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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Rikers Island Yoga- Creating Your Own Prison

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The sentenced women’s dorm is quiet due to lots of women heading home.

Class Friday morning was small and I was touched that students were asking about my hip. I had injured it and had to miss class. One student was chatting about how she had been feeling and was met with a little surprise by another student who seemed shocked at the level of confession. We all started talking about yoga and how it opens you up. I shared how yoga had opened me up.

‘Kathryn’ (not her real name) said that it sounded like my old life was my prison. I’d felt like that but it wasn’t anything I ever felt comfortable saying to my students- after all, creating you’re own ‘prison’ and real jail are two different things.

Or so I thought….

I confessed that I have always felt comfortable teaching classes at Rosie’s, that in fact I feel at home in jail. I didn’t get looks of shock- but knowing nods. I confront the self I used to be when I walk inside those doors. It was a defining moment. One that I haven’t been able to shake.
We create prisons for ourselves. These prisons can be built on a soulful level, draining and leaving us feeling unfulfilled, bitter and judgmental. We can spend our time pointing fingers at people’s lives and choices when we really should be putting up a mirror (with unflattering fluorescent light to really bring that shit home) to our own bs. These same prisons can keep us from stepping into our true calling because we are encased in fear and anxiety. We block our ability to give and receive unconditional love. But it doesn’t stop there.
When we create prisons- we add stress to our bodies.
Stress kills.
It puts unnecessary pressure on our endocrine system. It makes our heart work harder. It deprives us of sleep. Sleep is needed to repair and restore our body. It increases our blood pressure. Creating prisons can set us up to reaact to triggers and abuse drugs, alcohol, sex, food and money to fill a void. Scary stuff. But there are ways out.
I’ve heard so many students at Rikers say that they needed to come to jail to find yoga. It happens more than I can say. The students who say this give me hope. They sound as if they have found their path. Yoga put me on a path to healing. I had spent most of my life putting up bars and locking myself away from life.
‘Kathryn’ thank you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts before class. You’ve made me think.
Are you in a prison of your own making? Liberate yourself.
May all beings be happy and free.
Namaste y’all.

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Bharat manages to say the most profound things with so few words. This is just one of the many posts I love from Lonesome Lotus Yoga. Namaste y’all.

LONESOME LOTUS YOGA

Doves sing down the sun

Chickens sing it up

Stewards of their gifts

 ◊

Drifting down river

I see a man swimming

Hard against the flood

With precious breath he calls to me

Other way brother

 ◊

I found three stones

By a pond in moonlight

Three ways before me

The Teacher appeared that time

Saying

First you must love Truth

◊◊◊

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Adventures in Yoga – Time.

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I left home this morning in what I thought was more than ample time to catch the train to Manhattan for a Sunday morning hot yoga class.

Oops- holiday schedule.

I was wrong. But as any city dweller who is at the mercy of public transit knows, you must just go with the flow.

For about 10 seconds I debated if I  should even bother heading into the city- there was a really good chance I’d miss class. It would be a wasted trip. With less frequent trains to boot…

Instead I decided, bah- why not. I’d use the ride to continue working on my 6pm class. With headphones on, iPad mini in hand and caffeine in my veins I waited to see what would happen.

The train came at 9:35 and dropped me at my stop at 9:57. I ran to the studio in leather flip-flops to class. Though this may seem contradictory- my mind was surprisingly chill. I figured if I make it, I make it. Running in leather flip-flops however, sucks.

Arrived at 10:02. The door was locked. I knocked anyway. Still, no sinking feeling.

(I should  have mentioned- I’m never late to class. Ever. I’m the goof who more often than not arrives 20 minutes early. )

I got the affectionate side-eye from a teacher and was told to hustle.

My heart was racing but I just turned myself over to the practice. I knew I was having the right experience, because shit, it was the one I was having.

I was expecting a 90 minute class, but class was only 60.

Class beat me up, down, sideways and turned me inside out.

It was freaking glorious.

I’d never had a more challenging class. I couldn’t quite sync up my body and breath. And the heat was a distraction, not its usual sweltering embrace.

After class splayed out making sweat angels, I smiled.

It was hard. So what? I can handle anything for 60 minutes.

Not to be stopped I headed back home to order my new bike. I figured I’d be back in the park the following weekend.

As I was wrapping up the guy said, “Do you want to wait? They’re working on it now- should be about 20 minutes.”

Huh? Wha?

I dashed home to get my helmet.

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Time. Time. Time.

It’s like a challenging pose- when you resist, it pushes back. But if you inhale and find a way to move inside the spaces, it brings you right where you need to be.

Namaste y’all.

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Non-Attachment is a Mo-Fo, Yo

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Patanjali says that we can meditate on anything that our heart desires. The important thing is not what we meditate on, but more that we meditate. And then gradually to meditate more and more on what corresponds to the innermost longing of our heart. The practice of meditation . . . gradually works its magic in stilling the mind. (42)”
Ravi Ravindra, The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: A New Translation and Guide by Ravi Ravindra

My bike was stolen.

And I’m fucking mad.

Mad because I only had it for two weeks.

Mad because it was my mode of transportation.

Mad because I was still editing a post on the joys of bike riding and said bike is gone.

And worst of all, I’m mad at myself for being mad.

It’s not right, yo.

I’m trying to rise above it.

There’s so much trouble in the world…

It’s not a big deal. There are real problems. Real issues. Real concerns.

It’s gone.

I feel like a baby being upset.

Then the thoughts come…Was I enjoying it too much? Should I have been less excited? Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything to anyone.

I spent the better part of two years watching the other shoe drop. My last post was about exhaling.

It’s not a big deal I whisper to myself. Grow up.

But quiet as it’s kept, I’m feeling a lil’ jumpy.

Just because you’re paranoid…

I’m telling myself- To. Just. Let. It. Go.

Emotion hasn’t caught up with my intellect.

It’s icky to face these feelings, to feel robbed of peace. Typing that last sentence I realize, there’s the rub.

I can’t let anything steal my peace; not a bad day, a bad practice or any other unresolved bullshit.

Someone told me that when her son’s new bike was stolen they discussed how someone else must have really needed it. Those words made their way to my heart.

let it go…let it go…let it go…let it go…

I talk about non-attachment a lot. The real tests of non-attachment happen in the living of life and not the talking about it.

It’s a hard drug to give up, desire. Craving seems perfectly natural and most of the time perfectly harmless.

Sometimes, I think I am because I crave.

Even my need to evolve is craving in a new outfit.

Let it go.

Let it go.

Let it go.

Namaste y’all.