September 1, 2020
As I start this journey as the new Executive Director for Pranakriya, I’d like to recognize and thank all those who have set PKSYHA on such an amazing path to date: Emily Gretz, Amber Seale, Jacci Gruninger, Lee Furey, Calista Nelson, Chelsea Rausch, Chrissy Gruninger, the Board of Directors, Program Directors, Advisors, Teachers, contributors, supporters, and of course, Yoganand Michael Carroll and Swami Kripalu. In this season of change, I appreciate both the warm welcome you have extended, and the exciting opportunity to continue moving our school forward.
Speaking of seasons, here we are on the first day of September 2020.
A September unlike any other that I can remember, anyway. I wanted to share with you a couple of threads I have been using in my own classes lately, drawing on my training in Pranakriya yoga:
- Strength and softness, oneness, and witnessing. These concepts, and knowing how to practice them through yoga, have really helped me adapt in life on and off the mat in this unusual time.
- “Inhale length in the spine, exhale to soften” This kind of simple cueing that I learned, and embodied, through my 200-hour Pranakriya YTT with William Hufschmidt continues to form the basis of my own teaching.
This summer, though, it has seemed important to unpack it even a little more, calling to my students’ attention, as class progresses, that they can find strength with the inhale, and flexibility or softness with the exhale. Surely, we can see where this is going, when we take our yoga “off the mat!” This time of our lives has demanded unprecedented strength from many of us, in the face of stressors we couldn’t have imagined.
And at the same time, if we hope to come through it – and maybe not just survive, but even thrive – we must find new ways to become more flexible. And I don’t just mean hamstrings! Integration of the mind, body, and spirit contributes to the “oneness” that many people see as yoga. But, do we also always remember to consider our relationship as part of a whole that surrounds us, including our natural and constructed environments, and communities, as part of this aspirational oneness? I’ve found it easier to bring that into my classes since practicing more outdoors this summer.
I recently taught a beach yoga class…
There was a group on the sidewalk behind us. They were unaware of our class, or maybe just unconcerned, as they spoke very loudly for a good 35 minutes. Yes, we were outside, but it was hard for the students to hear me, and for me to project to them, in the responsible social distance between all of us. It was an interesting centering for the start of this class! In a moment when they could hear me, I reminded them that just a couple months ago, many of us would have given a lot just to be able to see and hear others. And, that if they found it too distracting, there was a heron on the beach to train the eyes on, a bird party in the tree overhead to train the ears on, or the ability to go inside, focusing on the qualities of the breath and noticing sensations in the body.
Finding that strength to continue practicing, and the flexibility to adjust where needed, allowed us to enjoy our class, and even chuckle at our awareness of oneness with everything and everyone around us – wondering if they, too, had this ability to witness. What started out as a challenging moment, and had the potential to be too distracting and frustrating, ended up bringing the participants in the class together in a oneness of shared experience, as they practiced how to keep external factors from infiltrating the peace they created for themselves.
If that’s not yoga, I’m not sure what is.
This season of our lives demands that we see ourselves as part of a whole in order to protect one another, grow in our awareness of ourselves as part of a whole, and fight for each other’s rights, allowing both the individual and their surroundings to truly become more alive. And, that we find both strength and softness, which we can practice in yoga, and in life.
Today, as I start in my new role as Executive Director for this amazing school, I am reminded that the best leaders I know have also put these principles and qualities at the fore of their leadership. So, thank you, to this season of change, and to Pranakriya, for showing the way ahead!