Seane Corn — Yoga, Meditation in Action
March 3, 2011

Yoga has infiltrated law schools and strip malls, churches and hospitals. This 5,000-year-old spiritual technology is converging with 21st-century medical science and with many religious and philosophical perspectives. Seane Corn is a renowned yoga teacher and the founder of "Off the Mat, Into the World." She takes us inside the practicalities and power of yoga — even as a source of social healing.

(photo: courtesy of Seane Corn)


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Seane Corn Demonstrates "Body Prayer"

Watch Seane Corn demonstrate her graceful and athletic form of "body prayer" in a video excerpted from Yoga from the Heart.

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About the Image

While in India for a YouthAIDS trip with actress Ashley Judd, Seane Corn poses in the Eka Pada Koundiyanasana position in front of the Taj Mahal. (photo: courtesy of Seane Corn)

(photo: courtesy of Seane Corn)

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Yoga is a great form of medication. Seane Corn uses yoga to go above and beyond the basic usage of it. She is using it to not only help herself, but she is even trying to help others that are in a terrible position in their life. Yoga is difficult to do, but done properly it is very relaxing and calming for a difficult exercise.

She chose not to go to college and began work as a waitress. Nineteen was a big changer to her life though. She learned about her having OCD, and then she began therapy and started doing yoga. Her OCD made yoga hard for her to do at first, since she had to be sure everything was being done perfectly. She would have a problem with even a slightly messed up hand alignment.

Her yoga instructor told her to just "breathe and everything changes." After that statement from her instructor, she began to fix her OCD problem and realized not everything must be absolutely perfect. Breathing actually is a major part of yoga, and helps to relax a person while they do the difficult exercise.

Yoga is a great form of meditation, and by using yoga, she helped both herself, and others in slowly fixing their life and making things right. She is helping kids the most, which is likely a very difficult thing to do, but it is likely equally rewarding to turn a child's life around before it becomes even worse.

Yoga was something I never gave much thought about. To me it was simply an exercise that I found odd and knew virtually nothing about. After listening to Seane Corn's interview, I cannot wait to have my first opportunity to try Yoga!

I connected with Seane on the level of her anxiety and obsessive compulsiveness. Though I wouldn't say that I deal with obsessions at the level Seane did, I believe I deal with it to a degree. Yoga could be what I have needed all along.

Seane described Yoga as a physical activity that detoxifies your body coupled with deep breathing to mentally ground you. Yoga gave her a sense that she was part of something larger than she could define and it helped her mind to be settled. Seane believes, as well as other Yoga instructors, that there is no separation between mind and body. Your body remembers everything and if we hold onto things it can be stressful on our physique.

Every breath and movement is full of intention and if you fall out of a pose, you should not to let yourself get angry. Stay away from the negative energy.

Seane Corn seems like a very real and wonderful person. She came into a better lifestyle because of Yoga and in turn is helping others who need guidance from someone like her.

"Life happens, what are we going to do about it?" This is a quote from the interview with Seane Corn from Yoga. Meditation in Action. Having been born and raised in the Lutheran religion, I haven't explored yoga and the benefits of yoga. I can honestly say that I know very little about it. However, after listening to the wisdom of Seane Corn, I find myself very interested.

I especially connect with what Seane Corn says is the definition of yoga, "we are all one." She says that yoga is bigger than any one religion. Although many may differ in that opinion, I find myself encouraged by that meaning. I believe that most religions share a common ground in the understanding of love, forgiveness, and serving others.

What happens during yoga? The one aspect that I was aware of is the physical aspect of increasing respiration and circulation, as well as flexibility. Until listening to this broadcast, I didn't understand the meditation or mental aspect of yoga. I always thought it was just another form of a religion that I did not understand.

However, I now find that yoga is not that different than what I've been taught throughout my life. The concepts of love, peace, and forgiveness have been areas in my life that I have focused on in my 43 years. Love is the heart of yoga and you get to God through the heart. The Lutheran religion teaches to love yourself, your neighbor, and God. An offering is collected at each service at my church. Seane Corn's body prayer involves making every movement an offering to God. The thing to focus on is your intention when making those movements. This was very refreshing for me to learn that the two are not so very different.

An emotional part of yoga is to be able to identify those shadows in your life that may be holding you back from living a happy life. I believe this requires forgiveness of those who may have hurt you in the past. The inability to forgive results in a disconnect from God. A step in the direction of healing is finding the strength to perceive those life experiences differently. All life experiences, good and bad, play a part in the person we are today. Seane Corn says that we can continue to point our finger at those in our life who have hurt us or we can acknowledge what happened, move forward, and use that knowledge to better the world we live in.

Yoga is prayer from your heart and not from your head. I think this concept is one that some Christians tend to forget. We find ourselves in church reciting the same verses in unison without even thinking about them. When doing yoga, there is no separation between mind, body and spirit. I plan to check into some yoga classes in the future. The physical benefits are important but I am most intrigued by the mental benefits of achieving peace and a deeper closeness to God.

I've always found yoga to be a little too slow. Somehow the art of holding poses was just beyond my patience level. I much prefer a walking meditation. I understand its importance and certainly I can appreciate all the benefits derived from the daily practice, but I just never was able to get into it.

And then I found the series of poses called Sun Salutation (which Seane Corn demonstrated in the video, but she called it a yoga prayer). This is the yoga I practice. It gives me energy, insight, and generally makes me feel good.

I combine this with a series of Tai Chi poses which claim to be good as a stress detox. These, too, are a series of poses which can be done once or twice or many times repeated.

The bottom line is we each have to find what works for us as individuals. And while I probably won't get into a more lengthy practice, I absolutely loved many things Seane Corn said in the On Being interview and will make that a part of my daily practice.

PS: The image I've included is of Pug at The Beach. While I don't care for a daily yoga practice, Pug, my little island dog philosopher creation, does. Here he is doing The Bridge.

Genetically, I'm a lumberjack. I might not look it at first — female, 5'8' and 120-ish. But my shoulders. They're a size 42 men's suit coat. When I raise my hands overhead in tadasana they go wide just in case I happen to have an axe in one of them (it's best to swing an axe outboard of one's body).

My dad was a very part-time lumberjack, but a lumberjack nonetheless. He worked stumpage with his dad in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a boy. (Stumpage is not an unfortunate placement of an axe, but the ownership of the timber on someone else's land.) My great grandpa worked the lumber camps, felling white pine for months at a time. I've always found a simple beauty in the clear sense of purpose that comes from the work my great grandpa did.

Action: whack the tree.

Purpose: make the tree fall down.

Action directly connected to its purpose. Clear, simple, not aggrandized. Growing up, I was always looking for clear purpose. And I didn't see the purpose in a lot of things. I told my first date, "I don't know why people even date if they're not old enough to marry each other." (I did not hear from him again.) I went to an engineering college because I got a scholarship. I got an engineering degree because I went to an engineering college. And I got an engineering job because I got an engineering degree. Purpose continued to elude me.

After college, I worked for an automotive company in suburban Detroit. I designed little bits that do little bits in your car you'd never even think a little bit about. Then I got a job hobnobbing with tattooed guys on the line. It was the mid-90's, though, when union-management tensions were escalating, and in the five years I was there, there were three shootings in the plant. I quit.

My husband and I moved to Iowa to work for an agricultural equipment company. There, I witnessed a union-management relationship that was remarkably respectful. I saw people working at whatever they did with a strong sense of purpose that I hadn't seen in the Motor City.

I worked a couple years, had a couple kids, then I resigned from my job. I wanted as much time with my kids as I could stand. I applied myself to raising my kids mindfully and writing about it irreverently, publishing a few pieces here and there.

Then, my part-time lumberjack dad, with his deceiving full-time lumberjack physique, was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. He was given a six month prognosis. I was devastated. Staying at home at the time with my two preschool kids, I had nowhere to go for support. Mornings were no different just because my dad was dying — my kids still went all Oliver Twist on me, "Gruel again?" Hell, their world wasn't crumbling. They didn't understand, they couldn't, and clearly they weren't going to let up on me. So sometimes I'd come out swinging the proverbial axe. Roaring. Then regretting.

After an acquaintance witnessed one such incident, she suggested I might want to get my a** to yoga. So I did.

Once a week for six months: "Hey, where'd my 15 post-baby pounds go?"

Twice a week for six more months: "Hey, where'd my flash temper go?"

Then traveling for weekend workshops, trainings and conferences for six years: "Hey, where'd my huge ego go?"

Soon, I began teaching yoga. Periodically, I'd run into engineers I had worked with, and they'd often react in a "wtf?" kind of way to my new occupation. In our culture, the status of an engineering manager exceeds that of a yoga teacher. Or any teacher, for that matter, but we won't go there. I'm no engineering flunkie. That's not it. It's that I knew that my purpose was deeper than what could be realized within the corporate engineering framework.

I could have re-entered the engineering field, beholden to my ego and nothing more, and basked in that status. Or, I could find my real purpose. Purpose is found at the intersection of aptitude and passion. This is akin to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow theory, just substitute the word flow for purpose. For each of us, that intersection occurs at a different place — some in a testing lab, others in front of a canvas, in a garden, in a white pine forest, on a yoga mat. It is completely focused motivation. When you are in the zone.

I met my guru, Devi Das (the name she was given when she was initiated into the tradition) Karina Ayn Mirsky, in 2007. It was clear to me that she, for lack of a better word, rocked. After my first day of formal training with her, I told her how much I appreciated her teachings, how very purposeful she was. Purpose-full. Full of purpose. She set me down a path inside myself that didn't stop at the body or the mind. I couldn't impress her with my lumberjack strength. I couldn't impress her with all the little bits I figured out.

She required me to stop trying so hard to be strong or to figure things out. To let go of some of the Paul Bunyan and the Dilbert. To look inside to a place deeper than the body, a wisdom deeper than the mind, for answers that had always been there if I'd been able to listen. Yoga continues to teach me this — to listen.

In January, 2010, I opened the doors of my community's first yoga studio. And the funny thing is, I didn't want it. Or, in more yogic terms, I had no attachment to opening a yoga studio. A few years before, I had fantasized about it. Then, through studying with my teacher, I let go of that attachment, and focused on action in the present. Action like caring for myself and each student as best I could. And so, it was an incremental birth, formed by an accumulation of simple actions. In the process, I found action directly connected to its purpose.

Action: nurture the person.

Purpose: the person gets up.

Both in contrast to and in harmony with:

Action: whack the tree.

Purpose: make the tree fall down.

Nurturing myself, not whacking myself anymore, was essential to my finding balance in life. It is, truly, essential to wellbeing. And so I taught my students to stop beating themselves up. "Don't put your energy there, into that thing, feeding it. Put it in the 90-99% of yourself that is on the right track. Have gratitude for this. Then this will grow, and that thing will fade."

The Bhagavad Gita takes place 3,000 years ago on a battlefield called Dharmakshetra. This literally means field of dharma. The place where one's life purpose can be sorted out. Although there may be axes on that field, we don't come out swinging them at whatever habits and patterns we may be locked into that keep us from connecting with our life's purpose.

Yes, we have to clear some timber to make space for what we were born to do. Yoga helps us do this systematically, no axes required. And when we are in the zone of our purpose, no matter what it is, its effect is beneficial to our community. Humanity benefits. And life comes into balance.

Amongst many of your wonderful programs, my husband and I were/am very happy to hear the interview with Seane Corn. We have her videos and love her whole being. Due to the woes of our times, we have gotten away from yoga. We'd like to thank you for having this program air. It reminded us what we have gotten away from and why we were not feeling right. Thank you so much! Namaste.

It was with some hesitation that I approached the door to the Be In Awe yoga studio. I was fifteen minutes late to my first yoga class. I had left my place on the west side of town in what I thought was plenty of time, only to discover what most new-comers to Ann Arbor no doubt must learn, that one-way streets can turn a simple cross-town drive into a twisting and maddening adventure. I was tempted to turn back and try again next Saturday, but with so much effort already invested, I decided to press on and hope for the best. I stomped the snow off my shoes and opened the door.

I was greeted by the welcoming smile of Jody, the organizer of Ann Arbor Outdoor Yoga. I later learned that during the warmer months the classes where held outside on a large deck surrounded by the natural beauty which Ann Arbor is so blessed. For now, classes were being held, warm and cozy, in an unassuming house set back from the noise and bustle of the road. Spread out around the comfortable room were eight other aspiring yogis well along in their class.

Quietly, I slipped off my shoes and hung up my coat. Jody pointed to an open spot on the floor where I could unroll my mat. She asked me to spend a few minutes in Savasana, the asana of complete relaxation also known as the corpse pose, before joining the class. I rolled out my mat and laid flat on my back, my feet turned out, my arms at my sides, palms turned up in a gesture of receiving. I waited for my heart rate to slow and my breathing to deepen. One's thoughts are also supposed to slow, but mine couldn't help but wander.

Over the past two months, like many others in these difficult economic times, I had experienced some major changes in my life. I had been laid-off from my job. Fortunately, I had found a new one relatively quickly, one that required that I move. I was thankful to be moving to Ann Arbor, a city I have always admired for its creative spirit and emphasis on active healthy living. As fortunate as I felt, these were still major changes and they were taking their toll on my state of mind. I tried to relax my mind and bring it back to the present moment.

"One, two, One-two," Becky, today's teacher, was saying over and over. Her voice, strong and encouraging, was leading the class through a rigorous breathing exercise. As she said "one," I could hear the entire class forcefully pushing air out of their lungs. On "Two," I could just barely hear the air flowing back in through their noses. "Push the air out and with it all the toxins, all the things you don't need any more," she told the class. "Then, just relax and feel the healing oxygen flow back in."

Sivananda Yoga, the type of yoga practiced at Outdoor Yoga, places breathing at the center of all its practices. From what I have come to understand, by paying attention to our breathing we become more in sync with the natural world through this very basic rhythm of taking in what we need and discharging what we no longer need. Breathing activates what yoga masters call prana, the vital life force. Through breathing exercises, called pranayamas, we can make active this vital force and enhance its healing influence in our lives.

After finishing my Savasana, I raised myself up to a cross-legged sitting position and joined the class. Becky's voice was now calm and gentle,"Inhale, exhale," as she guided the class into calm inhales, and long relaxing exhales. "Feel the white light flowing up and down your spine," she said.

Despite my efforts to stay with the class, my mind continued to wander. I thought about how the events of the past two months had forced me to expel many things from my life. Things that at one time had served me well, but were now no longer needed. I had moved from a two bedroom house into a small one bedroom apartment with all of two very small closets. I repeated to myself the standard mover's lament, "How had I accumulated so much stuff?"

Some of it was easy to be rid of. I filled large black plastic garbage bags with stuff that I should have thrown out long ago and marched them to the curb. That overstuffed chair that I never used could go. I had two beds, I was pretty sure I only needed one. I kept my favorite desk and took the other one to Salvation Army. This isn't so bad, I thought.

After breathing exercises, we went back into Savasana. We put our arms over our heads. "Stretch," we were told,"now relax." There is a lot of relaxing in Sivananda Yoga, I like that. "Feel the benefits of our breathing in your entire body." Next we were standing and doing Sun Salutations. I looked over at the others to learn the steps to this intricate set of poses. At the end of each one we stood with our hands at our chests, palms pressed together. I could feel my heart working, pumping blood through my arteries and veins, then on to the next set.

After the Sun Salutations came the Shoulder Stand, an advanced asana. "Does everyone know this pose?" Becky asked. Looking over at me. I shook my head. As she talked the class through the pose, she came over and showed me how to place my hands at the small of my back for support, then told me to stretch high with my feet pointing to the ceiling. My chin was firmly pressed into my chest and I could feel the blood rushing to my head. More challenging still, she asked us to try to move our legs back, keeping them straight, and see if we could touch the floor behind our heads. I was rethinking my earlier decision not to turn back. "Relax into the resistance," Becky told us.

There was resistance, no doubt about that. I had borrowed a friend's pick-up and through several back-straining trips over one weekend managed to transfer my things to my new place. That Sunday night I collapsed into my comfortable recliner. I looked about me in dismay. My beautiful hardwood floor was visible only in small patches. The rest of it was obscured by the over-abundance of stuff piled all around me. The message was clear — more things would have to go!
The next weekend I took a fresh look at my crowded space. "Relax into the resistance," Becky had echoed what my circumstances were commanding me to do.

I liked a lot of these things. I had at one time paid good money to have them. I questioned my decision to rent such a small place. Well, too late for that, I told myself, look forward not back. I rolled up my sleeves and re-evaluated what I considered essential. I went through my clothes first. I folded and hung up all the clothes that I had actually worn in the past year, the rest I bagged up for donation. I went through every scrap of paper in my four drawer filing cabinet tossing out every article I thought I might want to read someday, tearing up all the warranties for things I no longer had; until I got all my paperwork into a two drawer filing cabinet that fit under my desk. I looked over at my large bulbous golf bag, stuffed with a full set of clubs. Clubs that had not hit a golf ball in over two years. Was it time to say goodbye to them? No! I had my limits. I stuffed it into the back of my tiny front closet. I boxed up a number of books and set them next to the door.

With not a few misgivings, I drove to the Re-Use Store, my car crammed with the latest round of my discarded things. The attendant helped me unload. I drove away, my things sitting along the side of the large industrial building with all the other donated items from that day. On the way back, I became pleasantly surprised to find myself feeling lighter. A smile spread across my face. I realized that for each thing that I had left behind, I had also left behind an old, no longer needed, idea about myself, about who I was, and what I needed to live a happy and healthy life. The thought that someone might come across one of my things and be happy to get a good deal on something they needed, added to my good mood. As did the receipt in my pocket, tax time was right around the corner.

We were finishing up with a final Savasana. In a bright, clear voice, Jody concluded the class in a beautiful chant. She explained that it was given for the safety, strength and courage of the students as they go back into the world. I appreciated that.

Back in my apartment, I sat for a long time admiring the warm hues of my oak floor. The move had forced me to make space, to get rid of things that I no longer needed. It had been difficult, but I had done it. Now, I was ready for the next phase. Relax, and let the prana flow in.


I have practiced yoga sporadically over the past 5 or so years, trying Hatha yoga first. I returned to yoga in early winter this year, taking up a more committed practice in a Vinyasa flow class. In Vinyasa flow, I'm able to have moments when there is a complete feeling of mind/body as one. When that happens, I understand what it is to be grounded in peace. There is nothing I have to tell myself to get to that place. In my practice, I've begun to have the sensation that for an hour, I am doing one long movement rather than simply a series of poses. Breath and movement, within the flow, are one. It is like a prayer.

I fell into yoga as a gym rat when my local gym offered a general Hatha class in the aerobics studio. It was like a breath of fresh air and I knew I had found a place for me. Rather than being exhausted from my normal cardio routine I had been doing to reduce stress, my first yoga class offered me deep relaxation, physical challenge and a clear mind, like the top of a still lake. I was immediately hooked. I've practiced yoga since 1997 — and have taught for the past 6 years at my local recreation center. I primarily practice and teach Iyengar yoga, but take classes of all styles. Sometimes I dabble with a hot or Vinyasa class, but I like the precision and alignment teaching of Iyengar. I also like a good Anusara class as well; the joy and spirit of yoga radiates strongly from John Friend.

As for what it has done for me, it has changed my life. Changed the way I think about my breath and body, changed the way I approach life and has literally been a touchstone to help me through both struggles and exuberant times in my life. My yoga practice was instrumental in the natural birth of my daughter (my doula about passed out when she saw me sit in Virasana for 30 minutes between contractions) and it's something I see myself doing for the rest of my life. Oh to be Mr. Iyengar with those poses and vitality over 90 years of age!

All in all yoga is about balance — about finding the action in the pose without tension. About finding the shadowy parts of consciousness in your body, your spirit, your psyche and bringing it to a non judgmental and curious light. About creating space, compassion and joy in your physical body, which translates to space, compassion and joy in life. I love it and I love sharing it with others.

When I have first timers come to class and do not return, I think it is like cooking pasta and the pasta doesn't stick to the wall; that person is just not ready yet. I don't take it personally and yoga is not something that can be forced on anyone. But like a gong or a sound that finds the right vibration and frequency for those that are ready to hear, those who are drawn to the art and science find it transforming.

Yoga for me, is like a fast ticket home. When ever I am feeling tired, overwhelmed, tight, or just not quite right, I know that this magical combination of breath and conscious movement will center and nourish me.

I first found the practice as a physical form of stretching and exercise, but soon realized the multi-layered gifts available in the mental and spiritual cultivation and refinement it offers.

I have made it my life-work to teach and share yoga with others, especially children. I now have a studio for private and group classes, and lead a teacher's training program for children's yoga teachers. I chose this career to ensure that this beautiful balance and sacred discipline are part of my daily world.

I came to yoga for the first time last spring. My job as an elementary school teacher brings demands on my time and my energy — both physical and emotional. Over the years, I have felt myself struggling to meet my own life, to really join in it fully, and unable to be capably interactive and loving in its aspects: work, family, self, the world. Since beginning my practice, I feel myself coming into my life in a more accepting way; with less judgment of myself and of others, and so much more peacefully than I ever have before. The bonus for me is that, like life, yoga is a process of opening and learning. So it will always be there for me, helping me nurture and support myself; it's faith.

Thank you very much for your repeat of the piece on Seane Corn. I hadn't heard it the first time. She is an inspirational personal representation of karma. Her discussion of intention in particular is something I want to bring into my practice more consciously.

Also as my husband and I listened this morning, a recurring question came up once more when we heard statements about groups who object to Christian language in yoga, or want to "take yoga back." It amazes us that there are people who would like to own — in a proprietary way — religion or aspects of spirituality.

My first trip to the mat was without preconceived notions. I had no idea that I would release the Yoga genie through the mat. I sensed deep peace and was hooked. I started classes 3 times a week and found that when I came home in the evening I was serene. My mind had slowed and my sleep was deep and peaceful.

After several months of practice I entered teacher training, not necessarily to teach, but to delve deeper into yogic philosophy and the ancient origins of this intriguing practice. As I travelled the training road I came to know myself. My stress level lessened as well as my anxiety. I discovered what it is like in the yoga bubble.

In the midst of training I had shoulder repair. This did not stop my journey, quite the opposite, it gave me the opportunity to expand my yoga horizon. I travelled the path through an alternate map; modification, modification, just sit. It was and is all good; I discovered my own well-being through different colored lenses. I feel that I was fortunate to have this opportunity to really explore yoga and deepen my practice.

Pranayam has become an integral part of my day; at work, at home, in the car, everywhere. Recently I had my other shoulder repaired. Pranayam was instrumental in my pain control; nothing like focusing on the breath to reduce pain medication intake. My breath is my friend; at home, at work, in all situations.

So, how does Yoga fuel my sense of well-being? It gives me the ability to live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water. I am comfortable in the present moment. When at work, if I feel like the muddy water is bothering me, I practice a few Yoga postures to bring myself back, relax, and restore myself. Yoga is my well-being.

I listened to the broadcast about Yoga. Yoga is a form a prayer but with your body. Yoga is a science of life, it brings mind body and soul together. It is time to yourself when you can meditate and become closer to yourself, and to your prayer if you wish.

Yoga was first formed around the 3rd century in India. It was seen as a was to gain ethical and spiritual balance. Many religions use yoga to become closer to their God. Hindu philosophy believes that yoga embraces the notion of God, and Budism use related practices. Seane Corn is a yoga teacher and trainer. Before she was a yoga instructor she had obsessive compulsive disorder. She then realized how bad it was when she was doing yoga in the position known as downward dog. She looked down on the mat and noticed that her hands were not exactly in line. This bothered her because her shoulders were straight but she could not get her hands straight. Then she says that her teacher said something life changing. He said "breathe and everything changes." She breathed and felt realized.

She wanted to find a way to bring this into her everyday life. Yoga helped her get off drugs. Yoga gave her a body high that was better than drugs. She says that the first time yoga really impacted her life was when she lived in New York. She was walking home from a class and all of a sudden had a very weird feeling. She stopped and had to find out what this feeling was. She found out that she was happy.

She had a sense that everything was unfolding, she was part of something bigger than she could control. Yoga had planted a seed in her life and she wanted to embrace it. I go to yoga classes a few times every month. I find it very relaxing, its time for yourself. You can put away everything else that is going on in your daily life, and grasp you inner self. It a way to let go of stress and tension. Next time I go to a yoga class I am going to remember the things she has said about yoga. I will embrace it more, and hopefully get more out of it than I have in the past.

Yoga to me is about being completely pleased and completely relaxed with yourself. It is about being and noticing myself, not beating myself up, total acceptance of my significance, and that I have a place in the world, like on my yoga mat. Just because of my being, there is nothing I have to prove. I am just being aware, starting with breath. To realize that I am doing the best that I can every moment of my life.
I practice hot yoga. It allows me to let go and not struggle. In class a have a safe place to be self. The heat opens and softens the heart. My mind and body can relax and let go. Going to hot yoga, I am reminded that I have a good life. The connection with self and others is what it is all about; it is easier to love others if you love self.

For this On Being assignment I found a broadcast from September of 2009 on Yoga. Krista Tippett interviewed Seane Corn, a woman who found her way spiritually through yoga. Yoga is becoming very popular and an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. practiced yoga as of the time of this broadcast.

"Yoga is aligning with medical research and culture," Krista said, which is a very true statement. Nowadays, yoga is incredibly well known for its benefits to the body. Seane suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Her obsessions were even numbers like 4 and 8, and she also had an obsession with balance. She felt that if she balanced the right way she would protect someone she knew from dying. Seane couldn't deal with her emotions and tried using lots of things to self-regulate her obsessions. She liked to use drugs, especially hallucinogens.
Yoga eventually became her way of healing, although it took several years before she would realize this. In Seane's first yoga class, she started becoming very anxious because she felt that she was not balanced correctly, when her teacher said something that would mean a lot to her for the rest of her life. Her teacher said "breathe and everything changes." This helped Seane with her yoga, because she felt that as her anxiety rose she simply could just keep breathing deeply and the anxiety would pass. Seane says that the heart of the practice of yoga is love.
She also uses spiritual words. For example, when she says spirit she is meaning that which exists inside of you. This was a very interesting broadcast. I chose to listen to this one because I am about to start my very first yoga class on Monday. This broadcast really shows how yoga is just as much spiritual as it is physical.

Yoga helps me in my daily life. I feel more body-mind connection. I started to deepen my yoga practice in the last 5 years. The reason I started yoga in my 40s was from my Sciatic and chronic lower back pain from pregnancy. I told myself let's give it a try to learn this ancient practice. I practiced yoga forms everyday. In the first 3 months, I really felt the difference. People around me noticed in my body and my energy.

I used deep breath work to guide me when I wake up every morning. Any problems in daily life, yoga helps me survive. I got deeper into yoga study and got certified as a yoga teacher in 2009. I know that yoga can travel to anyone by allowing the mind over the body. Yoga makes me become more compassionate to the world. I studied different forms of yoga, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Hatha, and Anusara yoga and Pranayama practice under the principle of believing that I would adapt goods from each yoga into myself and the world.

They are helpful to my life, I can connect to my mind and physical body. I am not vegetarian. I focus more inwardly so I adapted to situation to place the space I go. The forms and lineages study are only outside, but what important is how you can bring yoga into daily life for healthy balance body and mind. The world get easier and lighter. I meet people and feel grace. Now, I expand my yoga practice to family and friends. I teach and practice yoga with my friends weekly.

Mine is informal stretches to heal my sore heel, my sole, and to let my soul soar. Amazing, eh? I have been healing for four years with dedicated daily stretches, which, for lack of a better word, my body has become addicted to, craving the stretches until performed. My practice is at home and occasionally one more formally trained will remark how similar to a yoga pose.

I'd done haphazard, sporadic yoga over the years but did not maintain a regular program. A very health-minded individual who takes responsibility for maintaining my health and eschews medical interference, I found myself quite ill over the Christmas/New Year holidays into January of 2000.

It was a type of influenza combined with a hacking chronic congestion, something I had never had before, and I seemed to be making no progress. Out of desperation, I went to a doctor whose prescription of drugs only seemed to add to my discomfort.

With this illness I had been down for over two weeks. One morning, in that twilight space between sleeping and awakening, the word "yoga" breathed itself into my mind. I'd received an earlier birthday gift of a CD/lesson booklet called "OM Yoga in A Box." I put it on and within the 90 minutes it took to work through the sessions, I was well. No coughing. No fever. All gone.

From that day forward yoga has been a regular discipline. At 65, my body is flexible, limber, and healthy, with none of the "normal" health challenges afflicting others my age and younger. A session of yoga brings me back to my sense of self, and the realization that — no matter the situation I am facing — I am enough.

After 10 years, I still classify myself as a beginner, as my body changes every day to where a pose that was mastered two weeks earlier can often seem new and difficult again. As I've moved recently, I hope to find classes in my locale to really take me further.

I often wonder how these poses came about, who studied these intricacies and took the time to develop them. What a gift to humanity, this study.

I discovered yoga at 56 while recovering from six rounds of chemotherapy and a month of radiation. Yoga let me move at my own pace and to be forgiving of my own body's limitations.

After I got some of my strength and flexibility back, I tried several types of yoga — vinyasa flow, Bikram, kundalini, restorative, and hatha yoga. Five years later, I teach hatha yoga, as well as practice daily.

The spiritual aspect of yoga, linking breath with movement and meditation, helps me focus on what is most important — acceptance of whatever life has to offer at this moment. Karma yoga — freely offering my practice to those who don't have access to yoga — that's actually my favorite form.

I started with power yoga about 4 or 5 years ago and sporadically took classes. I sensed there was a great deal in it for me but lost sight of it as time went by.

About two years ago I started again, primarily because, as I got older, I wanted additional flexibility in my body.

Over time I sensed there was a "more" behind the physical exercises and benefits. This is now what I am focused on. I am at heart a spiritual person but not a church person, and I know yoga right now is the finest, most meaningful way for me to connect spiritually with whatever is beyond temporal existence.

Seane Corn's program this past Sunday also focused on what is really at work when life presents itself. I have a lot of anger and hostility towards socially and politically conservative people. And I am beginning to understand that I will not be whole until and unless I can offer forgiveness to them and truly accept it within myself.

This is a journey I am not sure will be successful. But it is one I make anyway.

For over two decades I was a leader in the field of information and communications technology (ICT) for development and managed the World Bank's largest ICT portfolio of projects in public sector management, education and health in every region of the world. My first yoga classes were with Beryl Bender Birch and Thom Birch and I am grateful I was introduced to this age-old practice, which I then taught to international development professionals like myself to help balance our over-stressed work lives.

I saw how this practice can move from the physical to the emotional and can have an impact on the lives of under-served and unserved communities. With Beryl Bender Birch, Lori Klein, we founded The Give Back Yoga Foundation to support certified yoga teachers to give back to those in their communities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the transformational benefits of this powerful practice, in all its aspects — from asana and stress reduction, through breath work and meditation, to general service to others.

I am in love with yoga not only because I love practicing but because in just 8 months it has saved my life. I began practicing in Jan. of 2009 at a local studio with a very young teacher that I now consider my "reverse mentor." I am 53, and have had insomnia for 17 years, yes that long, which contributed to constant stress. Last year I found I out I have a severe case of scoliosis which I did not know I had even though it caused me to walk around in constant pain limiting my activity, & forget getting a good workout anymore. This, all while thinking I was living a normal life.

BUT in just 8 short months of practicing, I now sleep like a baby! This is unbelievable to me. I smile. I can think again, the fogginess is gone. If I don't miss my yoga my back muscles don't spasm and so my back pain is almost nonexistent! I have tried EVERYTHING, all the sleep remedies out there, mental & physical. I have tried all the pain relieving remedies like chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, etc.

Yoga absolutely is the answer to all my troubles. I am a person again, mentally, physically, emotionally, mind, body & soul! I am now training to be a yoga teacher. I will practice yoga for the rest of my life!

Don't Serve Them — Meet Them
The guest on Speaking of Faith was Yoga expert Seane Corn. She had been talking about her own journey and discovering through Yoga the essential need to reach out to others — to serve. She discovered an organization, Children of the Night, which deals with helping teenage prostitutes. She went and decided to teach them Yoga as a way of helping them and their self-esteem, body-esteem, etc. It was a disaster. Ms. Corn said:

"… You could just see the darkness on these kids, and they seemed to me in that moment as hopeless. … I went into my car and I was really emotional and I was just thinking these kids are messed up. They're never going to get better. They're going to go back out into the world, you know, as criminals, and going on and on in my head. It always takes me a while to kind of, you know, where I always think spirit's saying, like, 'You done yet? You going to wake up to this yet?' Because I realized that I had just met the part of myself that I had denied, that I called into my experience the child in me that had been, that is, defiant and angry and scared to death and has absolutely zero tools for healing."

That's where she began to describe for me what mission is really all about, what happens so often on short-term mission trips, and the problem with mission as we have almost always described it.

"And, honestly, God is hysterical, and I get the joke really, really late always. Because I got exactly God was saying, 'It's time. It's time. You can't deny this. If you really want to heal and open your heart to love, then you've got to find the places within you that's disconnected from God. And I'm giving you an opportunity. Go back. And don't serve these girls; meet them. Go and meet you.'"

I was literally taken up short, that insight was so on-target. So many different thoughts came to mind. One was Jesus saying to his disciples, in essence, you are no longer servants, you are my friends. To serve others can set up hierarchy and position and, in these types of situations, a better-than-them attitude.

Second, if we are open to the Spirit saying "You done yet? You going to wake up to this yet?" we will turn and see ourselves and something about ourselves that needs to be healed. The places we go to work and serve, the mission we seek, is always one that is inward and outward, two-ways: me to you and you to me. Healing is found for our own needs that we didn't even know we had from those we thought were the ones in need. No wonder people always come home from short-term mission trips and say they got more than they gave. They discovered the mutuality of the faith and of love.

It doesn't matter whether we are talking about a faith-based service, a deep felt-need to help others, or some drive to do something. That drive comes from someplace where we may need healing or growth ourselves. That's what Seane Corn taught me in one short but powerful moment.

Under it all was the awareness that when we do mission we are not, repeat, not going as the ones with the answers to give to those who are less fortunate. We are going to meet others with whom we learn to live and work.

If it were Christmas, we would call that Incarnation.

I have experienced several miracles. One, at age 19, when Yoga came to me. I'd been programmed to over-achieve, but the end of the first freshman semester found me sitting on the floor watching people stroll by and wondering, "who am I and why am I here?" These questions led me to read a lot of books pointing to answers, e.g. by Buber, Tillich, etc. Two of these were the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Immersed in these, one day I awoke and found my body performing postures and movements I'd never seen before. All I knew was that they felt perfectly right, totally both energizing and relaxing. I learned soon that the day simply can't begin for this human being without about an hour of this practice.

This happened 42 years ago. Since then, this Self-moved yoga has been daily practice. When truest, the movements emerge from within. This practice opened me to answer "why am I here": to help others on their path; to help others work together; to help others find their way to live in peace; and to serve the muse. (When I am not on the road as an organizational consultant, I play a lot of jazz.)

You ask below about "faith," and I suppose this sums it up. This is the code I live by, and how I wish to be remembered. I am sure the yoga that came to me is integral to this way of being.

I have been practicing yoga (privately) for 10 years. I find it brings me a sense of well-being, balance and peace and/or harmony to my daily life. I feel more patience and humor to those around me — a spiritual grounding, if you will. It grounds me.

I have stepped away from traditional religion, as I find true spirituality comes from within and from surrounding nature. Living in Jacksonville, Fl., I find this is not the what most people practice.

I feel so strongly about the physical and emotional balancing and healing of yoga that I volunteer to share this with children. I believe in giving children permission to stretch and breath. Sports are beneficial, but yoga offers benefits that differ from sports. At end of each "session" I do give the children time to meditate. I bring them through this using creative visualization to help calm their senses and to go inward. I also give positive affirmations to them while they are relaxed. I truly enjoy working with children to help them gain some sense of peace in this crazy, loud world.


In 1971 a dear friend of mine entered the novitiate of a community of cloistered nuns. One of the first things she told me that they had to do was take a course in yoga, there at the novitiate. She recommended it to me. When I got back home my dear spiritual director told me he was glad to know of my interest and recommended that I follow the method of Fr. Jean Marie DeChanet, OSB, founder of the first Christian ashram in India.

Over the years I have waited for the gurus to come into my life, not seek them. And many very holy men and women, have come to teach me, mostly hatha yoga. It has changed my life. I have slowed down. Most of these wonderful teachers have come from Mexico, some from Belgium, India and Italy. Prayer in movement is as old as the first humans that danced for joy to their God, and marveled in the beauty of nature, cats and trees, the wind and the little flower. The Church was founded by an Asian, Judaism relies on writings written in Asia. Most people I encounter in California apparently forget that historical fact!

Hello, SOF folk-

I was very recently profiled in the August 12th edition of The Wall Street Journal, in the "What's Your Workout?" column. The piece, entitled "Staying Sane and in Shape, Thanks to a Strict Yoga Regime," chronicles how I took up vinyasa yoga after moving to New York City to relieve stress & stay in shape. As part of the piece, I also gave props to the #1 New York Times bestselling book, "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. After meeting Gilbert, I was inspired to try yoga. My comments: "She [Gilbert] was so down to earth & was really changed by yoga. Even though we had different struggles I thought if it worked for Liz it could work for me." Here's the link to the piece, which includes video:

What didn't make the final edit for the column was my deep feeling that my daily practice is a daily Sabbath, a sacred time -- what Rabbi Heschel called "a cathedral in time." And in that time I have a dialogue with my concept of the divine.

I attended graduate school at Harvard University in 2001 and 2002. By January of 2002, with the stress of the 9/11 attacks added on to everything else, I was experiencing a debilitating anxiety disorder, an which has now been diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

For the first few months, before the therapy started to really kick in, the only thing that kept me from flying apart at the seams was yoga. The 30 seconds between waking up in the morning to getting into a yoga posture felt like an hour. I don't even know what form I was doing - it was whatever form was taught in the book from the 1970s that I grabbed off my mom's shelf when things started getting ugly over winter break - but it saved my sanity. I had to read the book and study the pictures. I had to think "Where am I supposed to put my leg now?" And then I had to breathe deeply. And count. And then consult the book again. The focus and breathing it required were the only thing that could keep me from focusing on the crazy thoughts in my head. I was virtually non-functional during this period - couldn't do 20 minutes of schoolwork in a day without dissolving into hysteria - but I was ok if I was doing yoga.

I don't do it as much as I should now that the anxiety is under control, but I sincerely don't know how I could have coped with the levels of anxiety I was suffering during that time without this practice.

Early this morning (4AM or therabouts), I woke in anticiaption of the coming storm (Hannah). I was uncomfortable and began to practice the "happy baby" position which I usually find soothing. But after another half hour of sleeplessness and a change of beds, I began a series of more stringent poses. Keep in mind, it was early in the morning and my ultimate goal was to return to bed. Eventually I fell asleep and had a strange and wonderful dream which concerned saying goodbye to a childhood nieghbor (four years my senior), who has terminal, brain cancer. In the dream I met with him (which I was denied several weeks ago because of his precarious state and the fact that I have not been in touch with him for many years). But the need to say goodbye to him was critical to me. In my dream he quietly turned away from me and headed into an underground train station, without saying anything or acknowledging my presence. Today I will call his younger brother (my friend with whom I have remained in touch), to offer words of comfort.

I haven't found the restoration and balance through yoga, My daughter has. She has been practicing yoga for a number of years and now is taking classes to become an instructor. She has told me that yoga has been helpful to her and that I might want to try it to help with my osteoarthritis. All I have to do is act on that advice.

I expect that I would find any form yoga to be helpful. The pain from the osteoarthritis is enough to annoy and even when I start some fom of exercise, the joint pain gets more "annoying"

Can the conversation talk about this aspect?

Thank you,

Mark L. Dallner

When I was a child I became enchanted with dance. My mother resisted, but eventually I convinced her for ballet lessons and quickly excelled in the technique. I grew into normal, tall, healthy body that happened to not be perfect for an aspiring ballerina. I soon began a cycle of purging and starvation.
Luckily I found the healing form of movement called Yoga. I started my practice while at college in New Mexico and continued until I eventually became a Vinyasa Teacher. This path of practice has also changed recently as I explore more styles in my current home of NYC.
I also have the pleasure of still having dance in my life, now Modern Dance, through teaching at a last chance alternative public high school in downtown Brooklyn. My student's are more likely to be gang members than ever be exposed to a downward dog but I am amazed to have the honor of not only spending half my day practicing dance with my students but the other half is dedicated to yoga. Not only am I able to keep myself healthy I get to expose what I have found through Yoga to the next generation.

Yes. I am not a true yogi, but aspire to be. Ultimeately, I think a yogi develops a personal and unique practice. I practice alone. I have developed to the point that "I get it": the intergration of mind, body and spirit for healing and awareness of what is. Learning yogic techniques has made my life better and probably longer.

I was introduced to yoga 30 years ago with a pre-natal class. I began with Hatha, and learned over the years many styles from many teachers. Now I try to master Kundalini. Yoga is incredibley simple and incredibly complex at the same time. There is always more to learn and master.

I practice and teach yoga in the Kripalu tradition.

My yoga practice is a daily tonic that grounds my body, settles my mind and invites an openness to spirit. After many years, yoga has become similar to a best friend, welcoming me to the practice each time to continue exploring our relationship.

I am not sure it brings me restoration so much as it gives me a strong affirmation of the "spirit source" within me.

I practiced prenatal Yoga during my entire pregnancy. I dont have enough words to explain how it helped me.
It made me aware and involved in my birthing process, it made me connect with my inner self and with my baby as well, it keept me in excellent shape and it gave me the strengt I needed to understand the changes that my body and soul were expeeriencing.
Yoga for me is my mother nature.
Maria Jose

I tried practicing yoga alone in my home, but found I needed a partner. I was lucky to have a great yoga teacher and he arranged for me to partner with a man who is now a friend named DeNiro. Both of us were stressed completely as we are in finance here but miss our homes - his is in Germany, in Lobbachtal, and mine is in Russia although I was born and raised in America. The yoga proved a wonderful relief, but not immediately. We had to go through our steps one at a time and often before a feeling of calm came over me, and later for DeNiro. I would recommend it for anyone living a stress-filled life. The most unusual thing however is that my dogs at least try to do Yoga with us. This is the amazing and most facinating
thing. The dogs, who are giant schnauzers are normally very active and noisy, but when they see us roll out out mats the lie down and seem almost to copy our movements as much as they can.

Thanks for your wonderful program


Dear Speaking of Faith:

Today's program, 9/07, and your upcoming one could not be more timely for me.

I'm currently taking care of a parent with Alzheimers and developed arthritis in the process.

And I also recently completed a book on yoga called An American Yoga: The Kripalu Story.

What I'd like to add the dialgoue about yoga is the subtext of The Kripalu Story. That it is the esoteric practice of shaktipat-diksha that has allowed yoga to become so profoundly influential in the world today.

Up until the birth of the nuclear age, following world war II, India did not allow the export of this powerful form of spiritual transmission.

In the case of Kripalu Yoga, it was Shrii Kripalvanandji, an acknowledged Kundalini yoga master, who tweaked the fate and direction of Amrit Desai's life by initiating him with shaktipat diksha and giving him the ways and means to transfer it to his disciples in America and the West.

The result is The Kripalu Story.

Most discussions of yoga don't offer an inclusion of this practice or acknowledge how it is the esential ingredient that allows yoga to be a spiritually transformative process rather than just a very sopisticed form of exercise and meditation.

I know that I am being more general here than you are probably looking for, but if you'd like more specifics I can provide them. One of the reasons I wrote the kripalu Story is that I don't think up until now that this process has not been accurately described and acknowledged.

I worked with Yogi Amrit Desai as his book editor during the 1980's and also stayed with him following the crisis that led him to resign as spritual director of the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

And last year I travelled with him to India for a 'lineage tour' of the places where he had his spiritual awakening expereinces. My descriptions of shakti (the evolutionary energy received through shaktipat diksha) are first hand.

I was diagnosed with ms in 1997 at UPenn and Jefferson hospitals. By 1999 I was consumed by debilitating symptoms. Out of desperation, I plunged back to nature with raw foods, proper breath, prayer, fasting, and kundalini and hatha yogas.
In 2003 my dog and I hiked from Maine to the Tenn border on the A.T.. We passed virtually every other hiker and even moved 25 miles/day, 6 days a week our last month out.
I practice yoga everyday, in the sun, and on the ground when the weather permits.
My body is so sensitive, I work fulltime doing State contracted socialwork, and I'm not always strong enough to run up mountains. In fact, I am often reminded that I could be in a wheelchair very easily. However, when I am in the delicate rhythm, there are virtually no limits to my abilities.
Since the hike, my wife has worked by my side in the laborious tree service industry. Either way, I love yoga and what opened up to me because of the practice.
I've always been very restless, but the practice allows my body to relax for meditation. It has helped my posture, dealing with stress, and I'm certain has opened me to countless blessings.

Soon after the birth of my son, I happened to "win" a free yoga class through a work health promotion. I entered the first evening class with knots of stress from working and getting accustomed to parenting, including a lack of sleep. However, with each of the introductory class' basic movements and positions, the stress rapidly eroded away. As I left the class, I found myself pausing in the dark parking lot, looking up into the star-filled sky and feeling nearly overwhelmed by the sensation of 50 pounds (of stress) being removed from my shoulders. From that moment, I believed in the healing power of yoga.

As an artist, I have found a deep & creative "centering" from my yoga practice. Vinyasa & Hatha are my regular classes, but when I travel I always seek out an alternative, and have found them to add to my understanding of what yoga can do. Seane Corn's dvd's have been a big part of my beginning practices.

In 1974, at the age of 20, I was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. Intuitively, I KNEW it was stress related and a doctor put me on tranquilizers to “solve my problem.” I realized I didn’t want to live my life taking pills and began to explore other ways I could manage my overactive mind. I was then living in a conservative, semi-rural community and didn’t know how to find alternatives to the traditional medicine that was practiced here, but I did find a paperback book: "Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation." I read it cover to cover, and began to practice asanas through study of photos and text descriptions. I loved the changes this new practice began in me, got rid of the pills AND the stomach ulcer, and was hooked on this new possibility. A few years later, I also began to practice vegetarianism, which I also continue to this day. Over the past 34 years, living many different places around the States, I’ve had the good fortune to find an important handful of hadtha yoga teachers and came to embrace the Iyengar tradition, in particular. I continue to take classes 2 x per week to this day and am firmly convinced it helps me physically, mentally and spiritually. In October, I will go on a retreat with one of my teachers in order to immerse myself in my annual “booster.” I also practice alone but I find working with a teacher helps me to go “further” as lazy me will basically just coast without external input—plus I love to “touch base” with the community of other yogis and yoginnis that meet for these classes. I’m convinced that yoga isn’t just a central part of my life and how I’m living it, but as a practicing fine artist, it has in real, but subtle, ways, influenced my entire career path and body of work.

Those challenging lessons in life. The ones that can really take the wind out of your sail. Bringing every emotion to the surface. Intensely. My head felt like it was on fire, my body tense and exhausted during my Sister's 18 month illness and eventual death from breast cancer. My Father died 5 months prior to Sister's passing. My Mom, now at home with me suffering from Altzheimer's and a brand new baby grandson born on the day of Dad's funeral! These were bitter-sweet moments of celebration and grieving for my loved ones. I didn't know if I was coming or going at times!
Homeopathic remedies, Bach flowers and BREATH DEEP were a few of my tools to keep it together. I knew I needed Yoga for balance and peace of mind. Also dance.
I quit my job in the state super-max prison library. Got to Yoga class and began my recuperation and restoration. My wonderful teacher one day said to me "Debbie, you can teach Yoga if you want." Today I am teaching and practicing Vinyasa with love, playfulness, and joy in my heart!

I always felt that I needed to learn to breathe more fully and more easily. I didn't really learn know how to breathe until I started doing Yoga. I was told to breathe from here or from there; and I was told "don't do this or that", but none of it made sense and it did not help. I even asked a singer and an actor for help, even though I am not a singer or an actor, but I did not get the help I was searching for.

One day while watching public television, I learned about Peggy Cappy's "Yoga for the Rest of Us". I bought her DVDs, and I finally felt the ease of breathing. Without my daily simple yoga exercises which consist of stretching, balancing and breathing, I cannot imagine feeling good physically or mentally.

A huge bonus was the Spiritual Connection I felt with the breath that I had never felt before. That spiritual connection led to my reading about Buddhism and to my daily meditation practice. Meditation focusing on the breath helps me to live more peacefully, and with more kindness and compassion.

All of this from simple Yoga exercises which stretch and balance the body. -Judith Brook

sutra 1: Yoga is the cessation of the fluxtuation of the mind. Our teacher reminds us of this Sutra in each and every Hatha class. We are told to leave our hurts and stresses on the floor during svathasana. I come to yoga class carrying the day with me - my mind swirling in different directions my body tight. There is always talk and energy and pragmatic movement before hatha class begins. At the end I am in a quiet energy - my mind is at peace - my body feeling delicious - that is the restoration- coming in connected and part of those stresses that are self inflicted and leaving yoga class as the observer. There is no competition in Yoga - we are told that were ever you are is okay - to not judge yourself. I thank my teacher always.
When I first started Yoga three years ago I was a complete neophyte. Over and over I listened to the repetition of the words - felt the flight and gravity of the asanas , the chanting, pranyanma, the music, the hush light of the candle. I have felt my body anew - my mind opening and have smiled over and over again.
Yoga has calmed the mind, opened my body and gradually the sutras have become part of my day to day experience. To be here and now is restorative.

I started doing yoga 32 years ago, when I turned 30 and was trying to give up smoking. After I started doing yoga, I was able to stop smoking in one day and never, ever looked back. I realized then that there was something pretty amazing about the practice. After 5 years I became a yoga teacher and have been teaching now for 27 years.

In addition to teaching yoga, I have also been a visual artist for about the same amount of time. I began to notice, early on in my teaching and yoga practice, that many of the people I was encountering in yoga classes and as students, were also artists of all kinds. Since artists tend to be a bit outside the mainstream culture and more experimental, it seemed logical that they would be willing to try esoteric practices. But what attracted them specifically to yoga?

Over time I realized that artists were attracted to yoga because they were intuiting its potential to expand their creativity. Practicing yoga opens up creative capacity and unblocks regressive mental attitudes. This aspect of yoga is not talked about much but it is very profound. On a biological level, creative work increases blood flow to the brain and triggers the same sort of positive changes in brain chemistry found from doing meditation. Yoga is like a moving meditation, so the relationship between the two became very clear to me.

Many times, while I was trying to solve a problem I was having with a painting or something I was writing, or a life issue, the answer would come to me walking home from taking a yoga class. I've heard this same thing from many others as well. An answer pops up during or after a yoga practice. Yoga stiumlates the unconscious and creativity.

Creativity is a very broad force in all human life. It is not the specialzed "talent" or "skill" that most people think it is. Rather, it is much more a habit of mind and affects every area of our lives.
It gives people a way of reimagining their circumstances, relationships, situation in life, and emotional state. It is a source of optimism and hope. You don't have to be an "artist" to appreciate the advantages of being a creative person. Being creative is a way of staying in tune with change and of being able to adapt successfully to life’s curve balls.

So, in addition to the physical health and relaxation benefits you hear so much about, yoga has a powerful benefit, maybe it's most important benefit, in it's ability to enhance creativity. This has been one of my greatest realizations about what yoga does for me.

I practice a form of yoga known as Astanga yoga. It is the most difficult form physically and I find that the physical challange keeps my mind focused on my breath and my attention firmly fixed in the moment, so it is like a moving meditation practice. For me, yoga forms that are too slow and easy allow my mind to wander and become unfocused. Since it is not appropriate for most people, it's just too hard, I do not teach Astanga. I teach an excerpted form but one that is challanging enough to keep students focused and in the present moment.

Yoga is a non-verbal experience that stimulates one's intuitive nature, opens the mind, increases awareness and composure. In addition yoga provides a myriad of health benefits, such as: stabilizes blood pressure, builds lean muscle mass, enhances balance,increases range of motion, strength and flexibility. It also increases concentration, calmness and feelings of contentment at the same time that it teaches self-awareness, self-knowledge and compassion.

SHOULD YOGA TEACHING AND PRACTISE EVOLVE RADICALLY TO FIT MODERN LIFE? After practising for more than twenty years, I started teaching yoga through a local city recreation center, where I design each course to try to fit the needs of the attendees. Continually gathering student input, I've felt called to use the traditional canon of hatha and astanga yoga practise as a springboard for "new" asanas. I am a retired paramedic who taught emergency medicine, including anatomy, and I base whatever I do on principles of anatomy as well as the ancient traditions.
For example, I've observed that we are evolving towards round-shoulderedness (from sedentary occupation) something the ancients who gave us the traditional science did not build in to the design. I rarely see students who have adequate enough shoulder flexibilty and strength to get the full potential benefits from a pose like Downward-Facing Dog, which relies in part on creating a straight, strong extension of the arms. Breezing through a Sun Salutation without the intended form can make yoga into an awkward calisthenic rather than a powerful physical transformative force.
So, this fall, I've been inspired to rely on intuition and creativity to design a course called Yoga for Women, which focuses on balance, core strength, and mental poise. I rely on Patanjali's precepts and draw from the wealth of yoga tradtion, but I also add my own asanas and exercises.
I can't help but wonder if, in this time of accerated change in human consciousness, there are other yoga teachers (including your guest) and practitioners who feel drawn to an expansion of the traditions?
Best wishes,
Susan Sherman
Charlottesville, VA

as a public high school biology teacher who is a catholic (and perhaps more importantly a spiritual person), i'm continually looking for ways to make the connection between science and religion and present it in the classroom in a careful NON-religious way.

as a practitioner of yoga with only 3 years of formal practice a decade or so ago, i like to start my days with a yoga routine, though it often changes and thus reflects my inner stress. essentially, i do four sun salutations, one each to the four cardinal directions (a bit of feng shui, if you will), each direction symbolizing something that works for me: (these are not my own ideas but i cannot remember which 'workshop' introduced these ideas to me...). to the EAST, while doing the sun salutation and breathing carefully, i will meditate on DETAILS i'm dealing w/in my life at that time; SOUTH meditating on PEOPLE LESS FORTUNATE; WEST meditating on the BIG PICTURE/PERSPECTIVE; and finally NORTH meditating on JUST DO IT!/ACT NOW. it's nice because i can change the order in which i do the four directions or the number of them, depending on the need at the moment.

here's to balance.


Yoga has helped me to learn the connection between breath and thought. I attend Yoga classes at a local YMCA. I suppose they are in the hatha yoga form. The last 10 minutes of class are spent in the shavasana pose. In this relaxation pose I have felt a glimpse of what it might be like to truly let thoughts go and meditate. Near the end of the 10 minutes a feeling washes over me. It is similar to a rushing feeling of falling asleep while trying to read a good book, but I remain awake and somewhere between conscious and unconscious. Then I hear the instructor's voice telling us to return our thoughts to our breath and I have a sense of wonder over the feeling that I just experienced.
For me, it is an intuitive process to work my muscles and focus my mind on body alignment before attempting meditation. The yoga sessions provide a process for releasing tensions.

I have been practicing hatha yoga since 1994, most of my teachers are Anusaura inspired, recently I began practicing Shadow Yoga.
I begin each day with a home practice of sun salutations and standing poses.
In the beginning the first benefit was mountian pose, just standing balanced like a mountian, no matter the weather, wind, snow, heat the mountian is standing strong- I used this pose as I waited in line at the grocery store, instead of being anxious, in a hurry, upset at the person using all the coupons I could just be the mountain.
Balance, feeling calm, knowing you can just breathe, being centered.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about a boat of Vietnamese refugees who are very scared and says if one person on the boat can remain calm by just breathing they may be able to save everyone on the boat.
I heard a story about a woman in a bank robbery situation and she said she just tried to breathe and remain calm to somehow transfer this to the people holding the guns and she believed this helped the situation and no one was harmed.
There are also the physical aspects, flexibility, strength, benefits for the internal organs, but in the end the practice is to prepare one to be able to sit comfortably to meditate.

I have been practicing hatha yoga since 1994, most of my teachers are Anusaura inspired, recently I began practicing Shadow Yoga.
I begin each day with a home practice of sun salutations and standing poses.
In the beginning the first benefit was mountian pose, just standing balanced like a mountian, no matter the weather, wind, snow, heat the mountian is standing strong- I used this pose as I waited in line at the grocery store, instead of being anxious, in a hurry, upset at the person using all the coupons I could just be the mountain.
Balance, feeling calm, knowing you can just breathe, being centered.
Thich Nhat Hanh talks about a boat of Vietnamese refugees who are very scared and says if one person on the boat can remain calm by just breathing they may be able to save everyone on the boat.
I heard a story about a woman in a bank robbery situation and she said she just tried to breathe and remain calm to somehow transfer this to the people holding the guns and she believed this helped the situation and no one was harmed.
There are also the physical aspects, flexibility, strength, benefits for the internal organs, but in the end the practice is to prepare one to be able to sit comfortably to meditate.

Having gone through cancer treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma two times before the age of 40, there has been much to make sense out of, particularly since my second experience with cancer began when I was without health insurance. Needless to say, life became grossly out of balance very quickly. Within three months of the diagnosis of my recurrence with NHL, I became poor and disabled in order to get help from state and federal assistance programs; I incurred significant medical bills before I started receiving any assistance; and I stopped working and started chemotherapy and lost much of my physical and emotional self to the process. As most of our language and way of making sense reinforces, I became entangled in a war I could not escape. If I wanted to live, I had to fight.

When I emerged from treatment about eight months after the diagnosis there was much to regain in the way of balance in my life, although I did not yet understand that. I discovered that the world of surviving cancer is as fraught with metaphorical war making as the active battles I had to endure in treatment. While I attended a conference on cancer survivorship and several Lance Armstrong Foundation events, I still felt resistant to becoming too involved with the "Livestrong Army" and accepting congratulations for beating cancer. Although I was mad at the lost time, money, physicality, as well as other setbacks, and I wanted to see changes in policy with regards to cancer survivorship, I no longer wanted war to be my major metaphorical sense making strategy. Instead, I turned to a practice of incorporating balance back into my life.

It started by going to a Bikram yoga class almost everyday for two weeks while visiting a friend in Denver, CO that fall after treatment and it continued that winter when I decided I would put in over 100 days on my skis. While I continued practicing yoga at home, skiing brought a dynamic aspect to the practice of balance. I had to stay in balance while moving sometimes at great speed under difficult conditions. After the ski season ended I began traipsing around the forest and getting in tune with the balance of nature. With each new season I seek out ways to enhance my balance practice by riding my bike, or learning about the ocean for example.

Throughout this past summer and now as fall rains down on us fast and furiously up here in the northern temperate rainforest, I go to yoga class regularly, usually two or three times a week. Since Bikram is not taught here, I now study Ashtanga. Each class brings me a deeper sense of balance, strength and freedom from the chaos that war leaves in its path. I find new connections with my core and breath that I look forward to exploring when I once again click into my skis this winter. I also believe that my balance practices inform my thinking as to how we should proceed as cancer survivors. If we are inspire and move towards real change in how we deal with cancer then moving while in balance seems so much more sustainable than trying to sustain another 35 years of warring with ourselves, our government and the medical community.


Voices on the Radio

teaches yoga at the Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California. She is the National Yoga Ambassador for YouthAIDS, and co-founder of "Off the Mat, Into the World."

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