Spring Has Sprung!

Not a very original title for a spring-time post, right?  But this post is actually about being original, being a little different, trying out new ideas…

This year, we tried several new things at Bent On Learning.  Each was a risk, each was uncertain, but we can now look back and see that the mere act of trying something new was just as important as the end result (and that is what we tell our young yogis all the time!).

In April, we had a “Spring Fling” fundraising event!  For many years, we—along with most other foundations—have held our annual gala dinner around this time of year.  But this year, we decided to try something different and have a more casual, light-hearted, dress-down event (and save our gala for the fall).  For this event, we asked prominent artists to design art on yoga mats for our auction.  The event was a great success, we made many new friends for BOL and the mats were a big hit.  We took some risks, made a change, and had a great time (while raising 30 percent more than we’d forcasted)!

Click HERE to see pictures from the evening and HERE to see the beautiful invitation, designed by Kenny Scharf!

Another new project for Bent On Learning this year was providing yoga classes for ALCs (Alternate Learning Centers) in District 88.  D88 is a collection of 37 ALC sites where students who have been semi-permanently or permanently suspended from their home schools attend classes.  For many of these students, this could be their last stop before dropping out of school or ending up in correctional facilities.  Our hope was that by providing them with the incredible tools of yoga and mindfulness, we could help them understand that they have control of their destiny and that they have what they need to succeed, right within themselves (their body, their breath and their mind).  Another risk… another success!  The students, staff and district directors at D88 have completely embraced yoga and we are already in the planning stages to triple our outreach to D88 ALCs in the fall!

Our last post was about consistency.  But being consistent doesn’t mean not embracing change or taking risks.  In your yoga practice, there is always room for both.  You can try a new studio, a new system (Astanga, Bikram, arial yoga!), or try out a new attitude, a new way of approaching your daily practice.  So yes, spring has sprung.  Channel your spring fever into taking a risk and trying something new!

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” -Wayne Gretzy


All of us who practice yoga know the importance of consistency.  A true yoga practice includes both consistency of practice as well as continually carrying your practice off the yoga mat and out into your life.  The valuable lessons learned on your mat don’t end just because yoga class does!

With this idea in mind, Bent On Learning provides opportunities for our students to develop what we call a “practice for life.”

There are many ways that Bent On Learning helps students be consistent with their yoga practice beyond their classroom yoga.  For starters, each student receives a take-home practice manual, with suggestions for asana, pranayama and mindfulness practices.  Additionally, we work with local yoga studios to secure after-school passes and internships (Yogaworks, The Shala, AYNY & Bikram LES) so students may continue practicing yoga beyond their school day.  And finally—a former student of one of our schools has now completed his Bent On Learning teacher training, and is a full-fledged Bent On Learning teacher at the school he previously attended—now that’s consistency!

Check out NATE in our IN THE SPOTLIGHT section!

Another way that Bent On Learning provides consistency for our students is to create yoga programs in what we call a “core network.”  A core network includes neighborhood schools from primary-to-middle-to-high school, so that there will always be a yoga mat waiting for our students at their new school.  For example, we’ve recently started a yoga program withMiddle School 577 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and in doing so, we have been able to bridge PS 132and Williamsburg Prep High.

Most MS 577 students now in 6th grade will have had yoga since they were PS 132 kindergarteners—and those who go on to Williamsburg Prep High will have had 13 years of Bent On Learning yoga when they graduate!  Imagine how your own life would have been different, if you’d practiced yoga for 13 consecutive years, by the time you were 18 years old!

So next time you are tempted to skip your yoga practice, think about our Bent On Learning students: the ones trying yoga for the first time, or those who have been consistent in their practice for years and years.

Others’ thoughts on consistency:

The values of the Walt Disney Company—The Four Cs: Curiosity, Confidence, Courage and Consistency.

“Part of courage is simple consistency.”        –Peggy Noonan

Under Stress Versus Understressed!

It seems as if humans are programmed to “overdo” things…

Our modern culture actually encourages this!  For New Yorkers, the push to overachieve is especially true.  We even have a motto that reflects this idea: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere—New York, NEW YORK!”  Alicia Keys and Jay Z sing: “…there’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York!” in “A New York State of Mind.”  Now, that’s pressure!

Especially now, ‘tis the season for overdoing.  Whether planning—or attending—an elaborate holiday party, stressing out about what you are going to wear to that party, hosting guests, visiting relatives, shopping for gifts, eating foods that are not in the best interest of your body… most of us are constantly overdoing it!  What we end up with is a feeling of being overwhelmed.

A suggestion: this season, instead of going overboard, get things under control.  Take a step back from the frantic, pressured pace.  Yoga can help you do this!  As we say at Bent On Learning, you have what you need right within yourself: your body, your breath and your mind.

Your body:
Family gatherings and fun parties often revolve around eating and drinking, and it is wonderful to share in traditions and have fun with food.  If you’re feeling like you’ve overindulged and need some help getting rebalanced, try this:

  • Yoga poses to aid digestion
    •twists (like ardha matsyendrasana)
    •child’s pose (balasana)
    •seated forward bend (paschimottanasana)
  • Yoga poses to calm and relax you
    •child’s pose (balasana)
    •legs up the wall (viparita karani)
    •supine twist (supta garudasana)
    •corpse pose (savasna)

Your breath:
When you take deep, controlled breaths, freshly oxygenated blood circulates through your whole system.  Focusing on your breath helps you release stress, calm your mind and re-energize your body. Try this:

  • Take a moment to place your attention on your breath—make your inhale deeper and your exhale longer.  Try this for just one minute.  That’s it.  You can do this anywhere—even on the subway or in that long checkout line!

Your mind:
An important yogic philosophy is to observe; to take a step back and just watch, without judging.  Try this:

  • Pause while out shopping, especially if you feel yourself getting frustrated—notice lights, sounds, smells.  Don’t label them as good or bad, instead, try to use descriptive adjectives like bright, tinny, sweet.  You can do this anywhere—even while walking around Times Square!

So, in this season—and city!—of overachieving, these simple yogic techniques may help you stay steadied and centered… and instead of being under stress, you can be understressed!

Happy Holidays from Bent On Learning!

Bent on Learning Blog Post with Video

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