When you meet Kristi Taylor you immediately connect with her enthusiasm, passion, and zest for connecting with others. Her style is eclectic and her teaching skills diverse with an exceptional understanding of body mechanics. You may recognize her from previous yoga festivals and we are excited that she will return with a variety of workshops throughout the weekend. Spoiler alert! She’s bringing her wellness business partner -- and music partner -- her husband Dr. Darren Taylor.
Kristi has worked with professional athletes for over 25 years, coaching gymnastics - with her own kids on the national team - and working side by side with her husband in their sports medicine health and wellness facility. Her education is in physiology and kinesiology, and, with her husband “Dr. T”, conducts teacher trainings, immersions and workshops and they teach applied anatomy, physiology and neurology all over the world.
Kristi is one of the world’s first certified teachers of Acro-Yoga, having been in the first group to certify instructors. She is a certified Thai massage therapist, E-RYT500, YACEP, 500-hour Certified Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Instructor, and has assisted Baron Baptiste for over 20 years. She also teaches restorative and therapeutic yoga, sound healing, meditation, breathwork, and essential oils. Festival-goers will have an opportunity to experience her diverse skills as a teacher this year in four different workshops: Handstand Festival, Hands of an Angel, the Art and Science of Assisting with co-teacher Dr. D, Acro-Yoga, and Thai Massage Bliss.
I first met Kristi Taylor in her handstand festival workshop. She was at the door welcoming everyone with a big smile and lots of sparkle. Literally. She had glittery, shimmer on her face and chest which was a signal to me that I was in for some fun – and I had the time of my life! I was not a “hand-stander” so I went into this a bit apprehensive. She assured me that even if I couldn’t do a handstand that she “wanted ME!” She promised with great enthusiasm and emphasized that her workshops are for everybody regardless of ability or inability or level of fear. “Turn fear into fun!” which is exactly what happened.
There were some who could and many who couldn’t, but wanted handstand to either be a part of their practice or simply reduce the fear of attempting this inversion. Kristi was able to teach to all levels and focused on giving us exercises to get there eventually if that’s where we wanted to go. Seriously, the fun was in the trying and the teamwork and connections that were made with people I didn’t know before I walked into her “playshop.” “If the description of the workshop brings up fear that you can’t do it, I want you! I know how to work with you.”
That goes for her Acro- Yoga workshop as well. She hopes you fall in love with the partner practice just as she did the very first time she tried it. You don’t have to have a partner to participate because you’ll meet others in the workshop. “I love that it’s an opportunity to know and connect with another soul. It’s magical in that it’s an opportunity to collaborate our energies, without any words. It’s powerful. It connects communities. People in these workshops will meet friends for life. People will experience powerful emotions.”
Another opportunity to connect powerfully is with Thai massage, a workshop that Kristi is known for worldwide. In this workshop people will learn how to give and receive this beautiful form of yoga massage which will incorporate aromatherapy and, again, no partner needed when signing up for this course. “They’ll get powerful tools to share with others and learn how to create an experience beyond relaxation—total bliss!”
Kristi will co-teach with her partner and husband Darren in their workshop Hands of an Angel: The art and science of assisting. This workshop will teach assisting with love, and concrete skills for safe, effective, and empowering hands-on assists. Dr. Darren Taylor is a certified Chiropractic Sports Practitioner, and former pro hockey player. A yogi himself, “Dr. T” has treated and rehabilitated yoga practitioners and professional athletes for over 20 years. Together the Taylors own and operate Global Body Health, a clinic that specializes in sports injuries, healthy lifestyles, injury prevention, healing and yoga. They use many modalities to optimize healing and get people back to enjoying their active lifestyle.
For Kristi, it’s about creating a sense of oneness. “Yoga, meditation, breathwork, Acro-Yoga, Thai massage, they are powerful tools. All these things I teach are about creating oneness: Oneness with self, oneness with your faith, your spirit, oneness with this world. Our actions have global impact. What do you choose to do with your time? What I choose to do is create oneness and love and sharing and giving and receiving and know that we’re in this together. Everything that I do is creating oneness. Come, let’s be together. Do what you need to do on your mat to get more connected. This is how we change the world!”
Laughter, love, connection and collaboration with exuberance seem to be the common thread in everything Kristi teaches. She loves the concept of connecting on a deep level and facilitating that experience for the greatest good. Her philosophy and skill at building connections have served her in profound ways and recently have inspired a new professional credential to add to her list: Music. This collaboration includes Dr. T and musical guest at the 2017 DY&OF, Michael McGlone.
Michael McGlone is a close family friend of the couple. He is an avid yoga student and attended Kristi’s Acro-Yoga Playshop in New York City. They connected “on a deep level and now he is part of our family”. He recently taught Darren how to play the guitar. Michael has been a mentor to the Taylors on their musical journey, supporting them in their writing and collaborating on the music. Kristi is glowing in her description of Michael McGlone and can’t wait for festival attendees to experience his talent in a live performance. You may recognize him as an actor on TV and in film (he won critical acclaim at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival Best Film Award Winner, The Brothers McMullen) he is a singer, songwriter, actor, author of 6 novels, and a yogi in the Baron Baptiste Power Yoga style.
The Taylors began writing music and collaborated with Michael McGlone for their first song written in January of last year which is called, Thank You, Again; a song about being and living deeply rooted in gratitude, living a life of integrity and loving each other. The three have continued to collaborate on lyrics and music which Michael will perform at the festival.
It sounds like the music career is here to stay. “My husband and I have been married 20 years, and what brought us together was music and laughter. Now, 20 years later it’s still about music and laughter. Music will be a huge part of our future.” They are currently working on the screenplay for a movie inspired by the song they co- wrote, The Hammer, which is Darren’s inspiring life story.
“Do what you love, love what you do. Life is short and we don’t know how long we’re on this planet so I’m going to be really clear and do what lights me up, what brings me love and joy. We are blessed to do what we love. I love working with patients, I love teaching and empowering people and I love music so that will all continue. In all of my workshops there will be loads of fun, love, laughter and music. That just goes everywhere.”
To register for any of Kristi's workshops CLICK HERE. For the full event schedule CLICK HERE. You can read the full bio of Kristi Taylor, Dr. Darren Taylor, or Michael McGlone by CLICKING HERE. For more information about Kristi Taylor go to www.kristitayloryoga.com or go to the Taylor's business website at www.globalbodyhealth.com.
by Karen Kramer, MYOF Blogger
Betsy Rippentrop is insightful, heart-centered and deeply empathetic, not just because of her advanced degree in psychology. She's "been there' as a human being. Her background and experience as a clinician, yoga practitioner and a human consumed by the ordinary hectic pace of an average American life has informed her work in a unique way. Connecting the dots through her own healing led her to heal others by connecting mind and body.
Doctor Yoga Momma, Betsy Rippentrop has it all: A thriving private therapy practice, a yoga studio, and a family that includes three young kids. She had spent the decade of her twenties studying the mind leading to the Ph.D in Psychology, and the decade of her thirties studying Anusara Yoga with well-known teachers, leading to her instructor's certification and the opening of her own studio.
Chaos and overdrive were the norm for many years. Eventually, she says, her heavy schedule and perfectionist tendencies caught up to her. Suddenly, the therapist and yogi found herself front and center in a dark night of the soul episode with chronic strep throat, debilitating fatigue, depression, and autoimmune problems. Betsy was hit by what she termed her “Universal Smackdown.”
“The deep irony in all this, is that my life’s work and focus is the mind-body connection. I teach, write, lecture, and passionately espouse the importance of listening to your body, honoring your inner voice, paying attention! It took this “smackdown” to show me how ingrained in our culture (and in me!) it is to approach our suffering from a disjointed and narrow perspective. My lesson: If I can disconnect with all of my training and understanding of the mind-body, it can happen to anyone.”
She embarked on the road to healing using both psychological and physiological approaches by consulting with physicians, restorative yoga, completely changing her diet to gluten and dairy-free, and eventual healing. This experience shaped the approach she uses in her current practice, looking at the whole mind-body connection, using yoga as well as psychological tools with her clients.
“What I went through cemented in my mind that we will never fully heal if we only focus on the mind, or if our primary focus is just the body. We must bring equal and respectful attention to both because they are, of course, deeply connected.”
Betsy’s insights and approach to therapy and yoga have made her a well-loved presenter at many workshops including several at the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival. This year she will present “The Oneness of the Mind & Body: Connecting to your Guidance System” on Sunday morning, April 30th.
Recently I caught up with Betsy to talk about her (still busy) yoga and private practice with her new perspective of the Mind-Body connection.
What are we doing that creates a disconnect from the mind-body?
Good question. The split in the mind body connection is so ingrained in our culture it’s a challenge to live a more integrated and embodied life. It takes practice and work. If you’re passively going along in life -eating the standard American diet, consuming the media and not really engaging in any kind of a mindful practice - I think it’s easy to be split between your body and your mind. And, of course, our medical system - which I am all for in many ways - splits the body into parts with specialists who know one part of the body. It’s rare to have any medical staff question about mental, emotional, and spiritual things that might be happening. And yet, based on my experience as a health practitioner, and a yogi, and a spiritual seeker, it’s all integrated and it all affects each of those things.
If you are struggling emotionally it’s going to impact your body, and if you’re dealing with existential questions or an existential crisis it’s going to impact your mental and emotional and physical health. I think our culture is set up so that it doesn’t really support that the body and the mind are one. We need to work on integration versus continuing to live in a disconnected manner. Eastern traditions, eastern medicine, ayurveda for example, have never split the mind and body. They are treated as integrated and overlapping. Many would say mind and body are one and the same – the body is the mind and the mind is the body. Unfortunately, in the western world it’s not so. It takes specific practice and dedication to working on the connection of the mind and body to overcome what is an unconscious belief in ourselves and a conscious belief in our culture.
Your story is a very poignant example of how nobody is immune to this disconnection. You are a very well educated professional and yogi and yet you experienced a “smackdown”. What can we look for as clues before we reach this point?
I was driven, focused, busy, overscheduled, three kids, two businesses and I was living under the false pretense that if I just work harder and put in more time it’ll all work out. Give it extra “umph” and it’ll all be ok, I thought. What I wasn’t doing is listening to my body. So here I am a yogi, routinely practicing yoga. But if I look back at that time, I was teaching yoga but I wasn’t really practicing my own yoga. I was busy planning classes and figuring out sequences so I could teach a really great class but I wasn’t so committed as I am now to my own personal practice of yoga and meditation. I wasn’t taking care of myself. Self-care took the back seat with me. I didn’t have time and I assumed “I’ll be fine!” I was not listening to my body. It took a loud scream from my body.
Today, three years post “smackdown” I am totally dedicated to my own self-care. I practice meditation every day, my diet is completely different and re-vamped with no gluten or dairy which works for me, I get regular acupuncture. However, the old ways pop up! I find myself over-scheduled and busy. I need to say “no” more. It’s a constant dance. I do have a new-found commitment to taking care of Betsy first which is something I’ve never had.
Do you have specific suggestions to help all of us deepen our mind-body connection?
Start to pay mindful and conscious attention to your body. For me that comes in both my meditation practice which I do daily as well as my yoga practice. But having a pure relationship with your body is one of the best ways to stay connected to your truth, because the body cannot lie. Our psyche and our ego are great at manipulating us. The mind can be viewed as a “politician” that is trying to convince you of things that are not necessarily true. But the body cannot lie. The body is unable to tell you anything but the truth. When I was really sick my body was exhausted and trying to give me the message that I needed to slow down. My mind was saying “don’t listen to that”. But my body was telling me the truth. All of us need to start to listen to our body because it will always tell us our truth.
Fatigue, insomnia, some of these un-diagnosable things that we are afflicted with, this is your body giving you the signal that something is off, that there is an imbalance in your life. But for us to get tuned in to our body we must spend time with it, to really listen to it, to know it’s cycles, to know when it’s feeling well and when it’s not feeling well. Spending time with our body is like any other relationship: if you’re not having quality time with that relationship it’s not going to be a great relationship. Yoga helps us do that, beautifully. When you spend time in yoga you scan the body, move your leg this direction, feel the knee in that pose, become aware of the spine – that’s all really clear, conscious connection to the body, and that makes a difference for people.
The more we start to trust our body, the more we start to trust our lives. The more we trust our lives the more we feel in our body, the more we start to feel in our life, we come alive. In the yoga tradition everything starts in the body. Even though yoga can be thought of as a practice for the mind, it actually starts in the body first. Spend time in your body and you spend time clearing and purifying the body which your yoga practice does so well, and then maybe add in some ayurvedic techniques and look at your diet and your lifestyle, your mind is going to blossom and change and view the world differently because of the care and connection and the time you’ve devoted to taking care of the body.
What is your personal practice?
I meditate first thing in the morning. I follow a specific diet for my body type. I do oil massage daily which comes out of the ayurvedic practice. Oil grounds me and is stabilizing for my constitution. I do some kind of yoga practice even if it’s only ten minutes most days. I practice the niyama of higher self-study. I’m very committed to trying to be more conscious as a human being, and so to be conscious it takes looking at yourself, studying the self, working on the self. I do this with journaling, my own dream work, talking to friends and colleagues and therapists. That’s a really important part of my path because I do believe if you’re going to be a teacher and you’re going to share teaching from the yoga tradition, the more clear and open a channel you are, the better you’re going to teach.
You’ve given us a lot of great insight regarding the mind-body connection. What are your thoughts on the related concept of ONENESS now that we have included it as part of our festival name?
The first I heard of the change of name to include the concept of “oneness” it was post-election and my first thought was, “Brilliant! There is so much fear going on in our country and this is the time to come together and connect as human beings and see that I am you and you are me, and the way I treat you is how I treat myself. Brilliant and timely.
It speaks to all the great spiritual traditions that we are all one, and that there is a connectivity among all human beings. I also believe that as a culture the reason yoga is becoming more and more popular is because we are more disconnected from each other and from ourselves and from community. All these smart phones that we can’t live without are in a strange way -even though they are supposed to connect us more - actually disconnecting us more. Picture a dinner table with everyone on their phones and no one is talking to each other. Yoga is about unity it’s about connection it’s about coming together with our body and our mind. On an unconscious level, everyone knows that we need to connect more and yoga has a way of so beautifully doing that. When we have a great yoga class we do feel more love for our partner and friends and you don’t get upset about the person who just cut you off in traffic. Everything changes after you do yoga. The world needs more unity and connection.
Your workshop addresses “Oneness” and “Connection.”
My intention behind the workshop is that I want people to understand that they have the best truth-telling device and guidance system in their bodies. Practice being in the body, listening to the body, respecting the body. Body Image is such a challenge. Saying “we need to love our body” can feel like a big stretch. But saying “respect the body” is something we all can do. I want to empower people to know that they have such an amazing system of guidance if they can stop and listen to their body and then learn to decode the messages which can be a challenge. The body often speaks to us in sensation, symbols, and images. My goal is to empower people to know what they have in terms of their body giving them a bunch of information about their life.
You co-wrote a wonderfully informative book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Chakras. Are there any other projects in the works?
I am currently writing a book right now on embodiment. If we can be in our body and work with our body, we can heal the mind. It’s coming from my experience as a health practitioner for almost 20 years. Even though my field of psychology has so many great techniques and tools, there are limits. Depression and anxiety is increasing and I think we need some “out of the box” ways to treat that. We need to help with ways to experience less emotional trauma. I think it’s about getting into the body and honoring the body and listening and feeling and taking care of the body and then the mind stuff starts to fall into place better.
Look for Betsy’s book next year. We are grateful for the festival sponsorship of Betsy’s studio, Heartland Yoga, in Iowa City. If you would like to know more about our other sponsors, or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor click HERE.
Find out more about Betsy's practice and studio at www.dryogamomma.com. To register for her workshop, click HERE. For the full festival schedule, click HERE. To read Betsy's full bio click HERE.
See you at the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival April 28-30!
Intention-setting is a part of our yoga practice that creates a sense of reverence and allows us to take our practice out and into our life beyond the studio. One of our intentions for the festival this year is to offer sacred space and connection with uplifting yoga energy. Victoria Putman will offer the chance to experience this intention, internalize it and reconnect mind, body, and spirit in a powerful “Sacred Ritual of Re-enchantment” workshop at the 2017 Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival.
The goal of her workshop, Vickie explaines, is “to create sacred space where folks can hit the pause button amid this wonderful yoga festival energy and have a personal experience of connecting with that inner self--that component within that is so joyful, unlimited, and free--and tap into that in an experiential way using many different energetic healing techniques.”
"Connect with that inner self--that component within that is so joyful, unlimited, and free."
With many years of experience as an energy worker Vicki is just the person to guide us in creating sacred space and in a ritual to take us to a deeper level of inner awareness and enhanced well.-being. Her training and background in energy work is impressive. She is a certified Reiki Master/Teacher, a registered yoga teacher, a certified Eden Energy Worker by Donna Eden, the pioneer of energy medicine, a certified hypnotherapist, Psych-K and EFT practitioner.
She is a shamanic practitioner who has studied Reiki and Shamanism with Incan shamans Alberto Violdo and Oscar Mirado as well as many other lessons in other aspects of shamanism with Native American shamans. She is a certified instructor for Eden Energy Medicine for Women, and has trained with the European Color Institute. Vickie is a Certified Feng Shui consultant and teacher through two programs; the Western School of Feng Shui, with the well-known Tara Katherine Collins, and the 9-step Feng Shui System by Monica Castineda.
"Everything, not just people, have vibrational energy..."
Victoria Putman initiating her labyrinth.
“How can I not bring all of this in to my work…it’s a part of me." These theories and modalities will overlap and all of this is based on subtle energy. Vickie will bring this knowledge into her workshop even though some of it will not be seen or directly experienced by participants. For example, she will use transcendental Feng Shui cures and shamanic techniques in the room before the workshop begins to create a sacred space and call in spirit helpers. During the ritual, yogis will experience the sense of reverence as they enter the energetic gateway that she will create to feel as though you are stepping into “another space in a different reality.” There will be breath work, finger labyrinths, intention-setting, visualization, music, heart math/heart coherence techniques, meditations, a water blessing, and ways to take the ritual's vibration and intentions home, keeping the energy of the sacred time together.
"Everything is energy. Everything, not just people have vibrational energy, so we are all connected vibrationally. I want people to experience that sense of oneness in this ritual--the oneness that we have with each other and the oneness of the greater part of our self. That’s what we’re doing in this ritual.”
Join Victoria Putman in this powerful and transformational "Sacred Ritual of Re-enchantmenton" Saturday, during the festival. To register click here. To learn more about the festival schedule, click here.
"I think the biggest step to self-confidence is learning to love yourself and finding contentment in who you are just as you are. You don't need to change who you are for anyone." - Dianne Bondy
by Karen Kramer, DY&OF blogger
Dianne Bondy is an internationally recognized yoga instructor and social justice activist. She is considered the leading voice of the Yoga For All movement and spokesperson for diversity in yoga and yoga for larger bodies. She has become the advocate for countless people who didn't feel they had a place in the yoga community. Her inclusive views and teaching methods are for all people who wish to be a part of the yoga world regardless of their shape, size, ethnicity, or level of ability.
It's hard not to see what Dianne is doing since she has become one of the rising stars in the industry. She is a respected teacher and advocate in workshops, trainings, online videos, and her prolific writing, as seen in her contributions to many publications including Yoga International, Do You Yoga, and Elephant Journal, and published work in the books: Yoga and Body Image, and Yes Yoga Has Curves. She is featured and profiled in international media outlets such as The Guardian, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, and People to name a few.
Her resume in advocacy continues with her collaboration with Pennington’s, Gaiam, and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. She is the founder and CEO at Dianne Bondy Yoga, Inc., Yogasteya online yoga classes and community, and Yoga For All Online Trainings. She conducts yoga retreats, workshop presentations, and has many public speaking events throughout the year
We are so excited for Dianne will bring her dynamic energy to this year's festival as a major presenter! Dianne will conduct an all-day intensive on Friday; “Making Yoga Accessible; The Art and Science of Teaching Accessible Yoga Classes to Different Populations” for 5 CEUs, two sessions on Saturday; “How to Serve Your Students – The Power to Serve!”, and “The Path to Empowerment: Body Acceptance, Body Love, and Body Equity.” She will also teach a Sunday session; “Yoga, Body Image and Social Justice.” These workshops are not to be missed!
Dianne had a few minutes in her demanding schedule to answer some questions about her work as a “yoga for all” trailblazer. Her answers are so inspiring that I’m sure you will be just as excited about meeting her and learning what you can from this celebrated teacher.
"I am so encouraged (especially during these times) that there are disruptors and agitators who are showing society, media, and spaces of yoga that yoga should be inclusive and be used as a tool for uniting us, instead of dividing." - Dianne Bondy
Many consider you a “trailblazer” in the yoga industry. You’ve welcomed in people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and abilities, opened doors to yoga that people felt unwelcomed in until you made it ok. Do you see yourself as a trailblazer? Who or what inspired you? Did you have a role model that helped shape your message, style and mission as a teacher?
I do love the idea of blazing a trail for people to find and follow. I think all of us do that in some aspects of our lives. I was just really tired of being the only fat, black person at yoga and I felt that so many people were missing out because of this limited stereotype of what yoga looked like. I was ready to introduce it to more people which is why I took teacher training. I wanted to make this practice more accessible in every way; physically, spiritually, financially and locally. I am inspired by anyone who isn’t ashamed to put themselves out there. I was influenced by my mother who introduced me to the practice, my yoga teacher Linda Makowski of Namaste Yoga in Royal Oak who created a very inclusive space which I really felt at home, and Betsey Downing who taught me the value of progressive teaching. One of the very first plus sized yoga teachers I encountered was Anna Guest Jelley. Her unapologetic practice illustrated to me that there were more curvy, large and plus sized bodies that needed yoga. Her work continues to inspire me as well as Michael Hayes of Buddha Body Yoga, and Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga.
You have published many articles and done many interviews, workshops, videos…is it the yoga industry that recognized the need for your message or is it the many people who wanted to practice yoga but felt unwelcome who have finally found an advocate in the yoga industry?
Maybe a little of both. There are lots of people doing this amazing work and have been doing it for almost 10 years. It is so nice to see it finally take hold. Nothing before it’s time, right? I think lots of people have been feeling left out of the practice and are now happy to see representation on the mat. When we use our power to stand up we invite others to do the same. I think using our images and our voices have emboldened the movement towards body positivity. It is important that we all have a seat at the table.
What was the driving force behind creating Yogasteya.com? (Yogasteya.com is the online yoga studio and community designed, developed, and managed by Dianne, dedicated to creating diversity and affordability in yoga which offers classes for all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and levels of ability.)
Yogasteya started out as a way to extend my studio offerings to my students outside of studio hours and it grew into a place where we could create accessible yoga. It is where the Yoga for All movement began. Yogasteya features lots of different bodies doing yoga. When we started Yogasteya.com in 2012 the imagery around yoga was not as diverse as it was today. I wanted to be alternative.
What does your personal practice look like today?
My practice varies from super gentle to very vigorous. Currently, I have been practicing every day since October as a way to gauge how my body feels and what changes I see in my personality and my overall mood--and it has been amazing on all fronts! I am inspired by my body’s ability to do what it can do and to heal and grow. The body really is a miracle when you think about it. I am thrilled with my practice and I learn from my injuries.
Are there more changes that you would like to see in the yoga world?
Publications being held accountable for the harm they do to the culture of yoga by tokenizing certain bodies. I would love to see mainstream yoga media make a real effort to be diverse and inclusive. I would like to see studio culture become more connected to expanding the practice outside its walls to underserved populations. I would like to see body image taught as part of the Yoga Alliance 200 hour requirements.
I’d love to get a preview of what your “Yoga, Body Image and Social Justice” workshop on Sunday is about. Can you give a description?
I believe that together we rise, and together we create positive change. I want people to open their minds to yoga as a tool of exploration into the power of social change. Body image is powerful and our society’s grasp on body image determines that certain bodies have more rights and privileges than others. Certain bodies get better access to justice, education, wellness and experience a more desirable life. I love to talk about the connection between body image, equality and equity and the power of the yoga practice as a vehicle for shifting consciousness.
What are you most proud of in your career so far? What are you looking forward to?
The Yoga For All training online course that I teach with Amber Karnes. I LOVE training teachers, watching them grow, finding themselves, and changing yoga culture and the world. I am looking forward to teaching more courses on empowerment.
We have changed the name of the festival to include “Oneness”, the Dubuque Yoga and Oneness Festival. Do you have any thoughts about the concept of oneness in your yoga philosophy or in general that you would like to share?
Oneness signifies that we are all in this together and when one of us rises we all rise. I am hoping the world will begin to celebrate what make us different but embrace what makes us the same. I am excited for the exploration of unity that yoga teaches us!
Join Dianne at the 2017 Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival! Click HERE for more information about the weekend schedule and HERE for registration information. Check out her website for more information, https://diannebondyyoga.com, at yogasteya.com, and yogaforall.com for more information about her online teacher training.
I spoke to Indu about her philosophy and teaching. She has an uncanny ability to condense seemingly complex ideas and explain them in a way that is accessible, with many “aha” moments of understanding. As she said: “Truths are simple and basic, we just make it too complicated. We think that something we learn has to challenge the intellect but really truth is very simple.”
Thank you, Indu, for your genuine love of sharing what you've learned with other seekers on this yoga journey.
Q: What is your mission as a teacher?
A: My first purpose is to educate myself, to know myself, to work on myself. For only if I can take responsibility of my thoughts, actions and words can I have any capacity to be a teacher. My intention as a seeker on the same path as my fellow practitioners is to pass on this message to them. Don't run away from yourself. Don't run at all. Take one step at a time. After all, that is the realistic thing to do. Yoga is not a run, a chase, it is a state that we embody when we are ready. Nothing but you, nowhere but within, is where it all lies. Nothing has the greatest power to heal, but Self.
Q: You travel extensively and teach in many countries. Is the practice of yoga very different here in comparison? My thought is that we Westerners tend to focus more on asana.
A: No matter where you go in the world, the definition of Yoga is still samadhi. It still means union. It is still a state of mind-- of being free of it. Yoga is a work-in, it is never meant to be a work-out. You are right that in many parts of the world the work-out aspect has gained importance and priority and even has become the goal. However, there is no rush. We all start from where we are and we are guided to the next steps when we are ready. There is a certain readiness that comes from within. I would also like to add that just like we are picky about what we eat, for example that it to be organic, compatible and nourishing, we have to be careful with the teachers we choose.
Q: Do we need a guru?
A: A guide, a Guru, a teacher is a must in every field that one would like to master. When someone has taken the path, they can guide us where not to go and how smoothly one can reach a certain place. The most important work that a Guru does is to allow us to meet our inner Guru. Now, there is a difference in being simply independent and self-seekers and finding the inner light. When we are simply independent without a clear intention, without having worked on our emotions, our self-guided paths may lead to fake ego, unnecessary challenges and at times even leave us scattered. So an external Guru helps us to gather our scattered mind, breath and emotions. The external Guru helps us get in touch with our self, our inner light and our inner master, and also teaches us to listen to this inner guidance.
To find a Guru: Only when there is a deep yearning and a burning desire, one becomes a seeker and finds a true Master! Not from a poster or an advertisement. It is from one heart to the other heart. If you are ready so is the Master. From within the Guru arises. As pure as your desire! First, you need to seek in order to find. In order to seek we need to know what are we seeking and why we are seeking it, and know it with absolute clarity. Then Guru appears.
Q: When you spoke of your newest book Mudra: The Sacred Secret, you said that whatever we do, and whatever we do not do, we are practicing mudras. So it only makes sense to understand what it is that we are doing. If we learn what we are doing we could access so much more--That is the sacred secret! You will teach a session on mudra and the energetic and physiological response in us when hand gestures are performed. Is this a practical, everyday technique to well-being or is there more to that?
A: Yoga, in its ultimate stage, is nothing but a Mudra of mind, body, breath and emotion. Mind wise it is dhyana (meditation), body wise it is asana (firm, steady, meditative pose), breath wise it is pranayama (stilling of the turbulence of inhalation and exhalation) and emotions wise it is shanti (peace). Mudra is a practical, easy, approachable, therapeutic tool to achieve these above-mentioned states. It has been almost missing in the current Yoga practitioners’ community, trainings and programs. Once you learn it or start learning it, the eyes really open up to a different reality. You start watching yourself in a way you have not done before. I wish to offer practitioners a new pair of glasses to see their practice and the subject matter of Yoga.
Q: Is this the same for Pranayama--That we are always breathing so we might as well do it in a way that benefits us?
A: Yes and no. Pranayama is what happens when the body stills and relaxes. Pranayama is the expansion of prana. If by pranayama you mean techniques, then the answer is "no". It is not in the practice of alternating breath in nostrils or breathing through the mouth that pranayama is attained. It is when all these techniques remove the existing friction (vikruti and vikalpas) that one is naturally established in Pranayama. It is a consequence of the techniques and not the technique itself. Diluting or condensing everything into techniques is not the road map to Yoga. May we adopt the path of sadhana (daily spiritual practice) to understand the meaning of Yoga.
Some techniques can be used to bring about a specific therapeutic influence on the bodily doshas and mental gunas but application of those is not the goal of Yoga philosophy. Every step is practiced so that we may come closer to the Self and it peels off one more layer of illusion. At times the balance is not in creation but dissolution.
Q: You will teach a session on Yoga Nidra, another tool towards the path to union. Can you explain the benefits of Yoga Nidra, and some might also wonder how those benefits are different than those of regular practice of savasana at the end of yoga class?
A: Yoga Nidra is not Yogic sleep but rather yogic awakening. Yoga Nidra is an extremely powerful tool! Use it to replace negative tendencies and thoughts. Release habits and conditionings. Rewrite your story and use it to strengthen or know your Dharma! Shavasana is putting to rest the uneasiness of the body, mind and breath that were triggered with the practice, you may say it is like suturing the body after the surgery with the practice. Yoga Nidra on the other hands is like going deeper and opening ourselves to the core. Unveiling all that is veiled.
Most often people think of Yoga Nidra as rest, sleep and rejuvenation. Only sleep can substitute sleep. No medicine, relaxation, mantra, herb, oil or practice can do the job of sleep. Yoga Nidra can reduce the number of hours taken by the mind and body to be rejuvenated relaxed and refreshed. Yoga Nidra was not devised for combating sleep issues, however it can help a person to solve some of the issues that cause sleep problems. Why do you want to replace sleep at all? It is a blessing! Every single day it gives us the chance to forget all the pains, all the stories and brings the taste of freedom, the glimpse if at all of the lowest level of Samadhi. The outer and the inner both worlds dissolve and become one. The taste of nothingness is the nectar we drink every day to feel alive. Substitutions have led to supplements becoming food and electronics becoming relationships. Let us acknowledge that not everything can and should be substituted. Yoga Nidra is not a substitution for anything, it is introduction to our inner world or outer world howsoever you may wish to perceive it.
Q: Why are many of us resistant to “going inward” as we do in Yoga Nidra or forms of meditation?
A: Because we all need magic capsules, potions and formulas to become free from all physical, mental and emotion suffering. Who wants to change in order to become that? Change is hard, it requires courage, acknowledgement of our weakness, a shift in our attitude, a change in our lenses through which we see ourselves and others, and the ability to look into our own eyes with absolute readiness to see within. We are often taught about short cuts more than real paths. We are taught about the value of being fast, efficient, and multi- tasking instead of slow, steady and one step at a time. With such deep conditionings, it is difficult to question self and start a journey to re-vision. Change is inevitable, either we are changing for good or not, either we are moving towards growth or not. Once we know that, we can choose our paths with more “respons-ability” (responsibility) than resistance.
Q: Your Friday intensive will be “Practical Components of Ayurveda”. Can you give us a sneak-peek summary of what we will learn that day? Is it appropriate for all-levels?
A: Basic Ayurveda is for all and benefits everyone. It is one of the most important, practical tool that adds value, life and lightness to everyday life. The practical components of Ayurveda are tangible tools that can be used by everyone who seeks to bring balance and health to everyone’s life. Ayurveda is the wisdom of life itself. It is not just about food, herbs, massage and panchkarma. It is not a chase, a run, a fad. It is the need of the hour. It is bigger than any treatment. It lays down the principles of living and loving. It is through the study of Self and its relationship with the cosmic rhythms that we start to understand Ayurveda. Health is simply a starting point and not the goal itself. Through health we gain the potential to walk on the path of paurush-artha (Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha). Ayurveda leads the pathway to a meaningful life. What one will learn from this session will be how to introduce some practice in your daily routine (especially morning and before bed) to be healthy and to stay healthy. This is a session not to miss for practical application of the philosophy of Ayurveda and Yoga.
Q: The festival changed its name to include “Oneness," the Midwest Yoga and Oneness Festival. I would like to know your thoughts on the concept of oneness.
A: Oneness is beautiful because we all try to understand each other based on similarities and differences. When we see similarities, we feel connected. When we see differences, at times, we feel inspired, or, at times, we feel scared because we don’t understand these differences. When we speak in terms of Yoga, oneness is a different kind. When we add, one plus one, for example, it is an addition, it’s a form of union to become a new number, a completely new identity. But in yogic terms one plus one is equal to none. Which means there is no separation. It is about “dissolution” a complete fading of boundaries and everything becomes one, which means everything becomes none.
This is something I can relate to. For example, I come from India and travel and teach many different places. People ask me how things are different in India, or other comparisons. I focus on the commonalities not the differences. When I travel there may be differences; Different languages, different cultures. But if I peel off the different layers it is still the same human being that desires to connect to something genuine, to be loved, and feel love. That is the same everywhere.
Again, if we draw this into the aspect of yoga, no matter which tools we use, it draws us into the same state. The first step is connecting to yourself and then connecting to everything and everyone else by the noneness, not the state of oneness. So we have to see oneness in a different light.
Q: You will teach many of these tools during the festival. Any advice for people who come?
A: Bring your appetite. The various methods are different ways, different tools that need to be understood in a completely different light but it’s beautiful to see how it comes together, how one leads to another, one becomes the other. And it’s not that one tool is better than another, for example, that meditation is higher than asana or asana is better than kriya. Everything leads to the same state. We just need to understand it in a different light. So all we need is our readiness, our appetite, our sincerity and we learn. Maybe this prayer or affirmation may be helpful to seekers of yoga be it teachers or students, we all are ultimately students.
My practice is not one on the mat or off the mat
My practice is neither for few minutes or in the early morning hours
I free myself from the bonds of time and space
My practice is my whole life
From the first moment I became aware, to the last moment of awareness, it shall be
When life becomes clarity
Each moment becomes Dharana (completely focused in the present moment)
The being becomes Sadhaka (spiritually adept) and the journey becomes
Sadhana (a spiritual way of life)
Don’t miss the early bird registration period! Learn more about Indu Arora on her website at www.yogsadhna.com
by Karen Kramer, Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival Blogger
The longest night of the year approaches with the Winter Solstice on December 21st. This is the time of stillness as the sun comes to its lowest point in the sky and appears to stop. The Latin word solstice is derived from the words sol, meaning ‘sun’, and sistere, meaning ‘to stand’, ‘to stop’. This longer period of darkness provides the perfect time for reflection on the previous year and to lay the groundwork for what we hope to achieve or manifest in the year ahead as we anticipate the returning light.
Let’s each reflect on what our yoga practice means to us and the gifts we have been given this year by our mentors, teachers, students, and fellow class members. Let us be grateful for the connections we’ve made with others and ourselves in mind, body and spirit. Many of us have been led in vastly new areas as doors of awareness open and our practice expands to be a part of our life on and off the mat.
The festival committee is currently laying the groundwork for 2017 as we anticipate the announcements of our fabulously diverse and knowledgeable presenters. We anticipate the gradual lengthening of light and the light that will come in the form of learning from these various teachers, the energy and awakening that occurs when like-minded souls come together for greater good, and we reflect on the gifts of oneness that will be ours.
In this time of stillness and reflection, let’s hold this common intention for the festival gathering: That all of us will benefit from the gifts of oneness –these gifts we offer each other, that we create together. And, equally important, reflect on the contrast of what we will see versus what we won’t.
*Community and Connection vs. Isolation
*Acceptance of Self vs. Self-Doubt
*Understanding and Acceptance of Others vs. Exclusion
*Cooperation vs. Competition
*Love vs. Fear
We all belong! Let’s embrace who we are. Celebrate the freedom to be uniquely ourselves, and the freedom to explore and expand your practice, to discover and grow. The natural by-product of self- acceptance is acceptance of others…love and inclusion!
There is a style for everyone and great opportunity for growth by trying something new at this yoga and oneness celebration. Here is a chance to broaden our base of knowledge with confidence because we can’t get it wrong. We all learn from each other as we share this great energy of cooperation and collaboration.
“Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.” – Harriet Goldhor Lerner
Join the conversation by sharing your reflections in the comments. What are you grateful for in the past year and what do you anticipate in 2017? What are other gifts of oneness that we can celebrate together?
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.