Allie Middleton, JD LCSW E-RYT C-IAYT on Moving From Me to We

In an old and favorite verse from thousands of years ago, the author of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, considers this:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

And yet, as we all wonder about the future now, shall we ask each other this next question, “What is OUR collective desire and what shall OUR collective deeds create now?

In my experience over decades as a systems change catalyst and leadership coach, I’ve had the privilege of helping many individuals and teams develop new strategies for high level impact. Whether in business, healthcare or communities, one of my initial questions is, “Who are we really, and what is our work?

Today, this creative inquiry is alive in many contexts as we need to spark healthy ways to co-initiate collective sustainable changes for the sake of global health and wellbeing. How do we compassionately harmonize our minds, hearts and wills for the sake of the planet and others? Or “What is this moving from ME to WE dance all about, and how does sharing our stories help us now?

As the lives of the global yoga innovators reveal in my new book, Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspiring Stories from Pioneers in the Field, this awareness for the need for change is happening for people around the world on many levels simultaneously: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Their perspectives reflect an opening toward something new, a creative offer that has social impact and provides community healing.

How might we inspire others with creative heart-felt ways to experience and understand this epochal move from ME consciousness, (focus on myself), to WE consciousness, (focus on my community, country and planet)?

Telling our stories is the starting place, as we learn to listen more deeply into the universal (and eternal) creative life force that emerges and encourages well-being for all. Accessing our collective awareness and moving together consciously to create sustainable changes at all levels of organization is essential now.

Like other practitioners in these changing times, I am learning to adapt to the complex personal and planetary issues with curiosity, compassion and courage. At the 2018 International Association of Yoga Therapists Conference I was privileged to co-initiate the inaugural community interest session on Social Activism & Community Healing. At the invitation of Matthew J. Taylor, we convened our session using a Presencing Approach, an interview process combining Joseph Campbell’s hero(ines) journey and an awareness-based prototyping model from the Presencing Institute at MIT. This birthed the interest for a deeper and more expansive exploration.

And now, as I type this, I remember myself in the winter of 2020, commissioned by Singing Dragon Press, to write a book to bring this idea forth! The intention of the book, Yoga Radicals, is to offer a portal of potential for the emerging embodiment community by highlighting some stories and projects that emerged from yoga innovators who have traveled the path of moving from ME to WE. Alas, there are so many more stories to hear we have yet to hear. So little time……

What I learned from each of their stories is that after deep commitment to years of personal practice, something else demanded a listening into the emerging future, a finding of new ways to invoke shifts in their (and now our) deepest hearts’ desires.

We were all in full lockdown mode as I conducted the 36 interviews with these special yoga innovators. The stories of these amazing individuals vibrate at the heart of the Yoga Radicals book. I am so grateful to have had such a deep engagement with each person at such an important time; each working in unique ways to establish the yoga therapy professional space, each offering more embodiment in their personal lives and professional communities. I hope you and many others will enjoy and be inspired by their stories too.

Ancient wisdom traditions from all over the planet remind us that we are all connected, that these practices and an Embodied Presence, or being grounded and at home in our bodies, might enlighten us. Embodiment practices are particularly urgent now as our mother planet earth demands that we learn the dance steps of Reciprocity and Love. The stories from the Yoga Radicals in the book do just that, sharing how each yoga innovator moved from a ‘me’ consciousness to a ‘we’ consciousness. These amazing brave souls share how they created a community healing or social impact project as a result of their long-term yoga and other embodied practices as leaders. I hope the interview process and journey we took together will support others to access to their deepest heart’s intelligence, a true connection between awareness, creativity and action.

An example of this Presencing Approach is to ask now, “It seems we have been initiated into a new future and a new life in these last 18 months, I wonder how you feel a deeper sense of being related to others across time and space? Without physical travel, we’ve had to rely on our other human capacities to stay tuned to our hearts’ desires; even as we navigate this new time together. We have landed in communities of kindreds, in places and spaces where our best dreams of a shared future can emerge. We’re being called forward into a new story. How can we make it a creative one, supporting as many others as we are able in our endeavors to stay healthy and well and safe? How do we embody emergence?

I sometimes simply call this making peace time”, especially when I’m embodying a practice while working with a client, teaching or facilitating a group. I’m finding myself immersed in love now for decades, blessed with a serious leadership coaching practice and capacity to heal in relationship with others. My next book will tell the tale of how my listening at deeper levels has always been the main inspiration for these practices.  For now, I invite you to enjoy these diverse and creative tales that emerged in the hour-long interviews and are now condensed into essential narratives that express how each Yoga Radical followed their own path from ME to WE. May it inspire you to do the same.

In Yoga Radicals, the questions that I’ve asked these amazing pioneers are questions that I live throughout my life, constantly speaking into the future and asking for guidance. When did you learn to trust your creativity and imagination enough to help you through a tough spot? When did you find a special friend who gave you solace in the middle of a storm, as you were on your path of life?

The stories in the book surprise me still and more importantly, now the memory of the deep embodied connections felt in each interview make my heart sing. I hope that readers find their amazing songs inspiring and a way to listen and play with the unending force of creativity and love, which we desperately need on the planet now. Embodying creativity and initiating positive emergence is what we all need now.

Allie Middletons latest book Yoga Radicals: A Curated Set of Inspirational Stories of Transformational Yoga by Pioneers in the Field, was published by Singing Dragon on August 19th featuring inspirational pioneers of yoga, from those with ancient lineage in traditional yoga to innovators in western yoga practice. Click here to purchase a copy.

Hypermobile People and Yoga – An Extract from Jess Glenny

Jess Glenny is a Yoga Register Teacher (Elder) and a C-IAYT yoga therapist. She has been practising yoga with hEDS since 1981, and for many years has specialised in working with hypermobile people. She is the author of The Yoga Teacher Mentor: A Reflective Guide to Holding Spaces, Maintaining Boundaries, and Creating Inclusive Classes (published in 2020) and her new book, Hypermobility on the Yoga Mat: A Guide to Hypermobility-Aware Yoga Teaching and Practice is available for pre-order now, publishing in February 2021.

In this article, adapted from her new book, Jess discusses why hypermobile people might be drawn towards the practice of yoga.

Yoga teacher Amber Wilds writes:

During my teacher training I was told, you probably won’t see hypermobility in your yoga classes very often, but it became apparent over the duration of our training that many of my fellow students were hypermobile (to varying degrees). While some had been diagnosed, others hadn’t been aware of their hypermobility prior to our training. I therefore began to question whether, rather than being a rarity in a yoga class, hypermobility was actually far more common than initially thought.[i]

Indeed, as we have seen, hypermobile people are one population you are pretty much guaranteed to encounter in significant numbers in any yoga class you teach. Why is this? Why do people whose range of joint motion is so excessive as to be considered pathological flock to an activity with the potential to increase it further? There are a number of reasons. Continue reading

Sarah Scharf: New Opportunities for Yoga Teachers in Lockdown

Sarah Scharf, MFA is a yoga teacher, author of the upcoming book, Holding Space: The Creative Performance and Voice Workbook for Yoga Teachers and theatre artist. She holds an MFA in Physical Theatre and has completed multiple training courses in Yoga of various styles. In London she taught at Triyoga – the largest studio in Europe – and worked as a mentor for the Yogacampus Teacher Training. She runs popular workshops and training on voice work and performance skills for yoga teachers, and works as a movement director and teaching artist for theatre. She is an American currently living in Vienna.

With the onset of regulations that have temporarily closed yoga studios and suspended public gatherings we have seen a rapid change in the yoga industry. Using live streaming video conferencing has become the most common way of teaching. Many of us have been challenged as teachers not only to learn to use the technology, but also to deal with the emotional elements of growing again as teachers. Some feel like they have to start over, especially those that relied heavily on hands on adjustments during their teaching and didn’t develop the language skills to adequately describe detailed movement or actions. This process of shifting online has shown many of us where we need to grow. It’s an opportunity for us to refine our work, to get more comfortable with ourselves and perhaps even create new opportunities.

There are many ways to teach online. I’ll focus on these options in the context of teaching yoga or movement and meditation:

  • interactive livestream classes
  • non-interactive livestream classes
  • online trainings/workshops/courses

Interactive Live stream

Interactive live stream requires conferencing software if you want to control the entry of participants. The main bonus is that you can see your students in real time. This gives you the opportunity to offer verbal adjustments and individualised instruction. This is only possible when you can see your students, which will require a larger screen for bigger groups so you can avoid scrolling. Some teachers use a projector, making sure it is a quiet one so the sound isn’t a problem. Other teachers avoid demonstrating and simply sit close enough to their screen that they can see everyone. Continue reading

Yoga Student Handbook: Yoga Journeys – Katy Appleton

Believing in its transformational power, Sian O’Neill has been practising yoga for over 15 years. The first book she edited for Singing Dragon, Yoga Teaching Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2017), was a great success – and with the publication of Yoga Student Handbook, Sian and the contributors share their tips and advice for yoga students and teacher trainees. 

In the first of three instalments about yoga journeys, Sian talks with Katy Appleton, founder of appleyoga.

appleyoga is probably one of the better known brands in the yoga world in the UK today. Founder Katy Appleton, self-described as a ‘lover of life’ and ‘recovering control freak’, was a former professional ballet dancer with the English National Ballet. Running in the family, Katy’s mum practised yoga while pregnant, and Katy remembers being a new student and attending yoga classes with her mum as a very little girl. Yoga arrived in her life as an adult to counterbalance the extremities of performance while a professional dancer, and she would practise breath work and tools to help her rebalance and sleep after a performance.

As a student, Katy’s first teacher training was in Ibiza in the Sivananda tradition. Other key yoga influences in her life include well-known yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, whom Katy credits with broadening her understanding of yoga and in particular, vinyāsa krama (which can be interpreted as meaning ‘step by step progresion’). Katy became Shiva’s assistant, travelling with her and then becoming a mentor on Shiva’s teacher training. She has also dabbled with Ashtanga with David Swenson, and mentions other yoga friends/influences including Annie Carpenter and Tiffany Cruikshank.

Why did you decide to teach?

Katy describes her decision to teach as a calling. Indeed, that is a common theme in the chapter by Katy and co-author Natasha Moutran on building a yoga business in Yoga Teaching Handbook that it is important to know the ‘why’ behind starting your yoga business. Katy has clear values underlying appleyoga including honesty and humility. She believes in holding a safe space for people and quotes Maya Angelou: ‘People remember how you make them feel’. For Katy, yoga offers a space that is ‘tangible and palpable that is touched when practising yoga’. She describes yoga as a ‘homecoming’ which offers a chance for the nervous system to relax, a place beyond the internet and understanding from books. She believes yoga can offer an anchor from which to move around in life. Continue reading

Sian O’Neill: An Inclusive Live Class – Head to our Facebook Page Now!

Believing in its transformational power, Sian has been practising yoga for over 15 years. She completed the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) accredited teacher training diploma with Yogacampus and also the BWY Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy module with Tarik Dervish, the Scaravelli Immersion course with Catherine Annis and the Qigong for Yoga Teachers Immersion with Mimi Kuo-Deemer.

Sian teaches a flowing hatha yoga class incorporating alignment, a mindful flow and breath awareness, aiming to help students on their own path of yoga. She is a regular contributor of yoga-related articles, including to Spectrum magazine, the official magazine of the BWY. She is the editor of the Yoga Teaching Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2017) and the new Yoga Student Handbook (Singing Dragon, 2019).

CLICK HERE TO JOIN A LIVE CLASS WITH SIAN NOW

Please note that while our summit is open to absolutely everyone from all corners of the world, despite our best efforts we won’t be able to ensure safe, comfortable practice for every attendee nor take responsibility for your own practice. If you have any injuries or are dealing with any conditions that you would normally flag to your yoga teacher or therapist, please seek advice before taking part or following along with any of our classes or sequences.


 Yoga Student Handbook
Develop Your Knowledge of Yoga Principles and Practice
Edited by Sian O’Neill. Foreword by Lizzie Lasater

This practical companion for yoga students and teacher trainees shows how to deepen your knowledge of yoga and where to go next in your training, whether you are thinking of developing your own practice or considering becoming a yoga teacher. It covers the history, philosophy, different styles of yoga, and more. Read more

Matthew J. Taylor: Be An Inclusive Genius

 

Matthew J. Taylor, PT, PhD, C-IAYT is a yoga safety expert, advisor to and past president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, Accessible Yoga board member, and a yoga policy consultant. He directs SmartSafeYoga.com and authored the book Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain (Singing Dragon, 2018), as well as over 40 other publications.

In this video, Matt provides some practical information and tips on keeping yoga teaching simple and efficient, while remaining inclusive towards all students.

 


Yoga Therapy as a Creative Response to Pain
Matthew J. Taylor. Foreword by John Kepner

A guide that supports yoga therapists in creating a programme of care for those living with chronic pain, through bringing pain science, creativity and yoga together for the first time. It provides the skills and knowledge to create an environment that restores hope and meaning as well as practical guidance. Read more

Katie Lynch: Do yoga teachers need increasing training in related fields?

Simply put: yes. Yes, there is a need for increased training in the world of yoga, because the focus of yoga that has become the most popular is asana, and asana deals with movements of the human body. And the human body is one complicated and mysterious machine — which is surprisingly easy to break. Now, this doesn’t mean a person can’t teach a good and safe yoga class without further education in related fields, but in order to advance the benefits of yoga by bringing it to a larger population of the world, it would be helpful if the concept of yoga evolved into a more respected and scientific field.

To become a basic teacher of yoga, in America, Yoga Alliance requires teachers to study two hundred hours of yoga before receiving a certification to teach the public, which is a step up from prior the 1990s when no certification was required. In those two hundred hours, a lot of information is packed into the training sessions, which can take anywhere from fourteen days to six-months to complete and students are required to learn techniques and practices (one hundred hours), yoga philosophy (thirty hours), teaching methodology (twenty-five hours), anatomy/physiology (twenty hours) and hands-on-experience (ten hours), with fifteen hours to spread out to whichever category they choose. And, although the training covers some anatomy and physiology, the certification process requires only twenty hours of training in the area of yoga most dealt with in yoga classes: the foundation of human movement. Judging by how complicated the human body is, that is not enough for new teachers to come out of their trainings feeling confident in their knowledge. Continue reading

Catherine Annis: Inclusivity in a Group Setting

 

Originally a professional dancer, Catherine discovered yoga as a teenager. Practicing for over 35 years, she has explored everything from Sivananda to Astanga before gravitating to the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli.

Catherine’s practice and teaching focuses on deepening physical awareness and alignment to reveal the natural freedom of the body, particularly the spine. She teaches regular weekly classes in London at triyoga and the Life Centre and leads retreats worldwide. She created the first Scaravelli-inspired immersion course.

Catherine has contributed to the Yoga Student Handbook with an essay on Scaravelli yoga.

In this video, Catherine discusses how to approach teaching inclusively, the importance of language, how to communicate with students confidently and comfortably, and much more.

Jess Glenny: Finding My Body’s Voice

Supportive Teaching for People with Developmental Trauma in the Yoga Class

This article is adapted from The Yoga Teacher Mentor: A Reflective Guide to Holding Spaces, Maintaining Boundaries, and Creating Inclusive Classes, which will be published by Singing Dragon in January 2019.

Developmental trauma (also known as complex trauma) is more common than is generally assumed and often undisclosed at yoga classes, even where it’s asked about on student intake forms. Most often, you will gradually become aware of the signs of developmental trauma through observing how your student is (or isn’t) in their body, the kinds of connection they are able to make and sustain with you as teacher, and how they relate to the group at large.

Developmental trauma generally begins very early in life, sometimes before birth and often prior to the development of language and cognitive thought, and is a response to childhood experiences such as neglect, abandonment, and/or physical or sexual abuse. The severity of the consequent trauma response depends to a large extent upon whether any trustworthy and caring adult – teacher, grandparent, older sibling, foster-parent – was available to the child. Recovery is generally much harder for those with whom no one formed a genuine, altruistic and nurturing bond.

Successfully resolving developmental trauma is a slow and challenging process, but it is possible, given appropriate forms of therapy (these are different from the types of therapy useful for working with PTSD or one-off trauma). Without therapeutic intervention, the effects of developmental trauma usually persevere into adulthood, profoundly affecting the person’s physical and mental well-being, cognition, capacity for meaningful relationship, and ability to live in and from their present-moment embodied experience. Continue reading

Welcome to our Virtual Yoga Summit!

Welcome to Singing Dragon’s first-ever Virtual Yoga Summit, a digital event celebrating inclusivity in yoga and yoga therapy with the help of a carefully curated panel of experts and authors. This blog will be the central hub to our event, so do keep checking back to access all content, including videos, articles and podcasts. For scheduled live events, please head over to the Singing Dragon Facebook page.

Click the cover below to browse the full programme, meet our contributors and read about our partners’ work.


 

Our Virtual Yoga Summit live events are as follows:

9th October
11.00am UK/ 6.00am ET – Lisa Sanfilippo & Charlotte Watts & Lisa Kaley-Isley: How to Teach Yoga Therapeutically – Discussing Yoga and Yoga Therapy. Live-streamed event at Yogacampus Finsbury Park

16.00pm UK/11.00am ET – Donna Noble on Body positivity and inclusion. A live chat through the Singing Dragon Instagram

17.00pm UK/12.00 ET – Heather Mason: Yoga in Health Care. Facebook live

18.00pm UK/13.00 ET – Robin Rothenberg: Breath and chronic conditions. Facebook live

20.00 UK/15.00 ET – Shawnee Thornton Hardy: Making yoga and mindfulness inclusive and accessible to children and adults of diverse abilities. Facebook live

 

10th October
16.00pm UK/11.00 ET – Charlotta Martinus: Yoga for emotional intelligence among teens – a research perspective. Facebook live

17.30pm UK/12.30 ET – Sian O’Neill: An inclusive live class. Facebook live

19.00pm UK/14.00 ET – Aggie Stewart: Teaching Inclusive Group Yoga Classes for People with Chronic Conditions. Facebook live

All live events are interactive, so please do come with questions – our presenters will be happy to answer them!