Iyengar Yoga Detroit


Iyengar Yoga Detroit

While exploring my yoga practice in stepping away from teaching for a few months, I found Iyengar Yoga Detroit and the Badass Yoga Nun. Can I just tell you how much I have fallen in love with that Iyengar prop wall! Oh my goodness, the acrobatics that are available in a harness is pretty spectacular.

Down dog is probably my favorite pose for my scoliosis. Symmetrical (well, as symmetrical as it can be for me) spine extension takes the ache out of my back. Have you ever tried down dog with a suspended wall rope around your waist, completely supported in the hips, heels against the wall, taking almost all of the weight out of your arms? You must! It is pure bliss, I promise you. I learned this version of the pose while in class at IYD with the Badass Yoga Nun, aka Gwi-Seok.


Badass Yoga Nun

photo credit: yoganun.weebly.com

Gwi-Seok is as tough as she is compassionate. She makes all poses accessible to all yogis in the class regardless of age, ability or experience level. Some of her other offerings at IYD include a weekly Black & Brown yoga class for yogis of color and a weekly class specifically for women.

IYD is accessible to a range of income levels. They offer a new student 5 class package for $30 and several Community Gift classes per week at $5 and up.  I would highly recommend Iyengar Yoga Detroit, and look forward to practicing there again in the near future.

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I Believe I Can Fly, Part II


I booked a flight to attend an artist residency in southern California. After 15.5 years of not being willing to get on an airplane, I felt a sense of freedom in allowing myself to do the thing that I had been afraid to do. As we took to the air, I felt an expansiveness that made the world feel a little more open to me. My seat, by coincidence, was right over the wing.

Yes. I can fly.

“Taking flight” shifted something in my psyche. It frees me up to the possibility to make other choices and decisions that can be unencumbered by past experience, allowing each new experience to be viewed with fresh eyes. It affords me the opportunity to move forward with an open mind and heart.

Yes. I can fly.

And the world opens up to me. And not just in the exhilaration of being in the air, above the clouds, or the anticipation of what adventure awaits me at my destination point; but in the beauty of saying “yes” to life, and to not letting fear keep me from doing what I want to do.

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Exploration in Abstraction



Happiness 1.4.17



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Profile: Faina Lerman


Faina_ Baba, Joe and a horse

Baba, Joe, and a horse

Faina Markovnan Lerman, painter/performance artist will present Family Album at Cave Detroit on April 14 with an opening reception from 6-9pm. This is her first exhibition after a 4 year hiatus. Faina is also the co-director of Popps Packing, an artist-run, neighborhood-based non-profit which hosts artist residencies, gallery exhibitions, workshops and other public events.

Faina stepped away from her visual art practice after having children. She says:

Once I had kids, I already new that I wasn’t going to be the juggling mom of trying to maintain my studio practice. Their life, from babies to starting school is so short and so fast and I just didn’t want to feel like I was going to miss any of it. Or be mad at them because I’m not going into the studio enough. I felt like it would add an extra tension and make things more stressful for me. So I figured I would raise the family… Popps stuff happens from home, it’s all one physical umbrella and even mentally it has similarities, as far as the organizational duties.

In studio practice I needed to move farther away from reality in order to have that mental space. And the way that I was in the studio would be long chunks of time, odd hours of the night, some whiskey or lots of wine… you don’t have any other cares. So the idea of structuring studio time to accommodate family life and other things, I knew I wasn’t ready for that yet.

These last four years of longing for that have given me a new momentum now. At first there was that fear of “I’m going to forget how to ride that bike,” you know. Like I lost something, or that a part of myself was gone because I wasn’t doing that. The last year was starting to get rough and I was starting to feel like I’m not an artist anymore because I’m not physically [making] things even though I was doing performance. But my idea of an artist as it relates to myself [includes] painting or mark-making. Performance lives within a different category within myself as opposed to what painting and that language does for me. It requires different things of me that I can’t get from performance art. It’s so personal. It’s a totally different process. I’m glad that I didn’t force it earlier.

Graem Whyte, her husband and business partner, recently built a lofted studio for her in the back of Popps, where his workshop is (which he shares with residents). She had relinquished her personal studio space in Popps to be used as a gallery once they started hosting regular events and openings. Now, she has a space to work in again and created a new body of work over the winter.

Faina_ The Babas with Mom and Joe

The Babas with Mom and Joe

She has taken a more fundamental approach to her work – presenting portraits in this exhibition. She says that her abstract work in the past has been more emotional, intuitive and inner-worldly.

How do I find the intuitive essence of what that is [with these paintings], confronting the faces in the photos and the people in them? I never saw myself as a representational painter and I don’t know if I’ll continue that after this show. The family portraits are a personal journey. The images I chose were both for aesthetic purposes as well as the nostalgia of those people and places. I learned about my sensibility. I think I gained a new confidence in what I can do.

She began these paintings in the same way she would with her abstract work:

…with a few lines, gestures and intuitive marks with paint directly on the canvas or board, even if it ends up all being covered up, so that the memory of trying to find the lines, find the form is in there, and I need that to get me started…

See more, learn more at her opening reception on Friday, April 14. Cave is located in The Russell Industrial Center, Building 4, 3rd Floor, 1604 Clay St. Detroit. The exhibition runs through May 12, 2017.

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Zilpha - Sequoia.jpg

Spring is here! It’s a time of new beginnings. The gestation of winter has ended and an outward manifestation of life starting anew is evidenced as buds on trees start to appear, grow and open. Trees, for me, most embody the cyclical nature of life. While the tree seems to die and be reborn, it also maintains the knowledge of the previous years of life which it has cycled through. It is a spiral of evolution as seen in the year rings of its trunk.

Spring also signifies change; it is a turning point on that cyclical wheel. It’s a great time to embrace newness and the excitement of awakening to longer days. At this time of year, I experience renewed energy to participate in the outer world after the hibernation and reflection period of winter.

What this new cycle is manifesting for me is a desire to take it back to the beginning in my yoga practice. I have stepped away from teaching and am embracing being a student and working to cultivate my personal practice more. After completing the Hatha Yoga Teacher Training program at the Temple of Kriya Yoga  in 2002, I began teaching a community donation class once a week. Five years ago, I started building more classes into my schedule and was until recently teaching about 6-7 classes a week.

I love teaching yoga. Even on days when I don’t feel up to it, after an hour of shared energy and the unison chant of OM at the end of class, my spirit fills up with an inner joy. There is an immediate reward in offering and receiving this practice, and I am grateful for being able to do this for a living. And I have so much gratitude for those who show up to my classes and appreciate what I have to offer. Thank you!

It is also nice to step away for awhile, to seek new teachers, and to re-dedicate myself to my practice with the intention that I too may expand so that my personal “year rings” will indicate growth.

Happy Equinox!

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I Believe I Can Fly

Monica Urdva Clayton

A few months ago, I received an email from Steve Rogne of Zen Shiatsu Chicago. He was looking for people to participate in a demo on Shiatsu for Phobias presented at the Women’s Athletic Club in Chicago. I was chosen for the demo because I was a perfect candidate for the treatment based on the reaction my body had at the mere idea of being on an airplane: rapid heartrate, shortness of breath, tightening of the chest…

This phobia was caused by a very intense flight during a thunderstorm in which the small plane that I was on needed to land on a small mountain. Serious lightening. The winds were so high that the plane felt like it was being tossed around like a toy in the hands of Godzilla. The flight attendant strapped herself into her seat and her wide-eyed panic provided zero comfort for the passengers. There was loss of altitude at a near nose-dive angle. Complete silence except for the pilot stating the obvious – that we were moving through an intense storm. And to please remain seated with our seatbelts on. We landed. Safely.

However, I held anxiety about the return flight the entire time I was away. Though that flight was smooth and without trouble, it’s been over 15 years since that airplane ride back to my city of residence. That experience grounded me. It didn’t keep me from traveling to beautiful places, but it did keep me from boarding an airplane.

During my first Shiatsu for Phobia session, which lasted all of about 15 minutes, a mantra came to me: “The past is not the present. Each new experience deserves the opportunity to be viewed with fresh eyes.” And this is the goal of the treatment, that the brain will store that past experience in the place where it belongs so that the thought of it no longer triggers an adrenal response. I am certain that something has shifted in regard to my past fear of flying. Where I would normally begin to hyperventilate in the recounting of that old story, this time as I told the story to a friend, it was almost as if it had happened to someone else.

I returned for a one hour follow-up session at Zen Shiatsu to discharge any nervousness about future airplane travel. I suppose I will know for sure how I feel about flying when I next go to book a flight. Stay tuned for Part II…


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Joy in Repetition, Part II



The Yoga Mala that I assisted teaching with Cassi (who has taught several malas) took place at Tula Yoga on the Autumnal Equinox. Changes of season are perfect times for intention setting. Cassi brought sea glass as mala beads to keep track of the 108 repetitions. The number 108 is said to represent the universe: 12 Zodiac Houses x 9 Planets = 108. 

I had the honor of counting the sun salutations as the participants completed them. One rock, shell, stone or tiny amulet for each salutation, counted out into neat piles and dropped one at a time back into their simple glass jar container. This repetitive act was its own form of meditation; and the sound of the object coming into contact with the glass or another object inside the jar added to the soundtrack.

This beautiful ritual inspired me to find 12 stones to assist me in keeping track of the salutations in my personal mala (completed over nine days, 12 salutations per day). There’s something very sensual about handling stones. I have a collection of them that I’ve gathered from locations which I have visited across the country – found alongside creek beds and hiking trails. 

There is something cathartic about the repetitive flow vinyasa. Even though the asanas of Surya Namaskar are basic poses which I have practiced for years, I found a new awareness in them with each return, and became more in tune with the actions needed to move through them with more ease and less effort. 

I completed the mala. I no longer hate chaturanga. There is in the place of hate a newfound respect for the power of the pose. And a deep respect for the beautiful yogis who I had the honor of witnessing in their intention of 108. 




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I Hate Chaturanga – or – Joy in Repetition, Part I



photo credit: dailycupofyoga.com


I recently had the opportunity to assist in teaching a Yoga Mala – 108 Sun Salutations. I have never done a yoga mala. I hate chaturanga. Really. It’s just never been one of my favorite poses. Once I learned that I actually had to the strength to do this pose, I enjoyed doing two or three of them. But 108? Bah!

There is, however, joy in repetition. I use this philosophy in my paintings, often working from a template that gets repeated and re-created through size and palette. I use this philosophy in yoga classes that I teach when students are holding a challenging or difficult pose, reminding them that repetition works as well as a long hold, and that releasing the pose and then moving back into it is perfectly legit.

Now, I’ve decided to use this philosophy in a personal challenge of completing a yoga mala. 12 Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar A), for 9 days equals 108 (mala).

A mala is a string of prayer beads often used by Hindus and Buddhists to count prayers. The number 108 is said to represent the number of mortal desires of (hu)man(s). 108 to dissolve that which is holding you back. 108 for creating tapas (austerity, discipline, fiery passion).

The first day, it was interesting to note that my body definitely did not want to do 12 chaturangas. I listened to my body and substituted Ashtanga Namaskara (knees, chin, chest pose). I’m inspired by the notion of developing more upper body strength and core power.

I recently met a beautiful young soul who I will call Rose. She is the seven year old daughter of a dear friend. Rose has mastered the monkey bars. During a family visit to the park, I watched as she moved with ease from bar to bar, sometimes skipping one in between swings. Back and forth she went: joyful, countless times. She made me want to try it. I managed to make it across, but with much effort. I told her that she was my hero, that I wanted to be strong like her. This nine day mala is the volition of my intention to be strong like Rose.

Today was day four…

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That Quality of Light (for Nana)


Nana Shineflug (photo credit Erika DuFour)

On one particular, yet ordinary day, I am moving about from item to item on my to-do list. On this day, I am allowing myself to feel what it is I want to be doing in that particular moment instead of approaching my work in a linear fashion. It is near sunset, almost time for my evening meditation. I pass through the living room and notice the way the reflected sunlight is shining on the south wall. I pause.

What is the quality of that light? It wasn’t that golden light that appears in summer at dusk and dawn. It had more of a violet, illuminated crown chakra glow. A quiet light.

It faded as I watched it, but the impression of that light lingers on in my mind. Radiant light. Shining light. Glowing light… Soft, yet powerful. Subtle, yet captivating.

I am glad that I allowed myself to move in the moment and take in the simple magic that was happening as the sun was setting on an ordinary day. Life is full of simple magic. Catch the light where you find it.

Thank you, Nana Shineflug, for the powerful, radiant, shining light that you sent out into the world. Thank you for all you taught me.

“Sing it! If you can’t sing it, you can’t dance it…” Dance on, Nana. xox


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Changing Lanes – or – Driving for a Non-Driver

The route north 2

I don’t take the expressway. I don’t mind going slow. I don’t care if it takes me twice as long to get to my destination. I appreciate courtesy. It’s so simple to just use your turn signal when you intend to change lanes. It shows intention. It creates safety. It is simple accessible information. Almost no one does it.

So I take streets.

I like the scenic route. I will choose Ashland over Western. I take the boulevards when I can. However, there is something that I’ve noticed about myself that I’d like to change – I seldom switch lanes.

There is something comforting in staying on a straight path. Though that is also a myth, as meandering around potholes is a necessity in Chicago. However, there is now that utility truck in front of me. Hmmm. I cannot see around it. I cannot see over it. And yet somehow I choose to follow it. Why?

I can move over to the next lane, certainly drive faster than its ambling speed, avoid the diesel fuel, and or garbage smell… but I stay in my lane until the truck turns out of my path. Why?

It makes me late sometimes. Once, for an appointment with a friend who when I told her that I was late because I kept ended up behind “the truck” she subtly (yet sarcastically) replied, “yeah, you can’t switch lanes because you are behind that truck.” It struck. Yes, why can I not switch lanes? Why?

The comfort level of not moving more than necessary is the antithesis of growth. It’s not easy, sometimes, to move. But if you can see around and ahead better… just switch lanes, already. Use your signal. Go.

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