Harmony Yoga Retreat | Yelapa, Mexico

This was my first time out of the country and my first yoga retreat, so it was an amazing adventure, to say the least.

Yoga Journal Conference Midwest

Dharma Mittra, Seane Corn, Aadil Pakhilivala, Maty Ezraty, Jim Bennitt... Need I say more?

Saturday, July 3

Yoga in the Park | Des Moines, IA

LOCATION: The weekend I went there was quite a bit of rain and the river flooded. So they moved us to a school yard, which was less scenic but yoga outside was new to me, so still appealing. They did have excellent signage that led me to the right place (as I didn't know we were flooded out until I arrived that morning), and the school had free parking.
COST: Free!
STUDIO: Outside! (see location)
CLASS DESCRIPTION: The Des Moines Park and Recreation invites you to enjoy your Saturday morning by participating in a free weekly yoga session at Grays Lake. Maximize your stress relief by practicing yoga next to the water's edge while being led by local volunteer teachers—each week will be a different yoga experience!
INSTRUCTOR: Roxanne from Harmony Yoga was the instructor this morning. They rotate instructors each week.

Just Allow!

Roxanne kept sneaking this into the practice... just allow your breath to flow naturally, just allow yourself to sit in this pose, just allow yourself to reflect on your practice. It was a wonderful reminder for yoga and life in general. We went through a very similar order of things as I'm use to at home. This was the biggest class I've ever attended, probably 30-40 people I'd guess. That was really interesting too. I tried to get a picture of it, but at the beginning there weren't that many people, in the middle I'm not breaking my stride, and at the end everyone jetted out.

Partner yoga has been brought up a lot lately... at thai massages, in class, in magazines, etc. I'm not much of a group person. Maybe it's the only child in me that prefers the time alone... or maybe like everyone else, it's just uncomfortable. So this has never been really appealing to me. Well, at one point Roxanne said we had a great Kula [sanskrit for community or family] & asked people to form a line of 3-4 people or more. Sigh. We were asked to form our normal tree pose [vrksasana], but place our hands on the back of the people next to us. Once we all found our position we would press our hands into our other buddies back to help lift our hearts to the sky [which opens the chest and forms a stronger core for the position]. It was great. To my left was an elderly woman who was worried she'd knock us all down with her lack of balance, I assured her we'd help one another out... and in return, to share awkwardness, I pointed out it was probably worse to have to touch my gross, sweaty back. It was pretty gross. Then we lifted and held our pose. What a great experience, it really was nice to adjust my balance to not only the movement of myself but those on either side of me... and down the line. You could hear different groups giggling and impressed with their ability to do this... it was really rewarding.

At the end, after savasana, we brought ourselves up to our sitting position, normal for the yoga classes I've taken. But Roxanne went into a different mudra than normal. We placed our left hand on our heart and our right hand on the ground. It was a moment to recognize the energy we gain from the world around us, and that out of respect we should replenish the energy we removed. I love being reminded that I'm small, that I'm just a tiny cog in this ginormous universe. It makes my problems seem ridiculous and it makes my actions more meaningful. It's a nice place to be.

A fantastic morning, thank you Des Moines.

Saturday, May 8

Living Yoga Center | Urbana, IL

LOCATION: Living Yoga Center is in downtown Urbana, upstairs from Crane Alley. There are two entrances to the studio, but the more common-used one is off the upstairs level of the parking garage it's attached to... you do have to pay for parking in this area, but the parking garage is only 50¢ for the first two hours.
COST: You'll have to go to their website to see the drop-in fee. I signed on for the monthly fee of $65, which allows me to take as many classes I want, along with a few other benefits.
STUDIO: A beautiful space... with two bathrooms, a changing room, a kitchen, a lobby-like area with free tea, and the studio itself is always a breath of fresh air for me. The studio is painted a happy yellow, has a wall full of windows bringing in wonderful light (and privacy, since it's on the second floor).
CLASS DESCRIPTION: The classes I choose are based on when I can make it in the middle of the day... for a while now I've been taking mostly flow classes (with one Hatha in there on Monday mornings)—A stimulating and creative practice that focuses on integrating strength, flexibility, alignment, and awareness through a dynamic sequence of asanas linked by the breath.
INSTRUCTOR: My regular instructors are Hayli and Jenna, with a dose of Mary, Steve, Deb, and Kerry when schedules spoil me. All the instructors at LYC offer wonderful instruction, but I am definitely drawn to Hayli since she as my first instructor (it's like yogic imprinting or something, lol). For full bios on everyone, please visit the site, but i will highlight Hayli in my review. Hayli Peterson has been practicing yoga since 1998 and teaching since 2003. She has trained with Shiva Rea and teaches her flow classes in the Vinyasa style, a stimulating and invigorating practice that focuses on moving the body with the breath while allowing students to work at their own ability level. She also studied and is trained in traditional Ashtanga and Hatha yoga by Yoga Vidya Gurukul in Nasik, India. This is where she derives most of her gentle yoga technique from and teaches these classes with the emphasis on maintaining comfortable, relaxing, and steady postures. She is a certified Massage Therapist with her practice on the same floor as the Living Yoga Center. She also has her MBA through the University of Massachusetts - Amherst and works with her father at Financial Synergy, Inc doing tax accounting and financial planning. Most importantly she has three amazing children and a fabulous husband that are the center of her life.
CONTACT: Living Yoga Center

When I decided to switch from The Refinery to Living Yoga Center I knew I had made the right decision just walking into the studio. The space instantly felt like home to me. What surprised me, was it never occurred to me that Hayli and Steve also feel more comfortable at LYC too. They knew their students well here, and could help the class move along at different levels with ease. It was here I participated in my first oms, my first class longer than an hour, had beautiful passages read to me at the end of a savasana, and my first steps down a lifelong journey with yoga. It's so exciting, looking back on what is probably my year anniversary with LYC.

Each instructor has offered new ways for me to learn about my body and how it should play with the poses. Each class offers me a break in the middle of the stressful work day to breathe, find joy, relax, re-energize, and just be in my own special space on my mat every day. It is here that I have found patience in myself, excitement in my short-comings (knowing I found a starting point to chart my progress), amazement in my capabilities, confidence in my true self, beauty in the people I'm surrounded by, and constant wonderment in where yoga can take the mind, body, and soul.

Yoga's Reach

It is a wonder
how a simple stretch
deepens breath,
and an elegantly held pose
grows to touch the
whole of me.

Like sugar stirred into tea,
the potency
of yoga spreads
from body into mind
and heart, revealing
an ocean of energy
that heals and opens,

holds me close
and sets me free
all in the same moment.

—Danna Faulds