Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Ways We Can Catch Ourselves Falling in Love

Mindful Yoga Schedule

Saturdays 8:30-9:45 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Parish $10
Please note that class will not be held on February 17th.
March and April dates coming soon. 

Stay tuned for other things in the works
  • Kids Mindfulness Hour at Green Heart Awakening starting in May and four week long sessions in the summer.
  • A Mindfulness Meditation Spring/Summer series at Green Heart Awakening.
  • A fall retreat that includes mindfulness, yoga, and food.

Would you like to receive yoga emails? I am much more consistent in sending those out than posting here. The emails are somewhere between a letter to a friend and a blog post. Contact me, and I will put you on the list!

 The Ways We Can Catch Ourselves Falling in Love

The holiday of love is upon us. I think about love all the time and have been this way since I was a kid. But then, middle school and high school happened, and I had to disguise this. We all have that story, the one about our tender heart in the face of socializing with peers...

More recently, I have been on a search for the links between embodiment, mindfulness, and love. I want to know how they play out, especially when I am busy with car lines, dinner, and the householder life in general. After listening to a series of podcasts by Sharon Salzburg and Joan Halifax, I have been tracking plain love, the mundane love. Even as mundane, when I recognize the presence of love, it sweeps around me, and I remember that there is always more love than any of us can ever see or feel.

Love shows up all the time and is not just allotted to the bonds of marriage and family. It can be very non-emotional and so obvious that we miss it when it happens. We forget that it's always around us in some form. Love is always around us in some form.

One way love shows up is when we just know someone. You may not even speak to this person, but you know who they are. You see past their current role and into what is present for them all the time. Sometimes it feels like a relaxing because of this deep understanding you experience. Sometimes it is empathy because there is so much suffering and armor around this person.

The second way love shows up is when we see ourselves in another person, which I will add, is also when we are inspired by someone. It is also when we experience compassion for another person. When we feel compassion for another, it's because there is something inside us that feels pain and suffers in the very same way. 

The third way love shows up is when people share attention, which can be as simple as being together with strangers at the checkout line, and as life changing as caring for a newborn. It's that moment when you speak for the group because you know everyone has the same question or concern. It's also that moment when something incredible happens like a solar eclipse and everyone stops to absorb the moment.

So, maybe we are in love more often than we realize, even when we don't consider the time, place, or person as right for it. And maybe falling in love is about letting go of the armor, showing our tender hearts, allowing ourselves to see and be seen even as we shuttle the kids, clean up the messes in our houses and our lives, and stand amongst acquaintances and strangers waiting our turn. Maybe falling in love is really just opening up to love and the way that it moves through you and around you.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Finding True North and My January/February Schedule

I hope everyone has had a good holiday season. Starting up Mindful Yoga last year was one of the best decisions that I made. The sessions have a special quality to them. I understand now when teachers say they are practicing with their students. There is a unity of heart in the group, and it is just one more thing that amazes and fascinates me about teaching yoga.

Finding True North
The theme for at least the start of this year will be Finding True North. We will explore natural alignment in the body, clarity of mind through meditation, and the breathing practices will help us lighten the heart. Time and again balanced bodies, clear minds, and light hearts lead us to what it true. Let's do this together this winter.

We will pick up where we left off in November with working at the wall. This approach to asana (yoga postures) is for any body at any level. Practicing at the wall gives us a chance to feel into natural and sustainable alignment. Since good posture looks different on each person, we are not looking to bring all of our bodies into the same standard. That is not realistic and in fact diminishes our well being. Instead, this practice is a time to embody all the we hold in ourselves as we gain a deeper understanding of what it is for life to move through us. 

If we can do this on a deeply personal level, then perhaps we can begin to do this for other people. What I mean is that we all have expectations about how things should be, how people should live, look, vote, shop, parent, express themselves, and the list goes on and on. Having a frame of expectations feels validating while at the same time it includes and excludes people. We are beginning to recognize the violence in holding a standard and expecting everyone to meet it. We do this in friendships and family as much as we do it in our culture. We are all participants in this no matter what our ideals and beliefs. 

How can we live in a way that supports finding common ground where it is safe to be seen as we are? How can we foster the growth and education of all people without the frame of failure?

When we practice moving the body in a way that is curious and accepting, this response begins to happen in the rest our lives. We have a chance in mindful practice to see how we perpetuate negative patterns in the body, see where we can choose differently, and make the adjustments. Once people discover that this process is happening in practice, it's like opening a window shade. The awareness radiates out to the rest of life. You don't even have to work at it so long as you continue to practice with curiosity and acceptance for yourself and the process of mindfulness.

Along with yoga asana, we will continue to practice meditation at the end and will likely take the time in one January class to establish a basic mediation position for each person. And of course, there's the breathing practice, which is central to any yoga and mindfulness practice. We will do plenty of that too.

I look forward to our first session of the year on January 6th!

January/February Mindful Yoga Schedule
Saturdays 8:30-9:45 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Parish $10
*Please note that class will not be held on February 17th.

All the Best for You and Your Loved Ones in The New Year!


Sunday, June 18, 2017

How I Handle Father's Day

I have two fathers. My original father and my mother divorced when I was three. When I was six, my mother remarried, and a year later my second father adopted me. My mother and second father divorced when I was 14. I am not in contact with my original father and barely in contact with my second one. It's complicated because I have tried to reconnect with both of them over the years, and it just brings a cascade of pain, guilt, and regret to me and to them. Both of them have tried, and so have I. It's just not meant to be.

On Father's Day, I struggle to celebrate in a way that honors my experience with my fathers. I can't lie about the well of pain from these experiences, and it's hard to know what to do with it on days like this. Because of this well of pain, I moved toward independence and the commitment to healthy relating. I can take care of myself and find my footing in the world from what I have experienced with my fathers. But mine is far from a sweet picture of my dad being my pal who helps me get ready for the world and lets me dance on his feet or teaches me to fish. And this is okay.

So, what can I truly celebrate on Father's Day?

I can celebrate every time I witness the men who hold their children because they need that loving connection to their children. I can celebrate every time I witness men who do things with their children because it brings them joy. I can celebrate every time my husband comes home from work and quietly goes about taking care of our family in ways that I cannot. I can celebrate every time I witness the love that I hear in my husband's voice when he speaks to our children.

My children are still young, and through them, my celebration of Father's Day is evolving. I am thankful for that and am curious to see how I will celebrate Father's Day in years to come because of them.

For those of you who cannot be with your father(s), I hope you can find in yourself a sense of peace, strength and wholeness. And I hope you can find joy in the fathers who are around you now. To everyone, have a Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

My Summer Schedule

This summer I am teaching at Holy Trinity Episcopal Parish and at the Clemson University Student Organic Farm. Here's the schedule and information. I look forward to it!

Mindful Yoga at Holy Trinity
Saturday mornings 8:30-9:45 June 17 and 24, July 8 and 22, August dates TBD
Let's move in peace. Class sequences are designed for everyone to find more ease in body, mind, and spirit.

Sunset Yoga Sundays
Sundays 7:00pm-8:00pm June 11-August 13
An all levels series focused on restorative breathing and mindful movement that will help you sleep better, let go, and be ready for Monday mornings.

Sunrise Yoga Two mornings a week!
Mondays and Thursdays 6:00-7:00 June 12-August 3
Come explore mindful movement and breathing at dawn this summer. Sessions will help you get your day started with clarity and ease in mind, body, and spirit.

Family Yoga at Sunset
Thursdays 7:00-7:45pm June 15-August 3
Come have fun as we explore basic postures, breathing, and mindfulness techniques for people of all ages. Sessions will be 45 minutes, but we all know that some of us may not be able to stay the whole time. So, hey, we’re with family. We all know that's okay. All families welcome.

Fee Schedule
$10 per session
Holy Trinity Pass: $30
Sunrise Pass: $85
Sunset Pass: $40
Family Pass: $40
All sessions Pass: $165

All bodies and all experiences are welcome. Bring a mat, bolster, and block if you have them. Equipment is available to borrow. 

Email Renee at or call/text 864-723-0827
Other ways to connect:
Facebook: Renee Gahan Yoga

Instagram: rengahan

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I Lead a Parade

Collectively, in my town and in this country, we need more music and dancing in the streets. We need more outlets to publicly express the joy in our bodies. Adults, especially parents, relegate this to children, but we all need this our entire lives. It used to be that town square was where you went to dance and celebrate for the sake of celebrating. But this went missing in most of the country a few generations ago. It's time we bring it back. For now, we need to do it for the sake of the health of our communities. We need to seek ways to collectively and publicly express joy until feeding joy for its own sake comes naturally again for people of all ages. Not just children. It happens in social media, but we all know that it is a surrogate despite how much it connects us. We need time dedicated to collective joy in everyday time rather than virtual time; we need this time to be unencumbered by commentators, marketing schemes, and the floodlights of national television. So, on May 20th I will be leading the 2nd Annual Clemson Festival of Arts Parade, and you are invited.

From 2016: Me with The Green Crescent Trail E.T. Group Costume

What: Clemson Festival of Arts Parade
Who: Anyone who can be there in person, including you
When: Saturday, May 20th at 10 am, lineup at 9:00
Where: If you want to dress up and dance with us, come to the Clemson First Baptist Church parking lot in the back. We will walk just a short block and a half or so to the festival and parade right through it. If you want to watch, the festival is at Catherine Smith Plaza in Downtown Clemson.
What else: Dress up in a costume you put together yourself. If you are there just to dance, dress in a primary color. You can also decorate your bike, your golf cart, and/or your hat.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

An Algorithm for Joy

I have been working on an algorithm lately. Let me know what you think.

1. Mindfulness is the result of bare attention on one thing. It's kinda a like putting a stake in the ground in order to see where to put the house in the context of the landscape.
2. Mindfulness is love. Hm. My teacher Michael Stone suggested that recently. If you think about it, when you love something or someone, all of your attention is right there, and as a result, your awareness of the world opens.
3. Happiness is at the intersection of Love and Joy.
4. Happiness is at the intersection of Joy and Mindfulness.
5. Love is an effort and an energy.
6. Joy comes and goes. Or does it?

So how do we create the conditions for joy to arise? How do we invite joy to come for a visit?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Yoga Postures, Picking Locks, and Remembering Your Birthright

Most of the time when someone says they are practicing yoga, they are practicing asana, which is commonly translated as "comfortable seat." As beginners to the practice we think we need to break ourselves into poses like breaking in new shoes, to force comfort. But asana is about finding ease in the body no matter what posture we are doing and consequently, no matter the posture we take in our lives. Asana practice is about starting with ease, being in the middle of ease, and ending with ease as much and as often as possible with nothing forced about it. I knew a bank manager who once told me that yoga was like putting herself into a tight bind and finding her way out of it. In the first handful of years for me, I also saw asana practice as the ways we put ourselves into tight binds and was sure that Harry Houdini had practiced yoga.

But this approach only continues the tenuous relationship that we have with peace and generates an attitude that it can only be had if you give up just the right parts of the body for a moment in order to make the escape. In this way peace is something fleeting rather than inherent. There is surrender involved with every posture and for a time it may feel like you are picking locks and untying ropes, but there's more once you untie enough knots. Asana means comfortable seat, not problem solving, and the peace we find is actually part of our birthright that we forgot somewhere in childhood.

The next time you practice yoga, notice how you are holding your body. Are you performing, conquering, teetering on collapse? How we hold the body in asana reveals the way we deal with conflict. We deflect, fight, disappear, and abandon in order to escape the truth of a situation. But we can learn how to face our lives and befriend what is weak, undeveloped, stuck. Yoga moves us to a place that is complete so that we can hold what is incomplete with care. Practice yoga as a way to listen to the voiceless within and to give it the attention and care it needs to evolve.

Asana practice teaches us what it is to inhabit the body, as it is, and in all its landscapes of sensation and churnings that we cannot find words to describe. It softens our self expectations so that we can finally meet ourselves where we are in our own feet and hands and everything in between.  In this space being pleasing to the eye or making the cut doesn't matter. Nor does it matter how competent, intelligent, or strong we are. When you crave communing with yourself, it's about being in the dynamic of movement and stillness of body and breath. And when the rain patters on the roof, you see that your life, like all of life, is a gift.