Working My Way Back

It’s been a while. I’ve often thought about writing, but, when push came to shove, just never seemed to know what I wanted to say. It has been a while since I’ve felt two feet solidly on the ground.

While these last 4.5 years have been filled by so many important milestones, relationships, areas of growth, hardships, beautiful moments, and so much love, they’ve also been dominated by something more powerful than I ever could have imagined. Infertility.

My family and I have spent years, tens of thousands of dollars, literally tons of blood, sweat, and tears, within this process. On one hand, I have the most incredible gift I could ask for, my beautiful son, Drew. I know, firsthand, how lucky I am to be not only a mom, but his mom. I am grateful every single day.  On the other, however, I cannot ignore that I have also gained so much loss, tragedy, confusion, and paralysis. Since 2011, when the studio opened and I almost simultaneously learned our seemingly only chance of having a child was through advanced technologies, I will have been given (or administered myself!) roughly 150 shots, primarily intramuscular (think the achiness you feel after a flu shot), had about 30 eggs retrieved, been on so many pills I can’t even count them (taken both orally and in ways I don’t even want to think about anymore), had three miscarriages, been the primary caregiver for a baby, now rambunctious (have I mentioned incredible) toddler, and, as a business owner,  in all of that time, never a full day off from work. I am sore. I am tired.

Deciding to close the studio was such a difficult decision. I knew I couldn’t continue as I was going. And, I knew I didn’t want to. This process, the physical, mental, and emotional beatdown that it causes, has changed me. I don’t have what I used to have to make sure that this sacred home continues to meet the needs of all of those who have come to rely on it. And, I’m sorry. But, I know that everything that we created will continue to live on in each student, each teacher. Hopefully, even in this space (I’ll keep you posted as that is all figured out).

As I write this, I am 5 days past my most recent 5 day frozen embryo transfer. I am one month past my most recent crushing miscarriage. I am a little over two months past announcing the closing of Allay to our community. I have let myself feel all of the emotions. I believe I’ve touched the bottom of the pool and I’m working my way back up. Back up to the surface where I can take sweet breath. Where I can safely open my eyes, and see clearly. Where I can climb out and walk forward with both feet.

I’m going to *try* to be better about writing. I want to put our journey out there. I want to put this process out there. Of being a ridiculously lucky mom and business owner. Of being these things and being weighed down by the battle of infertility. Of figuring out what I can contribute to the world that can help ease the wounds of this battle.

Allay means: to put (fear, doubt, suspicion, anger, etc.) to rest; calm; quiet (Dictionary.com). I named the business Allay because this is what I wanted to do. For myself. For others. I wanted to create a space where this could happen. And, I believe that I did and, although the format may be different in the future, I hope to be able to do this always.

 

 

Yogi Spotlight: Lynne Schaffer

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our August Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Lynne Schaffer! Read about Lynne and her inspirational practice in her own words below!

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Having been an avid power walker for many years, (my user name is “lynnewalks”), I switched my regimen in my mid 40’s to the elliptical cross trainer, free weights, and floor exercises — before trying yoga last summer as I was turning 67. In October, at the suggestion of my good friend and Allay Yoga enthusiast, Nancy
Kotz, I started taking classes at Allay Yoga, and ever since the studio has been my “happy place.”

I especially appreciate the warm and caring atmosphere, and all the teachers who contribute to
that. I have taken classes taught by Juliet, Kathleen, Nicole, Marisa, and Pam.

Retired from an exciting and fulfilling career with the Smithsonian, I was a
program coordinator researching, planning, and orchestrating events for The Smithsonian Associates. I am the proud grandmother of two granddaughters and two grandsons from two sons and daughters-in-law on opposite coasts (one set
nearby). My husband Mark and I celebrated our 46th anniversary in June!

Allay yoga classes give me a very welcome sense of calm over my entire being that extends beyond the duration of the practice. I’ve also noted a marked improvement in my balance. Though I am most comfortable in Level I classes, I
have been able to feel successful in the all-level, Open Flow classes as well by modifying some of the
more challenging poses to suit my ability.

The most fun I have had practicing yoga was on a recent vacation to Santa Barbara, CA where my 8 year old granddaughter, Eliana and I did a yoga session together.

Yogi Spotlight: Margaret Canning

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our very belated  (Pam’s fault) July Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Margaret, a woman very close to our hearts, who has been with us since our doors opened in the fall of 2011 and completed our 200 hr teacher training in 2014!  Read about Margaret and her wonderful practice in her own words below!

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I stumbled upon Yoga in the fall of 2011. I was 52 years old with creaking knees and was unable to touch my toes. I had toyed with idea of returning to tae kwon do. I had trained for 10 years in my thirties and forties eventually earning a first degree black belt. The thought of sparing at my age just did not appeal to me. That was when I decided I needed to try something new. It was while I was driving in my Kensington neighborhood, thinking these thoughts that I noticed a new yoga studio had opened. That studio was Allay.

My first instructor was Joanne. She did a great job of giving me a strong foundation in the basics of yoga. I attended many of Pam’s beginner classes, in which I remember her saying in her mellifluous voice ” Just because it’s a beginner class, does not mean it’s going to be easy. I would have stayed in beginner classes forever, because I really enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow Yogis, however, one Saturday morning Marisa informed me that it was time for me to move on.

I have had many wonderful instructors at Allay; Christina, Rachel, Daisy, Stephanie and Nicole to name a few. They all contribute to evolving my yoga practice. Of course Pam and Marisa are the heart and soul of Allay. Last summer I participated in the second ever Allay teacher training course. I did it, not necessary to become a instructor, but to get a more in depth knowledge of yoga. Pam and Marisa certainly accomplished that. Even though I was told that I am not ready to teach yet, I would highly recommend this course to anyone wishing to truly deepen their yoga practice.

Anyone who has attended classes with me knows my favorite poses are back bends. There is something about trusting yourself to bend backwards into the unknown and opening the whole of yourself to the world I find very freeing. Yoga is not about doing only what you like or what comes easily to you. I find balancing poses and inversions are very challenging. My crow has yet to take flight. It may be that my crow will never fly, but I keep working at it. As Marisa is always saying, “yoga is about the journey, not the pose.”

I will be 56 this month. I have decided to take an early retirement in October so I can spend time with my 91 year old father. One of the things that I am looking forward to doing when I retire is more yoga ! I currently take 3 to 4 classes a week. I am hoping to do it every day when I retire. I would also like to develop a home practice. Currently the only yoga I do at home is mediation before going to work. I find it really allows me to control my stress level. I am currently a telephonic triage nurse for a large HMO. Being calm and focused while making possibly life or death decision at work is very important. I find that even 3 to 4 minutes of mediation very helpful in achieving this.

In a year or two my husband and I plan to relocate to Europe. Spending are summers in Ireland and the rest of the year in Spain. I have already checked to see that there are yoga studio in both places we will be living. I hope these places will be like Allay. A studio where everyone is welcome regardless of their ability. Where people feel encouraged and nurtured. If not, maybe I will open a studio of my own. If I do, I would want to create one just like Allay.

Yogi Spotlight: Michael Thoryn

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our May Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Michael, one of our very loyal daytime students🙂. Read about Michael and his wonderful practice in his own words below!

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1. Tell us about your yoga experience.  When and why did you start your practice?  How has it changed since you started?  

For reasons lost to memory, I did some yoga in my 20s at a Jewish Community Center near Detroit. I remember falling asleep in the “corpse” position at the end of a class and the instructor giving me a gentle kick to wake me up.

Regular fitness center workouts during the past twenty plus years had many un-credited yoga positions so trying a real yoga class in retirement seemed natural. A four-week short course of beginning yoga at my church gave me confidence. So shortly after I retired in December 2012, I researched local studios and found Allay. My first class was gentle yoga. Pam advised me that I was capable enough for Open Flow classes . . . yes, I can, mostly.

2. What are some of your favorite poses (or other parts of your yoga practice) and why?  

I’ve talked to people who stay away from yoga because they know they won’t do it well or won’t like how they look while doing it. I tell them they should give it a try. I’m not afraid to fail while doing the best I can. I am definitely better at balance poses (very important as we age) and my flexibility has gone from horrible to pretty good.

3. Tell us a little about yourself outside the yoga studio.  What do you do in between yoga classes?🙂  All other wonderful stuff you want to share — family, work, life!

I retired after a career as a communicator/writer/editor at newspapers, a trade group, a magazine, and two federal agencies. The best ten years were spent as the speechwriter for the Administrator at the Federal Highway Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. I’m married to Pat Phillips, a retired physical therapist. We have two healthy, happy grown children, one son-in-law, and two grandchildren. All live near Boston – we visit often. I’m a board member at my church, Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist in Bethesda, and make time to travel. Since retirement, our most adventuresome trips were to South American and China.

4. What influence does your yoga practice have on your life “beyond the mat”?  How is your practice a meaningful part of your life?

I love how each class keeps me in the here and now. I listen to my instructor and try to move with the mostly-mellow music. I’ve incorporated yoga moves into my home workouts.

What do you love about practicing at Allay?  What are some of your favorite classes and why?

A long-retired friend advised me to never go grocery shopping on weekends, if you can avoid it. It’s too crowded, she said. I took that advice to heart. My regular time at Allay is noon, usually on Tuesday. I enjoy the small cheery studio, the excellent teachers, and the short drive to reach your door.

April Yogi Spotlight: Jody + Cindy

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our April Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogis are Jody + Cindy, two yogis who have been with us since our very early days! Learn more about Jody + Cindy and their wonderful practices in their own words below!

Meet Jody Krieger:

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I was a true beginner when I walked through the doors of Allay Yoga in October of 2011; I did not know one single yoga position. Not even down dog. I spent that first month or two looking around the room mimicking others. I was such a novice in that first class, that when Pam told us to lower ourselves down to our belly from the plank position, I chuckled to myself thinking “You want me to do what?!?” Little did I know that this was the basis for so much of what we do in yoga.

The other position I remember so clearly from that first class was savasana. Not because I was thankful that I had survived a class where my body had been asked to do things I don’t think it had ever done before and now I could go home and have a glass of wine, but because I was thinking to myself (I thought to myself a lot in those first classes) “Okay, I’ve rested long enough, time to get up. Why are we still lying here? Let’s go. Time to leave.”

I read somewhere that for some savasana is one of the hardest positions. It certainly was for me. I’m impatient. I’m ready to move on to the next thing. Quieting my mind is not something that comes easy to me. It took me many months to love savasana. But I did learn to clear my mind, to lie there and be still, to truly just breathe. Pam’s strong, gentle hands massaging my upper back, neck and head during savasana is one of life’s great pleasures.

A year or so after starting yoga, my daughter was home on her winter break from college, and we were driving on the highway. She asked me why I was driving so slowly (I think I may have been doing the speed limit.) She said her mother always drove fast. It made me think, had my yoga practice affected my driving? Was I learning to slow down; to not be so impatient?

Maybe…

I think we all tell ourselves stories about ourselves. And we come to believe them. For me, in my yoga practice, it was always “I don’t go upside down.” Whenever there was an inversion position, I always modified so I didn’t have to go upside down. But then we started doing downward dog on the wall. I watched the first week. Everyone was laughing trying to do it. It certainly looked like fun, but there was no way I was going upside down. And then the next week came and I decided to try. Everyone was having fun and I wanted to too. Couldn’t do it, but I was partially upside down for a few seconds and I survived. I’m not sure how many weeks it took before I could do the position, certainly over a month of trying, but I kept trying and I kept going upside down.

And now I love ending my practice in supported shoulder stand right before savasana. I just seem to be able to let my body go and relax into my shoulders. Kind of funny that being upside down is now one of my favorite positions.

This morning I was driving behind some really slow cars. I must confess that I yelled out loud to my empty car “Why are we driving so slow people?” I guess it’s time to get back to my yoga practice; I’ve missed the past couple of weeks.

Meet Cindy Frank:

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Yoga is power. Power is strength and control, and yoga gives me both. I am not a physically imposing person, but my weekly yoga practice has given me the strength to carry more groceries than I used to, and my abs don’t scream out from boat pose or plank anymore. When one of my daughters was younger and especially frustrated with another person, I would ask her, “Is that person the boss of you? No. That’s right, you are the boss of you.” (I often wondered why none of my daughters ever said to me, when I asked them to do something, “You are not the boss of me!” So far, that hasn’t happened.) My yoga practice, and weekly class with Pam or Marisa reminds me now that I am the boss of me, and that is enough control for my life. This was especially true when I sat through certain meetings at work last summer and fall, when my job was in flux. Yoga reminds me to take that breath, straighten my spine, lower my shoulders away from my ears and move forward.

I came to Allay thanks to my friend Jody; about three years ago, she invited me to a beginner class with Pam and that was that. The focus on mindfulness and learning all the basics while listening to what your body wants is so calming. I love the challenge to balance just a little longer, or sink a little deeper. There is also the laughing. Outloud. I mean, really, you want us to raise one foot and eagle arm ourselves while focusing on that spot on the wall opposite and breathe and smile???

Besides the sheer fun and work benefits I get some health payback as well. The nurse who checks my bone density and measures my height announces that I am not shrinking – she tells me women who practice yoga tend not to get shorter as they age. Other benefits include kitchen yoga, which means a forward fold, a halfway lift to step back plank while waiting for the tea water to boil; also dancing around the house yoga to whatever is on the radio (Tay Swift included), and focused breathing during those moments when everyone around me is trying to get a word in, or pout and be cranky. There is no shame in tuning others out while you focus on your breath.

So Jody, thanks for inviting me, and Pam, Marisa, Kathleen, Nicole and all my class mates, thanks for sharing your practice!

Yogi Spotlight: Laura Nelson

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our March Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Laura. Learn more about Laura and her wonderful practice in her own words below!

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I began to take yoga classes after the birth of my second child thirteen years ago. I’ve always been active and was looking for a way to spice up my fitness routine. I’ve been a runner, a swimmer, a gym rat and gone to boot camp at 5:45 a.m. When I began yoga, I wasn’t really interested in the spiritual teachings or what it could do for me outside the studio — just the exercise.

I have two teenagers, and life can get hectic and stressful. Now I find the teachings of acceptance, love and mindfulness have helped me become a calmer, more centered person and a better wife and mother. I also really love the exercise element, too. The more yoga I do, the better I feel and the less stress seems to get to me.

In exercise, I love a challenge, so my favorite poses are those that don’t come easily to me — like crow pose and half moon pose. Plus, my tree pose always seems to be in a wind storm… blowing back and forth and falling down! Like most people, I also love child’s pose and Savasana.

I like Allay so much because the teachers are so warm and welcoming. Yoga is what I do for myself (except for the hours of reading or binge watching House of Cards), and it’s important for me to do it at a place where I feel happy and accepted. I’ve taken yoga classes at a number of studios in the area, but I feel the most comfortable at Allay. My favorite classes are Marisa’s Monday and Friday flow classes because they are challenging and fun. Marisa is a wonderful yoga teacher who has helped me so much with my technique. I love that she pushes me beyond my comfort level and makes me a better yogi.

Feel to Heal: Yoga for Warriors

Hi Yogis! Today’s post is from Stephani Kolevar. Stephani recently attended a Yoga Warrior Training and wanted to share some of her important takeaways from the powerful weekend regarding working with Veterans and other trauma survivors. This post is geared especially toward other Yoga Teachers, but can be helpful for anyone working with this population.

FEEL TO HEAL! That is my summary from the Yoga Training that I attended last weekend, targeting those brave men and women who are returning from overseas service with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Traditional Western medicine focuses primarily on learning how to manage symptoms of PTSD, usually through prescription drugs. While helpful, many PTSD sufferers are seeking remedies for the cause of PTSD, and not just the effects. Recent neuroscience breakthroughs combined with yoga’s acknowledgement of the energy systems in the body creates a place where healing can begin for these trauma sufferers.
The fundamental belief is that through slower, focused movement, and heightened sensory awareness (sounds like yoga to me!), the individual can go back to the source of the trauma and actually release it where it can no longer do harm. Current research shows that trauma gets stored in the body through the neural pathways, and yoga can help us access those pathways and release the stored trauma over time. Think about following a river from the mouth of its opening, all the way to its source somewhere high up in the mountains. We are trying to find that source of trauma stored somewhere deep in our brain.
Traditional therapies focus mainly on cognitive approaches to healing trauma by examining behaviors from a standpoint of logic. However, during the traumatic event, new research has shown that the person gets “stuck” into a primitive brain processing system of either freezing (parasympathetic), or fight/flight (sympathetic), and often cannot comprehend the higher-level brain processing needed for cognitive therapy. We need to literally, and somatically re-experience the trauma from a feeling standpoint to get the trauma “unstuck” from our neural pathways. For each person, this will be a very personal and intimate re-engagement with their bodies that they need to take at their own pace. As yoga instructors, we can use a 9-step guideline presented by Dr. Peter Levine in his book “In An Unspoken Voice – How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness” to help with these efforts.
The first point that needs to be addressed when working with Warriors, or anyone who has undergone a severe trauma in their lives, is to create a sacred space. We can do that though our voice, the music, the physical environment of the studio, and by our personal connection with the student. We then move into a somatic awakening through simple movements of the body, making that mind/body connection. Also focusing on expansion and contraction of our breath (pranayama) and through the use of physical postures (asanas). Practice the use of titration, bringing in tiny doses of movement. One or two poses might be enough for some people the entire class. Offer alternatives, allowing them a choice in what they feel comfortable doing or not doing. Slow movements and simple cuing will help uncouple the fear from immobility, help discharge and regulate a high arousal state, and allow the person to self-regulate, finding relaxed alertness and dynamic equilibrium. Lastly, re-orient the person into the here and now through a constant stream of words. Prolonged silence often leads to the mind wandering into dangerous territory. Be present on the mat!
The effects of PTSD are like a roadside bomb, random, uncontrollable, and ultimately devastating to those who lie in its path of destruction. If not addressed, these recent long years at war have the power to impact multiple generations. It is only when we shine the light of truth on our own wounds that we can help shine the light on the pathway toward healing our community. FEEL TO HEAL!

About Stephani: Stephani took her first yoga class from Baron Baptiste in the late 1990’s at a local fitness convention, and immediately became hooked on yoga. She quickly incorporated several yoga classes a week into the group exercise schedule where she was working for an employee fitness center in Bethesda. After several years of watching videos and taking multiple classes on her own, she decided to pursue a yoga certification through YogaFit. Two kids, and six years later, she finally completed her 200 hour RYT in 2011, and is currently working toward her 500 hour certification. She enjoys teaching to students of all ages. While living in Michigan for the last three years, she taught yoga camps for young kids, yoga clubs for teens, yoga workshps for couples, and restorative classes for the aging population. Her favorite style is a slow vinyasa, but she has also led power yoga classes, hot yoga classes, and yoga classes with weights. Stephani currently works as a Physical Education Teacher for a local PK-8 school. When she is not playing “taxi driver” to her two kids, she enjoys gardening, reading, and walking her dogs. In addition to a monthly Teens Class, Stephani currently teaches the following classes at Allay:

Yoga for Tweens (Ages 8-11), Wednesdays, 4:30-5:30 PM

Level 1, Thursdays, 8:00-9:00 PM

Open Flow, Fridays, 9:30-10:30 AM

Recalibration

For the last few weeks (really months) I’ve been feeling the need to recalibrate.  The weight of my needs and those around me have changed and yet I couldn’t figure out how to shift the balance of my time and energy to meet them. As a consequence, I found myself often feeling frustrated, angry, and pessimistic–feelings that don’t translate into a wonderful attitude. I’ve been trying to watch these feelings, have compassion for myself and those at which these feelings would sometimes be aimed at, but in truth, often came up short. I just kept feeling like I didn’t have enough: enough time, enough energy, enough knowledge, enough brain capacity to handle everything that needed handling, enough push to get there (wherever “there” is), enough support. I simply could not get to a place of enough. Have you ever felt that way?

I’ve started and deleted this next paragraph at least three times already. I keep wanting to start writing about how I am now on the other side, some “aha” moment I had where things shifted and my vision became 20/20. The thing is, that’s not what happened. Over time, small shifts have happened. There are moments of clarity and moments of blind fog. The world didn’t exactly slow down so that I could catch up. It turns out that when you own your own business, are the mom of a ridiculously smart, active, headstrong toddler, and the wife of a brilliant, incredibly supportive but busy and hardworking husband, life just doesn’t slow down. What I AM doing is letting go, bit by bit, of my resistance to this crazy time and energy whirlwind that is my life right now.  For a while there, I felt a bit stuck and constrained by the incongruity between everything I felt I should be doing and everything I was able to do. Now, I am looking closely at that incongruity and recalibrating the scale so that they’re a little less uneven.

I first started teaching yoga and then opened Allay because I wanted to help men and women struggling with the demands of home, work, and life in general develop tools for dealing with all of the imbalance. Ironically, I was/am the one deeply in need of these tools. And, I have to let myself build them. I was treating the studio and my role in it as simply work and trying to deal with the competing demands of the workplace and my role as primary caregiver at home. But, then I realized, that’s not what Allay is about. So many people have described Allay as their yoga home. It makes me fill with love and gratitude when they do. Now I realize, how lucky am I? Allay is MY yoga home too. And Drew’s. Sometimes his and my needs will not be in line with those of the studio. And, we’ll have to address those each time they come up, as all parents do. But, there are so many ways that Allay can OPEN doors for us to build community, get support when we need it, find more meaningful and playful time together, and develop the tools we need to thrive instead of simply survive. As a business owner, I’ve striven to be flexible to meet all of our students where they are: shareable passes that never expire, keeping all classes drop-in and most available with any package or membership. Now I need to extend that flexibility to myself. The truth is Allay and I are one. And, that makes me proud. and so grateful. And, so relieved because I can stop searching. There are no magical answers outside of me and my life, they are within. All of the tools I need to tweak and reset my life scale are here. Life is and I suspect will always be shifting and consequently, in need of a little recalibration. It turns out, the tools are at my fingertips. And, that is enough.

Yogi Spotlight: Penny Maza

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our second Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Penny, a dedicated and beautiful student in our weekly Gentle Yoga class!

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What were the circumstances that led you to Yoga?

I am relatively new to Yoga. I began the practice of Yoga because of changes in my life circumstances and in my health. First, I retired six years ago from a very demanding, sedentary job that I loved which required a long commute each day and significant travel. To be honest, I did not take care of myself because I was so engrossed in my work. Second, ten years ago I had a hip replacement. I have learned since then that arthritis does not just strike in one spot. My arthritis now has progressed to my spine and to numerous other joints. My retirement gave me time to try to deal with the stiffness of arthritis.

In the past I had taken both land and water aerobics classes, hiked in the mountains on the weekends, jogged, and took circuit training. Because of the progression of the arthritis, I could not keep up with these types of activities. I had thought that Yoga might be a possibility. I had passed the Allay Yoga studio on my way to do errands in Kensington for a few months after it opened, but I questioned whether or not it would work for me. I was apprehensive because I thought Yoga classes were filled with flexible, skinny, 20 year olds. I just wouldn’t fit in.

What has been your experience with Yoga practice?

One day three years ago I decided to find out if there was a way for me to participate in Yoga. I went to the Allay Yoga website and sent an email describing myself as an arthritic, overweight, senior citizen and asking if there was anyone at the studio who might accept the challenge of working with me. Within a few days, Pam responded in a most welcoming way. She wrote that one of the teachers, Dena Kahn, worked with people with physical challenges and would be in touch with me.

My Yoga practice began with a number of private classes. I could barely do anything, including standing for any period of time due to back spasms. Eventually, I could do enough to move to the Gentle Yoga class where I have remained. Both Dena and Jo Ann Kester, who now teaches the class, have helped me make adjustments to poses so I can do them. I even have a favorite pose, forward fold, because it provides an excellent back stretch for me. Because stairs are challenging, other students in the class have been helpful by bringing me the equipment for the day and returning it after class.

Tell us a little about what is going on in your life outside the Yoga studio. Do you incorporate what you have learned in Yoga into other parts of your life?

I have to admit that I am not entirely retired. I have been doing consulting work during these past six years, but the amount is declining each year. I continue to enjoy traveling, as I did before I retired, and hope to travel more, at least until my next joint replacement. I’m still doing work on the house I have lived for 35 years. It never ends. I have two cats, nine nieces and nephews including spouses and partners, and eight great nieces and nephews who have my attention.

I have incorporated three aspects of Yoga into my daily living. First, Yoga has helped me improve my balance, which is important in fall prevention. Second, it has made me more sensitive to the need for planning how to move in order to avoid falling or to get up after a fall. Finally, I have used the breathing techniques and meditation of Yoga to handle stress.

Yogi Spotlight: Karen Hibey

Hi Yogis! Welcome to our first Yogi Spotlight, organized and written by the fabulous Kathleen Reynolds! Today’s feature yogi is Karen Hibey, a long-time and beloved student of Allay!

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Tell us about your yoga experience. When and why did you start your practice? How has it
changed since you started?

I started my yoga practice with my eldest daughter when she moved home to plan her wedding some 15 years ago. We attended twice a week evening yoga classes at the Bethesda Y — and it did help us through the stresses and challenges of planning a wedding! We learned the poses together and practiced our breathing when it came to cutting the guest list (and especially during the seat assignments!)

We practiced together throughout that year, but once she married and moved out, my practice fell off. I tried DVDs, but yoga drifted away. My exercise and physical activity continued with gyms, trainers, daily walking. And then my daughter called me to let me know she saw the Allay Yoga Studio opening sign in 2011! That was great news to me, since I live in Kensington. I was there on opening weekend to begin anew my relationship with yoga — and unbeknownst to me at the time, with the community of Allay.

The beginner’s classes and the vinyasa workshops were wonderful refreshers for me. I had been practicing some poses over the years in other classes and via DVDs but nothing consistent. With the proximity of Allay, I dedicated my the fall and winter seasons that year to reacquainting myself to yoga and my yogi within! A return to a more yoga-centric rather than physical body-centric practice was intriguing and challenging.

Since returning to my practice at Allay, I have also practiced yoga in a wonderful studio in Tiverton, RI with floor to ceiling windows overlooking farmland, lake and meadows! Mother Nature’s abundance surrounds us, and with the windows flung open, the scents and sounds of our natural habitat envelop us as we practice. The Rivers of Light Studio is an amazing place to practice yoga, and I think that may be one of my most favorite spots — although a morning on the beach in Little Compton, RI practicing yoga will always stay with me…listening to the rolling waves, the chirping terns and the squawking seagulls with the wind off the ocean challenging each pose stays strong in my thoughts and is one of my most favorite images I call forth in times of stress!

What are some of your favorite poses and why?

The basic poses in the vinyasa sequence are still among my most favorite, as they are the poses with which I am most familiar — and the least stressful for me. I can flow without thinking, just be in the moment, not worrying about the next pose. Be in the breath. The longer I practice, more poses are familiar and just come to me…if I can find my way to my mat! I loved working with Daisy, and I miss her: her mantra of “one pose day on the mat” is one I strive to follow.

Tell us a little about yourself outside the yoga studio.

As one of your oldest students, my life “outside the mat” is probably very different from your other students. I “retired” several years ago to provide child care to my granddaughter and continued to do so for many years and now am the “backup Nana” to my daughter’s primary caretaker. I am also a “tweener,” helping with the care of my mom in Rhode Island where I spend the summer each year.

What influence does your yoga practice have on your life “beyond the mat”? How is your practice a meaningful part of your life?

My yoga helps keep me focused on what is important and provides a calming influence when I am pulled in various directions. My practice has become a more significant part of my life due, in large part, to the proximity of Allay Studio and its wonderful teachers and collegiality among the members. I love the small town feel of Kensington; my New England small-town roots drew me to Kensington years ago — and I found that “neighborly” feel at Allay. I feel a connection with all of Allay’s membership. We are building a caring community at Allay within the Kensington neighborhood, and that is one of the many reasons I continue to return — not just for the yoga but for the relationships we are developing. Most of my classmates are much younger. I enjoy the challenge of their practice, and hopefully I am able to keep up with them for years to come. Each teacher at Allay has given me inspiration – each teacher has her own style and strengths, and I enjoy the differences and delight in the challenge each presents.