Nothing to see here — just a little Namaste

By Jana Hill
Bennu Yoga owner

I came to yoga to find some peace. I was drowning in the deadlines and details of my journalism training, and the stress was overtaking me. My first class was in Bellingham, at Yoga Northwest — and it was love at first toe-tingle.

My toes actually did tingle when I left that day, and noticing my toes made me realize that the “body awareness” and “mind-body connection” thing were not just words uttered by uber-cool people, milling about the food co-op before driving off in microbuses. I went to college in Bellingham, after all, and people with those descriptors were more plentiful than average — they said yoga would do this, increase awareness and bring about calm. And they looked pretty darned calm to me — must be the yoga, right? I figured they may be onto something. Maybe this mind-body connection thing, this body-awareness thing, maybe it had a science to it. It must. I felt it.

Then a decade whizzed by, and several years more. I’ll abbreviate the yoga-related bullet points that have occurred since my first yoga class, in 1998:

  • News jobs, desk work, lots of sitting with few breaks.
  • Long commutes, more sitting.
  • Little back tweaks. More sitting.
  • Sitting, stressing out, and sitting.

Then, late in 2006, pah-twang, my mid-back went out, much wailing ensured, much ibuprofen was swilled, and things just got worse from there.

I left my job, and hobbled home to be a stay at home Mom and freelancer, because the printing press does not come to a halt until you heal. Newswork is just like on the movies — trust me. It’s fast.

That was big. That was my dream job, and I left it. It was the biggest act of yogic surrender I had ever performed — to avoid the struggle, push, and insistence needed to make things be the way you want them to be, instead of accepting them for what they are. And that, my dear friends, is what yoga is, and what your practice does. We move, attentively, and accept today as it is — in doing that, those move-and-accept-as-is habits spill into daily life.

My teaching style, and the words I offer to guide people through a practice — those all derive from that experience. I offer my practice to other people.

In flow classes, my practice is difficult, because I have leaned on it to wring out some very tough moments. Soft-and-gentle yoga is not my medicine: my sequences are felt the next day. I lean toward noisier music, because my head is noisy — I figure other people have noisy heads too. Yoga is my go-to. It is an outlet. It is medicine, and it is a release.

I also treasure yoga as a spiritual home, and in some ways, it is like a friend. But I do not utter many spiritual quips while in class. And, recently, I heard one of my students notice that — she said she had spiritual conflict in some classes, but did not feel that way in mine.

My spiritual messaging in yoga is subtle to the point of utter silence. It’s there, but I don’t verbalize it much — we move it. Mindfulness training through physical yoga is like an invisible hand, reaching out and turning the lights on.

I hope that everyone in the world practices yoga. If you don’t click with my class, I’ll help you find one that will work for you.

I’ll end with the one and only spiritual comment I make in my classes — Namaste. I’ve sought out many translations and explanations, but the way I see it, it means “My spirit says ‘hi’ to your spirit.”

See you in class. I’ll work you hard, then at the end, maybe our spirits will say, “hi.”

The Bennu Blog: Teaming up, and sorta Santosha

Teaming up & sorta Santosha

By Jana Hill

It is a winterish time. Chilly, foggy — as in every year around this season, I am having a harder time walking past the clutter to do something else. I have practiced yoga since 1998, but it still has the power to surprise me. I often apply my “I doubt it” mindset to all-things-yogic, even after years of practice. It is my scientific mind saying “I’ll believe it when I see it.” But, more often than not, those ancient yogis had it down, and that doubt is thoroughly erased.

Yogis will say winter is the time for introspection, for releasing what no longer serves you and making room for what does. My intuition has aligned with that energy, and I find it near-impossible this season to operate while surrounded by old stuff. All the no-longer-needed items, all the dust and clutter — each particle and item seems to wail a request for full-on eviction. Clear spaces are demanded — in my surroundings and in my mind.

One thing that has stayed constant, even as I clear my spaces annually, is yoga. In the summer of 2012, I took steps toward that consistency, and completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training at Pacific Yoga in Seattle. Then I nabbed a .com to go with it, and shelved the Bennu Yoga teaching-plan. My freelance writing-and-editing activity remained fierce: I pushed to find more clients and create more opportunity, in a freelance-life that has been a roller-coaster. I have often argued that as the Great Recession hit, it was simply adding pressure to a Media Recession that was already in-process. Yet, as I contended that very reality, I continued to wrestle my industry into submission; finding new niches and new “ins,” over and over again. If you’ve never freelanced, it’s kind of like being a professional job-hunter — new clients, new projects and people, around every corner. It’s a constant chase that I have endured for eight years.

Dreams of Bennu Yoga were my salve in that fight, so I sought out something super-pragmatic and parallel: a career in physical therapy. I volunteered in physical therapy settings, and the work seemed like licensed yoga-teaching. But the goal of a whole new degree seemed too much, at this point in my life.

Then in 2015, Bennu Yoga began to slowly and organically grow into … something. Not sure what. I just love to teach yoga, so I’m sort of just going with it. It started this summer, when I was happily surprised to get a call from Jamie at Stanwood Swim & Fitness, where I had delivered my then-new “Yoga Resume.” She said she’d keep it and two years later, she called. Now, I teach my own weekly yoga class  at SSF. It’s been absolutely hands-down glorious!

But even with a “win” in the summer of 2015, yoga-teaching still seemed too decadent to be a career path. It was too fun. Too rewarding. Too amazing. Shouldn’t I be working harder? Just a bit miserable? More stressed out? When I’m busy, shouldn’t I be contacting my doctors for help with anxiety and stress — doesn’t that prove my worth as a professional? As my mind flitted to what-to-do-next, I glanced at an ad for a new studio in Stanwood. I thought, “hmm, maybe one more class” and contacted Heidi at Bloom Yoga, also in Stanwood. In mid-November, I was hired for my own regular class, “Morning Energy Flow.

What’s next? Time will tell. For now, I have a loose plan to team up with some local yoga people, combined with a loose plan to stop pushing so hard in my work-life — and, yes, I do see the irony in that “trying” to stop “trying.” But, I am actually having moments where I achieve that “contentment/Santosha” thing we yogis like to talk about, meditate on, and, um … well, for me anyway, it’s not something I always achieve.

But, like yoga, it’s a process, constantly changing from day to day. Deep breath in, let it out.

Well, for now anyway, I’m off to be content. To-do list out — “content, calm, centered” check, check, and check. I’ll likely be moving around doing this-and-that as I do that “content” thing. A little secret — I am not very good at holding still for long, and I’m not one of those naturally yogic types: it’s work for me.

I can show you how I do that. Come to class. Let’s practice!

I am a twitchy personality by nature, and my class-style reflects that. I assume, like me, that you don’t get calm by me telling you to be calm — I think calm comes from a mix of burned up nervous energy, and some other really cool yoga-tricks that are based on physiology and a lot of yogic-awesome. I’m not bragging — this is yoga. It’s like good cooking — if I serve you fresh Copper River salmon, I didn’t “make” the salmon decadent. I just knew how to prepare it.

My classes get people moving and keep things active until the end — I am unlikely to put you in a meditation before I’ve wrung you out, at least a little bit. I figure if it works for me, maybe it’ll work for you too. Then, when we’re tired, we focus on the breath — it’s an oddly simple practice that is passed to me by some brilliant trainers. Just. Breathe.

Well, I do hope to see you there. I’m going to devise a few new playlists now, so I guess I’m off to “work” — see you in class!