Staying in the moment.

May 02, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

         Among the many things yoga has taught me over the years, I've found that focusing on the present moment is great for my physical, mental and spiritual health.  Perhaps this is why photography has become one of my favorite passions and hobbies.  It reminds me - like my yoga practice, that there's extreme beauty and fascination to be had in the right here and now if I can just slow down long enough to appreciate it.   Life for so many of us has become exceedingly hectic, especially with the proliferation of mobile technology that's brought all the worlds' information right to our fingertips.  It's true that as a society we're progressing forward in many ways, but at the same time it means that we're having to move faster and faster just to keep up.  Does your workplace expect you to stay plugged in even after leaving at the end of the day?  Ugh. What started out years ago as a simple service - the ability to access our email from anywhere, has morphed into the expectation by coworkers and superiors that we will check our inboxes periodically when not in the office.  In that environment, it's very hard to leave behind the days projects, problems and concerns or to keep from projecting solutions into the days ahead instead of disengaging from the eight to five work routine.

       Because of this ongoing strain on my time, I need all the reminders I can get that this moment is the one to be living.  Right here and now is where my attention should be, not worrying about what happened earlier in the day or trying figure out how to resolve future issues.  A while back, I literally got to the breaking point where all of this became crystal clear.  I hadn't picked up my camera in months, depriving  myself of an activity I really enjoy because I kept putting other obligations first.  Well, forget that.  I've decided to put strict limits on how much I'm willing to give of myself to 'the organization'.  The good news is, you'll be seeing me more often at yoga events around the city with camera in hand, helping to capture and share the good times being had by our community - like this picture taken while participating at a recent Yoga + Hiking event.  I'm very excited that spring is finally here, that many yoga activities are being scheduled in cool, outdoor spaces and that for the first time in several years there's going to be a wonderful, local yoga festival taking place in June!   This would be the Heartland Yoga Festival happening out at Unity Village in Lee's Summit.  When I'm practicing my passion for photography and I'm also surrounded by so many of you in the yoga community, time seems to slow way down for me.  With that perspective, it becomes much easier to unburden all the other stuff going on in my head and instead concentrate on getting that next great shot of a particular moment in time.  Do you have any suggestions on how to slow down and concentrate on the present moment?  Please share in comments!


Yoga leads the way in revitalization of Troost Avenue.

April 29, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

   This week I was invited down to Nella Yoga at 5504 Troost in the University District of Kansas City, Missouri to do an in- Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio class photo shoot.  Shanell Peterson - the owner and head instructor of the studio, put out a call to the yoga community a few weeks back inquiring if anyone knew of a good photographer. I was honored to learn that my name had come up as a recommendation.  She was looking to find someone that could capture some good imagery that showed off the diversity of students that generally come in to take classes at her school.  During our initial consultation we discussed the misconception that in order to start a yoga practice you have to first be slim, flexible and in great shape.  One of the goals we established for this project was to show by example that normal, everyday folks are more than capable of stepping on to the mat and participating in a yoga class.  Shanell said she wanted to help dispel the myth that yoga is only for certain body types, genders, or age groups.  Because I’m passionate about delivering the same message through my photos, I was excited and honored that the Universe had opened up and provided this opportunity to be of service to showcase a relatively new, community-driven studio that was requesting some promotional help. 

Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio

 

 

 

    Walking into the studio for the first time, I was immediately impressed by how comfortable it felt.  Rich, earth tone colors adorn all the walls.  The large storefront window faces east, letting in a great deal of rich, natural light.  The space exudes positive energy and along with Shanell’s friendly personality, makes for a very welcoming environment to practice yoga.  As I worked my way through the class trying to be as unobtrusive as possible with my camera, I also got to experience what it would be like to take a class here.  It was immediately evident that Shanell’s a very talented and gifted teacher.  She gives clear, concise cues that are easy to follow in a

 

Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio tone of voice that’s very soothing accentuated by the slight accent she carries from having been born and raised in the U.S Virgin Islands . I especially enjoyed listening to her guided meditation which both started and ended the class. It was hard not to set down my camera, roll out a mat and join in on the journey.  Along with leading the class, Shanell spent time individually with each student at some point, providing helpful adjustments and words of encouragement.   Evening class at Nella Yoga StudioEvening class at Nella Yoga Studio  I love watching passionate teachers practice their craft and even though I was there to take pictures, I walked out knowing that this is a studio I’ll be coming back to – with my yoga mat next time, leaving my camera behind.

 

      See the full gallery of photos from this session here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Kansas City is extremely fortunate to have in its midst so many passionate and gifted teachers.  One goal I have as a photographer/writer is to get the word out on some of the great resources that are available to our yoga community. If you’d like me to spotlight what you're doing, I'm always looking for new story ideas, contact me here.


The Art of Meditating

January 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Being on hand to take photos at a recent yoga class held inside the beautiful Kansas City Union Station building allowed me to witness a magical view of many hundreds of people sitting in the quiet silence of meditation.  It got me to thinking of my long journey of discovery towards learning how to meditate.  Along the way, I’ve built upon things I learned in workshops, yoga classes, church, DVDs, the internet and books.   After years of accumulating knowledge, my head got so cluttered on the details of what I was supposed to be doing, it became even more difficult to still my mind. I’d try this or that method for a while without any noticeable results and stop.   It wasn’t until I read Erich Schiffman’s book entitled, ‘Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness’, that all the earlier instruction became galvanized into a simple method of practice.  Here are just a  few of the insights that have helped my practice immensely.

 
  • Learning how to do something takes dedicated effort.  I may want to learn how to play an instrument, but I’m not going to see results after just a week of practice.  I adopted this same mindset and committed to making meditation a part of my life.
  • I set aside a specific period of time every day to practice.  Just like eating breakfast is part of my morning routine, I incorporated a segment of time for quiet reflection also.  It wasn’t much in the beginning, maybe ten minutes. 
  • One area in my house was dedicated to my practice and decorated accordingly to inspire a tranquil atmosphere.  A comfortable chair eventually gave way to a set of cushions on the floor.  
  • After entering my space and getting comfortable in a seated position, I close my eyes and take a few moments to get centered.  It’s funny how I can completely forget that my aim coming into the space is to practice meditation!  Sometimes I’ll realize many minutes after starting, that I’ve been planning the upcoming day, running future errands, or solving the world’s problems in my head.
  • From this, I’ve learned that it’s helpful to start by asking my thinking mind for its cooperation to take a break for a while and allow the deeper me to enjoy some time with myself. 
  • Next, I imagine what it’d feel like if I had absolutely no worries - if everything in my life was exactly as I’d like it to be.  I invoke this state of mind and it helps immensely to still my thoughts.
  • Comfortably settled and relaxed I next begin to focus on my breathing. This part is pretty much a staple of all the methods I’d tried before.  With closed eyes, I gaze slightly upward - a few feet out in front of the third eye. To help anchor my thoughts in breathe I may count down from fifty, inhale one number… exhale the next, down to zero.  Or I might repeat a simple mantra in my head.  The point here is to feel the body breathing.  I reflect with some amazement and wonder that even if I wanted to stop breathing on my own, I couldn’t.  Some greater power is causing me to breathe.
  • With the gaps in vacant thinking growing longer, I can start to see when thoughts arise.  Instead of giving these attention, I simply let them dissipate on their own through lack of focus on my part. Like a helium balloon that I release my grasp on, I’ve learned that thoughts not energized will naturally dissolve away. The more I actively try not to think though, the farther I get from stillness.
  • Finally, when I’m ready, I put forth this question to my deepest being: “Is there anything you would have me know or understand in this moment?”  Once posing the question, I focus all my attention on hearing the voice of clarity & reason respond back.  Erich Schiffman likens it to putting out a call at the edge of a canyon and then listening for the ensuing echo.
  • Sometimes I get an answer, sometimes I don’t.  Either way I give thinks for that day, a never before experienced and never to be repeated moment of time.

That’s it.  My comfort level at staying still has grown over the years, allowing for longer sessions. The real benefit doesn’t arise during the practice, 

but instead through the results that appear throughout the day.  I understand 

now that the chattering voice in my head is not who I am, that there’s something much deeper and separate is aware. Knowing this allows me to detach from many of the worries I used to have before. I’m more in tune with my surroundings and open to possibilities that are presented in the moment.  That awareness is very beneficial when my camera is in hand.  It allows me to better adapt to situations that arise and take advantage of  constantly changing variables to see and shoot better pictures.


Uh-oh, the doctor says they need to take a picture!

October 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

     A year ago, my resolutions for 2015 included continuing to practice yoga, possibly even participate in a teacher training program.  I swam laps on my lunch break, ran on the treadmill every other day and ate healthily.  My pursuit of photography as a serious hobby was  picking up steam.  I'd upgraded to new camera equipment and took several advanced, online classes to learn the intricacies of Photoshop and Lightroom.  I launched this website so I could share pictures I took at events with others in the yoga community.

   Plans to pursue future goals came to a screeching halt when I started to notice a nagging pain in the front of my right shoulder.  No specific injury caused it that I could remember.   Initially, I treated it like all the other times something ached. I scaled back my exercise regimen, applied ice regularly, took ibuprofen and let it rest.  That course of action didn't make things better this time.  The simplest of tasks like raising my camera to snap a picture became painful.  Something was seriously amiss.  I needed a professional opinion.  

   I never had to visit a doctor for a 'not-operating-correctly' body part before.  My biggest worry wasn't the thought of having to go through an operation; no, my main concern was in having to navigate the health system for the first time.  Like anyone, I've had things scheduled for repair - cars, electronics and parts of my house.  Half the time, the thing's pronounced fixed when it hasn't really been fixed at all, which is extremely frustrating.  Could that happen with my shoulder? What if it never gets set right and I have to forego my active lifestyle?  These negative prospects were scary.  Going to the first orthopedic specialist recommended by my primary care physician didn't alleviate my fears.  Right out of the gate, several things with his manner bothered me and I knew I'd have to do some research to find a different doctor if the prognosis came to needing an operation.  After going through initial physical therapy that didn't do anything to help, my insurance company finally agreed to pay for an MRI.  

   By this time, the pain  in my shoulder was no longer constrained to just the one spot.  Severe discomfort had begun to move down my right arm when doing routine tasks like tucking in my shirt or reaching to put on a seatbelt.  The area began aching even when at rest.  With these developments, an operation was deemed necessary - the one so commonly referred to as 'rotator cuff surgery'.  Wanting a second opinion, I next had to figure out how to gather references and reviews on medical specialists.  I quickly learned that finding a good doctor isn't the easiest thing to accomplish!  I turned to friends, co-workers and the web for help and finally discovered someone I felt comfortable performing the procedure.

   That took place in September.  My new doctor was very straightforward, which I appreciated.  He explained that an MRI doesn't capture a perfect interior picture.  They wouldn't be able to tell for sure exactly what was wrong until they opened me up. He also explained that a vast majority of people my age who've been physically active show tears on an MRI, making diagnosis difficult.  Even healthy people with no shoulder soreness can show signs of degeneration.  True to my suspicions, it turned out my condition was pretty severe. Some major work was done to repair a muscle tear, inflammation and a tendon rupture.  After a couple weeks, physical therapy was scheduled to start.

   Recognizing how important this was going to be on the path to healing, I donned my researchers hat again to find an expert in this area.  The physical therapy group my first doctor referred me to was lackluster in performance to say the least.  At each appointment I went to at that location, I saw a different therapist and I received very little individual attention.  That didn't seem right. During this entire process, one thing I've learned is to follow my intuition and how to be a strong advocate for my own good care.  

   With three months of weekly physical therapy appointments in the books, I'm more aware now than ever how important yoga is to my vitality.  Many of the exercises and movements my therapist has me performing remind me of yoga postures.  In addition, the stretching and reworking of my arm to regain its full motion was greatly helped by knowing how to breath into muscle tightness to coax relaxation.  I'm starting to revisit some of the old, familiar postures and the shoulder's feeling pretty good.  I've missed the great group of yoga instructors I've been so privileged to learn from here in Kansas City.  I can't wait to roll out my mat at one of the several studios I love to visit and flow through a complete class, unencumbered by soreness, focusing instead on how grateful I am to be blessed with a healthy, fully functional body again.

 

Have a rotator cuff story to share?  Add a comment, I'd love to hear about your experience!


Relaxing into wellness

July 05, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

  YRPKC Week Six with Brad Elpers guest teaching & musical guests Mount VeritasYRPKC Week Six with Brad Elpers guest teaching & musical guests Mount Veritas

   Through the practice of yoga I’ve learned many things. Among the most important is the art of listening to myself.  It’s a tricky thing though, this inward attentiveness.  For me there are actually several speakers in my head vying for attention at any given time.  There’s the voice of fear that’s constantly trying to hold me back, the one of procrastination that wants me to stay exactly where I’m at and the one of envy that incessantly makes comparisons between me and other people.  It’s funny how loud these can be considering none of them are speaking the truth.

   Whispering quietly beneath the extraneous chatter is the true light of who I am.  The pure presence is what’s left when all else fades away.  It’s counterintuitive to think that by putting less effort in to something more will be gained, but that strategy has brought better results to my meditation practice.  It’s allowed me to go deeper into many yoga postures, approaching with an attitude of relaxation as opposed to active effort to reach some point of accomplishment. I’ve learned to take stock of what my body is willing to do before stepping on my mat. This serves as a good barometer of where I should start and how far I can take it during any given session. When I don’t do that and just forge ahead with a set goal in mind, injury is much more likely to occur.  Unfortunately, I speak from experience.

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