Breathe. Breathe. Breathe with Yogini, Barbara Benedict

written by Anjula March 2, 2009

Chair Yoga to several Senior groups in New York.

Seniors Practicing Chair Yoga

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVqjSDo77Aw[/youtube]

BB: My Workshop, Yoga for Writers, Artists and All Creative Souls, is lots of fun – I get to work with such talented people as they share their practice and their creative work with the class.  In each case, I truly teach the room – the needs of that room at that moment – creating a safe space where the student has an opportunity to explore a pose and practice at a slower pace.

LM: Where and when did you complete your Basic Teacher Training?

BB: I have done many teacher trainings and continue to attend workshops and classes with other teachers with different practice styles to keep things fresh. My first intro to teaching was with Desiree Rumbaugh in 2004.  I completed a 200 hour certificate with Sonic Yoga in 2005 (Vinyasa, Jonathan Fields and Lauren Hanna) then another 200 hour certificate in Anusara at Yogaphoria in New Hope, PA with Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny.  I continue study with Sue & Naime and am especially interested in therapeutics.

LM: Can you share with us a defining moment for you in your yoga practice?

BB: There have been several.  Early on, teacher Jonathan Fields of Sonic Yoga was giving me an adjustment in class and I realized that “with a little bit of help, I can go alot farther than I think I can.”  That little piece of information has translated off the mat as well.  In teacher training with Desiree, I realized the power of showing a “moment of soul” in connecting with the practice teaching group – how words of a personal truth helped each one connect deeper with themselves.  It’s what the teachers I am attracted to do with the stories they tell – they have the power to resonate, to take us a deeper, to a more fully connected level of consciousness.

LM: What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?

BB: As a teacher, being able to witness a moment of light, a moment of consciousness in a student’s eyes when something connects, or sometimes it’s a smile, or you see a bit of tension drain from their bodies as they deepen into their breath or the practice …  witnessing a change of perspective, or seeing a strength which had not been revealed before – incredible rewards.  It is a great honor to be working with Senior populations —  watching them get stronger and gain confidence … and when they come back to tell me how they’ve applied some of what they’ve learned in class to their lives – especially with the breath – and how that has worked for them – wow!  Worth the price of admission.

Practicing Yoga breathing exercises
Practicing Yoga breathing exercices

 

 

LM:How did you get involved with the Chair Yoga program at The Memory Tree (a non-profit early-stage Alzheimer’s Center)?

BB: By accident.  My friend, Elizabeth Fine, LCSW, founded the Early Alzheimer’s Foundation in 2006 and, knowing that I was a trained yoga instructor, asked if I wanted to teach Chair Yoga to her new program, The Memory Tree.

She knew that movement and exercise was helpful to those with Alzheimer’s, and felt that Chair Yoga would benefit this population.  I’d never taught a Chair Yoga class before, and through a dear friend in my Anusara teacher training at Yogaphoria, Julie, learned a seated sequence she does with clients in a nursing home.  When I met the Memory Tree group, they were reluctant and somewhat suspicious, but once I got everybody breathing together, the idea of adding movement to the breath wasn’t so foreign, and we kept going from there.

I’ve seen great improvements in strength, co-ordination, balance and focus.   I’ve enjoyed working out poses and sequences for this group – with a special nod to poses which incorporate bi-lateral integration. The group has also learned the routine of the class and LOVE doing Lion! The social aspect of coming together is an added benefit and support to these special students, some of whom are well in their 90’s.  The program has been so successful that we now have a group of about 25 members and are about to open a 2nd Memory Tree in another location.

I teach 2 other Chair Yoga groups through the Educational Alliance and will teach a week in August this summer at Chautauqua, NY.  I am currently writing THE CHAIR YOGA BOOK and thinking about making a DVD because my students have been asking for something they can have at home.  Soon.

LM:How did you transition from being a multi-award winning TV commercial producer to becoming a Yoga Instructor?

BB: It’s funny, I was asked this question by an interviewer from NHK (Japanese Public Television) for a program on Alternative Yoga in New York and my answer was a surprise:  the reason I left producing was because it got to be too “loud.”   I had been producing award-winning commercials for over 25 years, and just kept doing it.  But on one particular job, it just didn’t do “it” for me any more.  It’s somewhat like the transition I had made at the gym:  one day, doing an active exercise class, all of a sudden, it just didn’t feel right being in that room with blaring music and sweating bodies and mirrors and the competition to look good in lycra.  So I stopped.  In early 2000, a colleague invited me to a yoga class and I knew that was “it” for me.  My body, having danced when I was younger (much younger), somehow understood the movements involved in the practice.  My soul longed for the quiet introspection.  It took several years of exploring different practices (while I continued to produce) for me to realize I felt more at home in the yoga studio than on the set.  When that realization sunk in, I began to pursue teaching credentials and my commercial producing gigs died down.  I think it’s probably more a stage of life question than anything else.  As this next stage unfolds, there will probably be a combination of the skillsets of writing, teaching and producing.

LM: How do you help people make transformation possible through yoga?

BB: I teach a workshop called Yoga for Writers, Artists and All Creative Souls which combines both creativity exercises and simple yoga asanas to help the student come more inside to their innate creativity and find full expression in not only the asana, but on the page as well.   Taking away any sense of competition, or pressure to be perfect allows an easier flow of words or a brush to the page.

One student commented: Barbara has that rare ability to get out of the way an encourage you to open up to your inner voice; to learn from within and explore the deeper level in a safe and nurturing environment. -Media Bistro student

LM: Can you provide three tips for our readers on quick and easy ways to relieve stress?

BB:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Breathe.
  3. Breathe.

Seriously, whenever I’m stuck waiting for the “F” train (those of you in NYC know exactly what I’m talking about – it can be interminable), I practice conscious breathing for an instant calm.

LM: What upcoming yoga programs or events are you planning?

BB: I’ve just finished a book on creativity prompts and am talking with several studios about another series of Yoga for Writers, Artists and Other Creative Souls Workshops, probably later this Spring.  When THE CHAIR YOGA BOOK is finished (aiming for September), I will then begin to train other teachers to work with Senior groups.   For now, I teach in several public venues and teach both mat and Chair Yoga privately.   You can stay in touch with my schedule and ask questions or write.YogaMuseNYC@aol.com.

LM: How do your students motivate you?

BB: My students are so inspiring.  They draw on my own creativity to find new ways to help them work with their challenges – physical, mental, creative or emotional.  I may have a basic idea of what I’d like to teach on a particular day and have a class all planned out, and when I walk in the room, there’s something else going on with a new student, or a familiar face comes in on crutches, or an outside event has everyone buzzing, and what I had expected to teach takes a different turn.   My students motivate me to continue to learn more so that I can bring more back to them.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVqjSDo77Aw[/youtube]

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