I went to the prison facility just like I do each Wednesday. I signed in and said hello to the officers at the main entrance. Then I was told Correctional Officer who usually accompanies me was out that day. What did that mean for my weekly yoga class? Well, the staff had to find another officer who would be willing to sit in on my class. I took a deep breath. Smiling, I asked how I could assist the process and provided a list of participants to the officer. Then I was told Count happens at the same time of the class and I would have to wait until that cleared prior to my entering the facility. I inhaled for a count of three and exhaled for a count of three. I sat in a chair, closed my eyes, and focused on my breathing. Fifteen minutes later another Officer greeted me and we walked to the space where we practice yoga. I thanked him for volunteering to be with us so we could have our class. When we got to the space, I was informed that Count could talk up to 30 minutes to complete, after which participants could come down. Together we waited. Again, sitting in a chair, I began to breathe deeply. Twenty five minutes later, I heard an announcement to come down for yoga. Over the next fifteen minutes, participants trickled in to our space. I welcomed each individual with a smile and a handshake. And [...]
With the recent series of natural disasters around the world, there seems to be so much suffering and devastation happening right now. Personally, I'm also having a difficult time since my mother passed away last month. It's easy to get depressed and despondent, and I'm trying to give myself time to be sad. But, I can't help feeling the pull of my practice drawing me back inside to that space of peace, the eye of the storm, in my heart. The message that I keep getting is that I can love and nourish myself, just as my mother did for me. I'm beginning to see how the yoga practices prepare us to lose everything around us, because they teach us that we can give ourselves everything we need. I can offer my own mind the soothing and supportive presence that she was for me through my life. The love we seek, the shelter in the storm, is within. I'm sending a prayer that you are all safe, not just physically, but in your own heart.
This interview was originally posted on SF Yoga Mag by Dana Lee Jivana Heyman, founder of the Accessible Yoga Conference, admits that he is jealous of the talented people he knows teaching yoga at the conference in San Francisco October 6 – 8th. He laughs when he says this, exposing his staggering humility. He seems completely unaware that through his radiant love, he has transformed the suffering of others into inclusivity, healing and hope, and developed a worldwide sangha dedicated to bringing yoga to all people, regardless of ability. He works to change our skinny notions of what a yoga teacher should be. His passion to include everyone in the healing circle of yoga resounds in something he says often: “community is key to the resurrection of hope." This incredible weekend conference will include asana classes, workshops, and panel discussions with senior yoga teachers on ways we can make yoga available to everyone. It was my honor to talk with him, learn about the sangha he is growing, and to feel his tender heart of love. What was your path to growing a passion for accessible yoga? I was always searching for answers, like everyone else. I am gay, and I guess I’ve always felt different than everyone else. I think it was a gift because it caused me to ask deeper questions. I feel lucky because I’ve had a chance to practice yoga since I was a kid. My grandmother practiced yoga. But it wasn’t until after college when [...]
I was born with the most amazing teacher that never said a word. I could tell with a look in his eyes and his body language and gesture what he was thinking, what he wanted, and he was being mischievous. My teacher was my older brother and he has autism. Communicating without language was normal to me growing up. I knew that I would be working with people with disabilities from a very young age. Part of being autistic is you can’t express emotions in words. So this something that was never modeled. My brother could not say he was mad but demonstrated that with behaviors such as shutting down, bolting, or in severe cases breaking a window. When I was 12 and my brother was 16, out of the blue my parents split up and my brother was sent to live in a group home. In order to cope, I turned to drugs and alcohol. Sometimes I act out to get attention. My favorite example is when I decided to pierce my tongue because my father was a dentist. Somehow, I was able to pull it together to get through college. I was done with the drugs and moderated the alcohol. In 2009, my accountant said to go take a course for a tax right off. I chose Yoga for The Special Child. They taught that this is not just another therapy. In order for this method to be as affective as [...]
This was originally posted on Yoga for Healthy Aging. The recent death of beloved yoga teacher and writer Michael Stone has been haunting me. I think there are some important lessons in his personal struggle that we need to learn from as a yoga community. Even though he was teaching the world how to deal with the pain of our human existence, he was personally dealing with bipolar disorder, which he had not publicly discussed. I have no problem with yoga teachers keeping their personal problems to themselves, because that's what healthy boundaries are. We are there to serve our students and not just talk about our own issues, especially if they're unresolved. For myself, it is a constant struggle to find a balance between over-sharing and being authentic in my teaching. What I'm concerned about is the idea that as a yoga teacher we have to achieve some kind of perfection in our own lives and that our faults somehow reduce our capacity to teach. In fact, I think it's the other way around: our personal challenges make us more effective teachers because we are forced to apply the teachings in our own lives. Accessible Yoga, the organization I founded, is dedicated to changing the consciousness around who can practice yoga and who can consider themselves a yogi. If, as yoga teachers, we try to force ourselves into a perfect mold, only sharing the attractive parts, only demonstrating the poses we’re good at, then we're digging a hole [...]
As a yoga teacher and future physical therapist, I am passionate about making yoga accessible to all populations and blending it with my therapy, so when I heard about the Accessible Yoga Conference happening in New York, I knew it was something I wanted to go to – and I knew just the person to join me! When I moved to Cape Cod I was fortunate enough to cross paths with another like-minded therapist/ yogi, Meredith, and I had no doubt she’d be just as excited about this event as I was! Conference Mission The Accessible Yoga Conference’s mission is to provide a forum where the Yoga community can come together to connect, share, and support those who wish to expand access to the practices of Yoga for people with disabilities, chronic illness, seniors, and for anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a regular yoga class. The workshop overall was wonderful. I met some really great like-minded people who believe in the benefits of yoga and are passionate about making the practice accessible to as many people as possible. I took away so much from this weekend, there’s no way I could share it all, but here are some highlights – if you have any questions or are interested in more information about a particular workshop let me know and I’d be happy to share additional resources! Accessible Yoga, a Revolution This workshop began with a discussion of “What is Accessible Yoga?” and then we broke into groups and brainstormed on different topics related to how we can [...]