Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yoga today

Yoga was originally orally passed down from teacher to student. On and on, an unbroken cord or thread of knowledge on the beautiful union of mind, body with the Divine or Truth within you. I wonder what Patanjali who lived during the 5th century BC would think about the publishing, blogging, face booking, twittering, and marketing of yoga today? I knew there were a lot of yoga blogs out there but seriously, have you clicked around? There are hundreds, if not thousands now. Everything, including how we communicate, evolves with time. But, is Yoga really the same today? Is it so redefined or Westernized that it would be unrecognizable to the ancient gurus?

For something to take hold in your life, it has to become a part of you and speak to you in a way you can relate to. Teaching (and living) what I know and what is True (Satya or truth) grounds me. Still, I grew up a middle-class, white girl in the Texas Bible belt and continue to have a strong bent for saying y'all and use a mixture of western, kirtan, and instrumental music in my yoga classes. I'm a real mixture of opposing ideas of what yoga is or is not... depending on how you look at it. (Again, what would the yogis of the past say about playing Eric Clapton, Sting, Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus band (New Orleans mantra sound), or even Reggae-like political activist yogi Michael Franti?)

I suppose they might say that we're not here to make opinions or judgments- do we look at someone and see their lack of yoga using our idea of what yoga is? I'm here to apply what yoga means to me. To me. What does yoga mean to you?

"We can't practice (yoga) without an awareness. Awareness creates an open mind and seeks to remove the obstacle of confusion (ignorance) and suffering. The yoga sutras help us examine how I am living. Looking at life from an "I" perspective. Not looking at how someone else is or not living it. Yoga is from an "I" point of view." - Anand

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yoga Sutra 2.39

Aparigraha Sthairye Janmakathamta Sambodhah

Yoga Sutra 2.39

"When you are not looking for something that is outside of yourself, you can transcend time. You're not afraid of the future. The past, present, and future is the same. If you see yourself as a victim of something in your past, you are attached to your past story. Let go of it and begin to transform, becoming steadfast in yourself."-- Anand

Aparigraha is greed or hoarding. I often describe it as striving. But, I really love Anand's interpretation because it looks at the root of greed, and that is searching for something outside yourself. Instead of looking around and comparing ourselves to others or what others have or what they can do (the backbends I long to be able to do! grasp how to do cool computer design! be the supermom- have the house clean, dinner prepared, play games with the kids and life in order!), I must focus on where I am today. Because the past is gone. The future is not here. And, this moment is mine to cherish. I have to accept where I am today and cultivate discipline to have growth, rather than be ambitious to attain a pose or a thing or my idea of perfection.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Effects of stress

“It is more easy to be wise for others than for ourselves.”
― François Duc de La Rochefoucauld
It's one of those things that you don't really expect. I got a call from my OBGYN yesterday that my pap smear test came back with Atypical cells, and I will need to the test again for the 3rd time. She insisted that they do not appear to be pre-cancerous. She went through a list of questions.... and the last one was, are you under any stress? Hum. A little. Ok.

I have clearly underestimated how the circumstances of our lives most assuredly effect our bodies. I can see the symptoms on the outside at times: dark circles (with lack of sleep), acne (agh!), cold sores, weight gain or loss, and grey hair really does come from having children! As a driven (pitta) woman, I often ignore symptoms both physical and psychological.

We talk about in yoga how the breath, movement, and meditation effects the body positively and how it can reduce the impact of a stressful life and help us learn how to cope with the ebbs and flows to achieve balance. I have often thought about how my yoga practice and teaching has shaped my life in so many positive ways. But, just getting on the mat isn't enough. Infusing the principals and allowing myself to integrate what I'm learning is... everything. My theme in class this week came from teacher, Misha Laird, that I was privileged to take a beautiful heat building flow from at the Texas Yoga Conference. Are you getting a nourishing amount of activity and rest in your week? So simple. But, am I really?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sacred Warrior

"Becoming a sacred warrior means not to do battle with others but to develop the kind of courage one needs to be kind and happy and radically alive in the midst of the world. There is only fearlessness, which is to be found in the heart and is the path to freedom." -- Trungpa, The Sacred Path of the Warrior

I'm giving up the battle within myself today. Just handing it over and surrendering to the unknown or really to what I already know to be True. I think if you're going forward, you have to commit fully or not at all. I've been living a half life for quite a while. One foot in the door to keep it cracked, just in case. Today, I'm walking through. And praying for the cloud to lift and the sun to shine brightly through me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Yoga Sucks

"Yoga Sucks"-- Ricky Tran

I'm not certain I've ever been to a yoga class where the instructor (somewhat jokingly) said exactly what was I thinking at the moment and everyone (all 60 or so of us) laughed. Yoga at that very moment did indeed, suck. I was mid-day on day 2 of the Texas Yoga Conference. (The day before taught a 90 min yoga class and 60 minute pilates, followed by a Forest Yoga, Partner yoga, then a class with Robert Boustany. Then, got up on Saturday and repeated most of day 1....) By mid-day, wow, his "lotus" (hip opening preparations for padmasana) workshop felt both amazing and over-the-top for my tight texas hips.

He shared with us a Mantra which I had not heard before but after taking his class, was completely appropriate:

Saha navavatu
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha virvam karavavahai
tejasvi navadhitamastu
Ma vidvisavajhai
Om santih santih santih

"May we be protected when we come together. May we study with vigor and strength. May we glow, be brilliant and lustrous from our studies. May there be no enmity, bad feelings between us."

Vigor and strength but more importantly, what I took away from his class was if you're not having fun or it hurts, you're doing it wrong. Of course, this was after he'd demonstrated a handstand in lotus on one hand! Seriously, it doesn't have to suck.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Nonviolent communication (NVC) is based in ahimsa (non-harming to yourself and others) teaches "how to put the values of right speech and satya into practice, so we can use speech to deepen our spiritual practice and carry that practice into a heartfelt connection with others." (J Lasater, What we say matters) Just when I think I'm making some progress in this area... I catch myself saying the first thing that pops into my head. (I don't think you want examples... but just today, buying a $7 lunch, I said, "wow, that's expensive! It better be good!" And, earlier, to my son, "You didn't wake your brother up AGAIN, did you?" (while I could have said, something much less accusatory. sigh...) Then, I had to follow up with "please don't shoot your brother in the head with the bow and arrow, aim for something less likely to shoot back!" It's just the kind of morning we tend to have.)

I find it dangerous to speak words better not said (words are power and come from an overflow of what is in the heart) and not beneficial to myself or those around me. To be able to speak the truth (satya) in a way that communicates a message that the other person understands (not simply what they hear you say, but when what you say conveys the message that you intend for the person to comprehend). I'm learning to speak less and less. The whole, God gave me 2 ears and only one mouth-rule.

Nonverbal communication... now that's a whole different trip all-together. I've been told that my face speaks volumes. I've never been good at hiding how I feel. It's generally written all over my face. Our body language speaks loudly what our heart says-- arms crossed (not open to hearing the other person), open face and stance (receptive to hearing), smile, frown.... I think sometimes we mis-interpret quiet for arrogance or loudness for ignorance. What would the world be like, if every person you saw- you smiled at. Try it. Whoever you pass, see, encounter today, smile. You don't have to say a word. Now I'm not talkin about the fake smile... but the kind that makes your eyes crinkle around the edges.

I took partner yoga yesterday with one of my eager to learn more yoga students, Manny. It's been really cool to watch him and many of my other students who are so new to yoga begin to really take it and transform. Just lovely.

For the first class that we took together, they had us sit back to back and simply breath. Listen to the other person's breath. Could we breath in sync? Then, as we progressed, flow in a sequence without words and lightly touch a heel or hand, then offer a hand for a simple stretch (in reverse warrior). Then, we flew. One is the flier, the other the base. Out of pure strength, Manny was the base more than I think he wanted to be... but well, you can see the photos... I think I now love to fly. And, communication, it's critical. Key word: down! Had to use it several times. : ) Thanks Manny- would happily be your yoga partner any day! And, thank you, Jenna for great photos!!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Grace is divine love and protection bestowed freely upon others.

I tend to write about it a lot. I suppose it's because I am so grateful to receive it. And, am delighted that when I give it away (especially to my children) there is such a sense of freedom and relief (for both of us) that is beyond expression.

I am the recipient of this divine love this week. I am learning to recognize the divine within me. I honestly don't feel that way at times. But, when I can remember and dwell in this beauty of grace rather than circumstances... I heal. I love that Elizabeth Gilbert said in a recent article how we often treat ourselves like a rental car. We use our bodies to get us from place to place, experience to experience, rushing...without regard to treatment of ourselves and simply using our bodies as a means to get us there rather than enjoying how amazing we are- and how if we showed our bodies (mind/ body and spirit) greater respect- that it is indeed holy... we would be living a life through direct observation and full participation. (my paraphrase from my sketchy memory and the fact that my 4 year old is in my lap while I'm typing and don't want to move him to retrieve the article... : ))

I'm feeling pulled in so many different directions - to be all these different roles in life- and not feeling like I'm doing any of them well. It's time to clean house... the one inside me and really take stock of the important. And, when it doesn't all get done or even done well... today I will grant myself that merciful grace and surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana) to the Lord.

"...we have a dual nature: our spirit which beats to the big sound of the universe, and our human form, which relies on the perseverance of the heart and lungs. While I am here, contained within bones and muscles, organs and skin, I want to take care of the gift of my body. I want to feed it well, move it gracefully, and rest it deeply. I know that the life force beats on, even when the heart has stopped, but while I have heart and lungs, I want to treat them with sacred awe." Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open

Thursday, February 18, 2010

deepest presence

"Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror
up to where you're bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings."


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day. Why does the enormity of the day seem to envelop me? I'm sitting in the Portland airport intermittently people watching (some great lookin folks to watch...) and taking stock of the weekend. Pondering things way too deep for the moment... "what is my soul telling me?" I keep going over the same list of things hoping for a different end, a new solution, an insight that perhaps I missed. But, somehow, the same conclusion. Maybe I just need some fresh data? If I'm not making sense... it could be sleep deprivation and the fact that it's Valentine's. : )

I took a hot and lively class this morning at Core Power Yoga this morning. Love, love, loved it. Sigh... some great yoga here. Really gets me itching to open my own studio... some day.

Serendipity. I taught 2 classes, gentle and vinyasa intermediate at Flow yesterday but the workshop didn't make. The biggest blessing was that I got to teach some incredible and dedicated students and have a fantastic catch up lunch with Stephanie - who I consider not only an amazing yogi but someone I admire and aspire to emulate-- in terms of living a life true to herself, one of integrity and joy. I'm thrilled she's headed to India with me November. Life is good.

Funny thing about expectations.... when we set them, we might miss out on the serendipity of life. I'm setting out to free myself of what I'm gripping and hoping for a future full of promise and renewed joy.

Life is joy.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Oregon... back where I started an amazing journey last summer. Staying with a fellow yogini, Tami, in an amazing area of downtown Portland. I could really get into city life: walking everywhere, great food, shops, fab yoga, and what seems to be a cool art scene as well.

Took a Yin Yoga class (long, slow stretching of connective tissues around the joints) at the Pearl (Yoga) yesterday. Wow, it took tremendous patience and concentration for me me to hold each posture (only 7 different poses: ardha konasana (half straddle), parighasana (gate pose), marjarasana (cat/cow), sukasana (seated cross leg), eka pada raja kopotasana (pigeon), balasana (child's pose), and savasana (relaxation), in 75 minutes) for a lengthy time. My mind just could not quiet. Finally in balasana, I gave it up, yielding and allowed my breath to swell into my body and surrender to it. If you've ever held resistance in a pose and then when it finally clicked to let go... fully allowing it to envelop you... then you know where I was. If you haven't, no worries, ahh- there is so much more yet to experience (for all of us!).

What is so amazing about yoga to me is it can be the best instructor or even the worst, and I can still find a nugget of beauty. Because it's really not about their skills but what I bring with me (baggage, tension, fear....), and what I'm able to be free from. (Elizabeth Gilbert has a great article on discovering yoga, and touches on this topic beautifully, in the March Yoga Journal (pg. 41 for you grocery store line flippers.))

I find that it's my attitude that shapes my experience. 90% of what we perceive comes from our past experiences. Just when you think everyone is looking at you or notices when you fall... they are actually wondering the same thing -- did they see me do that, say that, walk around with that giant gob of food in my teeth? Probably not. Our egos tell us one thing but reality is so much less dramatic.

"When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up... and as we ramble along the potholed road of life, we find ourselves among frineds." Elizabeth Lesser

Looking forward to a great day of teaching at Flow in the Hood today! Life really is good.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yoga Sutra 1.1

Atha Yoganusasanam

Now the practice or discipline of yoga. (Anand)

Now yoga is shared or offered. (Judith Lasater)

Yoga Sutra 1.1

"Yoga has power when we give it away in the world. How can we give our practice away? If asana is all we do. How boring is that? Being willing to be radically present is yoga. Because we're usually never completely present in our lives. We're eating and thinking about our next meal. We're listening to someone tell a story, and we're thinking about what we will say while they are talking. Our typical mantra: What's next? To learn the art of radical presence is yoga. The beautiful thing about asana is that we cannot multitask. We can't do down dog and triangle pose at the same time. For today, put down what you're doing when someone speaks to you and give them your full attention. The first time, you will feel irritated. However, it will change the connection with you and the other person. This really isn't about them. It's about you. Take a vow of listening. Others need our presence not our advise."--JL

Sunday, February 7, 2010

through the woods to grandma's house

"Suffering is in the eye of the beholder and service is in all of us." -- Yvonne Bannister

My reading this morning from Judith Lasater's Living Your Yoga:

"Everyone has to go through the woods and meet the big bad wolf in order to get to Grandma's House. We grow up when we realize no one's life is perfect or easy. Take stock of your blessings. Say aloud, today I am grateful for.... Then realize that, even with problems, on the deepest level your life is perfect."

It's true but what about those friends who are in the deepest part of the woods? Friends going through divorce, illness, depression and suffering (duhkha)? I've found that really, they don't want my advise (unless of course, they actually ask for it), but they would rather know that they are not alone. To know that, just listening and simply picking up the phone is all that is required.

It's just that season of life. I remember in college, a wave of engagement parties and weddings. Then, in my 20's and 30's, baby shower, after baby shower. In my late 30's, friends separating, getting divorced... and our parents aging. Seasons... my mom recently lost 3 friends within months of each other.

I think once I begin to realize that everyone, everyone travels the same road and yet views it differently (because of our avidya or limited knowledge), I began to soften and take the small and big waves of each season with a little more compassion and grace. I'm only now beginning to see the wisdom of those who've made it to grandma's house.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Yoga is self-integration

"May you live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water of life"-- JL

My reading today (which was entirely too short-- son #1, woke up son #2 at 5.15am. Hard to beat them up to have any time for "all things spiritual" or even to go to the bathroom alone!) was about being a witness or observing our thoughts, our breath, our actions. I think if I stopped to observe more, I would react less.

Judith replied to my comments about yoga not being the "cure-all"...

"The purpose of yoga is self-integration.

It was created for people who were basically physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

It was not intended as a cure all for any and all problems we may have.

Sometimes yoga is not the answer...."

To integrate what I teach and practice on the mat with some consistency, essentially living a life with more awareness (Vijnanamaya Kosha, the wisdom body)... is easier said than done. I think it's all too easy to say it but what I am (to my kids, fellow teachers & friends, even strangers) is more important than what I teach on the mat.

Could self-integration begin with that observation?

Some days, I'm still hoping for that quick-fix, cure-all. Ahh, if it were only that easy. But, thank goodness it's not.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


We're into February- and you can't go anywhere without seeing the commercialism of Valentine's. Even in yoga. I got the newsletter- and there were no less than a dozen partner valentine day yoga classes. We're even doing one at Lifetime.

My morning reading from Pathways to Joy was "all things in the universe are of divine origin and deserve to be loved. The love of the whole includes the love of the parts". Then, I read Christina Sell's blog this morning, about "muscle energy as a hugging embrace on all sides and how we can practice loving all sides of ourselves- even the hard to love parts. " She always speaks the truth from her heart, and I value that in her. She has no idea who I am- but isn't that amazing about the internet? You can follow someone's blog- read the most intimate details of their lives (that they willingly post!) and somehow connect and be able to apply it (or at least willingly consider it) to your life.

The theme of love prevails this month-- even in loving-kindess to ourselves. Our dharma (purpose) I believe is to live life with heart.

Monday, February 1, 2010

more sleep

"What in our life wouldn't be better if we had more sleep?"-- JL

Yesterday I actually spent the entire day at home. Only left for an hour to get a massage! And, never got out of my sweats. Played "pizza pile up" game, hide and seek, computer games, and watched National Treasure with the boys. Now that's a good day. More sleep? Yep. Much refreshed for the insanely busy week ahead.