Monday, January 25, 2010


"Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. ~Proverbs 16:18

In practice, I often think of this proverb, and I remind my students, 'Pride and ambition will get you hurt, humility will get you well.' Putting satya, or truthfulness, into practice on the mat is an exercise in humility. We tend to vacillate between our pride and ambition and our fear.Think of a posture that you have almost nailed. You're so close to mastering it that you can almost taste it. How tempting it is to push now, to let your ego step in and take you the rest of the way. But when we become ambitious, we lose sight of the point of our practice." ~Rolf Gates, Day 25, from Meditations From The Mat


I am learning this lesson the hard way. About four months ago I severely injured my SI (sacroiliac) joint, on the left side. (To find this place, put your hands on the sacrum, right below the waist line, right above the bum, and feel around toward your left side where it feels as if there is a space. That area and the connective tissue around it is what is injured.) I was practicing in a group of advanced yogis and knew that the form we were practicing was not only not what I was used to or trained to do, but also felt painful to me. I did it anyway, because I wanted to keep up with the group. My pride and ego got in the way and caused me to practice without satya, the second yama. I have not recovered from this injury and it has kept bothering me intermittently. I am now challenged to live the other yamas and niyamas (for example, aparigraha, letting go that I can practice like everyone else; santosa, being content at the level I'm at, even if it means I must sit out some postures)... it's been extremely difficult as my professional life as a teacher grows and grows but my personal life as a student is in something of a holding pattern. I'm learning to practice without ego... but it's so hard!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I use a neti pot, though not often enough, for cleansing the sinuses and nostrils and keeping colds and allergies at bay. Just two years ago I began experiencing sinus pressure, pain, and occasional blockage. It's really hard to do ujjayi, single or alternate nostril breathing when you're stuffy!

Neti is part of an ancient Ayurvedic purification process. Here's a great link to usage of a neti pot, complete with an instructional video. It's really only scary the first time, but if you breathe normally through the mouth while doing it, you will feel more relaxed and at ease during the process.

Saturday, January 16, 2010



By Langston Hughes

The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records---Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white---
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me---
although you're older---and white---
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.


Monday, January 11, 2010


So, to continue a thought from two posts ago...

I sought deeper ways to teach and even though the thought of breaking down walls was really scary to me, I decided to jump in full-force.

I really wanted to teach a chakra balancing class but had only taken such classes-- never taught them. ("Chakra" translates to "wheel" in Sanskrit and refers to the seven major seats of energy in the midline of the body... it's part of the larger energy system on which Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine are based. Imagine a spinning wheel of energy at the following locations: base of spine, groin, solar plexus, heart, throat, brow, and crown of head.)

Fortunately I have some really kind and open private clients who were willing to be guinea pigs: my husband for one, Michelle, and Liz-- so I was able to teach the practice three times before unleashing it on a group of victims-- er, students.

I followed the format in Anodea Judith's Chakra Balancing Kit. We started with the active practice which focuses on bringing awareness up from the base and out through the crown of the head. It's really great for a morning practice and lasts about 35 minutes. Then we did the seated chakra meditation, which is meant to bring your energy back down from the crown of the head through the body into the base, grounding you and preparing you for sleep. However, I taught this sequence as a year-end/year-beginning practice for the New Year 2010. Instead of directing each movement or meditation or posture with a daily focus, I widened the scope to encompass the whole year. (For example, instead of asking, at the heart or anahata chakra, "Where do you feel you could have loved more today?" I asked "Where could you have loved more this year?")

This practice and especially my practice teaching it has really opened me up to possibilities with asana as awakening deeper places. It's also helped me view the postures from a different perspective... instead of focusing on my burning thighs as I hold Warrior Two, I focus on my inner fire, my core, the manipura chakra and the energy and power I hold there. The focus becomes more intense, inward, and ultimately rewarding.

I'm still exploring ways to deepen the level on which I teach. It's been a really fun challenge, as I'm forced to confront mental and emotional blocks I have that get in the way. I feel like I'm forced to be more creative, more dynamic, and more aware. It's all good, as the saying goes.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Some days feel like the movie Groundhog Day only without the same people and places... it's me that stays the same. I feel I am spinning my wheels and returning to the same limiting thoughts and feelings... wondering if I am really just a collection of flesh and bone just like everyone else, pulling myself around and destined to make the same mistakes over and over.

Other days everything feels effortless... I realize I am hurtling through time and space and that I'm as ever-changing as everyone else. I feel clear, fully experience everything, there are breakthroughs in my awareness and I know exactly who I am and what my purpose is. Those are the really "good" days. Some days, I have great sessions with people. Like this one:

I have a private client who is recovering from major surgery and cannot practice asana so for right now all we do is meditate; I help her get into it and provide some insightful readings for her and then sort of let it all go (yesterday we meditated for about 30 minutes in silence after about 25 minutes of cueing and guided imagery). Afterwards we talk for a few minutes. Yesterday I cued the image of floating in a canoe in one of my readings, and that image was meaningful for her, so she stayed with it for awhile. The river flows along as all rivers do; sometimes it narrows and becomes rough and fast and sometimes it widens, deepens and becomes very calm and slow. I asked her to visualize who she had in her canoe, if anyone. Later on, in our discussion, she said she kept coming back to an old boyfriend and that he represented strength, warmth, intelligence, ruggedness, entrepreneurism, and kindness. She said she couldn't picture anyone else in the canoe with her, even though she kept trying to bring in family members and friends and people currently in her life. I think it's really interesting that her mind picked out someone who represents those traits. I think in some way she either once possessed all those traits or would like to possess them. It does not appear that there are lingering romantic feelings but there definitely is a connection for her. I think it is a really interesting subject... the things that are brought up in meditation. I'd venture that we all would have very different images that would come up. I recently read an old interview in Yoga Journal with Sting, who is now a long time yoga practitioner, during which he talked about seeing music in his mind when he meditated. When I meditate, I often have to cut through layers of conversation with myself about how I'd describe the experience to someone who was sitting there-- I still think like a teacher.


Onto another subject, strictly teaching asana is really starting to feel limiting for me. I still enjoy sharing it, and love teaching it to new people or return students, but I feel that pull to communicate on a different level, always, to bring in as many elements of the eight limbs as possible. I'm glad to have the freedom to be able to work on this.

My dream is to be able to transmit those tools that will help people come to a more enlightened state. I have such a long way to go personally, but I think I'd be missing the point if I were to wait until I reached some defined point or destination (would I even know it if I got there?) to share what I've gained.

The more I read and read about this practice, the practice of Yoga in the broader sense, the more I realize that we do already have what we need to "do" yoga, we just need reminders. I choose to receive my reminders from everyone I meet and learn from... that's a new student's blog, or an injured person, or a frustrating interview with a politician on tv, or a conversation over dinner with an acquaintance... all of these people are helping me more than any guru ever could. I feel the more I learn the less I know, really! And I feel that knowing less is paradoxically somehow the key.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


it's a New Year and a time for reflection. as I am typing this rather stream-of-consciously I am choosing not to capitalize... but for the sake of the reader I will punctuate.

this year was amazing in many ways. my practice and teaching were the main things that helped keep me happy and grounded during a time when so many beloved friends and family members underwent great losses and hardships. I felt like my practice was often a prayer in motion, honoring their struggle, honoring whatever small struggles I may have encountered; but also an acknowledgement that all was not lost. my business grew in many ways this year, both in number of students and also venues in which to teach, which are good things. I finished my 200 hour training and am still waiting for the final RYT certification from Yoga Alliance.

in August, after the trip to Hood River though, I began to hit a bit of a wall. I began to realize more and more that my teaching of asana was not fulfilling enough to me. I felt as though I adequately explained and demonstrated the postures, but something was missing. something BIG was missing. I honestly began to feel I wasn't teaching from the heart. or rather, from a deep enough place in my heart. I truly felt what I said, and meant every word, but in some way I didn't feel like I was communicating in ways that satisfied me personally. this tension began to develop (you can sort of imagine a tiny piece of grit in your shoe that isn't that big, but causes more and more pain if ignored) within me and I acknowledged it but did not really make any discernible changes to my teaching technique.

in Atlanta in October, I broke down in tears at a kirtan when I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be and it sort of hit me in the face that I needed to take action to deepen my practice and teaching. after my return I began exploring and studying ways to help communicate a greater sense of connection for people on the level of mind, body and spirit. as I am introduced to more and more new populations of people new to yoga (and those already well-established in their own practice) I realize how great a need there is for people to be encouraged to "live" their yoga both on and off the mat. I am realizing more and more that there are so many ways to do this. and I finally bought in to the fact that yoga is truly for everyone, no matter your religion or cultural hangups-- it's simply a map for living a balanced life. and all creatures seek balance, whether we know it or not. more later.