central MN yoga


I was talking with one of my teachers today.  I was talking about the same things I always talk about.  To wit:

  • the biophysical reality and psychological minefield of asana and yoga practice, as opposed to empty energy talk and one size fits all group classes;
  • the need for a private, intimate, personal relationship to this path.  An unfolding of theory into workable practice, an understanding;
  • "Teacher", longevity of practice, and transformation through relationship
  • authenticity of the teaching, translation of the tradition, a living reality and credible source, as opposed to palaver, spiritual platitudes, and gobbedeegook.
  • becoming more alive

I apologized for my repetition.  He pointed out that what feels like a tension, an unsolvable dilemma, has become something that holds.  The questions are resolving.  I have a path. I've learned this much, from practice: follow the threads.  Don't let go.1.1

I've been playing with the yoga sutra.  In a number of different ways.  I've begun playing with the sounds I can make in my throat.  With song.  With what I can say, what I can sound, and with breath.  Don't take me too poetically: I'm singing the sanskrit alphabet in the shower every morning.  You wouldn't believe the things I do in private.  All this fascination with toes.  Now, with the tongue, the brain, and the breath.  Impression and expression, the things we cannot say, the uncanniness of emotional states and perceptions being hooked, locked, bounded by our voice.  What it takes to unravel our own minds.

1.3This sounding out sanskrit tangled for a while with conversations I was having about teachers.  As in, The Teacher.  This is a who am I, question, but also a please help me, one.  Which also tangled with a few years of conversation about tradition.  As in, The Tradition.  The Teaching.  And how hard it is to find the teachings.

All of this then shifted to me chanting the Yoga Sutra every day, before I practice.  As a practice.

Because something uncanny happens when you spend that much time with an idea.  A commitment.  A thing that isn't easy.

1.4It's said every syllable of the Sanskrit language carries metaphysical undertones and trails of meaning, much like Hebrew.  Every syllable is a book of nuance, history, image and connotation. I know this: every time I repeat a chant I am simultaneously invoking all the prior times I've sounded the sound, as well as all of the other billions of times other people have made the same sounds, down through time.  I make a little refuge, right there just by calling out.  It's a kind of prayer, I suppose.  But it has no bargaining, in it.  No promising.  No debate.

The concept is beautiful.  So, too, are the sounds.  Once you get over being a shy warble throated harpie who can't make the sounds very well.

1.5But the absolute beauty of this stuff is that it isn't just a pretty concept.  Something physically is changed.

Do this for five days in a row and you suddenly start dreaming different things.  You start thinking different thoughts.  You begin to make strange choices.  And suddenly, the practice isn't itself but a kind of suffusion.  It perfumes everything.  It's right on the tip of your tongue and shows up in the sound of dishes being washed, traffic passing by.  The words are tree trunks, and bird lift, and cloud pull.  I've started reading my skin.  It's something like seeing the moon, in full daylight.  You realize the hidden aspects to things.

I wonder what would happen if a person were to practice sound for forty, fifty years.

Eventually, I decided I should teach the sutras, as retreat.  Because.

Because it is so hard to find the teachings.  So hard to understand.  We're told - promised - that yoga works, that the teachings are profound, that there is more to come.  We've been told and told this.  But all we ever really get is a yoga class, a posture, maybe a workshop now and then.  But 'certifications' and even 'trainings' rarely work with the primary source.  They offer synopsis and send you home.

1.12If we want to understand a thing, we have to work with it.  Just as there is a difference between reading a recipe and knowing how to boil yourself an egg.

Over the years, my teachers have given me work to do with the texts.  Over the years, I've done more. I have dozens of copies, many translations.  But over time, the language and the practice begin to inform one another.  The concepts begin to be felt realities, rather than abstract concepts.  After awhile, the 'text' is not a thing printed and bound, but an event that has happened in my bodily tissues, and my mind.

All the threads, bind:

The yoga sutra are the primary source.  Or one of them.

Yet they aren't a book.  It isn't a thing you 'read' like a textbook.  Nor is it something to memorize and drop into a class sequence once in a while.  The sutra are pithy and short, and people use them like inspirational memes or pull quotes for an asana class.  But a yoga sutra is not a quote from the yoga sutras: it is an embodied experience that takes a dozen years, and a relationship that takes place between a student and a teacher, and a practice experience a student has in time.

1.13They aren't a book. Each sutra elicits a deep study, discussion and context between student and teacher.  They quite directly answer questions about 'alignment' in asana, the issues that come up and how to work with them, the principals of practice, the questions of psychology and personal dead-ends.

The yoga sutra is not a book, but a practice intended to be gone through, in and over time, with a teacher, in light of your own life.

To say this another way: I have been working with my teachers for years.  They have opened doors for me that I couldn't have opened myself.  I couldn't have opened them because I didn't know they were there.  Shown a door, I've had to over and over again realize that the person holding it open for me can't walk through it, for me, and I've had to go deeper into my own practice.  Then, I have to go back to my teacher.  Because I can't practice alone.  Because I don't know where the doors of my body, of the tradition, of what do I do now, might be.  Every time this happens, further transformation occurs.

The yoga sutra, says this.  Literally.  Everything I've learned of physiology and anatomy are supported by the old sources.  The essential questions of how to practice, what to practice, how to find a teacher and how to go on, are in there.

The sutra are not a book.  They are something you do.  Understand what breathing is.  Feel where you are not able to breath.  Change.  Of course, there is a lot of application that needs to happen.  We need to work with our own individual bodies.  We have to understand what bodies are, what mind is, this incorrigible relationship between ourselves and reality being nothing like what we thought.  This question: is yoga a spiritual path or not?  Yes.  I say.  If you want it to be yoga.

All this to say I've been playing with the sutras in my practice.  Half of this has gone into writing the curricula for retreat,  my whole enthusiasm and heart is being poured into how to cultivate discussion, personal practice, establish solid meditation practices, marry silence and insight while we're together.  Little bits of it are leaking out in a daily translation, that's showing up in images on instagram.  Some further little bit of it becomes poetry.  But mostly, it is my own practice.  Which is all I can really share with you.  The way this works.  The way it has been, for me.  The way yoga continues to evolve.

Finding the teachings isn't hard.  Not in the way I'd first thought.  It's there as surely as moon is, by daylight.  Whether you've noticed, or not.

There are certain things that happen in the course of practice. They happen every single time. They are so predictable I might as well offer guarantees or seals of quality. We begin to have honest self esteem. As in we can see ourselves more clearly. We can see where we've screwed up or are imperfect, without falling apart. We know the growth and beauty possible in our own lives. And we become more fluid. Less frozen. Less cold. We become like water: now snow, now dew, now cloud. We become creative, without obsession. without fear. We become more eclectic. Not arbitrarily nor falsely, but with honesty and truth. We become more than one self all the time, insisted on and scared of having the masks pulled away. We become both our mother and our children. Sick, and well. Lover, parent, beloved, artist, common joe. We begin to enjoy ourselves, more. We begin to have greater intimacy. And we begin have a greater interior life, a soulfulness and sacred, reverent gestures. Yet we don't become dogmatic or theoretical. It happens, every single time. I can guarantee it. IF we are practicing for years, without getting lost and quitting, with reverence, and with care. If, then. You notice I say nothing of advanced postures, ended disease or aging gracefully. I say nothing here of teachers or styles or specific postures. I only said practice. Really give yourself to this, and the practice begins to give you to yourself. #retreat #yoga #yogateacher #patanjali #sutra

A photo posted by Karin L Burke (@coalfury) on





Whispered Wisdom

for the upcoming Praying with our Hands, Dancing with God workshop.

Whispered Wisdom, Bhakti diary

Down through time, seekers and gurus have trespassed across the ordinary and cultivated paths to wisdom.  Across traditions, deep in our ancestry, wisdom teachings have been passed like folk cures from teacher to debutante.  Every single holy book there is is a collection and transcription of an oral tradition going back thousands of years before the things were written down.  Yoga stands there, in half lit hallways of time, where individual soldiers of life have sometimes found a thing that worked for them, throwing open the doors of perception.inquire within

We know this.  Yet, strangely, a bit wonderfully, yoga is popular. You can take classes in libraries, college gyms, retirement centers and vacation line cruises.  You can download teacher wisdom.  Yoga is a practice of books, DVDs, and the world wide web.  NBA and NFL players do it.  Sexy popstars do it.  Suddenly, practices handed down across centuries are available at WalMart.

We are, ahead of anything else, practical people.  Understanding that makes the increasing popularity of yoga an obvious thing: yoga is  a very practical endeavor. It cultivates cardiovascular health.  It builds musculoskeletal strength and flexibility without the grind and shock of high impact aerobics or sport.  It peaks every organ system  – the respiratory, digestive, reproductive, endocrine, lymphatic, and nervous.  It cultivates the capacity to relax and dramatically cuts away at the negatives of stress.  Yoga instantly makes us feel better, breathe better, sleep better.  We digest better.  Many claim easing or healing of long entrenched illness.  You do not need long years of apprenticeship or training.  The effects of yoga are immediate and profound.

Still, the physical and practical benefits of yoga may mask, or at least be a superficial version of, something more.  Hang around any yoga studio for a bit and you’ll hear stories of remarkable self transformation.  People report a profound rediscovery of self and purpose.  Some claim their capacities of concentration, creativity, and  intuition blossom strangely.  People start talking like believers or religious. “Chronic” illnesses wither.  People find focus, purpose, and meaning in their lives. Some trespass across the common world of the ordinary and find the doors of perception flung wide.

It can be hard to know what to make of this.  Is that stuff ‘yoga’? And which yoga? A basic google search turns up such a wealth of philosophies and interpretations the neophyte can be overwhelmed.  There are rumors of enlightenment, hints of change.  But the incomprehensible stew of every conceivable philosophy, psychology, and metaphysic is bewildering. The ancient and the modern, the esoteric and the practical, the magical and the scientific fuse.

Or, they don’t. The deeper, promised secrets of yoga are not easily had.

better personAs I came to yoga, I had intimations of the something else, something deeper, something profound, but very little idea if those things applied to me.  My practice involved the ‘gross physical body’: I was a hardbitten atheist, strongly attached to reason, struggling to make sense of a hurricane life.  I found that there was something in the practice that I deeply, physically, needed.  In the beginning, it was simply about hanging on and feeling better.

When I began to look into the deeper aspects of yoga, I had difficulty knowing what to make of it all.  There are a plethora of how-to books to teach the asana and breathing techniques.  And there are treasure troves of lore: mythic adventures of gods speaking to nearly godly men; fascinating accounts of levitation, knowledge of former births, bilocation, states of nirvanic bliss.  The wash and swell of Hindu texts elucidate ecstasy.  Union with the One.  Knowledge of the Absolute.  Cosmic consciousness.  Pulling back the veils of deception and the phenomena of the material world.  But it is hard to know what those things mean to me.  Are those descriptions of what’s happening during a lunch hour vinyasa class?  Where is the transformation story of a neurotic Western agnostic like me?  Is this supposed to be my story?  If so, why can't I glow?  Why are things like alarm clocks and financial fear still part of my existence?

The questions I have – and hear from others – sometimes seem quaint or simplistic.  We come to yoga hoping it will help.  It usually does.  It usually does in unexpected and stunning ways.  But it remains hard to know what that means, or to answer the questions.  ‘Can a Christian practice yoga’ sounds like a ridiculous rant out of a t.v. evangelist’s mouth, and it is, but it is also a valid question.  Where do I begin?  How much do I have to do?  What is kundalini, chakra, ayurveda?  What is supposed to happen in meditation?  If you stick with this, do you end up vegetarian, wearing mala beads, annoying your friends?  Do I have to give up french fries?

Historically, yoga is a wisdom tradition.  It is a story of journey and transformation.  Ultimately, the ‘secret’ has less to do with what is whispered than the fact of whispering: if it were just getting the answers, we could read a textbook and have done.  There would not be thousands of texts, nor millions of practitioners.  Truthfully, journeys are made with teachers and maps and guides.  We suffer from a lack of mentorship, a not quite knowing what we’re supposed to do, no clear route of initiation.  We’re not terribly sure that we even want initiation, but the wisdom is tempting.

I am coming to believe that the ‘whispered wisdom’ is a slant truth, a cunning little word play.  The texts, teachers, and mentors are helpers.  Historically they have been the lights.  In the end, though, I believe we start to hear a whispering, haunting voice inside.  The texts, the practice, and the philosophies are not the end product, not the prize: they are maps to the prize.  Maps themselves are not the terrain covered.  They are representations.  Translations.  Metaphors.

Happiness, they say, is not a thing you find one day or a constitution you are born with, even if some of us are more predisposed than others.  Happiness comes not from any specific thing, but from the building of a life in which happiness has room to come in.  Create, cultivate, the conditions, and the thing appears.  Remove obstacles.  Clear spaces.  Recognize barriers and work through them.  Give time to the things that contribute to happiness: friendships, family, intellectual expansion, spiritual growth, play. Give priority to reflection, regeneration, commitments and slow and steady growth.

Yoga is a creeping, haunting thing.  With any exposure to it, and half-assed effort, a kind of inner whispering begins.  We find there is simply more of us than we thought.  A great deal more.  More consciousness, more energy, more equanimity, more life in the body, more connection in the emotions, more fire in the depth of our emotions, good and bad.

I have always had voices in my head.  Most of my life, they have been conflicting.  There have been a number of them that echo the judgement, critique, or down right abuse I’ve taken in from elsewhere.  I began to notice a year or two ago that those voices, all that conflict and resultant paralysis, began to fade.  This in itself seemed a wonderful thing, and I was unsure exactly what had happened.

But in the last year, a different thing has begun to happen.  There is still more there – an astonishing amount of more.  More consciousness, still.  More and deeper empathy.  More energy.  More equanamity, more depth.  I continue to spy into the practices and philosophies and metaphysics.  I soak it in.  I have begun to take that happiness approach: make room, establish the conditions, let go.  The conditions mean I look for gurus and mentors.  I practice listening.  I give time and priority where it seems most appropriate.  I try to apply the ethics, restraints, observances.  I get frustrated and then I let go, go deeper.

There is suddenly a voice.  Suddenly is not the right word: I am aware that this voice was one of those earlier voices.  Some of the themes are familiar.  The songs.  There is a clarity and a surety that was never, ever there before.  An authenticity.  But it is more than just ‘my true self’, more than ‘clarity’: it’s also a tremendous and haunting reserve of beauty and wisdom.  So much wisdom, I am baffled.  Things that seemed difficult aren’t difficult any more.  I am not afraid any longer.  Situations that seemed hopeless, or hopelessly complicated, suddenly are not.  I hear voices: I am walking the dog at midnight, thinking of any random string of things, and I suddenly hear a voice ten leagues deeper than that conscious stream of thought tell me exactly what I need to do about some other thing, that I wasn’t even thinking of.  I am driving midmorning, anxious and listening to the world news on NPR, running between bank and grocery and vet, and suddenly two words sink in and everything sinks magically into perfect places.  As if magnetized.  As if tethered by strings and drawn in.  I move to a sudden understanding of world and myself.  Am changed by the understanding.

A haunting, resonant voice.  A steady knowledge that this yoga is not just practical, not purely popular.  There are strange questions and stranger answers out there.  America is suffering a crush on yoga, and like any love affair, there are ups and downs.  Any mature relationship to yoga has to acknowledge those dark places and low points.  The pushing the physical too far.  The commercialization.  The idealization of gurus.  The trade in of spiritual path for monthly membership fees.  The weird attempts to transcend realities of work, intimacy, identity.

Ultimately, the yogic path is about work, intimacy, and identity.  It goes as deep and as pithy as psychoanalysis.  It can ask questions and leave us hanging for lack of good answers.   Not transcendence, but depth.  Not overcoming, but going deeper in.

But there is that voice.  It surfaces.  It becomes more clear.  It keeps us company on the journey, through wild goose chase and moments of inner calm.  It knows why we are there.  It, too, is determined to save the only life we really can save.  When the sages say the wisdom is whispered, they mean it’s a thing you have to listen to hear.  That the listening changes who you are.


Ahimsa. First, Ethics.

(more for the body, mind, feeling, world workshop coming up Sunday December 30th.  Come!) Ahimsa.  First, Ethic.ahimsa

Karin L Burke


My practice began with asana.  It began in the body.  Words and understanding, all this ethics and philosophy, came later. I felt a strange, deep stirring when I practiced.  I chairdidn’t know a thing about yoga philosophy; it would be a stretch to say I ‘understood’ it.  Yet I intend to say exactly that:  I think that strange and deep physical stirring was ethical, what the body said and the mind heard was the beginning of understanding.  This is who you are, body said; why can’t you remember?


First, the body.  Later, the words. Like life its own self.


What I thought, at that point in life, was that philosophies and religions fail when you try to use them as actual tools to open jars with, relieve headache, or cope with a difficult human being.  They are pretty.  Pretty like a dress you wear on banner days when you yourself feel gorgeous and all the world is right.  But most of our lives – my life, anyway – didn’t happen in the way of lace and poetry and kid gloves.  It happened with bitten nails and chapped lips, screaming alarm clocks, and much weariness.  Makeup, and make believe, church and ethics, all amounted to the same thing.  Fairy tales and palliatives.


Yoga’s ethics are different.  They are not an excuse or escape from the body, but an expression of the body.  They are part of the human, as skeleton is.


Harm none, honesty, purity, ahimsa are words written on and of bodies.  They are as much a part of us as is skin.  As is bicep, bone matter.  The smoke and heat of blood.


When I was a girl, I wrote poems.  Sometimes, lacking a notebook or simply trying to catch the moment of clarity, I wrote on the inside of my forearm.  But I don’t think convenience was the whole reason I wrote there; I think it was a part of what the words were, a piece of their meaning.  It was important to have the ink there, on my flesh like that; a constant flicker of ink in corner of eye reminder.


Like a branding.


Words for the sake of argument are sterile.  Words in a book may or may not be read.  Words around ideas are just words.  As marking, though, as witness, words take on gravity and dimension.  They are a manifesto taken to bodily extremes; a manifesto of the body and for it.

One of these poems little girl me wrote described a storm and a lost man.  It got cold.  The sky poured.  The man was alone, had nothing, and there was darkness.  Over and again the poem said naked, damp, and hungry.  Every human being of us knows what that means.  All the saints and native gods of all the corners of the world have known it.  We know.


As in, This is my flesh.  Our veins are veins of compassion, not of blood.


When I was a young woman, I still had poems inside me, but my lifestyle ricocheted from safety and fairy tales to darker, harder places.  New Orleans Parish Prison, for one.


I thought, while sitting there one day, that I was now qualified to write folk songs.


I have a tattoo, now, woman grown, on the pale and thin flesh on the inside of that left forearm.


Yes: the place I used to scribble and ink on day after day.  It is my handwriting, this tattoo; the needle traced over what I myself had written and made it stay.  Naked, it says.  Damp.  And hungry.


When people ask, I say it’s just a prison tattoo.  This makes them laugh and the conversation stray.  But it is exactly true: I laid my forearm across another woman’s lap and she patiently, slowly, branded me.


When people ask about the words, all that nakedness, they usually think it’s some innuendo.  All is sex.  I don’t correct them.  But the words are not about lusty, satisfied desire so much as they are a description of need.  These are the words we know.


Is it strange, I wonder, or delightful, that the most rigorous intellectual exercises and sublime metaphysical contortions of yogic science echo what I’ve felt and tried to express my whole life:


We know what the words are.  We ought to know our veins as compassion.  We ought – because we do, in a sense – have first words branded into our arms and the palms of our hands.

To have the words bless and sanctify everything we touch, mark everything we do, witness our hours; we ought to be reminded of ethics as soon as we are reminded of body.


First, ethic; first.


All two year olds know what generosity is.  And every two year old knows selfishness.  We stay infants all our lives.  Unless we decide to grow up.


You stand, you breath: the whole body trembles.  The nerves flash.  The breath roils.  It all says yes: yes, this has been true, all along.  This is who you are.  You were born to love, and yet you are alone.


Figure this out.  Go slowly.


Nonviolence is not a discrepancy or diversion of the body.  It is the logical outcome of having one.  Do this, and remember.


Still, I am a wordy, philosophical kinda gal.  It tickled me no end when I found the philosophy.  I found the philosophy to be a pure distillation of what I felt on the mat, knew with my hands and my eyes.  The point of practice is not physical contortion and heavy breathing; it is a question of aliveness, is sensitivity.  Yoga is ethics, first.  If it begins as a flash of physical knowing, it holds true all the way to the most rigorous of intellectual understandings.  Compassion is a truth we know across all the different fields of knowledge.


The logic of yamas and niyamas appeals to our highest level of intelligence.  At first glance smarts isolate us, put the smart one on a different level and lead to accolades, cloisters, academia. Intelligence separates us from the fold. But this isn’t the whole thing; intelligence taken to its conclusion resolves to withness and leveling. Full expression of genius lies in relation, not isolation.  I don’t say easy, I just say genius.


The fully developed human being knows his own self, and where he stands.  He knows everything amounts to this: either he sees the body of every other as equal in importance to his own, or he does not.


Compassion, ahimsa, is inborn and instinctual.  But it is also – and this makes it rare – a truth the mind can find no shortness with.  Any shortness found is with the self, and not compassion.


Like god, I suppose: bigger than mind, it contradicts the mind.  This doesn’t prove the smallness of god. It proves the smallness of self.


Ahimsa is historical. Hippocrates, father of medicine and citizen of ancient Greece, is credited with the healer’s code to ‘first, do no harm’.  He understood medicine holistically and humanely; illness is not the concern of wellbeing, wellbeing is.  When healers act out of their own diagnostics of what is ‘wrong’, they may injure the person while treating the limb.  To ‘fix’ a disease or wound at the cost of harming the person in some way is worthless, even if the disease is ‘cured’.  To not harm, then, takes precedence over the healer’s own accomplishment and the treatment of disease.


A doctor is concerned with physical pulp and tissue.  Oxygen, the grey matter of the brain, depression and anxiety and the muscle fisted heart.  From there, directly, a doctor is concerned with the soul and the being.  With communities.  With the bodies of history and the eyes of the not yet born.  Compassion, ahimsa, is the only way such disparate bodies of knowledge form a whole.


The body is knowledge, see?  To feel is to sense one’s humanity, however jaded and limping.  To sense is to know.  To know one’s own senses is to realize the mirror and shadow and echo of oneself in everyone else’s body.  It feeds directly into using one’s wisdom as a means of connection.  One’s history and secrets and accomplishments as communication.  One’s fear as the impetus to love.


The body is wild, and messy, and discordant.  There are reasons we prefer to live in our heads.  And yet to feel what one feels, moment by moment, is ultimately the kindness of telling the truth.  It demands bravery; it is frightful to see not with our expectations and ideals and shoulds and oughts and musts but with what is.


The word courage translates, in latin and old french, ‘with heart’.  Compassion, as translated as the greek of the new testament, means to feel ‘from the bowels and gut’.  It is not easy, no.  To face reality.  To stop living in the boundaries of our heads and enter the field of the body, where things are not so orderly and are, quite frankly, terrifying and hard to understand.


It is large and expansive, that land of what we do not understand.  To ground ourselves there we ourselves must grow huge.  We must, sooner or later, realize that courage, bravery, ethics, true self, are not things without fear.  But a place where the fear doesn’t matter any longer, where fear can be felt without leaving us paralyzed.


Our eyes grow gentle to see this way.


This is what eyes were capable of, all along.


You were born to love, and yet you feel alone.  Figure this out.  Go slowly.


If you pay attention to the breath, eventually you realize it is not you, breathing.  It is your body responding to the universe.  It is atmospheric pressure, breathing you.  The breath is, with out you.  When you end, there will still be others breathing.


This is a primordial, gut wrought, deep stirring experience.  It starts in the privacy of the body.  From there, it softens the eyes and reveals a universe, an atmosphere, a word.  It speaks. We develop like children: first in body, later in language and its brainy knowings.  If you allow yourself to feel what you feel, see what you actually do see, you resolve to fierce compassion.


Ethics are visceral.


Every human being is marked, branded.  We all have these tattoos across our foreheads, written into the lines of our hands, but the things are mostly invisible and private.  I am born to love, built of it, it says; and yet I feel alone.


We know the words by heart.


The Strong Body, Quiet Mind Project

The Strong Body, Quiet Mind Project provides high quality yoga classes to veterans, first responders, at risk youth, and survivors of trauma.  All veterans and first responders are invited to participate - service and health providers are invited to collaborate with Return Yoga.  Participants are asked to pay $30 per month for unlimited yoga classes.  A veteran's i.d. card or first responder i.d. is all you need to sign up. Sign up must happen in-studio for Strong Body, Quiet Mind.  Every class on Return's schedule is open to project participants.

Participants are invited to all yoga classes rather than 'special' classes: there is no need for labels, anonymity is respected here, and all to often 'help' comes with stigma.  The truth is, we all need healing. Further, 'special' programs or classes are all to limited in time and scope, leaving participants after a few weeks rather than encouraging an on-going, life process of growth.

The Need:

Our society is rife with anxiety, stress, and trauma.

Studies have shown that PTSD and 'shock' in this generation of military will overshadow anything known to previous generations, costing billions. Veterans returning from service are finding a depressed economy, a dirth of future and career opportunities, and a shortage of services that answer their physical and psychological needs.

Research is showing that domestic violence and sexual assault survivors are just as likely to suffer trauma symptoms, with an even fewer sources of support and intervention.

Similarly, first responders are on the front lines of crisis situations day in and day out.  On going exposure to traumatic situations takes its toll on responders, who are under appreciated, under respected, and under protected.  Trauma, stress, and shock are status quo.  The private costs are often invisible, but no less deep.

These populations suffer in their own lives, and the effects of trauma are passed onto the next generation. These demographics are over-represented in the unemployed, the homeless, the incarcerated, those seeking emergency services, addiction services, and medical assistance. Their children struggle in education, health, and social connections. These kids are more likely to be involved in crime, high risk behaviors, and have inadequate medical and educational support.


Trauma has proven to be one of the most difficult issues to 'treat'. However, current research has shown that the skills of mindfulness, meditation, and yoga promote autonomy, well being, and genuine healing in away medicine and traditional 'talk therapy' can't. 8 weeks of a yoga practice has proven to calm the sympathetic nervous system and increase activity in the areas of the brain associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, sense of safety and autonomy, and cognitive functioning. Further, yoga can be taught at very little cost, with no negative side effects, and is accessible to any level of ability/mobility.

The effects of trauma (or stress, for those who have been labeled too much already) are pernicious, at times devastating, at other times manifesting as a numbing sense of being 'damaged' or 'broken'. Many who have lived through trauma (from a car accident to the death of a loved one, a sexual assault to active duty)often describe it as a chronic state of hopelessness.

Yoga is a rediscovery of hope, and the lived experience of grace.

It was so for me.

There is a profound difference between trying to 'get over it', and feeling oneself okay from the soles of the feet to the deepest parts of the brain.

Yoga allows us to experience ourselves not as 'wounded' or getting over it, but as powerfully alive and worthy human beings.

How the Program Works:

Return subsidizes costs directly, in such a way that every class dollar spent by students goes to funding the Strong Body, Quiet Mind Project.  Return is incorporated as a non-profit.

Additional funding may come from community or private donations or grants.

If your program is interested in accessing yoga classes for your demographic, please contact Karin Burke at karinlburke@gmail.com.  All support, whether by participating in class or donating directly, is greatly appreciated and provides a demonstrable good.

Yoga in St Cloud, beginning Tuesday, September 4

Less than two weeks from now Return will open in downtown St. Cloud. Here is what I have: 822 1/2 West St. Germain Street.  30$ for 30 days new student special.  Classes are always $10 after that.

Return Yoga is a non-profit: each $10 you spend goes to help teach vets, domestic violence survivors, and at-risk kids.

Questions?  Hit the interested button.

Schedule?  Here you go:



Return goes home. To Saint Cloud. In Minnesota.

Some already know. I've been keeping it under wraps until details like a lease and a date are finalized, but at this point I can announce: Return is opening a studio in St. Cloud in September 2012. 822 1/2 West St. Germain. Classes four times a day.  Strong classes, the sweaty ones where we learn to go upside down and challenge the very nature of our guts and endurance; but also the gentle, reverent, exploring classes that so heal and so change us and are accessible to anyone who can breathe, anyone who has a body. That's the long and the short of it... Mixed emotions, knowing that this is written half for the students I am leaving, and half for students I haven't yet met.

St. Cloud is personal; it's where I grew up, the jumping off point, the place I left in order to wander the wide world.  There is something poetic, I suppose, in going home; so many of our stories circle back that way, so many attempts to find ourselves just prove how much we need to know our own place in the world.  Still, I never thought I'd go back.

The process, the idea, is acceptance and responding to what life we do have rather than handicapping ourselves with what the ego clamors for.  If the world were to my making, I'd be opening a studio in Rio.  On a mountaintop somewhere.  Something with oceans and travel.  If the world were as I liked it, I'd never even have to open a buisness.  I'd just write poems, eat bon bons, and practice asana all day.  In between taking naps.

If yoga were how we 'expect' it to be, it'd only be romantic, esoteric, the stuff of retreats and exotic places of natural wonder.

But an honest practice isn't like that, at all.  An honest practice takes place at home, in the midst of our lives, with the stuff of our days.  Commericial, american, midwestern days. I do not do asana on beaches, and yoga is not a thing I retreat to do.  I practice where I am.  I practice in parking lots, sometimes.  Sometimes in kitchens.  On carpet, on cement.

I am not a hippy, starry eyed kinda person who believes in fates and auras and angels and strings that are pulled by forces.  But from moment I considered St. Cloud, everyone and everything has rushed to make it so.

With some of the largest social service programs in the state, and a city full of society that doesn't fall under the rubric of 'social service agencies', yoga as service couldn't be anything but a blessing, there.  With the demographic boom, the colleges, the smush of St. Cloud Sartell Waite Park Sauk Rapids St Joe all becoming one metropolis that is the metropolis of central Minnesota, it's baffling there is no studio. It's funny that I know the town so well.  There was a pretty studio space, all ready and waiting with the right time and the right price.  An apartment lease was signed, the dog is allowed.  What I thought might possibly happen someday, eventually, somehow, is happening. Happening NOW.

The moment you say yes to your life, life unfolds.

It is not what I expected.  But it makes me very happy.  It is a good.  Unexpected, out of left field, mildly confusing, and good.

I am more grateful than I know how to say.

But I am also sad to be leaving the students, classes, and teachers here behind.  Yoga has lessons for me, here, too:

The good of yoga is not something I do, I teach; I can step out of the way and students will still have the power and transformational tools that yoga gives.  There are many gifted teachers.  Students here do not need me.  I was blessed in introducing some to yoga, helping others find a way back in.  I was blessed in living and working with long time yogis and teachers who are deeply involved in their own process.  I have learned.  I have been touched.

And I will miss you.