Conversations of Connection and Community with Eliza!

What first brought you to yoga? Do you remember your first yoga class or your first experience at a yoga studio? What would you like new students to know before attending a class with you?

I am a yoga baby! It was only 2 years ago, as a Junior at IU, that I came to Vibe to take my first yoga class. I came to the practice in the hopes of finding tools to help me deal with some severe mental health issues I was experiencing at the time. I was in a bout of depression and often felt numb and absent from the present moment.

In my first practice, moving through the postures and following the cues and directions of the teacher, I had to be present. Linking my breath to movement, I became in tune with both my physical body and my mental state. In noticing how I showed up on the mat, I could better understand where I was emotionally and how I was carrying those emotions in my body. Using the observations of my yoga practice I gained the insight to deconstruct what, at the time, felt insurmountable; my mental health. Yoga, in combination with therapy and the godsend that is antidepressants, has brought me back to the present moment.

What is a memorable yoga experience that you have had?

In one of Erin Thomas's classes, Erin offered "crow pose," bakasana. She brought the class down to a seat to workshop the alignment of the pose and cue what needed to be engaged in order to lift our feet off the mats and land in this arm balance. Seeing the pose I thought, "oh hell no, I will never be able to do that." I'd rather sit on the mat and watch others try than embarrass myself. But, Erin persisted. She explained that these are the "oh shit" moments, when you take a risk and go for something without knowing the outcome.

I instantly fell back onto my feet. Everyone in the class was laughing and enjoying the opportunity to play, to fall down or to do something they had possibly never done before. As I shifted my weight onto my hands, rolling my eyes and thinking, this is going nowhere. I fell back onto my feet instantly. As we met in forward fold, Erin congratulated us. She said whether you lifted your feet and balanced on your arms or fell on your face, you have done the pose.

In this moment, Erin took away a lot of the hyper self awareness I experienced in public yoga classes. This profoundly human moment all of us shared as students of yoga gave me such relief and allowed me to begin practicing without fear of judgement, and more importantly, with the knowledge that there is no failure in practice.

What is your favorite yoga posture or class to personally take and why?

My favorite posture is Warrior II! Yeah....no. Absolutely not. I love this pose and other highly engaging poses, but I really love savasana. Coming to savasana at the end of a practice when your mind moves more easily to quietude after exertion and challenge is like taking a cold shower after a long summer day spent outside. I love this pose and I am so grateful for the incredible wisdom of the founders and original practitioners of Hatha yoga, who incorporated this posture at the end of a practice to bring rejuvenation to the mind and spirit. Savasana is one of the few times during my day, if not the only, that I am awake but my mind is allowed to wander without interruption or to drift to absolute stillness. Although, I will add, absolute stillness is rare.

What classes are you teaching this month? Is there anything that students can expect from a class with you?

This month I am teaching an Outdoor Slow Flow, 07/13, at 5:30 pm. I am teaching a Yoga In Action Hot Power Vinyasa class on Tuesday, 07/20, at 7:30 pm. This class is donation-based, so there is no charge to attend but you are welcome to drop a cash donation in our donation jar which will go to the organization Vibe is supporting this month, Bloomington Homeless Coalition! Finally, I will be teaching a Candlelit Hot Slow Flow class, 7/25, at 6:00pm.

I would love to see you in any of these classes. You can expect a light hearted practice with some bad jokes, many options to take or leave, and profound gratitude, from me, for the opportunity to lead you in a practice that is ancient, sacred, and healing.

This month’s theme is community. How would you describe this concept to someone unfamiliar with or why is this theme most relevant now?

Community, like breath, is a human function that is both voluntary and involuntary. We are born into environments and identities that make us parts of certain groups and communities. Sometimes those environments are nurturing and nourishing. Other times they may be depleting or harmful. However, we have the option to find and choose communities for the duration of our lives on this earth. We can choose our friends, families, and social groups. We can move to new places and join organizations. As the ability to choose a community is accessible to every one of us, there are innumerable and immeasurably diverse communities in the world. Our most important duty to ourselves as a community member is to make choices that fill us up. Our most important duties to the communities we choose and those we don't belong to are to move with the intention to reduce the amount of harm in the world. 

What are three ways that students can practice community either on their yoga mats or in their daily lives?

Connect to collectivity

Oftentimes in our yoga practice we are guided to turn inwards, to use asana as a measure of where we are and how we are showing up in that moment. Just as we use breath in this way, so do those in classes with us. Next time you are in a yoga class, tap into not only your breath, but the collective breath of the students and teacher in the room. Notice how you move in relation to the bodies around you. You may experience the practice differently than you usually do. You may find new teachers in the room. You may experience the profound nourishment of collectivity. 

Communicate for community

At certain times in our life, and especially during the last year and a half, we may feel deprived of community. Fortunately, many of us have the ability to use modes of communication, our phones, our voices, the blessed US postal service (and no I will not mention Zooooom) to reach out to those we may be missing or thinking of. This month, when you have a sweet thought about someone, or recall a special moment or memory, reach out in whatever way you’d like and let them know. Maybe they were thinking about you too!

Share Resources

Wherever you are in your life, in a moment of transition, experiencing security, feeling jaded or stuck, this month, reach into your resources and give something to others. Whether that offering is material, work shoes or tents you no longer need, feminine hygiene products, cash, or not, therapist recommendations, a job connection, advice based on life experience, share with the understanding that life can be incredibly trying. Share with those directly in your community, or those in other communities. In giving something, you will fill back up so many times over.