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Staff Spotlight: Remembering My Teachers— Julie Huffman

Julie Huffman

We have all been students and have had many teachers. As students, we remember those teachers who have given gifts that we take with us throughout our lives. It’s the little stuff—the details we learn that inspire us to find our passions.

My parents were my first teachers. They taught me right from wrong, unconditional love, and how to make my way into the world. In elementary school my teachers taught me to read, the rules of English, and that my first answer is usually the correct one. Teachers at church, band instructors, piano teachers, swim coaches, dance teachers, and scout leaders created impressions upon me and shaped me into the person I have become. Even my dog, Roxie, teaches me to stop and learn from nature.

It only made sense that I decided to be a teacher. I came from a family of teachers. My dad was a professor of Western Civilization at William Woods College; my mother was a middle school teacher at Missouri School for the Deaf; and my sister taught kindergarten for 34 years. I have taught swimming, cheerleading, Sunday school, and after school youth programs. I also taught elementary school for 10 years before becoming a mother and teaching my own son.

About 20 years ago, I took my first yoga class. My teacher suggested I continue to take classes and keep practicing. I took several teacher trainings through YogaFit. One of my teachers taught me to take my yoga off of the mat. Another taught me the alignment of Warrior II. And yet another taught me Ujjayi pranayama. In a workshop with Paula Tortolana Self, I learned a technique to open my knees. Aadil Palkivala told us to always remove our shoes before entering the house. Judith Hansen Lasater said we are all beginner yoga students. All are details—small yet really important stuff that I will always remember.

Two teachers inspired me enough to take a 200-hour yoga teacher training. These are the two teachers I admire and respect the most. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to be a student in their yoga classes for the past 10 years. They taught me the skills and attributes required to be an effective teacher: developing a daily practice with meditation, learning the physical postures and how to model them, teaching to the level of my students, proper sequencing of a class, utilizing props for comfort, and always being present with the students in class. I am grateful for the desire and passion they cultivated in me to be a forever growing teacher of yoga. Thank you Bonnie Yonker, Jennifer French, and all of the talented teachers at The Yoga Sanctuary for teaching me all of the details and small stuff it takes to be a yoga teacher. It all adds up to big stuff.

Yogi of the Month—Eddie and Karen Moran

morans

We are honored to have been asked to be Yogis of the Month. Eddie and I are originally from New York State—Eddie is from Yonkers, and I grew up in the Bronx. We later moved to the Hudson Valley where these two city kids found themselves living in the farm country of Dutchess County. Eddie and I have been married for forty six years and we have two grown children, one of each. Our daughter and her husband have blessed us with two beautiful grandkids, and our son and his wife have just informed us that we will soon be grandparents for a third time, which we are overjoyed about.

Eddie and I met while we were both employed by the Old New York Telephone Company. After moving upstate I was a full-time mom for a good number of years but later worked at various positions: the Home Insurance Company; managed a bookstore in Rhinebeck, New York; and then mostly worked as a medical assistant both in New York and in Florida. Eddie left “Mr. Bell,” a job he was just not happy with, and took the test to be a firefighter, making a career out of that. He loved the job and would probably still like to be doing it, but injuries ended his career after 23+ years.

As to why we started yoga, for Eddie it was more or less a dare. He attended a class with the previous owner of The Yoga Sanctuary, Bonnie, when she taught at the Punta Gorda Fitness and Tennis Club. After taking the one class he thought, “Wow, there is really something to this,” and has practiced ever since. I had belonged to the same gym and also started with Bonnie. We then followed the practice to the building known as the Swiss Chocolate factory, which became The Yoga Sanctuary. It was here where we were introduced to Jennifer, the current owner (who by the way did a great job transitioning the business), and immediately liked her.

At this time we both are taking level one classes for the most part. Eddie has had some back problems and thinks the yoga has been more helpful to him than anything else. Since I retired I have been practicing a variety of classes four to six times a week, mostly level one, occasionally mixed, sunrise which I really love, chair, and restorative. Some of you probably know that I recently fractured my pelvis, a freakish accident that made me realize how much yoga meant to me and how much I missed it. I absolutely attribute my road to rehabilitation to have been hastened by my previous yoga practice.

At this time, Eddie and I would also like to thank all of the wonderful people at The Yoga Sanctuary for their thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. Thank you all. We try now to make it at least three times a week and I’m sure that this is what has helped me gain more mobility and to find improvement every day. Without actually knowing it, per se, yoga has also helped us deal with the ups and downs life has to offer, and of that we are both appreciative.

When we are not practicing, Eddie likes to dabble in the arts. He draws mostly in charcoal and paints oils and sometimes pastels. He also likes to fish and enjoys sports. I hope to get back to my biking, spin classes, and hopefully running one of these days. We also enjoy road trips with no special destination in mind and no time restraints—we are very fortunate to be able to do this. We usually end our road trip at the grandkids. Did I say no special destination in mind? The grandkids are of course very special to us.

My favorite poses are Child’s Pose and Legs Up the Wall, which currently I am unable to do completely, but I know that in time I will be able to do them again. Eddie still says his favorite pose is whatever comes next, especially if it is something new. After 13+ years of practice, it always amazes and delights him when one of the class instructors demonstrates for us something we have not done before.

As for my favorite quote, well I’m not sure if I’ve heard this somewhere before, but I heard myself saying it to a friend just the other day: “I would like to do today what I could not do yesterday.” As for Eddie he told me his favorite quote of all time is when I say, “You’re right.” He said this laughing, and he better be. Love to all. —Karen and Eddie

Exploring the Myths of Asana—Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana, or Monkey Pose, in its full expression, is the forward splits, a challenging pose that represents the pose Hanuman took as he leapt from the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka to rescue his good friend Ram’s wife, Sita, who had been kidnapped by the evil demon Ravana.

Hanuman’s story begins much before this famous tale. He was actually born Anjaneya, son of Anjana, a mortal woman, and Vaju, the god of wind, so he was half human, half god. He was a troublesome youngster, however, and one day was fatally struck down by the sun god, Surya because of his mischievousness. Vayu’s fury at Surya’s actions caused him to take in a deep breath, threatening all of humanity. To appease Vayu, the gods compromised, and Anjaneya was returned as Hanuman, but was unable to fully remember his own divinity.

Hanuman was removed from his mother and put into the care of Sugriva, the monkey king. Hanuman took the shape of a monkey to better get along with his family. One day he met King Ram, who immediately took to liking him. It was shortly thereafter that Ravana plotted to take over Ram’s kingdom and kidnap Sita. When he did, Ram could not rescue Sita because he had to defend his kingdom, so he sent his trusted friend Hanuman to save her.

It was then that Hanuman took the great leap to Sri Lanka. He was unsure how he would make the great journey, but his faith kept him going despite not knowing what he was truly capable of. “Many of us shrink before impossible tasks, or even tasks that are just a bit hard, because we are just like Hanuman. We easily forget that there is a part of us that is also divine and can accomplish the impossible,” says Alanna Kaivalya, author of Myths of the Asanas. His faith and dedication brought him to Sita, where he promised to later return with King Ram to save her and fight off Ravana’s army. And they did just that, winning back their kingdom.

The same faith and dedication can be applied in the pose Hanumanasana itself. A challenging pose, it can take much time to take the full expression of the pose. Faith and dedication are essential to finding steadiness and ease in the pose.

 

The Healing Sound of Silence

sound-of-silence

Silent meditation, which you can experience in our weekly meditation class, is a way to quiet the mind and open the heart to the possibilities of the moment. Silence is a powerful tool that helps us turn inward and listen to the quieter voice that comes with insight. Before the voice of insight, of course, we first hear the louder thoughts that pass through: “Can I really sit here for a whole hour?” “My nose itches.” “I wonder what I’ll have for dinner.” “I can’t believe that so-and-so said such-and-such to me today.” And so on.

Once those thoughts—none based on the current moment—begin to fade to the steady rhythm of the breath, insight has the space to arise. Insight lands more like a feeling than a thought. It takes up the moment, and then, like everything else that arises, it passes. Only when we are truly silent can we access this treasure trove of wisdom that resides within us.

Some people might find, especially at first, that silence only amplifies the “monkey mind”—those incessant thoughts that continually pass through the mind. But when you view this amplification as a tool, as a way to bring your attention to the thoughts themselves, you will find that you can more easily let them go. By noticing the thoughts, you begin to understand how your mind strays from the present moment. Knowing, as they say, is half the battle. Once you recognize the true nature of your mind, you’ll find it easier to anchor your mind to the moment by simply remaining present with your breath.

Accessing the power of silence can help you tune into the healing nature of presence—your ability to experience the moment, as it exists. The more frequently you tune into this healing silence, the more frequently you’ll be able to experience the peace it brings. Set aside a few minutes a day for silent meditation. Start with 10 minutes, and build your way up as it feels comfortable. This one simple practice will have profound effects on your life when you keep at it over time.