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Say Yes to Life with Year Long Meditation

Say Yes to Life with Year Long Meditation

We know that our breathing is the inhaling and exhaling of air. Air is all around us, and when we take the oxygen into our lungs we are saying, YES to life. The lungs that lie round the heart, with the air passing through them, envelope the heart. Thus, breathing is a natural way to touch the heart.

And so, having collected your mind within you, lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches the heart. With this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the sweet space where your true self rests and to open the gateway to something more profound than your intellect. Open to love, your intrinsic true nature. This is the gift of meditation!

Meditation is the conscious refined mind linked to this true nature. Bringing our roaming overactive thoughts into direct awareness of the grace of breath opens the door for wonder. To go beyond our daily habit of linking to all the distractions of mindless noise and instead link to the breath, which allows us to enter into a sanctuary of inner peace. This is the greatest tool of practicing yoga. —Yes, yoga offers the tool of meditation. It is a primary tool; and yet, everyone just believes it’s all about asana.

I am amazed when students call the studio and ask if we teach meditation. All yoga is bringing the busy mind into a refined steady place of focusing. it’s a practice which takes time and commitment. We can all benefit from great physical practice of strong postures, but that’s not the goal of yoga. The intention is for the agitation of mind to be able to move into a direct focus, and be able to sustain that focus, by first relaxing the tensions from gross to subtle. The beauty of practice offers a shift in the nervous system so the physical body is not being driven by the adrenals and the ego’s learned habits of avoiding being present.

In today’s busy and over extended world, we need all the tools we can gather to create a lifestyle that is not moving us into more suffering. Tools to help us ease our stresses and find more joy in being our best self. As a community of like minded souls, I am concerned that we are moving into directions filled with negative thoughts. I know that fighting or arguing with the outer world can only lead to more frustration and we lose the sense of feeling empowered to make greater changes in the world for kindness and inspiration of hope.

Therefore, Yoga Among Friends is thrilled and honored to be included in the year long commitment of meditation and joining of intentions for a better global world view with The Himalayan Institute and my dear teacher, Pandit Rajamni Tigunait. Whether you are just beginning a meditation practice or have been a dedicated student for many years, I’m passionate that our combined contribution of making a daily practice will have a huge ripple effect that will extend pass our small community.

The Year Long Meditation initiative is a global endeavor, and the shifting consciousness from hate to love is what must be felt as possible. I want to invite you to join in. If you are inspired to join on your own please sign up here and you can start tracking your own practice. You can also learn more here.

We can bring positive change by our collective consciousness expanding and benefiting all of us with a mutual understanding, wisdom and compassion with unconditional love. I know this to be true! And I am so passionate that we cannot stop hatred with anger, but with the light of bringing our hearts into a greater positive direction.

Meditation heals and let’s start here. Marina offers the Meditative Flow class as her Sunday offering, and Lisa teaches Meditation for Adults and Teens on Tuesday evenings. But know that all our classes bring us into reflection and breath awareness. I will also be starting in September a meditation class on Monday nights at 7:30pm in the small studio as my commitment offering.

In addition to meditation, I am excited to announce that on Wednesday, August 14, we will be participating in the first Global Yoga Therapy Day! I and three other C-IAYT yoga therapists will be on hand from 9am-4pm to offer FREE one-on-one yoga therapy sessions of 30 min each to those who have never tried yoga therapy. Each participant will gain a better understanding of and experience first hand the work of a yoga therapist. You’ll learn how we help assess and create a healthy practice to remove pain and suffering from physical injuries, emotional mood imbalances, and the suffering from autoimmune diseases. Please sign up for free sessions on our website. If you can’t make it, check out the live event on Facebook.

All of us at YAF extend our heartfelt appreciation to all of you for continuing to support us as a place of healing hearts. I personally know that we need community now more than ever in this ever-changing landscape of technology and corporations that leave us without the feeling of belonging. As we journey together on the path of promoting better thoughts, let’s rejoice that we are fortunate enough to be able to help the sweet earth. Together we are the service of intentional consciousness, and we are even more dynamic together.

Thank you and blessings for saying, YES TO LIFE.


Teacher Feature: Kate O'Grady

Teacher Feature: Kate O'Grady


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.

  • 👍🏻 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.


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.


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. 


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.