The Anatomy Of a Wind Chime

Karen McDonald, Yoga practitioner and Spiritual Director shares her thoughts on things that blow in the wind: 

I rescued a wind chime last week. The hushed instrument caught my eye from my rocking chair position on a mountain porch. The “wind-catcher,” the shape hanging at the end of the center string, had become tangled around the top of the chimes so that it was impossible for it to sing and dance in the breeze. Much like a naughty child in a time-out chair, it was in the corner... brooding. As I untangled the wind-catcher, I discovered that someone had replaced what was once a wooden wind-catcher with a cardboard shape. The cardboard did not have enough weight to engage a song, failing to briskly move the clapper (that circular disc that strikes the chimes), causing it to get stuck outside the circle of chimes — emitting only weak, repetitive notes. I had never considered how important it is for the wind-catcher to have a weightiness about it, being substantial enough to pull the clapper in and out, away from the outside edges of the chimes, preventing it from getting stuck in a restrictive pose, never limiting its song. 

This bound wind chime caused me to reflect on my well-worn habit of letting my mind (clapper) muscle overpower my spiritual heart (wind-catcher) muscle. And in those moments of imbalance my song grows faint or boring - hitting only a narrow range of notes. Martin Laird in Into the Silent Land says, “In fact, because our attention is so completely riveted to what’s playing on the big screen of our thinking mind, we can live completely unaware of the deeper ground of the heart that already communes with God.” Being a teacher of the contemplative Christian tradition, I am constantly inviting others to practice the ancient spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer, exploring that deeper ground, the spiritual heart, where gifts and the Giver wait for us.

Do you find yourself too often living from that restrictive placec in the mind where raging thoughts overtake you, trapping you in a small view dominated by feelings and emotions of the moment? If so, I invite you to continue what you may have already begun in your yoga practice; quieting yourself for twenty minutes at a time, using your breath or a holy word or phrase to calm your mind, bringing you home to that space of ease - and oft—forgotten unconditional love. It is from that place that we are taken by surprise; breaking into song and dance as a wilder, truer, Holy wind catches us.


  Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

Feature Teacher: Lizzie Hall

Last week, we talked about the necessity of individuals in a community who drive the evolution of the whole through their hunger for life and knowledge. Just as essential as these fiery individuals are to a community are also the Earthy individuals who maintain stability and steadiness. These fiery, go-getters need the self-loving wisdom that comes from the Earthy, grounded individuals of the community in order to avoid burning out. The dynamic between these two types of individuals is the natural harmony of Yin and Yang, or Shiva and Shakti.

The Earthy individuals of a community are those that teach us about sustainability. If you have ever tried to give your max, give 100%, for an extended period of time, then you’ve probably experienced what is commonly referred to as “burn out” (this might look like curling up in your bed with all your favorite junk food and a marathon of your favorite TV series on Netflix).  Sustainability, not just on the mat, but throughout your entire life, is about taking time do find rest and allowing your body to recover. At the core of sustainability is the practice of self-love.

We are fortunate at Bristol Yoga to have one particular individual in our community who is well-skilled in the art of self-love. This individual is so highly tuned in to her own inner-compass that she intuitively knows what her body needs and what her spirit craves. Not only that, but she doesn’t hesitate to nourish those needs. This individual is essential to our community teaching others how to trust and love themselves.

This soft and warm-hearted Earth momma is… Lizzie Hall!

 

Here are some questions we asked Lizzie to help you see just how dear she is to our hearts at Bristol Yoga.

1. When and how did you find yoga?
- I found yoga when I moved to Bristol 2 years ago at Bristol Yoga and I’ve been going ever since.  There’s no family like it in Bristol.
 

2. Why do you practice yoga?
-  I practice yoga whenever I need to come back to myself, whether that’s physically, mentally, or spiritually.  I gives me the tools I need to take care of myself and others.
 

3.  What is your favorite form of asana? (Vinyasa, restorative, gentle, yin, ashtanga, etc.)
- Yin yoga is my favorite form of Asana because it’s what my mind and body seem to need the most.  It gives my mind time to reflect and my body room to move and really sink into the postures.
 

4. What does yoga mean to you?
- To me, yoga is about knowing that I’m worth taking care of myself and that it’s important to take time to calm my thoughts and take care of my body.
 

5.  What are you doing outside of the classroom?
- Outside of the classroom I’m a Middle School teacher who meets students where they are.  I think my yoga philosophy is directly connected to my middle school classroom because I think everyone deserves to have someone meet them where they are.
 

6.  What is your spirit animal and why?
- My spirit animal is a sloth because I have a natural tendency to want to hibernate and take things slow.
 

7. Where is your favorite place to go when you need to relax?
- When I need to relax, I love to get a chai latte and enjoy doing nothing at all for just a little while.
 

8. Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, passage, or verse?
- My favorite verse is John 15:5 because it talks about union with God and that resting in his love is enough.
 

9. What do you want your students to know?
- I want my students to know that yoga meets you where you are.  Come as you are and you will find what you need.

 

If you know you’ve been working hard, or you have a case of the “Mondays”, and you could really use a reprieve to help re-charge your batteries to tackle the rest of your week, give yourself permission to bask in Lizzie’s warm and loving Earth-momma presence on Tuesday nights for her Mindful Flow at 5:45 PM.

 

Feature Teacher presented by Marcy Hullander

Teacher Feature: Marcy Hullander

In this spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving we are reminded to give thanks for our friends and family. At Bristol Yoga our Sangha (community) is our yoga family. We have thirteen instructors and each of us play a part in creating a sacred space for healing and personal growth.  All of us come to the mat from different places and for different reasons, each of us seeking refuge in the practice while we continue in the journey of exploration. Regardless of our purpose in the journey, yoga provides the tools for us to continue on our path.  As our journey unfolds we learn that without the presence of community and support there is no foundation for evolution.

The word yoga is Sanskrit, coming from the root yug which literally means to join or hitch together. This joining or union in the practice of yoga refers to building a bridge between our mind and body, a practice of building presence or one pointed concentration.  The discipline of yoga is a solitary practice to maintain, however, the magic that happens when you practice in a community with like-minded individuals is an unfolding. This unfolding happens as we become each other’s sideline cheerleaders. You may have experienced this yourself when practicing in community, as the sound of breath from the person next to you becomes a mantra or affirmation to keep going, dig in and uncover. This allows for a heightened awareness, encouraging each other to peel back the carefully placed layers guarding our metaphorical heart. Through the communion of movement, breath and meditation in a supportive environment we find ourselves together on the path to self-discovery. This work must take root in the place of love as it requires courage and vulnerability to uncover the deepest parts of ourselves.  Those parts that we keep hidden out of fear and shame as well as those we have buried in pain.  The Sangha is our well spring of support for this process, providing kindness, compassion and understanding. The empathetic shoulder for which we learn to lean in to. For when we look at our journey, we realize we cannot walk alone…As Ram Dass says: “We are all just walking each other home.”

One of our sideline cheerleaders, Marcy Hullander, has been with us since September of 2014.  She quickly became an integral part in creating a compassionate space for the Bristol Yoga Community to unfold. Her openness and willingness to hold the space for her students shows in her every day presence.  If you haven’t heard by now she has an affinity for post–it notes and is well known around the studio for littering love notes for all to find. She recently has taken her love for the arts to new heights, exploring herself and her personal journey on paper through intentional artistic expression.  Recently she co-founded Appalachian Luna Love, a company with the intention of sharing products of self – love, healing and inspiration. Check out her latest blog post on the new venture here. Whether she is on the mat or off the mat, she has shown us all the importance of embodying the practice of yoga.

What brought you to the mat?

 

I originally came to yoga in 2011 when I was living in Georgia. I had just graduated from college, finishing up my 13th and final year as a competitive swimmer and moved outside of Atlanta to start grad school. It wasn't really a choice I had made for myself; I was more or less on auto pilot, just following the path I thought I was supposed to, so, naturally, my second week into school I dropped out. I honestly had no clue where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, much less who I was. Swimming was a huge source of stability and confidence for me growing up, so in this time of uncertainty, I was seeking stability on an emotional and mental level, but I only knew how to obtain that in the physical sense. So I gravitated towards what I was comfortable with and that was working with my body, but because of a knee and hip injury I had incurred in my last year of competing, my body couldn't withstand anything high impact. That was when I found a groupon for a Bikram studio in Marietta, Georgia offering 10 classes for 20 bucks. The Bikram tradition was EXACTLY what I needed at that time in my life. The 100 degree rooms brought the intensity I missed from training at the collegiate level, the format of the classes challenged me to better myself each round satisfying my competitive impulses, and the sequence brought my body into an alignment it had never even come close to before helping to rehab my injuries. After that, I was sold on yoga.  

What does Yoga mean to you and how has that evolved since you came to the practice?

 

Yoga to me now is very different from what yoga was to me when I first found the practice. When I first came to the mat, my relationship with yoga was purely physical. I wanted to push, I wanted to sweat, I wanted to be the best; more than anything, I wanted to wring myself out so completely that I could barely walk out of the studio. I laugh SO hard at myself when I look back at those days, because now it is the TOTAL opposite. Each day my practice becomes less and less about the asana. Yes, I do still practice asanas regularly, and yes, I do care very much about my physical practice, but now, my yoga is less about "how far can I fold here," and more about "how much can I unfold here." There is a big difference there. Before, I would go deeply into postures, but still remain very much on the surface of things. Now, I find myself gravitating more towards meditation, craving stillness, so I can bear witness to my own being and come to see and recognize myself. Yoga to me is a practice of unfolding, unfolding the layers of experience that pile up over time and cover the light of our hearts. Yoga is being humble enough to acknowledge how far you have strayed from your true nature and being brave enough to dig through the junk until you find it again. Yoga, to me, is coming home.

 

What inspires you to teach?  

 

What inspires me are those moments in the classroom when everyone comes together, all are present, and all are practicing with intention. You know it because you can hear it in the breathing and you can feel it in the room. It is amazing what happens when people come together in the energy of mindfulness, and then, watching how it permeates into their lives off of the mat. It really gets me jazzed. Witnessing the way mindfulness so completely transforms and softens people is what inspires me.  

 

How would you describe your teaching style? 

 

Ultimately, I would define my style as my own; I incorporate many different schools of practice when teaching, so you could even call it a blend. When I have small groups, I tend to geek out on alignment principles of the Iyengar and Anusara traditions of practice and focus on specific postures, but I love the freedom and expression of Vinyasa. Yin and Restorative are definitely my favorite styles to teach, because I love to watch what happens when people get still. But in every class my main focus is always breath. I love being a witness to breath.

 

How do you like to spend your time off the mat? 


My time off of the mat is spent pretty actively! I maintain a daily morning meditation and journaling practice, after which follows some combination of exercise be it swimming, running, or asana. If you know me, or have even seen my left arm, you know I have a sweet-angel-muffin-face (AKA dog) named Karma that I love to smother with love. Thankfully, she loves to do the same to me. I love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, camping, or just lying in the grass. I also spend a lot of time reading, writing blog posts for Bristol Yoga and painting, which you can now find my art in the reception area of Bristol Yoga. Most of all, I spend my time with family. I am very close to my family and love them all dearly, so I like to make the most of the time that I have with them.

 

What's been your biggest lesson since your yoga journey began? 


My biggest lesson so far has been ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES. I feel like I am beating my head against the wall of this lesson at this point. And I know it will not go away until it has taught me what I am meant to learn. As a teacher, I am learning how absolutely necessary it is to take care of myself so that I may better take care of others. I am learning that boundaries are an ESSENTIAL part of self-care. Without proper boundaries, I have found I continue to make allowances for relationships in my life that completely deplete me and then I am left empty. Oh, and, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT.  



What do you want your students to know?

More than anything, I want my students to know that the practice never ends. Yes, we step on to the mat, and we step off of the mat, but the practice goes on beyond what we do on the mat. It is never ending. What we do on the mat is a metaphor for what we do off of the mat. One of my fellow classmates in Teacher Training said this to me and I will never forget it, "We put ourselves in these uncomfortable positions on the mat, so we can learn to get comfortable in the uncomfortable situations that arise on and off of the mat." And with that, the most important thing to remember is to breathe.

 

Feature Teacher presented by Shelly Bullock

 

 

 

Feature Teacher: Maggie Fuller

One of the pleasures of being a part of the Bristol Yoga Community is watching individuals within the community grow and evolve. Each member of our sangha, our community, both students and teachers, color our Bristol Yoga Community with their personalities.
 

One individual that it has been a pleasure to watch grow and develop into the radiant individual she is now has been one of our newest teachers to join. This individual first came to our studio as a student. Over time, as her practice developed on the mat, so did a desire to take her practice off of the mat. Trusting her instincts and fueled by her testimony to the transformative benefits of the practice, this individual chose to participate in the first Yoga Teacher Training program offered by the Bristol Yoga Center. Upon completion, she was eager to serve the members of the Bristol Yoga sangha, and we were more than happy to welcome her.

This is individual is… Maggie Fuller!

Here are a few questions we asked Maggie to help you get to know her better:

 - What brought you to Yoga?

I could answer this question in too many ways to count, but I think what ultimately brought me to the practice was my need for something, anything really, to help me help myself. I was previously diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and I have struggled with depression since I was an adolescent. I eventually got tired of always trying new medications, and just being on so many different meds. I felt as if I was losing myself even more to the drugs. But, that's when my mom found Bristol Yoga, and asked me if I would go with her. I had practiced on my own before, reading all kinds of yoga books, blogs, and watching videos on YouTube, but actually coming into the studio for practice was a whole new world. Because of yoga, I successfully came off of all my medications, signed myself up for teacher training, and changed my life for the better. I've found myself again, and life's never been so good!

 - If you could define your style, what would it be?

I was trained in Hatha style yoga, but I would say my personal style ranges. Besides traditional Hatha, I enjoy Yin, restorative, and flowing practices the most. In my classes, I love balanced connected, choreographed flows with mindful stillness.

 - In general, what are 3 likes and 3 dislikes you have?

I couldn't live without Asian cuisine, the many works of JRR Tolkien, and my family (my soul family as well as my blood). I can't stand centipedes, narcissism, and the zombie people who can't put their phones down. 

 - What are you doing when you are not teaching?

When I'm not teaching, I'm working at a Highlands thrift shop in Abingdon. Come visit me! And besides that, you can find me hiking around Cherokee Forest or just watching Netflix at home, procrastinating on all my unfinished art projects. 

 - What is the biggest lesson your yoga has taught you so far?

Yoga helped me find my innermost truth, my true self. I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with me. I am not a diagnosis, I am not a size, and I most certainly am not normal. I am ME and I am beautiful. More than anything, I strive for my students to know that they too are absolutely nothing but beautiful. 

It has been such a pleasure to see this beautiful butterfly unfold herself from her cocoon and emerge into the ethereal teacher she is today. Her presence is one that will leave you floating on your commute home. You can find Maggie in the classroom Mondays at 4:30 PM and Wednesdays at 6:15 PM leading Yoga for Everybody. Come be inspired with beauty.

Bristol Yoga Teacher Feature brought to you by Marcy Hullander

The antidote to combat stress in your daily life: Restorative Yoga

Bristol Yogini: Marcy Hullander-RYT talks about the benefits of Restorative Yoga

Why restorative? 

 

Restorative yoga is often referred to as the "antidote to stress". How often do you say to yourself, "If I can just get through this week"? Do words like "frazzled," "anxious" or "drained" appear in your mental vocabulary? Is it ever a struggle for you to get to sleep at night? These are just a few "symptoms" of stress. We, as a society, have become so accustomed to stress that we don't even recognize when it is present in our lives. 

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three categories of stress; acute, episodic, and chronic. For most of us, all three are present in some form. 

1. Acute stress - short in duration and most common; think skiing down a steep slope, skydiving, running late to work, stressing over deadlines, or worrying about conversations had or those still to be had. Acute stress can manifest physically in muscular tension, back pain, tension headaches, and in the bowels through acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea. 

2. Episodic stress - is acute stress suffered frequently. The feeling of always being in a rush but always late, being unable to get organized, taking on too much, and "never having enough hours in the day". Symptoms of episodic stress are the same as those of acute stress but over extended periods of time manifesting in persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. 

3. Chronic stress - is the opposite of acute stress. Acute stress comes in short, sometimes exciting bursts, whereas chronic stress is a slow, continual grind experienced in dissatisfying jobs or unfulfilling marriages. Chronic stress is most commonly ignored because individuals become so familiar with it that they forget it is there. This form of stress can manifest physically through violence, heart attacks, stroke, and potentially even cancer. 

Does any of this sound familiar? 

If it does, don't worry, I have already told you there is an antidote: Restorative Yoga. 

Restorative yoga helps combat the ailments that manifest from stress because of the way it engages the parasympathetic division of our autonomic nervous system (ANS). When we are stressed, we are spending all of our time in the sympathetic division of the ANS, in "Fight-or-Flight" mode, or survival mode. When our body goes into survival mode, all essential-but-non-essential-at-the-moment-because-we-think-we-are-dying functions like digestion, processes of elimination, growth, reproduction and repair, (everything governed by the parasympathetic division of the nervous system) are shut down. Restorative yoga encourages you to spend time in the parasympathetic division of your nervous system so these essential functions can re-engage and the body can begin to heal grow and repair. 

One SUPER simple way to help engage the parasympathetic division of your ANS, is by exhaling. 

So the next time you find yourself in one of the stressful situations, close your eyes, take a deep breath in through the nose, then sigh out through your mouth. Observe how the release of the breath makes you feel and repeat this three times.  When you get home in the evening and are lying in bed trying to fall asleep but the dialogue of your day is still on loop in your mind. Bring your attention to your breath, start counting the length of your inhales and exhales, then start to extend the count of your exhales to be a little longer and notice how your body feels as the parasympathetic division starts to engage as you drift into sleep. -

Marcy Hullander - RYT

Check out Marcy's Upcoming Workshop:

Exploring Yin in the midst of Yang 

In our modern, fast-paced society, many of us rarely find time to slow down and, oftentimes, lose touch with ourselves in the midst of all the hustle. This constant state of hustle can lead to fatigue, stress and exhaustion. Learn how to find stillness with an understanding of the Yin and Yang energy within. Join us at the studio for a restorative yin practice where we will explore the koshas, or 5 bodies, chakras, and settle into stillness. Allow yourself the opportunity to reconnect with your true self.  

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