Yogibana for schools


Photo: Lena Lundal Photography / www.lenalundal.com
Mona Anita K. Olsen starting the Yogibana Dream in Progress session at Havika in Farsund, Norway.

Mona Anita K. Olsen, PhD
Cornell University

Yogibana is an artistic wellness concept that weaves yoga and ikebana (Japanese style floral design) together in 12 steps. This innovative concept is a fusion of the arts, design, hospitality and wellness practices, and entrepreneurship. Yogibana can be done by anyone in any location.

Created in 2018 as one of the first program offerings through Innovation Barn AS, Yogibana launched in May at Cornell University’s Risley Residential College for the Creative and Performing Arts. As an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, a registered Holy Yoga Instructor, and a Sogetsu ikebana enthusiast in pursuit of my teaching certification, Yogibana allows me to blend many of my passions while engaging the community. Initially aimed at addressing the social constructs around a variety of forms of addiction and aiming to improve mobility, agency, and creativity in seniors, Yogibana can be applied to many different populations.

With the artistic direction and support of partner SAYHELLO Creative out of Italy and inspiration from Jenni Sol Yoga, I was able to take Yogibana to Norway for the Syttende Mai celebrations in a variety of settings—working with yoga photographer Lena Lundal from Lena Lundal Photography at Havika Beach in Vest-Agder, Norway, and collaborating in the classroom with Åse Helland at Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole.

Each Yogibana session has a theme that is taught in 12 steps over a 60-minute period. Twelve lessons have been developed so far, and they can be offered over a 12-hour period, a 12-week period, or a 12-month period. Each lesson covers a range of ikebana and yoga practices and the implications of such practices on entrepreneurship. At the Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole session, for example, the theme was on linking passions, skills, and opportunities together in pursuit of one’s “Dream in Progress.”

This Yogibarna (a play on words in Norwegian as barn means child) educational programming is highly interactive, reflective, and community building. Further, exposing students to wellness concepts to balance the amount of screen time that happens each day is important. Technology has many positive attributes, but it also can lend itself to addictive behaviors and lack of engagement in the present. Talking about technology patterns and one’s “TTS” (time to screen) each morning, highlights the phenomenon. How many seconds does it take for you to grab your phone when you wake up?

Success in the session was having each student write a Dream in Progress letter, creating a Dream Catcher through the Innovation Barn AS Dream Catcher Kit, created with Farsund365 in 2017 for the American Festival in Vanse. Using phones was not allowed. Students had to engage in the moment, and appreciate some of the tenets of both artistic and wellness art forms from the East.

Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It invites you to meditate by focusing awareness on the technical and creative task at hand. It is a journey that leads to inner stillness, transcending the sensory beauty of the flowers themselves. Ikebana symbolically explores the connections between humanity and the natural world.

The flower’s life cycle is short, and understanding this helps us set priorities and release attachments. Entrepreneurs deal with continuous opportunities to evoke agency. Each day’s tasks and priorities change, and to be successful, entrepreneurs must change their lenses from focusing on what is urgent to prioritizing what is most important.

On the other hand, yoga is an ascetic discipline widely practiced for health and relaxation, which includes breath control, simple meditation, and specific bodily postures. It encourages you to relax and focus on the present. It slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire and helps get rid of the chatter in our heads.

Yogibana is the idea that “the goal in life is to be flexible enough to bend with the wind without breaking, and strong enough to move with the tide without being swept away.” Sessions will continue in Norway this summer at Eilert Sundt Videregående Skole and hopefully in partnership with the Lindesnes Kystkultursenter and YogaLista.

Further reading:
• Learn more about yogibana at www.monaanitaolsen.com/yogibana and www.sayhellocreative.com/work/yogibana.
• Yogibana’s approach to addiction was inspired by Shatterproof, a nonprofit working to end addiction. Learn more at: www.shatterproof.org.
• See more images from the workshop at Lista Fyr: www.instagram.com/yogibarna.

Mona Anita K. Olsen is an assistant professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business in Ithaca, N.Y. She is also the founder of Innovation Barn 58N6E and the 501c3 iMADdu (I make a difference, do you?) Inc.

This article originally appeared in the June 15, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Mona Anita K. Olsen

Mona Anita K. Olsen

Mona Anita K. Olsen, Ph.D. is a British-American entrepreneurial academic based in Norway. She holds an academic appointment as an associate professor at the University of Southeastern Norway. As a Ph.D. student, Olsen was a U.S. Fulbright Grantee to Norway in 2012-2013; she continues to follow her dream in progress to make a difference in entrepreneurial education in Norway as a fourth-generation owner of Innovation Barn in Borhaug alongside her daughter and husky named Buddy Grunder. Learn more at monaanitaolsen.com.