Rikers Island Yoga

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This post is for the introverts. As much as the big personalities make themselves seen in a place like Rikers, I also see those that are quiet.

In the summer the city gets hot but it feels even hotter at Rikers. Despite the heat students asked if they could work on the core. This made me smile for a variety of reasons. First, it’s awesome to see students feel empowered enough to ask for something. This takes courage. Second, it was HOT and I can’t believe they were looking to get even sweatier. But who am I to argue with passion? I had planned on talking about compassion for the self but instead we discussed our inner fire. How do we light it? Honor it? How does it inspire us?
Miriam practiced with a peaceful determination. She didn’t chat during class but smiled at certain points and it seemed that she was looking inward. In side plank her leg floated in the air and in half-moon she smiled to herself as she explored her possibilities by lifting her hand. This was yoga in action. Half-moon was a way for Miriam to embrace the moment rather than getting the pose right. Miriam had touched her core and lit her inner fire.
So much happens in the boisterous conversations at Rikers but it was really Miriam’s inward reflection that moved me. Sometimes I feel guilty to witness such beauty. But because o know it’s not mine I’m able to let it go and hope that Miriam knows what a powerful spirit she is. Shout out to those who are quiet. Sometimes it’s not the loudest voice that gets heard,but the most sonorous.

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Money Yoga

money and life

 

 

Money and Life is a documentary that talks about where money comes from (thin air) and how it’s been turned into the way we live our lives and what we can do about it.

 

 

 

Money & Life Extended Trailer from Katie Teague on Vimeo.

It got me thinking about my recent change in my relationship with money.  In the past two years I’ve let go of a lot of things that most think are big measures of success- my luxury condo, my car and lots of stuff that wasn’t serving me.

 

This isn’t to say that I don’t think that I should move on a commune away from society. But I have shifted my paradigm of thinking when it comes to how I measure my success and what I want to offer to the world. I’m more interested in the inter connectedness of the world rather that trying to squelch someone’s chances of success for my own gain. That kind of thinking works off a thought process that there isn’t enough. When in fact, there is enough. There is enough food, money, success, happiness for everyone.

I’m not talking about Law of Attraction woo woo stuff here. But one thing I have realized is that I used to put a lot of focus on accumulating stuff and not living life. And though my lifestyle has changed drastically from the one that I was living a few years ago- I’m more centered and more content than I have ever been.

I don’t think I’m fooling myself either, because the more I connected with the work I want to do, I created opportunities for myself.

In the beginning of the new year most of us look to cleanse our bodies. But what about cleansing for we spend and live? Life gets busy and our routines could use a shake up. When was the last time you checked in with your kids about how they understand money? Have you taken a look at how you are saving for retirement? Are you spending excess money each week without knowing it? Regardless of how tight you may think you manage, it’s a good idea to check-in.

Beth Kobliner, probably best known for her book Get a Financial Life encourages people to do a ‘money fast’ at the beginning of each year. After paying necessary expenses, can you spend the month with spending any money? It’s a great way to see what’s important and what’s not. It may also challenge your idea of what is important.

If you are serious about jump starting your financial health. Levo League has five great tips to get you started on a 30-day financial cleanse.

1. Introduce yourself to the bare necessities.

Cut out all frivolous spending, so you can get to the bottom of your relationship with money. You can spend on groceries, bills, transportation, and health expenses—nothing more.

2. Convert to cash

When we use cash, we become more aware of our spending. It might sound counterintuitive, but managing your spending habits becomes simpler without a credit or debit card. Either your wallet is full, or your wallet is empty. You see the flow of your money in real time.

3. Monitor your spending

Over the course of a week, you can begin to monitor what you really miss and what you are surprised you can easily live without. You’ll be motivated by the amount of money you’re saving in the meantime, and you’ll likely think to yourself, “This is a lot easier than I thought!”

4. Learn to forgive, in order to learn

Even with all the progress you’ve made so far, you’ll most likely slip up and purchase something you didn’t mean to. It’s very important to forgive yourself.

Like I said, our habits become very automatic and as soon as we let our guards down, we may catch ourselves swiping a credit card on something we are in the habit of buying. Take this moment to truly consider your motivations behind your spending.

5. Reassess your values

Understanding your values and what’s really important to you is the key to financial wellness. Your spending and use of your time should point to your values—meaning, you should be spending the majority of your time and money on things of utmost importance.

If you’re not, you’re unaligned with your spending and have the opportunity to use your money in much more meaningful ways. For example, if family is really important to you, but you spend no time with them and no money on spending time with them, you’re missing out on very fulfilling spending.

You may want to plan more trips with them, or even plan to visit them if they aren’t nearby. I call this putting your money where your heart is.

 

 

 

Check out the entire documentary Money & Life below.  It’s great to watch with the family.

 

 

Rikers Island Yoga (Teaching in Prison)

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We are all prisoners, undergoing a life sentence, imprisoned by our own minds. We are all seeking parole, being hostages of our own anger, fear, desire… it is a thin line that separates us from these people, who stare at us from inside this cage. The same things that do not go beyond the threshold of our thoughts, have crossed, in their case, the threshold of action. But still, we are alike.

– From Doing Time, Doing Vipassana

Well, they must have done something to be in prison… 

I think it’s ridiculous that inmates get yoga. 

Why do you come here? 

These (and more) are the negative things people have said to me about teaching yoga at Rikers. I write about teaching in prison every other week to honor those I believe are the forgotten. Our society is built on the idea that only the ‘good’ deserve ‘good’ things and ‘bad’ people are expendable.  It implies that were are the things that we do.

I do not think that we are.

We are more that the stuff we buy, the jobs we do, we are more than the people we choose to be with and the choices we make. Because someone made bad choices in the past does not mean that she shouldn’t have a chance at a preparing for a better future.

I’m not okay with throwing people away. I’m not okay with a woman being overwhelmed with gratitude because I  looked her in the eye and said, ‘Good morning.’ When it comes to jail I believe that the system is broken. I’m not talking just Rikers. I mean lots the institution of detention. Punishment without programming and plan for re-entry (and the follow-up after re-entry) is a recipe for recidivism. And reform at Rikers is said to be underway. I have seen some changes. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Sorry, I don’t mean to preach.  It gets under my skin.

I know. Yoga teacher heal thyself and all that. My passion is a gift and a curse.

Moving on.

As my mom says, “It’s Tuesday so it must mean Rikers.” So our story begins.

I could hear the rain pouring down and pulled myself out of bed. Soaked like a wet dog on the PATH train I hoped that the weather and my now clingy sweats weren’t an omen.

While the prison seemed to creak under the weight of the rain, classes were a different story. After spending time in Building 16 I taught my first class to the women in 3SA. The dorm holds sentenced women. Last week, I dropped by to see if they were really interested in having class. Apparently, a few of them stopped by a counselor’s office on Monday asking about yoga, just to make sure I wasn’t full of bs.

Eight women came to their mats. The energy was definitely more calm than the women in detainee areas. There wasn’t that frenetic, anxious energy. Women who are sentenced know how long they are there. We were able to sit and talk about what classes could look like. Lots of times pre-trial women are distracted, and with good reason. Some of them are new to this situation and most don’t know what is going on with their cases. They are learning how to survive in this environment and are scared.

Because it’s prison.

We sat with our mats making a large circle. One woman sitting at the table asked if she could watch. Instead, we invited her to come sit even if she didn’t want to move. “I just want to be a part of what’s happening here,” she said. Another woman stated that with the TV on in the background, it would be hard to concentrate.  Nearby, people were intensely watching a movie. Honestly, compared to other floors it was so low that I didn’t even notice it. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what was on. I asked Rachel(not her real name)  if she would be okay about thinking of the TV and all the noise around us as background and white noise. Someone else pointed out that it would help them learn to be still when it’s crazy. And still another said that we would get so focused on class that it wouldn’t matter.

‘This is going to be awesome’, I thought.

We began class with an awareness practice. I watched as everyone started to breathe into the moment. I don’t mean this in some woo-woo way. The witness practice as we call in cancer therapy training allows someone to bring moment to moment awareness to internal and external actions. Much of my cancer and chronic illness training is useful in this environment.

Our focus: being more than the body. Every movement was about the breath and allowing things to be how they are supposed to be in the moment. Building on this sense of living in the present we glided into one restorative pose and then guided meditation. Lunch was wheeled in as we were wrapped up. We formally closed class wishing each other peace and peace for everyone.

I’m hopeful for what we will learn from each other.

So when I ask myself why I do this I answer, how can I not? I live in the world. We all have different ways that we serve other humans. This is mine.

People in prison need consistent programming and  mind/body activities like yoga. From Us News Blog:

The focus of our prison system should be to improve society, not make it worse. As such, we should rededicate ourselves to reducing recidivism, and implementing the evidence-based policies that do so, such as increasing educational and vocational investment in prisoners.

And listen. I’m not a fool. I don’t waltz into Rikers chanting Om and teaching from a rose colored yoga mat. That’s not me. It’s also not my issue to deal with what people did.

I teach yoga and meditation so women find that place inside that lets them see who they are outside of all the stuff people say they are. Those powerful labels that can shape a life when we don’t pay attention. Powerful labels can shape a life when you’ve spent most of your life living in a situation that was ‘survival-centric’. Eventually those labels of what the external says is so becomes what is known.

I teach yoga and meditation so women get a moment to breathe into their spirit and say, I am a person. I am worthy of attention. I am worthy of love and being loved.

Namaste y’all.

If you would like to learn more about Liberation Prison Yoga click here

If you haven’t seen Doing Time, Doing Vipassana you can check it out below.

Yoga in Times Square- Mind Over Madness 2014

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“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”
― Charles Bowden

 

I love the summer. Call it nostalgia but warm weather makes anything possible. Maybe it’s because I’m not wrapped in layers of clothes. Maybe I’m just a hot-blooded yogi. Whatever it is, it works for me. Yesterday, I celebrated the coming of summer by doing what I have done for the past few years- yoga in Times Sq. Mind Over Madness 2014 had over 11,000 yogis register.

This year I went with my sister, Ashley and friend Luanda. We unrolled our mats and prepared for a sunset flow with Ali Cramer of Laughing Lotus.

We stretched and opened our hearts as the sun began to set. Ali’s words inspired me to feel my body open with compassion and strength. Move in way that feels right for your body Ali encouraged- so I did. Flowing into to warriors on an inhale and falling into chat on an exhale I felt my belly wake up for the first time since surgery. There was no pain. My patience paid off. Being gentle can help me be warrior.

My body is recovering – I thought. Relief washed over me. No seven inch belly incision can get me down because I can show up for me. I can show up and be still when I need to. And when the time feels right I can roar with my heart, reach my hands up to the sky and send out all the love I have because I was brave enough to love myself.

When we got to the ground we put our hands behind our heads and Times Sq became our beach. With hundreds of other yogis I took in the lights at the crossroads of the world. Luanda turned to me and said, ‘I can’t believe we are laying on our backs in the middle of Times Sq.’

It’s a pretty crazy thought. Both Ashley and Luanda are in that part of town during the week. Ashley said the next time she feels stressed among the 9-5 hustle she’s going to remember how she felt doing yoga and hold onto that.

Good plan.

Happy Summer Solstice.

Namaste y’all.

 

Kayak Yoga – Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

free kayak

Maybe it’s the yoga, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I have a newfound sense of freedom since I got my bike- but I’ve been up for trying new things.

This was not always so.

I wasn’t a fan of change and in fact- I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Round peg, round hole is how things should fit.

At least that’s the way the Dr. Seuss version of me thought of things.

But I caught up with a friend last Sunday and took a dive into the unknown.

Don’t get too excited. I didn’t climb a mountain.

I went out on a kayak.

Hey- baby steps, people. Baby steps.

We rode our bikes to Hoboken from Jersey City and parked at the Hoboken Cove Boathouse. We signed a sheet of paper and got to kayak for free. Right? Free. No strings. Just free. How did I not know about this? They had free kayaking all summer long? This is what happens when you don’t explore, you miss out on good shit.

So- I hopped in my kayak and had a blast. It’s also quite an arm workout.

And because once I dip my toe,  I tend to go whole hog I decided to try a stand-up paddle board.

‘Just keep paddling,’ I was told after a brief lesson.

Off I went.

Look Ma! I’m doing it! Yoga was great prep for this- using the core and feeling the movement of the water to stay steady was a lot less difficult than I thought.

And then, a wave.

Things slow down before the body takes a tumble. I could feel the entire thing. The space-time continuum halted like in an episode of Fringe. I half expected to see bizarro Oneika rise from the water (She better not have a better ass than me, and I do not want her hair longer). But she never showed up and I was snapped my to my merely average  ass swaying to and fro on a paddle board.

The wave came and I could feel the balance shift. I didn’t even fight it, because there was nothing to fight. I was going in the water and that was that. I should say that I love the water and love to swim etc..etc… so this wasn’t a huge thing, but it wasn’t exactly warm and I was hoping to keep my clothes dry.

Ah well. In I went. All the way under. Completely soaked. My head popped the surface and I  exclaimed, ‘THIS IS AWESOME!’ Maybe I was bizarro Oneika? An interesting twist. I glanced at my butt- still the same. No matter. I felt freaking awesome.

I got on the board and fell off again. And again I giggled. I kept thinking I wish I had known about this during the  heat wave because I would have ‘slipped’ over and over.

Eventually I got back in the groove and headed back in. Once back on shore the guy asked if I was okay and I said I was great, it’s about getting back up.

I had to give a mental fistbump to  Dandayamana Dhanurasana- aka Standing Bow Pulling Pose in the Bikram series.

The pose is about falling, in the sense that once you fall can you pick yourself back up and try again- without judgement, maybe even with joy.

There’s one last weekend of free kayaking next Saturday. You can bet I’m going to be back on that stand up paddle board.

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Paddle board yoga. Namaste y’all.

Renewing Your Spirit – 5 Ways to Do It

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

– George Eliot

There’s something about autumn that I love and loathe. As a kid I loved the crisp mornings getting excited because I knew that I’d soon be able to break out my new sweaters. Warm weather still peeks through the day and it’s cool enough at night to get a morning chill. Fall is associated with renewal and that makes sense. We can shed old ways or reconnect with our pre-summer selves. Once the kids are back in their routines and beach days are gone we begin our own version of molting.

 

Here are 5 ways that I get back to me:

1. Reconnect with my practice

September is a big fitness season. As the family calendar takes over we get back to the business of health. For some this means actually working out again (you know who you are) and for others it means switching up the routine. I’ve never run outside in cooler weather, so I’m doing a little homework.

Fall is a time when I take a look at my practice. The change in seasons wakes up different parts of my senses. My asana practice took place mostly in the evenings. Since I teach most evenings, it was scattered. But I’ve sat my butt down to plan out my practices a few weeks out at a time. Incorporating

2. Jump start healthy eating

Eat seasonally!!! Eat seasonally!!!  My cooking shifts from grilling to roasting. I swap out fresh tomatoes for squash and mushrooms. Quinoa begins to make regular appearances and what I love most of all, SOUP SEASON!!! There is nothing like a hearty soup to make me giggle like wanda the witch from Sesame Street (which is creepy and cool at the same time). Renew your love of the kitchen by pulling down the crock pot and making soup. Crowd pleasers and freezer friendly. This fall and winter you’ll see a bunch of soup recipes  so get ready.

I’m now meatless every day of the week, but before I was I started participating in Meatless Monday. I’d say it was the first thing that really helped think about my carbon footprint.

3. Read a good book

All of the best books come out in fall!!! If you are a book nerd like me, this is your time to find a stack (or queue) of things to get you through the cold winter months. Reading is great stimulation for the brain and a soothing activity. Kids who see their parents read are more likely to read themselves.

4. Make time to make time

Did you know that a 2006 study said that meditating can be better for you than sleeping? Taking even a few minutes to collect your thoughts is great for you and others. I love early morning when I walk Dakota. It allows me to set intentions for the day and reflect on where I am. Take a minute in the shower just to pause can be beneficial. I’ve actually been thinking about my time in the Catskills surrounded by silence. I’ve gotten away from finding a few quiet moments to let go. Seems like the right time to re-commit.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

“Don’t sweat the small stuff, because it’s all small stuff…” Cliche and overused, maybe. That doesn’t mean it’s untrue. Maybe it was the heat and  (and don’t get me wrong I’m a summer kind of chick) but the little things were getting under my skin. The cool crisp air of fall allows me to exhale.

How do you welcome fall into your life?

Namaste y’all!

Adventures in Yoga- When Writing and Yoga Collide

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However, a few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with Kathleen Kraft- poet and yogi.

Kathleen hosted a workshop where we were able to spend time connecting body, breath and words.

I can’t tell you how many times that I have been moving through my asana practice and I have wanted to jot down a thought or feeling.

While this may speak to some of my other issues of staying present I’d prefer to focus on the workshop.

This gave me the chance to do just that.

We moved through a sequence and were then given a prompt. Using the prompt wasn’t mandatory but it did offer a jumping off point.

Some of the thoughts I wrote down were hokey or obvious, but it did help me unblock quite a bit.

Here’s a snippet of one that I tweaked a bit.

 

Swan Dive

Into something new
it’s what I do
Inhaling a memory
Exhaling a dream

No stopping and starting
during asana practice.

Life passing me
Off my mat
Exhaling down, arms spread wide

I catch the tail end of my latest…
Whatever.

Inhaling, reaching up
Looking up stretching

I feel safe from me
On my mat

Vinyasa flow
Moving up and down
But never out

Always here
In the now.

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This workshop was a wonderful way to explore another part of my yoga.

I take different kinds of classes for various reasons.

Hot yoga is my support group.

Vinyasa feeds my soul.

Structural yoga feeds my mind which in turn feeds my soul.

And my asana practice helps me live a fulfilled and productive life off my mat.

Being able to combine my asana practice and reflect in the moment was a unique experience. It’s one that I’ll definitely do again.

It left me feeling stretched and for that I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

Namaste y’all.

Adventures in Yoga – Bike Yoga

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*(I debated whether to go ahead and post this since the bike is gone, but it doesn’t change how I feel about riding my bike. Stay tuned for New Bike Day Part II…)

New Bike Day was a few weeks ago and it was incredible.

My butt is sore, but it was worth it. I picked up the bike and rode in my hood before heading to Liberty State Park.

I haven’t been this excited about something in such a long time. I smiled as I pedaled through the park- the wind was pretty rough but I couldn’t be stopped.

Then it occurred to me, why not stop?

So I did.

Breathing consciously makes you pause and stay in the moment.

I say this every time teach. Every. Single. Time.

But on New Bike Day the physician healed herself.

I pulled out a book and read for a bit. I took a few photos. I thought about a few things. I even spaced out.

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At first I was feeling hesitant to ride, now I’m wondering how I can ride and stay warm during colder months. I’m hooked. Visions of bike rides and watching the leaves change dance in my head.

Namaste y’all.