Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm reflecting this early morning, the day before Winter Solstice, about the ways that darkness and light interplay on the film screen of our awareness. Patanjali in YS 2.3-2.9 mentions the first cause of suffering as not seeing things as they are, or avidya.

"The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of 'I,' attachment, aversion, and clinging to life. Not seeing things as they are is the field where the other causes of suffering germinate, whether dormant, activated, intercepted, or weakened. Lacking this wisdom, one mistakes that which is impermanent, impure, distressing, or empty of self for permanence, purity, happiness, and self. The sense of 'I' ascribes selfhood to pure awareness by identifying it with the senses. Attachment is a residue of pleasant experience. Aversion is a residue of suffering. Clinging to life is instinctive and self-perpetuating, even for the wise." (Hartranft, YS 2.3-2.9)

I think there's so much to this brief description and I think when we're talking about human experience, this contains all we need to know about suffering. Patanjali goes on to describe the ways to alleviate suffering through self-study and meditation and other things, but if we're talking about the interplay of darkness and light, this really sums it up.

I know in my life, I am learning to see injuries (dark) as insights (light), problems (dark) as opportunities for growth (light), and death (dark) as a means for celebration and appreciation of life... and even as creating space for new things to be born in its place (light).

I have seen and heard so many people focusing on negative things that happen (or focusing on the negative experience of them)... People suffer so much when mired in the darkness. Also, on the other extreme, the one who lives in constant celebration of only "good" things might miss the chance to offer a hand to a suffering individual.

I finally see myself as capable of embracing real transformative change... It's been such an awkward and clunky transition and grown spurt, as most growth spurts are, but it's one I am glad to be able to claim as my own. This year has been marked by so many moments of darkness that I am tempted to focus on them, but without those moments so many great opportunities would not have happened. I'll check back later and talk more about this, also relate this subject to some great insights I have had recently regarding my teacher training.

Have a beautiful, dark, short day!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Teacher Training Notes, Nov/Dec

I have had some amazing opportunities recently (I am having them all the time, but these were especially special) and I have been putting off talking about them for too long, so here is what I can say this morning.

On November 12 I drove up with my dear friends and yoga instructors Candy, Sarah and Vicki to Pennsylvania to attend a weekend workshop with John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga. I have had some instruction in Anusara before and have a basic understanding of its foundations but this was like going from riding a tricycle to driving a Ferrari. There is something about the style that brings up so many emotions in me, in a good way, but the results are often messy. For example, John's first instructions to us were:

If I had only one thing to teach you, one opportunity, one class, here it is: Soften the limiting ideas of yourself. Dissolve what you think you can’t shift and change. We are more than we think we are. Have a beginner’s mind. You are worthy of living this day fully.

Sounds pretty basic as far as yoga instructions, right? We often tell students to relax in the posture, to be steady and comfortable, but also to have a transformative and fiery determination in our practice (a la Yoga Sutras)... but when I am challenged to do it, it seems so much harder. Lately I have been feeling that I over-protect my heart and when challenged to open up, the outcome is often clunky and awkward (think of a toddler who is just learning to walk... they can get from point A to point B, but they teeter and totter and fall down a few times getting there)... So when I looked up at one point in the class and saw the John was staring ME in the face and repeating the words "Melt your heart. Melt your heart!" I burst out into tears.

There was nowhere to go, and even in a room of 300 people practicing Asana you can all of a sudden feel very lonely. But I have been processing the event ever since and I realize it's just what I needed to hear at this point in my life. I have been falling in and out of commitment to what feels like healing old wounds for so long that the notion of actually internalizing change seems impossible. But those simple words above remind me that it's possible. The weekend was designed around the idea of change, through our openness to grace, our willingness to set boundaries, and our commitment to shifting our attitudes. I'm proud to say that I am still there in that place even though (as I mentioned) it often looks very messy.

A friend this weekend in Rolf's teacher training said that my heart was WIDE open and scoffed when I said felt like it wasn't. I don't know, maybe she knows something I don't (or won't admit).

Our theme this weekend was "Choosing a Path and Sticking With It." Here are some tidbits from my notes and handouts:

Two skills are implied: choosing and sticking.

In this instance the choosing requires reflection, study, practice and honesty. To know that we are on the right path in and of itself represents a great blessing in one's life. It is in fact outrageous good fortune.

Sticking with the path that we have chosen is as challenging as finding it in the first place. It is in most cases an act of faith, an assertion of our belief in the underlying goodness of ourselves, each other, and of life itself; often times in the absence of any proof of that goodness.

We talked about the significance of physical integration in yoga poses as a means to physically stick with a path. In fact, my group's presentation was around integration both in poses [hugging skin to muscle, muscle to bone; drawing from the periphery of the body to the midline of the pose; and pulling into the foundation of the pose into the focal point (upper palate, heart, and pelvis)] and metaphorically (through seasons, through relationships to self and other and through drawing on inner strength and resolve to shine out). Let me shorten this story by just saying that this assignment nearly tore our group apart. Very ironic since the theme was pulling together! I have to say honestly that the assignment was just a trigger that brought all our fears and insecurities to light. But in the end, we shined, even one group member who had never taught yoga before, who may have shined the brightest of all. It was a tremendous experience in allowing your perceived limitations to dissolve and stumble forward, however awkwardly, and having faith that all will work out.

Everything I am doing in my life right now... managing my own business, completing my 500 hour TT with Rolf, starting a non-profit, managing a household, being a better wife and friend... all of it feels very awkward and often clunky. But there are moments in which success seems possible, and I have to learn to allow those moments to be the inspiration which remind me of my own worth. That I can live each day to its fullest no matter what comes along, and in doing so, become stronger and happier.

More later about the weekend.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Project Yoga Richmond's Opening Day Notes...

On Saturday we opened our space to the community for a day of yoga, food, music, hooping and dance. I was so thrilled that our turnout was so high. We had between 15-20 people in every class and sold about 200 raffle tickets. Some people were coming in just to make donations! I tried to introduce myself to everyone who attended but admit, I lost track after a while and had a hard time speaking to each person individually. It reminded me a little of my wedding day, when I barely had time to put food in my mouth.

Several instructors have contacted me about teaching for us in the community. I am very excited about the prospects here. There are some very specific skill sets we all have and I love the idea of matching peoples' strengths and talents with the people who will benefit the most.

I was so touched by everyone's generosity. The morning class with Sarah Fischer was so inspiring. I think it was the right move to start with Anusara... the tone was set for a loving, spirit-filled day.

We are going to be able to help so many people through this organization. I am looking forward to several more events this fall and winter and beginning to lay the groundwork for classes out in the community.

Just the beginning!

I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be, and that is such a great feeling.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! (part deux)

SOOOO many things are in flux right now. I am trying to be just as flux-y and let things develop. But sometimes, decisions must be made, people must be pursued for assistance and answers, and you have to set boundaries and timelines and abide by them. And for me, all of that is very hard to manage without frustration. On Monday I was feeling really foggy about things and a little aimless. I wasn't sure what I needed to be doing, just that I needed to do SOMEthing.

FOR EXAMPLE: I have discovered that starting a non-profit is much harder than it seems! Apparently such things as LLC, Non-stock, Budget, Boards, By-Laws, and all of that really matter. I have consulted legal folks and now have more questions than answers!

On a positive note, our space is coming together nicely. Our floors have been done, and our offices set up. We're having a garage sale on October 16 to help raise funds for us to buy equipment for yoga classes. My partner Jay is hosting an event on November 6. We're planning a holiday open house event. We already have a few folks interested in renting space for events (which will help me to offset the operating costs of the building). Our website is still under development and our logo is done. Once we have both the web site and some printed materials I will be able to market our services to other organizations that need yoga.

My schedule has changed as well! I have two current classes coming to an end this week. So on a regular basis I'll have more free time to take classes, rest, plan, study, and help market. For a long time I have felt that teaching 12-14 classes a week was too much for me. Perhaps some people are able to do it well, but my personality and temperament seem to lend themselves to fewer classes with more intention. So now, with privates it'll be more like 8 or 9 a week. Still a lot, but way more manageable. My focus is changing a bit too. My classes are becoming less about perfect alignment and more about connecting movement, breath and spirit. I know this is sort of a "no duh!" statement about Flow Yoga, but coming from the training I received and its emphasis on alignment, the more I teach the less I think that exact placement in postures is a universal thing. We just don't have the time in a 60 minute class to discuss every nuance of a pose. I enjoy teaching flows one time through slowly, emphasizing some safety tips, but then letting people enjoy the movement more on their own and letting them repeat sequences several times to achieve a more meditative quality. Fewer poses, more intention and awareness. Ha, it just struck me that I need to apply some of that wisdom to my professional and personal approach to my OWN life!

Here's a quote from Judith Lasater that really struck me this week and I think speaks well to a person in my situation: "Discipline has less to do with accomplishment and more to do with intention and with commitment."


Sunday, September 19, 2010


I am not normally a person who gets into debates on Facebook (or in the 'real world' for that matter, ha), but lately I have been finding myself getting rather ruffled up by negativity, generalizations, bigotry, and general nastiness around me. I find that when this sort of reaction arises in me it's usually got more to do with what I have going on inside than whatever idiocy is being presented.

For example... a friend who is Atheist posted something about God being a bigot that has caused all the human misery since the beginning of time (or something to that effect). I countered that human ego has caused more misery than anything else and continues to do so... it causes us to post things like this, to respond, to hold more tightly to our beliefs, and the cycle continues. It's frustrating.

I think lately I am feeling a shift in what I am comfortable with... time was, any mention of God would ruffle me, just in and of itself. And now, my definition of God is so different than it was because I have allowed it to change over time, that I feel myself defending, whether internally or outwardly, people who do have faith as much as those who choose not to have faith. It's the religion that gets me. It seems like religion was devised to help people answer their questions and make logical sense of a belief in God, but to me, that's not necessary! I don't need to think that someone who practices this or that rite has any more place in the universe than another. That's just ego talking (which sort of supports my first point).

On other fronts, changes are happening. I am working on cleaning and renovating a space that was owned by my grandparents until my grandmother's death in June (and now belongs to my cousins and me). We'll use the space to stage events for Project Yoga Richmond, which is a little stalled right now in the organizational stage (legal stuff which just needs to be sorted out and papers filed) but our logo is almost done. Soon the website will follow and our first major scheduled event will be on Saturday, November 6. My partner Jay is holding a monthly Biorhythms class which is a fusion of live music and yoga, and our site will be the home of the next one. We'll also stage outdoor "Guerilla Yoga" down at VCU and other places to raise awareness of our group. There's a lot of other things going on, but I am going to keep some to myself :).....

Namaste and enjoy your Sunday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It's already been an eventful week. At home, after getting our new shed installed, we spent most of the holiday weekend organizing it and then tearing down the remaining old shed. We also dismantled our gardening beds (I finally accept that I am not a vegetable gardener!) and spread out the dirt (I also accept that I am horrible at raking, as evidenced by the massive blister on my hand that resulted from my having a poor grip on the rake).

This morning I attended to lots of odds and ends and am just about ready to have beautiful oak laminate flooring installed in the space that will be occupied by Project Yoga Richmond (that will be our name, I'm sure now!) What's great about the space is that we'll have the potential for a smoothie bar area complete with refrigerator and blenders and coffee and tea service. Also, a room for meetings and smaller private yoga sessions, as well as several small office spaces that could be rented out. There is also a bathroom with a shower!

We still have some cosmetic and structural things to do for the building, get some signage and our actual license to operate and all of that. I'm really excited about all of it. More later, and certainly photos to follow.

Classes have been very lightly attended of late... I think folks are either very busy or are not spending money on yoga. It's sad that people have to make such sacrifices when really, during times of stress and busy-ness, yoga is just what's needed. Rolf says that in AA when you are having especially high difficulty staying sober, people often say, "I'm staying close to the program" meaning, adhering even more closely to that which is keeping you steady. I find that yoga is my "program," so when I need it the most, it's there for me.

Wishing you steadiness today!

Monday, August 30, 2010


Already been a good morning. Got up early (seems like all my good days start with getting up early... hmmm) and took my littlest one into the vet to get her teeth cleaned (little nervous about it because they have to put her under for that)... then came home and registered for this Judith Lasater workshop that's weekend after next in Charlottesville. It's a two-day workshop on managing the mood with restorative yoga. Day one is on depression and moodiness and Day two is on anxiety and insomnia. I am finding that more and more people I encounter are on one end of this spectrum, whether extremely or slightly so. I think that our lifestyles and diet are to blame... and yoga seems a perfect way to manage things better. It is for me, anyway!

I also have an opportunity to study with John Friend (of Anusara fame) in November in Philadelphia. Still figuring out if I can work out the details on this one.

Anyway, off to a good start. One private session this morning and two group classes this evening. Mondays and Tuesdays are my busy days. Wednesdays are getting busier, and Thursday mornings. I love having Friday as a flex day for privates, and the weekends mostly "off." (That's when I work on my own practice and get my planning done.)

BUT... I have an incredible amount of tasks ahead to finish to make Richmond Yoga Project a reality. I met on Friday with Michelle and Wendy, a web designer and lawyer respectively (and also amazing yoginis) who are helping Jay and I set this up. I need to work on our articles of incorporation and LLC status, contact all the local studios and instructors to solicit participation, set up our first organizational meeting, send Michelle my class schedule on Google calendar, and organize our first event. Somewhere in there there's a logo and stickers and cards to design. Wow!

I obviously don't have time to blog right now. :)

Have a good week...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Today has been fantastic so far. I got up early again and got some reading done... I'm reading the Chip Hartranft translation of The Yoga Sutras... the Sutras always bring me back to a simpler place in my practice. Lately I have been feeling so cloudy and muddled with my teaching... the last few classes I've taught have felt a little stiff and stale (totally NOT what you usually aim for when teaching OR practicing!) and I've been hard pressed to figure out why.

I think in a way all the info around "how to teach" can have the opposite effect it's intended to. In any given class there are hundreds of things you can choose to emphasize. I have caught myself leaving out whole portions of practice (like crescent lunge and its variations, for example) during a class and getting way too hung up in the minutiae of other parts. I have no idea if students clue into this but at the time it happens, I am sure that my confusion is noticeable which of course adds to the problem!

What this is, in effect, is making the teaching about me, not about the student. Don't we all fall victim to this from time to time? Have you ever caught yourself in a moment of complete and utter egoism? You hear the words coming out of your mouth but it's almost like it's another person speaking them. It's so annoying!

Anyway, I had the absolute joy of practicing at home today with my friend Candy... our meetups always recharge my batteries so to speak, but today we actually practiced together and told stories and gave suggestions for things to do, making the practice very organic and alive... just the way I love my classes to feel. Sometimes we get so stuck in ruts with our routines, the same warmup, the same standing poses, the same balance poses, the same floor poses, the same cues in savasana... but today was fun. So fun that I'm going to use some of what we did in my class tonight. :)

This afternoon I went and ran some errands and then came home and worked on a craft project I'm doing... I'll post pictures when I get a chance and the project is done...

Tomorrow J and Michelle and Wendy and I are meeting at different times to discuss Project Yoga Richmond and the direction we want it to go and the ways we want it to get there. It's a busy time, but one I welcome!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Surfers Healing

I recently learned about an organization called Surfers Healing... they have groups all around the country that take kids with autism tandem surfing. It's amazing to watch... and so inspiring. I cannot even yet stand up on my board, yet these kids with so many obstacles are doing it!

This makes me even more determined to make Project Yoga Richmond a reality. Here's a clip:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Updated Schedule

Here's my updated teaching schedule with all the classes that are in some way shape or form open to the public:

Mondays, 5-6 pm, Gentle Yoga (sometimes yin, sometimes hatha blend), Om On Yoga, 320 Libbie Ave,

Tuesdays, 10:45-11:45 am, Gentle Flow Yoga (usually a beginner's level vinyasa); 12:00-1:00 pm, Power Hour (higher energy, often heated vinyasa with some emphasis on arm balances and inversions)... both at Om On Yoga

Tuesdays, 5-5:50 pm, Express Vinyasa (a short burst of energy, matter and breath with emphasis on strength, balance, and hip opening), Richmond Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy (

Wednesdays, 7-8 am, Sunrise Yoga (slower vinyasa with emphasis on breath and centering), Tailor Made Health and Wellness ( (this class starts 9/1/10)

Here are classes I share with other instructors, so I am not there every week:

Wednesdays 9:15-10:15 am, Flow Yoga, Jewish Community Center (
Thursdays 6:30-7:30 pm, Flow Yoga, Richmond Athletic Club (

Om On and Tailor Made are $17 for one class as a drop-in though they have class packages that bring the cost down significantly. RBJJ is $10 as a drop-in. JCC I am not sure of, so please call before coming. RAC as far as I know is $11 as a drop-in, but free for first timers.

Hope to see you on the mat!

Thursday and Friday

What an awesome Thursday and Friday this is turning out to be. I got up early, which is often painful for me for about 10 minutes (painful in the sense that I don't want to get up) but once up, I'm always glad I got up. I don't understand it when people sleep all day or really late (like 11 or noon). Unless they work late or something, it just seems like a potentially bad habit to get into. I'm not judging their value as people by sleeping in late, just failing to understand it fully.

I got up early yesterday too and got a lot of tasky things done that needed attention. Then, I met at Ellwood's with Jay Miles. He and I are heading a new group called Project Yoga Richmond which will bring free, discounted, or donation based yoga to people who need it who don't currently get it for a variety of reasons. I cannot tell you how excited I am about the possibilities here. After last weekend's training (see "Pulling Up, Pulling Down") I am full of creative energy. Another eventual goal is to establish a teacher training scholarship fund for people we meet along the way who we think show promise as yoga teachers. Yoga teacher training is expensive if you go all the way with it... with travel and everything, going from your first training to 500 RYT can cost up to $10,000. So the fund would help defray some of those costs to help people become certified at a suitable level to teach and build business opportunities for themselves, as well as share the gift of yoga with other people.

Today I went and met an old friend who is having some hard times and is selling some old items. I have been wanting a surfboard for a long time. He sold me his 3 year old eight foot locally hand shaped board for only $275! It only needs a leash and it's good to go. I am so psyched about it! Ben and I are going to go in a couple of weeks and try it out. He's never surfed, I've been twice and watch, he'll get up in the first 15 minutes. I remember when we were dating we went in Target and he put on a pair of rollerblades for the first time and just started spinning around and going back and forth in them. I put them on and can barely stand up. That was, of course, before yoga (1998) really had the hold on me it does now, and my balance and core stability are so much better now. But still! He just has better physical ability to learn new things than I do. Of course, my saying that probably only makes it more so!

Also, I think I am ready to talk a little about this now...

I had a bit of a down period on the way back from our training. I had learned so much, and the training itself had been so challenging for me on every level, but somehow I was still leaving feeling a great sense of purpose and clarity and peace... then I received a message with hurtful words from a friend I happen to look up to. It was awful. I felt so bad because the entire way back from the beach my other friend (who was also driving!) was trying to console me and all I could do was cry. I am not sure where to go from here with this person. I felt we had clicked, had a lot of similar things going on and really supported each other, but now I am not so sure. I think the worst thing is feeling like someone else thought they knew what was going on in my own heart and mind. Heck, half the time I don't even know what's going on in there... yet without speaking to me, decisions were made, things were relayed that I am having a hard time processing, reconciling, and seeing the way through to light. It's not even about forgiveness, I told someone, it's about trust... feeling I can't be myself again around this person. I really felt like I had a soft place to fall in that relationship and now that's gone. I also am trying to figure out what I can do for people in the future who need my support and don't think they have it. I don't know how else to be than the way I am.

Anyway, I'm navigating all of this with as much peace and steadiness as I can. I wish you the same, dear reader~!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Pulling Up, Pulling Down

This past weekend I spent in training with Rolf Gates and the other 40 or so awesome yogis and yoginis in the program. As has been the case in the other two weekends I have spent with them there were so many amazing moments. Here are a few:

  • We are often addicted to this notion that we are somehow having the "wrong" experience. "This shouldn't be this way, if only I had xxx, or it was this way or that way, it'd be better, I'd be happier, one day I'll be happy."
  • Habitually we think we shouldn't be learners, we should be experts, right? We need to remind ourselves that we are all learners in this lifetime. Not just us, but everyone we meet.
  • Because the mind thinks something we think we have to react to it, when often it's more likely that if we wait it out, and let it pass... we stay in a more peaceful state, and everything is okay!
  • The Chakras are the territory or the landscape itself, where the rubber meets the road so to speak, and the Yoga Sutras are the map that helps us navigate the landscape skillfully.
  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali represent the best of the wisdom of the teachings of both Christ and the Buddha (Rolf credits these three teachers for in essence saving his life)
  • Spiritual maturity results in the ability to love more. We must be so still in ourselves that we can truly see another being (he was referencing Avatar there... "I see you.")
  • If we have faith in the way things are, we will have something precious left to give away.
  • Before speaking, ask yourself: "Is it truthful? Is it kind? Is it necessary?" These are functions of three of the chakras... speaking is a function of the fifth chakra (throat), kindness is a function of the fourth chakra (heart), and truthfulness is a function of the sixth chakra (mind).
  • Chanting stimulates the physical body, in particular the parasympathetic nervous system which is the "rest and relax" system. So does exhaling, which stimulates the Vagus nerve which is part of the PNS... that's why yoga so readily brings us to a state of calm.
  • We live by narratives... they are based on experience... they're not static and unchanging though we may believe them to be. We can determine the narrative by which we will live. "What is the narrative I want to live by?"
  • Pulling Up and Pulling Down. This was a funny story that Rolf told about this time he was in a meditation retreat. You typically spend your time in three places: the meditation room, the dining hall, and your bedroom. Also, the bathroom. In a moment of clarity as he stood facing the wall (lol), he looked at the toilet seat cover receptacle which said, "Pull Up, Then Pull Down." (Rolf says he is in a state of being now where he is receptive to messages that are sent his way on a regular basis and that affords him the opportunity to learn the lesson. I hope I get there too!) He realized that "Pulling Up" refers to ascending the energy body and resolving the issues of the seven Chakras... achieving insight and awareness of issues of group, relationship to self and other, our emotional health, our ability to express ourselves, our ability to see the truth, and our connection with a higher power... but that's not enough, is it? If we remain in that state we have only helped ourselves. We must "Pull Down" and give back in some way... take what we have learned and make something happen that helps others. For example, an idea sprouts from the realm of Divine Consciousness (7th/Crown). We begin to think about the idea and plan in our heads (6th/Mind). We then speak about our idea and share it with others (5th/Throat). We begin to get emotionally involved with the idea, breathe life into it, so to speak (4th/Heart). We commit our will to executing the idea and bringing it to fruition (3rd/Solar Plexus). We commit resources and employ others to making the idea happen, raise money etc. (2nd/Sacral). We then see the idea happen in real life and we experience it on a collective level (1st/Root). We have manifested Divine Consciousness! We took something vague and formless, infused it with intention, and it took form. If this story was not enough to give me shivers, he then asked us, "What is the bridge between pulling up and pulling down?.......Generosity." My hair stood on end. He added that if we stay in the Pulling Up or Pulling Down mode we can experience burnout and/or stagnation.
  • Our spiritual, physical, and emotional health depends not on demolishing the conditioned self, it depends on integrating the conditioned (Consciousness) and the unconditioned (ego-self).
  • True freedom is realizing we have access to an infinite, unlimited number of responses to any given situation.
  • Avidya= not seeing our true nature clearly.
  • The wisdom of the 7th Chakra is "Live in the Present Moment" (Caroline Myss)
  • When we eat, we must make skillful choices which recognize and thus enhance our connection to Divine Consciousness. If we train and teach yoga for the benefit of self and other (one of the precepts of our training program), then it follows that we might consider eating skillfully and mindfully which contributes to the health of the planet. Consider the source of your food and how far it had to travel to reach your plate. Eat your food slowly, be grateful for every bite.
  • We need to know when to flap our wings and when to soar.
Obviously I could go on, but those are direct lines from my notes. I have had the absolute privilege of getting to know some amazing people. I am so excited to see where the next 10 months take me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Knocking the Rust Off

Hello, folks.

It's been almost two months since my last post. It's been a very strange summer. During my last entry I was talking about my grandmother's injury... her cracked ribs and broken spirit. Well, that was only part of it. It turned out she had invasive metastatic bone cancer. She collapsed in her home, again, and while in the hospital they discovered many many bits of cancer in her spine and hips. A week after she entered the hospital, she passed away, June 28.

I will post the eulogy my husband wrote which I read at her funeral on June 30.

We're working on cleaning up all of her things and settling her estate and things like that... it's all very overwhelming, but my cousins are helping a lot, and my husband and brother-in-law too.

Gosh, going back before that, we discovered (well, I discovered by walking onto a swarm of about a million of them) that we had a major termite infestation under our bedroom and front hallway! I walked into the bedroom barefoot and CRUNCH. It was absolutely horrific. As much as an animal lover as I am, I cannot tell you how many termites I actually killed or had my husband kill before it was all over. We did have a company come and treat our house (a nice way to spend $1000, let me tell you, at the beginning of the summer, with vacation plans and all)... so hopefully there won't be any little recurrences.

Also, just before THAT, my husband wrecked his scooter, pitching shoulder-first onto the hard asphalt on Broad Street at rush hour in the middle of traffic. He separated his entire right shoulder and has had a long but steady recovery, helped along by exercise, yoga, chiropractic, massage and soon, acupuncture.

On June 21 my sweet dog Barkley started having weakness in his limbs and a strange odor. After many tests and many, many dollars spent at the vet, nothing was conclusive. On July 21, he passed away at the vet's... he just stopped breathing. A week or so before that he had stopped eating. They suspect it may have been cancer. We will never know. All I know is that I miss my sweet boy so much... the way he used to sleep on my chest on the sofa, the way he'd run out to greet us when we came home, and just the feeling of his fluffy fur under my hands. I can't believe he's gone. It hurts just to look at my sweet Fritz, our other son, and not see Barkley right there next to him.

I also received word from my dad that my grandmother in Texas died on July 23 as well. As far as direct family goes, it's just my dad and me now. The implications of this have yet to completely hit me!

Two grandmothers, a dog, a shoulder, and a house... talk about your first and second chakra issues! My lower back pain once again reared its ugly head, no surprise there.

We went to Portland, Oregon for 10 days for a much-needed vacation... I cannot tell you how healing this trip was for me. I got to practice yoga, walk a lot, visit and laugh with my dear sweet sister Tami and her delightful new husband Keith, help people who needed some help, see the beautiful mountains and the peaceful shore, spend time with my handsome husband, and mostly, get a little perspective. It's hard to stand on the side of one of the world's largest mountains and not feel like everything is going to be okay, somehow. Standing on Mount Hood, looking out over the world, and realizing that mountain has stood longer than any person ever has, gave me such a feeling of being so small, so insignificant, and yet such a part of everything and everyone on this earth, I will never forget it. I caught myself overreacting to some things the past week or two (um... a lost makeup bag? really?) and feeling a little shameful about it. May I remember the lessons learned on Mount Hood! (I'll talk more in detail later about the trip itself.)

When we returned, I opened all our mail that had arrived during our visit, and there was a small card from our vet with a sweet poem (which I'll post later when I have the strength to read the whole thing) and a pawprint they took of our Barkley. I wasn't prepared for this, and even thinking of it now has me in tears again. We adopted Barkley two weeks after we got married, and it's hard to imagine our lives without him. My heart really feels broken. Somehow, I know I will move beyond this, but it's hard to feel it now. I keep looking at pet adoption sites for dogs that look just like Barkley... and feel so tempted to adopt one right away.

I return to teaching tomorrow after nearly two weeks off. It's a fourteen class week... I am hoping to put to use some of the wonderful things I learned in the workshop Tami and I took with Kathryn Budig.

I made white beans and arugula tonight for dinner... it was fantastic as usual, always one of my favorites... and vegan too.

Going to go relax a while and then head to bed... goodnight.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

trouble.... oh, trouble move away....

I'm venting here so I don't let things get to me.

today we took my 83-year old grandmother who has been in constant pain for the last month to the doctor to see what is going on. he took one look at her and sent her right to the ER. we have been urging her to go for the last three weeks and she has refused... today she said she wished she had listened to us. if she had, they'd have found she had two cracked ribs on her left side from the fall she took while drunk on May 8 (Mother's Day). she always drinks a lot, but on that particular day she said she was sad thinking about my mother, her only child, who had died on April 12, 1999. I had gone to visit her that day and it was a pretty unremarkable encounter. I think we did briefly discuss my mother but as usual, my grandmother didn't want to really go into the subject. later that night, after drinking from the moment I left until about 10:30 pm, she fell in her bedroom. she didn't know she was on the floor. she thought she was in her bed. a week later, she began having left side back pain which only got worse. after studying the heart chakra and its association to the lungs and the thoracic cavity... well, I probably don't need to connect the dots here. Broken hearts, broken lungs, broken spirits.

rolf tells us that unhealed grief and guilt will make us sick and we will carry that sickness to our grave. I know my grandmother feels guilt in part for the way she raised my mother, for being an alcoholic and for so many things unsaid. there is part of me that doesn't want to reopen old wounds, but so much of me wants to tell her it's okay. rolf told us that people do the best they can with what they are given. even people who do really bad things... it's what they are given in terms of mastery of the ego, of connection to the divine, of empathy towards the suffering and basic humanity of others. it's not our place to create more suffering by living in regret, or anger, or pain, or guilt, or shame. it is our place to create a world of compassion in which we- and others- can feel supported and healed.

that said, I'm working hard to get there myself.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

500 Hour Musings

In reading further along in Anatomy of the Spirit, it occurred to me that I would be better served in the interest of svadhyaya (self-study/ introspection) to give a short critique of her approach to the subject of the energy body and how I feel it relates to my experience right now.

I am most interested in case studies as examples. Often times I feel that Myss breezes through the histories of former clients and makes abrupt summations of what had been going on energetically. Some things are not so clear cut in my world. I have had to wade through layers of ego, pain, self-absorption, and defensiveness to get at the root of what has been happening in my life and why I allow it to shape my daily experience.

As a teacher, I am so challenged to recognize patterns in others that I often fail to see them in myself. Recently, however, I have begun to make connections between what I observe in my students and in myself that have clarified the value of achieving chakra balance.

I have a student who identifies himself as “Hate Edge.” His definition of this is being “Straight Edge” (no drinking/ no drugs/ no procreation/ vegan/ atheist), but taking it a step further... to “hate” people who don’t observe the same principles. Of course I understand the reasoning behind these principles (I even observe some of them), but the act of “hating” people who disagree seems not only misguided, but contrary to the very idea of ahimsa (non-harming/ non-violent) that being “Straight Edge” implies.

I know from reading Anatomy, our thoughts have such a powerful impact on our bodies. I happen to know that this young man also suffers depression and anxiety to a debilitating degree, and that he likes yoga and reports feeling lighter and happier around me and especially after a class. This is a young man who I see as having major first, second, third and fourth chakra excesses and deficiencies: He has completely defined himself in terms of his beliefs and his membership in a group. Any efforts to challenge him on these points, I have observed though not experienced personally, result in insults and angry outbursts. His relationships are incomplete, and he sees women as a means for sex (and has even had himself sterilized). He quotes disempowering song lyrics about having no place in the world and being completely worthless. He doesn’t even believe love exists in reality. It’s very hard to see someone you care about (I do care about all my students, even the ones who are difficult!) struggling in such a manner.

Lately, instead of getting wrapped up in peoples' stories and letting them get to me emotionally, or even reacting with fear or avoidance, I recently allowed myself to take a step back and identify what it is that stirs me up. I begin to see the associations with my own ‘”tribe” as being yet another means of letting myself get stuck energetically. Living in Richmond, Virginia, traditionally a very conservative city, I teach and get to know people on all ends of the spectrum-- the very religious, the very secular, staunch Republicans, determined Democrats, dedicated meat eaters, raw-food devotees... and I have to sift through it all and figure out where I land. Seeing people in more energetic terms is creating a sea change in the way I experience others and allow them into my world.

Ultimately I realize that whatever words or lifestyle I choose to create my own “story” as Tolle calls it, my real “Self” is none of these things. I feel the power of the universal spirit moving through my energy body and above the level of the ego and all its trappings: above the group mind, above difficult relationships, above any perceived gaps in my own personal power, above and beyond whatever pain and hurt I have allowed into my own heart. And I continue my self-study through all the chakras and beyond, by always seeking to say “yes” to that divine spark which illuminates and inspires my every thought, word and deed. This affords me the willingness and the means to help others see it too, in themselves, if they want to.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

ugh... or, aversion and attachment

So I am feeling a little ill reading over my last post here. How self-absorbed must I have been? (Mel, you were too kind in your comment, as usual~) My, how things can change. Last week my husband suffered a separated shoulder in a horrible scooter accident that could have been so much worse. I am finding that the 'flow' of things has been disrupted in my life... or rather, that what is flowing is not at all what I want. Money issues, termites in our house, difficulty saying 'no' graciously, eating unhealthfully, feeling de-centered despite my attention to the contrary... it's all clogging up my days with gunk and leaving me feeling a bit (okay, a lot) depressed.

I did have a great meditation and yoga event last Friday with some gracious and sweet participants. We raised almost $600 for my friend whose husband (at 34 years old) suffered a debilitating and paralyzing stroke. It's hard to reasonably be depressed when you know someone close to you is suffering like that.

But I think I am letting too many things influence me these days: the clutter in my attic, the news (Gulf Oil Spill), the internet (seen today on Facebook: "I feel bad for people who are too stupid to be Vegan." WTF?), and the tv show LOST which thankfully is over after six looooong years.

All of this stuff has led me to think I need to pare down, not just my belongings but the means by which I receive information. Right now I am feeling so bogged down by all of it that I can't tell which end is up. I think a thorough purge of my friends list is needed (sadly, I'm going to have to let people go that I am sure are very sweet "IRL" but who post negative stuff-- FB is there for my enjoyment, entertainment, and convenience, not for unfettered access to lurid details of what you're drinking, eating, smoking, and who you disagree with-- or worse). I think I am also going to have to "un-join" some things I thought were a good idea at the time.

My resolution this year was Let Go. It seems like as long as I was focusing on that all felt pretty effortless and fluid. Since I got away from it things have felt forced, sluggish and clogged. I don't think this is an accident or a coincidence. I am reclaiming my power here and now. Realizing that "power" is not the right word, but neither is "control." Suggestions for a better word?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.3: Avidyasmita-raga-dvesabhinivesah klesah

"The causes of suffering are not seeing things as they are, the sense of "I," attachment, aversion, and clinging to life."

Today a student told me I was "awesome." I am not sure whether this is a good thing. Of course the ego in me (the sense of "I") loves it, is all over it, smiles broadly and pats itself on the back. But on the other side of all that celebration, it makes me wonder if too often I identify with the approval of others as the end-all be-all. Who doesn't love a compliment? Am I attached to this sort of affirmation? Am I averse to negative feedback? A critical word will set me back days sometimes and cause me to completely change course.

Rolf tells us that as teachers we need to "get over ourselves for the benefit of our students." (He's very fond of witticisms like this, and so often they are right on target. He also says that marriage is "getting over yourself for the benefit of the other person.")

I love a compliment, but the resulting lilting boost I get afterward evaporates when I realize that I don't know what that means. It's not like you can stop the person and say, "what exactly is awesome about me?" I'm not an expert at the 'performance' of asana. I trip over my words all the time, and laugh about it sometimes nervously. I have many, many shortcomings as a teacher in the area of adjustments, class construction, connection with students on a personal level, and just general self-confidence. I just move forward with faith that the love I have for teaching will shine and all the rest will take care of itself. All this self-doubt and the icky 'suffering' that comes up as a result... well, I'll just have to keep letting go of it and accepting that at least to one person, as a teacher, I am "awesome." Whatever that means. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

My mother is not with me in body any longer. It's been 11 years, but she was gone from me long before that. I have spent the better part of my adult life figuring out what this all meant to me and how I would let it affect my life and my life's work. I wrote the following on April 12, 2009, on the ten year anniversary of her death. The only things that have changed are in terms of how I view this situation... and the degree to which I hold onto the feelings of blame and guilt. I know I had no control over her situation, that she lacked personal knowledge (as we all do on some level, to some degree) of her worth as a person of spiritual significance, as part of a greater consciousness. I forget too from time to time, but her life lesson reminds me not to get so mired in the day to day that I don't remember my value.


My mom passed away on April 12, 1999 from complications due to alcoholism and the resulting cirrhosis of the liver. My mom was all about fun. She lived to feed her need for fun. She was a great mom when I was young-- when I was in elementary school, she led our Brownie and Girl Scout Troops and always planned fun camping trips with lots of creative things for us to do. In middle school, even though her disease was starting to show itself, she was PTA President and very involved in fundraising efforts for my school. In high school my mom's illness started to become a burden to all of us, but she did her best to hide it and to keep pushing on. She tried to stay as involved as possible in my life but increasingly began to check out and into her own darkness. By the time my junior year of high school ended, my parents had split and my mom had tried to create a new life for herself with a new man.

The time period after that and leading up to her death was a difficult one filled with so many of the cliches associated with substance abuse... I probably don't need to list them. I tried to keep a relationship with my mom, but it became more and more difficult as she not only removed herself emotionally from my life, but geographically as well. Painful things were said on both sides during that time that still ring in my ears and I cringe at their memory.

In 1998, she did get to meet Ben, a fact for which I am so grateful. Years later he became my husband, but of course my mom did not live to be part of the planning or the ceremony itself. She was not here to see us buy our first home. She won't be here if we ever decide to become parents. It's hard to accept all of this, even having had ten years to get used to the idea.

If I could go back 20 years, I'd be 15 years old. I would try to tell my mom in a way that would convince her how much I need her in my life. Her absence is felt so strongly as I watch my friends and relatives become moms themselves, and as I begin to reach my own milestones. I'd say, please take care of yourself. Please find healthy ways to deal with your stress. Say whatever it is that you need to say to help you get over the regret and pain that makes you poison yourself every day. Eat well, exercise, be open and happy, cultivate healthy relationships. Don't settle. Be creative. Forgive people. I forgive you, and I want you to be there when I grow up.

I am trying to be the kind of person my mom decided she couldn't be. I don't know how else to put her life's lesson into action. But I'm trying.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Maitri is the sanskrit word for friendliness. It's Spring, the time when it's easy to be friendly. Flowers are booming, everything is green, the birds chirp, the sun shines, vacation plans or short beach and river trips are made, and people are kind and considerate toward each other. I am going to make this short today because I want to get out and enjoy it some more, but I just wanted to say that my heart is so full right now, of love for the people in my life who encourage me. A series of incidents the past three days have convinced me that while individual strength is a great thing indeed, we are nothing without each other. It's all the ways in which we cultivate maitri and one of its partners, karuna, or compassion, that give us real power. As a very VERY wise and compassionate yogi told me this morning when I took his class, kindness draws people to us. And having people around us in a community can be a source of real strength both in beautiful and bright times as well as times of strife and darkness. "As your grandmother said," he told me, "you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar." So true!!!

Wishing you much, much maitri and karuna,


Monday, March 29, 2010

Root Energy

"At a Native American gathering in Arizona for the 1999 summer solstice, a Hopi elder said: ‘There is a river flowing now, very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves, for the moment we do that, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves; banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.’ Now, go to your mat and push off from the shore.” ~From Meditations from the Mat, by Rolf Gates

So I have been reading a lot about root energy and the first chakra. The areas of the body affected most directly by this energy center are the legs, knees, hips, lower back, and elimination organs. According to Caroline Myss, however, most afflictions can be traced back to imbalances in our sense of connection-- connection to what she calls the Tribe. In modern day society we probably define tribe in a number of ways, from family ties to groups we're a part of to how we make our livelihood... things and people that ground us, secure us, and connect us to earthly matters. It's those things upon which most of our daily experiences are centered. In the above quote, I think the special challenges our society gives us are highlighted. We're in turbulent times (it could be argued that every time is turbulent, and that is why I feel the above quote is so meaningfully universal)... and it's our willingness to be steadfast in our practice that helps us navigate and endure the turbulence.

I recently had the absolute blessing to begin working with a beautiful young woman afflicted with anorexia and pelvic and spinal osteoporosis. As she told me her story it became clearer and clearer to me that issues of safety and security in her life had been plaguing her for a long time. As a result, she suffered bouts of depression and anxiety that an interest in healthy eating helped alleviate. The problem was that the more and more she restricted her diet, the less and less she experienced the anxiety, so she began to go deeper and deeper into the disease. Now she is bravely facing the fact that this practice is not sustainable for her, that she wishes to get back to a more balanced way of living and eating.

I think we all find little (or big) crutches to get by with in this life we live. Each step brings us closer to the light, and we need only to take that first step (or that first swim, in the above quote) for other steps to follow.

Namaste, brave people.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

I have been feeling more of a connection to things around me lately. My energy levels have ebbed and flowed, and my classes have felt heavy and painful to slog through or easy and light and exactly what I meant them to be. I've been extremely aware of these shifts and changes. This awareness also affords me the opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture. Physical issues that have been more or less of an issue for me in recent months, I now realize, almost perfectly correspond to stresses in my life that I allowed to take root and affect my body. I'll elaborate later, probably not in great detail, but I am finding that my second chakra (swadhisthana) has been way out of balance. At varying points in my life this has affected my back, my digestion, and my creativity, along with other things. I have been reading Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, which is an amazing read. Her insights have been so valuable to me. I meet with a student once a week who has some fairly significant physical issues and I read excerpts from this book as part of our lesson last week and the words really resonated with her. I think people need to be validated in ways that empower them. It's not enough to say that someone is justified in finding themselves at a disadvantage. That does not help anyone heal. What does heal is giving people the tools to make their situation better. Myss' book gives us specific tools for recognizing the power we give away willingly, and the means to reclaim that power. I am finding that an amazing resource now, at this time in my life. I feel so fortunate to be able to say that I know myself well enough to understand when it's time to engage in deeper self-study and when to back off. We can't be immersed fully all the time... the intensity would burn us alive. However, accepting the information we're given and being able to put it in a meaningful order can open us up to the possibility of renewal, if we let it.

{Oh, and on another front, but definitely related... I hurt my back really bad on Thursday morning. It was so painful and scary I was emotional all that night, thinking I had really hurt myself, but I got up, called the chiropractor, got in early, and as the day progressed, felt better and better.

My afternoon client session (the one mentioned above) went so well, I felt buoyed enough by our session and went to the Nissan dealership and traded in my old car for a new one. I had been planning on doing this for a while but hadn't gotten the nerve to do it. The new one has so much lumbar support and rides really easy on my back-- not to mention it sits up higher and the storage is fully accessible (it's a small SUV but it gets mileage very close to that of my old car) so it's much better for my day to day needs. I know a car cannot make you happy, but this one is so wonderful I think I might be a little in love! Is that terrible? I really only went to the dealership to get an estimate on my trade-in and look at possible cars to buy... but... I felt ready, what can I say... and bargained myself a pretty good deal.}

Okay, I am headed to bed now. I have been putting off writing two papers for my 500 hour training and need to get rest so I can get up and bang them out.

Here's a quote from Caroline Myss:

"We are all living history books. Our bodies contain our histories-- every chapter, line, and verse of every event and relationship in our lives. As our lives unfold, our biological health becomes a living, breathing biographical statement that conveys our strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears."


Wednesday, March 17, 2010


So I am feeling like a little bit (okay, a lot of a bit) of a whiner after yesterday, when I was feeling sorry for myself. Woe is me for having too many opportunities to share yoga, for being successful and comfortable and therefore exhausted enough to warrant a nap during mid-day at a time when people all across this nation and around the world are suffering immensely. I have no debt, a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood, a supportive family, a thriving business, a great education, and assurance that I will eat three healthy meals every day.

I had a great day today, despite an empty classroom at one of my gigs (I'm choosing to blame the absolutely gorgeous weather that kept people away-- the weather was another thing for which to have gratitude!)-- I really felt things beginning to take an upswing. I started reading Judith Lasater's YogaBody which is so interesting! I love reading about anatomy, but I admit it's all so murky no matter how much I read. I feel really overwhelmed with information, and I only today read about the lower extremity (hips, knees, and feet). It's amazing the way the body has evolved to support our movement and how joints are supported and connected. It makes yoga an even more awesome thing to behold. Just walking is a miracle, but being able to do a forearm balance seems superhuman when you think of how we're made!

I am reading for my first weekend at the beach with Rolf Gates next month. I have to read this book, or about half of it, read some of Caroline Myss' The Anatomy of the Spirit, and write three papers in addition to the two I still have to write for the weekend in February that I missed. Sometime during that time I have to teach about 35 classes, visit with Tami while she's here from Portland, and go on a short vacation to Atlanta during Ben's Spring Break.

Here I go whining again. I am actually energized by a challenge. I remember in college I used to wait until the night before a long paper was due and stay up all night to finish it. I remember printing out the paper in the University library (this was before everyone had computers and printers! unbelievable!) about 15 minutes before class time. In many ways I'm still that person.

Wishing everyone the ability to stop and notice your blessings.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Down Cycle

This week has felt a bit of a let down. I finished a fantastic weekend at the Anusara workshop and hosting a sweet friend at our house... and thought that heading into the week I'd be riding high. Then the weather yesterday was really harsh, cold, windy, and wet, and despite a great morning session with an always-uplifting and inspired private client, I began to feel my energy dip as the day wore on. My day today started out alright today, but after a challenge early this morning I am feeling a bit de-centered. It's sometimes hard to follow my own advice to ride the wave with ease and contentment. Most of my struggles are internal. I have a beautiful, blessed life with many comforts and loving people supporting me. But feelings of joy and gratitude are so often tempered with feelings of doubt and remorse for things said and unsaid, mostly to myself... or ways I could have handled different situations. I feel often that I either say whatever pops into my head or that I fail to say something that is so obviously important upon retrospect, I silently curse myself (yes, me, curse myself!) for not thinking to say it.

I know I am not drinking enough water for the amount of classes I am teaching lately (14 this week!) and my breakfast too often consists of a Lara Bar (the banana ones are delicious, by the way) and a cup of coffee with soy milk. I need to learn more to pay attention to my body's needs (something I also preach but often fail to practice).

The sun has just come out and the weather is said to be warmer as the week progresses. I have a calmer (sort of) end to the week. Maybe I will go get a massage or something, break up all the gook that is clogging me up.

I sure wish someone had some smart, comforting words to make this feeling of heaviness drift away.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anusara Weekend

This is going to have to be a little short which is unfortunate because I could probably go on and on about everything I learned this weekend. I always thought Anusara was more about the spiritual side and the breath and the heart chakra (Anahata) and in many ways it is, I am sure... so it always intrigued me, but I avoided it a little because I always thought it would hurt me physically. I have major SI joint issues for which I am receiving several different types of care and that's how I tend to define myself on a personal level. In my experience all that heart opening ends up jamming my lower back. But in a workshop setting you have time to hone and refine the technique and learn how to fully engage the legs and the upper back to create opening in ways that you don't need to jam the lower back. I guess on some subtle level I always knew this to be the case, but I am stubborn and aren't we all a little addicted to our various syndromes?

Anyway, I was sure after this weekend I'd be hobbling around and in pain, and yes I feel sore in an exercise-y sort of way, but my back feels fantastic. I had some tough moments during the three modules I attended, but here were some of the accomplishments:

1. Pigeon pose with less emphasis on the hips and more on the lift created when you bring your legs energetically together, (the back-leg upper front thigh area rises off the mat a little, but it's okay) and pull the waist in and toward the back edge of the mat.

2. Handstand with shoulder girdle stability and scapular retraction. Okay, for like a few seconds, and with a spotter, but you have to start somewhere!

3. Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance) away from the wall! Again, for a few seconds. But I did feel well aligned and strong throughout.

4. Chaturanga with wider elbows, broader chest, and scapular retraction, softening the upper spine between the blades. We almost always lowered to the floor in our transition from Chaturanga, whereas typically the "end pose" is to hover, roll over the toes, and press up into Cobra or Up Dog. Doing Chaturanga this way gives the opportunity for space across the chest and the heart to come forward into the eventual inhale. I'm so used to laying my body (practically) on the inner arms in Chaturanga that while it looks nice on the way down, my shoulders get all squinched (?) up on the way down with no room to move as I rise from there.

5. Cobra on the fingertips... feels weird as heck, but really helps you strengthen your back. In the past, during my teacher trainings and classes I've taken you are directed to lift your hands off the mat. Usually your shoulders shove up toward the ears (at least mine do). On fingertips, however, you still feel grounded, yet the back must work to draw the shoulder blades together and you're less likely to sink down through the chest. The elbows stay bent a lot until the strength is there, then you can straighten the arms without putting ALL your weight on the hands. The legs draw toward one another, and the whole pose feels stronger. We did that all weekend and my upper back is feeling sore for the first time in ages. It's grand.

6. I think finally I am ready to immerse myself more in the anatomy of the postures. For awhile I've been a bit afraid of it, like it was too technical and somehow I'd lose the more spiritual side of the practice. But now I see so much power in the balance of both. For example the psoas muscle... such a huge muscle that it's really responsible for connecting and integrating the movement of the upper and lower body, yet it rarely gets a nod during yoga classes, especially mine! I am planning on studying the psoas and its role in every pose. I am now convinced that weaknesses and imbalances in the psoas are a big contributor to most postural problems and also misalignments in yoga.

7. This beautiful chant:

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave

I honor the essence of Being, the Auspicious One, the luminous Teacher within and without,

Satchidananda Murtaye

Who assumes the forms of Truth, Consciousness, and Bliss

Nishprapanchaya Shantaya

Is never absent, full of peace,

Niralambaya Tejase

Ultimately free and sparkles with a divine luster.


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Law of Pure Potentiality

"Power based on object referral is false power. Self power is permanent because it's based on knowledge of Self." ~Deepak Chopra, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success"

I don't think I realized it at the time, but about three years ago I began to make space. I had just had an accident that was the culmination of a very self destructive time in my life. To say that I was not living my yoga is a profound understatement. The details of this pattern I had established are not that interesting or different from how I suspect many people live their lives on a day to day basis. My actions truly reflected on the poor self image I had developed and seemed designed to uphold my own ego-gratification.

I had a breakdown on my 34th birthday. I came home from my part time job and sobbed uncontrollably. I hated that I worked for someone else, especially since that someone didn't appreciate me, and hadn't done so in the nearly six years I held the job. It was my own fault, I realized, that I had backed myself into this corner, stagnated in lack of knowledge of self, and buried under my own image of how a dutiful person lived: did the job, didn't complain, and came home and dealt with it in any way that made it easier to get up and do it all over again.

This lifestyle didn't work for me anymore, and although it took me eight months to make a real change, I truly believe that this "waking up" was what I needed. I could never say that everyone who is unhappy in their work/life situation has to completely abandon it and start over, but for me, that's exactly what was required. I didn't even know what I wanted to do, until someone gently nudged me in the direction of Yoga Teacher Training. That was a first step, and since then I have felt the presence of God (there, I said it!) guiding me every step of the way. Whether it's a mysterious man in a robe and a white beard floating on a cloud or an elephant wielding an ax to break the obstacles in my path or a glowing white light... doesn't matter much to me. The fact is I am HERE NOW and will always be.

"We are divinity in disguise, and the gods and goddesses in embryo that are contained within us seek to be fully materialized. True success is the unfolding of that divinity. When we begin to experience our life as the miraculous expression of divinity-- not occasionally but all the time-- then we will know the true meaning of success."



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Aparigraha, part deux

What mystery there is to the way things unfold. Just Sunday I was grieving a little and having a hard time letting go of disappointment at having missed a deadline for a training opportunity, and 36 hours later, I had not only been accepted but enrolled and ready to start. I had never been sure about completing my 500 hour RYT certification requirements-- the 200 hour level seemed enough for the time being-- and the program I just completed has a 500 hour level but it is very expensive, with lots of travel and the expenses associated with that. While I wanted to get more training so that I could take my yoga teaching to a higher, deeper, and wider place, I couldn't see the way.

Then I just happened to visit the web site of Rolf Gates, whose Meditations from the Mat I have been reading for the last year and a half, either picking from it for my classes or now, reading from start to finish. I saw that he is leading a program in Virginia Beach that started this past weekend and continues for several three-day weekends until early June 2011. After a few emails between his wife Mariam and me, (and paying tuition in full- yikes!) I am joining the program. I will have a lot of work to do to catch up, I think, but the opportunity is a great one-- the program is designed around preparing teachers to run workshops and seminars and use the practice of yoga in every aspect of life, not just on the mat, which is where I am headed anyway! I have always wanted to be a community leader, in my own way, and this is a great chance for me to accomplish that.

What's funny is that I was feeling a little down about having missed the deadline and thinking I had forfeited an opportunity, when actually, I was right where I needed to be. Instead of being discouraged, I sent the email, made the request, and my request was answered. Amazingly, checking out all the dates, all of them fit in with what I already had planned, so no changes were necessary. It seemed I was right where I needed to be. In November and December, when most people likely enrolled, I had not yet received my 200 hour certification, so I would not have been ready in that way, nor was I mentally in a place to take on another long training. Yet another instance when letting go of limiting thought patterns and having patience creates possibilities for wonderful things to happen.

Aparigraha-- letting go. This is my word for the year!

There are some other things I am letting go of, and I will talk about them later. Namaste.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I am working through some issues in the "letting go" category right now. I can't put it in words, but I will soon. I am receiving messages from everywhere these days-- from Tiger Woods, from my knees, from the melting snow, from my family, from my friends-- everywhere I look these days reminds me that in order to move forward gracefully there is a loosening of the grip that needs to take place.

More about this later.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just Mind It!

I found this article in the Indian publication The Hindu concerning Nadi Shodhan Pranayam (alternate nostril breathing) and Meditation in combination with Surya Namaskar in "resolution of many mental disorders that find no permanent solution in Allopathic or other systems of western medicine":

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yoga in Time

This article has been around a while, but it makes a good case for the physical benefits of yoga.

I especially like the following, though I was a bit frustrated by all the fluffy stuff about Madonna and Gwyneth and yoga butts:

The sensible practice of yoga does more than slap a Happy Face on your cerebrum. It can also massage the lymph system, says Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. Lymph is the body's dirty dishwater; a network of lymphatic vessels and storage sacs crisscross over the entire body, in parallel with the blood supply, carrying a fluid composed of infection-fighting white blood cells and the waste products of cellular activity. Exercise in general activates the flow of lymph through the body, speeding up the filtering process; but yoga in particular promotes the draining of the lymph. Certain yoga poses stretch muscles that from animal studies are known to stimulate the lymph system. Researchers have documented the increased lymph flow when dogs' paws are stretched in a position similar to the yoga "downward-facing dog."

Yoga relaxes you and, by relaxing, heals. At least that's the theory. "The autonomic nervous system," explains Kripalu's Faulds, "is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which is identified with what's been called the Relaxation Response. When you do yoga — the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body — you initiate a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the Relaxation Response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Here is part of my daily reading from Meditations from the Mat:

"Unfortunately, the reasonable desire for ego-gratifying results must be abandoned in yoga. If we are really practicing yoga and abiding by the principles of yoga, then we are making a commitment to focus on the nature of our efforts and not the nature of the results. [This] sort of attachment to progress ... is not only antithetical to the true aim of yoga, it is also a one-way ticket to injury and burnout. When we focus on what we can get out of yoga, we miss the point. We also place ourselves in physical danger while sabotaging our relationship to our practice. to realize the beauty of yoga in our lives, we must never forget that the prize is in the process."


What I think is so interesting about this passage is that for me, I could almost substitute the word "relationship" or "marriage" for "yoga" or "practice" and it would make just as much sense to me. I recall a time when I lived in a constant state of expectation about my husband, what I thought I needed him to do or show, in order for me to fully recognize him as a partner. In effect, I was seeking the "final pose," whatever that was, instead of breathing and enjoying the process of just being a partner!

Today we took a partner yoga class together-- our second-- and I think we really were on the same wavelength, so to speak. We really communicated, and it felt like we were really present, really listening to each other, and especially, smiling a lot. The poses felt amazing even if we weren't always in perfect form or balance. The whole class felt like a metaphor for our relationship at this stage in the game... I feel really lucky to be able to recognize this and be as happy about it as I am.

Wishing you a heart full of peace,