Reiki and the Wizard Oz

Long before television found Dr. Oz, he was performing heart transplants and practicing yoga.

We first learned of Dr Oz after a young friend of ours was rushed from a university in upstate NY to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. His heart was failing.  He would need a transplant.

We visited our friend in the hospital as he waited for a heart to become available. He had lost a great deal of weight. He coloring was gray, but his spirit and demeanor were positive. He told us how much he liked Dr. Oz and how his care provided a menu of alternative healing methods for patients to choose from.  Dr. Oz wanted every opportunity for healing possible for his patients. He brought together East and West for optimum care—pre and post surgery. We learned that between surgeries to relax and reenergize, Dr Oz often practiced yoga in his office.

Our friend tried several of the alternative healing options offered to him. “They all helped in some way,” he said, “but the lady who comes to give Reiki—I don’t know what she does but it is “amazing!”

Hearing the appreciation and enthusiasm in our young friend’s voice convinced me that if I ever had the opportunity to learn and share Reiki, I would.   That conversation was the beginning of my pursuit of alternative healing methods.

It was many years later that I found a Reiki class to attend. That first attunement  (initiation ritual) was a profound spiritual experience for me. Since then, I have gone on to take several more classes attaining Master level and  the Karuna II level.

As for Dr. Oz—he and our young friend had such a nice relationship through all the heart transplant process, that the good doctor came to ride in the annual Oz festival parade in our friend’s hometown Chittenango, NY–,birth place of L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz.  I can still see Dr. Oz in my mind’s eye in that open convertible waving and smiling brilliantly among the hundreds of people who stood along the yellow brick sidewalks to celebrate.

And as for our young friend?  He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, has a respected career, went through a second heart transplant, married an attorney and has three children including a set of twins.


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I Didn’t Know I Would Grow Up to Be a Yogini

How did that happen?

The source of my Ganges

In the mid 1990s, I experienced several losses and a great deal of stress on several fronts trying to make everything fit into a shrinking clock. As a result my immune system took a dive. I was making a career of doctors’ appointments that were addressing symptoms, but were not dealing with the cause of
my health issues. I felt I was in a downward spiral.

I saw an ad in the newspaper for a meditation class at the Syracuse Zen Center. I enrolled for a six-week session. As I moved into the practice, I found my days becoming easier to handle. I discovered a center of calm and peace within myself.

Encouraged by these results, I decided to add a yoga class to my meditation practice. I found one but it lasted for only six weeks. Yoga wasn’t popular in this area at that time. I persevered. I found classes here and there. I was a yoga nomad. As I practiced, I found that I became stronger, healthier and happier.

Every morning, as I walked by a vacated dance studio in the building where I worked, I thought to myself, “this would make a good yoga studio.” I hired a teacher and convinced a group of women to enroll. The teacher was good, but after several weeks, she wanted to spend time with a new grandchild. She left. I hired another teacher. She also taught for several weeks and decided she didn’t want to come out in the evening. I hired a third teacher.  After the third, class, she didn’t show up.

I sat facing a group of students looking at me waiting to learn yoga. I shared what I knew, but didn’t feel knowledgeable enough. The photo of the women you see here were my very first students. They encouraged me to go on. I call them the source of my Ganges, the source of the sacred river upon which I began and continue to sail. I found a 90-hour training fifteen miles away in Kripalu-style. I learned a lot; still I knew I needed to learn more. I began searching for a 200 –hour Yoga Alliance sanctioned teacher training. The teacher training all seemed so far from home.

A friend encouraged me to apply to Open Sky Yoga in Rochester, NY, less than two hours from my home. That was do-able. Now my worry was how I would keep up or fit in with alignment-based yoga made up of a group students most likely younger than I. I was in my fifties.

The program was more than teaching asana (poses) and pranayama (breath work.) It included study in philosophy, anatomy and ayurveda (the health science of yoga.) I was especially interested in ayurveda. My interest was in helping others heal as I healed. My friend continued to prod me to apply for the program. I had so much on my plate then, but I sent in my application.

The duration of the program was six months –January to June. It was a grueling challenge of balancing family, maintaining our family business, traveling the NY State thruway once a week plus one or two weekends a month, keeping up with my yoga studies, teaching a weekly class and dealing with grief. My mother had passed away less than two months before I began the training. I believe now that I would have drowned in grief without my training at Open Sky Yoga.

At graduation, I sat in the closing circle amidst rose petals, tears and new friends/fellow teachers. I knew in my heart I had heeded a call.

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The Art and Practice of Saucha

Why the blankets hang in the sun.

It’s because of saucha.

Saucha is cleanliness, the first of the niyamas or observances of yoga. Many people think yoga is asana (poses,) but in fact, yoga is so much more!

Yoga is the yoking of the mind, body and spirit into balance. Not an easy task in this fast-paced world we live in.  To attain that  balance which in the end means well being and being in touch with our highest consciousness, we follow an 8 fold path of yoga.

The Eight-fold Path

1. Yamas (restraints-nonviolence, truthfulness, non stealing, sexual responsibility, non greediness)
2. Niyamas (observances-cleanliness, contentment, perseverance, self-study, the power of surrender to that which is divine.)
3. Asanas (poses)
4. Pranayama (control of breath)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
6. Dhana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8, Samadhi (self-realization)

On a practical level, saucha is cleanliness of body, props and the space we occupy. For instance in yoga class, we come to class without any strong body odors including perfumes. We take our shoes off at the door respecting the place where we practice. We do not step on another’s mat or speak out of turn. We put our props away neatly and in order. All these practices serve to create a sense of awareness of ourselves in our surroundings, to create a clear way, minimizing any interference on our path.

A deeper meaning of saucha has to do with keeping energies clear. By sitting in neat lines or complete circles, by keeping our props fresh and tidy , by maintaining a clean body and  cultivating wholesome thoughts, by consuming healthy foods,  by viewing beautiful scenes and objects, we allow the universe’s energy or prana to flow in an orderly fashion (vastu) around us supporting, us in the best possible way to reach that place of who we are and why we’re on earth.

This has been the long way of telling you, the studio is closed for two weeks for  saucha.

Blankets, bolster and eye pillow covers, floors, windows and mirrors are all being cleaned.  It will be our pleasure to welcome you September 13th for a clean start to a new year of yoga!

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