Being Present With What Is: An Interview with Jill Knouse

by Deb Geiger, Conference Blogger

jillknouse3“I truly feel like our greatest work is in being present with what is.  I see the human in you and the human in me and I want to love you.”

This is Jill Knouse.  And she does love you.  From the moment she meets you.  If you’ve ever come to one of her classes at Yoga Pearl in downtown Portland, you’ll sweat and jam, but more, you’ll probably get a hug, eye contact, a smile. Genuine interest in your life.  You will never feel more welcome in a yoga class.

Jill spoke to me about her “upbringing’ in the yoga world.  It didn’t start all that long ago.  Up until 2004, she was in the financial world in San Fransisco, living the Corporate “American Dream”.  She told me that suddenly, she just started needing change.

“If I didn’t make a shift, I was going to die,” she said.

We wear so many freaking hats.  Now I’m Corporate Jill.  And now I’m yoga Jill.  And now I’m wife Jill, and now I’m Jill Jill.  Who is that? It’s all the same Jill!  If we can find the common thread between all of these, that’s what it’s all about!”

jillknouse1In the past 12 years, it looks like she has indeed found that thread.  “My journey into this realm has been a long time coming,” she told me.  “A big part of my practice right now has nothing to do with the movement of my body.  It has to do with my mind movement…and it’s been greatly inspired by Tara Brach, Byron Katie and Pema Chodron.  I’m truly inspired by all work that teaches about acceptance and self-love.”

Now Jill’s business is her passion, and she is keeping more than busy.  She teaches yoga at Yoga Pearl, and runs her two programs that she has created: her own Yoga Teacher Training program, as well as Elevate Yoga Trainings, her mentorship program for yoga teachers wanting to take their teaching to the next level.  I asked her to speak to me about what it was like being a “salesperson” of yoga.  How is she able to keep her passion alive for something that she has to sell to people all day?  Her answers?

OMG.  I bought ‘em.

What makes my business thrive is that I don’t come at it from that side.  It comes from a place of wanting people to heal.  To soften scars.  To heal their bodies physically and emotionally.  I want to help people reduce suffering.  and show compassion.  That’s what I have to offer. 

These scars aren’t immune to her, or anyone else.  Possibly the greatest thing about a conversation with her is that she isn’t trying to pretend that she has it all figured out.

jillknouse2“I have spent 47 years not liking myself.  And I am ridiculously tired of that story.  I am practicing a new story.  One where I actually care about myself.  I love myself.  I never ever thought this was possible for me.  And, honestly, if there’s hope for ME, there’s hope for others and I want to connect with THEM!”

How beautiful is that?

If you want to come practice radical acceptance, learn a thing or two about yoga and truly connect with a joyful soul- don’t miss an opportunity to practice with Jill Knouse.  Just the smile will make it worth it. Learn more about Jill’s offerings at the conference here.

Yoga In True Form – An Interview with Julie Gudmestad

by Deb Geiger, Conference Blogger

Yoga is often defined in one word as union.  In two words: to join.  Yin and yang.  Shiva and Shakti.  Everything and nothing.  Spirituality and Science.  

Julie Gudmestad is yoga come to life.  

julie-gudmestad-portraitThis woman is sharp.  She is 66 and she is a professional.  When she walked up to me in a busy little café on a rainy Portland afternoon, she was in an ankle length black peacoat- short grey hair just so.  Put together.  This was the medical professional before me.  As we started speaking, it became clear that she has made a wonderful life finding the balance between the science and the spirituality of yoga.

I was curious…did yoga bring Julie to physical therapy, or did physical therapy bring her to yoga?

“Yoga first.” She told me.  “Always yoga first”.

“This is going to sound a little woo woo…I was in high school.  I was standing in my dad’s back yard and I heard a voice tell me to go find a yoga class…I can still remember the first class…I remember coming out of the class and standing on the sidewalk…I was hooked.”

Maybe you noticed…that’s not exactly the type of thing you’ll often hear from a Western trained medical professional…

astavakrasana_049Julie started teaching yoga in 1970.  She was attending Reed College, and had already been practicing for a few years.  Her friends and classmates were interested in it, so she started teaching them.

“Other students would come up to me and say ‘my back doesn’t hurt anymore’, ‘I don’t have headaches anymore’, so I wanted letters after my name so that I could work one on one with people.”

Thus started her quest for physical therapy.  She graduated from Pacific University in 1977, and started taking Iyengar classes.  Iyengar is known for its attention to detail, alignment of the posture, control of the breath.  It is no wonder that a physical therapist would be drawn to its structure and focus on the mechanics of the physical body.  She became Iyengar certified in 1988, and still holds that certification.  

After getting a bit of her history, I wanted to know what has kept her going strong for so many years.

How do you inspire your students?

julie-teaching-sm“I hope I am a positive role model for them. Not just in terms of talking; but doing and being. I’ve been known to say that I don’t talk a lot about formal yoga philosophy, but I hope by the way I practice and the way I have them practice with mindfulness and consciousness that the heart of yoga philosophy comes through.”

What is the heart of yoga philosophy, I wanted to know.

“Yamas and Niyamas. Compassion is top of the list. Honesty…Be honest about what kind of shape your body is in today. There is a lovely integrity about being present with who you are today. Not who you were a year ago. It’s not who you would be had you been doing x y and z…Compassion starts at home”.

What continues to inspire you?

Julie got a cheeky smile and discussed how she teaches an annual yoga class to the graduating physical therapy class at her alma mater, Pacific U.  

“Sometimes, depending on their interest, I show them something fancy…Some of the arm balances.  Because they are dramatic.  I want them to see that yoga can really keep you in shape, even in your sixties.  The looks on their faces makes it all worthwhile.  That’s what inspires me.  To get a look like that from twenty-somethings!”

That’s the type of honesty I like!

Do you have any other advice, or words or wisdom for the readers?

julie-gudmestad-pose“The nature of life on this planet is change.  And…sometimes it’s going to be change that we don’t like…But there’s no choice…we have to adapt.  Our yoga practice can help us stay centered…If you get scared and you’re not sleeping, you don’t function as well.  And it will be harder to support the causes that you think are important.”

Just like Julie was hooked after her first class…I was hooked to Julie after my first meeting.  Don’t miss her sessions as she focuses on the alignment of different parts of the body…and just wait for those snippets of spirituality that shine through the science.  

This is yoga in true form.

Learn more about Julie Gudmestad’s conference offerings here.

The Yoga Trilogy of the Dalai Lama, Yogi Bhajan and Raquel Welch?: An Interview with Kia Miller

By Autumn Feldmeier, Conference Blogger
We caught up with Kia Miller, who will be teaching five workshops at the conference. Find out what she had to say about her offerings as well as her insight about how yoga helps shape our lives in a beautiful, inspiring and important way.


You mentioned your initial introduction to yoga was a  Raquel Welch book?  How do you think yoga has changed and how has it remained the same? 
raquelwelch
The yoga tradition dates back thousands of years, and offers a pathway toward self-discovery, awakening oneness consciousness, being in right relationship with the world, self and others, and living a life of service. This intention remains the same and is represented in all holistic and well rounded schools of yoga. However the teachings of yoga have also changed to meet the modern practitioner where they are. What I have witnessed is a huge focus on physical asana practice for the last 15-20 years, and now a shift where more and more people recognize that there are deeper and more powerful practices like pranayama and meditation that enable them to deal with the high stress lifestyle that many currently live.

You and your husband Tommy Rosen do classes and retreats together-what are the benefits and challenges of this?  kia-tommy-2
Tommy and I are blessed with a similar outlook on life and spirituality. This has enabled us to not only practice together, but also to work together. For many years we focused on developing ourselves, refining our skills as teachers and honing in on whom we can best serve. I focused on developing and leading Radiant Body Yoga teacher trainings, and Tommy focused on developing a business to serve the development of those in recovery from addiction using yoga and lifestyle teachings. More recently we have been co-leading retreats that bring together our skills and unique approaches.

The time we spent building our individual approaches has enabled us to teach together harmoniously, where our egos are in check and we have mutual respect. Much like Kahil Gibran says on marriage “And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

You have mentioned your struggle with bulimia when you were a model- how has yoga helped you heal from that?  
For many years I was very dissociated from my body and used the act of throwing up my food to avoid uncomfortable emotions. Through the practice of yoga I learned how to find the comfortable seat in my body. I learned how to correctly breathe, which enabled me to work through the tough emotions that would have me want to binge and purge. When I was fortunate enough to find Kundalini Yoga I discovered a real sense of my self. I came to realize that through my whole modeling career I was wearing all the masks I thought others wanted to see, yet had no faith and connection in myself as a unique and original human being. The practice of Kundalini Yoga gradually peeled off the layers of masks until I found a connection to my inner sense of self, my power, my creativity, and ultimately the gifts of this incarnation. Together with the practices of yoga, I also healed my eating disorder by eating a purely plant based raw diet for two years which took the inflammation and irritation our of digestive tract and enabled me to re-set and re-negotiate my relationship with food.


One quote of yours which I love is ‘If you give energy to negativity,  it will take you to places you do not want to go. How can the practice of  yoga assist in channeling your energy into the right places?  
kiamiller-1
Negativity is a poison that spreads when given energy. When we dwell on negative thoughts or emotions we empower them. Often when we are in the throws of negativity, we forget that we have a choice. In that moment we are choosing negativity, yet we could equally be choosing positivity. I have found the practices of yoga to be a great way to channel energy, in particular mental energy. The asana practice helps us to remove tension and to reclaim a sense of peace. The pranayama practices help us to shift the patterns of thinking. As the yogic texts state: “as the breath, so the mind” When we alter the rhythm of the breath, we are able to break the mental trances that hold our consciousness captive, we are able to liberate ourselves from negativity and the choices that lead to negativity. Once we have broken the pattern that has held us captive, we can sit with a meditative focus and learn to access our neutral mind, our witness. From this place we are able to be aware of thoughts without attaching our identity to them.

The Dalai Lama has said ‘The world will be saved by the Western woman’-do you believe  this to be true and (if so) how does this influence your teachings?  
If you look at the demographic of who is practicing yoga, you will see that it is over 70% women. This shows that it is women who are being turned on by these teachings and often because of a woman that men come to the practice!

Yogi Bhajan directed much of his teaching to the empowerment of women. He worked with women to realize and remember their true value, and said that when women reclaim their power they will lead the way forward.

In my own teachings I see all people as equal – both female and male, so I do not direct my teaching toward a gender however I do stress the importance of promoting qualities like: empathy, intuition, inclusiveness, neutrality, balance, compassion, etc.

In your podcast, you mentioned ‘information dementia’ whereupon we are constantly being bombarded with distractions (iPad, iPhone, Facebook, etc) and how that prevents us from critical thinking. But, as a busy yoga teacher, how do you prevent this from happening to you?  kiamillerreading
This is a great question! I have a few methods to keep my ‘devices’  time down:

  • I meditate every day which helps to clear my mind and allow me to connect inwardly to a still and expansive space. This is the single most helpful thing as it allows me to keep my neutrality throughout the day.
  • I have someone who helps with my social media. It is an important outreach for me with fellow yogis and students, so with help I can engage in the ways that are meaningful to me rather than it being another ‘job’ to tend to.
  • I check my social media once a day, which prevents the obsession to keep checking throughout the day.
  • When I am in the midst of a training or retreat, I have my assistant answer all my emails!
  • When I am sitting alone, I prefer to read a book over reading posts on social media

In  these seemingly hope less times, what helps you stay grounded and optimistic?  
I see a lot of hope in these times. I see many people in my workshops, teacher trainings and retreats working really hard to overcome their negative patterns and to be a light to those around them. I see a country in great change, where we are witnessing a large divide in outlook on life and beliefs. My hope is that we, as yoga practitioners, walk the middle path instead of polarizing and making others ‘wrong.’ This is one of the ways that we can lead. I invite all to meditate on the following statements left by Yogi Bhajan for this time. See what insights come to you as you dwell on each one:

  1. Recognize the other person is you
  2. There is a way through every block
  3. When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off
  4. Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times
  5. Vibrate the cosmos, and the cosmos shall clear the path

What can we expect from your classes at the Northwest Yoga Conference?  kia-prayerMy focus within yoga has led me to an understanding of the importance of connecting to and cultivating ‘inner radiance.’ When we are radiant, we are bright, enthusiastic, emitting positive uplifting energy, we are a light to ourselves and others. Some yogic texts reference the energy that emanates from the heart center as radiance. It is the power that enables us to share and teach through our presence. The more aware and connected we are to the Truth within, the brighter our radiant body.

In these fast paced and challenging times our Radiance easily becomes depleted through stress and distraction. These classes share essential tools for keeping our radiance bright and effective. I have found these teachings to be some of the most powerful and effective and cutting through the negative self hypnosis and awakening intelligence and clarity in the body/mind.

Learn more about Kia Miller’s workshop offerings at the Northwest Yoga Conference here.

The Courage to Live From Your Heart-Center: Guest Post by Terilyn Wyre

This year, we are asking conference presenters to share with us what the conference theme, “The Courage to Live From Your Heart-Center” means to them.  First up, the incredible, loving and inspiring Seattle based yogi, Terilyn Wyre!  Be careful, you might want a box of tissues neaby –  the beauty of this writing brought us to tears.

We can fall in love in an instant; utterly, completely, unequivocally in love. It takes but a moment for our hearts to open like a flower yearning for the kiss of sunlight and morning dew. We fall in love with our partner, our children, our friends, our pets, the sight of the sun setting over the water, the forest, the mountains, a piece of art, our favorite song. Falling in love is easy, natural, effortless even. It seems like the very thing we were born to do. Often we remember these moments as rare, monumental and fleeting. What we are witnessing in these magical moments is a reflection of the Beloved who resides within us. In essence, our outer environment is mirroring back to us our huge capacity to love and be loved. As tempting as it is to think we are falling in love with someone because they are so fabulous (which they very well may be) a deeper truth might be that our love interest is willing to hold space for us to dive into the unending well of love within our own heart.

So you might be thinking “well sure I’ve felt moments of deep love but it not a feeling that lasts, it shifts and changes and sometimes ends. How do I cultivate a feeling of open heartedness that guides my choices, my path, my life, when the risk of heartbreak seems inevitable? Won’t that hurt, a lot?” I’ve asked myself this question many times, especially when I see cruelty and tragedy in the world. Yes, you will experience pain, loss, heartbreak and unimaginable grief.

This is where courage comes in: to love without story, conditions or expectations; to love simply because it makes you come alive to do so; to love even in the face of disrespect, disregard and dismissal. This is the true work of a heart centered warrior. I’m not suggesting it’s the easy path, but rather one of integrity, authenticity and vulnerability.

I have found these three things are essential in living from the heart: forgiveness,  self-compassion and self-love. The courage comes in our willingness to look at our shadow self and all our wounds and old stories. When we are brave enough to bring the light of awareness to all the parts of ourselves that need healing we can begin the process of true forgiveness of ourselves and others which in time becomes the balm for our aching hearts. Forgiveness allows us to have compassion for our perceived failures and mistakes and love ourselves for all of who we are, the shiny side as well as the side we’d rather not look at or expose to another. When we experience this for ourselves first we can see our divine innocence and then eventually the divine innocence in others who deserve that same love, compassion, and forgiveness.

In every religion or mysticism there seems to be a yearning for God; the Divine, Beloved. We are yearning for the One who has never left us. When we recognize as truth that love is ours and the Beloved is within us, we lose some of our fears as we can never truly lose love or be abandoned.

physical-heart-opening

In every moment we have an opportunity to contract in fear or expand in love, the choice is ours. It takes practice to trust the expansion of our hearts. Your very first down dog may have felt awkward or difficult but in time felt ease-full and familiar, so too is true of learning to live from your heart. The more we yoke ourselves back to love again and again, the less we shut down emotionally. We learn to navigate this world with grace and sovereignty and a steadfast willingness to open our hearts to each other and every moment of this wild life.

For me, the choice is clear: With my yoga practice as my medicine/ my elixir for the strength and courage it takes to live from my heart, I will continue to walk this path as a warrior of love and welcome home all the wounded parts of myself with a renewed sense of belonging. My prayer for you is to do the same.

Love Yourself from the Outside In

74ec699c-475c-45ab-8847-e4ed6ed1d347By Silvia Mordini

While in college, I vacillated between not caring what I looked like to being vain and caring way too much. My inside and outside didn’t match, and they were at odds. While I appreciated the specialness of who I was on the inside I sometimes lost my relationship with my outside.

I had a front row seat to watching this relationship evolve. The reality of being human is that we see other people from the outside first (the whole “judge a book by its cover”). Our dust jacket isn’t a bad thing, unless we make it a problem. And I made it a problem. I thought I wasn’t thin enough, so I withheld food. I over used food. I spent copious amounts of time and energy on my outward appearance. I was a sort of unconfident narcissist. I ping ponged between loving what I looked like to not feeling good enough. It consumed extraordinary amounts of energy.

Then it happened. I was in an accident. This traumatic event changed my attitude. I stopped bullying myself into needing my inside to feel superior to my outside. I made peace with my internal and external self, which led me to realize that loving what we look like is a very important part of our spiritual evolution. If you are evolved on the inside but treat your external appearance with disdain, then there is an imbalance. It is the inverse of what happens when we only focus on what we look like and ignore loving who we are internally.

3 Key Things To Promote Loving Yourself:

  1. Look at yourself in the Mirror. I don’t mean just to check out your hair or outfit, but sit down in front of a mirror and hold your own gaze for 30 seconds, then rest. Then try 1 minute, then 2 minutes. Really see yourself and how beautiful (or handsome) you are on the outside. Instead of using energy avoiding ourselves, we should make peace with seeing clearly what we look like.
  2. Get Naked. Make it a ritual to spend some time each day living in what Martha Graham calls “our most important garment.” Loving what we look like is a radical form of Self-acceptance. Instead of covering that up or shrinking away from your body, open your eyes to literally being comfortable in your own skin.
  3. Embrace your uniqueness. Do it for you. Loving what we look like means that we embrace our heritage and all that has created us. As Maya Angelou writes, “You alone are enough; you have nothing to prove to anybody.” Loving your external appearance means you believe yourself to be enough. By doing that, you give others permission to love themselves too.

Today, embrace the full spectrum of loving yourself unconditionally and find the balance between inside and outside. Love yourself, love your day, love your life!

f864e550-3535-47da-ba1f-63fda9e7fc84Learn more at Silvia’s workshop ‘Removing the Obstacles to Your Happiness’ on Friday, March 4th from 4-6pm.

All the Yoga, All the Time: An Interview with Aadil Palkhivala

Headshot-Aadil-2001By Katie Vincent

The flow of yoga has surrounded Aadil Palkhivala since day one. Not many practitioners can claim that they were conceived by the tradition they preach. Aadil Palkhivala is one such individual with karmic ties to yoga; his mother struggled with fertility for seven years until she began studies with B.K.S. Iyengar, which she continued throughout her pregnancy and brought Aadil from age three onward. At age 22, Aadil was awarded an advanced teacher’s certificate by Iyengar himself.

Co-director of the Alive and Shine Center in Bellevue and the College of Purna Yoga, Aadil continues to share his life-long passion for authentic living with yoga teachers and practitioners worldwide. Also holding degrees in physics, math, and law and extensive studies in bodywork, hypnotherapy and Ayurvedic medicine, Aadil brings a diverse perspective while working to restore what he calls the “essence” of yoga–the main goal of his Purna yoga teachings. In his book Fire Of Love, Aadil preaches a reconnection with the heart’s message through all eight limbs of yoga.

aadil-instructing-stuent1

What is Purna Yoga?

“Purna means ‘complete.’’ It is an authentic, lineage-based yoga which consists of four petals: Alignment-based asana and pranayama, Heartfull Meditation™, applied philosophy, and nutrition and lifestyle. All these are steeped in heritage and adapted for our modern lifestyle by over a half century our personal experience. The lineage of Purna Yoga comes from Sri Aurobindo, B.K.S Iyengar, the Veda, Patanjali, Ayurveda, and other ancient nutritional systems.

What makes it unique?

Many systems of yoga focus on either asana or meditation or Samadhi or simply a workout. Purna Yoga addresses all aspects of the human being and therefore is not merely asana-based, nor only meditation focused. It is a complete system for building a deep and honest relationship with ourselves, the people we surround ourselves with, and the world as a whole.

How do your studies of math, physics, and law inform your teaching?

Yoga is about cultivating the whole human being. An essential part of that cultivation is the development and use of the mental faculties. Historically, yogis were extremely intelligent, focused and prized knowledge. They were well versed in mathematics and sciences, as well as the arts. Having trained in many other science and art fields makes my teaching more clear and accessible to different ways of thinking. Also, it makes Purna Yoga teaching more inclusive than exclusive.teaching_ardha1

What do you feel is “lost” in modern yoga?

The lost essence of yoga is the living of yoga in day-to-day life. It is about being more present, rather than running away from living. Much yoga is merely asana; though asana is crucial, it is not yoga. Yogis often try to get into a space of consciousness to avoid life challenges. This is an escape and is not yoga. Also, yogis often deny the world and wealth and this flies in the face of vedic knowledge. The one thing that every practitioner would be helped by would be to sincerely embrace Svadhyaya and examine every thought, word and action that the practitioner thinks, speaks and does. Additionally, the reach for beauty creates joyfulness and equanimity. This is why, in Purna Yoga, we surround ourselves with more joyful colors and keep our environments as beautiful as possible.

Have you ever embarked on a pilgrimage?

Here I would like to quote my teacher, Sri Aurobindo in his book, “Savitri”:

‘Make of thy daily way a pilgrimage

For through small joys and griefs thou movest toward God.’

So, yes, a lot of pilgrimages, and the preparation for each is the Purna Yoga practice of integrity, joy and love from the prior day!” 

To learn more at the Northwest Yoga Conference, attend Aadil’s ‘Living the Eight Limbs of Purna Yoga’ workshop on Friday, March 4 at 9:00am or his ‘Strengthen Your Legs, Strengthen Your Spine’ class on Saturday, March 5 at 12:00pm. You can also catch him on Saturday at 2pm on the panel discussion: ‘On the Pilgrim’s Path: The Journey of Self-Discovery Through Yoga.’

Can We Build It? Yes We Can!

by Jill Rivera Greene, Conference Blogger

“Building community is not optional if you want a thriving yoga business.” – Jill and Michael Knouse

When my kids were preschool age, they loved to watch “Bob the Builder.” In each animated episode, Bob and his friends serve their neighborhood through a variety of building and repair projects. The group’s rallying cry, “Can we fix it? Yes we can!” reinforces the show’s message that people do more and do better when they work together in community.

The same can certainly be said of yoga. Although we often practice alone, on our mats and meditation cushions, so much of our growth as yogis takes place in communities—in group classes and trainings, on retreats and pilgrimages, or through social action inspired by yogic principles.

So we asked some of our presenters: What makes a strong yoga community?

Knouses2

Jill and Michael Knouse

Jill and Michael Knouse are the dynamic duo of community building, having proven their considerable skills in the worlds of both business and yoga. They write:

“‘Building community’ means cultivating a place where people can feel safe, seen and valued. It’s all about creating an environment that brings people together in a way that is unique and valuable to them. When people experience YOUR community, many of them will feel as if it’s their second home—the place where they finally get to let out a deep breath that they had no idea they were holding.”

The Knouses say that building community is “smart marketing”:

“When you create a place where people feel they’ve found their tribe, they will join you in your classes, workshops, retreats, and trainings.” (And, they point out, they’ll tell their friends.) “Having 100 really passionate people in your community is exponentially more effective at spreading a message than marketing to the masses.

The Knouses will be sharing the secrets of their success during their Sunday morning workshop, “How to Build Your Own Thriving Yoga Community.”

MLK6

Molly Lannon Kenny

But they’re not the only presenters with a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Presenter Molly Lannon Kenny is the founder and spiritual director of The Samarya Center, a nonprofit service and training organization dedicated to individual transformation and radical social change since 2001.

She shared what she considers to be key elements of a successful community:

“You have to have somebody who is the fire-keeper, somebody who is at the center (not necessarily the top), who’s keeping the community alive. … You also have to define what your community is based around. Is it your studio, a value system, a person? Finally, you need some kind of community agreement, so that people really feel accountable to the community, and have ample opportunities to be involved and share ownership of the community.”

Kevin Graybill

Kevin Graybill

Kevin Graybill adds one more to this list: Communication.

“If you take a close examination of any communities of the past or present,” he writes, “they make meaning together, and share a collective understanding of some sort. Neither of these things can be done without communication.”

Not all forms of communication are equally conducive, though.

“Some styles of conversation, like debate for instance, intend to fragment and pull groups apart via the egoistic act of making someone right, and making someone wrong. Dialogue is on the other end of the spectrum, and can be described as a conversation with a center, not sides. The goal of dialogue is for everyone to contribute to this center, with the hope of creating and tapping into a unique collective consciousness.”

Graybill is offering a unique opportunity to participate in a specific type of structured dialogue, Yoga Circles, on both weekend afternoons during the conference. These circles offer an experience of authentic dialogue, in which participants learn to be more mindful in conversation, increase their compassion through patient listening, and realize the interconnectedness between us all.

Finally, Andrew Tanner of Yoga Alliance suggests that building community doesn’t have to be complicated:

Andrew Tanner, Yoga Alliance

Andrew Tanner, Yoga Alliance

At Yoga Alliance, ‘community’ begins with the firm belief … that yoga in all its diverse forms is a major force for good on the planet; and it deserves to be spread as widely as possible.” He adds, “A yoga community begins every time a yogi shares the yoga knowledge or technique that brought them health, happiness, or inner peace with another.”

Tanner will talk about some of the ways that Yoga Alliance helps nurture these communities during his workshops, “The Future of Yoga, Reading the Data Tea Leaves” and “Let Yoga Alliance Work for You!”

Whether you are looking to find your tribe, or hoping to attract more like-minded people to grow your yoga business, the Northwest Yoga Conference is a great place to start.

As Lannon Kenny says,

This conference is a tremendous opportunity. There’s nothing else like it in the Pacific Northwest. Community doesn’t happen by itself. If you want community, you have to show up!”

 

Changing the Self, Changing the World: An Interview with Molly Lannon Kenny

by Jill Rivera Greene, Conference Blogger

Molly Lannon Kenny spoke to me by phone from her home in Mexico, where she recently transitioned to living full-time. The slower pace gives her more time to focus on trainings, retreats, and writing. Her new book of essays, No Gurus Came Knocking, was released in November.

MLK6Congratulations on your new book! I’m intrigued by the title. Does every yogi need a guru?

Often when people start to go deeper in their practice, they realize there’s something more they could gain from someone who has more experience. One place I have learned that is through my relationship with my friend and mentor, Ram Dass, who gives me so much joy. It’s affirming to know that I am connected to lineage through him.

But I don’t want to promote the idea that if people don’t have that relationship, that lineage, they’re not legitimate. Someone doesn’t have to have a guru to be a really great student or to make a change in their own life and in the lives of others.

The idea of a guru is not something we are particularly inclined toward in our culture. We’re very focused on independence. The idea that we would be somehow subservient to someone, take someone on faith, is not a very American idea. And we don’t really have many opportunities to find and connect to gurus here. Many people have had experiences with someone who is putting themselves in the role of “guru” but who is not very evolved themselves. When their students figure that out, they may become wounded by the experience, and that turns them off to the whole idea.

Having a relationship with a guru (if it’s right for you) is really special.. But not everyone will have that opportunity.

But the search is still important?

Yes. On one level, you don’t need a teacher. The answers are already inside you. At the same time, if we skip the step of seeking, the risk is that we become egocentric in the idea, “I already know what’s best for me!” We do, at a soul level, but at a superficial level, we often don’t. It’s easy to use that phrase, “The answers are inside of me” and reinforce your own ego-identification without really getting to the depths of your own soul.

MLK4What led you to develop Integrated Movement Therapy®, and how does it differ from therapeutic yoga?

Integrated Movement Therapy isn’t “therapeutic yoga.” It’s actual therapy in a more clinical sense.  It’s focused on individualized goals and objectives, and it’s based in clinical experience.

I developed IMT when I was working as a practicing clinician in a hospital. I wanted to change how I was working with people, to put the emphasis on partnership and building people’s essential self-worth before anything else. That was not supported by the clinical model.

I had the incredible honor of being on the committee that created the standards for yoga therapy, but I ultimately opted out of seeking accreditation. All forms of yoga therapy differ from one another. But in general, the standards of yoga therapy adopt the medical model. The last thing I wanted to do was to take yoga and turn it back into a pathological, medicalized model. IMT is an individualized intervention, and it’s really based in the orientation of the practitioner themself. It’s their spiritual practice, their worldview that informs the therapy.

That being said, my specialty areas are traumatic brain injury, stroke, and autism … so there’s definitely an emphasis on practical outcomes. When someone comes to me with a stroke, I’m working on increased mobility and improving their general well-being, but it’s not “physical therapy.” It’s very holistic. When I’m working with a child with autism, I’m seeing inherent divinity in the child as she is already. I’m being deeply present with the family as they are. And then I’m working within the family system to support change.

Your bio mentions the idea of “healing the self as a means for healing others and our communities.” What do you mean by this? Is it just about taking care of ourselves so that we can care for others?

Taking care of yourself is really important, especially if you care for others. But the danger is in thinking that just by doing things to care for ourselves we’re actually contributing to some kind of greater social change.

There also has to be action. For example: I’ve been involved in a lot of conversations around race and privilege, as everyone is right now. I can often see a difference between people who have done deep inner work—their ability to contribute to those conversations in a meaningful way and elevate the conversation through their work—and other people, who are very passionate about what they’re saying but not very skilled at participating constructively in situations that are challenging.

I’m talking about making radical internal shifts. If we don’t acknowledge our implicit racism, then we’re never going to be a part of a solution, because we’re too busy saying “not me.” If instead I create a new understanding of myself, and realize of course I have implicit biases because I was raised in a country where that is the paradigm, then I can begin to create change.

So when I talk about changing yourself, it’s changing yourself so that you can bring that changed self to various organizations or activities. It’s both/and.

You’re offering a workshop at the conference on adjustments. What is your philosophy on that?

Molly on pilgrimage, bathing in the Ganges.

Molly on pilgrimage, bathing in the Ganges.

I use my hands a lot in teaching. I was brought up as an Ashtangi, so I assumed that’s what you do. I believe in the power of touch.

At the same time, I see too many adjustments in yoga classes that are basically micromanaging people. Students are trying to have their experience, and someone is coming along and judging the pose. Anatomically, the ideas that we are promoting often are not based in science. What people are doing is not necessarily going to be harmful to them. Even the idea that we all know what Triangle looks like … it looks different in different books, different philosophies … so we’re not really basing it on anything.

I love to teach teachers to put their hands on other people’s bodies with the sensibility of having a dialogue. When I am teaching, I’m in a conversation with someone, not just asking them to defer to what I tell them to do. I’m not looking at people and seeing “what’s wrong with you” so I can fix it. It’s not my job to make you different than you are.

This year’s conference theme is “a pilgrimage to the soul.” Can you talk about your experience with pilgrimage?

The one that comes to mind is when I made a pilgrimage to the Ganges river during Kumbh Mela [a mass Hindu pilgrimage to bathe in a sacred river]. Bathing myself in the river with all the other devotees was a powerful experience of humility, unself-consciousness, and transformation.

 

Pilgrimage in the Everyday: An Interview with Janet Stone

by Jill Rivera Greene, Conference Blogger

My plan to talk with Featured Speaker Janet Stone was initially disrupted by a call from the nurse at my daughter’s school, while Janet dealt with a few last-minute delays of her own. But in the end, these small challenges provided the perfect jumping-off point for a conversation about the intersections of yoga and everyday life.

Your Strong Mom yoga practice is featured in this month’s Yoga Journal. Can you talk about this practice and its inspiration?

yj_cover_featurebutton-300x287The inspiration really began with my own experience. When you have a baby, there’s prenatal yoga and postnatal yoga, but then there’s this moment that happens after postnatal, when everyone is cooing about the baby and you’re left alone. Your belly is hanging over your pants, your boobs are dripping with milk, your friends are out doing what they’re doing, and you’re home, steeped in the vital life care of these creatures.

I wanted to create a place where people could come together, feel seen, and honor this transition. Where they could truly embrace where they are in life. When you’re a parent of young children, you’re no longer going to have 3-hour practices, you’re not going out at night like you used to … so this is an opportunity to build a community of people who are in a similar place.

Strong Mom is an opportunity to be with people at their most vulnerable, no matter when that is. I have people come who have 27-year-old kids and others who have 11-day-old kids. It doesn’t matter. They’re all looking for themselves in the midst of that title of “mother” (or “parent”).

It’s so easy to lose yourself in that word, that role.

Yes! And then there’s shame, resentment, feeling selfish … so many feelings are just not allowed. There are not a lot of places to talk about it. Through this practice, you literally get back in your body, reclaim it, but you also find ways to nourish yourself so that you can nurture others. It’s so much more than asana—it includes grounding practices, meditation, pranayama, and energetic alignment as a framework to find yourself in the midst of all the stuff that comes up in this role of mother.

I’m excited to see that you’re leading a workshop on chanting at the conference. Can you talk about what chanting has brought to your practice?

Janet and DJ Drez. Photo by Melina Meza.

Janet and DJ Drez. Photo by Melina Meza.

Chanting is a Bhakti practice. It’s an opportunity to set down the mind for a moment, and what comes forth is just infinite love. In churches, tribal traditions, all forms of spiritual cultures, they’ve always included some kind of coming together of voice, as a way of collectively drawing our attention away from our individual drama. What opens up in those moments is really potent.

My practice of chanting began 16 or 17 years ago. My teacher chanted “Om” in class in a way that went past my mind, it went past thought, and spoke to a place inside of me that had never been touched before.

Inspired by teachers Max Strom and Jai Uttal, I began incorporating simple chanting into my own classes. The response was really powerful. I teach in a room where as many as 150 people can attend—people from every environment (from Google and Facebook employees to full-time mothers)—and when we are chanting, everyone is the same.

I recently released an album of chants with DJ Drez that is super simple, uncomplicated, from the heart. It has been very well-received (shooting immediately to #1 on iTunes world).

You are offering two asana workshops at the conference: “Ganesha: From the Ground Up” and “Rasa Lilasana: Divine play.” Can you talk about the role of deities in your asana practice?

The deities are a big part of my own practice, and therefore my teaching.

It’s really tied in to the mantras, the chanting, and I also do a lot of teachings around the stories about the deities. These stories weren’t just meant for “back then”; they’re so relevant and relatable to the lives we live today. They reveal themselves again and again in our daily experience.

I love this quote on your website: “She aspires not to teach but to allow the practice to emanate from her.” What does this look like in practice, to aspire “not to teach”?

It begins with always remaining a student and continuing my own practice, at a myriad of levels. So when I am in front of people at an event, the teaching is informed by the present moment.

Normally if you think of teaching, it involves gathering up the self, the “I.” We offer a teaching through all of our various filters. But my approach is to step out of the way and offer whatever is within me, my own practice, to simply allow it to come forth.

This year’s conference theme is “a pilgrimage to the soul.” Can you talk about your personal experience of pilgrimage?

2798985729

Photo by Jennifer McNiven.

My pilgrimage is long term, it has been since Day 1. It unfolds daily: in my mothering, in yearly trips to India, in all of my practices.

To me, the soul is found through everyday interactions—so the pilgrimage is how I treat the barista at the coffee shop, how I manage difficult situations, how I attend to my body in asana, and in the totality of my living, both when I’m in studentship in India, but also as I am carpooling or picking up a sick child.

Anything else you’d like conference-goers to know?

I have a special relationship to the Pacific Northwest. I have family history there, and I lived in Portland for many years … it’s a place deeply rooted in my heart. I’m so looking forward to being there with all of you!

Memories evolve into lessons

By: Melissa Hagedorn, Conference Director

I made a few moments to put conference planning aside and reflect back to favorite memories of conferences past.  My goal was to share a few with you here on the blog.  In this process, I came to realize that my memories are more than simply memories.  Each memory holds a valuable lesson for myself as well as for each attendee.  Below you will find my favorite memories and the lessons that I have learned from each one.

IMGP9252It’s the last time we let you print the name badges…
These words were uttered by our volunteer coordinator, Julie, in regards to what is probably a favorite memory of mine.  The first morning of the first year, attendees were starting to arrive to pick up their name badges.  It didn’t take long before an attendee noticed that the workshops listed on their name badge did not accurately reflect their workshop selection.  After a few moments of an accelerated heart rate and quick research on the computer, I discovered that all of the name badges were printed incorrectly (by my sleep deprived self – oops!)  All I could do was laugh and let everybody go to class without name badges.  Compassionate volunteers helped fix the name badges so attendees could pick them up at lunch.  Thankfully, that was the only bump the first year!

Lesson learned: Let go of expectations and go with the flow.  Everything will not go as we planned and that is ok!  If we make the intention beforehand that we will go with the flow, it is much easier to do so when things go a little differently than planned.  Set aside a few moments before the conference to make this promise to yourself.

skeeball
Skee-ballin’ at Chuck E. Cheese
I loved celebrating the first successful Northwest Yoga Conference with my dear friend (and conference Auntie) Darcey at the Chuck E. Cheese across from the Lynnwood Convention Center.  Who says you can’t let loose a little and play some skee-ball!

Lesson learned: Don’t forget to have fun! Make time to let loose and enjoy yourself.  Consider signing up for a workshop that explores the lighter side of things, such as Acroyoga or Reggae Flow.  Come ready to play!

 

It’s all in the family
Every year, I am blessed to be surrounded by my family as they stop by to visit throughout the weekend.  I love eating lunch with my father admist hundreds of yogis, being tackled by my nieces and nephews and spending a few moments with my sister, mother and brothers. And I get to spend the weekend with my husband who participates as a vendor each year for his outdoor guiding company, Get In The Wild.
Family IMGP9268

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lesson learned: Spend time with loved ones – even at the conference!  It could be with a friend who is also attending the conference or perhaps you are fortunate enough to be from the Seattle area and can invite family and/or friends to drop by for a community event.

Strike up a conversation
Each year, I get to wander the foyer and strike up amazing conversations.  Last year, I remember having an engaging conversation with musician Michael Waters about his musical inspirations and will always remember this when listening to the sweet sounds of his guitar. Shabeena, owner of Inspire Me Mandalas and conference vendor, always has inspiring words to share.  Hearing attendees share about their breakthroughs is always a highlight for me – their first “insert name of pose”, a moment of clarity or sometimes a good cry on the mat (hey, it happens!).

Lessons learned: Be open to possibility.  Be open to meeting new people.  Make a new friend with the person on the mat next to you.  Try something new.

Cheers to the memories you will be creating at the conference and the lessons that follow!