, Dharma*. Lets take the example of deciding whether or not to attend a workshop.
Artha ~ Can I afford this? Will it place undo financial strain on myself or my family?
Kama ~ Will it give me pleasure? Will I enjoy this topic, group of people, geographic setting? Will I feel free to be my awesome creative self?
Moksha ~ Will attending this workshop help me contribute to the liberation of myself and others? Will it make me a better person?
Dharma ~ “Dharma always leads to harmony.”** Does this line up with my respond-abilities in life right now? Can I leave home for a few days without abandoning my family, job, obligations? Will my attending bring harmony or disharmony?
Answering each of these questions with thoroughness and honesty keeps me sane, grounded and able to move away from jealousy and into appreciation for the different journeys we all take. I did not attend the Anusara-Inspired Teacher’s Gathering at Wunderlust this year. It looked like fun, I would have enjoyed it. Kama- check. But I don’t have the financial resources at this time, nor am I willing to go into debt to get there. Also, my family goes on a vacation every year during the last week in July and I wanted to be with them. So I did. This time around family and finances took precedence over a week of rockin’ yoga in Tahoe.
It’s unlikely that I’ll attend any of John’s workshops this year, which seems a little weird for someone about to submit a certification video . But that’s the way it is. I attend regional events with other traveling teachers as well as teach and participate in my own local community. These are some of the ways that I am currently fulfilling the four aims of Artha, Kama, Moksha, Dharma. Next year I may travel more and that will be a dream, but for today, this is where I am. Today, my dharma is to be at home, and maybe clean.
* These questions don’t need to be asked in this order. Artha, Kama and Moksha all serve Dharma. For more info check out this blog from Anusara-Inspired Instructor Daniella Cotreau
**Another piece of wisdom from John Friend
Tuesday 7:30 – 8:30am ~ Yoga 1-2
Friday 7:30 – 8:30 am ~ Yoga 1-2
Cary Family Y
Schedules Varies.- Mixed Level, Yoga Basics, and Yoga 2.
Please click to view the complete Y schedule.
I teach alignment based hatha yoga in a fluid style infused with a spiritual theme made practical for everyday living. Which is to say, I keep you safe while moving at a reasonable pace to experience precision, harmony and grace in your body, mind and heart within the broader context of life.
I lead immersive experiences designed to probe and understand some of the more esoteric, philosophical and powerful aspects of the practice.
I weave in the ancient wisdom of ayurveda for an overall experience of wellness beyond the mat.
I bridge the realms where Christian Spirituality and Mysticism (an embodied experience of the Divine) and yoga meet. As Fr. Richard Rhor says, “Mystics are not special people. But everyone is a special kind of mystic.”
I help you learn to release tension and trauma in your body.
I seek to help you (and me!) truly learn to embody spiritual beliefs and values in every part of your being and have a tangible experience of the sublime that feeds and nourishes you in every moment.
All Classes are Hatha Yoga ~ Hatha literally means “to strike” or “to strike a balance” between “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), light and dark. In its broad sense hatha yoga refers to any yoga class that is based on physical movement or postures (asana). Just about any public, movement based yoga class you take is considered “hatha yoga” regardless of the style (Anusara, Iyengar, Vinyasa Flow, Prana Flow, Yin etc.).
Yoga Basics ~ An introduction to the fundamentals of yoga designed just for the brand-newbie or anyone wanting a step-by-step review of the basics.
Mixed Level classes are appropriate for physically active students of all levels of experience. Alignment principles are explored in detail through a wide range of standing poses, hip openers, backbends, handbalances, and inversions. Sequence and posture variations are offered so the practice is appropriately challenging for students of all levels.
Yoga 1 – 2
This class encompasses a more vigorous sequence of postures, giving students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the alignment principles through the practice. Focus is on further exploration of the standing poses and hip openers while also introducing deeper backbends, handbalances, and inversions. This level is appropriate for students who have some general yoga experience or are in good physical condition.
The workshops listed below are available as stand-alone weekends, retreats, master classes, sections of Yoga Teacher Trainings, or as an ongoing, monthly series. They can be adapted for the needs of your studio, church, Y, or student population.
Embody the Heart: Bringing the Beatitudes to Life
2 – 6 hours (offered in segments) or as a Full Retreat
The Beatitudes – or “attitudes of Being” – are at the core of the Christ teaching. By weaving the attitudinal stance offered in each Beatitude with speciﬁc alignment actions and yoga poses, the asana practice becomes a powerful way to embed these teachings into body, mind and heart.
This workshop series can be adapted and offered as an introduction for beginners, or as a deeper experience for advanced practioners.
Mandala, the Sacred Circle: Creating a Tool to Discover, Embrace and Share our Creative Ministries
Co-taught with Edna Marie Thomas (my mother!)
3 hours to a Full Weekend Retreat (best way to experience this!)
This workshop or retreat will offer an introduction to mandalas, their place in the Christian tradition and serve as a bridge to the practice of yoga both on and off the mat. Includes elements of lecture, hands on activity, and asana.
As with all of the workshops above, the asana can be adapted to serve the levels and interests of the group.
4 – 2.5 hour segments
“Yoga is the process of harmonious alignment with the vibrations of Life.” Yoga Sutra 1.2
With so many yoga poses, so many styles of practice and all those classroom instructions (or lack thereof) it is easy to feel like a perpetual novice. This workshop series focuses on a simple, effective and harmonious set of actions that work with the body’s optimal, natural design and that can be applied to any yoga pose or yoga style. Students will feel safe, conﬁdent and supported in their practice.
This workshop series focuses on physical alignment as a means to care for the body, mind and spirit.
Part I – Down Dog, Standing Poses and Baby Backbends
Part II – Hips, Hand balances and More Backbends
Part III – Forward Folds and Twists
Part IV – Backbends and Basic Inversions
Optional: Add Nourishing Rhythms – An Introduction to Ayurveda and Daily Wellbeing
Nourishing Rhythms: An Introduction to Ayurveda and Daily Wellbeing
3 – 6 hours (offered in 2 – 3 segments)
While Ayurveda is focused so sweetly on the body, at its core, this science of Life is about bringing the sacred into each moment.
Ayurveda – the ancient Indian medical system studying the science of Life – offers a rich way to engage with the elements of the natural world and care for the body on every level. This dynamic workshop will cover an introduction to the mahabhutas (5 great elements), an overview of doshic theory (personal constitutions: vata, pitta, kapha), daily practices for harmony and wellbeing, and asana to pull it all together.
“Your lecture was excellent and made it accessible to Ayurveda newbies.” ~ Astrid
The Koshas: Dialoguing with the Layers of the Self
2 – 4 hours
Like looking into a drawer full of clutter, we often experience life as jumbled. By organizing the drawer we can separate one object from another, making seeing things for what they are and ﬁnding what we need a simple task. Using the lens of the koshas – or sheaths that describe the layered aspects of body, breath, mind and heart – we can separate and organize our experiences, seeing each aspect of our lives for what it
Through asana as a moving dialogue with the koshas we isolate aspects of the Self and allow for a more expansive perspective; to see the drawer of our Self and all it contains bringing a level of clarity and maturity that empowers choice.