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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)

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I arrived on my yoga mat at the age of 36 pregnant with my 3rd child. I had run the fitness gamut, from cheerleader in high school to aerobics class queen in the 80s. At the time (early 90s) I was the ultimate gym-rat and over-volunteered mom of three children under the age of 6. I ran at 5 am nearly everyday so I could get my exercise in before the kids woke. We lived in Singapore at the time and my husband traveled all the time.I felt like a hamster on wheel that never, ever stopped. It is clear to me now I was longing for a new sense of purpose and a deeper, clearer perspective of myself in this world. All the exercise I had performed in the past was just that -- physical exercise. Nearing 40 and a busy mother, I was craving a spiritual practice that nutured both body and soul. It probably was not coincidental that just prior to my first exposure to yoga, I had a "born-again" experience in my Christian faith. Perhaps it was this renewal of faith that complelled me to seek yoga. I felt a closeness to God during my early morning prayer time that I had never before experienced. I began to feel the need to extend the time I spent on my knees silencing my mind so as to listen to His plan for my life. I did this on my altar-turned yoga mat by practicing with faith, devotion, awareness, discipline, joy and love by offering my body as a living sacrifice to God.

It was hard work yet I knew there had to be more to life than being a wife, mother, advertising executive or freelance journalist. Why had He brought me to this place? It took 3 years of steady practice to discover His plan. I now know my first teacher was a gift from God. A Buddhist of Chinese descent, she had a deep cultural understanding and awareness of how yoga transcends all religion. I was, after all, a devout Christian and protective of my faith. In my first class she asked that we focus on our supreme being, whether it was God, Jesus Christ, Allah, Buddah -- it didn't matter -- simply focus on "your" one true God. At that instant, all the mysticism that veiled my mind about yoga vanished but more important what was revealed was infinitely more vital to me as a Christian. My Christianity could co-exist with my yoga practice. In fact, I was to discover much to my delight, I would eventually be led to witness to others about God's love right on my yoga mat. But just how yoga restored me, instead of draining me like all the other exercise I had done in the past, was an unexpected and completely exhilerating benefit.
I began teaching one class a week after a 10-week training instructor's course. I had so much more to learn but I was so happy sharing my love of yoga with others. It was as Stephen Cope describes in his book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, "a deep opening of the heart in this state of bliss and unutterable sense of well being."
One thing led to another and now 15 years later, I find myself a certified Iyengar yoga teacher teaching 9 classes a week. It has been a spiritual journey whose destination, had I been aware, probably would have scared me away. Instead, I have this awake mind and heart that has come to the realization that when we surrender to His plan for us, we realize our true Self. It's hard work, this yoga mat turned altar thing, but I love letting go of the life of desire, the world of materialism, the "craving, clinging and grasping" part of life. There is sweet freedom in relinquishing and learning to live life fully present in the moment. This is when I realize my true Self, the one who was meant to devote her passion to teaching others how yoga can restore us and improve the quality of our lives.

The practice of yoga has helped me find my best self. I was introduced to yoga thirty-five years ago and have practiced daily for twenty-five years. I earned my classical hatha yoga teacher certification four years ago and have been teaching yoga since then.
I believe that everyone can benefit from yoga.
Practicing yoga causes you to slow down, pay attention to your breath and your body You learn to accept yourself as you are and thus become more compassionate to yourself and others. The changes that yoga brings are very subtle and occur slowly over time, therefore some people are disappointed in yoga because they are expecting quick results. However if one stays with the practice for a series of months, changes occur not only in ones' body, but also in one's mind set and attitudes towards life.
Thank you for asking.
The picture I am attaching is my daughter and I doing the wheel pose with a little assitance from my cat, Woody.
The website for my yoga studio is
http://www.dancingheartsstudio.com

My first experience with yoga was way back in 1986, at my undergrad college, at a small, student center class. From that experience on, I knew that I had found a form of expression that suited me deeply. However, it was a long search to find the right teacher, to truly show me how powerful a devoted practice can be.
The Iyengar tradition has been a perfect path for me, in that it approaches yoga not as a thing that you do, but as a way of practicing life. Time on the mat is a time of play, meditation, exercise, research, and devotion. Hence, I view my mat as a playground, a laboratory, and a temple, all at the same time. I am so grateful for this gift of yoga, and the wonderful teachers who have devoted their lives to sharing it with all.

I became interested in yoga through the tapes by Jon Kabat-Zinn and his work at University of Massachusetts. I had seen him on a Bill Moyers PBS special on body-mind interaction. I sporadically tried doing the exercises at home. Then, our director of nursing (I'm a chaplain at a general hospital) offered a weekly yoga class. At the end of those sessions I found myself so relaxed that I often fell asleep as we finished in the "corpse pose." My sense of balance and of flexibility improved. One "aha!" moment came when I had both arms stretched above my head and my teacher told me to relax. I was amazed that I could be in the pose and hold it without the tension I usually had.
One of my teacher's major "mantras" for me was "Let your shoulders drop down from your ears." I heard those words so often that they became a part of my life and I would check, find the tension, and then relax, throughout the day. It also helped make me aware of other places where I stored tension in my body.
Seven years ago I suffered from a ruptured disk and to my surprise, the physical therapist had me doing "exercises" to help my back which I already knew as yoga poses.
I do not follow a regular practice of yoga, but the awareness remains and there are stretches I utilize to help relieve tension and discomfort. I remain aware of my posture, coaching myself to stand straight, shoulder blades back, and shoulders down from my ears.
I enjoy reading about yoga, particularly Yoga Journal and the Kripalu newsletter.

I have found that yoga is a wholistic practice which allows me to connect spiritually, mentally and phisically in ways that enrich and restore my life. I find that yoga has opened links to spirit that I was not able to aceess while growing up in the Episcopal church. Through meditation and pranayama, i have connected with source, quieted the mind stuff (chitta vritti), and it's challenging and fun! I practice anusara, iyengar, vinyassa, & asthanga. I'm trying to figure out which one is best for me. I am leaning towards anusara which incorporates the vinyasa flow but maintains alignment principals.

OM Shanti, Kathy

I was introduced to yoga (hatha) at my local YMCA and have practiced (increasingly) for 6 years. I am going to be 60 in November, and I wish I had found yoga much earlier in my life - it has definitely been life-changing for me. I am attracted to all aspects - mind, body and spirit. Physically I am stronger, more flexible and more aware of my body and its parts. Mentally, I have learned to slow down, to focus, to breathe, to have perspective. Spiritually I am learning to connect to something greater than myself and beyond the confines of my physical life. I am so interested in reading and learning all about yoga. I keep a book about the anatomy of yoga in the bathroom to read about each pose. I have learned some chants in sanskrit and am fascinated by that language. Currently I am a school librarian, but I plan to become a certified yoga instructor when I retire and would like to do yoga with senior citizens who are limited in their movement, as I truly believe yoga can be beneficial to ANYONE. My mother has emphysema and I have shown her some breathing techniques that might help her. After work, when my energy is at its lowest, I have started doing 5 basic sun salutations and standing on my head for a few minutes and I am amazed by the energy I gain from this simple routine. I have found that the benefits of doing yoga are sometimes immediate - especially from the relaxation poses - but others become evident after a long time of practice, when I one day realize that I can actually feel a certain set of muscles, or that I can easily twist around as I back my car! I think savasana as a "practice" for dying is very interesting - letting go. I love yoga.

I started Hatha yoga six years ago. I was grieving the death of my 85 year old mother, and family and friends prevailed upon me to try yoga. I had never been very athletic, but from the very first session, yoga meshed with my artistic personality! Through all the guided stretching and strengthening movements, I have found inner and outer strength. The meditation practice helps me to quiet the constant chatter and inner critic, and aids in concentration and creativity for my work in drawing and painting.

As an unexpected bonus, I have met wonderful women in my classes, some of whom have become friends. We are all of different physical ages but are all youthful seekers. One woman next to me turned out to be a Unity minister, and now I am an active member her church. Others share their life experiences before class and we all feel this connection to one another and to a force within us due to our practice of yoga. (Instructor is Kit Spahr at Delaware Arts Castle in Delaware, Ohio).

I'd like to share my story about yoga's most fundamental aspect: breathing. Recovering from a back injury sustained during a "frisbee accident" on the Fourth of July (but I made the catch!), there was so much that I couldn't do. Weeks after the injury, I could still go into spasm without warning, and most stretching and yoga poses were beyond me.

Lying in bed one morning, I decided to just breathe as deeply as I could, to see if that would help my back muscles loosen their death-grip on my life. I inhaled deeply through my nose, allowing my belly to "fill up" first, and then letting the remainder of the inhalation move up into a full expansion of my chest. Then I exhaled completely, letting the air out in "one fell swoop."

What I discovered was that my body immediately responded to this "letting go" of my breath. I followed the first breath with another deep, full breath, and I began to feel random tiny little knots in various parts of my body -- arms, back, calves -- release. I realized that I had switched my body into relaxation response, the opposite of fight-or-flight mode. I also instinctively realized that relaxation response was the body's healing mode.

More than the physical relaxation, I also had the realization that oxygen itself is our body's most basic food. Of course we drink water and eat food to survive, but oxygen is even more elemental. We cannot be deprived of it even for more than a few moments without the direst of effects. Yet, I found myself thinking, most of us drink very shallowly from the immense store of oxygen all around us. I envisioned an "oxygen patch" like a berry patch, all around us, and just waiting for us to "eat" our fill.

The longer I lay there, breathing in great "bunches" of oxygen, the better I felt -- more relaxed and more filled, literally, with life. I also realized that I had been breathing without distraction for a long period of time -- in a sense, meditating more successfully than I ever had in my life, all without any explicit intention of doing so. I was just trying to breathe deeply. Then I thought: Is this what the wise, spiritual teachers of the world are trying to teach us -- just breathe? Of course, the word "spirit" means breath. Maybe the great spiritual teachers are our "breath" teachers -- the ones who show what happens when you center your life not in the shallow breathing of fight-or-flight mode, but in the healing mode of deep, full, oxygen-rich breaths.

Yes, I kept going to the chiropractor, and yes, I tried to be sensible in my bodily movements, but I really do date my recovery from that moment -- when I learned how to push my body's healing button. I am now almost fully recovered, but am keeping my "breathing exercises" as part of my daily routine that I can call upon whenever I realize I'm in a stress mode, but don't really need to be.

“Yoga? You’re kidding, right?” My response to the suggestion that yoga would be a good way to reinforce the 10 weeks of Rolfing (structural integration) I had just completed was automatic and defensive. A former swimmer with Olympic aspirations, I tended to approach all kinds of physical activity as training. Though I didn’t know much about yoga, my impression was that it was for non-athletes – people who liked to meditate and tie their bodies into unnatural, pretzel-like postures. On the other hand, the main reason I needed Rolfing was because of damage to my spine caused by years of over-training. As a bodyworker and healer myself, I knew something had to change.

In the end, I was intrigued enough by my Rolfer’s experiences with yoga (she’s no pretzel) to do some research. What I found left me marveling (yet again) at the way each new lesson appears in my life just as I’m ready to learn it.

Far from being a namby-pamby, watered down version of exercise, yoga is a powerful tool for integrating mind, body, and spirit. The word “yoga” means union, and the combination of postures and breathing not only quiet the mind and strengthen the body, but open energetic channels as well. Moreover, in the hands of a skilled yoga therapist (a yoga teacher who has been trained in how to adapt traditional techniques to the specific needs of individuals with health problems or injuries) yoga becomes a healing art.

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that exactly the right yoga therapist appeared in my life, nor that the first thing out of her mouth was, “Now this is not a competition to see who can get on the cover of Yoga Journal. It’s about breathing and listening to what the body needs.”

Since entering Kate Hillman’s studio (www.kateyoga.com) approximately six months ago, I have forged a new and more compassionate relationship with my body. Moreover, I am stronger, more flexible, and able to integrate my own work (www.conversationswithessentiallight.com) more easily.

Equally important, however, has been the formation of a community of healing professionals known as the Transcendent Healing Collective. The collective includes everything from mainstream western doctors - such as an osteopath, psychotherapist, and dentist - to those working in more integrative fields such as yoga therapy, naturopathy, and ayurvedic counseling. Together we explore how our various disciplines dovetail, and share our perspectives on particular health topics (stress, interpersonal relationships, aging, playing for health, etc.) with the world at large. This takes the form of a weekly blog called Transcendent Healing (www.transcendenthealing.com) to which we all contribute on a rotating basis.

Needless to say I had to smile when Krista asked for stories of how yoga has affected your life. I can’t think of any aspect of my life that hasn’t been positively affected by yoga. It is one of the few disciplines that addresses all aspects of being - offering tools for positive, life-affirming change.

I am not disciplined enough to do this on myown, so I practice whatever the teacher stresses. I live in a university commuity and attend the classes that the Physical therapy faculty and students attend, so that I havemore faith in the teacher.

I have learned to breathe through stress.
I have learned to breathe to relax, and take myself to another place.
I have learned that I can challenge by crippled body (several knee surgeries) and grow.

Yoga is the hub around which the wheel of my life revolves. Yoga not only keeps my body well and whole, but my practice keeps my emotions and my spirit balanced. Yoga has led me to a wholeness of life that I've never had before. Yoga has led me to the deep understanding that I am God's beloved creation -- just right right now. The greatest gift that yoga has given me is that peaceful with my life; I feel I am living as God intends me to in all areas of my life.

Years ago, as I navigated between the different areas of my life and the various roles I play, I would feel jarring shifts. My yoga practice has smoothed those transitions. I feel a new fluidity as I move from teaching in my yoga studio, to caring for my husband and children, to listening to a friend, to worshipping God.

It's common knowledge that yoga integrates body, mind and spirit. The profound truth for those of us living and practicing within busy, ordinary, daily lives, is that yoga integrates all the dimensions and areas of our lives. As much as we love being these things, we are not "mom," or "teacher," or "wife," or "parishioner," or "friend." We are simply who we are when we are still and quiet. We are God's creations trying our best to let His love and His light shine through us as we live our lives.

Yoga is a spiritual tool designed to help each of us -- regular people living regular lives -- draw closer to God. For me, yoga intersects beautifully with my Christian faith, but yoga works with any faith. Yoga helps us draw our faith out of weekly worship and into my everyday life. This is my greatest message to my students. This is my passion.

I practice and teach ashtanga yoga. The physical movement of ashtanga yoga required my mental focus. This helps me quiet my mind. Ashtanga's focus on breath serves to deepen my focus even more. I think of my practice as a moving meditation. I open with an intention (a prayer if you use that language), the practice itself is a quieting process, savasana at the end is a time of attentive openness, receptivity and listening.

I have found much more than restoration and balance through practicing Purna Yoga, though I have received those as well. Purna Yoga includes nutritional instruction, meditation, philosophy and alignment based asana classes. It has helped me change my ordinary life style to one of health and wellness; the meditation has helped me to connect increasingly with my source, and my body is strong, flexible and balanced through practicing asana. Purna Yoga has transformed me from a runner, swimmer, bicyclist,to a believer that Purna Yoga is the best form of exercise as well as a tool for transformation of my body and mind so that they can join with my soul.

I have practiced yoga off and on for much of my life; I am 73 years old. But it was not until I found Purna Yoga and Yoga Centers in Bellevue, WA that I learned the other aspects of yoga listed above. Purna means complete and it has given me the tools to change my life into a deeply meaningful, extraordinary experience.

Aadil Palkhivala and Mirra, his wife, are the co-owners of Yoga Centers and have developed this style of yoga, Purna Yoga, over the last 25 years. They are people who live in integrity with their belief system and are great role models for those of us who are practicing Purna Yoga.

I am a Certified Purna Yoga teacher and a meditation teacher at Yoga Centers. It is a great privilege to be a part of Purna Yoga.

Yoga Centers also has a college for training yoga teachers. It is the only state certified yoga college in the country. It is a demanding and strenuous and deeply rewarding certification process though there are also 200 and 500 hour programs with more limited training than the Purna Yoga 2000 hour certification process. There is more information at the website, www.yogacenters.com, www.purnayoga.com.

Thanks for this opportunity to share my wonderful experience with Purna yoga with you.

Mana Iluna

Starting out was a challenge. I couldn't walk well, recently being discharged from the hospital for steroid treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). Lacking balance, strength, vision in the right eye (due to optic neuritis) made yoga a challenge in the beginning. Yet I decided to attend a special yoga class for those with MS. The class was hatha yoga, and slowly over the course of time, I began to acquire strength, increase my sense of balance, regain my vision and above all, build hope for a brighter future. The different poses (asanas) increase my strength and balance. The breathing techniques and meditation combine to help me relax and simultaneously gain energy. I now start each day with a series of sun salutations and am very grateful for yoga's assistance in my life.

Iyengar. I had felt my life was out of my control due to a series of events. Through the practice of yoga I began to feel empowered. I broke the cycle of addiction and bad dangerous thoughts. I was able to realize I was master of my own self and my future.
I practice everyday no matter what. I used to reach for other things to help copy, now I do yoga. I am in charge. I live in the moment now.
Peace,
Kathryn

I began studying yoga through the Bikram method and I suspect that the incredible proliferation of Bikram's studios, due to the combination of repeated poses, evident physical 'results', and the sense of 'cleansing' that comes from sweating for 90 minutes, has served to bring an enormous number of Americans to yoga.

I practiced Bikram for about 5 years before I was brave enough to try other types of yoga. I have since practiced Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Anusara, Astanga and bits of pieces of other types of yoga.

Without a doubt, yoga is now a channel for my energy and emotions. The original purpose of yoga: to prepare the physical body for meditation, resonates with me at every class. I now find that the physical exercise component of yoga practice is the side benefit - the primary benefits include stilling my mind and allowing me to put all the 'issues' of every day life into their appropriate context; and refocusing my concerns on things that are most important, such as how to better love my husband, children and those around me.

I believe that many physical 'practices' can provide these opportunities for restoration and balance. In my experience, many professional athletes find this result in their daily practice as well. I know I did when I studied ballet for 12 years. I suspect Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps find the same thing in the practice of their sports.

The incredible beauty of yoga is its accessibility. As I have heard many say, "if you can breathe, you can do yoga". It's available to everyone. And unlike any other available form of exercise, yoga expands the physical body in a way that opens skeleton, muscles and cells to positions that are completely foreign to most of us in our every day lives; and then, by its very nature, it redirects our brains in ways that almost no other practice, physical or otherwise, does. This, I believe, is why it is helpful for so many.

My name is Hannah and like many people, I lead a life of duality. Be they mothers/daughters, wives/workplace warriors, or caretakers/lovers, women all over our country are constantly being challenged to fulfill somewhat opposing roles. It is my experience that the practice of yoga radically affirms the greatness of a person (read: a woman!), and therefore helps carve out a space between our sense of responsibility and our desire for freedom.

I both teach and practice Anusara Yoga, created 11 years ago by John Friend of The Woodlands, Texas. I had the great privilege of studying with John this summer in Paris, London and Berlin, where I was once again reminded of this duality in life. In yoga, it is called Spanda, or the divine pulsation of the universe.

Spanda can be found around every corner of this fabulous world in the forms of light/darkness; contraction/expansion; giving/taking. So it is that during the day I give... I teach people how to delight in discovering their own hearts and say "YES!" to the challenge of trying something new. And at night, I perform Musical Theater in the DC-area.

I strongly believe that my yoga practice has been taken "off the mat" - as Ms. Corn might say - in that it has dropped me back into my own heart in my acting and singing. My regular, challenging yoga practice has improved my ability to use my breath resourcefully, and maintain the physical stamina needed as a singer/dancer. When those facets of performing are in “good alignment,” I am once again able to focus on communicating the story to the audience – the paramount priority in theatre. When successful, it is that energetic vibration that inspires my ability to find myself through song and dance. That empowerment is then fed back into my yoga teaching, having tapped into and challenged my own sense of creativity.

Many people know that the word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit meaning "to join." It is this joining of my two sides: practical teaching and rockin' theatre that keep me centered. Like a cyclist's wheel that is called "true" when it is in alignment, and "out of true" when it is slightly off, the beauty of Anusara Yoga always brings me back to center.

The Spanda remains, as is the nature of our amazing universe, but I am able to rest in the promise that - through the practice of yoga - I am balanced in the sweetness of my own heart.

Yoga entered my life at a time of high anxiety and stress. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda, living and working in a rural community with teachers and communities. I lived alone, spoke only halting Luganda and basically had to make my way through the community every day as the only white person, "mzungu", most people had ever seen in person. I was the object of intense curiosity and scrutiny--and for an introvert, this caused a good deal anxiety.
One of my fellow volunteers introduced us to yoga and meditation during our in-country orientation trainings. She gave us a simple hatha practice and some basic guidelines for meditation. All this was completely new to me at the time. I didn't realize it then, but this simple yoga practiced probably saved me from some sort of breakdown.
Since then, yoga has been a leading spiritual force in my life. I've practiced many styles, but currently find a home in vinyasa and yin styles. Yoga has kept me sane through the illness and loss of both parents over the last few years. Yoga helped me immensely when I was providing hospice care for my mother, who died in 2006.
What I've learned over the years about myself and the practice of yoga is that yoga allows me to touch a greater degree of connection--to myself and to all others. Bulding an awareness of the body and accepting its' present state and limitations has helped me to cultivate a compassionate response to myself and to the world. The connection to the breath allows me to truly drop into the present moment and to relax into a bigger perspective. There aren't many other opportunities for building such awareness in our everyday lives. Yoga makes my heart, mind, and soul bigger, stronger, and softer--able to hold the greatest joys and the deepest sorrows with some type of tenderness.

My experience of yoga began in the early 90s, trying different kinds, schools, falling in and out of practice.
It wasn't until October of 2001, a few weeks after seeing the World Trade Center Towers fall from my roof in downtown NYC that I would wake up panicked and so sore all over, I thought, 'If this is stress, and growing old, I'm going to fight it'. That was how I discovered Ashtanga Yoga, a vinyassa or flow practice. It is practiced in a shared space, but not in a class. There is not a teacher at the front of the room telling you what asana to do next or when to breathe. Each person is taught individually and memorizes the series. It is optimally practiced 6 days a week, with the exception of full or new moon or during the first three days of a woman's period.

It changed my life and continues to, I say that at the risk of sounding cliché.This form of yoga is physically demanding as well as disciplined. It is meditation in action. It has led me to finding peace within myself, given me peace in my life, taken me all the way to India (which if anyone has ever been there, challenges internal and external peace like no other. She is a demanding mother, India is) as well as creating art that is informed by Indian spirituality and culture.

Why would a NYC native western minded woman ever reach this point of devoted interest? Maybe it starts with being able to relax (not an easy thing in urban centers such as this one) and then to be able to eventually realize and relax in the oneness of life, the universe.
Reading this over it seems to me filled again with cliches. So much time here in the west is about defining, explaining, categorizing. It is only the surface. The things that swim below that are beyond the grasp of words and concepts, that travel beyond our hearts or mind, through our prana, deep in our cells. Yoga has helped me to believe in the world that swims below the surface. I would wish that for everyone, to touch that realm.

Om Shanti!
Deborah Seidman aka Ganesha Girl

PS attached is a Ganesh sculpture that I made in porcelain

I have practiced yoga for about 10 years and become more serious about it in the last few years. I belong to the Marsh Fitness Center in Minnetonka and take a range of classes there: Iyengar, Vinyasa, Hatha, etc. Below is an article I wrote about how yoga has influenced my work as a history professor at the College of St. Catherine. It originally appeared in the on-campus publication, COLLEAGUES,(February 2008).
Making History More like Yoga Class

For the past year or so, I have begun to approach my work in the classroom more as a yogi and less as an academician. This technique evolved partly out of desperation as I contracted to teach three courses a year in Weekend College. The WEC format takes a standard semester-long class and condenses it into eight lessons that each last three and a half hours. The old school model of history education would dictate a lecture-based course that would be deadly long and tiring for professor and students alike.

I do not ask the class members to balance on one leg and to assume the “tree” posture or stick their backsides in the air with “downward dog.” Yoga enhances my teaching style more in terms of the meaning behind the class activities and the attitude that I bring to the lesson.

These days, I attend two to five yoga classes a week, which help me function in the rest of my life as a professor, as a parent, as a person. I have studied yoga –intermittently-- for the past ten years, and gradually I have become more serious and meditative in my practice. Nonetheless, when it comes to yoga I am, first and foremost, a student. This experience reminds me regularly what it is like to learn something difficult and worthwhile in a classroom setting. This is especially true now that I am more than ten years out of graduate school and have become accustomed to enjoying some expertise in my field.

I appreciate that my yoga instructors are engaged in teaching and consider them in collegial terms. While the subject matter is different, their example offers me lessons on pedagogy which I now consciously appropriate and adapt for my history classes. Instead of a series of physical postures and breathing exercises, I take my students through a multi-sensory exploration of a given class topic. The technique invites them to engage, actively and passively, with the past through consideration of demographic data, visual and literary records, music, court cases, and whatever other means I find to add flesh and blood to history’s names and dates.

A typical yoga class leads students through a process that involves four main elements: 1) a period of meditation to quiet the mind; 2) a series of sun salutations, a sequence of movements to warm up the body and loosen the muscles and joints; 3) a few asana (special postures) that are the focal point for that specific lesson; and 4) a final meditation. This way of guiding the class along a series of experiences and sensations leaves me and my classmates energized rather than spent. Feeling renewed after the class is something I treasure about yoga and part of what I seek for my students.

So, when my Twentieth Century U.S. history course studied the Great Depression, for example, the above elements from yoga translated into the following. For the opening exercise (meditation), students are shown a half dozen Dorothea Lange photographs documenting the Dust Bowl migration from Oklahoma to California. Quietly, they study the black and white images and write informally about what they reveal about this time period (1930s) and the people who experienced it (migrant farm laborers). The exercise offers an entry point into the topic that is visual and emotional and unfiltered by historians. It asks students to settle in for class and to focus on the topic at hand. After about ten minutes, I ask if anyone wants to share their observations. Several volunteer eloquent, poignant remarks about the desolation and abject poverty depicted.

The second element (sun salutations) is the lecture. This is the callisthenic part of the class, which provides a coherent context of what took place during this time. The lecture explains why the stock market crashed in 1929 and offers statistics on bank closures, unemployment figures, information on FDR and the New Deal. There are moving quotations from Meridel LeSueur and Studs Terkel interviews. The lecture tells of the hardships and the resourcefulness and resiliency of the Greatest Generation. I offer the class the case my great aunt who forever saved string and would never waste food, habits she wore as scars from her experiences in the Depression. After the lecture, there is a short break.

The third element, (the asanas), provide a deeper look at some aspects of the lesson’s topic and takes the form of class discussion on readings and upcoming writing assignments. In the above example, students read the relevant chapter from their Howard Zinn text and the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, which is set during the 1930s. We talk about the novel, which the American Library Association voted as the best of the twentieth century. We consider especially how the issues of the Great Depression played out in Harper Lee’s story. Students explain how fiction can be a powerful tool for learning about the past. By this time, we are three-quarters the way into class period; we downshift into the final segment (meditation), an episode of the PBS documentary series on the Depression entitled “Arsenal for Democracy.” With extensive archival footage, news reels and oral history interviews, the film offers a view of how the era of economic crisis was resolved ultimately by the start of World War II and the full employment it brought Americans.

The Sanskrit word “yoga” means unity; yoga practice is about unifying the mind, body and spirit through attention to breathing and the present moment. In my class, the unity is in created through a textured and nuanced understanding of a lesson topic by investigating it from various perspectives. Part of the alchemy of this technique is to harness students’ interests and diverse learning styles. There are multiple points of entry --aesthetic, quantitative, and emotional-- into the lesson topic.

Much as I believe that my teaching is enhanced by this approach, if a passerby looked through my classroom window a few years ago and again today, both would appear to be taught in the same format. Even before yoga, my background as a liberal, feminist social historian went against the traditional model of a top-down learning that revolved around lectures. My courses emphasized a mix of activities to foster “active learning.”

Now, instead of tossing the class elements (lecture, discussion, exercises with primary sources, films) into the air and juggling them to keep things lively and interesting, I approach my teaching with greater intentionality. I choose the order and tone and progression of activities to shepherd the class through the complexities of the day’s lesson topic. What is called “mindfulness” in yoga, a heightened awareness of one’s priorities is incorporated into the structure of the lesson. Also, I am now more attuned to the classroom environment: the lighting, the ventilation, the tone of my voice, and other outside factors that affect the learning process.

Judging from course evaluations, students are responding favorably to my more yogic teaching style. Time and again, they say that they appreciate the way in which we study the past, and some confess that they never before enjoyed studying history.

Trying to make my history class more like yoga has given a new life to my work in the classroom. I am newly excited and engaged in my teaching. And this enthusiasm may be contagious; I have talked about the technique with friends who teach their own lengthy courses in fields as diverse as International Marketing and 3-D Animation. They are intrigued by the method and are willing to try what one referred to as “Zen and the art of teaching” in their classes.

Namaste.

I describe myself as spiritual in a variety of ways. In a simple text-book, demographic way, I'd be labeled as a "non-practicing, liberal Christian." But to me, I think of God, Jesus, goodness, purity, beauty and truth are all very related.

What does this have to do with my yoga? In a text-book, demographic way, I'd be labeled as a "semi-practicing yoga enthusiast." I do a little bit of it almost every day, and I've enjoyed Seane Corn's videos with Gaiam immensely. Her dedication to love and empathy is something I this is essential to spread in our modern world.

The solitude and peace I find through yoga is healing, powerful, gorgeous and pure. The alignment between breath and movement creates a nice hum within the body and mind. I enjoy it very much and find that it allows me to live more aligned with truth and harmony. To put it simply, yoga (and other solitary exercising) enables me to cope with the stresses of life a lot better than without it.

Five years ago, when my marriage was falling apart and I felt genuinely suicidal, I met an emergency room physician in a bar (where I had gone to drown my sorrows), and he asked me to come to a yoga class with him the next day.

I dragged myself out of bed the next day and met him at a local studio for an hour and a half Level I/II class with a former ballerina turned yoga instructor who had actually gone to India to study with Iyengar. Judith Lyons' style of teaching was compassionate but demanding. She warmed us up with some poses I knew from tapes, then asked us to partner up to help each other with some warrior poses. In a former life, I had been a dancer. She liked something about the way I tried with my partner to choreograph a little dance or vinyasa out of the warrior poses and asked me to demonstrate a down dog sequence for everyone else. I was flabbergasted, but did my best.

After class, Judith asked me how long I had been practicing. The answer was 10 years, with tapes, although in my depression, my practice had fallen off. She asked if I would be interested in learning to teach. Again, I was amazed yet, within weeks, found myself in a teacher training program where, by steadily practicing breathing, meditation, and yoga poses in order to teach them to others, I began to feel calmer and more centered. By stepping outside myself and my problems through steady practice and through growing responsibilities as a junior teacher, I found myself able to gradually shed my depression. I felt brand new and strong.

Today, I have found my peace, my place, living in the country and teaching yoga primarily to seniors and teen agers. Hatha yoga, particularly its emphasis on quieting the mind through breath work and meditation, and teaching--being of service to others--has literally saved my life. At age 57, I feel and look much younger than my age. I am in the best mental, emotional, and physical condition I have ever been.

Having struggled for nearly 2 decades with a tenacious, insufferable eating disorder that included adherence to a rigid fitness regimen and strict control of my activities, I had nearly lost all sense of spontaneity, joy, and inner peace. A good friend suggested that yoga might complement the various physical activities I was pursuing, though I suspect that she -- a seasoned teacher -- also knew that the deeper aspects of the practice would address the internal and external freneticism that characterized my days.

At first, I skipped out of class before Svasana, unable to still my mind and quiet my body for that precious 5 minutes of rest and relaxed awareness. I found a class that exhausted me to the extent that I had to take Svasana and, in time, began to reinhabit the body I had left behind at age 18. In Svasana, I began to feel the very molecules of my being zinging around within me, offering not only a new, more pure energy, but also a lightness and sense of being bathed in a protective peace. My practice grew to 3 - 4 classes weekly. In July of 2006, I committed to a residential Teacher Training program and nearby Mount Madonna Center. I had the opportunity to study and practice all 8 limbs of the classical yogic system put forth by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. I came to a very embodied understanding of the effects of the practice on my own body-mind. In the same way that Matthew Sanford had to journey back into his body, passing through all of the layers of pain and grief, I, too, have been able to use my yoga practice as a means of reintegration. This reintegration involves not only my small self -- my own mind, body, and heart -- but also a sort of more real, tangible sense of union with the Divine.

As the guru at Mount Madonna, Baba Hari Dass, is given to say: "If you work on yoga, yoga works on you." I feel richly blessed to be able to practice and teach this extraordinary system aimed to bring transformation of suffering into profound experiences of peace, well-being, and Union. In my very privileged role of teacher to elders in their 70's and 80's, I have also seen the power of the practice to breathe a sense of new life and greater ease during the sometimes arduous, painful process of aging. I've found that in "coming home" to one's body and greeting the home that one finds with a heartful of compassion, one taps into an unlimited reservoir of love and generosity and kindness. In celebration of all of these gifts, I cannot say enough about the rich blessing inherent in this ancient art.

I have been priveleged over the past 25 years to attend regular yoga classes, weekends and conferences which allowed me to experience and practice many forms of yoga. It was during my introduction and education with Integral Yoga that I learned to quiet my mind--and make space for spirit to enter. It was Vinyasa flow yoga where I experienced the movement of energy throughout my body and chakras--actually able to feel the places where the energy was stuck and learned how to release. It was in Siddha Yoga that I fell in love with chanting and the ease in which it brought me into deep meditation. Yin Yoga showed me how holding a pose for minutes at a time allowed my body to slowly open up and relax fully. Iyeanger Yoga taught me the beauty of perfection that led to the ease of flow. Ashtanga yoga taught me discipline and the awesome strength of the human body. Overall, for me yoga is the practice of letting go of mind and allowing spirit to emerge---healing and balancing mind, body and spirit. Never do I feel more beautiful then after my yoga practice. Not the perfect physical beauty our society futilely chases---but the type of beauty that emerges from a deep sense of well being and the truth that we are all one.

A special thank you to Seane Corn--I have been honored to spend a few weekends with her during her wonderful workshops. She continues to reach new levels of awareness through her dedicated practice and teachings. I will always admire and respect her ability to bring her practice to real life and real people--where she is a true force of healing in our world. Not to mention just she makes the workshops so much fun with her wonderful sense of humor and down to earth attitude!
Namaste-
Annette Stinson

Rugger turned yogini Upon the recommendation of my teammate, I took my first yoga class at an all women’s gym to stretch and recover from a knee injury I sustained during a rugby game. Oh, my dear friend said, "you don't have to chant if you don’t want to." Chant! What? While living in LA, I decided to become a certified teacher. Concerned that at 27, what life experience did I have to give my future students (I was the youngest in my teacher training class), yoga helped me swallow my fear of teaching the discipline. Over the past 10 years, I have experimented with various types of yoga (Iyengar, Anusara, Astanga, Hatha blend), meditation, classes, ropes, props, home practice, and different parts of the country. As one of my teachers, Carl Dawson quotes his teacher as saying, “When you walk east, what is in front of you? When you walk further east, what is in front of you? East. Yoga is like walking east; no matter how much you walk there is always more." You benchmark your practice with a smaller and smaller measuring stick. Instead of measuring in feet your measure in centimeters. Instead of judging you pose from what you look like in the mirror, you transform your posture from an internal sense of what is right for your body. My spiritual life once conflicted with my Catholic roots. After studying the yogic meditations and the Catholic meditations of St. Ignatius and St Theresa of Avila, I found that these centuries old practices were one in the same; they only completements my prayer life and relationship with my God and my. The practice has saved me. It keeps me more balanced during my bouts of the blues/depression; it draws me into the “perfection that absorbs all” (not sure where that wisdom came from-Gilbert who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” said it once); it keeps my body healthy; it makes me a more patient lover, daughter, human being. I am able to take the lessons I learn in my practice, off my mat, and into the world, patience, compassion, purity, the nyamas and yamas, yoga’s code of ethics. Yoga, taking one step in the long journey to fuse with the perfection that absorbs all, is union.

From my mother's suicide in 1999 through my divorce in 2005, yoga has continued to teach me that "this too I can breathe through" (I can't remember where or from who I first heard that phrase).

My yoga mat has become a metaphor for life: you can have to show up (be present) and breathe.

I've learned to approach each class and life as a question, a question to be explored through breathing and moving. Sometimes it's a general question like I wonder what emotions will come up in class today? Other times, I start by asking a specific question about something that's happening in my life and listen to what body reveals about how that's making me feel? In life, I've learned to look at everything that happens to me, not as "Why?" but as "What?". "What is the universe trying to show me?" and "What does the universe want me to learn?"

To me, yoga is above breathing and movement, the essence of living.

So yoga is not just a life practice, it's about practicing living.

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH YOGA WAS IN AUGUST OF 1971. A DEAR FRIEND HAD JUST ENTERED A CONTEMPLATIVE COMMUNITY OF CATHOLIC NUNS, AND THE NOVICE DIRECTOR STARTED THEM OFF WITH YOGA CLASSES. WHEN I ASKED MY SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR ABOUT IT HE GOT ME A COPY OF FR. JEAN MARIE, OSB, FOUNDER OF INDIA'S FIRST CHRISTIAN ASHRAM: "YOGA CRISTIANO EN 10 LECCIONES". I HAVE BEEN USING THAT BOOK EVER SINCE. IT IS A FORM OF HATHA YOGA, FOLLOWING THE BENEDICTINE METHOD OF "LECTIO, MEDITATIO, ORATIO, CONTEMPLATIO". IT HAS CHANGED MY LIFE. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE LEARNED, FROM SIDARTA'S WORDS, DO NOT SEEK THE MASTER, THE MASTER WILL COME TO YOU WHEN IT IS THE RIGHT TIME. GREAT MASTERS HAVE COME INTO MY LIFE. THE PRACTICE OF YOGA HAS TAUGHT ME TO BETTER UNDERSTAND MYSELF, A PREREQUISITE TO PRAYER, DEEP CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER - TO SLOW DOWN IN ALL I DO, AND TO ALWAYS PROCURE A BALANCE BETWEEN THE SOUL AND THE BODY. LIFE JUST SEEMS PRETTIER! BEAUTIFUL!
GOD IS LOVE, THEREFORE GOD IS HAPPY AND BEAUTIFUL!

I am a mother of two, Registered Yoga teacher with my own growing yoga business. For the last 15 years, I was a very successful sales Director building satellite networks all over the world I found yoga about 8 years ago, and slowly but surely the peace, awareness and reality set in. I was meant for more...more for me, more for my family and more was needed from me to give to the world. Three years ago, I quit it all, and started my own business, Bendy Yoga. I remember the exact day when I started this process. Despitethe neverending pull from so many directions, with huge expectations and negative influences, I began to work on the marketing; the name of the company, the logo, even the brochure copy; all of it flowed out of me like a river. My creativity,enlivened with a new focus, had been awakened. I finished my full 200 hours this last srping, but have already been teaching fro over 3 years; from the day that I went for my first job interview as a yoga teacher. I have found that yoga has restored what I had lost, me. I have found my inner child, my energy, my love for my family, and my focus on living for the present moment. My body and mind are stronger despite decades of negligence from travel, stress and pain. I find more satisfaction in seeing my students in shivasana at the end of a 1 hour grueling but restorative class, than I ever have in the closing of any multi-million dolalr communications network continents away. My family is better for this gift and I find daily that hatha yoga has made it all worth it, the miniscule income, the small demands on my time, it all works, like a well-tuned musical instrument that has found its beautiful melody again, and will never, ever lose it again.

At 51 years old I'd been smoking cigarettes since childhood and all attempts to quit were in vain. On a lark I bought a yoga video. Each day I proceeded to pop in the video, light up a cigarette and watch Tracey Rich do Total Yoga. About the 4th day I realized, it wasn't doing me much good to smoke my brains out while watching someone else do asanas. As I tried to follow along, two things became apparent, first it was impossible for me to go 60 minutes without a cigarette and two, I could not touch my toes. Slowly I began to practice this basic hatha yoga. Cigarettes had kept me so hyped up that the deep relaxation and gentle ways of yoga turned my life around. After 38 years of smoking, I put down the smokes and have been learning yoga these past 9 years. In an effort to share the many benefits of yoga, I taught frail and elderly seniors in a nursing home for two years. This proved even people in walkers or wheelchairs can perform yoga. To see these oldsters fill their lungs with air and open their hearts was such a joy and great incentive to continue practicing. At times I seem to abandon my practice, but will then pick up books and read yoga philosophy which inevitably brings me back to my mat. Yoga has helped me to become more tolerant of myself, my body and others. It led me towards meditation and adopting a Buddhist philosophy of life which continues to constantly shed Light along my path. The moments of deep peace have made every effort worthwhile. As I nurture myself with asana, pranayama, meditation etc., I find myself better able to nurture others in my life. I hope to always be a beginner in this beautiful process.

Restoration begins when I step over the threshold into The Studio, where my friend and I opened a yoga studio at the beginning of this year. It begins with the space because when the space functions as a "container" as the Jungians call it, it allows you to step out of your running around self for 90 minutes and sink into a restorative experience. We opened the yoga studio after my co-owner, Paulette had created a fairly die-hard group of yoga students who followed her around from church basements, a former empty restaurant space and a third floor walk-up with no fire exit. We had a community and needed an aesthetic, safe space (with a bathroom). We invited other teachers to join us and have created a schedule that offers hatha yoga, Svaroopa yoga, Kundalini yoga workshops, Yin/Yang yoga workshops, dance, movement, t'ai chi and breathing meditation classes. The restoration comes from the teachers sharing their knowledge, enthusiasm and experience with us and the 90 minutes we get to experience their teachings. The balance comes from the physical and spiritual feeling that even though our poses are not ready for Yoga Journal, that the practice itself can inoculate us against the worst effects of stress. I get comments all the time from people (men and women) who come to take classes like "you have no idea, you're saving my life" or "our community really needed a place like this, thanks so much." It's simple, drop-in, inexpensive and adds a sense of well-being and friendship for anyone who want the experience. That's restoration and balance.

I have begun practicing Ashtanga yoga this year. I haven't practiced any other forms of yoga, so I don't know how this particular form compares with others. I love the balance of strength and flexibility work. It's good for my body (an incredible experience of harmony)and good to carry out that work in the other parts of my life.

I've been experiencing the truth that it is "practice" that shapes our thinking, rather that our thinking that shapes our practices in the world. The physical manifestation of balance and being in the present moment is the act of faith for me. To have the commitment to put myself here, now, and accept whatever is going on in my practice (yoga and meditation) gets carried into my thinking and interactions with myself, my family, my friends and neighbors, and everyone I meet, pass in the streets, those I think about as I vote, and as I do the work I can do in the world.

I have also begun breath meditation on the Tibetan Shambala Warrior's Path. The words that I learned from these teachings that I say before I begin my breath meditation and/or yoga are, "I will now work with my mind(body) to develop peace." The work with my body and mind to develop peace truly, then, begins to happen in my life.

I discovered yoga in the late 90's in an attempt to heal severe tendonitis from years of swimming (and surfing). This was back in the day when the only class I could find was at the senior center. I was hooked immediately. Not only did my shoulder heal, but my surfing improved dramatically! I started looking for a yoga program specifically for surfing, but there weren't any, so I became certified as a yoga instructor myself and produced a (very well-received!) instructional DVD series called Yoga for Surfers. I was determined to share my passion for yoga and surfing! I ended up quitting my long-time job as an administrator at the University of California and plunged full-time into health and wellness. Now I teach my own style of yoga (an eclectic hatha blend, informed from my studies and practice of Kundalini, Asthanga, Iyengar and Vinyasa styles) at Yoga Works in Laguna Beach, CA. I also write frequently on yoga, health and wellness in various national and international publications. I'm also a contributing editor for Clean Eating Magazine, focusing on mind-body topics. One of my epiphanies was applying the priniciples of mindfulness to the act of eating! Now I teach people how to make peace with food through my Yoga of Eating programs. For more information, please visit www.PeggyHall.com and www.yogaforsurfers.com

I have taught prenatal yoga for 20 years.
It is a great way for pregnant women to relax, rejuvenate and de-stress.
Yoga allows them to come into the present, focus on their breath and their babies.
I consider teaching this class one of the most important things that I do because it benefits both mother and baby. Pregnant women look so relaxed at the end of class.
Prenatal Yoga also is an excellent preparation for labor. It teaches you to surrender and let go.

I began the practice of astangha yoga with Christine Hoar as my teacher in the mountain village of Bristol, Vermont about nine years ago. At the time I was unaware of the melanoma cells mitgrating to lymphs nodes most pronounced in the lower left flank. I had been officially declared free of a level 4 melanoma after one year of interferon and seven years of follow up scans and onocologist appointments.

Although I am vital teacher in our arts community and a happy mother of adult children and wife to an excellent man, my late forties and early fifties were highly stressful. I believed I wanted to leave our marriage. My mother was becoming less of a companion and more of a dependent. I deeply feared for one of my children. Producing five shows a year with a high school ensemble produced so much joy and depleted so much energy. For awhile I believed I could do little else.

More and more drawn to the practice of yoga I began to claim a calm center, a center explaining there is time in a life for everything. To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose. As I settled into the order of life's events, joys and sorrows, my body began to explain something was going on.

When sleeping on my stomach became difficult, I thought it was my hips opening. When the lower intestine tract reacted, I went through an aryevedic cleanse. I had never had problems with my lower back before, so I breathed into the slight curve. I learned pranayama and went to aryvedic physicians in order to be convinced of my healthy path. They, however, both saw something on my tongue, "parasites" maybe one suggested. Yet I was strong, increasing upper body strength, talking now again to the love of my life, and dealing with my mother and son. Life was creative, more and more holistic under Christine's expert guidance.

But there was still a stitch in my side. Almost apologetically I went to my doctor. "Can you figure this out? I live a good life style. Eat right. Exercise. Love and am loved." He felt something in my lower left flank, x-rays and blood tests showed nothing. The pain persisted and I looked on the internet and choose kidney stones of diverticulitis. I definitely rejected the cancer I had had twenty years ago. I veered away from the thought my father died of colon cancer at the age I now was. However, I did insist on a cat scan. And that cat scan showed distinctly I had a dangerously enlarged lymph node. It must be cancer. I chose lymphoma, but the biopsy revealed that melanoma had returned. A more complete scan showed the cancer to be in five lymph areas.

Now I faced an utterly dangerous disease. I suppose one could say stage 4, though I try to keep away from that kind of language. I had been so sure my lifestyle and yoga protected me from such an event. I was terrified.

I believe yogis can walk over hot coals without getting burned and that Thich Nat Hahn cured himself through learning how to breathe. But fifty year old Paul Birch died on a yoga mat from a heart attach and Beveraly Sills died of lung cancer although she never smoked. Who I am to say what will happen to me?

In my most terrified state I had a waking dream. I talked to my Aunt Aline, one of the most centered persons I know, recently dead from cancer. She said, "You will die, but not now. You have some work to do... And by the way being dead isn't all that bad."

In truth I wasn't afraid of death itself. The pain convinced me there are worse conditions to be in, I was deathly afraid of pain. Western medicines-- prednisone, oxycoton, tylenal, percaset and even eventually chemotheraphy stopped the growing tumor and the accompanying pain from its toxic qualities. Though ten pounds weaker my yoga body was still evident. As soon as I could I began to do yoga again. Now with a new intensity. A different focus.

But the focus is not fighting my cancer. The focus is living with my cancer, and working hard to understand what kind of "work" my Aunt Aline meant. I have had more support from my husband, my yoga teacher, my friends, my colleagues and even strangers than one small person can understand. Prayers and love float through me mysteriously and I am reduced to helpless tears trying to respond. It is my yoga practice teaching me how not to respond but to accept and channel.

For the first time in a fifty-six-year old life I understand what it is to pray, even though I can't exactly explain prayer. I pray through the breathing and movement of yoga and related meditation and pranayama practices. This prayer is merely a transformation of the energy given to me and a way for me to offer this energy back to my students, my family, my friends, my passions---and,yes, to a connected great BEING. I have not stopped what I am doing. I sweat out toxins. I teach kids. I play. I work. I write. I sew. I swim. I do Thai YOga Massage for other people. Each moment I start what I am doing. Each breath and stretch create room. I can do postures I've never dreamed of---and though I am inordinately proud of this new physical prowess--- each posture accomplishment gives me more and more grace. And grace dies on the vine unless it is offered again to the sources from whence it came.

Over a year now from my diagnosis, I am alive. The last scans showed no apparent cancer. I am now in a 2% category of people still. I have a smart and compassionate onocologist, a whiz-kid brilliant yoga teacher, a darling husband, great kids, fascinating invigorating students. I have very dear colleagues. Most likely I will die one of these days, and the immeidate cause will be cancer. But now I am living, and I chose to believe the immediate cause is yoga, but I know the long-term cause is there is yet something to be done.

I was blessed to be introduced to Yoga forty years ago, by one of the first gurus to bring the Eastern teachers to the West. I met Swami Satchidananda when I was 15 years old. I started teaching Hatha classes at the Integral Yoga Institute in NY a year later.

I began the practice as a way of controlling my body--I had been taking a lot of modern dance classes. But while I was in Yoga class, I had a profound experience of peace during the Deep Relaxation. I realized that this was unlike anything I had been taught and that it would profoundly change my outlook on life and the lives of others. It was a prophetic notion.

I started attending talks by Swami Satchidananda and found that he directly addressed issues with which I had been struggling as an adolescent. He clearly expressed answers to my questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? What is life about? How can I find peace?

I learned that the physical practices of Hatha Yoga was like the tip of an iceberg. Yoga was so much more. Integral Yoga, as taught by Swami Satchidananda, could be approached through many paths: For someone of who was intellectual in nature, there is Jnana Yoga (the study of self-analysis and scripture); for someone of action there is Karma Yoga (doing selfless service as a way of righting wrong action); for someone drawn to self discipline there is Raja Yoga (which contains Hatha Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques), and for the person with an emotional pursuasion there is Bhakti Yoga (a devotional practice, which encompases all religions). I enjoyed learning a blend of all these paths, but found that I leaned toward Bhakti, for it helped me to direct my emotional nature in a positive direction.

Yoga helped me cope with a life-long tendency toward depression. It taught me that happiness is my true nature and that it is the mind that mis-identifies with my thoughts and with material possessions that causes distress and stress.

I had been born in a Jewish family that was minimally observant and that approached religion as a tradition more than a faith. I never found spiritual balm from religion--until I learned a Yoga. Swami Satchidananda taught that "truth is one, paths are many." Through Yoga, I was introduced to other religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and more--and I found a deeply spiritual balance that sustains me to this day. His teachings of interfaith are epitomized in a temple he designed called LOTUS. This stands for the Light Of Truth Universal Shrine. See www.lotus.org (a website I built).

The story of Yoga, how it was popularized in the West and the impact is has had on many lives, is told an hour-long documentary film, "Living Yoga: The life and teachings of Swami Satchidananda." See www.livingyogamovie.org to watch the trailer and learn more about the film.

(The image I am attaching is of me driving Swami Satchidananda in my car.)

I began studying Iyengar yoga later in life and have been taking classes now for 12 years. For years our teachers encouraged us to consider adding pranayama to our studies. Finally I registered for pranayama breathing classes that happened to begin in September, 2001. The timing of that initiation could not have been more fortuitous. I'd struggled for years with panic attacks and anxiety. The practice helped me cope with anxiety about taking the metro daily to downtown D.C. after 9/11 and many subsequent events in my life. It has brought a focus and sense of calm and peace that has been immeasurably helpful in both my professional and private life. My teacher, John Schumacher, founder and director of Unity Woods Yoga Center in Bethesda, has described pranayama as a gateway to meditation, as well as a form of meditation. i find it is a wonderful way to start the day and I would highly recommend the practice to those who are studying yoga of any kind.

I am 66 years old and began practising yoga about 15 years ago. I moved on to Pilates, but have continued to incorporate asanas into my morning ritual along with meditation.

Just finished Deepak Chopra' "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, in which discusses the yoga way to a more spiritual life.

Daily practice to the mind-body-spirit connection is my way to balance and optimism.

Was inspired to check in here after hearing Seane's interview on "Speaking of Faith" today (Sept. 14).

Yes, I have found restoration and balance through the practice of yoga. I practice a synthesis of vinyasa, Iyengar, and restorative yoga depending on what I need day to day; mostly, I have a vinyasa practice. Yoga is helpful for all the reasons Seane talked about on the program: flexibility, stress reduction, fitness, strength, balance, mindfulness, connection with the devine, or infinite, or whatever you want to call it, and more. Yoga is an excellent way to connect with other people and to form community. I met my wife through yoga and many excellent friends. After, five years of practicing yoga, I got certifed to teach and have been teaching yoga for six years. I could relate to a lot of what Seane talked about, especially how as a teacher, her students taught her.

Sharing with SoF -

I was first introduced to Yoga and Meditation soon after undergraduate completion in 1982. These ancient practices were recommended to me as a means of managing my high level of anxiety. This anxiety seemed to be was amplified during my first professional job , due in part to a life long stuttering challenge.

I found the practices to be very effective in teaching me to accept my weakness and focus on my strengths. I found both Yoga and Meditation to be well aligned with my Catholic tradition and devotion. I find myself using them as an effective means of prayer.

As with many other practices and a natural human tendency, I started to use it less over time, as I needed it less. I have continued to use some aspect of what I learned during prayer time. I recently signed up for a Yoga class offered at work. The timing of the Speaking-of-Faith show was perfect. Thank you.

Cheers,
Helder
Member WBUR Boston

== ps
I enjoy and always look forward to the diversity of faith awakening topic of Speakikng of Faith. Well done.

The website and access to details is awesome. This was my first follow up to the show via your site.

The SoF show host is awesome. Her open, unbiased and receptive approach to the interviews of the different views and perpective of the same Human Spirit helps the audience do likewise.

Best wishes,
Helder

In 1985,I began teaching basic Hatha Yoga in my home town after working with a teacher for several years. I have a MS in Nursing and have been a wellness educator since 1982. Yoga has been a great way for me to help people reintegrate their mind and body with their spirit - and with the Spirit that informs and infuses us ALL.

I actualy approach Hatha Yoga as a form of body prayer, and I do my best to integrate it with our relationship with God. While I am deeply Christian, and DO have a personal relationship with Jesus,I feel a relatedness to ALL faith traditions. It is NATURAL to me to engage the mental, emotional and spiritual component in all my classes.

TODAY's program was WONDERFUL!! It came at a really good time for me (no accident). I'd been feeling a sense of weariness in my practice and in my teaching over the last few months. Since I'll soon be 69. I wondered if its time to let go, since there are more fitness-oriented and Power Yoga folks now. Today's SOF program and Seane Corn's story helps me see that maybe its time, not to let go, but to go yet deeper. THank you for having Seane Corn on!

I've often wanted to 'come out of the closet', and offer a Christian Yoga class at our Presbyterian church. I approached our pastor a couple of weeks ago, and he sounded quite interested. So we'll see.

I tried yoga several times before 'getting it.' I believe it was the instructor that made a difference when I tried my first vinyassa yoga of the himalayan institute. Although my teacher, Kate, has moved to St. Louis, she guided me through several critical years of life. She helped me begin my practice, adapt my practice throughout my pregnancy and continue through my abusive relationship and subsequent divorce.
Once I became in touch with my body, my mind and spirit followed in line. My whole life 'fell into place' after I achieved that alignment. Yoga has made me open to all ideas, all people; everything comes easier when you are open to all of those opportunities. Love attracts love, and the light in you created by practicing yoga attracts the light in others.
namaste,
megan

I have been practicing yoga for about 13 years, and it is the word "practice" that stands out for me. When I first stepped on a mat, I knew that I had found a physical practice that I loved.
But it took many years for it to become a spiritual practice. I believe that I had to open myself physically to accept the spiritual teachings.

Yes, I have healed my body and my mind can be balanced most of the time. It is easier to get myself quiet by finding my breath when I feel out of control or a person or situation around me is not how I think it should be.

SInce I practice in a health club, I am exposed to many different kinds of yoga, I am currently studying with a teacher who is teaching us Anusara yoga. This particular type of yoga is appealing to me as it focuses upon heart-opening and body alignment.

I practice in a community of yoga people, and that's important to me as I am a retired teacher and I miss the energy of my fellow teachers and students. Before I retired four years ago, I used what I learned in yoga to calm my students bodies and minds so that I could get them focused and teach them my lesson on any given day.

I can't imagine my life before yoga, and am grateful everyday for what it has brought into my life.

I actually took yoga many years ago, but only for a short time. I have always exercised almost daily, but by running, biking or walking. I am starting a yoga class next week with several of my friends. I heard the show today and loved the spiritual perspective. My oldest daughter is a junior in college and I want her to listen to this show. I think she would get a lot out of it. She is religious, but struggles with anxiety and stress issues. Can you tell me how she can hear the show.

Thanks, Lynn Benz

When I discovered Yoga, I was not sure what I had found. I have largely practiced ashtanga, though some instructors are inclined to fuse ashtanga with elements of tai-chi or elements of vinyassa flow or possibly anything. Whether it was intensity of focus and concentration conjoined with ujjayi breathing, or the suprisng usefulness of the array of drishtis- - - I always detected an energy or a subtle spirit essence or something, that to this day draws me in. I tend to have a wide range of interests that may come/go, be taken or left; yoga's attraction has remained. That yoga requires peace, calm and concentration of me, is one source of balance and restoration. The flexibility of mind and body that comes with the practice is another. Behind the front, street-facing windows of yoga, should one dare to look inside, one can find an attractively enticing philosophy. I am happy to have discovered yoga.

I don't have a story, and I don't do yoga. I am interested in how people practice their personal faith outside of faith as political action committee, and have enjoyed your choice of topics and speakers.

I first became acquainted with yoga about 25 years ago, mainly as a way to get back into shape after my first child was born. Over the next several years I practiced it "fitfully," taking a few classes, but mainly relying on TV shows and videos. Even though I knew it was something "special," it really did not stick with me. (Possibly because I didn't have a personal teacher and guide.)

Then about two years ago, my husband and I began taking a Sat. morning class at a local church. It was definitely a deeper, more meaningful experience. Alas, again, life intervened and we stopped after several months.

In the late spring of '08, suffering from middle age aches and pains and recently diagnosed high blood pressure, I determined I was going to do get back into yoga--this time seriously and for the long haul.
In late May I began attending classes 2/3 times a week at a local studio. I also have daily home practice. I can report that this regular routine has enabled me to develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. The physical strength and conditioning, while very welcome, is secondary to the sense of peace I feel. Never in my life have I experienced such a sense of calmness and balance. My dr. tells me if I continue to do so well, I may be able to cut back on my medication.

My husband and I are both Catholics. He and I discuss the fact that many religious groups frown on yoga. Our feeling is that it is a very personal practice and anything that brings you into such a state of peace and closeness to the Diving is okay. I would never view yoga as a religion--I know some do. It is a way of life that helps me to be a better Christian.

Thank you for your program. We listen whenever we can.

I have dabbled in yoga off and on since I was a teenager, but it was not until I went through a divorce at age 40 that I discovered its saving grace. I attended classes at a local yoga school for an hour and a half, five days a week, for a couple of years. The peaceful surroundings, supportive teachers and fellow students, the physical challenge and subsequent change in my body/mind got me through the darkest days I'd ever known.

Hearing this story on your program has inspired me to return to yoga and its benefits. As an artist, I am constantly seeking creative energy. Sometimes I forget that it may just be an asana away. Thanks for reminding me.

I practice a mix of yoga styles and find great benefit from Vinyasa Flow and a variety of Kundalini breathing techniques. The practice of Yoga has changed my life in so many ways. I sustained a spinal cord injury some years ago and have recovered very well. The practice of Yoga has provided my body a level of integration I have never known in my life, pre or post injury. When doing sustained Yoga flow and/or Sun Salutation flow the most complete and "at one" experience that I can only compare to a religious experience. Yoga is the only things in my life I have ever been involved with that teaches me about unconditional acceptance of myself and others while allowing me to move through my life as strong as I am soft.

As a person of Jewish faith, I can only compare peak Yoga experiences I have had to what I feel when I hear Ancient Hebrew Melodies.

Thank you for doing this program on Yoga with Sean Corn. Heartfelt thanks to Krista Tippett and staff for producing extraordinary programming and for sharing this most wide perspective on faith.

For four decades I studied the public-broadcasting-and-ink-on-wood-pulp forms of yoga and meditation. Started in 1972 at age 19 with Lilias Folan on KQED in San Francisco. Later there were the odd paperbacks of varying quality and rare snippets from other TV broadcasts, podcasts and unplanned face-to-face encounters with formally trained people.

Sean Corns broadcast was another wholly accidental catch, and a strangely irritating one for its brevity. Never ever have I heard the benefits of yoga so efficiently,powerfully and humbly explained. Almost the first words out of her mouth were "I am not an educated woman."

I fell in love with her humility and was a total gonner after that.

As a classic born-again Christian, I always kept a vigilant eye cocked for signs of the satanic during these questionable explorations into mysticism. This focused attention produced (and continues to produce) its own unexpected rewards in the yoga/meditation realms. I am wholly confident that there is zero conflict between the two practices.

This Christian-Yoga issue is one of vocabulary only. The only dissonent note I heard from Sean was that her attempts to speak in the language of the Bible Belt ,when she works there, was viewed as controversial by some of her narrower(?) non-Christian peers.

I had a near-fatal motorcycle accident 5 years ago. My goals thereafater were to be able to walk, run, kayak and do my yoga poses again. Recovery came, with compound interest, through the gentle discipline of yoga; and especially through those soft, decades-old admonishments from Lilias to persist, but not to over-do.

The rewards of yoga and meditation are great and thoroughgoing. They are also far more that restorative.

Sean Corn has it right. She is clear. She does not over-state the case for yoga and meditation. Her bona fides are the hard knocks she so honestly revealled about her life & limitations during the braodcast. Her humbling experiences of trying to teach before she reached some troubled youth resonates strongly with my own experiences in that field.

This woman is remarkable and balanced. I hope to accidentally encounter her again.

Thanks to Speaking of Faith for this interview.

If you want to use this story in any way, please omit my last name.

I started practicing ashtanga yoga occasionally 1 1/2 years ago, primarily because it made me feel better physically. This spring I committed to more regular practice to help with healing from child sexual abuse. This spring, at age 49, I finally came to understand that what I had considered my grand romance, was really sexual abuse. When my married "lover" started grooming me, I was 10 and he was 55. He started kissing me inappropriately when I was 14 and our relationship continued in different ways until he died an ugly death of Shy-Drager Syndrome when I was 28. Shifting my perception of the relationship and understanding it damaged me has been a painful process. Yoga, along with the support of a great therapist, has helped me immensely! I start most yoga sessions with the intention of seeking healing, and have found it to be both a calming and strengthening experience. As a result of yoga, therapy, and hard work, I am reclaiming peace and joy in my life! I am re-committing to my Christian faith, and re-claiming the "New Age" philosophies shared with me by my abuser throughout our relationship. It is wonderful to have found some balance in my feelings about my abuser -- I can now see him as damaged and acknowledge how he hurt me, yet still love the good things about him and incorporate them into my life.

Now I look forward to turning 50,to strengthening my marriage, and discovering what comes next in my life! I will be sticking with my yoga practice!

For a long time I shied away from yoga. I had decided that I was a miserable athlete, and convinced that yoga looked a little bit too much like the gymnastics I had briefly suffered through at age eight, I was not eager to subject myself to that again. Eventually, I tried it, influenced by some older girls. My first yoga experience came hand in hand with my first formal meditation experience (an hour of yoga followed by an hour of meditation). It was hard, it was rough, it was challenging, and when it was over, I can honestly say that I may never have felt quite as renewed as I did then (except, of course, subsequent yoga-meditation experiences). I still do a yoga-meditation practice. Sometimes I'm a faithful observer, sometimes I falter, sometimes the practice is obsolete, but it is my spiritual backbone. I always go back, because ultimately, for me, it is the only path that has ever worked.

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Voices on the Radio

is the National Yoga Ambassador for YouthAIDS and cofounder of “Off the Mat, Into the World.”

Production Credits

Host/Executive Producer: Krista Tippett

Executive Editor: Trent Gilliss

Senior Producer: Lily Percy

Technical Director: Chris Heagle

Associate Producer: Mariah Helgeson

Production Intern: Julie Rawe