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Teacher Feature: Kate O'Grady

Teacher Feature: Kate O'Grady

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Meet one of our newest teachers, Kate O'Grady.

Kate is a life-long learner who holds a M.S. in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Performance Studies from SIUC. You can find her most often studying and practicing different types of yoga, movement, wellness and creative expression, and then enthusiastically sharing what she has learned with her students.

Here are some fun facts about Kate in her own words:

  • 😌 I do yoga because It helps me feel balanced in mind/body/spirit, refreshed and centered.

    I discovered it 14 years ago while living in Long Island, NY. My husband and I moved together from Southern Illinois University to Long Island, NY for work. Soon after, we started our family and our son was born. I was living in a new state as a new mom and found myself looking for a way to calm my mind and soothe my sore back. I took my first restorative yoga class and immediately knew that I had found something very special.

  • 🤗 I teach because I want to share what has been taught to me, encourage others, and make yoga and mindful movement accessible.

    Back in New York, I studied and mentored with Diana Ross, founder of Restorative Flow and Breast Cancer Yoga. I earned my certificate at Karma Kids Yoga and taught children’s yoga in NYC. Then came a move to Tampa, FL where I continued teaching children and teens while completing my 200-hr. certification in Creative Kids Yoga with Rosemary Clough. After we moved back to Illinois, I began practicing yoga at YAF.

    I completed the 250-hr. Summer Intensive Yoga Teacher Training at Prairie Yoga with Tricia Fiske in 2015 and began teaching adults. I teach a mindful class with breath and body awareness and strive to make each class welcoming and accessible. I’ve taught Gentle, Restorative, Hatha, Chair Yoga, and Mindful Fitness classes. I’ve also taught cancer patients and caregivers.

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  • 👍🏻 I am inspired by My 16-year old son, my students, those willing to do the inner work to grow, transform and reach a higher awareness.

  • 🌊 My favorite place is outdoors. I love the walking and spending time by the ocean— especially the Gulf of Mexico.

  • 🍠 My favorite foods in the summer are grilled sweet potatoes and zucchini.

  • 🚶‍♀️ If I could do anything for the next 30 minutes, I would either go for a trail walk, read an article, or practice legs up the wall.

  • ✈️ If I could do more, I would deepen my faith, travel with my husband and son, and spend more time with friends and family.

  • 👩🏼‍🍳 One thing I’d spend less time doing if I could would be cooking!

  • 📚 I like to read and usually have several things going at the same time. Currently I’m reading Becoming by Michelle Obama + a few yoga related books and articles

  • 💕 I love my family, friends, and students, my rescue pup and cat, laughing, trail walking, watching soccer-especially my son’s games-and March Madness, creative expression, great food, coffee, tea, and new experiences in life!

  • ✨ Three words that best describe me are caring, encouraging, and funny.

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Find Kate on the drop-in schedule on Tuesdays at 4:30pm for the Gentle & Restorative Yoga class.

This class is a blend of Gentle Yoga taught at a slower pace to warm up and ready the body for supported Restorative Yoga postures. A full range of props are used to help support students in experiencing release and relaxation. Students will leave the class feeling relaxed and refreshed. Perfect for all sizes, ages, and abilities. New students are welcome!




The Practice of Intention: Moving Out of Fear into Love

The Practice of Intention: Moving Out of Fear into Love

 
 

Today, I am inspired by the writings of John O’Donohue, who wrote,

Beauty dwells at the heart of life. If we can free ourselves from our robot-like habits of predictability, repetitions and function, we begin to walk differently on the earth. To bring consciousness of living into our everyday tasks is at the heart of living a soul existence.

I asked myself most days, “Laura Jane, is this learned or is this you?” I question if all my habits are ways to avoid living fearlessly. At the basis of my existence is human survival. I am in this body; and in this container, I am reminded that at some primal level of my existence, I am only a hunter and gatherer. I am food for the lion, and I must eat to live while alive.

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At this place is the food chain, I must be given the right to kill for food. Hunting, conquering and surviving is based on this human instinct. I will tell you there is no joy, nor happiness, nor peacefulness, when living in this state of mind. The truth: everything alive is dying and life is impermanent. Such a cheerful thought, one which we avoid discussing and accepting since this is the ego’s greatest fear.

I know my entire life is a series of actions running from this truth. My intention, or deepening desire, is to break open into a higher consciousness and move the mind of fear into thriving in love. I never take for granted how blessed I am to have the time, the energy, and the luxury to choose. In today’s world, most souls are just caught in the poverty of daily struggle for shelter, food, warmth and human kindness. It’s so difficult to be living in a world so rich and abundant, and yet so many are not able to share at the table. I am fully aware the gift to be able to sit and write these thoughts with the luxury of a full heart.

Another mass shooting this weekend. The cry of pain once again expressed through the rage of a gun. Once again the heart breaks for the victims, and then the voices rise up with the need to “defend”, as fear creates another justification for killing. The human instinct to fight back is wired into our nervous system. All throughout time, human beings have gathered into tribes of belonging in order to feel protected with a false sense of belonging to the same like-minded gang of support. Feeding anger is so easy. The challenge is shifting the habit of reaction (which only leads to justification for revenge) to thrive.  Thousands of years and humanity is still struggling with our primal fears. People building more war heads, more armor and more hatred as the reflex to cope with fear. 

 Do we really understand the word, love? Since the intellect is wired in our nervous system as fear, it takes great effort to move into something which has nothing to do with one’s instinct. Love has nothing to do with our intellect; it arises out of pure intelligence.  My teacher would say, our true intrinsic nature is love. The word itself is too small for the experience of being loved. Therefore to even write about it gives nothing to the essence of the experience.

The yoga tools of living the YAMAS and the NIYAMAS, the restraints and observances, offer a gateway into the path. Staying on it is a daily practice, and not without great desire to be really good at loving. This is my intention, and it brings me to my knees, because what I think is love is often my need to control, to manipulate and to push away what I don’t like for the pleasure of what I do like. I am always reminded that being really good at loving is messy, heartbreaking, and at times exhausting. It’s not glorious to be with a dying parent, navigating a divorce, leaving a home, letting go of a friendship, nor holding a space for differences in our divided world views. To disagree with others in my personal relationships does not give me permission to shame or reject anyone. Boundaries are not walls of separation, and sometimes offering acts of loving kindness might look unkind when we grow and change. Love arises from all directions allowing grace to move into the open space of the heart. 

The first Yama, Ahimsa,"thou shall not harm," is the gift of wisdom. When do I harm? When I am afraid. I am harmful in my thoughts and words when I use the habit of ego to tell me how unworthy I might be, or how I failed, or how I’m not ever good enough. A learned mind pushes me to move into false beliefs. I bite back when I’m tired, hungry and not feeling safe. When I am in my animal instinct for hunting, my tone can harm and my sarcastic wit can shame.

Satyam is to speak truth. Children learn to lie when they are afraid of being punished. We keep the habit when we continue to be afraid of speaking the truth. And not just outlaid but by keeping the inner lies to ourselves. They become the inner secrets of shame hidden in the deeper aspects of our learned personalities. To hide the truth is to become sneaky, often spinning the truth to avoid right action or change. How dangerous it is to learn to manipulate in order to hide our deeper fears of revealing the truth! 

Asteya means non-stealing. There is a motivation directing the little mind to take something that is not ours to have, and whether it be out of need or want, it stills arises from a fear of NOT having. Stealing from others whether it be someone’s dreams, hopes or creativity. It’s the patterns cultivated by envy, jealously or profound revenge. To steal is to create a world of distrust and dishonesty; and yet, we see everyday permission to cheat, lie, and steal to win the outcome.   

Brahmacarya, healthy boundaries—both inner and outer, is to live with the structure of inner integrity and use appropriate ways to express the values of self esteem with patience persistently. Reflect on how time might be spent in living a healthy lifestyle. Does procrastination or avoidance come into living? By seeking pleasure over choosing to take action in much needed tasks will only lead to suffering.  To make clear choices without being colored by habits of fear for taking the action or inaction is the highest good for all. 

Aparigarha, non-hoarding, is to clear out the mind of habits based on fear, doubt, and worry that prevents us living our best and most noble selves. To shine the inner light and not hold back on who we truly are. Our true self is not the basis of fear, but love, and wants to share this truth. We can look at greed, lust, and hoarding as a learned habit of the fear of not having. Lack, despair, and feeling of hopelessness over life’s hardships will prevent any letting go.  The mind will never trust an empty vessel that is shamed and made to feel guilty. To be able to receive the blessings of beauty in life, one must constantly clear out and clean the mind of false fear. The mind is tricky and will constantly be presented with the challenges to move beyond fear.  

Fear is wired into our nervous system and yet, to live free of this state is to embrace to tools of the Niyamas. The tools to move the mind into the heart.

Purify the mind and practice, “sauca.” Clear out the impurities of fear and replace with a daily commitment to bringing in Prana, the intelligence that rides on the breath. This intelligence is love! The vibration of the breath is the vehicle needed for life. Breathing is taken for granted and so we forget the value of learning deep exhales. Our bodies will not only survive, but our souls can now thrive. To feed and nourish our true selves, we must first clear out the old patterns of learned habits that keep me a prisoner to those false reactions. 

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Let’s practice the three tools of Tapas, Svadhaya, and Isvara-pranidhana. By making effort everyday to clear out our small thinking with observing the beauty in everyday life. Replacing our "robot like habits" with an deeper appreciation for the wonder of life in our daily tasks. Living the practice off our mats, everything takes on a greater purpose. No longer is the outcome our motivation. We are not linking to the fear but to the love of being alive. If we appreciate today, our bodies are breathing, our hearts are breaking open, and our thoughts are mindful of the moment. We are fully alert to what is being presented, the miracle of this life and living NOW. We might feel waves of sadness, grief, fatigue and joy at the same time.

I might have moments of doubt while writing this post, and yet Satosha is present as well. How blessed to be able to sit and share my deepest thoughts as I journey deeper inward and offer my heart. Love is not preaching, nor convincing, and my way is certainly not the only way to live. I have found that these tools are the best possible path for me to keep living fearlessly in beauty. I can be in grief today for the horrors of behaviors linked to fear and still choose to be the best expression of love. Today, I can appreciation the gift of these yoga tools by living them.  I accept being an on-going “work on progress” as I strive to be really good at loving today.

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising

Again I am waking up at 3:00 am to the tossing and turning of my chatty mind reflecting on the memories of the past. Something deeper is stirring within me as a constant shaking to pay attention to the night’s secret language. Encouraging me to listen to my  heart’s longing to journey into new horizons. Something is changing in my life and its big.

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My one and only daughter is turning 18 in a few weeks and graduating from high school. She is going off to college, and her daily life under my roof is quickly shifting to a new frontier. She will be leaving for college in upstate NY, and I am terrified, thrilled, joyous and deeply saddened at the same time.

My heart is shouting,”I am ROOTING for YOU,” while my head is filled with the dread of letting go. I am human and aware of those mixed emotions. So I wake up to give myself permission to feel them all and not worry that my daily life is getting in the way of my desire to just BE with it all.

Why do I have to function when I want to just crawl into the woods and sit by my favorite tree and ask God, “ok, what’s next”?  How am I to move forward into this uncertainty of my future without the daily rituals of cooking dinners, watching basketball games, washing vast amounts dirty sports uniforms, and delighting in those small moments when she shares a special laughter on the many drives back and forth to school.

Now, I will be starting medicare as my daughter embarks on. her new journey.  I am being asked to surrender parenting her, as she would say, “like a fifth grader!”

The change is everywhere and I am a witness to the many stories everyday that are being presented in everyone’s lives. From the awakening in our country of the hidden shame of racism, to the angst of women’s voices needing to be heard, to the anger of bias opinions that our learned tribe holds rigid over the right to choose birth control or the ending of an unwanted pregnancy, to the constant fight to carry fire arms as a moral need.

Growing up in the 70’s was a time to embrace feminism knowing that the world was always going to make me somehow a second class citizen to the economics of my male colleague. I have always been clear that no one owns my soul, and maybe thats why today I struggle with the confusion of roles.

I am more than my role, my outer identity. Yet as I begin this new path, I feel like the structures are crumbling and the walls are shifting as I fall to the earth and ask, “who am I?” 

The yoga center has been my safety. My belongings exist in these rooms and my purpose was to commit to maintaining a home for all souls to grow and be seen beyond the outer identity of a body. Teaching yoga is my gift. Living yoga is my daily effort and practice as I struggle in my need to hold on to what I know is familiar.

Now I am being asked at those early morning wake up calls with the Divine to move into a new phase of sharing my heart and soul. I am being asked to risk and go into the confusion of not knowing anything!

Last week, I went through my own phoenix rising, as I watched the burning of Notre Dame. Like the long-lived bird in Greek mythology who cyclically regenerates and is born again. A phoenix obtains new life out of the ashes of its predecessor. Beginnings arise when the old is burned away and the purification becomes the new life at rebirth.

To witness the immense fire on that April evening was tragic, and I grieved with the world as we saw over 800 years of beauty in structure and form representing the lives of so many worshippers all around the world. I grieved the memory of all those who spent their entire life building the church with care and craftsmanship unlike anything we see today.

In the morning, however, I saw the remains of ash and empty spaces where the wall and roof once held the sacred artifacts of history. The outer beauty might have been destroyed, but the invisible beauty of its pure spirituality was revealed in that early morning light. The cross was left in the ash, and the stain glass window reflected the light of the morning sun.

God had room to breathe into the new expansive awakening of the true heart of Christ’s healing and love. Choir voices rang outside in the city’s streets, and the people cried, hugged, and grieved as if they all experienced the loss of something familiar.  The bittersweet of memory opened up to possibility, and the beauty of the human soul breaking open.

Sometimes, the beauty is felt in its most pure essence as the invisible. A collective embrace with the divine. April 15 would have been my parents 69th wedding anniversary. I had spent the day in reflection missing them and yet celebrating their sweet love affair. I remembered all the tragic events six years ago when bombings killed innocent runners and spectators at the Boston Marathon. I also remembered April 15 was the date Abraham Lincoln was shot, the date of the sinking of the Titanic, and our tax day.  

On this particular date, we also struggle with the great division in our landscape of moral compass when we either see our leaders as villains or victims, and long for the return of a collective hero. The news stories were full of April 15, as they were on the full moon of April 19 as a completion for Good Friday and Passover into the holy day of the Christian church of Easter as we again witness mass murder in Sri Lanka.

Yes, it has been a ride this month into the depth of humanity as a reminder of endings beget new beginnings.

I am reflecting on what is coming into my life now.  My necessary surrendering into a new role while I seek the courage to embrace unknown new adventures. Stepping into new experiences.  Fully letting go is the most love we can share, since the concept of "giving love" might imply a deeper need to get something in return.  

When I embrace the abundance of life in the fullness of love and light, then the intelligence of spirit flows through me, and I am reminded that love is all there is. The forms will change, the roles will change, my body will age, and yet my soul is more alive in the invisible space of this truth. I can feel the invisible embrace of beauty.  

Sometimes life will present our own internal fire of such deep purification that we, too, will rise up as the phoenix and expand our wings. Each new day is our beginning. Each day is a practice with the inner presence of being fully alive to all the creative, brilliant possibilities that await.

Embrace this mystery with curiosity and passion as the secret ingredients for staying in love. The breath is the invocation of life. May we be willing to accept change as a gift and a blessing. I am fully awake now and ready to say, “yes.”

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I extend the Celtic blessing for this season of change:
”May the light of your soul guide you.
May you see in what you do, the beauty of your own soul.
May you release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.
May you be present with what you do.
May the day never burden.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May your soul calm, console, and renew you.”

I love you Colby—go fly. Together let’s enter into this journey with wings. 

With love,
LJ