Tuesday, 30 July 2013

UB Spotlight: Q & A with Chien

By: Laurie Brockhaus

UB Spotlight: Q & A with Chien

Meet Chien.  If you've been to Urban Breath, you've probably seen him around, as he's been to a whopping 735 classes since he started taking classes at the studio in the spring of 2011.  Last year, Chien completed yoga teacher training and has now joined the UB staff as a substitue instructor.  Check out an interview with Chien to learn how his dad inspired his yoga journey, and I think you'll be encouraged to start your own. 

Tell us about your first yoga class.
I went to my first yoga on March 23, 2011.  One of the poses the instructor taught was Half Moon, and I remember thinking, "You've got to be kidding me!" when she asked us to stack our hips and balance on one leg like that.  

What encouraged you to start practicing?
I started practicing after my father passed away.  He had been diabetic for 40 years, was diagnosed with major depression with severe suicidal ideation the last ten years of his life, and was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) eight months before he died.  I flew back to Taiwan to spend 60 days by my dad's bedside, accompanying him through his last transition.  When I arrived, Dad could barely speak, was on a feeding tube, bed bound, and unable to even squeeze my hand.  As the disease progressed during those 60 days, Dad's muscles, joints, nerves, and organs gave up one by one.  Before he passed away, the only physical function he had left was blinking his eyes.  Painful stiffness devoured every inch of his body, and Dad was now trapped in the body that served him for 69 years, but was now old, sick, weak, and fragile; in the meantime, that same body captured Dad’s soul like a cold prison without sunshine. It was heart-wrenching torture to witness Dad dying like that. Watching him in that stiff body for 60 days, without a word, Dad silently and gently taught me all about “flexibility”- that both physical and mental flexibility are what we need in our lives. The older we grow, the more flexibility we lose, while actually, the more flexibility this world requires of us. Through my dad’s inspiration, I went to my first yoga class upon returning to the U.S. after his burial.

What motivates you to keep practicing?
Yoga is my therapy.

What do you do when you’re not yoga-ing (which isn’t that much ;)?
I have a daytime job as a social worker at Doorways, working with patients living with HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse issues. I also go to school, studying Gerontology. I came to St. Louis in 2002 for the doctoral program in Comparative Literature at Washington University, but switched to social work instead of completing that course. In my free time, I work out and run and spend time with people I love- Joan, Jee, Wai-man, and Mark. And I talk to my mom in Taiwan every day.  

What are your favorite and least favorite yoga poses, and why?
Savasana is my favorite. Do I even need to explain why?! My least favorites are Eagle Pose (I can’t do it well, especially the leg part) and Rabbit Pose (I don’t get the point of that pose).

Tell us about teaching yoga.
I wanted to teach yoga because I love it, love challenges, and love to watch the smiles on people’s faces after they’ve taken my class (well, if they can still smile). Since I’ve started teaching, I’ve found that I’m even more mindful and attentive when practicing yoga myself. My favorite part about teaching is when students come to me to say they like my sequence, think I’m funny, or feel much better after class (less back pain, less tightness in the hips). I think Dad would love that I’m teaching yoga if he knew it.

What’s next? Any new activities you’d like to try, places you’d like to travel, or famous people you’d love to meet?
I’d like to try rock climbing and paragliding, travel to Siberia, and of course, I’d love to meet Madonna.
(Fun fact: Due to Chien’s persuasion, I once had a Madonna-themed Happy Hour Yoga class in honor of her first St. Louis tour stop.)

Friday, 15 February 2013

In a Breath: Ready for the next step?

By: Laurie Brockhaus

This morning, I was honored to facilitate our first yoga teacher training applicant interview. I now find myself reflecting on how I would've answered the first interview question nine years ago when I decided to apply for a 200-hour training - "What makes you feel ready to take this step of participating in a teacher training?". At the time, I'd been practicing yoga for about six years, but never considered teaching until a friend told me he could see me leading yoga classes in the basement of a retail space he knew about.  "Me?! I just practice yoga; I'd never know enough to teach it!" was my response...and then I started researching teacher trainings. Little did my friend (or I) know that he'd planted a seed that would significantly affect my life path. (I thank you for that, Tracy, should you ever read this.) Despite my hesitancy and feelings of inadequacy, I now realize that it was my sincere connection to and curiosity about yoga that made me feel ready to delve deeper through a training. I didn't have to know it all (and still don't, of course), as yoga is a process that often requires some leaps of faith. I'm so glad I took that step nine years ago and am so excited to share in others' experiences as they deepen their practice in UB's Yoga Teacher Training and Student Immersion.


Friday, 28 December 2012

In a Breath: Let go of the resolutions

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Despite the Mayan prediction, it seems we will in fact enter 2013...might as well make the most of it!  I've never been keen on setting resolutions for the new year, due to the guilt that usually ensues when I fail to keep them.  The idea of setting an intention, as this article suggests, feels much less intimidating for those of us with less than stellar resolution-keeping track records.  And if you set an intention to start practicing (or practice more) yoga, I believe you'll find what a powerful agent for change it can be in all aspects of your life.  

Friday, 07 December 2012

In a Breath: Good karma

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Did you know that physical practice is just one of six branches of yoga? Although most modern classes focus on the physical aspect (the branch known as hatha yoga), yoga postures were originally developed as a means to ease into meditation. Another branch is karma yoga, often interpreted as the yoga of action or selfless service and probably a good one to keep in mind during what can be a hectic season. How do you hope to demonstrate right action and be intentional and loving in your interactions during the holidays, even when stress and busyness ensue?  If gift buying is on your to-do list, but you're wondering what your family members and friends really need, consider offering energy and resources to those who may be in greater need.  We're still looking for help with the Adopt-a-Family project we've participated in for the past three years.  Good karma. :)  And if you want to know more about the great work that Catholic Charities Southside Center does, let me's an agency near and dear to me.  

Friday, 09 November 2012

In a Breath: Yoga does a body (and mind) good

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Ever wonder why you feel so amazing after a good yoga class, often throughout the rest of the day?  For some reason, it's a different good feeling than comes from other types of exercise.  Perhaps it has something to do with yoga's ability to improve vagal tone, which helps to regulate bodily functions, as well as encourages us to respond better to stress and develop resiliency.  Read more about yoga's effects on the body and the brain in this short article.  It's always nice when science backs up what we know to be true from our own experiences on the mat.  

Thursday, 25 October 2012

In a Breath: Arm balances from the ground up

By: Laurie Brockhaus

We know yoga's not about comparison, but most of us have had a moment (or two or three) in class of gazing in awe at the person on the mat next to us as she gracefully floats her feet up into a fancy arm balance.  We can't help but be a bit jealous as we think, 'My arms are too short (or legs too long, biceps too weak, belly too big...) to ever do that!' When you break down these complicated poses piece by piece though, they really can become quite simple.  And how empowering it is to finally master a pose you thought you never would...makes you feel as if you can do anything!  Click through  to watch a short video to see Stacy break down Astavakrasana (Eight Angle Pose) and make it a breeze!  (Check out these tricks and more at Stacy's arm balance workshop this Friday 10/26, 7-9pm at the Grove.)



Friday, 05 October 2012

In a Breath: Get out the yoga vote

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Turn on the TV or open your laptop as of late, and you're inundated with political messages right and left (pun certainly intended).  The candidate attacks and biased media coverage don't seem very yogic, do they?  This election contains a number of important issues though, and regardless of political party affiliation, I hope the values you've gleaned from your yoga practice will help guide your voting.  As is the case with progress in a yoga practice, change in a community takes time and most importantly, requires conscious participation.  Check out YogaVotes, a nonpartisan effort to get out the yogi vote this year.  

Friday, 28 September 2012

In a Breath: Form a yoga habit

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Let's face it, we're creatures of habit.  Think of all the things you do on a daily basis (some more beneficial than others, perhaps), often without a thought. What if yoga became as automatic as your morning coffee?  If you've practiced before, you know that euphoric, empowered feeling you're left with after class.  How would your life change if you felt that every day?  During my yoga training in Thailand last month, we practiced Ashtanga Yoga six days a week for 5 weeks, and I've never felt as physically strong, calm, and simply in love with life as I did at the end.  Of course, it takes time and commitment to build a daily yoga habit, but the benefits far outweigh even your morning caffeine fix. 
Check out this article for some suggestions for building a daily yoga practice, and if you'd like a whole community supporting you,think about joining us for OMtober, our fall yoga challenge.
Happy Friday!
See you at the studio,
P.S.  Did you hear?  Urban Breath was selected as the 2012 Readers' Choice for Best Yoga Studio in the Riverfront Times Best Of Poll.  We appreciate your support!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

In a Breath: Take your kid to yoga

By: Laurie Brockhaus

In need of some family bonding?  How about inviting your kids to the mat?  A seven year-old's practice may not look just like yours (and may be a bit noisier), but you'll be amazed by yoga's effects on the whole family. Check out this article on how a family yoga practice can help keep things calm in your house.  Give it a try at our first Family Yoga class with Tarryn Russey on Sunday, September 30.
See you at the studio,

Friday, 14 September 2012

The Ever Turning Wheel of Life

By: Laurie Brockhaus

Introducing "In a Breath", your weekly source of yoga-related tidbits meant to entertain, inspire and get you through the day.
I had the chance to see the new documentary Samsara last night.  Samsara is a Sanskrit word meaning "the ever turning wheel of life".  The film left me feeling as if I'd gone on a journey around the world...and an inward journey through my mind.  This week is the last chance to catch this exclusive engagement of Samsara at the Tivoli Theatre!  Click the button below to check out a trailer.  
See you at the studio,