Sunday, August 21, 2011


The park I teach free yoga at is along the Huron River.  It's a beautiful river that runs mostly through wilderness between a few area parks. This weekend, I brought my kayak to have a little fun after class. 

As class ended, I dragged my boat over to the river. I decided to paddle upstream for a while so by the time I was tired I could flow with the current. The first 10 minutes or so is through the city of Milford, so I saw cars, people walking dogs, and even some horses being ridden. As the river moved away from the city, the stillness and silence overwhelmed me. 

My teacher always says: "In stillness, we feel everything". This morning, that statement extended to all of my senses. It was almost like layers began to peel off, the deeper I went into the wilderness. First was my hearing. After a half hour or so, I began to realize that deafening silence actually wasn't silence at all. There were crickets, frogs, bird - an entire symphony of sounds! How did I miss that? How could I have not noticed these sounds from the start?

Next, a layer seemed to peel from my vision. What I saw moments earlier as stillness was actually a highly choreographed dance of birds and butterflies, tall grasses swaying, leaves being carried by the river. A dragonfly challenged me to a race, flying directly beside me for probably 3 full minutes before zipping off after deciding he had won. The logs I kept passing now held turtles sunning themselves. Were there turtles on the previous logs that I had just not noticed? How could I have not seen all of the activity in the day-to-day life of the river? How could I have thought of this as "stillness"?

My sense of touch heightened as well. I felt the breeze. I felt the spray of water from my paddle. The sun hitting my cheeks. Things I hadn't noticed before now consumed me. The smell of nature filled the air. Every sense felt alert and alive in a way it hadn't been when I had started my journey. 

We go through our days so overstimulated that we have to dull down our senses just to exist. Traffic becomes background noise we no longer hear.  We listen to music so loud it actually damages our eardrums, which forces us to listen to it louder. We hear kids playing and arguing, dogs barking, people talking. We watch TVs flashing from thistothattothis so quickly it would drive anyone actually giving it their full attention insane. We smell exhaust and pollution without even acknowledging it. 

It's no wonder we are no longer in tune with ourselves and eachother. This society has forced us to dull down any sensitivity we have if we hope to survive. This kayak trip showed me how badly I needed this sensory detox. I highly recommend taking a morning yourself to just get away. Find a corner of the Earth you can unwind and let down your guard. Get back in tune with your surroundings. Be still, be silent. See what you can notice that you never have before. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy Birthday,

Part of what has been taking me away from my normal life this summer was an idea. The idea started when I was at the Midwest Yoga Conference. It was the first yoga conference I had been to and I never wanted it to end. Each session I went to I got higher and higher on this yoga cloud. Everyone was so friendly. The teachers and speakers spoke such wisdom. I was inspired for 72 straight hours.

Lying in Savasana during a Seane Corn class, I began to think about how I could bring this into my life on a regular basis. I loved my studio and teachers at home, but there is a heightened sense of self when you just live and breathe yoga for days on end. What could I do to make this part of my every day life? I shifted back to focusing on my breath and let the seed take hold where I had planted it.

Later that night I was talking to one of the girls who helped organize the conference. I mentioned what an amazing time I was having, and how wonderful all of the teachers were. I then asked her where she finds them. She told me they invite mostly the same teachers back year after year because there is not really a way for her to learn about other teachers besides word of mouth. She has to know someone's name to go look for their website and see what they are all about and if they are already booked during the conference. Something inside of me clicked.

A web developer by trade, I think in databases. Pretty much everything in my world is normalized and optimized to be most efficient. Immediately, the idea took form. I could build a website where yogis could put their profile to be considered for various events and conferences. It wouldn't even need to be just yoga teachers, it could be meditation guides, musicians, motivational speakers, nutritionists - anyone that had something to share with the yoga community! If I could get enough people to post a profile, I could market to all of the industry events as well as studios looking for new talent to lead workshops and gatherings. I could travel to industry events to both spread the word and blog about all of the events to get new teachers interested for next year. Before I even left the conference I had a name for the new path I was about to embark on:

I set out building 2 months ago. In my spare time I would code and design and test and code some more.  The response I have had from the small sampling of teachers I had sent it to was overwhelmingly positive. After what seemed like forever, it finally went live yesterday! Go check it out: Over the next few weeks some of my Bent Yoga stuff may re-brand to TravelingOms. Be not afraid - its still me:)

While I am building up the database and working out any last minute bugs, it is completely free to post a profile. So if you have ever dreamed of traveling around sharing your wisdom and broadening your yoga community, go post your profile! Maybe I can help you fulfill your dream while you can help me fulfill mine :)  See you on!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken ain't Nothin but a Bird

We went to a family reunion yesterday. It was held on a beautiful farm with a few horses, some fresh veggies and chickens running free all over the place. We saw Alex looking at the chickens and Kyle said "that's where your chicken nuggets comes from".

My sister's reaction really made me sad. As soon as Kyle said it, she was like "Ewww! Gross! Don't tell him that!" That right there is what is wrong with our society. It is ok to eat the animals, just not to acknowledge where your food came from? If the thought of equating a living animal with a meal is too gross to tell a 5 year old, shouldn't actually feeding them the meal be just as gross? I don't get it. It is almost like people feel if you don't think about it then the connection doesn't exist.

I feel like where my sister is coming from is where so many people come from. They get grossed out thinking that an animal may be alive and mooing one day then on their plate the next. This is because no one brought up the connection early on in their life, so they continue with the mentality that it is taboo to doso. Alex is not a vegetarian. He likes his chicken nuggets and occasionally a hamburger or fish sticks. But at every meal we discuss what it is he is eating, so he is making a conscious decision to eat something that was once living. When we see a cow or pig we make sure he knows that is the hamburger or bacon he eats. That way if he still chooses to eat it, he has that connection and maybe a little more appreciation that something gave its life for him to eat.

I wonder what sort of world we would live in if everyone took their head of out the sand. If they allowed themselves to make that connection between a living animal and food. Would they not consume quite as much meat? Would they have a little more compassion and a little more respect for the food they are eating? Maybe a little more appreciation? Try it and see. Have open discussions about where your food came from at dinnertime. And if you find it too gross or distasteful to have at the dinner table, shouldn't that tell you something?

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Sometimes I get sad I found this yoga path so late - already well into my 30s. I think about how different my life might have been if I had learned to love myself more during those vain teens and 20s years. If I had had this confidence yoga inspires in me. If I had known what the word equanimity meant earlier in life.

I just dropped something a few moments ago upstairs. From down below I heard a child's voice: "Jenn, are you ok?!" and when I answered "yes" he responded "good, I just wanted to make sure I didn't need to kiss a boo boo". That's Alex, my boyfriend's 5 year old son who lost his mom a few years ago and lives with us full time. The response made me smile because it is so typical Alex. He is easily the most compassionate kid I have ever met.

I don't try to sway him to being vegan, but I also don't hide why I don't eat animals and we talk about being kind (to animals as well as people) a lot. He came home from daycare the other day saying "we learned about fishing today. I wasn't happy because it seems mean to put a hook through a poor fish. They're so much littler than you - is that what a bully is?" I told him yes, we are being a bully when we purposefully do things to hurt others.

He was having a few weeks where he started yelling at the teachers when they made him mad. We weren't sure what to do, since he is usually very respectful at home and doesn't yell at us.
On a whim (and because we were out of ideas), I started meditating with him - just 3 minutes each night. He giggles and squirms the first minute or two but usually by the last minute he is still. I talk to him about letting go of his thoughts. About feeling his breath on his upper lip. About noticing but not reacting to whatever it in his mind. I know it is a probably a bit over his head but I can only do what I know. One day he came home and said "I was good at daycare!" I asked what he did during his day and he said "there was 1 time I got mad when the teachers asked me to put my toys away." I asked "so did you yell at them?" and he said "no, I let it go".  I was like "what did you let go?" and he said "I just (took a deep breath in and deep breath out) and let it go. I wasn't mad anymore." I was floored.

If you ask him about pretty much any toy he has gotten in the past 2 years, he can tell you who gave it to him and when. He often brings this up out of the blue: "remember when grandma got me this stuffed animal for Christmas? That was really nice of her." or "Thank you for getting me this piggy bank for my birthday (last year)". Just random. One time, we were in the store and out of nowhere Alex proclaimed "I'm the luckiest boy!" When asked why he answered "because, I am" - who can argue with that?

I don't think there is a day that goes by that Alex doesn't ask if he can help me with something. And he is more consistent than I am with his Pleases and Thank You's. And since that first time in the store, the word "lucky" has made a daily appearance (he will get a juicebox out of the fridge and say "I'm really lucky to have juiceboxes. Some kids don't have them."). At dinner he always starts off conversation like a little adult saying "Dad, how was your day?" or "Jenn, did you have fun at yoga this morning?" There is a family yoga class coming up this month and he is SO excited to be able to come do yoga with me in the "big room" - he brings it up almost every day.

Looking at how compassionate, appreciative and respectful he is, I am realizing maybe yoga came into my life at just the right time. Having Alex around and old enough to comprehend when I would come home from teacher training class and talk about what we learned with my boyfriend might have made more of an impact on Alex than I thought. Being so new to things I think I speak of them a lot more than someone who has been living this way for decades already. My boyfriend has always been the extreme opposite (loves meat, very much about his own family unit and doesn't care what is happening to anyone else, etc) and even he is now choosing to shop at Trader Joe's and roll out a mat along side of mine every once in a while. 

I am beginning to see this journey isn't for me and my own life, but rather how I can inspire others to live similarly. It was brought into my life when I could share it most. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. So blessed to have these people in my life to share in my journey.