Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Katy Students Run

KSR, Katy Students Run, is a group of kids from a local Katy High School nominated to be a part of this non-profit that teaches them about nutrition and healthy lifestyles while training kids to run a 1/2 marathon. Incredibly resilient, all of them completed the program all the way to the finish line.

During their off season, I was blessed to lead them in yoga twice a week for 8 weeks. To see their progress in such a short time was amazing. We did everything from restorative, sports specific stretching, to 108 sun salutations, pilates/yoga (pi-yo), and even partner yoga. I hoped to give them an overall taste of yoga. Here's some of what they had to say when we finished for the school year. (I gave them a written pop quiz. ; ))

Yoga is... concentrated (workout) series of salutations and breathing patterns.
Ahimsa means... don't injure yourself.
What surprised me about yoga is.... it was harder than I imagined.
The hardest thing I did was... forgetting everything and relaxing.
What I learned about myself.... my mental strength can take my physical strength
My mat is... the reason I don't slip when I'm sweaty.
Lifetime is... AWESOME.
I did my yoga "homework"*....sometimes, well, once or twice. (Each week I would challenge them to do something at home.)
To improve these classes for the next group... I'd like to make them longer (more weeks).
The Best thing about theses past 8 weeks of yoga.... realizing I don't have to worry everything in my life at
once. I've been much less stressed because of it.

A big thank you to some amazing folk! Jenny D (& Luke's Locker)- founder and enabler of all things KSR, many of the coaches that came for classes, including Meg, teacher, coach, yoga student and who was the great communicator to help me rally everyone. And our sponsors: Cinco Ranch Lifetime (thank you Rachel, Alli & Eric for allowing us to use the gorgeous yoga room & Stacha for your youth yoga workshop) and Manduka (for donating a dozen fabulous mats for the kids to have as their own! You make the best mats on the planet.)
This fall, a whole new crop of kids! Side note: I took my son (9) to the informational meeting and he was so excited by the end of it that he's decided he wants to train with them to run the Houston Half Marathon with us in January! Fun begins in August.

The Invitation

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

The depth of my communication with people I care most deeply for is often shockingly shallow. I'm more open with my classes at times than I am at home. It's just easier to be silent or to go with the flow of, "I'm fine. How are you?" kind-of-conversations rather than have the real, hard talks that are required for transparent, authentic relationships. I was taught from a young age to guard my feelings, veil my emotions and not to talk about the "dirty laundry" of life.

I don't want to trip into the mistake of going unbearingly deep here. However, authenticity (satya, truth) combined with empathy toward the other is what I'm hoping to cultivate and nurture more fully. I read yesterday that a new study shows that young people today are 40% less empathetic toward their friends than they were in the 70's. The root cause? The disposability of friendships due to the virtual world. (We can now "Facebook" someone, ask them to be our "friend", and they can choose to accept or IGNORE our solicitation for "friendship". Years ago, we'd never consider just ignoring someone. And yet, it was pointed out to me that even I ignored someone speaking to me in person while I was on the computer. Yikes! Did I really do this?)

This poem struck me deeply this morning as I re-read it... "am I able to stand in the center of the fire with someone and not shrink back"...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

to change the outcome

"Mindfulness is a process that regulates the flow of energy and information." Daniel Siegel (DS)

Something about mindfulness that really struck me that I never really processed before as I was reading The Mindful Brain. "Mindful awareness actually involves more than simply being aware....it helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change possible outcomes."
Change the outcome... is obvious to me now. Like a picture that hangs in your home that eventually you don't see anymore. You pass by it without even a second glance. Then one day, a color catches your eye, you stop, and suddenly you see an image in the picture you never recognized before. And, the impression was there all along. You just had to re-adjust and view it from another angle.
Why would I want to change the outcome? For me, keeping my emotions in check, combating negativity and improving my thought patterns (to what serves me well, rather than damaging myself and those around me through my behavior) is hard work. The battle with darkness is real, even when I consider myself a glass half-full gal. I try not to be concerned over a family legacy of various diseases, addictions (food, alcoholism), and depression, but I recognize in myself that I must cultivate a dependance on the Divine daily and trust that I am a uniquely me and not defined or limited by my family legacy.
Another connection DS makes is prayer and religious affiliation. The overlap of these 2 in mindfulness is inseparable. Since returning from Malaysia, I have deliberately thrown myself into teaching and my children, often at the exclusion of finding connections. The yoga retreat I recently went on in Crested Butte & again at Family Camp in Arkansas slapped me the realization that community/family (sanga) is powerful and critical for a healthy mind. "Pausing to become mindful involves an internal sense of belonging." We all have a longing to belong.
I'm grateful for the view from another angle to spur me on to the possibility of change. Knowing in my heart what is true and learning to filter and sift through influences until the real meaning is uncovered is such a frustrating, exhilarating, and eventually awakening discovery.

"He is a letter to everyone.
You open it.
It says: Live."
-- Rumi

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Let's Go Down to the River and Pray

Explored Boulder with my best friend, Gayle, from college who's blessed to live in Denver. (Rated one of the top 10 fittest cities in the US, within a few hours of countless beautiful mountain ranges and don't even get me started on all the amazing yoga there!) Trading places, I took Gayle's Taekwondo class (kicked my tail!) and then I gave the students a yoga class. They had just completed a million (ok, 50) push ups on their fists & drills that had them running around the room striking a paddle, so a slow flow with hip openers and a nice long savasana was best. The energy of the instructor was inspiring. The class was gracious to donate in kind to the Alzehimer's Association. Thank you!!

In Boulder, I took an Anusara-inspired 2 hour class (not even an option in Houston, unless you take a workshop. ) with Livia at OM Time - one of the first established studios here (there are now 18 yoga studios competing within a very small radius of the city). Sequencing built on backbends with variations of Eka Pada Rajokopotasana (EPR). We also did forearm balance and handstand variations with our buttocks on the wall & a deep backbend. Wow- that was really challenging for me- as was the EPR variations. While my hamstrings are remarkably loose, my quads and hip flexors are exceedingly tight. We also did Ustrasana (camel), 4 variations: hands to feet, hands to knees (with backbend, head to floor), alternating arms back, and then one leg. She was fun and playful which a few times got the class a little too talkative but with a quick quip: "notice the urge to talk", we were all back on our mats, focused. ; ) Loved, loved her music.

She closed with an Alison Krauss bluegrass hymn- and sang. After listening a few times our class began to harmonize with her. I don't think I've experienced anything quite like that. Spontaneous. The chorus felt as if it were a warm embrace around us. "As I went down to the river to pray.... Good Lord, show me the way. Oh, brothers lets go down. Come on brothers, let's go down to the river to pray."

She is who she is. I love that quality in a teacher- teaching in a way that is true & honest. In contrast, I took another class, entirely different in Denver, where the instructor, while he delivered a well scripted sequence, was completely devoid of emotion. It felt as if he could do the class in his sleep- his tone and the fact that his class anticipated his every command. To compare them is entirely unfair (not my intent to critique- 'cause Lord knows, I have my good days and bad days teaching) but just a reminder that no matter the class, there is something of value, if only to challenge me to examine myself and my own teaching.

Friday, June 18, 2010

yoga Under the Stars

Coming off my plane yesterday from 9000 ft elevation (Crested Butte) and a cool 60 degrees, to warm (96!) Houston, I was able to experience a wonderful group of over a 100 folk for yoga under the stars at City Centre Lifetime (link to photos). The theme: Going with the flow! Even with all the great preparations, things happen. It's OK that we were temporarily short of mats... it's yoga, so share (aparigraha: non-hoarding)! It's OK that it's hot (santosha: contentment)! It's OK that the mic went out, it gave me a chance to practice slow, calm breathing (pranayama). Amazingly, Aaron, the world musician who performed had an extra microphone for us to use. The only hitch: it wasn't wireless. I sat poolside (tempted to put my feet in while I spoke, but didn't think everyone would appreciate that I was cooling off while they were sweating!) and instructed verbally while Stephanie demonstrated. A wonderful blessing in disguise. It allowed the class to really tune more into themselves, and I was able to enjoy having to sit still. A good practice for someone loves to move, adjust and flit around like a bird.
It just goes to show over and over, we can take a situation, any situation and interpret it in a way that brings us the most joy. Why do we actually choose to be stressed over and over? "Yoga is not arguing with reality".

Special THANK YOU:
Lulu Lemon, Manduka (mat), Luna Bars (yummy samples!), and to Aaron Hermes (www.audiotelepathy.com) for his beautiful classical Indian music. To Cathy Knauss, for getting it all together (fantstic!), Stephanie Perry-Bush for her goregous going with the flow demonstrations, Kat Axmann, for assisting, and for the many, many Lifetime team members who helped provide food, set up & clean up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yoga Sutra 1.14

Sa Tu Dirgha Kala Nairantarya Satkarasevito Drdhabhumih.

Awareness through continual practice and devotion that becomes effortless and deeply grounded to the point that there is no doubt left, is living yoga.

Yoga Sutra 1.14

After taking my friend Heidi's yoga class yesterday, I overheard her conversation with a new student. How many times a week should I do yoga? How do stretch my tight hamstrings? How long before I can do that (referring to forearm balance I was practicing)? On and on. Heidi explained that if she decided she would walk to Oklahoma today from Katy, that maybe should get as far as The Woodlands, if that far! And, then the next day, a little farther.... and the next. It's just simply not possible to do it in a day or even a week. It takes time, patience and practice- one foot in front of the other. But most importantly, you have to look around you (on the inside), observe yourself & the journey will unfold.

Yoga is like anything you want to learn- to paint, cook (well), play baseball, design web sites, parenthood, to be a good friend... after you practice enough you become more skilled at the art form itself. But unlike baseball or websites, we practice yoga to "become skilled at the art of living" (E Lesser).

"Our life is an endless journey; it is like a broad highway that extends infinitely into the distance. The practice of meditation (or yoga) provides a vehicle to travel on that road. Our journey consists of constant ups and downs, hope and fear, but it is a good journey. The practice allows us to experience all the textures of the roadway, which is what the journey is all about." --Chogyam Trungpa

Saturday, June 12, 2010


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
―Victor Frankl
Yoga has taken off everywhere (Seva (service) takes it across boarders and cultures unaccustomed to yoga: Costa Rica, Africa, and Cambodia, as well as, in US prisons and inner cities) and is completely mainstream (suburbia has embraced it) and in most cases watered down as a physical form of exercise without the mind/body connection. (There's a new yoga video out called the "NO OM yoga" no chanting, no om's, no pranayama, only physical, asana based "routines". Nothing wrong with no om's. In fact, at Lifetime or the Y, I typically do not OM mainly because it just doesn't feel true to my teaching right now.)

I should start keeping track of the number of students who tell me their doctor told them to take yoga for stress, back injuries, strengthen their "core", pregnancy, & general wellness. Just yesterday a student shared openly that yoga is to be a part of her 12 step program to sobriety by request of her therapist.

Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the doctors to recommend that their patients take a yoga private session, so that the instructor can customize the session to their individual needs? Most classes are meant for the general population and in large classes, it's nearly impossible for an instructor to meet the special needs/injuries of each student. Imagine teaching a class with: a pregnant student, one with a bulging disc in the cervical neck, and another with sciatica. All different needs, and in a level 2 or 3 flow class with inversions and arm balances! Those special needs students always think they have to be doing what everyone else does, then end up either uncomfortable (my sweet pregnant student after just 15 minutes left- it was as if I was teaching 2 different classes, one for her and one for the other 20 students) and irritated that they cannot do it all the first time they try, hurting themselves, or not coming back at all, thinking yoga is not for them! When, what they really needed was either a smaller class in a level 1 or possibly a one on one yoga therapy class to assess their situation, bodies and more. Doctors, magazines, everyone... is recommending yoga as a treatment for various physical aliments. What if in the midst of it all, we discovered or uncovered what we really needed? Real changes goes deeper than the physical body. Only very few people want to sit still long enough to listen to the quiet. The quiet, stillness can speak to us so loudly, that we would simply rather busy ourselves so that we don't have to listen.

Doctors are going to continue to recommend yoga-- studies are confirming all the benefits that yogis have known for thousands of years. I would also hope that doctors would follow their own advise-- take the classes that they tell their students to take. It's what we all hope that we do, live by quiet example.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yoga is the practice of life

"Yoga is the practice of Life."-- Kurt Johnsen

At the TYA Dallas Conference, I was privileged to take a workshop from Kurt Johnsen. I was a little embarrassed when my friend Lisa introduced me, I didn't know his name and even asked if he was from Houston (although I knew about his studios and yoga style he created, American Power Yoga which originated in Dallas).
His class theme focused a lot on his martial arts background, his beliefs, and theories on energy. He began by asking us what is yoga? Which is interesting because I just asked my group of teenagers that I've been teaching yoga to this same question just a few days prior. They came up with answers like: it's harder than you think, breathing, a way to relax & exercise (hum, after just 8 weeks with them, I still have a ways to go... but at least they no longer think that yoga is "for girls".)
His answer: "Yoga is connection with reality." Then, he challenged us to 21 days (the amount of time it takes to form a habit) without arguing with reality. For example, to not get upset about the weather (It's hot in Texas! Just deal with it without complaining about it!), not get angry over traffic or being late (traffic happens, so just plan for it), to get over rude people (there are people who will be rude, but you don't have to re-act to them). When we argue, we lose energy. Instead, embrace reality and feel the energy of it because whatever is happening is there for a reason. He invited us to get our kids or someone to help remind us. (I opted for a friend for encouragement and accountability. My kids already point out my infractions with ease.) Other advise, don't be a door mat while doing this. If you get a bad meal, just send it back but don't whine over it. Be gracious, kind and matter-of-fact. If you switch sides of energy, start again. (This is a bit like the tongue mudra (bite it!) that judith lasater challenged me to in January.)
Here's my start: OK, it's Thursday night, this began Sunday.... and I've had to start over every single day... I've gone to the dark side of energy. Sunday, complained about family. Monday, grumpy and tired after arriving home at 4am and told people I was grumpy and tired. Tuesday, got a speeding ticket and well, I argued with the policeman. Was I really going 50 in a 35? According to her radar. Wednesday. Actually I can't remember Wednesday, but I'm sure it was something! Today, I was hoping for some help with xyz....grumble, grumble. Sigh. So, tomorrow's a new day. Day one again of 21 days. (A bit like the "ground hog day" movie.) Kurt said it took him 4 months the first time to get through 21 days straight. And, now each time, it's gotten shorter & easier. I sincerely hope so!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"It is only with the heart that we can see clearly. For what is essential, is hidden from the eyes."

–The Little Prince

Sunday, June 6, 2010


The Texas Yoga Association put on an amazing line up of presenters in Dallas for the rollout of the OneYogaUSA. Kurt Johnson(American Power Yoga), Gioconda & Zoe, Catherine Allen (Forrest Yoga), Roger Rippy (YogaOne), Yoginos DVD premiere (Beth Reese), Donna De Lory... and more all at the Crow in Dallas, a stunning Asian Art Museum. Sadly, the event was not very well attended. How do you bring the yoga studios together? There's this crazy balance that has to happen between yoga and the business of yoga. To marry the 2 is the ideal... unity, one voice. Let's make it happen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Morning Benders - "Excuses" Yours Truly session

This makes me happy. Music is yoga- you could say, sanga... community. Gorgeous.

Love Service and Inovocation

Taking Mandy Eubanks class over the weekend at the Love & Service retreat was a wonderful surprise. I have to admit I not only didn't know Mandy, but I didn't know that she was an Anusara goddess in the making. (She's nearly completed a long 5 year challenging certification to become an official Anusara teacher. I'm sure there's some fancy title for that?) It's like getting a free extra scoop of (coffee with butterfingers) ice cream when you were just going to get the kiddie cup. Delicious! I just thought I was going to a neat get-away with a cool-sounding instructor that I found on the internet, Lauran Janes whose philosophy on community and what she went through to get to the path she's on now was inspiring. (Lauran's Love Yoga Coop in Austin). A little stalker-ish but hey, the results were good.
I felt like I was with yoga rock stars in the making... some amazing folks... Jacy (she made a zillion of these origami cranes and put them up in the coop- what a big heart!) Meredith (a glorious desire to step off into the unknown and with the ability to do it, if she so chooses.) Marion (has an adopted son... I have goose bumps just typing that-- it takes so much - from a place that many people only think about but yet, she acted on it.) John (can I just say- cool as ice. yogi bike messenger. and get this... he teaches at none other than the coolest place on earth (in my wanna-be cyclist opinion), lance armstrong's bike shop, mellow johnny's. some major cycle junkies are actually getting yoga-fied. awesome.) Ed (fruit by the pallet! my son is so enamored with the idea of how much fruit he bought. peaches & cream. yum!) Joseph (quiet but with such a keen interest in all things gourmet and exotic travel. I just might stow away in his bag for his next trip to OZ.) Lauran's mom, better known as "mom" (all around massage therapist and life philosopher- giving and intuitive.) Carrie (with a view of the world and of herself that has depth. it will be great to see in which direction her new vision for life will take her.) Ally (views life from the angle of sacred awe and big eyes!)

Below is the invocation that we chanted before each class. Everyone was already exposed to a lot of Anusara yoga & seemed to know it well. I heard the chant when Christina Sells came to Houston but had forgotten just how powerful chanting can be. When you speak it, the sound vibrations resonate long after the chant is complete. When you listen, it's like the sounds fill your ears with an inner ringing that lingers and fills the darkened places and replaces it with a feeling similar to singing in church- unifying beauty. Unified. Community.

Om Namah Shivaya Gurave
Saccidananda Murtaye
Nischprapanchaya Shantaya
Niralambaya Tejase

I bow to the goodness within myself, known as Lord Shiva, who is the true teacher.
This essence inside takes the form of truth, consciousness, and bliss
Always present and full of peace,
this essence inside is completely free, and sparkles with a divine luster.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

your wild and precious life

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

beginning my list: go back to KL to lead a retreat, open a studio, live courageously, self-discipline, love my kids in a way that speaks love to them, surrender, teach with joy every day, mend & grow my relationships (with jason, my family and friends far & near), create a website, clean the chambers of my heart daily, grow my vision, show humility, paint the kitchen, learn how to mix my music, travel, study in OZ with inspyrayoga, take photography lessons in santa fe, study yoga & Alzheimer's and the effects of pranayama & get a grant to begin a study, write a book, smile more, belly laugh every day with my kids, adho mukha vrksasana away from the wall, back up my computer regularly, stop procrastinating, give myself more time than I think I need, learn Ashtanga primary series enough to lead it without notes and with confidence, svadhyaya (spiritual study), life in a way that honors and serves God & the see the Divine in myself and others... BE h e r e NOW.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Musings for Today:

"Mom I know how to swim now. But I still can't walk on water." Andrew, 4, discussion over breakfast on how he learned to swim this weekend at his grandparents house. I said, I think you mean, "walk in the water?" We speculate that maybe he has balloons inside his biceps that keep him from sinking. He seems to float and can't quite dive or sink into the water. ; )

Nathan just read this and said, "Mom is that supposed to be a joke? It's not funny. That's creepy."


Nathan and I pray before he leaves for school. Nathan's prayer: "Dear Lord, please help me to have a great day at school, to have fun at recess, to learn so much long division that my brain explodes, help Andrew behave & have fun, and help mommy to ommmm well in yoga" then he did a bollywood like dance out the door.

Om indeed. All is well. All is well.