Yoga for Educators

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As you’ve likely heard (because let’s face it; if you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’ve been to a yoga class or two), the Sanskrit root of the word yoga – “yog” – means to yoke together, or to unite. Yet oftentimes, as someone who works at an elementary school by day as a part-time yoga teacher/glittered, bindi-wearing vinyasa practitioner by night, my professional identities can feel rather separate. This distance between the two aspects of where and how I spend my time makes it all the more exciting when I find ways for these two to yoke together.

My Yoga for Educators workshop and series is just that! When I spoke with Leigh, co-owner of Unfold, the yoga therapy studio I’ve been teaching at since I moved to Portland, we discussed what my “ideal client” might be. After I explained to her the joy I’ve experienced in teaching staff yoga at the school I serve at and teaching to AmeriCorps members through my AmeriCorps Yoga workshops, she informed me that it sounds like I love teaching to the “unsung heroes” in our society. I think she’s right.

So it is with same great joy I teach from and to that I bring you the announcement of the Yoga for Educators workshop and series at Unfold. In the workshop happening in two weeks, I will cover:

  • DIY Yoga: creating a sustainable home practice that works within those unique educator schedules
  • Yoga for the Classroom: using mindfulness, meditation and stretch breaks to cultivate more engaged teachers and learners, and
  • Breathwork: to balance our parasympathetic nervous systems in the path to being more present

The series will be a lot like the workshop – just WAY more in-depth. The Yoga for Educator series introduces the wide-reaching practices of yoga in ways that make sense for educators: society’s day-to-day warriors. This series is designed to empower educators with self-care tools for themselves and professional development tools on mindfulness in the classroom. In this series, participants will:

  • Reflect on the importance of the mind-body connection and parasympathetic nervous system
  • Create your own yoga practices for different times of the day and schedules
  • Learn different breathing exercises for both students and teachers; learn how to harness students’ attention through mindfulness and
  • Relax! And develop a whole toolkit for relaxation that can be practiced during the summer, and easily transferred over to the school year!

If you know of any educators in the Portland area, please let them know about this offering (I will also be blogging the highlights so stay tuned) and check out the below links:

Unfold Website (scroll down! sign up!)

Facebook Event for Workshop

Facebook Event for Series

Personal Website ShiraEngel.com

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written from dragonfly coffee house in portland, or

A Guide to Portland Healers

Welcome to The Guide series of Growing Up on OM. This new monthly column supplements the Link Love column for when the natural ideas aren’t flowing as much. These guides will range from guides to cities to guides of yoga studios to guides of healers of all different sorts (today I will start us on the latter). if there are any guides that you know you would particularly like to see please let me know in the comments!

As you have been made well aware of on this blog, I am healing from a broken leg, an injury I came to by way of trauma. Through years of yoga and attempts to heal from non-physical injuries (breakups, moving, typical woes). One aspect of my injury and healing process that continues to fascinate me is that it happened when I was still new to Portland. As a result, much of my experience of this new city is through the lens of the healing process. I am so grateful for all the people, businesses and institutions I have met along the way. Here is a glimpse.

New Heights Physical Therapy

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I can’t say enough positive things about this place so I’ll keep it short. I’ve a lot of time these past few months at this PT practice. Not only is my PT beyond, beyond, beyond amazing (I don’t know what I would do without her), the whole space beams of a welcoming, caring, efficient and intelligent atmosphere. There’s music playing, the reception staff is fantastic and more than anything, I feel like everyone there – especially my PT – wants me to not just get better, but to aggressively get better.

Integrative Trauma Treatment Center

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I go here for EMDR therapy and some Reiki on the side, but this center in Northwest Portland in a gorgeous office that looks like it taken straight out of an Anthropologie catalogue, also offers acupuncture and massage.

Unfold Yoga Therapy Studio

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When I was on the hospital bed about to go into surgery, my roommates told me that is was a good thing I became affiliated with Unfold when I did…because this studio’s slogan/mantra is “unconditionally welcoming” and that applies wholeheartedly to doing the practice with an injury. It’s been a great way to ease back into the asana practice.

Yoga Shala Acupuncture

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I started seeing Fumi at Yoga Shala for acupuncture around my incisions and…wow. Also, the location of Yoga Shala on North Williams in a lovely complex is hard to beat.

Nourish Northwest

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When I first stepped into Nourish Northwest, located on 44th and Hawthorne (next to a Kure Juice Bar!), I felt immediately at home and inspired to live my best self. The decor and the staff were just so gentle. They made my heart swell and encouraged me to eat in a way that fuels Strength + an Abundant life.

2014 in Review

I am inspired by bloggers Kimberly Wilson, Gala Darling and Chris Guillebeau to, in Kimberly’s words “tie a bow” on the year to make room for the presents the presents can bring. And heck, if Facebook is making one for me, I might as well make one for myself!

2014 was a huge year. I wrote a book thesis. Graduated college. Moved across the country. Began an AmeriCorps service. Started biking everywhere. Began paying rent. The list goes on…below (in chronological order).

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2014 was filled with
laughing lotus FLY skool + hands-on 50-hour intensives
• co-directed + passed off the middle school tutoring program in middletown
• taught diy yoga workshop
• participated in iron chef experiment with dear friends
• co-taught kids yoga class w/ the fantastic a
• taught radical vinyasa + fierce flow w/ wesBAM
• passed on wesBAM w/ partner-in-crime r
• attended NYCORE conference
• worked on friend’s senior architecture thesis
• wrote senior thesis on the cuban literacy campaigns
ayurveda + bhakti laughing lotus 50-hour modules
• participated in all senior events
• graduated from wesleyan university
tied a bow on story of a college yogi
• started new blog growing up on om
• spontaneously traveled to chicago for a day to be w/ friends
traveled to italy w/ mom + sister: rome, florence, venice
• romantic vacation on nantucket
• worked as a summer teaching fellow w/ the pase summer learning teaching corps
• had my own first middle school class
• taught a three sisters yoga alumni class
• taught yoga privates
• taught at harlem yoga studio, a new hOMe
• beach + lighthouse tour weekend in maine w/ old roommates + paris friend
• rekindled byfi friendships
• traveled to washington, dc for yoga weekend + to tie a bow on passing on wesBAM
• practiced at laughing lotus nyc a bunch
• returned after a few years to laughing lotus sf for inaugural courage + grace advanced tt
• continued shakespeare in the park tradition

* assisted ali cramer at gigantic yoga class in times square
said goodbye to nyc w/ summer streets + governor’s island

* took boxing course
• successfully completed 250 out of 300 hours of my advanced yoga teacher training w/ laughing lotus
moved to portland
• moved into tiny apartment
• heaps of happy hours
• began americorps service at the best elementary school imaginable
• turned 23 w/ a fabulous birthday party + day of service
• attended chris guillebeau reading
• trips to seattle to visit aunt

* camping trips + visit to oregon coast

* participated in and “won” national novel writing month

• began teaching at unfold yoga studio
broke leg + had surgery
• began healing process
yoga + social change training @ unfold
• home to nyc for the holidays

Here is to a 2015 filled with Metta: Safety, Happiness, Joy + Freedom!

Namaste,
Shira

Living Yoga Gala

On Friday night, I went to my first gala. It was by far one of the most grown-up things I feel like I’ve done. Especially in Portland. I have been yoga networking my way into substitute-teaching jobs at studios in my neighborhood. One of those studios is Unfold, a lovely institution that believes deeply and holistically in partnerships between yoga service organizations. They offer their space to Living Yoga and as a result, Living Yoga offered up a table to them at their annual gigantic fundraiser of a gala.

And a gala it was!

Remember how last week I wrote a blog post about Portland nonprofits? Well, I can now consider myself pretty immersed in all three that I wrote about. I went from a day of school garden training with Growing Gardens to dressing and doing my makeup for an event with Portland’s wealthiest and fanciest. (Yes, I had a little bit of double-life syndrome come through.) When the MC at the event got on stage after the lavish cocktail hour, he said, “Welcome to the best-dressed yoga class of your life.”

These events, I learned, are a great opportunity to talk to others about their paths, overhear conversations on what different yoga service organizations have to offer and glean inspiration straight from the source. It is also a good opportunity to recognize that, well, yogis know how to party.

The above video is a true testament to the work that Living Yoga does and all that yoga service is capable of doing. It was a fabulous (and I do not use that adjective lightly) way to start off the weekend. Talk about nonprofits who know how to do and fund their service in style!

Desserts & Doshas: Skimming the Surface of Ayurveda

Or, shall I say, skimming the ghee off butter…

About a month ago, on a Sunday very like today, when the sun was shining here in Portland, me and my friends A and Z went to Mount Tabor to establish what I hope will become a ritual: picnicking with naturally-sweetened desserts (black bean fudge) and talking about Ayurveda, as my way of both satisfying the curiosity of others and putting my Ayurveda training with Sri Ali Cramer to use. I wanted to make this knowledge public, so here is an only-slightly-edited transcription of our conversation. (And yes, there is no ending to this post on purpose; let the learning continue!)

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Desserts & Doshas in action on Mount Tabor – photo cred to roommate A

DISCLAIMER: This knowledge is neither my own nor steeped in fact. If you are interested in more than a broad overview of this vast field, double check everything in this post; do not take it as the be-all and end-all. I would love for this post and all posts like this to be living documents that can be added to and modified based on developments on the knowledge.

WARNING: Consider yourselves warned that this post will be egregiously tangential. Brace yourselves for side stories that are meant to entertain and provide more knowledge…just don’t expect me to stay on point for the whole post for this one!

Ready, set, get your notebooks out!*

WHAT IS AYURVEDA?

Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. It is the ancient lifestyle science of India, but it has a lot of properties that intersect with Chinese medicine as well, especially because it is based off the prana system and the energy system. There are lots of intersections that are being developed more recently as yoga is shifting to bring both yoga and Ayurveda together. That is where my training came from; in order to combine Ayurveda and Yoga, I had to be trained in Ayurveda independent of Yoga first, before learning how to incorporate it through teaching yoga and balancing people out through a physical practice.

WHAT ARE DOSHAS?

There is actually a store in Portland called Dosha (a salon) that I keep passing by, which is funny because Ayurveda has a lot of beauty regimens that go along with it. It is a huge, unending field. My Ayurveda teacher who led this entire training…the way trainings typically work at Laughing Lotus is that they usually use a lot of the faculty, but for this one, it was really just her. We would have guests come in, but she was with us the whole time, which is unheard of in a Laughing Lotus training for one person to be there for 50 hours in just one week. However, she has a vast amount of knowledge because she has done so many trainings and is still studying. Most books on Ayurveda are over 300 or 400 pages long. They’re textbooks. Ayurveda is based on a dosha system. Dosha means imbalance. But not in the Western way of thinking of imbalances. It is not seen as a negative; it is literally just where you lie on a spectrum. There’s no judgment attached to them…although, I think that for some doshas there can be some judgment attached to it. A lot of the Ayurveda forums that I have been to talked about Pitta as being the most valued dosha in our Western society because it’s very driven and very fast and very, very, very Type A. That’s an imbalance that’s favored in our society, versus Kapha, which is softer and slower, is less favored. There are three doshas: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. And most people are a combination of two doshas.

THE SEASONS

Each dosha is associated with a time of year and a time of day. We’re about to enter Vata Season. Yesterday, I went to an aromatherapy workshop centered around balancing Vata because there’s a lot more wind this time of year. Vata will be stronger in the fall because each dosha is associated with an element and Vata is associated with wind.

*** From here on out, I would strongly recommend taking notes in chart-form for all three doshas, in order to keep up with the tangents. ***

Vata season is the beginning of fall to the beginning of winter. Kapha season is the middle of winter to the end of spring, I think. Everything I say is worth double-checking because I’ve only been studying this for a year so most things haven’t been repeated multiple times to me. And then Pitta is all of summer. Whenever it gets hot, no matter what time of year it is, it’s Pitta season.

THE ELEMENTS

Kapha is water and earth. It’s based on climate more than the seasons. In Portland, for example, the season might be called something different than what it’s called in New York and they might not arrive at the same time. For places where it’s always hot, it’s almost always Pitta season. But then you would go into sub-doshas (where the moon is, where the sun is, and where the planets align). There’s a whole other astronomical side that we had three hours of in my training that blew my mind beyond belief and it’s so bizarre. It got into the colors associated with each dosha and the colors associated with each dosha in order to balance them out. The astronomical part got weird. So, water and earth are Kapha. Pitta is fire. Vata is air. When things get windy – when leaves fall from trees – that is Vata.

CHARACTERISTSICS OF KAPHA

Because Kapha is associated with the water and the earth, Kapha is very grounded.

At this point, Z astutely states,  “I think of water as big and slow and changeable, but over a long period of time.”

Exactly. Those are words straight out of a dosha chart: changeable, but over a long period of time, just like water. Very moist, which kind of goes into the food part of it too, in terms of what foods are used to balance Kapha. As a dosha, Kapha is already watery and oil-based; there is a lot of oil between the joints. On a physical level, Kapha people are naturally very flexible. This surprises a lot of people because Kapha people are also very curvy. We were told that some yoga teachers are in for a surprise when a 300-pound person comes into their class and can bend way deeper than anyone else…because there’s so much oil between the joints. Larger on a physical level. Larger frame…sometimes. That said, it’s really hard to pin someone as just one dosha, which is why it’s hard to find all the characteristics of one dosha on one person because most people aren’t one single dosha. Curvier, can be slightly slower moving. This is all Kapha in its purest most imbalanced form. In this case, imbalanced means that there aren’t other doshas involved; it’s singular. On the spectrum, it’s all the way over and doesn’t leave as much room for other doshas. Caretaking dosha. In terms of leadership styles, Kapha would be a balancer. Very maternal or paternal. Caretaking. Really supportive.

OJAS, SEX & METABOLISM

That’s going to get me into something else: Ojas, which is a type of prana. Prana is life-force, so it is the amount of vitality we have within us at any given moment. The easiest way to understand Ojas is in terms of sex; it’s what we have harvested in us that determines how much we can expend. So, along those lines, in terms of sex and doshas, Kapha people have the most amount of Ojas, which means that typically they are the most fertile. They can have a lot more sex without losing energy. A reason why Ojas is a good way to understand doshas is because it affects metabolism. For Kapha, A and Z mentioned slow and they have a slow metabolism. Pitta: crazy fast metabolism, which means that Pitta can lose and regain Ojas really quickly. Same with Prana. Going with the sex analogy, that means that Pittas can expend a lot of energy with sex and can be completely depleted, but it doesn’t take them that long to fill it back up. Versus Kapha, which doesn’t deplete that; it just taps into it, whereas Pitta depletes and then refills and the exchange is pretty quick. It’s symbolized by a lot of fastness. Vata is very low Ojas.

Ojas is a type of Prana; it’s a sexual energy, but it’s also a metabolic energy…I would call it liquid prana. Prana is a general term, the category. And Ojas is one type of Prana. So prana is any type of energy we have: our breath energy (air energy). Ojas is more the liquid energy that flows through us, but that I might have to do more research with.

CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA

Pitta is really ambitious, fast-working. Type A. In terms of leadership styles, we probably view doshas through those too, because through those it would be easier to find out everything else. Practical thinkers. Pitta’s leadership style is very direct.

Physical Characteristics: Medium frame. Take a person who is a medium frame, very strong (Pitta = muscular). Her personality is very efficiency-oriented and that extends to physical characteristics through having an efficient metabolism. They are speed-oriented, very fast.

CHARACTERISTICS OF VATA

This is a fun one to do characteristics of, because I feel like I have zero Vata in me so I feel like I can spot it better on other people. Vata is both air and space for the elements so Vata can be spacey. Vata types tend to be very creative too and have the spaciness associated with creativity and the creativity associated with spaciness. They always think out of the box. Very, very out of the box thinkers.

Summary: spacey, creative, out of the box thinkers, impractical.

Leadership Style: More of a creative leader. Very solutions-oriented, but more outside the box. So very solutions-oriented, but not using the resources that are already there. So they might be excited about going out and getting new things.

*ON TAKING NOTES: While charts are great, something that I really wish was in my Ayurveda training was showing the intersection of all of them. Charts are really necessary on some level, just like how algorithms are really necessary, but there are ways of looking at it where they are all different forms of support, you know?

Portland: First Impressions

Initially, I planned to write a blog post about all the places I’ve been in Portland so far: coffee shops, bars, yoga studios, etc. But it just wasn’t coming out naturally. Yes, I’ve been to too many “places” to count so far (a byproduct of having out-of-towners visit you when you still feel like an out-of-towner yourself). But the underlying truth of it all is that Portland so far hasn’t been about places; it’s been about impressions. Of this city. Of the people in it. Of the weather. Of the spirit. Here is a compilation for those wondering how it’s going in Stumptown.

Now, for some vignettes…

1. twyla tharpe man on bus

Yesterday: I am taking Trimet home from the elementary school I am doing my service at. I am reading The Creative Habit by the choreographer Twyla Tharpe. A young-ish looking bearded redheaded lanky man wearing plaid is holding his four-year-old son. Everyone offers his son their seats (like, everyone – In New York, some people don’t even realize the person right in front of them is pregnant. I was guilty of that once and, appalled with myself, it was the moment when I realized it was time to leave for a bit). He declines the offer except for when the person sitting next to me gets up at her stop. He leans over to see what I am reading. “I had dinner with Twyla Tharpe once,” he says. Realizing he is talking to me, I exclaim, “Really?” “Yeah, she was flirting with me in San Francisco – it was before I had this guy [points to his adorable son with toddler-sized TOMS]- and she took me out to dinner. She is amazing.” We talk for the rest of the bus ride, until we are no longer strangers.

2. man who commented on my bad outfit

First week in Portland: I am living out of a suitcase at a commune right off Hawthorne Boulevard. The 25-year-old married couple that run the commune have two children, three chickens, a tomato garden and a momo cart (a Nepali food truck that they bike – rather than ride – around the city). The house is always flooded with people so I am waiting as long as I possibly can to do laundry. One day, I emerge wearing a poofy yellow dress that makes me look like a cupcake and, because the mornings are about 20 degrees chillier than the afternoons here, I put a purple sweatshirt on over it. I now look like a vanilla cupcake with food coloring gone wrong. On my way to Oui Presse, a man carrying his own cup of coffee nods in my direction and exclaims (it is 8am in the morning on a Saturday), “I LOVE your outfit!” I think cupcakes are just hipster enough for this city.

3. how many hipsters does it take to refill a carafe of coffee?

My first morning in Portland: I wake up so excited to buy my own cup of coffee in Stumptown, a city known for its coffee! But, because there is a Stumptown in NYC, I decide to get it at Blue Star, a donut shop on Hawthorne instead. I go to the drip machine and the dreaded sound emerges. It takes me about five minutes to get the attention of the man who is attentively decorating the freshly-baked donuts. When I tell him the coffee is out, he informs me it will be a 10-minute wait for more. But he does it with a smile so I take it as a sign from the Universe that I’ve been drinking too much coffee anyways.

4. everyone smiles

When I first started taking the bus, I got creeped out because everyone just smiled at me as I walked on. Between that and the fact that I work at a bizarrely happy school, I think I am learning a new type of samaritan etiquette here: be happy and other people will be happy back.

5. spider on my effing bike

During my first week here, my roommate (from Chicago) pointed out how freaking overgrown everything is. The trees practically bleed into the streets. And, while beautiful, it makes it hard to walk mindlessly or fast (clearly, this is medicine for me) for fear of bumping straight into a tree/branch/plant or – and this is the worst – a SPIDER WEB. I never thought of myself as arachnophobic, but I think that’s just because I was never really around spiders. Here, it’s hard to know when one is going to get hit by a web. Anyways, fast forward to Monday: I enter the bike room to take my bike to the shop and then give it a good ride (it is my second day with a bike here) when I see it. A SPIDER WEB. Entangled throughout my front tire! And up to the handlebar! I didn’t even know this could be possible! I immediately freak out (i.e. I start Snapchatting everyone and their sister; I am a product of my generation). I decide to woman up and remove the bike from the rack anyways, but as I do, THE SPIDER CLIMBS UP THE BIKE. I flip out and stand, staring at the spider, until a nice neighbor named Sam comes in and offers to do the deed for me. Thank you, Sam, for enabling a spider-free ride throughout the many bike lanes (there is practically one on every street; it’s a bike utopia here) in Portland.

6. farmer’s markets or… “haha, my figs are more local than yours!”

After going to the People’s Coop Farmer’s Market last night and having numerous vendors wax poetic about just how local they were and how vegan they were and how mindful they were, this is kind of all I have to say about farmer’s markets in PDX:

Oh, and my mantra for this whole experience still rings true three weeks in: Portlandia is an understatement.