Northwest Yoga Conference Preview: Kia Miller On Yoga And Life
By Autumn Feldmeier
The 6th annual Northwest Yoga Conference is coming up on February 8-12, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. Northwest Yoga Conference aims to celebrate and promote the benefits of yoga while cultivating a unified yoga community through learning, sharing and growing together.
The conference features workshops for beginners, advanced students, teachers and studio owners. In addition to workshops, the conference offers special events, a marketplace with live music, and community classes.
We caught up with Kia Miller, who will be teaching two classes at the festival. Find out what she had to say about her classes as well as her insight about how yoga helps shape our lives in a beautiful, inspiring and important way.
What can we expect from your classes "Inner Radiance" and "The Radiant Truth Within" at the Northwest Yoga Conference?
My focus within yoga has led me to an understanding of the importance of connecting to and cultivating "inner radiance." When we are radiant, we are bright, enthusiastic, emitting positive uplifting energy, we are a light to ourselves and others. Some yogic texts reference the energy that emanates from the heart center as radiance. It is the power that enables us to share and teach through our presence. The more aware and connected we are to the Truth within, the brighter our radiant body.
In these fast-paced and challenging times, our radiance easily becomes depleted through stress and distraction. These classes share essential tools for keeping our radiance bright and effective. I have found these teachings to be some of the most powerful and effective and cutting through the negative self hypnosis and awakening intelligence and clarity in the body/mind.
You have mentioned your initial introduction to yoga was a Raquel Welch book? How do you think yoga has changed and how has it remained the same?
The yoga tradition dates back thousands of years, and offers a pathway toward self-discovery, awakening oneness consciousness, being in right relationship with the world, self and others, and living a life of service. This intention remains the same and is represented in all holistic and well-rounded schools of yoga. However the teachings of yoga have also changed to meet the modern practitioner where they are. What I have witnessed is a huge focus on physical asana practice for the last 15 to 20 years, and now a shift where more and more people recognize that there are deeper and more powerful practices like pranayama and meditation that enable them to deal with the high stress lifestyle that many currently live.
You and your husband Tommy Rosen do classes and retreats together. What are the benefits and challenges of this?
Tommy and I are blessed with a similar outlook on life and spirituality. This has enabled us to not only practice together, but also to work together. For many years we focused on developing ourselves, refining our skills as teachers and honing in on whom we can best serve. I focused on developing and leading Radiant Body Yoga teacher trainings, and Tommy focused on developing a business to serve the development of those in recovery from addiction with yoga and lifestyle teachings. More recently we have been co-leading retreats that bring together our skills and unique approaches.
The time we spent building our individual approaches has enabled us to teach together harmoniously, where our egos are in check and we have mutual respect. Much like Kahil Gibran says on marriage "And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."
You have mentioned your struggle with bulimia when you were a model. How has yoga helped you heal from that?
For many years I was very dissociated from my body and used the act of throwing up my food to avoid uncomfortable emotions. Through the practice of yoga I learned how to find the comfortable seat in my body. I learned how to correctly breathe, which enabled me to work through the tough emotions that would have me want to binge and purge. When I was fortunate enough to find Kundalini Yoga, I discovered a real sense of my self. I came to realize that through my whole modeling career I was wearing all the masks I thought others wanted to see, yet had no faith and connection in myself as a unique and original human being. The practice of Kundalini Yoga gradually peeled off the layers of masks until I found a connection to my inner sense of self, my power, my creativity, and ultimately the gifts of this incarnation. Together with the practices of yoga, I also healed my eating disorder by eating a purely plant-based raw diet for two years, which took the inflammation and irritation our of digestive tract and enabled me to re-set and re-negotiate my relationship with food.
One quote of yours which I love is: 'If you give energy to negativity, it will take you to places you do not want to go.' How can the practice of yoga assist in channeling your energy into the right places?
Negativity is a poison that spreads when given energy. When we dwell on negative thoughts or emotions we empower them. Often when we are in the throws of negativity we forget that we have a choice. In that moment we are choosing negativity, yet we could equally be choosing positivity. I have found the practices of yoga to be a great way to channel energy—in particular, mental energy. The asana practice helps us to remove tension and to reclaim a sense of peace. The pranayama practices help us to shift the patterns of thinking. As the yogic texts state: "As the breath, so the mind.” When we alter the rhythm of the breath we are able to break the mental trances that hold our consciousness captive, we are able to liberate ourselves from negativity and the choices that lead to negativity. Once we have broken the pattern that has held us captive, we can sit with a meditative focus and learn to access our neutral mind, our witness. From this place we are able to be aware of thoughts without attaching our identity to them.
The Dalai Lama has said, "The world will be saved by the Western woman." Do you believe this to be true and, if so, how does this influence your teachings?
If you look at the demographic of who is practicing yoga, you will see that it is over 70% women. This shows that it is women who are being turned on by these teachings and often because of a woman that men come to the practice!
Yogi Bhajan directed much of his teaching to the empowerment of women. He worked with women to realize and remember their true value, and said that when women reclaim their power they will lead the way forward.
In my own teachings I see all people as equal, both female and male, so I do not direct my teaching toward a gender; however, I do stress the importance of promoting qualities like: empathy, intuition, inclusiveness, neutrality, balance, compassion, etc.
In your podcast, you mentioned "information dementia" whereupon we are constantly being bombarded with distractions (iPad, iPhone, Facebook, etc) and how that prevents us from critical thinking. As a busy yoga teacher, how do you prevent this from happening to you?
This is a great question! I have a few methods to keep my devices time down: I meditate everyday which helps to clear my mind and allow me to connect inwardly to a still and expansive space. This is the single most helpful thing as it allows me to keep my neutrality throughout the day. I have someone who helps with my social media. It is an important outreach for me with fellow yogis and students, so with help I can engage in the ways that are meaningful to me rather than it being another job to tend to. I check my social media once a day, which prevents the obsession to keep checking throughout the day. When I am in the midst of a training or retreat I have my assistant answer all my emails. When I am sitting alone, I prefer to read a book over reading posts on social media.
In these seemingly hope-less times, what helps you stay grounded and optimistic?
I see a lot of hope in these times. I see many people in my workshops, teacher trainings and retreats working really hard to overcome their negative patterns and to be a light to those around them. I see a country in great change, where we are witnessing a large divide in outlook on life and beliefs. My hope is that we, as yoga practitioners, walk the middle path instead of polarizing and making others "wrong." This is one of the ways that we can lead. I invite all to meditate on the following statements left by Yogi Bhajan for this time. See what insights come to you as you dwell on each one:
- Recognize the other person is you.
- There is a way through every block.
- When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.
- Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.
- Vibrate the cosmos, and the cosmos shall clear the path.