In Jeny’s words…
I started working with Sue at the Island Yoga Space when I first moved to the island in 2012. A year later, when Sue was building the Dayaalu Center, I started applying for jobs on the Island. Sue offered to write a job recommendation for me, but in the process she realized she really wanted me in the role of manager at Dayaalu! I always thought I would own a yoga studio, so when she asked me if I wanted to work with her I said yes right away. I knew It would be an extraordinary opportunity.
Since we opened two years ago, I’ve come to understand so much about the business side of spiritual growth. I’ve seen that we can structure the business to support all those who bring their gifts, including ourselves, and make it viable. I’m learning to navigate the unseen in deeper ways, to trust my instincts and intuition and to apply it to help reach the people that need this kind of offering. Generally, my role consists of taking the big picture and pulling together the logistics, the right people and resources to make it happen.
Along with being the manager at Dayaalu, I teach Hatha Flow on Monday mornings and Sound Flow on Saturday mornings. Yoga is often referred to as a “meditation in motion.” In my classes, I facilitate fluid sequencing, moving slow enough that we use the whole breath to move into and out of the posture. For some people, yoga is just about physical exercise, but it can be so much more. Yoga is a comprehensive practice of spiritual development and growth, a doorway into one’s own soul and it’s connection to all that is. One of my teachers says asana (physical practice of yoga postures) is a trap, meaning we can get so stuck on mastering the poses we forget to do the personal work that yoga asks of us. Historically, the reason we do asana in the first place is to prepare the body to sit in mediation for long periods of time.
Even in my classes where people walk out sweaty, my goal is still to create a meditative experience. I use a lot of alignment cues but I also cue energetically as well. An alignment cue focuses on the physiology of the posture, so I may say something like, “In a forward bend, shift your weight into the balls of your feet so your hips are stacked above the heels.” For the energetic extension of that posture I would say, “Fold into yourself. Trust yourself to lean forward. Feel the breath washing over your back and spiraling into the body.”
Through this process, we can learn so much about where we are holding onto things, physically, metaphorically, and emotionally. Once we learn that, we can use our breath to move into corners of the body that aren’t often accessed. Then, we can deepen into those places that are holding emotions: trauma, grief, fear, anger, etc. We are not necessarily trying to abolish every shadow and dark corner; we’re simply meeting them with our breath and awareness. Often, this brings a neutralizing, or even cleansing quality to these spaces. This is powerful work and I see people in my classes come to accept themselves more and have less anxiety and stress, they look a little younger, a little more vibrant, more rested, and just happier.
Dayaalu itself cultivates an environment of peace. People walk in a say, “Wow, I feel like I can breathe for the first time all day. Just being in this space!” And all of us who are here, who are so grounded in these traditions, we know how to hold space and to honor the present moment. So, if someone comes in and is having a hard day, they can talk about it, be real, and share what’s going on. They must sense on some level that they know they will be held without judgment and wind up opening up, and eventually finding themselves in a place of acceptance. And, there are so many opportunities at Dayaalu to learn about oneself, to process emotions; everything here really works together so beautifully.
Sound Flow, another class I teach, combines yoga with live music. I’ve been teaching this class with Jon Crane since 2013. In the last two years, the class has gone through many incarnations as we learn how to tap its full potential, we used to bring in guest musicians, and we used to add Kundalini exercises. Currently, we are moving more towards a creative sequencing of Hatha yoga postures, moving freely within those postures, and weaving in the breath with the rhythm of the music.
From my own yoga practice, I’ve noticed that when I can turn on my deep listening, everything stops: the demands of the outside world stop, my own thoughts stop, and I’m totally in the present moment. And that’s what Sound Flow helps to facilitate so well. Jon plays rhythms with his drums that create theta wave states. Theta is the same state we are in when we are dreaming and meditating. So in our class, the music drops us into this place where we can connect more readily to a deep resonance within.
Another powerful component of Sound Flow is the vibration you feel when Jon plays the gong and the deep drum. You can feel the vibration through the floor and on your skin; it penetrates your entire physical form. I invite students to bring their awareness to their own vibration merging with the vibration of the music, with the other people in the room, and to realize the power of connecting and merging in this way. It’s a very potent way to become aware of the power of our vibration, which then leads us to understand how to claim responsibility for ourselves and the energy we carry.
It’s a really beautiful, dynamic, and interesting class. The feedback we’ve received affirms what we believe: yoga and live music are a perfect marriage! Right now, we may be the only class in the area that offers it on a weekly basis.
I also love leading the chanting class on Thursday afternoons. We practice mostly Vedic chanting and call it a “community class” because it’s very collaborative. Often the circle consists of us doing a brief check-in, selecting mantras for that day’s practice. Then I will lead us through a grounding meditation, intention setting, a few rounds of AUM, then we dive into the chanting practice of the mantras in meditative repetition. One translation of the word “mantra” is mind (man) protection (tra). Fortifying the mind against unhelpful thought patterns and beliefs. I have found the practice to be incredibly helpful in my own journey of dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. Mantra has helped me get through some pretty rough stuff and I am so happy to share it with others in case it may help them too.
Collaboration is an integral part of my growth as a teacher. It’s helped me to be real and open with others. And because I consider myself to be a deep person, I’ve learned that I can go deep with my students. I always start with a contemplative posture and deep centering: “Put everything aside. You’re here on the mat; ask yourself why?” For me, intention is an anchor, on and off the mat. In class, I ask that we find an intention and use it to stay present with our practice. The same is true with the breath, a major touchstone of the practice, if not the very heart of it. In our practice, we live life one breath at a time. What a relief in these times!
As a teacher, and in my personal life, I’ve learned to trust the process. Sometimes, after class, someone will say, “Oh my gosh you said this thing!” And I say, “I did? I did! But I have no idea where that came from.” I guess this is because even though I know what I am going to teach before class, I’m always open to changing things up and following the energy. Sometimes it feels that it’s not really Jeny teaching, that it comes from something much deeper than just my identity. And, for me, that is the most fun thing about yoga – the never-ending discovery for each of us as we polish away each layer and find new parts of ourselves. A lifelong process for sure! I am so grateful to have a community to bounce these ideas off of and share in our experiences. I believe that’s the whole point and, at times, the biggest challenge, to learn how to be with one another in honest and vulnerable ways. This is what deepens our compassion, which in turn makes the world a better place.