White Flower asked Jay Everett and Karla Eisen, two yogi beekeepers, what yoga and bees had in common. We were curious if there were any overlaps between their passion for bees and farming and their yoga practices. Here’s what they had to say:
I contracted Lyme disease in Oct of 1997 and was bed ridden for 2.5 years. At the time I already had a meditation practice for a number of years with interesting results. After being horizontal for so long I needed something that both allowed me to continue my meditation practice while regaining strength, range of motion and help with at least some of the pain I was in. I found someone who practiced Vinyasa style of yoga and was well versed in Iyengar. When I began I could barely get my hands to my knees and at times it felt like I was running a marathon in a one hour class.
Around the same time I began practicing yoga a succession of synchronous happenings took place in my life. It all started when I was stung by approx. 20 honey bees while tending a hive. I noticed many of my Lyme related symptoms abated in just minutes. This was interesting. Then several days later, someone stopped by my house asking for bees to use in Apitherapy on a neighbor’s knee. Apitherapy, also known as bee therapy, employs bees and what they produce(venom, honey, propolis, royal jelly etc) for medicinal means. A week after the visit from my neighbor the top Apitherapist in the country came to New Hampshire (where I was living) to give a talk. Notably this man’s son, a Naturopathic Doctor, had done his thesis on the treatment of Lyme disease with honey bees!!. And that is how I began treating myself for Lyme and chronic fatigue using bee stings. With good success, I’ve also treated others for things like arthritis and migraines.
Yoga is for me, meditation, connection, unity and trust; it has allowed me to find where the edges appear to be and to trust playing near them. The bees are a living statement of unity, connection and purpose. Yoga helped me to be willing and open; the bees mirror trust, respect and awe (Namaste’). Apitherapy gave me health. The opportunity to help others move beyond years of torment with Apitherapy is enlivening to put it mildly.
Today my practice seems like a root, it continues to snake its way along, cracking obstructions, sucking up nutrients, supporting everything above it without much fanfare. Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes it helps me to cry, always it reminds me that I am and that is enough.
You ask where does beekeeping and yoga cross over in my life. Just today while carefully trying to balance on a ladder and not tip over the small box holding the bee swarm I witnessed take off and land in my tree I considered how much yoga had helped me to be calm, thoughtful, breathe, and be more conscientious about my movements. Beekeeping has taught me the same things- quick and sudden movement are not what bees like when you are going through their home. It helps to use your core when lifting a 60 + pound box of bees. Both have taught me to be humble- such as when the little box of bees fell off the top of the ladder because I became clumsy when I thought I was safely down on the ground. Missing a few weeks of classes with no home practice is also humbling. How much your body misses that time and nurturing yoga provides.
Yoga was brought into my life at a young age- 17. The “cool dude” from the health food store must have referred me and for a summer or two I went to a woman’s home taught class where I felt very young and surrounded by grown-ups. No one else I knew was doing yoga. It amazes me now to think that I went all by myself to these classes, drove to places unknown on dirt roads. Was I ever really that young and unafraid and adventurous? I guess I still am – just not so young anymore. Soon after I studied yoga while teaching it at the same time in college and dabbled in a few classes here and there for a few years after that in the big cities. Yoga went away for a very long time and just recently returned in the last 6 years or so, mostly in Warrenton. Warrenton has offered a beautiful space and a nice community of souls to nurture yoga.
What was I not expecting you ask? My practice has been enriched greatly by my long term partner, and now husband, joining me in yoga classes the past few years. Our weekly Yin class is something we treasure and work hard to be present for no matter what other chaos is going on in our lives. Every day I am thankful for the ease it will grant us both as we get older.
I have stuck mostly with Yin yoga as it is what heals my physical ailments the best while at the same time providing the meditation and quiet space I so seldom achieve on my own. Come to think of it, that is another cross over with beekeeping. Being alone with the bees is actually a quiet time that I get to experience- watching them and working with their magnificence and wonder is also so very healing and meditative like yin yoga. I hope to become a better beekeeper and I hope to become a much more dedicated and better yogi, but for now, the journey is a good one, right where it’s at. Thanks so much to White Flower for keeping such a good yoga space in the area.