Jennie Latta & celebrate12!

Happy 12th birthday, Evergreen Yoga!

This year we are celebrating our birthday in a unique and special way called celebrate12!

Twelve students will be sharing their yoga stories with you as part of our birthday celebration. Jennie Latta is the first student you’ll hear from (below).

I hope these stories will energize you to keep growing in your yoga practice, to try new things, and see what happens.

If you are just considering how you might begin a practice, experience is the best teacher. I hope you will be inspired to come to class and learn how to practice.
Happy reading!

Jennie Latta

Jennie has been attending the Barefoot Boot Camp classes on Mondays & Thursdays since February 2017. We had fun taking these pictures a few weeks ago. She has been practicing yoga occasionally for about six years, but more intensely for the past two years.

Why did you start yoga?  
I started yoga because it was part of another exercise program that I attended.  I started to make it the focus of my exercise when I got to know more about it and the challenges it presents. Although I had been more or less active throughout my adult life, I started daily exercise when I finished chemotherapy in 2013.  I practice yoga four to five mornings each week now.

What are the benefits for you – physical AND/OR other benefits?
I don’t always look forward to coming to the mat early in the morning, but I always feel terrific as the hour comes to a close and throughout the day.  The benefits of yoga for me include strength, flexibility, balance, confidence, and perseverance.      

Do you have a favorite pose?  
I really like arm balances and head stands – so inversions (although I’m not a fan of shoulder stand).  I’m working on developing more flexibility.

What else would you like to share about yourself?
I was born and raised in Memphis and am 57 years old.  

I work as a United States Bankruptcy Judge and an adjunct professor at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. In addition to the J.D., I have an M.A. in theology and a Ph.D. in philosophy, which  might explain in part why yoga appeals to me.

I am a Benedictine Oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana, and like to sing Gregorian chant. I play bassoon in the Germantown Symphony Orchestra and the Memphis Wind Symphony.  

I like to knit — especially socks.  I’ve been married to Jim Latta for 38 years.  We have five grown children and three grandchildren. 

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Reflections from Workshop: Day 1

I am away at a workshop with Patricia Walden this week! (If you want to know more about her, click here).

It’s rare that I have a chance to be a student. Studying is important to my personal yoga work…and ultimately my teaching. During this week’s workshop with Senior Teacher Patricia Walden, I am able to focus on myself. I learn a lot about how to teach by being a student under a senior teacher.

Patricia has studied Iyengar Yoga since she was 26, in the 1970′s. She studied and practiced personally with Mr. Iyengar until his death 4 years ago.

I want to write about what this week is like. My process will be stream-of-consciousness. My goal is to share my experiences without laboring over grammar, spelling and my endless editing and re-editing. We will see where it leads.

Tedrah is here too. I’m looking forward to hearing about what it is like for her. We are so busy here, we may not have a chance to talk about it until we return to Memphis.

My one picture from yesterday is my lunch! Hope to take some better pics today.
My one picture from yesterday is my lunch! Hope to take some better pics today.

Traveling can be a challenge. I don’t like being away from the studio so much. The past 2 years have made travel necessary, and I’m examining my priorities. Spending time with my family is high on the list. Work and personal is a balancing act, especially when I love my work! But I know of no one who doesn’t have to deal with juggling things in this way. I realize I am not alone.

Back to the workshop:

Although soft-spoken, Patricia is clear and direct. Her instruction challenged me, and she also worked with the beginners. It’s remarkable how open these beginners are to learning. Her expert teaching means they are challenged according to their capacity, but without being overwhelmed.

If you peeked in the studio window, you’d see a lot of people in work-out clothes doing poses – and a physically demanding! You might not notice right away, that while we practice she is teaching us lessons on yoga philosophy. The philosophy behind yoga practice translates into all of life. It is a practical discipline.

One example was watching her work with a more advanced student on his over-working in Upavista Konasana. She showed some adjustments he needed to make in his pose to work on the correct action in the lower back. She used that and several other instances as a way of teaching Svadhyaya (self-study). She helped him to see where his body is over-working to the point of aggression. She also pointed out other places that needed strengthening.

How much to d0 & not do. It’s a common theme in our asana classes. Patricia’s approach was subtle but strong.  The student’s understanding of himself deepened.

Speaking of philosophy…
She started the morning reading from the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, Sloka 34 & 35). I like Stephen Mitchell’s translation/commentary, and upon reading that I came away with the importance of a wise teacher. And that the goal of wisdom is freedom.

Another topic of the day was practicing saucha (cleanliness). Today she focused on physical cleanliness. She encouraged us to remember that the body is an instrument of the soul. She suggested that we explore the importance of keeping the mind pure.

It is an understatement to say there’s a lot of hubbub going on in our community and the whole world right now. I’ve had concerns that our philosophy discussion would include something bordering on politics. I was wrong. She keeps the focus of why we are practicing yoga and what our personal responsibilities are.

We are studying sutras II.40 & II.41. Today there will be further exploration I think. We are heading toward cultivating attitudes that create purity of manas (mind), and ultimately a sattvic (serene) state. She said “sattva-cize” your mind. Using Sanskrit in an English way can make the directive more clear.

The practical/fun parts of the trip are:
Seeing my yoga friends from around the country! Friendly & smiling faces. There are about 40 participants, and I know about half from other trainings over the years.

Spending time with my husband who is here with me! He is enjoying the museums here and learning how they have evolving over the years. I am impressed with the Legacy Wall at Dallas Museum of Art. The focus was on a married couple who gave their collection to the museum. The DMA is downtown, and it is interesting to see how the museum integrates their sculpture garden into their indoor collection. Friday evening we head to the Louisiana Film Prize Festival to see what is possible for the Memphis Film Prize.

Seeing my teacher Randy as a student, rather than a teacher. He works just as hard (maybe harder) than us students. A good example for me to see. Plus, his sense of humor always brings a lightness to my more serious side.

Eating! After class yesterday morning I was starving, and devoured my lunch. A great and filling salad (see photo). Sadly, it’s the only photo I took all day. So it looks like I’m here to eat, not study. Oh well, maybe better photos today.

OK – I’ve just finished breakfast and moving onward to Day 2!

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Post-vacation thoughts

Returning back to yoga after Summer vacation feels a lot like the first day of school.

I remember my crisply-pressed school uniforms, newly-sharpened pencils and plastic cases that held them. And the ritual of finding the perfect backpack each year (no laptops then!).

Thirty years later, I am carrying my worn leather backpack from college. I’ve replaced zippers and re-stitched the seams, but it fits and I have no desire to replace it.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 10.26.33 AMNow that my 2-week summer vacation is over, I approach my well-worn yoga mat the way I do that leather bag. It fits. It is as welcoming as the return to sleeping in my own bed.

Getting back to classes, my students and my mat feels like a home-coming too. I’m ready for routine — at least mentally ready. Physically though…..

My hamstrings are tight, my back stiff and every pose feels like foreign territory. The back muscles I tweaked while “exercising” on the trip are talking to me.

My body is paying a price for all that vacation fun. Part of me wants to do nothing but just lie down on that mat. But as I tell students, just show up to your mat and see what happens. Just lie there and maybe the yoga will take over and you will do another pose, and then another. I am trying to take my own advice.

On another note, this morning a young student told me about a sciatica flare-up and tightness in her legs. She said she felt lop-sided and uneven.

I passed along a little bit of wisdom:  We are all lopsided!

One side of the body is a little different than the other. There are habits that create imbalances. And sometimes things get a little out of whack just from living your life.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 10.33.15 AMWe can’t be on a yoga mat 24 hours a day, making sure we are straight and balanced. That would be insanity-producing. We live full lives, have fun, work, deal with life’s stresses.

I will talk about the stress of living another day. Today I focus on how even a fun vacation can stress the body.

During vacation I slouch. I sit more. Go to the theatre. Have a cocktail. And two of my favorite activites this year were hunkering over the Scrabble board and working crossword puzzles. I also indulged in dessert (including the best tiramisu I’ve ever had).

All that fun has left me a little out of whack, but it’s worth it. I’m fortunate enough to have a vacation. I’m lucky to be surrounded by good friends and family. I’m fortunate enough to be able to travel to see them often and occasionally over-indulge.

On the mat or in class, we try for ideal physical symmetry. But there is no perfection, only practice.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 10.33.24 AMThe most obvious benefits of practice are the physical ones: relief from pain, feeling good and relieving stress — among the other benefits that are more subtle.

The important thing is just to show up.

Like the first day of a new school year, we get back to the yoga mat and find that it fits. Just like that well-worn Jansport backpack of yore.

Pictures from my trip:
Chicago Architecture Center boat tour
Iyengar Yoga Sarasota with my friend Sue Marcus (2nd from left) & her students
Egret on the side of the highway near my parents’ house

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Opening to a random page

I’ve rediscovered the library! Walking through the doors of the Benjamin Hooks Central Library feels like a cool treat for a hot Memphis summer afternoon.

Eight or ten books crowd my nightstand at any given time. And yes, I am reading them all! I lay down to read one book for a while, then go exploring the stack.

Maria Shriver’s book I’ve Been Thinking showed up on the New in Non-Fiction rack and I snapped it up. After hearing her interview on the On Being podcast, I wanted to hear more from her.

This morning I opened her book and decided I’d read a paragraph from any page. It was apropos of what I’ve been thinking lately.

Each short chapter is an essay that is meant as a prompt for reflection and coming to a deeper understanding on a range of topics.

Here’s what popped up today:

She writes about how individualism shaped our lives in the U.S. In early days of our country the ethos was one of “create your own destiny.” The message we’ve inherited from our American ancestors from the early days of our country is to work hard, take advantage of every opportunity and you can create freedom and a new life for yourself. They pulled themselves up “by their own boot straps,” I think they would say.

Ms. Shriver’s essay shifts that thinking and focuses on what we create together, and the power of aligning ourselves with others.

“We all share common longing to belong, to be seen and to be accepted,” she writes.

“But no one does anything alone. Going it all alone is silly. To try and do that is overwhelming, isolating and exhausting.”

These are my thoughts today as I teach 3 classes. I watch the way the group interacts with each other, and with me. Taking a yoga class alongside others can be uplifting. It is clear in those moments that every person is really looking for something similar. Each of us wants to feel better, make some sort of change (in body and/or mind), and seeking whatever we think yoga might bring to our lives.

As a teacher I see the power of the group. The dynamics between us all make for understanding and we work a bit more diligently when there is someone next to us trying new things as we are. We also laugh.

At the end of each class there are several minutes of quiet and rest. It is rare for a room full of people to be together but silent and still. We are a group, but at the same time we are encouraged to as individuals to let our bootstraps down , join with others and take a little respite knowing we are all in this together.


Courtney Oliver offers new class!

courtney.headshotA life-long theatre performer and dancer,

Courtney began practicing yoga with Leah shortly before the doors opened to EYC in 2006. It soon became evident that yoga was a necessary tool for calmness and mindfulness against the daily grind and the fast-paced sprint of the theatre world.

In under two years of yoga with Leah, practicing turned into studying and Courtney started to dip her toes into the wonderful sea of teacher training. In 2009 she began teaching classes and in 2014 she started teaching at the University Club, where she still teaches today.

Yoga not only changed Courtney as a performer, but as a person. Wound tight emotionally, wild socially, and loose spiritually, her yoga practice with Leah opened a door to a safe space that allowed her to ask new or better questions, learn new or deeper truths, and find celebration in her self and her own body. In every body.

Courtney is also soon to celebrate her 20th Anniversary with Playhouse on the Square where she is currently the Director of Special Events, as well as a member of the Resident Company. She works as an actor, a director, a choreographer, and a fight choreographer.

She has been recognized as an actor/combatant through the Society of American Fight Directors and she received her Bachelors degree in Theatre and English from the University of Alabama. She has also received Ostrander Awards for her performance as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray and for her choreography in Priscilla Queen of the Desert and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Courtney is a wildly avid fan of Memphis in general and, together with photographer Carla McDonald, operates the photography website, FindMemphis.

Courtney is genuinely beyond honored to return to her first and only yoga home and encourages people of all ages, sizes, genders, races, and spiritual leanings to come on in unapologetically and uncover the wealth of possibilities available to you in your own skin and heart through the practice of yoga.