Spring is Approaching – Phylise Smith

Spring is approaching. I’m sitting in my upstairs loft across from the bedroom where I practice yoga. As if it’s shy, the sun peeks through the clouds. It’s a welcome sight for lately in sunny Southern California, we’ve had massive rain, snow, sleet and hail. As I look out of the window, I imagine spring. I imagine how in April or May, I’ll ask my yoga students if they want to practice outside. Like I’ve experienced at a Feathered Pipe Ranch Retreat, practicing yoga outside changes the essence of yoga. I want to share this with my students — show them the impact of yoga practiced in an outdoor environment.

My experience at Feathered Pipe Ranch was possible through the Feathered Pipe Scholarship Fund. It was also possible because when I got Covid and couldn’t attend the workshop I signed up for, Crystal Water and the rest of the Feathered Pipe staff provided me the opportunity to participate in the Gentle Way Yoga Retreat lead by Lanita Varshell and Diane Ambrosino. This specific retreat had an emphasis on caring and support and introduced me to wonderful women, some who have already become special friends.

As the facilitator, Feathered Pipe initiated this caring and support not only in terms of a scholarship but by exposing me to a yoga environment that still continues to develop and nurture my yoga practice. While at Feathered Pipe, I would trudge up the hill before our yoga classes, and practice alone on the open deck. Then I would visit India’s site at the Stupa. Adjacent to her spirit, for I always felt her when I visited the site, were colorful Tibetan prayer flags and prayer wheels with sacred mantras. I was told that if one walked around the prayer wheels and touched each and every one, their wish would be granted. I did this everyday while at Feathered Pipe, and once even bumped my head on a prayer wheel. It was worth it. I won’t tell you what my wish was, but it was granted.

So much more than having my wish granted though, I want to emphasize that the Feathered Pipe environment and my Gentle Way Yoga classes taught me to be gentle. Taught me to just be. Taught me to just experience. Just be present.

And since I’ve practiced how to be gentle, how to just be, just experience, just be present, I’m passing these concepts on to my cohort of yoga students. Many of them have never taken a yoga class or cannot afford to go to a yoga studio outside the school where I teach. Some of them work two jobs, are single parents, and who may also like me support their mother, sister and brother.

Thanks to Feathered Pipe, I have even more resources to show my students through not only asana but in spirit and intention, the idea that to breathe is to live, to live is to breathe, and this adds up to being present. This is what I gained from Feathered Pipe Ranch and hope to give my students in my yoga service. Spring is always approaching if we are present and ready to be present.



Spring is Approaching - Phylise Smith

Phylise Smith is a dance and yoga teacher at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California. She loves diaphragm breathing and apanasana. Phylise has taken numerous yoga classes including classes with instructors such as Baron Baptiste, Rodney Yee, Seane Corn, Chelsea Jackson Roberts and others. She received her 200-hour certification from Claremont Yoga in Claremont, California and is currently working on her 300-hour certification with 8 Limbs in Seattle. She teaches Introduction to Yoga and recently initiated a non-credit Yoga Teacher Training Program at her college. Accredited by Yoga Alliance, the program is the only non-credit free Yoga Teacher Training program in the area. You can find her at phylise.smith@canyons.edu

*Photo credit for Lookout point photo with Phylise: Barry Dubrule

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