Tag Archive: yoga

With the new class series on Yoga for Easing Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression underway, here once again, is a link to a study demonstrating the effectiveness of yoga in this application! 

Yoga is Universal

I thought this was a beautiful article in the NYTimes about yoga in Africa, and am sharing the inspiration here in my blog!

Yoga in Africa



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Billy Sadia in a standing backbend pose on a boat moored off Lamu Island.


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The language of yoga is universal. That is the message of Robert Sturman, an artist from Santa Monica, Calif., who has traveled across the United States to capture the tranquillity and beauty of yoga. A month ago, Mr. Sturman traveled to Kenya to document the work of the Africa Yoga Project, a nonprofit organization that teaches and employs more than 70 local yoga teachers and conducts up to 300 free yoga classes for more than 5,000 people weekly in orphanages, prisons and other locales throughout the country.

I recently spoke with Mr. Sturman about his time in Africa, how it’s changed his view of the practice, and the universal language of yoga. Here is our conversation:


Last time we spoke to you on Well, it was for a series of yoga photos taken in the United States. Why did you decide to focus on Africa for this project?


As an artist, I am more interested in humanity than anything else. Yoga is a beautiful, poetic expression of the body. I wanted to go to Africa to celebrate human beings aspiring to reach their full potential. Often, we see images coming from Africa that point toward the suffering, but I wanted to create a body of work that pointed toward something inspiring and positive.


What drew you to the Africa Yoga Project?


I found the Africa Yoga Project online, and I was inspired to create visual poetry with what they are doing in Africa. Their generosity deeply interests me. For example, they have a sign language interpreter at many of their classes because there are a few deaf people in their yoga community. That was one of many things that touched me about their work.


Are there differences in the practice of yoga in Kenya and the United States?


In Kenya, people walk out of yoga class feeling great, just like they do in New York. The one difference I loved, however, was that the children who took the classes always broke out into a spontaneous song or dance right in the middle of class. Then they would go back to the yoga postures.


Speaking about the children in the photos, several of your most striking photos were taken in orphanages. How do these children benefit from yoga?


Through the practice of yoga, the children are given the opportunity to express themselves, be creative and open up physically and mentally. It was most apparent to me that by the time their hourlong class is over, they feel loved.


You also visited yoga classes in women’s prisons in Kenya. What was that experience like?


Visiting the Kenyan prison brought me unexpected joy. The inmates, some of whom are H.I.V.-positive, told me that yoga has become a rare source of happiness in their daily lives.


What did you take away from your trip to Africa?


After a yoga class, I looked at the people in the class and I saw the hope in their eyes that they could become a part of something positive. The students leave the class empowered to be leaders in their communities. It was awesome to witness their enthusiasm and to have the opportunity as an artist to show them that part of themselves. 



Next week, November 14th is the last week of the Fall Quarter so be sure to get any last make-up lessons in. Elizabeth will be teaching Restorative Yoga in all classes.

There is a one week break for everyone to enjoy Thanksgiving.

The next week Late Autumn Intersession Classes begin, starting November 28th and running for three weeks.

The following week is the week of Winter Solstice when Elizabeth will teach two special Candlelight Restoratives classes, one at 8 Petals and one at Turtle Haven, details here.


2-46  Sthira Sukkam Asanam

These Sanskrit words come from the Practice Book (Sadhana Pada) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and remind us to be steady and firm, and nonetheless relaxed as we practice the asanas, or “postures” of yoga; our teacher BKS Iyengar has made many brilliant recommendations about utilizing props, as well as our keen attention, to move towards this challenging practice of making “effortless effort,” and also achieving proper alignment in our asanas and in our bodies.  When we turn to the Sutras that follow 2-46, we seem to enter the deeper  territory of this “alignment”,  and effort with simultaneous relaxation, that has more to do with our inner experience, and the quest intrinsic in yoga of peeling away the surface layers, to find the more revelatory answers to fundamental questions of who we are, in our most essential selves. Take a few moments in your week to either look online (or download a pdf of the sutras here or here) or in a Sutra book you own, to read Sutras 2-47 and 2-48, and the direction they suggest.

Ravi Ravindra’s Sutra book aptly speaks of the French word for posture as “attitude”, which clearly points to the idea of an inner experience relating to our body’s “posture.” Guruji (the affectionate and reverent name for BKS Iyengar to his students) has repeatedly claimed that alignment and enlightenment are one. So the practice of relaxing and finding steadiness in the body, along with alignment, while it may seem like physical instruction, reaches into the emotional and psychological realm of freeing our bodies to free ourselves. This close attention to how we do each asana lifts the practice out of it being simply physical, into the realm of an embodied awareness practice.

Each time I practice with this awareness, I make myself available to a deeper connection with the Infinite (Ravi Ravindra uses this term frequnetly in his spiritual writings) as it lives inside me, though I may name that as Buddha consciousness or Christ consciousness if I have a more specific naming of that which lives beyond or within the personality self. Bringing the whole subject back to my earthly self, in my body, I know that how I carry myself in the asanas and beyond creates an inner effect that I know as my mental and emotional attitude, how I am FEELING, and what sorts of thoughts are arising. We can each explore through our practice and our daily lives what we observe about how we are carrying ourselves physically and what impact we notice internally in relation to what we are noticing. We can also notice an inner experience and see if working with alignment, effort and relaxation in our practice can shift an undesirable state.

(photo credit: fitnessnyc.wordpress.com)


First off, you may have noticed that things have been kind of quiet around the blog lately. Elizabeth’s computer is on the fritz. So expect more postings from her when her computer has recovered.

In the meantime, yoga, which is a form of meditation, has been in the news again, this time for its power to diminish pain. According to a  study published April 6th in the Journal of Neuroscience, people who were exposed to a pain (in the form of a painful heat source) experienced 40-57% less pain by two different pain ratings if they were meditating during exposure than if they were not. Morphine typically reduces pain ratings by about 25%.

And these were not expert meditators. They were 15 healthy volunteers who had received four twenty minute long classes in mindfulness meditation. The volunteers were taught to focus on their breath and let thoughts pass, just as we do during savasana.

In the study, the researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found that meditation reduced every participant’s pain ratings, with the reduction ranging from 11 to 93 percent. And brain activity went from very high to undetectable in an area involved in feelings of pain localization and pain intensity known as  the primary somatosensory cortex.

To read more about the study in an article in the UK newspaper known as the Telegraph go here. If you want to see an abstract of the original study go here.

(photo credit: pickthebrain.com)

A last reminder that Ravi Ravindra will be in Bellingham this weekend.

Ravi will give a public talk on the theme of “Spiritual Practice in Daily Life: Daily Life as Spiritual Practice as Seen Through the Lenses of the Great Spiritual Traditions.” The talk is  at 7:15 pm at 8 Petals Yoga. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

This talk kicks off a weekend retreat led by Ravi on the same topic. For more information about Ravi, the talk and the retreat, see this earlier blog post.

For more about Ravi please see ravindra.ca

For those who might like to read Ravi’s work before he arrives, Village Books carries two of his books:



The Wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras







The Spiritual Roots of Yoga


Spring Quarter Begins March 21st!

The winter quarter is soon coming to a close. Time to get those last make-up classes in.

This week we have regular classes with active asanas. The following week, the week of March 7th, is the last week of the winter quarter featuring restoratives.

The following week of March 14th there are no classes.

Spring Quarter begins the next week, the week of March 21st.

All details of the end of winter quarter and the first week of spring quarter are up on the calendar with the exact details of the rest of spring quarter to be posted there soon.

For a full list of recent Schedule Update postings go here.


Rebecca Lerner Workshop, June 3-5, 2011

We’re lucky this June to have Rebecca Lerner, a senior Iyengar teacher, coming to Bellingham to teach a workshop at 8 Petals Yoga. Some of you may be familiar with her husband, Dean Lerner, also a senior Iyengar yoga teacher.

Rebecca Lerner is co-director/owner of the Center for Well-Being in Lemont, Pennsylvania and an Intermediate Senior I Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor. Rebecca makes frequent trips to India to study with the Iyengars. A devoted practitioner since the late ’70s, Rebecca is an IYNAUS assessor and Chair of the Ethics Committee and Certification Liason. She conducts workshops nationally as well as teacher training programs. Rebecca is known for her ability to guide the students deeply into the poses in a fresh, insightful and meaningful way. She has a gentle yet dynamic teaching style that brings each student a heightened yogic experience. Share and enjoy the enthusiasm, inspiration and expertise.

For more information and registration forms go here.

Learn more about Rebecca and the Center for Well Being here.

Ravi Ravindra April 1-3rd, 2011

The theme for our April 1st through 3rd retreat will be Spiritual Practice in Daily Life: Daily Life as Spiritual Practice as Seen Through the Lenses of the Great Spiritual Traditions. Again, this will be an interfaith exploration, examining scriptures and teachings of the sages interspersed with discussion of, “What actually constitutes spiritual practice?” and “What obstacles and opportunities are presented in our daily lives?” We will gather insights based on sacred and profound teachings and apply them, as we engage in various meditative, contemplative and expressive practices. Suggested readings from Ravi’s work as well as those from other teachers will be provided for participants prior to the weekend to encourage more participation and discussion in large and small groups. We imagine a more cohesive sense of community emerging as we also explore the element of service as it relates to living these teachings.

Last time Ravi was here in October, feedback indicated a desire for a deeper sense of retreat and practice BALANCED with Ravi’s verbal teaching and the ensuing discussions; Ravi will focus the retreat in this direction. We will initiate the retreat on Friday evening at 7:15 p.m. at 8 Petals Studio in Bellingham; this will be open to the public. It will include a talk by Ravi focused on our weekend theme, as well as some group discussion and meditation. On Saturday and Sunday, we will meet at Turtle Haven in Deming, for access to the river and woods, and the quiet and peace of a rural setting.

Saturday’s schedule, which will include a potluck collective lunch, will be 10 a.m. until 5p.m. On Sunday, we will gather at 10 a.m. and finish our day at 3 p.m. with a shorter lunch period.

Given the desire to have an intimate retreat experience, we are again limiting the number of participants. We invite you as a prior participant to register first before we send out a more general invitation. Please email jillianfroebe@gmail.com AND mail your tuition by Sunday, February 13 to let us know of your desire to participate in this next immersion in Ravi’s teachings.

The tuition for the weekend is $150-190 sliding fee scale. Once registered, you will receive the reading list and can give us information regarding your location for potential car-pooling mates! Please send full tuition payable to Elizabeth Kerwin, 214 N. Commercial Street, Suite 300, Bellingham, WA 98225. If a payment plan is needed for financial reasons, please let us know.

See Ravi speaking on the Journey to Oneness in this short Youtube video.

To read more about Ravi, please visit his website www.ravindra.ca

Winter Quarter Begins January 3, 201

The Winter Quarter classes begin January 3, 2011; the schedule is the same as in the fall, as is the tuition of $120-135 for the 10 week quarter. A Winter Pass to unlimited classes will be $195. The classes in Bellingham are on Mondays, at 5:15 for Beginners and 7 pm for Intermediates. There is a Thursday noon class for Mixed Levels, also in Bellingham. In Deming, classes, all on Tuesdays,  are at 9:45 am for Mixed Levels, and 5:15 for Beginners and Mixed Levels students. The Intermediate students have class at 7 pm, also in Deming at Turtle Haven. Please email me, elizabethkerwin@hotmail.com or call at 303-3892 for more information. A childrens’ class is also offered at Turtle Haven on Wednesdays at 4pm; it will begin a little bit later in the quarter—please contact me for precise information.