At Home Retreat – Centering Body & Mind: Yoga & the Four Sublime States

I planned to be in residence at Southern Dharma again this year to settle into the meditation hall for yoga and meditation, share silence and delicious, nutritious meals, and enjoy the serene beauty of western North Carolina mountains. I never imagined that a virus would sweep the world, affect so many families and businesses, and require us to creatively alter this plan.

Magnolia by Pascale Parinda

Fortunately, we’re in the world of magic technology that allows us to be together in a different, yet intimate, way. Currently, I teach Zoom yoga classes from my home studio, during which I get to see inside people’s homes, meet their pets and children, and see what kind of practice space they have set up. I’d be honored to be invited into your home, if you choose to participate in this retreat. Likewise, I look forward to welcoming you into my home. There’s a special tenderness of being together in this way at a time when we’re asked to isolate ourselves from others.

The home of the four immeasurables, the limitless ones, is a place of both release and outreach: when we observe ourselves being frightened and reaching for more chocolate, can we notice that behavior with compassion toward ourselves, without judgment? And if we eat the chocolate, well, okay! There’s a pandemic going on…let’s eat chocolate! If we interact with someone who isn’t wearing a mask in the grocery store, can we tap into equanimity for that person who might be afraid in his or her own way?

Let’s be honest. We are uncomfortable with uncertainty. We don’t like not knowing.

Asana practice is a way to release into not knowing. During this time of emotional ups and downs, we have the opportunity to experience yoga as way to support our bodies and minds. We have the opportunity, on-line and at home, to stay embodied, soften our shoulders, and recognize our inter-dependency.

Southern Dharma and I are working together to create this at-home retreat as a way to support and comfort you, as well as to hone your tools of self-awareness.

No matter your personal situation, I’m confident you can find ways to participate in this retreat. It’s an experiment, like life. Just show up and see what happens. There’s no “wrong way” to do this!

Learn more about the retreat HERE. Here’s a detailed schedule.

Clear Seeing

I sit and squint at the blue bird on the budding branch. I can see that the bird is blue. I can’t tell whether it’s an Eastern Bluebird, a Blue Bunting, or a Blue Jay. I realize in that moment that I just can’t see well. Then I remember: months ago I was diagnosed with vitreomacular traction, an eye condition that causes distorted vision.  

The reason I even had a clue that there are different kinds of birds that are blue is that my friend, Jim, surprised me last week with a copy of What It’s Like to Be a Bird, by David Allen Sibley. As soon as I received the book, I delved right in. What else am I to do while Staying Home? How many Zoom classes can one take?

Before the bird flew away, I found binoculars and discovered that he was an Eastern Bluebird. To see more clearly, I needed the right tool—in this case, the proper kind of glasses. 

During this challenging crisis, I find I’m spending more time than usual looking inward. What am I not seeing? What tools can I use to help me see more clearly? Are there aspects of personality that aren’t readily clear? Well, yes. I’ve noticed that I’m greedy. Usually, I stay busy enough not to notice. Busy-ness distracts me. Now, greed arises within me for a sit-down meal at a restaurant, or a leisurely afternoon at Malaprops. I even ache for an unmasked trip to the post office. That’s pitiful. At least I keep my sense of humor.

The pandemic has deprived us of many of the activities of daily life that distract us, as well as those that entertain and enrich us. There’s so much I miss! Hugging my grandnephew is high on the list of things I crave… even more than a sit-down meal at Thai Kitchen. 

However, when I use the “right” tools, I have the opportunity, if I so choose, to direct my focus. Then I experience more stable ground beneath my feet, steadiness to my breathing, a lift of my spirits, and connection to myself and others. My tools include a Koan meditation session, a long walk with Jack, FaceTime with a friend, a Zoom yoga class, and sometimes a prayer. What are the tools available to you to help you see more clearly—to help you find clarity? I recognize that I may not “like” what I see. Today, I noticed the dirty grout in the shower. I recognized the gritty greed in my mind. I scoured the grout. I watched the greed. I suspect both will return. I’ll be watching.

Until the “all clear,” I’m working to accept the fact that the hug I’m sending you is “virtual,” but nonetheless, deeply felt. I’m also sending you the strong suggestion that you find ways to “see” more clearly—whether it’s a bluebird on a branch, or a glimpse of your true, authentic, and loving nature.

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A number of you are already enjoying taking private and semi-private classes with me via Zoom. I will continue to offer this way of practicing through May. If you would like to schedule Zoom time with me, please send an email to cdollar53@gmail.com to set this up. 

Private or Semi-Private Classes via Zoom

Right now I am not teaching in-person group classes or Zoom group classes. However, I am set up to offer private and semi-private classes via Zoom. If you would like to schedule this way of staying connected with yoga and me at this time, please send me an email to set this up. 

Gratitude & Grief

A part of me has been feeling untethered lately. What day is this? What’s on my to-do list? What do I do if I don’t have a to-do list? On some days, I feel joyful and free. On other days, I feel trapped. I’ve observed that frequently the focus of my attention determines my mood and the quality of my life. 

We exist in uncharted territory right now. Nobody knows what will happen in two days or two months. The truth is that we never ever know the future. Never have. Never will. So let’s focus on now since our actions and attitudes today affect the future. 

Did you ever go on a scavenger hunt where you have a list of items to find? Perhaps you wandered into the woods in search of Jack-in-the-pulpit, Solomon’s seal, or wild ginseng. If you looked hard and long enough, you could usually find some of these. However, little hunting was required for dandelions so they were seldom on the list.

Back to the present moment where we’re urged, for the well being of our fellow humans, to stay home and social distance. It’s weird, isn’t it? And, I find, quite challenging to practice. Grief lays heavy on the shoulders. Anxiety appears to be free floating in the atmosphere—kind of like dandelions popping up in the yard. Simultaneously, kindness hovers nearby as neighbors assist each other in obtaining food from the store. Many teachers offer online classes on a “pay if you can” basis. Folks with sewing skills are giving away homemade masks. Goodness abounds in these times. Gratitude flourishes right beside this open-heartedness when we take a breath and recognize the generosity of others. Where is your focus? 

What the World Needs Now…

Yes, there is much uncertainty facing the world right now. Many brilliant minds are looking for short and long-term medical and economic prescriptions to treat and recover from this pandemic. What we can say for certain is that the worldwide spread of the virus shows how interconnected we all are—and that indisputable fact suggests a Rx that is available right now: yes, love, sweet love…and compassion…to others and to ourselves. I believe to my core that how we interact with others and with ourselves during this time is affecting our fellow humans on multiple levels.
For instance, I’ve noticed much kindness and generosity as folks reach out to neighbors to offer to pick up and deliver food. That feels good! A newfound courtesy is springing up in stores as we make room, physically and emotionally, for the presence of others in our shared space. Many people are out walking in parks with kids and dogs and are sending air-hugs through the ethers from the recommended 6 feet of separation. Lovely to witness! 

Others are sequestered in their homes, spending lots of time on FaceTime to visit with family. The use of Zoom is on the rise as many of us improve our Spanish, practice yoga, or learn to make bread with strangers, who may become new friends. We are connected by being alive on this planet we call home and by helping one another through this extremely difficult time.

As a yoga practitioner, I watch the play of the mind and body. In one moment, I feel secure in my good health. Next, I know that I’m not immune. I notice nervous energy. I walk quickly and sit down to meditate. I’m concerned about those who live in health care facilities and the medical teams who tend to them. Simultaneously, I trust that each of us is doing the best we can to care for ourselves and each other. I have no idea of what will happen anywhere or anytime. Ever. All we have is now and now affects the future. Following the best advice for everyone now, I am not offering any group classes March 23 through April 1.

What currently captures my mental attention is the spectrum and fluidity of human desire—for stability, movement, contact, even isolation. What do you desire and what do you do when you don’t have access to your desired routines or daily habits? Do you frequently go to yoga classes or to the movies? Now that those outlets are not available, do you get cranky, whine, and bemoan your fate? Or do you unearth your sewing machine and finally say yes to that dress? Can you observe what’s happening inside of you, and without judgment, notice how those feelings translate into behavior? Can you sit still and let the energies pass through you without doing your habitual behavior? You don’t know until you try.

Around the world, yoga teachers are offering on-line classes. I encourage you to jump in on some of those. I’ll be posting yoga poses and sequences from archived One Center Yoga newsletters until I get to that place of technology know-how. Here’s a Pose of the Month featuring Ustrasana. Supportive chest-opening poses are beneficial to boost the immune system, lift our spirits, and expand our chest cavity to enable easier breathing. 

I miss seeing your smiling faces and uplifted chests. I want to give each one of you a big, tight hug. For now, I’m going to stay present, protected (not fearful), and calm as I wade into the unknown future. Please know that in this very moment, which is the only moment I can be present for, I’m sending a huge air-hug to each of you and to the planet. I trust that all will be well.

If you have a few moments to spare, I urge you to watch this gorgeous YouTube video from 2016 (What the World Needs Now) when the 6-feet of separation rule did not apply. Yes, love, sweet love, is what the world needs now.  

Be Calm… and Wash Your Hands!

I’ve been ping ponging in my head about teaching classes this week or not teaching them. I’m going to err on the side of caution and suspend group classes at my home studio and at Wellspring Wellness for this week, March 16-20I will let you know soon if I will hold classes the week after that.

I will continue to teach private and semi-private lessons. If you’re interested in scheduling one of those, contact me. I hope to make some meditation recordings this week. I’m not going to promise…

As a pharmacist, I recognize the danger of viral and bacterial infections. When epidemiologists, the CDC, and WHO advise people to be cautious, I comply. I suspect you’ve heard the very basic guidelines:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. 
  • Maintain social distance of 3 feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. 
  • If you’re older than 65, stay home.

The “social distancing” part is the hard one for me; I hug people all the time. I feel like human contact is something we need more of, not less. Still, I’m going to follow the recommended precautions and give hugs with my eyes, my words, my energy, my actions. And I’ve been washing my hands frequently since I was a child. My parents were right about that!

I am concerned that people are experiencing so much panic and anxiety. Please try to stay calm. Panic never helps. Really, never! If you want factual information, visit the CDC website the WHO (World Health Organization).  

So, what to do? Take a breath. Walk outside and look up. Eat well. Reach out to friends. Write a letter. Make phone calls. Practice the Immune Sequence in this PDF (which you can download and print if you like). If you aren’t familiar with the poses, contact an Iyengar teacher. I’m here! Other studios are posting on-line classes.

I will write more in the next few days. I wanted to inform you now of the schedule changes for this week.

Just… being… present!

As vacation time comes to an end, I’ve noticed how I begin to think of the future—as in, “This time next week I’ll be teaching a class.” On the heels of that thought is “How do I want to spend these last few days?” This scenario puts me in the middle of a mental ping-pong match, rather than in a place of openness to feeling the warm, moist breeze, seeing the bright, sunny sky, and hearing the roar of ocean waves landing on shore.

Come practice with me at my home studio in Weaverville or at Wellspring Wellness Center in Asheville! See the new schedule, beginning March 2, on the right -> of this page!

On either end of a trip, I find my mind bouncing between a to-do list to get ready and a list of what to do when I get there. What I’ve learned to practice (sometimes more skillfully than at other times!) is to catch hold of my bouncing mind, recognize what I need to do, and then do it in that moment. Pack my bathing suit. Done! Arrange for transportation. Check! Schedule classes. Got it! To take care of those tangible tasks is to be present. Then I can turn my full attention to being aware and present in the next moment. Thankfully, I continue to learn to stay grounded by focusing on the body on the yoga mat.

Find my feet. Keep my mind on the mat. Bring that wandering mind back to the tangible time on the mat and in life.

Part of what I’ve ping-ponged about while I’ve been in Mexico is how to revamp my teaching schedule now that I’m no longer teaching at Iyengar Yoga Asheville. In addition, you’ll see below that I’ve dropped two of the classes I previously had on the schedule and that I’ll be teaching at Wellspring Wellness Center in East Asheville. I’m thinking about adding some half-day meditation and asana retreats. I’m letting those ideas percolate without making plans. As my friend, Gene, taught me—a plan just gives you something to deviate from. 

As I near the end of my delightful and relaxing vacation, I know I’m happy to return to the home and friends I love in Asheville. I know I will again enjoy teaching all of you, walking with Jack, and eating huge piles of fresh vegetables. In that future moment, I will be practice being present to being home. Now, I’m still here. We’ll see what the future brings. I’m going to let that ping-pong ball bounce off the table and see what happens. 

STARTING MARCH 2: Please note the new class schedule for the Weaverville Studio and the Wellspring Wellness Center on the right!

A New Chapter in My Yoga Teaching Journey

Here at the end of January 2020, I ready myself to go to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for the month of February. This year my husband and I will be there for 29 days. I watch my mind make list after list to get ready to go. Who will teach my classes while I’m away? Who will take care of Jack, the best dog in the world? Have I put enough money in the bank? In preparation for packing, I toss swimsuits, books, and sunscreen into the closet corner in preparation of languorous time on the beach. 

The classes at my home studio in Weaverville are cancelled for February. I encourage you to take classes at IYA, or at Yoga East, or at a yoga studio of your choice. I’ll look forward to hearing about your yoga adventures when I get home.

Beach Warrior!

During the month of February, my former class times at IYA will continue with teachers from that studio, except for Slow Yoga classes, two of which will be taught by Julie LaFleur, a guest Iyengar teacher from Tennessee. You will love her!

When I return to North Carolina at the end of the month, I will not return to teaching at Iyengar Yoga Asheville. I fully support what Randy and Greta are undertaking with a studio that offers only Iyengar yoga, but I have decided to expand my offerings, and will be teaching at Yoga East, where Rachel Fagan and Lindsay Majer teach their classes. I’m not quite sure what my class schedule will be. I’ll figure that out while resting my mind and body with long beach walks and yoga on the hotel roof. By the end of February, I will let you know what my schedule is at Yoga East and at my home studio.

So, how does that sound? Are you having reactions to the information? I know that I have had some feelings come up about these changes. I’m excited. I’m sad. I’m enthusiastic. Mainly, I’m open to the new possibilities that exist for all of us during this period of… well, of uncertainty about the future. The future is always unknown. Sometimes that uncertainty is easier to acknowledge.

I deeply appreciate your patience with the various changes that have shaped the where, what, and when of my classes these past couple of years. I appreciate your dedication to your practice. 

While I’m in Mexico, I’ll be posting on Facebook. Class information will also be posted here as I decide on future class options.

During the month of February, here’s who will be teaching my former classes at Iyengar Yoga Asheville:

Monday 2-3pm Slow Yoga
Feb. 3 – Jayne
Feb. 10 – Jayne
Feb. 17 & 24 – Julie LaFleur

Tuesday 4-5:30pm 
Feb. 4, 11, 17 & 25 – Greta

Wednesday 12-1:30pm – Level 1&2
Feb. 5 – Gabe
Feb. 12 – Jayne
Feb. 19 & 26 – Gabe