All posts by Sharon

Modern Menstrual Education 101

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Modern Menstrual Education 101
February 28, 2016
1:00 to 3:30
$30 per person REGISTER BY CLICKING HERE

Open to adults (defined as 18 years of age or older), men and women, who are interested in learning more about menstruation.  Workshop is experiencial and will include movement, discussion, plenty of time for questions and lecture.  Yoga instructors will receive a certificate as evidence of participation and valid for 3 CEU credits towards maintaining Yoga Alliance registrations.

Are you a man who was lead out of the health classroom with all the other boys by a male gym teacher while the girls stayed behind to talk about their periods?  Does your partner, wife, sister, mother or running partner say things to you about their periods that you nod your head to when all the while you have NO IDEA what they mean?  Are you a male yoga instructor that would like to feel more comfortable guiding menstruating women towards an energetically nourishing yoga practice during their moon cycles, but you aren’t even sure what is OK or not?  Can a woman get pregnant while she has her period?  Is it dangerous to have sex with a woman who has her period? How can you avoid premenstrual arguments with your girlfriend or wife that seem to happen like clockwork around her period?

Are you a woman who has no idea when she ovulates or if she ovulates at all?  Do you have cramps or mood changes or appetite shifts around your menstrual cycle that are bothersome and you don’t know how to be comfortable or take care of yourself?  Would you like to learn more about the energetic implications of your menstrual cycle and how to take advantage of parts of your cycle that enhance pleasure, creativity and inner quiet and calm?  Do you have no idea when you are going to get your period and just wander around with pads or tampons in your purse wondering when it is going to “show up”?  Do you wish you could ask for space or ask for deeper intimacy sometimes and don’t know how to communicate with your partner or friends around your cycle?  Do you know when you are most likely to conceive a baby and why?

Honestly, what you don’t know about your period is A LOT.  Both men and women need to understand the very real physical and energetic cycles around what women experience so that we can honor and enhance the presence of shakti in our lives.  Regardless of your age or sexual orientation, you live in a world of both men and women—we live together, work together and play together.  Menstruation is a part of women’s lives in a very physical way and they have to learn skills to manage the flow of menstrual fluids in a way that men do not have to learn, but energetically, men are implicated in almost every part of women’s cycles and should not remain ignorant to this incredibly powerful creative cycle.

Everyone is welcome and I ask that you come prepared for honest, open and respectful dialogue around something that many people have considered as dirty, taboo or “women’s business”.  All of your questions will be answered.  If you do not feel comforable discussing body fluids, reproductive health, sexuality, pleasure, birth control, etc. in mixed groups of men and women, then this is not the workshop for you.  But, everyone is warmly welcomed and we will benefit from the diversity of experience that is present.

Sharon Fennimore is a doula and childbirth educator with an interest in fertility and working with women and men to better understand their reproductive and creative capabilities.  She has over twenty-years of experience teaching and practicing yoga and meditation and brings all of these experiences to her workshops.

 

Mary of Greenfield

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Statues and images of Mother Mary are pervasive in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Even out on a short 6-block urban walk, I passed many unique images of Mary.  Even if we aren’t out looking for the divine, the presence of this nourishing mother figure impacts our lives in ways we may or may not be aware of.  Regardless of your personal connection to this figure, her presence in this neighborhood impacts the spirit and energy of the community itself.  Intellectually, we may allow ourselves to live such distracted lives that we don’t notice the divine images all around us.  We may think that we are non-believers or non-practitioners and that we need to go to a church or temple or religious center to find the divine, yet even a simple and brief urban walk of a quarter mile results in opportunities to think about the presence of beings more powerful and compassionate than humans.  All we need to do is go out and be a witness to what is perceivable to the eyes.  I find it interesting to find that so many statues have been placed beside utility meters.

Wisdom Body Yoga & Meditation

Tibetan yoga

Have you ever witnessed a friend, family member or colleague at work create suffering or patterns of suffering for themself?  It’s so hard to watch.  It’s so easy to identify the pattern, the problem, the mistakes.  It’s equally simple to see an obvious solution.  On the other hand, you know that communicating your clarity and the obvious solution is unlikely to have the desired effect for the sufferer.  Your suffering friend will likely defend their actions, their pattern and even fight to maintain their problem (or that there isn’t a problem at all) until their last breath.  What you would witness, if you ever got the courage to approach your suffering person knowing that the friendship or relationship might be forever damaged, is the power of the ego.  Your ego knows that suffering and the commitment to that pattern is comfortable and complete.  The ego will jump in to defend itself and hear everything as a criticism.  The ego will not be defeated.  And, even worse, the truth for all of us is that we are also just as suffering, just as stuck in patterns of our own demise.  We are, at all times, the witness to suffering and the sufferer.

There is excellent news though!  We are not actually stuck in this wheel of suffering (aka. samsara)!  And, I imagine that you already know what the solution is, but, your ego is so strong that you aren’t permitting yourself to act on it.  If you have read any magazine, journal, newspaper, been on Facebook, made a new friend or overheard a conversation at a restaurant in the past ten-years, then you know that meditation and yoga are good for you.  REALLY good for you.  If you are reading this, it means you likely have an even deeper knowing.  Also, through trial and error you likely know that lots of things that you thought would make you happy haven’t actually relieved you of any suffering at all.  Examples might include: getting into college, getting laid, falling in love, having children, getting a new job, graduating, passing that test, buying a new car, when summer arrived, the day your book was published, that time you won that award, etc.  Sure, there was momentary pleasure, bliss, joy, excitement, passion, delight…………but, you woke up the next day your same miserable self.  Or maybe you were back to suffering in an hour or maybe the things you thought would bring you happiness didn’t at all, but everyone expected you to be happy and that expectation made you feel even worse?  And, there you were, back on the wheel of suffering.

For me, this is what I like about Wisdom Body Yoga and Meditation.  This yoga, based on Tibetan Buddhist yoga and meditation practices, brings a state of balance and equanimity that is immediate and satisfying.  Although many of the physical postures are identical to the Indian yogas that informed the practices traditionally, the intention, visualizations, and breathing techniques are very different.  With regular practice, we come to understand that we have the ability to generate a feeling of calm.  If this feeling of calm and joy is self-generated, then it is not so far of a stretch of the imagination to know that we are also creating our own suffering.  In addition, we are empowered to know that we don’t have to rely on anyone else acting in any particular way to feel calm and happy.  We can cultivate these qualities anytime we want and, in many cases, all it takes are a few deep breaths or some mindful movement or even a little nap.

The physical movements in my Wisdom Body Yoga and Meditation classes are not all that difficult.  Because the movements require certain breathing patterns and also visualizations, they are mostly practiced slowly and with great compassion.  This makes the practice available to anyone who wishes to try it.  I offer this class once a week on Wednesdays from 10:00 to 11:00 am at Mookshi Wellness Center in Pittsburgh.  The energetic principles behind this practice are the foundation for my group coaching program, Make Room, which can be accessed anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

I can’t make you do yoga or learn to meditate.  But I will assure you that it is worth the investment of time and energy to give it a try.  It is my life’s work to practice this and share the practice.  Of this, I am sure.  I am just as sure that your new purse isn’t going to make you happy by the end of the week, but a commitment to your meditation practice will give you a lifetime of security and well-being.  Oh, I know, your ego just whispered in your ear that you: don’t have the money, don’t have the time, would have to give up your knitting group, would miss precious time with your children, can’t get out of work in time for class, aren’t flexible enough, are too fat to take a yoga class, can’t let anyone see your ugly feet……blah, blah, blah.  Tell your ego to take a hike for an hour!

Written by Sharon Fennimore, an Integrated Health Coach, yoga instructor and doula based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Find out more about Sharon and her global services by clicking HERE.  If you want to learn more and receive updates and free wellness resources, sign up for Sharon’s newsletter by clicking HERE.  Do you need a good laugh RIGHT NOW? Check out this website for hilarious videos and content.  Do you wish you had a fabulous website?  Then you need to work with Kenneth Feldman.  Seriously.  He’s the best. 

Online Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training

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Not only is this a very rewarding specialty, but considering the fact that over 80% of American yoga practitioners are women, it is imperative that all yoga instructors explore ways to support optimal women’s reproductive health for women who choose to attend their classes.  These skills will help inform all of your teaching and the program itself is rigorous and demands personal and professional transformation.r pregnancies and prepare for childbirth.

This intellectual approach to yoga as a science requires self-study and an investigation of the cultural, social and economic values that we hold around fertility, women’s health and specifically reproduction so that we can teach from our hearts.  Informed by contemporary social theory and medical anthropology, also allows Matrika Prenatal instructors to support students in a way that no other method provides support for.  If you are looking for a yoga training that is about memorizing asana sequences, then this is not the program for you.  These personal and professional training programs are transformative on both personal and professional levels and will require consistent commitment to study and practice.

This method, philosophy and approach has been refined over almost 15-years by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, MA, E-RYT, R-PYT and DONA Trained Birth Doula and enjoyed by thousands of women.

Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Program

Amazing online training with private mentoring sessions that is ideal for busy professionals trying to juggle career and family while also moving in the direction of your dreams.  Ideal for expats or English speakers all over the world who do not have access to a RPYT training school, but wish to work towards their certification while traveling or living abroad.  There are two tracks of study available:

  1. 30 CEU Credits for Yoga Teachers
  2. 100-Hour Prenatal Yoga Specialist Certification

What Makes Matrika Prenatal Yoga Special?

  • Emphasis on Tantric subtle body anatomy
  • Focus on how culture and reproductive politics impact fertility and pregnancy
  • Learn how to support optimum fertility with yoga
  • Use of Buddhist philosophy applied to teaching prenatal yoga
  • Learn how to teach visualization and meditation specific to pregnancy
  • Includes the use of yoga and meditation to prepare for labor and birth
  • Postpartum care and Mom and Baby Yoga

Who facilitates the course?

Sharon Fennimore, MA, E-RYT, R-PYT,  designed this course and has almost 20-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and meditation.  Sharon is a DONA trained birth doula and holds two Masters Degrees in East Asian Studies and Cultural Anthropology.  She has worked with thousands of expectant women and their families over the past 15-years and has been offering prenatal yoga teacher training courses for over seven-years.

TRACK ONE: 30 CEU Credits for Yoga Teachers

Track One 30 CEU CreditsPerfect for yoga instructors who need a flexible continuing education program option and have a special interest in learning more about prenatal yoga and teaching yoga to women who are pregnant who may take public group classes during pregnancy.  While in the continuing education program, you can up-level to the certification option at any time by purchasing the additional private session package that provides the required contact hours for R-PYT certification.  Your tuition includes a holistic online course including 16-video lectures, audio guided practices, handouts and class planning tools, a copy of Sharon Fennimore’s eBook “Matrika Prenatal Yoga” with audio guide.  Your tuition does not include the required textbooks.

Enroll NOW for IMMEDIATE Course Access ($350) 

TRACK TWO: Prenatal Yoga Specialist Certification (R-PYT)

Track Two RPYTThe second track is a 100-hour program that leads to registration with Yoga Alliance as a certified prenatal yoga specialist with the R-PYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) credentials.  This track also includes four private distance sessions with Sharon Fennimore (either with SKYPE or by phone), unlimited e-mail communication during your course of study, review of all written work submitted and a graduation certificate that is required by Yoga Alliance as evidence of your completion of the requirements to be a prenatal yoga specialist.  Choosing this track is a significant commitment to becoming a specialist in working with pregnant women, their infants and their families and support system.  There is significant reading, writing and practicum requirements and certification requires your active participation in the online course discussion boards.

Enroll NOW for IMMEDIATE Course Access ($750)

Enroll NOW with a 4-month Payment Plan ($900 total/$225 per month of plan)

Comparison of Two-Tracks of Professional Study

Prenatal Training Track Chart

Tuition for both tracks includes: online course enrollment, a copy of Sharon Fennimore’s e-book “Matrika Prenatal” and the accompanying 45-minute audio guide, 16-video lectures, unlimited e-mail support from the facilitator during the length of the program, ongoing teleseminars and Q&A sessions and a BONUS 5 CEU credit postpartum yoga training.

Having Trouble Deciding Which Track is Right for You?

If you know that you wish to pursue continuing education in prenatal yoga and tantric subtle body anatomy with Sharon, but you aren’t sure if the 100-hour commitment is right for you, then the best thing to do is enroll in the online course (which is the 30-CEU credit option) and then see how it goes.  If you love it and you want to go deep into the study, then you can level-up to certification at any time during your course enrollment by purchasing the additional $400 private session package.

 Enroll in Prenatal Yoga Online CourseAs soon as you pay tuition for the online course, you will have immediate access to full course materials, list of required textbooks and graduation requirements for both tracks. If you are interested in the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist track, you can purchase your private session package ($400) from the online course and schedule your sessions.  Everything is available at your convenience online 24/7.  You will work at your own pace and there is no way to “miss” anything—all events are recorded.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason and only participants who meet the requirements for their track will be given certificates.  Enrollment is not a guarantee of graduation.  Fees associated with maintaining your Yoga Alliance registrations are not included in tuition.

I Know I Want to Pursue R-PYT Certification, but I Need a Payment Plan

100 Hour Program Payment PlanAre you interested in a payment plan?  A 4-month payment plan ($225 per month) is available for yoga teachers enrolling in the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist track.  This payment plan includes both tuition for the online course AND a 4-private session package which covers all of the required private sessions for your program.  After you make your first payment, you will be invited by e-mail to the online course within 24-hours and you can enroll and schedule your private sessions.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason and all payments in the plan must be made regardless of your actual participation.  Graduation and certification is not guaranteed and participants must meet all requirements in order to receive a final certificate to use when applying for RPYT status with Yoga Alliance.  Yoga Alliance registration fees are not included in tuition.

 The Online Course is organized by the following  topics:

Topic I: Orientation
Topic II: Culture and Reproduction
Topic III: Yoga During Pregnancy
Topic IV: Common Pregnancy Complaints
Topic V: Teaching Matrika Prenatal Yoga
Topic VI: Practicum and Professionalization
Topic VII: Postpartum and Baby Yoga
Topic VIII: Graduation and Evaluation
Topic IX: Course Resources


Lectures

The online course includes access to sixteen lectures that you can download and watch at your convenience.  If you are taking this course for Yoga Alliance registration and certification, you will need to complete the worksheet that is associated with each lecture and submit your work for review to Sharon.  Worksheets are not required for the 30 CEU credit track, but it is highly recommended that all students watch the lectures.

Orientation
Culture and Reproduction
Anatomy of Pregnancy
Introduction to “The Matrika”
Three Energetic Diaphragms and Pregnancy 11/17
Special Considerations
Modifications
Class Planning
Using Matrika Prenatal to Prepare for Birth and During Labor
Postpartum Care
Anatomy of Pregnancy and Birth Recovery
Mom & Baby Yoga 

Group Mentoring Q&A Calls

In addition to the lectures, discussion board moderation and our private sessions together, I will regularly schedule group Q&A calls as needed.  If it seems like there is a particular need for the group or a topic that needs more time and exploration, then I may create a topic for a particular call, but these are designed to be open for any questions on any part of the course material.  I will also regularly add calls that both current and previous trainees can attend to discuss important topics for Prenatal Yoga Teachers.

Graduation and Registration with Yoga Alliance as an RPYT

In order to graduate from the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist certification program, you must complete all required written work, observations, practice teaching  and submit your work for review to Sharon Fennimore, complete four private sessions with Sharon (distance by phone and/or SKYPE), and complete the online course module including active participation in online course discussions.  It is possible to complete the course within 6-months, but most trainees take an entire year to finish all of the requirements.  When you have completed all of the requirements, Sharon will email you a PDF of a signed graduation certificate that you can use to register with Yoga Alliance as an RPYT if you choose to register as a yoga instructor in this specialty.  A paper certificate is not provided, but you can print out your color certificate at your convenience from the PDF you receive if you choose to. Your costs for that registration are not included in your tuition.  Your graduation is not guaranteed and you will earn your certification through high quality work, enthusiastic participation and meeting all of the graduation requirements.

S01-YA-SCHOOL-RPYSYOGA MATRIKA is a Registered Prenatal Yoga School and graduates who meet ALL requirements are eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as a prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT).  Yoga Alliance requires that you graduate from a RPYS AND that you have a current registration with them as a minimum 200 RYT and that after you graduate from the RPYS that you teach a minimum of 30-prenatal yoga classes that you document with Yoga Alliance before they give you the RPYT credential.

Fine Print

  1. No refunds for tuition for online programs, mentoring packages or training retreats for ANY reason.  If you need an extension for personal reasons, please contact Sharon by e-mail at your earliest convenience.
  2. There is absolutely no guarantee of graduation or certification.  Your work and training portfolio will be evaluated and your ability to complete the program and obtain certification documents will be based on the merits of your participation and quality of the portfolio that you submit.
  3. Online programs are not for everyone.  With flexibility comes extraordinary personal responsibility.  You must also have the technical skills to register for the online program, upload documents and submit work as PDF files.  Consistent access to a computer and the internet are imperative.
  4. You should be able to set aside 15-20 hours for each month of your program for working online, reading and writing assignments.  It is important that you put these hours in your calendar and stick to a schedule.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that you will complete your program in time.  If something “comes up” then you must re-schedule your time.
  5. The cost of required textbooks is not included in any of the above fees.
  6. The cost of registration with Yoga Alliance is not included in any of the above fees.
  7. These programs provide an esoteric and intellectual approach to the science and practice of yoga.  This may challenge your current practice or ideas about yoga and meditation.  Personal mentoring sessions are designed to help you incorporate this information into your own practice and unique teaching voice.  Be prepared to be challenged and inspired!

Yoga and Meditation Class Schedule

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Here is Sharon Fennimore’s current group yoga and meditation class schedule

 GROUP YOGA and MEDITATION CLASSES

MONDAYS
7:00 to 8:15 pm
RESTORATIVE YOGA @ Mookshi Wellness Center

TUESDAYS
5:30 to 6:45 pm
MINDFUL YOGA and MEDITATION @Mookshi Wellness Center

WEDNESDAYS
10:00 to 11:00 am
WISDOM BODY YOGA and MEDITATION @Mookshi Wellness Center

Group Coaching Programs

MAKE ROOM

MAKE ROOM

Sattvic Diet: Eating for Equilibrium and Essence

For the purposes of Make Room, I would like to suggest that you only think about adding things to your diet.  Although I’m sure that this means different things to different people, the reality is that there is only so much food you can fit into the human body in any given day and so, my thinking on this is that you can create a big shift by just adding delicious whole foods.  If you just really enjoyed a lovely miso soup and a grilled mushroom sandwhich, chances are, when you pass Pizza Hut, you won’t give stopping by all that much thought.  You might consider it, but you will be full.  So, when you get the new newsletter, check out the list of foods suggested and see about adding something that sounds good.  If nothing seems familiar, go on an adventure and try something new.  If there is something you love, go ahead and eat more of that.

A sattvic diet has the following qualities:

  • Highest quality, freshness and close-ness to life-force (recently picked, in season, etc.)
  • Food categories include grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, dairy and legumes like tofu, lentils, peas, mung beans, and aduki beans.
  • Food is recently prepared (not frozen, shrink wrapped, preserved, etc.) and is cooked to perfection, not oily or greasy
  • Spices are used in moderation
  • The cook was in a mindful and calm state themselves when they prepared the food

Sattvic food is very simple.  In some of our meals, there are over a dozen ingredients and even if all those ingredients are healthy and fresh, this produces an overload of mental and digestive sensory information to process.  If you wonder if this is true for you, try to eat simply for two days.  Then, just notice how your mind and body feel.  If you eat simply for a few weeks, you will likely find that you feel clearer, brighter and stronger and the best energy of your lifetime.

Pritchard warns us that, “The modern denaturing of foods through massive refining and chemical treatment deranges their pranic-qi life force, making them unable to foster Sattva equilibrium and essence.”  The sattvic emphasis on complex carbohydrates and dairy products promotes brain chemistry rich in tryptophan, seratonin, and melatonin.  Your diet is very important.  You can sit in meditation all you like, but following it up with a lunch of Swedish Fish and Diet Coke (I know this from personal experience…….) will make you jumpy and feel strained and low energy.  (Pritchard, page 640-641)

MISO

Whether you have been cooking with miso for your whole life or you’ve never used it before, this miso cookbook has many gems.  Miso is a fermented soy product and it makes for a very tasty sauce for cooked greens, in soups, and many more stews and dishes.  As you try new things, I can’t recommend adding miso to your diet highly enough.  Here is a Miso Soup Recipe with Mushrooms including greens.  Miso is salty and flavorful like a rich broth.  You will love it!

LENTILS

I prefer to use the green “french lentils” for this slow-cooker recipe.  There’s no reason why you can’t just create this dish on your stove-top if you are spending an evening at home and can keep an eye on it.  Also, when I make these Honey Lentils, I like to use half the honey recommended and then substitute another sweetener for the other half.  I have successfully used barley malt syrup and brown rice syrup for the other “half” of the sweetener.  Try it out for yourself, but this is also a great time to experiment with different sweeteners that you may have never used in your cooking before. And, if you are into slow cooker use, then you need to sign up for Stephanie O’Dea’s website newsletter because she sends out great ideas for free in the newsletter and she sells packages of grocery lists and meals that make cooking warm and nourishing meals with basic ingredients pretty much a no-brainer.  Here is a link to her honey lentils.  

REFERENCE

Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition.  Third Edition. By Paul Pritchford. North Atlantic Books 2002.

Power Feng Shui

MAKE ROOM

You’ve certainly heard of power yoga….right?  Well, this nine-day challenge is power feng shui! I would like to invite you to an extreme feng shui challenge:

For nine-days, on each day, throw out/donate/sell 27-objects.

Yes, I’m serious.  And, honestly, it isn’t going to be THAT difficult.  When you take the challenge, you start to see the objects around you in a whole different light.  You start to think, “Do I really like that?  If not, I’ll use that as one of my 27-objects today!”.  You start to remember drawers filled with broken pencil erasers that you happily dump.  You have thousands of objects around you at any given time and you can live without at least 243 of them: decks of cards without all the cards, that note your college girlfriend sent you when you were living in Istanbul….20-years ago, photographs of relatives (are they relatives?) you can’t name, pens that don’t work, all the supplies you need to make a godzilla hook rug.  Trust me. You can do this!

What happens at the end of nine days feels miraculous.  A huge weight is lifted from your heart, mind and body and wonderful new things come to you.  New ideas, new friends, new activities, new objects, new jobs………Here is the deal, you have to trust that the empty space you create will be filled by fabulous new things.  Are you willing to trade that drawer of old underwear that you will “just use for when you have your period”, but, you and I both know you just never wear anymore (maybe because the elastic is unraveling too…….) for the time and supplies you need to start a new hobby, read a new book, start to write poetry again, for a friend to give you a new pair of earrings just because?

I hope you will take the challenge and I also hope that you will join my new online coaching group called Make Space.  For just $8 a month you can be a part of our support group for adults who want to be mindful of their personal environments.  The objects we choose to wear, use, and keep around us have a significant impact on our health, relationships and ability to be creative.  You can join at any time and we will warmly welcome you to the group!

I’m going to take the challenge myself and I’ll be posting my nine-days of release and about the miracles that follow right here on the blog.  I hope you will share your experience too by commenting below or

Make Room

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In October of this year, we discovered that my nine-year old son Nick has significant issues with impacted teeth and a lack of space that is going to require two-phases of comprehensive orthodontic care and surgeries.  The first phase of orthodontic care, the one where we will make space, costs almost $6,000 and his health insurance does not cover any part of this.  Many of you know that my little family has already been through a difficult number of years.  My children and I have moved over four-times in two-years and, in January of 2015, my son was in a very bad sledding accident and ended up in a wheelchair for almost five months.  We lost our apartment and I wasn’t able to work for a number of months while I carried him everywhere and took him for medical appointments and helped him heal.

Nick’s orthodontic care is necessary to save him from a childhood of pain and to make every effort possible to save his adult teeth.  This is not simply a cosmetic need.  Without intervention as soon as possible, Nick will likely have a great deal of pain for years until he eventually loses all six of his front teeth in his upper jaw.  Since some of his adult teeth are impacted, they will require surgery so that they can be captured and slowly pulled down.  Right now, they are both impacted and coming out at a 60 degree angle.  Last week, for the first time in our lives, I received a call from Nick’s school saying that he was in so much mouth pain that he needed to be picked up from school.  Until Nick’s sledding accident, he had only missed about 3-days of school due to illness since kindergarten.  Nick is a wonderful student and loves being active at school, being with his friends, and working really hard.  To see him suffer like this is terrible.

I know that a lot of my students, clients and members of the Yoga Matrika community have already done a great deal to help support me and my family.  Last year, someone sent me an anonymous gift card for Giant Eagle in December and it came at just the moment when I wasn’t sure how I was going to buy groceries that week.  When we had to leave our house and my children needed to share a room, two of my students bought a bunk bed and other furniture that eased the loss and made the move more fun.  And, it gave my children a safe place to sleep.  I don’t want to ask for “donations” as I am not a non-profit.  Although I hope that my work in the world is of service and creates greater peace and well-being, it is work and this is my business for which I intend to financially profit from.

In honor of my family’s critical need for more space at this time, I have created a new program called “Make Space”.  Just as I need to invest in care that will help make space in my beloved son’s mouth, I know that many of us feel that we need to make room in our lives for both necessities and desires.  We feel like those impacted teeth: cluttered, stuck, overwhelmed and cramped. Your investment in this program will go directly to helping me pay for Nick’s comprehensive orthodontic care and, I hope, to making room in your life for what is a priority for you.

What is MAKE SPACE?  Make space is an online program with instruction in how to clear physical clutter from any space from your purse to your bedroom closet to your car and office. We will also look at how to make mental space by releasing fear, worry and negative thoughts that hold you back.  You will learn how to use breathing, visualization, meditation and gentle movement to create mental and physical space, open your heart and find the courage to name what you want and to go and get it.

MAKE SPACE: Enroll Today and You will Receive

  1. A monthly newsletter for 12-months (start at any time as the months are numbered and not associated with any particular calendar month or season) with recommendations for readings, activities, recipees and lifestyle upgrades for letting go, making room and then living with the greatest joy possible.
  2. Access to an online course with interactive discussion boards, videos and audio recordings that will help you learn the meditation, breathing and visualization techniques that help you make room.
  3. Monthly teleseminars (12-total) and quarterly webinars (4-total)  that you can participate in live, ask questions and interact with Sharon and other participants.  If you miss them for any reason, they are all recorded.
  4. An opportunity to study meditation with Sharon privately (using SKYPE or in her office in Regent Square for Pittsburgh participants) at a 50% discount.

Investment Options

A. $85 One-Time Payment

B. $8 per month for 12-months Payment Plan  (Be honest, you spend more playing Candy Crush or on drinks every month.)

C. Choose your amount of investment: Give what you can and at the frequency that is best for you (make a one time payment, or make multiple payments over time).  Any amount is appreciated and is important to me.

Within 48-hours of making your investment, you will receive an e-mail invitation to the online course AND you will receive your first of 12-newsletters.  If you do not receive online course access within this time frame, please send an e-mail to Sharon directly so she can look into it.  Make sure you check your SPAM folder first.  Some firewall software at corporations where security is exceptionally high (or even Universities that have to have broad protections), will block online course access.  This should be rare.  Otherwise, once you receive your invitation, you will have unlimited online course access and you can download any of the MP3 audio files, MP4 video files and all PDF handouts to use at your convenience.  Sharon’s e-mail is: sharon@yogamatrika.com.

 

What is a Health Coach Session?

Buddha Breath

Recently, my sister suggested to me that I start a website called “NotaDoctor.com” and offer intuitive medical counseling to clients.  You see, I’m not a doctor.  I’m not a doctor by any definition.  But, after 20-years of facilitating yoga and movement therapies, studying anatomy and reading as much as I can about the relationship between mind and body combined with a natural ability to “see” my clients as whole and well regardless of their current health and wellness concerns, I have a great deal to offer my students and clients.

These sessions are especially helpful for adults who have been told by their therapist or doctor that meditation, mindfulness practices or yoga would be helpful to them in their healing or wellness, but they don’t know where to begin.  I can work with you on sequences of breathing, visualization, relaxation, meditation and/or gentle movements that help you make these healing practices a part of your daily life.  There are many different kinds of meditation and I can help you decide what works best for your personality, lifestyle and health concerns.  We will practice together until you feel confident that you can practice daily on your own.

I am especially skilled in working on women’s health concerns offering modern menstrual education, optimum fertility and conception planning, pregnancy support and nourishing guidance for parents of newborns and infants up to two-years of age.  I am also of the belief that women experience and manage stress in unique ways from men and provide very specific relief from anxiety, worry and pervasive fears for women.

I am particularly concerned with the anxiety and crisis of the self that young women and teens are experiencing.  From test anxiety, body shame to social concerns, it can be near impossible to find your divine purpose and self in the sea of mixed-messages and social and family stress.  I provide very specific stress management skills, lifestyle enhancement and organization tools for teen girls.

For women who suffer from chronic concerns or who have been diagnosed with cancer or other life-transforming illness and disease, I can provide centering so that you can make the best choices for your healthcare out of the options you are presented with.  I am not a doctor and can’t provide diagnosis or medical advice, but I can support you in finding your intuitive senses so that you feel confident about your options and choices.  Many life-changing illnesses also require painful treatments, frustrations and challenges including debilitating fear and anxiety.  I can teach you very simple techniques that can relieve anxiety and help you find all available comfort.

You can find all of my health and lifestyle coaching packages HERE.

Online Yoga Teacher Training

I offer unique online training and study opportunities for yoga teachers who are interested in learning more about meditation, Buddhist philosophy, reading sutras and working with pregnant and new mothers.  There are definitely benefits to online learning, but it is not necessarily for everyone.

It is ideal to have direct transmission of these concepts and ideas from teacher to student.  If you have the opportunity to work with a meditation teacher, study sutras or take a prenatal yoga training that allows you to be in the presence of your teacher, then you should take advantage of this possibility.  Sometimes though, the opportunity exists, but our lifestyle will not permit us to take advantage of it.  Perhaps the training times and dates are in conflict with your teaching responsibilities, work or home life schedule.  If this is the case, then exploring an online training may give you the guidance you need to study on your own and obtain the credits you need to maintain your Yoga Alliance membership and registration.

Many of my online students are taking my courses from all over the world and they simply can’t access the training they need in their geographical location or in a language that will be understood.  Some American expatriates living abroad know that they plan to return to the United States and want to keep up their credentials while living abroad.  In these cases, my online teacher training courses are absolutely ideal.  If you’ve never used SKYPE, it may seem awkward or foreign to study with a teacher through the internet, but it’s amazing how this technology allows me to make deep connections with my students.  We can’t “touch”, but I can be fully present.

Yes, online courses are less expensive than in-person trainings.  This is because my costs for offering the program are lower and I can pass these savings onto my students.  On the other hand, when I offer an in-person workshop or training, the cost is higher, but I have almost 100% attendance from students who have enrolled.  In my online courses, more than half of the students who enroll do not finish the course.  Many students sign-up because it is “so cheap” and they can “fit it in anytime” and then they find that they actually don’t have the time to do the work or study and no matter how much less expensive it is, if it isn’t the right program for you, then it is a waste.  It’s important to be highly motivated, organized and to be able to schedule your study time and private sessions and maintain your priorities.

I invite you to explore my online study opportunities for yoga teachers (many are open to non-teachers too!) and take advantage of these economical and high-quality courses that will deepen your practice, give you dynamic teaching and practice tools and enhance your career options.  If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you: sharon@yogamatrika.com.

Imperfect Vessels

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I’m always reading.  Whenever I come across common themes in my reading, I try to make note of it and then think about what that theme means to me in my life, my practice and my work.  Two-weeks ago, in everything I was reading, the word or theme of “imagination” kept popping up.  This week, in two completely different books, the Buddhist teaching of the imperfect vessels revealed itself to me.  This teaching provides a way for us to study ourselves and then develop practices that support our current state of mind.

The first type of imperfect vessel is an upside down vessel.  It’s impossible to fill a vase with beautiful flowers if the vase is upside down.  In this type of vessel, the opening is completely closed off.  In this “closed mind” there is no role for meditation or yoga practice.  It is likely that all of us experience times when our minds are the upside down vessel.  It is just as likely that we can think of someone that we know or have been forced to work with or relate to that seems to have a mind like an upside down vessel at all times.  Nothing you say, no workshop, no training, no professional advice, no class—nothing penetrates or makes a difference.  In my yoga classes I never have to worry about having students with this mind-type because just deciding to take a yoga class is an opening—however small that crack or pore might be.  In general, anyone who reads this and thinks to themselves, “Wow!  Sometimes my mind is completely closed off like an upside down vessel.” isn’t the type of person who has a mind like this all the time.  It’s likely you have one of the other types of imperfect vessels that you are working with.  If you read this and think, “I’m never upside down or closed off.”—well, hate to be the one to tell you, but then it is likely your mind is more like an upside down vessel for most of the time than not.  There is a Buddhist sutra that says, “Things are not what they seem to be, nor are they otherwise.” (1)

The second type of imperfect vessel is the dirty vessel.  This is a mind that is impacted by physical body toxins, being psychologically toxic and needing to take steps or adapt a practice with an emphasis on purification.  The dirty vessel pollutes whatever is poured into it.  So, this mind can study all the teachings and practice yoga and meditation, but all the information received is polluted.  Personally, I’ve been thinking about this a great deal because one of my vices is Diet Coke.  Whenever I get stressed out or tired or lonely or sad or just want to choose a beverage to go with what I am eating for lunch, my first choice is a nice bubbly Diet Coke.  Well, this pollutes the vessel.  I can do all the yoga I want, but my body has to work really hard to get rid of the carcinogens, food coloring, blah blah blah……it’s hard to find any enlightenment when you have to work that hard just to get clear.  Part of my personal practice right now is to make other choices that are nourishing and support the qualities of mind that I wish to enhance through my meditation and yoga practices.

The third type of vessel is the leaky vessel.  This type of vessel has some kind of crack or hole in it and it can’t hold what you put in it.  A mind like a leaky vessel is unstable, there are too many distractions and it feels impossible to make decisions.  The type of practice for this quality of mind requires discipline.  Bringing the quality of discipline into one’s life through regular practice of yoga and meditation, no matter what, is a way to work with this type of imperfect vessel.

The fourth type of imperfect vessel is the tilted vessel.  In this type of mind, you receive teachings, but you are unable to maximize your full potential.  If this is the type of mind you are working with, then practices that are designed to help “right” your vessel are what you would work with.  In this case it is more about fine-tuning the subtle body and making choices about including practices that enhance the flow of energy through the chakras, work with sound and subtle body anatomy with pranayama and visualization.

Self-study and considering our quality of mind at any given time isn’t about judgment.  These imperfect vessels give us the tools to consider our quality of mind at any given moment and step-back from our habitual responses to criticism, stress, fear or confusion.  We can observe ourselves and others with curiosity and drop our attachment to specific outcomes or trying to control ourselves or others.  It’s a way to be more open and creative and find solutions to the challenges that we face with equanimity.

This post written by Sharon Fennimore who is offering a series of workshops exploring five Buddhist sutras in translation starting in fall 2015 in Pittsburgh, PA.

REFERENCES

“Things are not what they seem to be, nor are they otherwise.” is from the Shurangama Sutra. 

 

 

Practice Notes: Rainbow Body

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rainbow bodyEach week, I teach a mindful yoga class on Tuesday nights at Mookshi Wellness Center.  Recently, I have adapted a new preparation technique for teaching my classes and find the foundation theme for my class through daily prayer and meditation.  I have always been guided to teach from the wisdom of my practice as I was encouraged to do so by my compassionate and insightful teacher and mentor, Jill Satterfield.  But, for the past two-months I have been randomly choosing a sutra from Lorin Roche’s beautiful translation and commentary of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, The Radiance Sutras, and allowing the message of that particular sutra guide my choice of breathing, asana and visualization practices.

This past spring I took a truly amazing distance learning course with Janet Conner called “Soul Vows” (also the title of her newest book, which is phenomenal) and was able to do so through a generous full scholarship that she offered to me.  The truth is that I had a hard time with the course.  I still haven’t come up with my soul vows.  But, I had found her course through some research I was doing for my Radiant Heart course that I was in the process of creating and the soul vow discovery process required that I choose a spiritual book to accompany me on the work to nourish and keep it sacred.  The Radiance Sutras are “112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight” and while I couldn’t seem to identify my Soul Vows during the course, I kept thinking of the phrase “Choose Joy!” and these sutras and the commentary truly are about choosing joy regardless of circumstances.

This week, in preparation for class tomorrow night (if you are in Pittsburgh, please join us–it’s pretty much the most beautiful gathering of people I’ve ever been a part of, not competitive and you are warmly welcome), I randomly chose the 20th sutra and in the commentary, Roche suggests that we “sense all directions simultaneously” (Radiance Sutras, page 214):

Above me is endless space.
Below me is endless space.
Behind me is endless space.
To my left is space.
To my right is space.
Within me is endless space.

Roche suggests that “As the directions dissolve, so does your definition of yourself (214).”  When I read this I was drawn to Rose Taylor Goldfield’s instructive description of the Rainbow-like body in her book, “Training the Wisdom Body”.  She says, “The main point to remember about your body is that it is appearance-emptiness like a rainbow; it is purely the energy and play of luminosity-emptiness, like a body in a dream when you know you are dreaming.  Recall that your body is naturally light and luminous as you practice yoga movement.” (Taylor Goldfield, page 97)

The “Rainbow Body” in Dzogchen (an esoteric Tibetan Buddhism), refers to a level of realization.  This realization is when the separation between all living beings and phenomenon dissipates and all is one.  Taylor Goldfield instructs, “As you move your body, dissolve fixation on the duality of your own body here and the surrounding environment out there.  Melt into space.” (page 97)

In our practice this Tuesday night we will play with space and expand our inner and outer light for the benefit of all living beings.  Can’t wait!

REFERENCES

The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight
Author: Lorin Roche

Training the Wisdom Body: Buddhist Yogic Exercise
Author: Rose Taylor Goldfield

Path to the Rainbow Body: Introduction to Yuthok Nyingthig
Author: Dr. Nida Chenagtsang

Soul Vows: Gathering the Presence of the Divine in You, Through You, and As You
Author: Janet Conner

 

 

Online Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training

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Not only is this a very rewarding specialty, but considering the fact that over 80% of American yoga practitioners are women, it is imperative that all yoga instructors explore ways to support optimal women’s reproductive health for women who choose to attend their classes.  These skills will help inform all of your teaching and the program itself is rigorous and demands personal and professional transformation.r pregnancies and prepare for childbirth.

This intellectual approach to yoga as a science requires self-study and an investigation of the cultural, social and economic values that we hold around fertility, women’s health and specifically reproduction so that we can teach from our hearts.  Informed by contemporary social theory and medical anthropology, also allows Matrika Prenatal instructors to support students in a way that no other method provides support for.  If you are looking for a yoga training that is about memorizing asana sequences, then this is not the program for you.  These personal and professional training programs are transformative on both personal and professional levels and will require consistent commitment to study and practice.

This method, philosophy and approach has been refined over almost 15-years by Sharon Fennimore Rudyk, MA, E-RYT, R-PYT and DONA Trained Birth Doula and enjoyed by thousands of women.

Matrika Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training Program

Amazing online training with private mentoring sessions that is ideal for busy professionals trying to juggle career and family while also moving in the direction of your dreams.  Ideal for expats or English speakers all over the world who do not have access to a RPYT training school, but wish to work towards their certification while traveling or living abroad.  There are two tracks of study available:

  1. 30 CEU Credits for Yoga Teachers
  2. 100-Hour Prenatal Yoga Specialist Certification

What Makes Matrika Prenatal Yoga Special?

  • Emphasis on Tantric subtle body anatomy
  • Focus on how culture and reproductive politics impact fertility and pregnancy
  • Learn how to support optimum fertility with yoga
  • Use of Buddhist philosophy applied to teaching prenatal yoga
  • Learn how to teach visualization and meditation specific to pregnancy
  • Includes the use of yoga and meditation to prepare for labor and birth
  • Postpartum care and Mom and Baby Yoga

Who facilitates the course?

Sharon Fennimore, MA, E-RYT, R-PYT,  designed this course and has almost 20-years of experience teaching prenatal yoga and meditation.  Sharon is a DONA trained birth doula and holds two Masters Degrees in East Asian Studies and Cultural Anthropology.  She has worked with thousands of expectant women and their families over the past 15-years and has been offering prenatal yoga teacher training courses for over seven-years.

TRACK ONE: 30 CEU Credits for Yoga Teachers

Track One 30 CEU CreditsPerfect for yoga instructors who need a flexible continuing education program option and have a special interest in learning more about prenatal yoga and teaching yoga to women who are pregnant who may take public group classes during pregnancy.  While in the continuing education program, you can up-level to the certification option at any time by purchasing the additional private session package that provides the required contact hours for R-PYT certification.  Your tuition includes a holistic online course including 16-video lectures, audio guided practices, handouts and class planning tools, a copy of Sharon Fennimore’s eBook “Matrika Prenatal Yoga” with audio guide.  Your tuition does not include the required textbooks.

Enroll NOW for IMMEDIATE Course Access ($350) 

TRACK TWO: Prenatal Yoga Specialist Certification (R-PYT)

Track Two RPYTThe second track is a 100-hour program that leads to registration with Yoga Alliance as a certified prenatal yoga specialist with the R-PYT (Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher) credentials.  This track also includes four private distance sessions with Sharon Fennimore (either with SKYPE or by phone), unlimited e-mail communication during your course of study, review of all written work submitted and a graduation certificate that is required by Yoga Alliance as evidence of your completion of the requirements to be a prenatal yoga specialist.  Choosing this track is a significant commitment to becoming a specialist in working with pregnant women, their infants and their families and support system.  There is significant reading, writing and practicum requirements and certification requires your active participation in the online course discussion boards.

Enroll NOW for IMMEDIATE Course Access ($750)

Enroll NOW with a 4-month Payment Plan ($900 total/$225 per month of plan)

Comparison of Two-Tracks of Professional Study

Prenatal Training Track Chart

Tuition for both tracks includes: online course enrollment, a copy of Sharon Fennimore’s e-book “Matrika Prenatal” and the accompanying 45-minute audio guide, 16-video lectures, unlimited e-mail support from the facilitator during the length of the program, ongoing teleseminars and Q&A sessions and a BONUS 5 CEU credit postpartum yoga training.

Having Trouble Deciding Which Track is Right for You?

If you know that you wish to pursue continuing education in prenatal yoga and tantric subtle body anatomy with Sharon, but you aren’t sure if the 100-hour commitment is right for you, then the best thing to do is enroll in the online course (which is the 30-CEU credit option) and then see how it goes.  If you love it and you want to go deep into the study, then you can level-up to certification at any time during your course enrollment by purchasing the additional $400 private session package.

 Enroll in Prenatal Yoga Online CourseAs soon as you pay tuition for the online course, you will have immediate access to full course materials, list of required textbooks and graduation requirements for both tracks. If you are interested in the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist track, you can purchase your private session package ($400) from the online course and schedule your sessions.  Everything is available at your convenience online 24/7.  You will work at your own pace and there is no way to “miss” anything—all events are recorded.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason and only participants who meet the requirements for their track will be given certificates.  Enrollment is not a guarantee of graduation.  Fees associated with maintaining your Yoga Alliance registrations are not included in tuition.

I Know I Want to Pursue R-PYT Certification, but I Need a Payment Plan

100 Hour Program Payment PlanAre you interested in a payment plan?  A 4-month payment plan ($225 per month) is available for yoga teachers enrolling in the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist track.  This payment plan includes both tuition for the online course AND a 4-private session package which covers all of the required private sessions for your program.  After you make your first payment, you will be invited by e-mail to the online course within 24-hours and you can enroll and schedule your private sessions.  There are NO REFUNDS for any reason and all payments in the plan must be made regardless of your actual participation.  Graduation and certification is not guaranteed and participants must meet all requirements in order to receive a final certificate to use when applying for RPYT status with Yoga Alliance.  Yoga Alliance registration fees are not included in tuition.

 The Online Course is organized by the following  topics:

Topic I: Orientation
Topic II: Culture and Reproduction
Topic III: Yoga During Pregnancy
Topic IV: Common Pregnancy Complaints
Topic V: Teaching Matrika Prenatal Yoga
Topic VI: Practicum and Professionalization
Topic VII: Postpartum and Baby Yoga
Topic VIII: Graduation and Evaluation
Topic IX: Course Resources


Lectures

The online course includes access to sixteen lectures that you can download and watch at your convenience.  If you are taking this course for Yoga Alliance registration and certification, you will need to complete the worksheet that is associated with each lecture and submit your work for review to Sharon.  Worksheets are not required for the 30 CEU credit track, but it is highly recommended that all students watch the lectures.

Orientation
Culture and Reproduction
Anatomy of Pregnancy
Introduction to “The Matrika”
Three Energetic Diaphragms and Pregnancy 11/17
Special Considerations
Modifications
Class Planning
Using Matrika Prenatal to Prepare for Birth and During Labor
Postpartum Care
Anatomy of Pregnancy and Birth Recovery
Mom & Baby Yoga 

Group Mentoring Q&A Calls

In addition to the lectures, discussion board moderation and our private sessions together, I will regularly schedule group Q&A calls as needed.  If it seems like there is a particular need for the group or a topic that needs more time and exploration, then I may create a topic for a particular call, but these are designed to be open for any questions on any part of the course material.  I will also regularly add calls that both current and previous trainees can attend to discuss important topics for Prenatal Yoga Teachers.

Graduation and Registration with Yoga Alliance as an RPYT

In order to graduate from the 100-hour prenatal yoga specialist certification program, you must complete all required written work, observations, practice teaching  and submit your work for review to Sharon Fennimore, complete four private sessions with Sharon (distance by phone and/or SKYPE), and complete the online course module including active participation in online course discussions.  It is possible to complete the course within 6-months, but most trainees take an entire year to finish all of the requirements.  When you have completed all of the requirements, Sharon will email you a PDF of a signed graduation certificate that you can use to register with Yoga Alliance as an RPYT if you choose to register as a yoga instructor in this specialty.  A paper certificate is not provided, but you can print out your color certificate at your convenience from the PDF you receive if you choose to. Your costs for that registration are not included in your tuition.  Your graduation is not guaranteed and you will earn your certification through high quality work, enthusiastic participation and meeting all of the graduation requirements.

S01-YA-SCHOOL-RPYSYOGA MATRIKA is a Registered Prenatal Yoga School and graduates who meet ALL requirements are eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as a prenatal yoga teacher (RPYT).  Yoga Alliance requires that you graduate from a RPYS AND that you have a current registration with them as a minimum 200 RYT and that after you graduate from the RPYS that you teach a minimum of 30-prenatal yoga classes that you document with Yoga Alliance before they give you the RPYT credential.

Fine Print

  1. No refunds for tuition for online programs, mentoring packages or training retreats for ANY reason.  If you need an extension for personal reasons, please contact Sharon by e-mail at your earliest convenience.
  2. There is absolutely no guarantee of graduation or certification.  Your work and training portfolio will be evaluated and your ability to complete the program and obtain certification documents will be based on the merits of your participation and quality of the portfolio that you submit.
  3. Online programs are not for everyone.  With flexibility comes extraordinary personal responsibility.  You must also have the technical skills to register for the online program, upload documents and submit work as PDF files.  Consistent access to a computer and the internet are imperative.
  4. You should be able to set aside 15-20 hours for each month of your program for working online, reading and writing assignments.  It is important that you put these hours in your calendar and stick to a schedule.  Otherwise, it is unlikely that you will complete your program in time.  If something “comes up” then you must re-schedule your time.
  5. The cost of required textbooks is not included in any of the above fees.
  6. The cost of registration with Yoga Alliance is not included in any of the above fees.
  7. These programs provide an esoteric and intellectual approach to the science and practice of yoga.  This may challenge your current practice or ideas about yoga and meditation.  Personal mentoring sessions are designed to help you incorporate this information into your own practice and unique teaching voice.  Be prepared to be challenged and inspired!

Yoga for Getting Through a Rough Patch

rough patch cartoon
“So there he is at last.  Man on the moon.  The poor magnificent bungler!  He can’t even get to the office without undergoing the agonies of the damned, but give him a little metal, a few chemicals, some wire and twenty or thirty billion dollars and, vroom!  There he is, up on a rock a quarter of a million miles up in the sky.” ~Russell (Wayne) Baker

 

When I clipped this cartoon from the New Yorker, I didn’t know what a rough patch really was.  I’d had some days that were more difficult than others.  I almost failed Macro Economics (really) and that felt pretty awful.  But now, I don’t just chuckle at this, I guffaw from some deep and injured and yet mightily resilient place from deep inside.  It’s the place where the magic of yoga really touches.

How do we make peace with the fact of the Four Noble Truths that tell us that our lot as humans in life is to suffer—victims of desire and want and dissatisfaction—and the idea that our true nature is joy and happiness?  Philosophically, it is an interesting problem.  On the ground, it can be a pretty miserable conundrum.  As I am emerging from what I would like to fondly refer to as a three-year “rough patch”, I see that the play of shadow and light has always been at work.  Just as Leo Tolstoy writes in Anna Karenina, “All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”  What I know now is that the shadows can dominate for long periods of time, but the light lingers even in those darkest places.

Yoga is for humans.  Sometimes, in a time of shadows, yoga is the thread that keeps us connected to the small rays of light that can peek up through the narrow slats of wood in the kitchen floor, to some feeling in our toes, to memories or dreams or even just a remembering of a time when imagination was possible.  When our breath is caught in some invisible net at the base of our throat and the breathing diaphragm feels permanently fixed in space, then we can explore the corners of our nostrils and the sensation of breath on the lips, however light.  That’s yoga.  When our back is in knots and our head pounds, we can sip water and feel that wash over our tongue and enjoy the cool sensation.  That’s yoga.  Then, when the shadows dance to the corners and the light fills our subtle spaces again, and it will, then our yoga is still with us.

So, if it turns out that your life is a rough patch, find something precious and small that you can sense and breathe into that moment.  You never know what will tip the scales.

Practice for Shadow Dwelling

Are you in a rough patch?  Please try this practice.  It is unlikely to solve your problems, but it can shift your awareness in this moment so that you can experience a brief peace and clarity of mind.

#1: Fill a glass (and please do use glass if it is available) with fresh water

#2: Have a seat in a chair and place both of your feet on the ground.

#3: Take five breaths as slowly and deeply as possible.  If you feel tight in your chest or throat, like you can’t take a deep breath, then focus on taking as long as possible to exhale.

#4: Drink the glass of water and visualize the water washing your cells of stress and tension.  Feel connected to the oceans and lakes and rivers and streams of the world and all the living beings that rely on these waters.

A Precious Human Life

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Everyday, think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up.  I am alive,
I have a precious human life.  I am not going to waste it.

I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment
For the benefit of all beings.

I am going to have kind thoughts towards others.
I am not going to be angry, or think badly about others.
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

~HH The XIVth Dalai Lama

No Time to Meditate

Buddha Breath

I know.  You don’t have time to meditate.  I don’t have time to meditate either.  No one has time to meditate and yet we all have all the time we are ever going to have.  We strive for peace, beauty and happiness, but our hours, days, weeks and then years seem to slip away and we are just as behind on our “to do” lists as we ever were.  While we are busy, it seems we are making things happen, being productive and that we are with purpose.  Resting and calming are considered luxuries that we simply can’t afford.

Our failure to rest makes us prone to panic, anxiety and depression.  Our unhappiness creates mental chaos and we find that even small decisions are hard to make with clarity.  Our sleep is elusive and of poor quality and we can’t remember our last dream.  Our health is “ok”, but we suffer headaches, digestive problems, chronic low back ache, exhaustion and most of the time we can function, but it always feels like just getting by.  Barely.  At times, our little aches and pains tip the scale  towards illness and unease that makes us miss work, school and the activities we enjoy.

Why are we so willing to invest time and energy in creating conditions of unhappiness?  We are terrified of what would happen if we tried to sit for five, ten or even fifteen minutes a day and check in with our bodies, ask our hearts their desire and to feel the breath moving in and out.  Maybe you tried to meditate once and became overwhelmed by the flood of thoughts, ideas and fantasies that came to mind in a powerful and uncontrollable flow?  Maybe you would like to meditate but you don’t know how and you have imagined that you need to sit somewhere quiet for an hour and “clear your mind” and you know that’s impossible for you?

Meditation is available to you and bringing acts of awareness and compassion into your daily life is a radical and transformative act.  You don’t need special clothing, to be able to sit on the floor or to be able to “empty” your mind.  All you need is what you have if you are reading this—your body and your breath.  You don’t need to sit for an hour (wouldn’t THAT be nice!).  You need to make a commitment to practice and there are infinite ways to practice.

I offer an online course called A Mindful Month that invites students to use their senses of taste, balance, touch, and smell to create a sensual state of mindfulness through the day.  The course gives written guidance for twelve 5-minute meditations, four 10-minute audio guides that you can download as MP3 recordings and a bonus 20-minute audio guided deep relaxation.  You can enroll here for INSTANT ACCESS.  The benefits of meditation have been proven, but you must practice to receive those benefits.  This is a perfect introduction to meditation or a lovely inspiration to re-inspire a dedicated meditation practice.

Written by Sharon Fennimore, a birth doula and yoga and meditation instructor based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her Registered Yoga School (RYS™), Yoga Matrika, offers a variety of online yoga teacher training programs.  Private sessions are available on SKYPE wherever you are in the world or in-person in Pittsburgh.

Keep Something Beautiful

peacocks in watercolor

“In difficult times, keep something beautiful in your heart.” ~J. O’Donohue

I am currently creating an online course called “Radiant Heart“.  It is, at the core, a group exploration of a number of Classical Buddhist texts that provide the philosophical foundation for the practices of yoga and meditation that we have available to us now.  On a practice level, the course offers very accessible techniques for making meditation a part of daily life.  On an energetic level, facilitating this course is requiring me to re-think the heart as a seat of intelligence.  Asking what my heart wants has always seemed a little frivilous, but the more that I read these texts and the more that I consider what is at risk if I don’t open the lines of communication with my heart, I see that it is of great importance that I both ask and listen.

In one of the textbooks for the course, A Little Book of Love by Moh Hardin, we find this quote from “The Buddha” (no reference for source is provided):

“It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love.  We will develop love, we will practice it, we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.”

Today, Earth Day, I am also thinking of a quote from Tagore, “Trees are the Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.”  When the spring trees blossom and there is that lush bright hopeful green splashed across the still empty branches, it’s like the trees are reaching out to heaven with a display of their hearts.  The movement of water through their veins and the warming light of the sun mixing to support this magnificent and clear communication of life and beauty.  I think that if I learn to ask my heart it’s desire, wait for the answer and act on it that I will be like these trees.  The beauty will show in my actions, my appearance and in my life narrative.

If you are interested in reading these Buddhist texts and the breathing, movement and meditation techniques that are designed to enter into deep communication with the heart, there is still time to register for the course. Yoga teachers can earn 15 CEU credits for maintaining registration with Yoga Alliance.  DETAILS, SYLLABUS & REGISTRATION HERE