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Love Invoke
Love Invoke

My Love Letter to Invoke

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Blog by Annie Marshall (Author/Cook/Baker/Photographer behind Annie's Eats, Indianapolis Physician, Mom, and Yogi)

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I first came to Invoke and to my practice of yoga over five years ago when I joined the prenatal class while pregnant with my daughter. My wonderful teacher Sage helped me fall in love with yoga. Her calm words, gentle adjustments and always encouraging manner helped me feel welcome in this new-to-me space and were the perfect introduction for an uncertain beginner.

Six months after my daughter was born, my father passed away suddenly of a heart attack on Thanksgiving day. He had been my only living parent since my mom passed away when I was 10 years old. He was my rock, my sense of stability in the world, the best dad I could have ever asked for. In the months and years that have followed since that loss, my time spent on my yoga mat has been some of the best therapy in the world. It has helped and continues to help me navigate the ongoing grieving process. Bar classes with Glenna, Tess, Lindsey and Amy have also been a perfect place to enjoy a fun and challenging workout with friends and focus on something else for a little while.

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In many, many yoga classes over the years I have heard numerous teachers repeatedly remind us that our practice is just that - a practice. It is part of a larger yoga journey, and each class is just one step along the way. Over the past year, these words of wisdom have rung especially true for me as I have deepened and intensified my own personal practice. This was primarily the result of me finding the equivalent of my yoga teacher soulmate in Kara. From the very first class I took with her, I was hooked! Her style is athletic and very challenging, but in the best way. She knows exactly how to push you and encourage you and help you grow stronger. "Find your edge but don't go over it," she says often. The first class I remember laughing out loud a few times at things I thought I would never be able to do (her intense ab series, some arm balances and handstands to be specific) but now with lots more practice and hard work, those formerly laughable things have become a routine part of my practice.

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There are a couple of mantras from Kara's classes that really resonate with me. Her reminders that no feeling is final or permanent, and that we must learn to embrace discomfort because it is in that space of discomfort where growth and change can take place, have helped me immensely in my yoga practice as well as my day to day life. Additionally, they have helped me make great progress in my non-yoga workouts, running in particular. In the past, the ability to run more than a mile generally eluded me but this year, thanks to continually remembering Kara's words, I have been able to push past the discomfort and grow stronger, running farther and faster than I ever thought possible. (And, when all else fails, this little boost from Jim Carrey works wonders.) My physical and mental strength both on and off of my yoga mat have improved by leaps and bounds this year, primarily as a result of Kara's teachings. It may sound dramatic but it is true - her class has literally changed my life! If you have never taken a class with her, I urge you to try one as soon as possible! You will not be disappointed.

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Invoke as a whole has helped me navigate through big life changes, deal with devastating loss, and discover physical and mental strength I didn't know I possessed, all while providing me a community of wonderful people to practice beside. I can hardly find words to articulate the gratitude I feel at being a part of this community but maybe it is best expressed in yoga terms. At the conclusion of each practice when we are often prompted to call to mind three things we are grateful for, Invoke and its incredible teachers are nearly always part of my list. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Kara, Glenna, Cheryl, Erin, Stevie, Annie, Lindsey, Tess, Ahna, Chuck, Laura, Amy, Jillian and anyone else I have had the privilege of learning from. You have enriched my life more than you could ever know!


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Learning balance on the mat

Molly Chavers

Your practice isn't one more obligation; it's essential for sanity.

Blog by Molly  [Nonprofit ED; Pilates guru; Meridian Kessler-ite; Mama]

I like to wear lots of hats: mom, nonprofit executive director, wife, pet owner, volunteer, friend, daughter. And sometimes I get asked how I make time for one that is particularly meaningful to me -- Pilates teacher. I’ve been teaching Pilates at Invoke since 2007. In my time in the role, life has gotten more complicated (in a good way). I’ve become a mom, and three years into this incredible job, I’m still trying to figure out where the hours go in the day. My child is exploring daily with her classmates, taking dance, and singing up a storm on her karaoke machine at home. For her, the days are long and full of fun to be had.

I work full time outside of the home, too. I haven’t mastered the leave-it-at-the-office style of work. We are a small staff. Work must be completed.

So why try to squeeze one more thing in the day? For me, heading to my mat isn’t a luxury. It has become a necessity. On my best days, I can make it there. I count my lucky stars, too, because the end result is magical:

Clearer head. Sharper mind.

Taking time to make it to my mat – whether I’m at the front of the room instructing among my fellow students, or at home – helps me learn. Practicing reminds me of my strong, imperfect body. I am more aware of both the things that come easily and those poses that might need a little extra attention. A lot like real life, played out on a 24-by-72-inch space. Like so many others, I’ve struggled with the way I’ve looked over the years. Yoga and Pilates has taught me that the way I feel about myself on the outside affects all other parts of me. When I feel strong and healthy, I exude strong and healthy. When I feel crummy…well, you get the picture. We are constantly growing; each of us is striving to reach our full potential. For me, the journey begins on the mat but is often realized out in the real world. That is true in some way for everyone: making time to do things we love makes us better. We feel more balanced. We tap into our true potential. We find clarity and presence.

Life is busy for everyone. There is never really a good time to make time for us.

But making time is essential if we are to be the best version of ourselves.  

Molly Chavers teaches Pilates at Invoke Studio and is Executive Director of IndyHub, a resource and place to learn and connect for Indy’s twenty- and thirty-somethings. She lives in Meridian Kessler with her husband, daughter and cat.


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Healing full circle

Hope Neely

Yoga  helped Hope Neely make sense of life through her battle with kidney disease. Now she teaches so that others can appreciate yoga’s restorative power.

Blog by Hope  [Yogini, Eastsider, winning the battle]

I moved to Indianapolis in 2008 as a 23-year-old kidney transplant patient in a city where I didn’t know a soul. The stress associated with my illness exacerbated personal and professional challenges that made my first few years in the city seem like an uphill battle.

I couldn’t drink, which made it tough to go bars, and that made it tough to meet people. On the rare occasions I did go out, someone would inevitably ask why I wasn’t drinking. The real answer was enough to kill any festive mood: My kidney function was not great, and the thought of needing another transplant scared me.

This wasn’t exactly what I wanted to talk about while trying to relax and meet people after work. I started to feel isolated even when I was surrounded by people.

At the same time, I was working a high-pressure job in financial services in the midst of the global economic downturn. Our clients were worried about their retirement money, their jobs, and their children finding jobs in the tough economic environment. This nervous energy stoked my own fears about my kidney function. How could I pay for a kidney transplant on my own? What if I needed dialysis treatments? What if I got too sick to work? My mind started to associate money with survival.

The constant anxiety soon started to wear on me; I needed to do something to cope. My primary doctor suggested I take a yoga class.

Though initially hesitant, I eventually took her advice and tried a class at my gym. I liked it and went back again. Soon yoga started to grow on me, and  I rarely missed the Sunday class, which left me renewed each week.

Then at 25 my big fear materialized: I needed a second kidney transplant. I undertook the procedure -- not without complications -- and though I handled each issue that arose, the experience left me jittery and fearful. It was as if my mind was now trained to worry about health problems that might arise in the future.

So I turned back to the thing that helped me in my pre-transplant struggle: yoga. I started taking yoga classes at Invoke Studio regularly. Week by week and class by class, my fears of health problems started to dissipate. The energy I used to spend worrying about future shifted back to action in the present moment.

Last year I participated in Invoke Studio’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training. We read about yogic philosophy, worked on breathing techniques that train the mind to focus on the present moment, and did lots and lots of yoga. It was a wonderful experience and truly solidified the role that yoga has played in my journey through kidney disease.

Most importantly, it helped me realize that my organ donors didn’t donate so that I could live in fear. They did it so that I could live life fully, and that can only happen if I start from a steady foundation.

Today I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the benefits of yoga with others. Last month I began working with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana to offer a weekly yoga class open to the public, with a special focus on those who have been affected by chronic kidney disease.

The stress of living with chronic kidney disease threw me off my foundation. I’m just grateful that yoga brought me back.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hope's classes are held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. at the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana’s offices at 911 E. 86th St., Suite 100. Suggested donations are $5

Neely is a regular yogini and instructor who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside with her boyfriend, Alex.

 


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'Yoga doesn't care if you fall'

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Kye Hawkins explains how yoga provides her with a rare opportunity to play like a 7-year-old.

Blog by Kye [Yoga junkie, former gymnast, education nonprofit rockstar]

During a recent Vinyasa Flow class, our instructor suggested that we attempt hand stands in the middle of the room. "I love practicing hand stands,” she said. “You know that every time you're going to fall. Every. Single. Time. But you just keep kicking up and trying again."

This represents an important aspect of yoga that keeps me coming back to my mat several times a week: the opportunity to playfully challenge myself without judgment or consequence.

I was a gymnast for most of my adolescence, and while the sport taught me many things, one of the most important skills gymnastics taught me is the ability to challenge myself while considering it "play." To try something I've never tried before. To attempt a new skill that might be a little scary. To fall. To disregard that fall. And to get up and give it another go.

Yoga has reunited me with the opportunity to play -- and fall -- often.

In yoga, you don't give up on something just because you can't get it exactly right. As my instructor often says: "Yoga doesn't care if you fall." For the record, yoga also doesn't care if you're flexible. It doesn't care if you want to sit in child's pose the entire class, and it certainly doesn't care if you can do a headstand.

This practice provides the very rare opportunity for adults to play - something we probably don't get to do often enough in our grown-up lives. When else are you given space - both mentally and physically - to take your body, turn it upside-down, test your balance on your hands, head, or forearms, and to fall down, without anyone judging you or even thinking twice?

For this reason, when I walk into a yoga studio, I'm giddy with anticipation for the new balances I might attempt, the chances I'll have to go upside-down, the inversions I might hold for a few more seconds than last time, and the opportunities to twist my body in ways I previously thought impossible.  There's something extremely special about a tiny room that gives you the courage to play like a seven-year-old amongst a group of adult strangers.

So to anyone who is hesitant to try the "scary" things in yoga (or to try yoga in the first place), stop worrying and play! And completely lose your balance, come right back to your mat and try again. Because that, to me, is what yoga is all about.

Hawkins manages programs, communications and member engagement for the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a network of city-based organizations promoting innovation and reform in K-12 education.


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Finding a new yoga home

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Kye Hawkins, a newcomer to Indianapolis, writes about her journey to find a new yoga studio and her first time at Invoke.

Blog by Kye [Yoga junkie, Indy newcomer, education reform rockstar]

I’m fairly new to yoga, and I’m even newer to Indianapolis.  I began practicing yoga almost exactly a year ago while in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The studio, Amara Yoga & Arts, was a welcoming place that I grew to love during my time in Urbana-Champaign. With their welcoming attitude and challenging classes, the instructors and yoga community at Amara fueled my obsession with yoga.

So I was a bit nervous about how my yoga practice would fare in my transition to Indianapolis.  When I moved here in October, I quickly began researching yoga studios in hopes of finding a place similar to Amara.  It didn’t take long for me to learn that things are a bit different in Indianapolis -- in particular, there is an abundance of hot yoga classes.  Despite my initial discomfort with heated classes, I decided to give them a chance.

When a friend invited me to join her in taking Cheryl Milton’s Saturday Vinyasa 1.5-hour Intensive class at Invoke, I was excited (read: giddy) to try out a new studio.  It was a rainy, dreary Saturday and as I sloshed in the door, rain boots squeaking, Cheryl greeted me with a smile and a cheerful hello.  She welcomed me to Invoke, asked if it was my first time there, and handed over some forms for me to fill out.  She gave me a quick tour of the spacious studio, equipped with two yoga rooms, cubbies for coats and shoes, and (very clean!) bathrooms. I felt immediately comfortable in Invoke’s light-filled space.

The class was aptly named – quite intense indeed.  But not too intense. Honestly, it was just perfect. There were people of all ages and various levels in the room, but I’m convinced that everyone was able to find the right level of challenge throughout the flow.  It had been a long time since I had taken a 1.5-hour class, and it felt good to have plenty of time to experiment with new positions and push myself.

We began with various sun salutations, and then moved through lots of positions with long holds.  We often started with the basics, but Cheryl always offered instruction on ways to further challenge ourselves. She gave hands-on adjustments at appropriate times  (For example, I needed to get deeper in a runner's lunge at one point and was rightfully corrected).  And we even got to do some partner handstand work, which was a fun way to engage with a yogi-neighbor. I surprisingly enjoyed the heat; it was warm, but not overwhelmingly hot.

Overall, Invoke delivered everything I hoped for and more on my first-time visit.  I left feeling even more excited to settle into my new home in Indianapolis, having found such an inspiring place to be my yoga-loving self.

Hawkins manages programs, communications and member engagement for the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust, a network of city-based organizations promoting innovation and reform in K-12 education.


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