The Urban Yoga Den

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WelcomeOmDC Guest Blog – Off the Mat Into the World January 24, 2011

Wishing you wellness!

Honored that WelcomeOmDC invited me to write a two-part blog about my experience with Off the Mat Into the World’s “Yoga, Purpose & Action” intensive, coming to DC this March.  (Sponsored by Flow Yoga Center and Anahata Grace.)  Curious what it’s like to practice with OTM co-founders Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling?  Read on…

OM Shanti.  h*

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Off the Mat Into the World’s Leadership Intensive Comes to DC in March!

(Part 1 of 2)

Yoga teacher Holly Meyers is a DC ambassador for Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM), a nonprofit that uses the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change. OTM’s 5-day “Yoga, Purpose & Action” intensive – coming to DC March 10-14 – guides participants through a deep, transformational process of self-inquiry and skill building facilitated by yoga, visioning, lecture and group process.

Last June I participated in Off the Mat Into the World’s 5-day leadership intensive at the Omega Institute in New York. As the DC intensive approaches, I’m feeling as giddy as a little kid!

I am super excited to practice with three of the most effective teachers of yoga and leadership. OTM founders Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling are like a power trio who fuel the training with their unique strengths.

My first experience with Seane – whose advanced yoga poses grace the covers of Yoga Journal and other magazines – was one year ago, at her 3-day Chakra Vinyasa workshop. Being a traditional Hatha teacher with just a little Vinyasa experience – and, knowing about Seane’s butt-kicking Asana practice – I was a bit nervous! My fears soon dissolved as I immersed myself in one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I did not simply “get through” the three days – Seane’s prayerful support and encouragement propelled my practice beyond my imagination.

Complementing Seane’s intensely physical style is Hala’s wisdom as a psychologist. Her music choices uplift the heart and soul, and encourage emotional release through the body. During last year’s intensive, U2’s “Grace” hit the air and I felt a visceral surge of self-acceptance that still brings me great serenity today. Hala’s lecture on Somatic Experiencing provided tools for maintaining balance during emotional triggers, which are invaluable for people like me – a survivor of hardship who now works in service to those with similar backgrounds.

Suzanne rounds out OTM’s leadership with her mystical energy, and background in indigenous ritual, percussion and vocalization. Her compassionate heart, attentive ear and motivational voice sparked rich levels of self-discovery, openness and security among the 40 participants at Omega last year. Her drumming and chants provided a cohesive soundtrack for the week’s process. In my classes I often play her celebratory “Jai Ma” – which she chanted as a gentle lullaby during our deep relaxation – during Sun Salutations and her ethereal “Savaasana” during Yoga Nidra.

Seane’s, Hala’s and Suzanne’s fusion of transformational Asana, psychological empowerment and liberating ritual are beyond compare for leadership development for Karma Yogis, Yoga Activists, Seva Yogis…whatever you choose to call someone who takes his or her yoga practice off the mat to be of service in their everyday world.

Through OTM’s intensive, any yogi who plays a role of service at their job, in their community and/or for their family will find the nourishment, rejuvenation and empowerment to do that work more sustainably. I hope to see you this March!

The early-bird discount for OTM’s March 2011 “Yoga, Purpose & Action” Intensive is available through Saturday, January 22nd!  Visit www.flowyogacenter.com to register – payment plans are available.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Holly’s blog, describing how ongoing mentorship by OTM leaders encourages her leadership growth, empowers her yoga teaching and sustains her service work.

Part 1: http://www.welcomeomdc.com/2011/01/22/take-your-practice-off-the-mat/

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Focus: Yoga In Action – Guest Blog October 14, 2010

CandaceHollyOTMedit(June2010)After the recent DC Global Mala, the local arm of Anahata International – Anahata Grace – asked me to write about my experience at the Off The Mat Into The World leadership intensive at the Omega Institute last June. Check out the guest blog below.

Learn more about Anahata at anahatainternational.org.  Thanks to Caitlin and Alexis for the invitation to share how yoga transforms me, so I might be of service in this world.

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YOGA IN ACTION: OFF THE MAT INTO THE WORLD

“Trauma is a fact of life.  So is resilience.”  – Hala Khouri, Off The Mat Into The World Co-Creator

In 1993, I was emotionally, physically and spiritually bottoming out – again.  In my 28 years of life, I’d experienced enough unaddressed trauma to leave me without possibility for healing or growth.  I’d “lost my way,” my life was a mess and I felt empty inside.

A friend suggested yoga, and I’ve been “on the mat” ever since.

At first, my practice was selfish.  Yoga’s initial “ahhh” brought immense relief and I started to feel better.  Then came the intense transformation from being guided by teachers who embraced and passed on yoga’s comprehensive design for living.  Self-examination and change are not always gentle processes.  Surrendering, I fell back into the arms of supportive yogis and others devoted to healing.  Years down the line, teachers started to suggest carrying the benefits of yoga into the world.  Having gained so much from this precious practice, I knew I wanted to give back however possible.  The seeds of Seva (selfless service) were planted.

Today, I try to take yoga off the mat and into my everyday world, every day of my life.

Coming from a background of trauma, I must practice yoga and other community-based activities that encourage self-inquiry and spiritual living.  This is my responsibility to the world around me.  Because without these regular activities, I would be heading right back to that 1993 bottom.  I would be stuck in old stories, limits and pain.  So, I practice.  And I aim to offer my healthiest self to those around me.  At times, the facts of my past can be tough to admit.  Who wants to expose her/his dark side?  Through admitting these realities, however, have I found infinite tools for addressing them.  Sharing truthfully, identifying my patterns, gaining counsel, and passing on these solutions all bring a profound shift from darkness to light.

This is the kind of honesty, self-inquiry, community and action that Off The Mat Into The World (OTM) encourages, facilitates and supports.  In addition to their global fund-raising and youth empowerment initiatives, OTM co-creators Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling lead a 5-day workshop “Intensive” – a yoga-based transformational process that yields a sustainable, reinforced and proactive life purpose.

During OTM’s Intensive last June, I met 40 amazing yogis, teachers and “activists” (i.e. cause-inspired, nonprofit and social workers) devoted to looking at themselves in order to serve others.

To begin our week together, we practiced deep self-inquiry through Chakra Vinyasa sequences, Yoga Nidra, Somatic Therapy exercises, group sharing and more.  We learned how to hold space for, listen to and support each other.  We discovered that after unearthing what breaks our heart, exploring trauma triggers, exposing false beliefs and identifying chronic pain, we could strengthen and align our healthy selves with a true Seva purpose vs. being triggered by others’ traumas.

Mid-week, we moved from self- to other-focus with discussion and practice of collaboration, consensus process, non-violent communication and power models (i.e. inclusion, shared power and empowerment vs. having power over or being under power).  In our assumptions exercise we honestly exposed limited perceptions of each other; and in our “Circle of Truth,” we humbly learned how to expand our understanding of all.

To wrap up the workshop, OTM staff Kerri Kelly and Claire Williams introduced the Yoga In Action initiatives, focusing on activating our newly fortified purpose and mission statements within our local yoga communities.  I felt lucky to live in the amazingly proactive city of DC, where “yoga activism” is energized and thriving.

For me personally, three moments from the Intensive stand out:

  • An emotional breakthrough during Seane’s Chakra Asana practice liberated me from years of paralyzing resentment, and enabled me to forgive and move on in a major area of my life.
  • In Suzanne’s “What Breaks Your Heart” sharing circle, I discovered my inner resources (Pranayama and eye contact) for speaking my truth (“What breaks my heart is the pain of the child who knows no other way than pain.”) from a place of clarity and conviction instead of imbalanced emotion.
  • And the moment Hala said, “Imagine going through challenges without suffering,” I exhaled profoundly, knowing that I never had to “bottom out” again – nor did I have to “burn out” from my Seva efforts.

Most importantly, I created a list of 13 goals toward widening my yoga-in-action circle in DC and beyond.  The list included a range of intentions, such as “Be a yogi,” “Keep up with self-care and connection,” “Continue consistently developing your blog,” and “Plug in with those already doing this work in DC, i.e. Anahata Grace.”  As of today, I have completed or am active in 10 out of 13 of those intentions.

I have not done this alone.  OTM continues to invest in my development as a yoga teacher, community organizer and Seva devotee through periodic conference calls with my Intensive teammates and other OTM community leaders.  They have empowered me as a OTM ambassador, and I have started to incubate their Yoga In Action initiatives here in DC.

I look forward to seeing everyone at this weekend’s Global Mala in DC, and talking more about how DC yogis, teachers and activists can tap into Off The Mat Into The World’s resources for sustainable Seva work in our city.  Look for me at the Past Tense Studio booth!

Yoga teacher, musician and writer Holly Meyers blogs about living yoga in everyday life, promotes yoga events and shares yoga tips-n-tools at UrbanYogaDen.wordpress.com.  As an Off The Mat Into The World ambassador, she is currently leading the Yoga In Action DC Facebook campaign.

 

Bi-Monthly Focus: September/October – Yoga In Action September 4, 2010

September marks the beginning of our new focus for yoga classes. Over July and August, we reflected on “Why Yoga?” and wrapped up by exploring the idea of giving back.  Our quote by Max Strom (see “Focus: Why Yoga? – Giving Back”) reminded us that only by focusing first on our own healing can we effectively be of service to others.

These next two months, our focus is “Yoga In Action.” We will explore self-care, being cared for, community, self-inquiry, acceptance, gratitude and other practical elements of yoga.  In relation to those actions and attitudes, we will see how our healthy, supported selves can sustainably offer our yoga in service to the world around us.

As mentioned in my “Giving Back” post, there is a broad range of ways to move our yoga into action.  Perhaps a restorative Asana class gives us the peace of mind to face a stressful situation; maybe yoga’s overall gifts inspire us to share that gift as a volunteer.  And so on.

On Facebook, “Yoga In Action DC” (a local effort of Off The Mat Into The World, for whom I am an ambassador) launched a “30 Ways in 30 Days” campaign, inviting yogis to report how they take their practice off the mat and into the everyday world, every day of September.  We invite you to chime in to our campaign!  Please log on to Facebook and search for the “Yoga In Action DC” group page.  You can see how local yogis like Caitlin Uzzell (of Flow Yoga Center and Anahata Grace), Charlotte Raich (Seva Coordinator at Yoga Alliance and loving mom), Caroline Millet (yoga teacher at Past Tense and Tranquil Space), Maggie Cunha (Seva Coordinator at Past Tense and AIDS relief worker) and others are setting intentions.

In the classes that I teach, we are kicking off our Yoga In Action focus by continuing a self-care theme.  Remember, as they say on the airlines, “In the case of a change in cabin pressure, four masks will drop from the overhead compartment.  Please put your own mask on first, before attempting to help those around you.”

Put your own masks on, yogis.  Take good care.  OM Shanti.

Check out:

– Yoga In Action DC group on Facebook

– Off The Mat Into The World at http://www.offthematintotheworld.org

– Anahata Grace at http://www.anahatainternational.org

– Yoga Alliance at http://www.yogaalliance.org

– Past Tense at http://www.pasttensestudio.com

– Flow Yoga at http://www.flowyogacenter.com

– Tranquil Space at http://www.tranquilspace.com