Carolyn Poerio Yoga

a well rounded experience

Nurturing on the Subway

I fell in love on the subway today. 

I was sitting on the train when a older lady, with her gray hair tucked into a ball cap, and a little boy with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles baseball hat got on the train. I’m making the assumption that this is grandma.  Most of the seats on the train were taken, but there was an empty seat next to me and an empty seat directly in front of that one.  With a lap full of young child necessities (a Spider-Man backpack and a bright green umbrella), she took the seat next to me and he the seat directly in front of her.  

I offered to trade seats with him so they could sit together.  “He’s fine.  Thank you for offering” she replied. The little boy beamed at grandma’s answer. Clearly, sitting on one’s own is a privilege reserved for big boys.

We rode in silence: The little boy looking around, swinging his feet, and grandma taking, what appears to be, a much needed moment of rest. Me reading my book and watching this little guy.

As we approached the main stop under City Hall, passengers began lining up to exit the train.  While grandma rested, a woman who was waiting in the aisle smiled at the little boy.  He looked delighted to be noticed.  This stranger gestured and mouthed “Wipe your mouth.”  He wiped his breakfast crumbs off his face and smiled triumphantly.   He looked back at grandma  and at me for a little more praise.  Now all three of us ladies are smiling at each other and at the little boy.

My heart swelled. We barely spoke and we will likely never cross paths again, but we shared a moment of love and joy for this little human. I absolutely fell in love with all three of these people this morning. 

Ride Share Magic

Flower box outsiddd Wake Up Yoga Fairmount

Flower box outsiddd Wake Up Yoga Fairmount

On my way to teach restorative yoga tonight at Wake Up Yoga Fairmount, I met such a lovely human.  She was my rideshare driver and she was awesome.

She saw the addres of our destination and she asks if I was going to class.  When I told her I was going to class as the teacher, she immediately started with “Oh see, I’m not flexible like that.”  (News Flash: People almost ALWAYS say that.). I told her that is one of the most common misconceptions people express.  You don’t have to be flexible to go to yoga class.  Yoga is a great way to increase flexibility.

i told her about the classes I teach, including Well-Rounded. We talked a bit more and she asked if yoga helps you lose weight.  I told her it doesn’t.  But, I did tell her about the ways asana does affect my body, i.e. muscle tone and feeling good.

We had such a great conversation. At one point she said, “Are you happy with your body the way that it is?”  When I told her that I, honestly, am happy with my body and that I haven’t always been able to say that, the conversation took off! We talked about her ideas around health and body image, which sounds a tremendous lot like Health At Every Size. 

We talked about the commercial yoga industry  makes it seem like yoga Is only for young, white, super thin, hyper flexible women. I left her with a business card with names of other teachers and organizations scribbled on it. The names of women I admire and learn from who are big bodied, women of color who teach yoga online: Jessamyn Stanley and Dianne Bondy. 

I hope she connects again someday. If for nothing else, I want to thank her for sharing her energy. Our conversation had me all riled up about body politics and yoga. She totally lit up my night!

 

Sensational

Our bodies are smart.  Without telling it to do, your brain and the rest of your body  coordinate to execute complex processss that keep you alive.  Breathing, pumping blood, absorbing fuel from food, all of these process happen without your conscious intervention.  

Your brain is even smart enough to send you cues when it needs you to intervene.   Your body needs rest and your eyes feel heavy and you start yawning.  Your body needs water and your saliva thickens or disappear completely. If you touch something too hot, your body sends you a signal you’ve come to identify as pain.

Your body sends you signals all the time, ranging from the obvious “ouch!” to the subtle tingling that indicates a shift of energy.  

A few years ago, my body was a mess. I completely missed the signs of a major hormonal imbalance because I was too busy trying to intellectualize my symptoms.  Rather than addressing how I was feeling, I   chased symptoms and specialists.  After years of acumulating symptoms and collecting prescriptions, I only tried listening to my body out of sheer desperation.

I started small by trying to identify what hunger feels like.   Not, when should I eat? Not, what should I eat?  None of that, but what signals does my body send me to communicate that I need food. I just tried to feel the sensations and notice them. 

I can’t report on how long it took to figure it out because i’m still learning. But this practice exploring sensations in my body, learning what they mean and how I can support them, has opened up a new world.  It hasn’t been a straightforward process, but I’ve found patterns and tools that work better for me. I now take fewer medications.  I feel more in command of my own physical form. And, most of all, I have reduced my overall anxiety and suffering.

This is yoga.  Yoga off the mat.  Yoga is a practice of getting closer to one’s self and accessing intuition.  This process of slowing, listening and acting accordingly is yoga in the living world.

Thumbprint

I feel like places hold on to the energy of the people who inhabit them. Maybe they’re spirits. Or, maybe people just leave behind energetic evidence of their existence, like spiritual thumbprints.

Every chance I get, I visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Diego Rivera covered the walls of a great big open courtyard with murals. In the year it took for him to paint the murals, he and his wife, Frida Kahlo, lived in Detroit.

North Wall

North Wall

The murals are colorful and beautiful. You don’t have to be an art historian to understand what he’s saying. In addition to commentary on global politics and the labor movement, there are personal touches. During their time in Detroit, Frida suffered a miscarriage. He chose to incorporate that experience on a panel high atop the eastern wall.

The baby in the center was originally intended to be a sugar beet.

The baby in the center was originally intended to be a sugar beet.

Standing in the space, just breathing. The air feels a little different in there. Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s the history of a city depicted on the walls. Or, maybe it’s the thumbprint Diego and Frida left behind all those years ago.

River Ct. West Wall.jpg

Lunch with Strangers

I ate lunch with strangers today.  It wasn’t as weird as it sounds.   I was at a professional meeting and they served boxed lunches.  There were long banquet tables crowded with sparsely labeled bags that said things like, “Reuben” and “Salad”.   There were some sample plates set up on one end of the ballroom, but the samples were all dressed in costumes of tightly wound saran wrap.  There was no telling what was hiding under there.

After having plucked our nondescript lunches from the same tables, we sat down as a group of strangers to discover the wonders of our paper bag lunches.  In addition to the mysterious main course,  it turns out that each bag also contained a package of plastic silverware wrapped up with a salt & pepper packet, a paper napkin, a red delicious apple, and a chocolate chip bar cookie. I’ve been to this meeting before, none of this was surprising.  What I found truly surprising were the things people chose to say to one another.

One woman was eating the “Chicken Sandwich,” which turned out to be a Buffalo chicken wrap, when she turned to the woman eating “Salad” and said, “I’m just curious, did they give you a cookie with the salad?”  The woman eating “Salad” said “Yes!  Can you believe it?  I mean why they think I got the salad?!”   Apparently, it’s a well-known fact that people who eat salads are forbidden from also eating cookies.

A man at the table jumped in and said, “It is a really big cookie.”  He looked both surprised and a little excited.  The food police assured him that he would be ok, if he just saved the cookie until later this evening.  Apparently, cookies are to be consumed only post-evening meal.

Another person talked about how they could just dissect a sandwich and get rid of “all that bread”.

I dumped the contents of my bag labelled “Turkey Sandwich” onto the table.  I was pretty happy to find a generous sandwich with turkey, carrots, tomato, lettuce and cucumber.  It looked much better than I imagined.  One of the women at the table said, “Oh my!  That’s huge.  Well, you can eat half now and save the other half for later.”   My defenses immediately went up. Was this woman seriously telling me how to handle my food? 

Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to take three breaths before speaking.  The first breath dulled my anger enough to find another inhale before opening my mouth.  The second breath helped me scan for what I was really feeling.  The third breath helped me find the words shame and sadness.  I felt like this total stranger was judging me and shaming me for wanting to each my whole sandwich.  And, I felt this sadness deep in my gut when I thought about how painful it might be to operate with this much anxiety around food.  They seemed to find comfort in judging and creating rules around appropriate ways to eat it.

When I started writing this, I thought this would take the shape of a quick somewhat amusing story that culminated in me standing on my soapbox about the negative impact of food shame and judgement..  I was going to take these strangers to task for their hurtful behavior.  But I realize that my words are no more helpful than theirs..  So instead, I write this as a reminder that we all benefit when people who carry pain are met with compassion. May we all be at peace and understand that what we choose to eat is in no way a reflection of who we are as people. And for those of us with challenging relationships with food, may we be at ease.

Desiderata: Desired Things

As 2016 draws to a close, this poem is on my mind.  It feels a little bit like a high school graduation speech, which feels oddly appropriate for this year.  This year has felt like a lot of hard work, but at the end we know only that there is more advanced work ahead.   This is a time reflection, taking stock and charging the soul for the year to come.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter
;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.


Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.


Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Wake Up Yoga Rittenhouse...wowzers!

Have you ever had one of those moments when you look around and think, "How am I possibly so lucky that this is my life? "  I had one of those this weekend.  On Friday night, I had the absolute privilege of visiting the new space that has become Wake Up Yoga Rittenhouse. A bunch of teachers gathered there.  We did a little chanting, a lot of laughing and just hanging out with friends. There's no way the walls couldn't have soaked up some of that love fest.

The physical space is absolutely gorgeous. Exposed brick, bright colors, brilliant wood floors and those big windows you only seem to find in old buildings in the city. There are mats and blocks and blankets all neatly stacked just begging to support the yogis who will walk through the doors. One of the coolest things, is that it's on the 3rd floor in a bustling part of the city.  You're up a little bit high and you can the tops of some short buildings, but still feel dwarfed by others.  It's like you're in a treehouse in our own little urban forest.

Almost 9 years ago, I moved to this city with one friend and a terrible job.  Like any new beginning it was exciting and a bit overwhelming.  The terrible job also happened to be in this neighborhood. Whenever I would get overwhelmed or homesick, I would come to Rittenhouse Square at lunch time and feel the pulse of the city.  It was a place to find my breath and feel the synchronicity that is city life.  On Friday night, I gazed out an open window on this neighborhood, with all the people and life and lights; and felt that pulse again.

There are SO MANY awesome classes happening in this new space.  Lot of types of energy and styles of yoga. Classes start MONDAY, 8/8/16! I'm thrilled to be offering a body positive yoga class on Tuesday nights, called Well-Rounded.  Really there's something for everyone.  Check out the full schedule here: SCHEDULE .  I think this place is magical.  Come visit, play, soak up the love and add your unique energy to the community!

 

 

Suck in Your Gut

Suck in your gut.  No, seriously do it.  Pause. Release it.

Likely, you just took a quick inhale of breath into your chest and pulled your belly back to your spine. This made your low belly appear significantly  smaller and your chest appear larger.  I bet this isn't the first time you've done that.  Maybe not even the first time you've done that today.  This is something we often do in the mirror, as we try on clothes or get dressed. Inhale, suck in belly, turn sideways and decide how much confidence we are going to have in this outfit and on this day.

I'm not even sure how we learn it, decades of social conditioning I suppose, but we learn that trick of sucking in the belly and puffing up our chest as a way to look as thin as possible. This practice is so deeply ingrained in our brains that we actually start to believe that this is how the body-breath connection works.  It's not.  Sucking in the belly on an inhale is a conscious manipulation of an autonomic process.  It is contrary to the design of the lungs and belly.  

Welcome to the intersection of yoga and body of image! The word yoga means union. When we practice asana, physical postures, we unite breath and movement.  We strive to fully integrate the movement of our bodies with the movement of our breath to ultimately still the fluctuations of the mind.

When I first started practicing, I had a really hard time understanding this.  Now I see students' confused faces when I tell them to "pull the belly back as you exhale."  And, that's what makes me furious.  Not furious at students, but for them and with them.  I'm so sick of this conditioning that tells us small flat bellies are preferable.  We believe it so wholeheartedly that we mess with our natural inclinations to breathe and interfere with the body doing what it does best.  This practice of holding the breath to appear thinner is so completely integrated into our psyches that we don't even know we're doing  it. 

So, here's my suggestion,  don't "suck in your gut". Engage the muscles of your low belly, pull the belly button back towards the spine, zip up the muscles all you want, but for the love of all things...keep breathing.  Big deep inhales and exhales that expand and contract your belly. I beg of you to make friends with your breath and stop allowing it to be used as a weapon against you and your beautiful belly and your sense of self.

Below is a simple exercise to help retrain the brain to body to breath connection: 

Keeping in mind this idea of uniting your physical body, the breath body and the consciousness, we'll practice moving the breath.

Rest a hand on your belly, with the fingers loosely touching.  Pay close attention to your fingers as you invite an inhale deeply into your lungs.  Exhale fully.

 On your next inhale, draw the breath deep into your belly, as if you could inflate your belly button. Exhale slowly, with control and notice the subtle actions of the abdominal muscles.

Do this a few times and observe.

On your inhales, you may have noticed your hand rising, perhaps the fingers naturally moved apart.  As you exhaled fully, the fingers may have moved together as the belly empties and lowers.  Take a moment and reflect on what else you observed about your body and your mind.

 

Taking Up Space

You are meant to take up space.  

To fully inhabit the space you are in.  

People will see you.  That's ok.  

You will see them too.  That's ok.

Your insecurities will bump into each other sometimes.  That's awkward, but also ok.

You do not diminish anyone else's experience by taking up space.  

Getting smaller, physically and figuratively is not the answer.

Sometimes it's okay to ask others to move over a little to make room for you. 

Please, ask questions. Be curious.  Say stuff.

Your energy is a gift, not a burden.

Thank you for showing up and sharing it.

 

Keep Going

I sat down to write something else, but this is what came out.  Sometimes that happens.  Maybe I needed to say it.  Maybe someone else needs to read it.

Things are not working out the way I planned.  
Trying really hard to live kindly, 
be productive,
make smart choices.
Still not feeling right.  
Making my best efforts,
and falling flat on my face,
repeatedly.
Giving up feels like it might be a smart choice, 
but I won't.

Move on. Get over it. 
Take sadness and shame and guilt and put them away.
Lock them up and make things pretty again,
but this time,  I don't think I will.

This time, I will touch the sadness, 
I will make friends with it.  
Take it out for coffee,
and ask it about its day.

I will visit the shame.
Bring it flowers and
hold its hand.

I will call up the guilt, 
give it a big hug, 
sing it a lullaby
and put it down for a nap.

Then, I will keep going.  
I'm not sure where, 
but I know that I will.

Wake Up Yoga - Yoga Bodies

Wake Up Yoga posted a piece I wrote about "yoga bodies" on their blog. 

The full text is available here:  https://wakeupyoga.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/radical-self-love-and-yoga-bodies/

I consider Wake Up Yoga to be my yoga hOMe and pretty much my idea of urban yoga heaven.   If you're local to Philly, I highly encourage basking in the Wake Up Yoga glow!  I am thrilled and humbled to be teaching in this amazing community.

Well-Rounded Yoga
Once-a-Month - Click here to Register
Wake Up Yoga - South
13th & Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA
Sat. October 17th, 12-1:30
Sat. November 14th, 12-1:30
Sat. December 19th, 12-1:30

 Energizing Vinyasa
Weekly - No pre-registration
Wake Up Yoga - Fairmount
2329 Parrish, Philadelphia, PA
Tuesdays, 6:30-7:45am

Bonding

WOW!  Yesterday, I got to spend an entire day with the unbelievable Dianne Bondy.  

Dianne is a pioneer in the field of yoga for bigger bodies.  She is a teacher of yoga students of all shapes and sizes, a trainer of teachers, activist and the founder of online yoga school yogasteya.com.  Not only is her yoga resume impressive but she is a woman of colour  and size who stands in her power and owns her space. To top it off, she's generous, hysterical and absolutely lovely. 

Yoga International filmed several classes, tutorials and talks with Dianne over the last couple of days.  Not sure of the release date, yet.

By the swift work of the Universe and a tipoff from  a student (thank you Rina!)  I was privilleged to serve as her model for classes yesterday.  We spent all day filming, hanging out and chatting about yoga and social justice.

 I am super pumped to bring some of the things I learned yesterday to Well-Rounded Yoga.  Class on Saturday is going to be great!!  Visit the Online Registration link to secure your spot.  Drop-ins welcome!

 

Perfection

I call bullshit on this t-shirt.  

image.jpg

I'm not even going to touch the body shaming aspect of this message.  Just gonna let that part speak for itself...

Perfection is not underrated.  It's grossly misunderstood. Perfection rests in wholeness, not in flawlessness.

To proclaim the mere existence of imperfection is to claim that there is some other way, moment or state of being that is any better than another.  With it's simple glittery lettering, this t-shirt tells us that we are less than divine.  That the spark of magic/god/stardust that shines through our eyes is less than it should or could be.   

You are perfect, just as you are.  Even if you are making major changes in your life, you are no more or less perfect, just different.  You are human, simultaneously flawed and absolutely perfect.

Newsstand

Because this is what we see on the newsstands.  

Photo credit: Hilary Ford

Photo credit: Hilary Ford

Because what we hear when we see this is that soft bellies are bad.  They must be, if there are so many ways to melt them and lose them forever.

Because when when we hear that we need to lose our bellies and harden our guts, we hear that we are soft and weak. 

Because when we see one body type glorified, it validates that we and our big bodies are the outcasts, the last kid to get picked in gym class, the fat kid.

Perhaps quietly and to ourselves, we know there to be a different truth. We know that it is possible to be both soft and strong.  To have a squishy belly and strong muscles.  

We know that it takes a lot of strength to live in a big body and that we build muscle every time we move.

Although it may not always feel like it, we are not alone.  There are countless people who will always feel like the fat kid. This has so little to do with the actual measurements and shapes of our bodies and so much to do with the glorification of one body type.  By consciously including big bodies and creating space for people to celebrate their bodies, we chip away at that otherness.

Photo credit: Rebecca Sardella

Photo credit: Rebecca Sardella

I dream of a day when our newsstands aren't assaults on the subconscious. But until then, I offer myself as a counter-image. An image of a person living in a large body who is very much so both fat and happy.

New Well Rounded Class Added!

SOOO excited to see everyone who is coming out for Well-Rounded Yoga this Saturday, July 25th, 9:15-10:45am.    I've heard from a number of yogis who are excited about body-positive yoga, but can't make this week's class.  Maybe you can join us next time?

Well-Rounded Yoga is coming back to Headlong Studios on SUNDAY, August 9th, 2:15-3:45pm, $15.  Pre-Registration is open!

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Updated Teaching Schedule

My teaching schedule has been updated to include the following:

  • Sunday, 07/19/15, 10:00-11:30am, SWEAT Old City - Energetic Vinyasa
  • Saturday, 07/25/15, 9:15-10:45am, Headlong Studio - Well-Rounded Yoga
  • Thursday, 08/06/15 - 7:30-8:45pm, Wake Up Yoga Fairmount - Harmonizing Flow
  • Sunday, 08/09/15, 10:00-11:30am, SWEAT Old City - Energetic Vinyasa
  • Sunday, 08/09/15 - 5:45-7:00pm, Wake Up Yoga Fairmount - Harmonizing Flow

Specific details about locations, pricing, class descriptions and private sessions are available on the Teaching page.

Namaste.