Friday, December 7, 2012

News and Updates!


You may have noticed that posts have become less frequent. There has been so much change going on the last few months and all in the name of growth and connecting to intention. Here is what's up:

I now have a website where you can access these writings, local events, my schedule and other information about sharing this practice with your business or community, photos, etc. Check it out!

I've also held 2 specialty workshops of a 3-part workshop series in North Hollywood, Ca at an aerial yoga studio (Aeriform Arts). The workshops are designed for dancers, movement-based performers and others like this who want to get into "deeper" poses without compromising their alignment or reiterating poor inefficient patterns. So far, we have covered back-bends and inversions, and next Sunday we will focus on splits and hip opening.

In mid-October, I had the great pleasure of attending a seminar by my teacher and an inspiring non-yogi, Gil Hedley. During his day-long seminar, I was inspired and immersed in the wealth of wisdom our biological bodies offer to us. Gil Hedley is a visionary anatomist with a keen eye for relationship and philosophical inquiry. You can learn a bit more about him here.

As if that weren't enough, I am more than halfway through my advanced teacher training (500-RYT) under the guidance of Sigrid Matthews. From teacher to student there is seldom any distance, and I am so grateful to be learning even as I guide this practice for others...what can I say, it feels good to learn! The last portion of this training will continue to focus heavily on anatomy and breath mechanics from a fiercely observant teacher, Leslie Kaminoff, more philosophy study and more direct guidance from my mentors.

Workshops are being set up for winter 2013 along with some exciting collaborations and projects throughout the year.

Stay tuned - the end of 2012 will definitely be interesting!

Be well and breath easy,

Friday, November 30, 2012

How a 9-year Old Describes Yoga

Amy Poehler interviews an awesome 9-year old yogi who answers a lot of great beginner questions. When asked "what is yoga?" she said this: "Stretching, breathing and other stuff that helps you relax."

Check out the clip here, it's pretty fantastic :)

In joy!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

aMUSEing: Poetry for ya Head

This is a new piece, all copyrights reserved.


The map and the terrain are never the same
and dead birds are just a myth
because the sights in our eyes are lies in the mind,
the only sense external comes within.

In the space where we be the path unfolds three
whether we believe it or not.
So while the road be fraught
with unusual thoughts,
the oil lamp lights the stream.

In that delicate dance
of tension and chance
we find that the work never wares;
so when that last breath is taken
we won’t be mistaken
that the timing is any less than fare. 

The map and the terrain are never the same
and all ways are relative to self,
because the steps that we make take us farther away
while we move steadily home anyway.

The 84th Problem

Below is a short parable for your rumination:

"One afternoon a farmer who had heard that the Buddha was a wonderful teacher came to the Buddha seeking relief from his suffering. “I’m a farmer,” he said to the Buddha, “And I love farming. But last summer we had a drought and nearly starved, while this summer, we had too much rain and some of my crops did not do as well as I would have liked.”
The Buddha sat and listened to the farmer. “I have a wife, too. She’s a great woman, a wonderful wife. But sometimes she can really nag me. And to tell you the truth, sometimes I get a little tired of her.” The Buddha continued to listen and smile, as the farmer continued. “I’ve got three kids. They’re all really great. I’m really proud of them. But sometimes they don’t listen to me and don’t pay me the respect I deserve.”
It went on like this for awhile, and then when finished with his litany, the farmer waited for the Buddha to solve his problems.
“I can’t help you,” said the Buddha.
“What!” responded the farmer, “I’ve heard that you are a great master. How can you not help me?”
“Well,” the Buddha replied, “First of all, everyone has problems. In fact, everyone’s got about 83 problems. Of course, you may fix one now and then, but another one will pop up in it’s place. If you think about it, everyone you know and all that you care for is subject to change — it’s all impermanent. And you yourself are going to die someday. Now there’s a problem.”
The farmer was red in the face. “What kind of teacher are you!? How is this supposed to help me?!” he retorted.
“Well….perhaps I can help you with the 84th problem,” answered the Buddha.
“What 84th problem?” asked the farmer.
“You don’t want to have any problems.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Get out of the way: Be Vulnerable

This woman is incredible, because of this main point: she doesn't just look at the map, she hikes the trail.

Brene Brown is a Doctor of Psychology, and has spent 12 years studying shame and vulnerability while going through it all herself. She honors her breakdowns as "spiritual awakenings," and understands that failure is an essential and beautiful part of the process.

Her talk is interesting, and her perspective on being uncomfortable works well with yoga's ideas about being both strong and sweet.

Do yourself some good and take the 20 minutes to hear her:

Video here

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interview with Black Dog Yoga

For the month of August, I have been Black Dog Yoga's "teacher of the month." If you aren't local, or haven't had a chance to come in and take a free class with me during this time, here is a short interview they did on me and some of my influences on teaching.

BDY: What first inspired you to start practicing yoga?
NS: For years after my first class, I used a visualization I'd learned to help keep my mind in check. This is really what drew me to classes in college. I began a dedicated practice and started to experience how that kind of focus works during movement - I fell in love with it.

BDY: What are the three most important things yoga contributes to your life?
NS: A community of curious and kind-hearted people; sustainable wellness management and resiliency.

BDY: What's the most valuable thing you hope to impart to your students?
NS: We are each incredibly powerful, and as such, can manifest big ideas. If we pair this with social responsibility and a flexible spirit, big dreams can be achieved - even within our lifetime.

BDY: What's your favorite pose?
NS: Recently I've been really enjoying trikonasa because it gets into the TFL and gives me a lot of information about how my body is recovering from two car accidents I was in earlier this year.

BDY:  Favorite musician/band?
NS: I have many...for now let's go with Tool, James Blake and Aesop Rock.

BDY: Tell us about your last vacation.
NS: I traveled around Israel for most of June and saw a lot of the country, including the major tourist sites. There were many highlights... I spent an afternoon dancing with a group of Holocaust survivors through a group called Cafe Europa - the people I met were the picture of resiliency, it was incredible. Also, hiking Mt. Masada at sunrise to a 2,000 year-old fortress that looked out over 360 degrees of sandy desert and then hiking 1,300 feet below sea level by mid-morning to float in the Dead Sea.

BDY: What would you like to say to Black Dog students to invite them to take your class?
NS: I'm amazed, pretty regularly, about being human and how we work. I do my best to instill this same kind of interest in my students as they experience new things and thoughts on the mat.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Process over Product

"Non-Goal Orientation" is a phrase a dear friend of mine began using around this time 3 years ago, and it speaks to the reality of "process."

In writing this, I begin to think of all the times I have heard others and myself say something out of comparison, or rejection of the current state of things. We reject our current mentality because we desire a different one. We reject our physical health because we desire something we have seen elsewhere. We reject our circumstances because we want what someone else has. We are constantly looking outside. It is a difficult balance, to remain intact with the environment, with others who inhabit it and also move from a place of solidity at the center of ourselves.

To be goal-oriented is effective and helpful under many circumstances, like meeting deadlines and creating new habits of behavior. However, in regard to something like spirituality [the experience of self-realization], the process is the goal.

Alert: yogic paradox!

To "be good" at yoga is not to eat "healthier," , it is not to be able to touch your toes. Yes, these are reliable effects of the practice, but they are not the goal. You can even have goals (or intentions) within your yoga practice, like, "Today I will notice my wrist alignment in every vinyasa I take." But, if your entire orientation is toward wrist alignment, many other effects of the practice will go unnoticed.

The word 'yoga' has been translated to mean"to yoke," as in, "to join together." It is a verb and thus an active process and it suggests that there are separations that come together as an effect of it.

Last week, I had the luxury of taking a class from a colleague and student of Bryan Kest, who is one of the most well-known yoga teachers in the USA. Kest was one of the first [known] American students of Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga Yoga, and studied with him in Mysore, India when he was just 21 years old. I am grateful to live in Los Angeles, this hub of the yogic mainstream. Kest says this about practicing yoga,

"...Not craving and clinging, but accepting who we are and where we are at, instead of rejecting where we are at in a constant pursuit to get somewhere. Most people bring their craving and clinging mentality into the yoga class, and then the practice is polluted. In yoga class and maybe in life, let the practice be, "I am not trying to get anywhere, I am trying to make it OK to be where I am at" because I love myself and value my process!!"

What will shift in your practice if you enter into it with a non-goal orientation? Can you replace this compulsion to "cling" with a curious mind, with an alert attention to process?

Cheers and happy practicing!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

aMUSEing: Poetry for Israel

This poem was a reaction I had to the Children's Memorial at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this incredible museum, please do.

There are stories from this conflict that need to be heard. Survivors of the Holocaust who were 9 and 10 years old are reaching their 80's, and soon enough our children will not have them to hear these stories firsthand. Whether you were directly affected by the profound affects that WWII had on humanity, or have only ever heard stories, whether you are Jewish or not, there are stories within the walls of these memorials that will offer you something to reflect on.

Below is a poem entitled, "1.5 Million" and is a tribute to the 1.5 million children who were murdered during the mass enslavement under the Nazi Regime during WWII.


1.5 million children
entire bodies
the universe
tiny lights that
cripple the largest ideas
visceral yet untouched
remembered yet unseen.
one moment to conceive,
a lifetime to reflect
on a tiny body of light,
resting among millions
freckling the universal landscape
reflecting a moment of life
bursting with energy among a blanket
of darkness

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Student Story Time

On the 11.5 hour flight from Los Angeles to Moscow, one of the people I was traveling to Israel with asked me how to stay relaxed during the flight. I gave him a breathing exercise to try that included extending his exhales a bit longer than his inhales. He gave it a few rounds and then let it go, finding it pretty difficult to keep his exhales out.

About a month later, we were both back in LA and I invited him to take one of my public classes. To my surprise, he came. He came to a few other classes after that, too. After his second class, I asked him what he thought about yoga, and joking goaded him, "you love it, don't you?" He responded with, "...I don't know if I like it yet. I can't tell." He explained that he used to run track and didn't get "the whole breathing thing." He agreed to try one more class, so I took him to one that was more advanced than he was ready for. This class, he said, was more challenging than the first two, but he "liked the challenge."

A week after that conversation, I received a text from him saying that he had a "breathing epiphany," that he needed to share with me: The night before he had been drinking and started to get the spins, so he laid down. When he realized his heart rate was beating rapidly, he held his exhales and in a few moments, he had, "cured the spins."

It is always fun to hear about how the techniques we use in the classroom are found to be useful outside of it.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Celebrating the Subtle: Divine is in the Details

On my last day in Israel, I was at a 2-story commercial shopping mall with a few Israeli friends. My friend Adi suggested that I check out a store called Zara because, "every Israeli girl has at least one thing from there." I took her word for it, and in the end, bought an outfit. As I took my bag and we made our way out of the store, she said something to me in Hebrew which I hadn't heard yet. At this point, I'd been in Israel for about 3 weeks and was able to decipher basic conversational phrases, but this one was new.

She asked me what Americans say when someone buys something. I must have stared blankly at her, because she repeated the question again. "Um...we don't say anything to each other," I replied. I suppose this statement says it all...

In her tradition (she is Jewish Israeli), when someone buys something - clothes, a special gift, stuff for the house, etc.- they will say to that person, "tithadshi" in Hebrew which doesn't exactly translate to our English language, but this is like saying, "congratulations on your new thing."

This was so rich to me! What a rich culture! Israel isn't exactly a capitalist country, and given it's dense history of being thwarted geo-politically, economically and culturally, the citizens aren't all together wealthy. But they honor what they have, and they have traditions to keep this idea alive in the current generation.

I remember learning a traditional African welcome song from my drumming teacher who was native to Papau-New Guinea, Africa. He told me that in his country, they have a blessing for everything - even when someone spills water on the ground, it is seen as an offering to those who've died.

What if instead of cringing at the thought of waking up at 7am to take a new yoga class, or clenching your teeth in that hamstring stretch, we saw these things as opportunities in being alive?

What if the next time you come to class and find a sub in place of your favorite teacher, you celebrate the chance to explore your practice under a different lens, with a different tour guide? What if even our loses are offerings?

What would your day feel like, if everything you experienced was something to be congratulated about?

Mazol tov!

 and Namaste.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vision: What are you bringing into the future?

Try this:

Write out what your life will look like. Get specific - qualities of the people in it, your attitudes, how you look, what you wear, what other people look and feel like, the kind of work you do, how you spend your time, what you spend your money on, how much you travel and commute, the kind of conversations you have with other people... Stop when you find that you've got the vision in your mind summed up well.

The next day, reread what you wrote from day 1 and this time, walk yourself through all of the events that would need to happen to make that vision happen - no holds barred, no such thing as an impossible feat. This time, write out the actions you saw yourself taking to get there.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Intention: A Dialogue with the Divine

It's been a solid month since my last post and I am excited to report that this hiatus was a consequence of some very exciting globe trotting! I spent the better part of June trekking around the great country of Israel - touring, learning, laughing, being in community and teaching yoga to new friends.

While there, I was privileged to experience the holiest day of the Judaic week, Shabaat, at the holiest site on the planet,  the Western Wall in Jerusalem. We arrived at sunset, walking across the city, through the great stone gates that led to the interior Old City of Jerusalem where I was met by an uproar of voices. As I descended a broad stone stairwell that led to the main floor where crowds congregated in modest clothing and head coverings. As I scanned the panorama of ancient architecture among sunset backdrop, I witnessed a few thousand people gathered in two seas split by a thin partition - men to the left and women to the right. There was so much movement! I stood in a kind of surreal awe at this mass of people in prayer of all kinds - dancing, singing, swaying, reading holy texts, repeating scripture, standing in silence, crying. (This remains an ineffable moment for me, but I'm doing my best to illustrate some sense of it for you here.)

Standing among thousands of people in their most sacred space, listening to the clamor of individual prayers coming together in waves of sound, I started to unravel the yogic idea of intention, and it's power. 

Without hesitation, I will tell you that I am not a religious person and I do not pray. That being said, I understand the desire to have a dialogue with something great and, albeit, divinely more "put together" than myself. I get that prayer is like intention, with a religious twist.

When I make an intention, I am creating a dialogue with myself in order to realize a more integrated version of who I am, my practice, or some other aspect of my life. Focusing awareness to draw up an idea or vision of what we want to see in our lives allows our quieter parts a chance to tune in to this idea, grasp it, and begin to create it.

Standing within the walls of a city that's been revered for it's holy antiquity and fought over for centuries, I felt at home with this sense of reverie and conviction. Often, I am beside myself as I learn how the body works as an integrated system, and that I am consciously aware of this inner working. The kotel symbolizes for the Jewish people the last tangible structure of their most significant house of god, their temple. They stand before it in honor, in worship and on Shabaat, in prayer.

It is commonplace for a person to come to the kotel  with a small piece of paper inked with a prayer. They press these notes inside cracks in the wall as a way to communicate directly with god. People come to this place from all over the planet, to dialogue with their holiest and most sacred.

As I walked through the stone corridors that led the way to my hostel, the echoes of mass prayer trailed behind in a blurry kind of bass. During very quiet moments, I feel this kind of reverberation in my own body, in the chambers of my throat as I chant and within the walls of my lungs as I breath. Inside of me their is a city whose people are reverent and history, antiquated -like Jerusalem.

Take the Brain Out: How Hip-Hop is like Yoga

I love hip-hop. Not the trash on pop-radio, not Kanye West or any rapper whose subject matter is money or women, and definitely not the stuff that's played in clubs. I love real Hip-hop - drum machines, stabby guitar lines, samples, scratching, intelligent lyricism, word play, cross references, subtext, collaborations.

KRS One, who to many is considered the father of hip-hop, defines the genre as "more than music," and challenges that it's a philosophy as well as a lifestyle. In his track "Hip Hop Lives ft. Marley Marl," he explains that, "hip is the knowledge/hop is the movement/hip and hop is intelligent movement or relevant movement."

Hip-hop is's vinyasa. It's a philosophy that encourages mindfulness, of staying relevant and moment-specific, of speaking from the heart to communicate clearly, of moving with meaning and standing for a cause. Like yoga, hip-hop culture demands participation, self-actualization, creativity and respect.

Friday night I had the luxury of seeing one of my favorite hip-hop artists at the El Rey Theatre in Hollywood. I've followed Aesop Rock for over 10 years, have loved every one of his albums, and his newest is no exception. His wordsmithery is impressive and calls into question the vernacular finesse and diction of so many of his peers.

Aesop Rock released his first album in over 5 years a few days before I saw him at the El Rey. One of his tracks off the new album, entitled "Homemade Mummy," instructs listeners how to mummify your cat. Give it a go and you may hear what I did - a deeply yogic subtext paired with a verse that educates.

"Take the brain out/keep the heart in..."


p.s. if you're not into hip-hop but are open enough to check out the link above, keep this in mind: I love this guy because he challenges your listening skills. Like a busy brain in a yoga class, tune in and listen. Adjust as needed. Repeat.

Friday, June 8, 2012

aMUSEing: the Buddha

I've been working with this saying for a few weeks's to those who need to hear it's message, also.

Be well,

"You can search the whole universe looking for someone more deserving of your Love and Affection than yourself, and you will not find that person anywhere."

                                            - Buddha

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Discipline to Show Up

I was born 26 years and 26 days ago. Maybe it's the waves of change that have salted the water of my life recently, but this year seems especially celebratory for me. This got me thinking about what has happened to get me here, 26 revolutions around the sun, and very grateful for each one.

It takes about 274 days to grow a human that can very likely survive outside of another person. Note the always exciting feat of birthing this little being - the hours of labor, any post-operatives for baby or mother, etcetera.

In the first few moments of life post-utero, we arrive, charged with the incredible work of taking our first breath. If this doesn't sounds that noteworthy, consider that we basically have to suck air into a dense, fluid filled cavity that is locked shut with the force of hydraulic pressure, through a passage not much bigger than a  coffee-stirring straw...

Approximately 25 million air sacs are contained in a newborn's lungs, all designed to help extract oxygen from the environment in order to fuel so many processes in the body.

This is remarkable and stupefying at once. To consider that at some point in a past that we probably cannot remember, we chose to go through this be born, to exist just mind blowing, unfathomable, too abstract to adequately conceptualize, and maybe even a trigger for skepticism.

I [and you] grew for the better part of a year, the same amount of time it takes to travel millions and millions of miles around the Sun [which is millions and millions times larger than our entire planet]. We breathe, we live, we relate, we change shape. It's remarkable and not always easy.

Sometimes the hardest part of a yoga class is just getting there, of dragging yourself off the couch, out of the warm snug of a lover, away from the interwebs, whatever. Sometimes it's just hard to show up. Sometimes it's easier to finish a to-do list then sit and meditate on the sound of your own breath. Sometimes the hardest part is showing up...but the silver lining is that the really hard part is already over. We've taken the most difficult breath already. All the rest are automatic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Do You Hold Yourself?

Since my last post, Earth Day and my Birth day have passed, along with several other exciting things. First, I was accepted into the 300 hour teacher training at Black Dog Yoga. This means that in about 1 year I will be a certified 500 hour Registered Yoga Teacher!!! Following this, I began the first step (of many) on this journey 3 days ago, participating in a workshop lead by my mentor, Sigrid Matthews [].

Here is some of what I am dissolving from these last few weeks: How do I hold myself? Where do I hold too much? How do I stand in my life, on the Earth, in my body?

Taking from the incredibly precise and concise teaching of my mentor, I have been talking a lot about core alignment in my classes. Specifically, how to connect the abdomen to the rest of the body. "Drop your mid-spine into the floor," while students are on their backs, "move your frontal hip points toward your low ribs," "draw your belly button toward your spine as you exhale," etc. We experienced this a step further in the headstand workshop this past weekend, where Sigrid talked about "suspender abdominals." Simply put, we are closing the ribs, engaging our deepest abdominal muscles, and breathing like a yogi.

It is simple, but not necessarily easy.

I instructed these same cues tonight in a Gentle class where students stay on their backs or bellies the duration of the practice. Several of the students spoke with me after about how much work it is to keep the core connected! It's really true. Even though the body isn't moving in a gross or high-impact way, there is a lot of conditioning and alignment happening on subtle levels. As one student said, "You always feel it the next day."

It is interesting to see how these principles translate across planes, like when you move from your back [where it is easiest to feel your spine grounding], to standing [where you are moving against space]. More often than not, the body will lose the structure over a shorter period of time. Sit up tall where you are right now, and notice how much time passes before you are slouching your shoulders or leaning forward with your chin. What is supporting you? Where do you need more support?

In our yoga practice, we move from the core and aim to clarify this in all of our movements. In our daily life, we also move from a center point; a point of view that supports a belief, an attitude that supports a point of view, a pattern that holds us in a particular shape. Do these things support your neutrality? Do they support your most optimized state of being?

Here recently, I am asking myself all of these questions and not always coming up with solutions. At least I know that much of this will become clear as I continue to practice.

Cheers to studentship!

Monday, April 16, 2012

To Be Broken and Yoga at Once

In spite of Spring just starting, I find that many things are ending. It seems like nearly everyone I have a real conversation with is going through something that has startled their status quo...I've experienced or heard stories of losing loved ones, ending significant relationships, job loss, falling sick or injured. In the same way, new shifts are taking place that are also upsetting equilibrium.

In yoga, we are always talking about opposing forces, recognizing how they create a pulse of juxtaposition, honoring that the imbalance is necessary for the creation of symmetry, respecting the process...there is so much going on at once, on varying levels, and it is easy to get caught up in duality - this or that, etc. Aum offers us a lesson that there is more than just beginning and end, there is also middle and transition. There is process.

The Sanskrit word aum is a three part syllable which is said to encompass every sound in the universe. Each syllable symbolizes a stage in the process of being - beginning, middle, end (there is even a 4th part, the silence afterwards!) Take any moment in your life, take any pose in your practice, and it will fit into aum.

While so many aspects of our lives are coming to clear and seemingly final halts, let's take a moment to look quietly and sense the silence afterwards, to sense what is settling and splitting apart, and to also notice that gray area of transition which is always followed by a new beginning.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Trauma, Loss and Heart Opening

Yesterday a friend of mine came over for dinner after just coming back in town from a funeral. She lost a family member last week in a bizarre and tragic way and shared with me a bit of her experience. While she talked with me, her hand held the space on top of her heart and she mentioned a few times that she could feel her heart aching, like a pain that resonated straight back and between her ribs.

I shared with her that across cultures, when human beings experience a great loss, their body literally curls inward, perhaps as a way to protect the heart from more trauma. The tops of the shoulders and the collarbones fold in towards one another, the upper back rounds and the center of the chest sinks inward toward the back ribs. I explained to her that when people experience a great achievement, their body will move the other way - the shoulders open apart and back and the center of the chest lifts up.

When my friend held her chest at another point in our conversation, she said, "I feel like my heart is literally trying to break open and get bigger to take this all in,"

In the last two months, I have experienced waves of loss that has left no part of my life untouched. And often during this time, I've had exchanges with people, sometimes strangers, who tell me of a sudden loss in their lives as well and sometimes in the same conversation, there is a recognition that there is also an opening or an opportunity somewhere else...and this reminds me that loss and growth happen symbiotically. Just like the breath, when you lose space on the exhale, it makes room for expansion on the inhale.

I'm reminded of the sanskrit word for the heart chakra, anahata, which means "unstruck," or "unbeaten." My teacher explained this to me once as our hearts being like a beautiful emerald stone, strong and solid and completely unscratched. She explained that regardless of what kind of trauma we endure in our lives, no matter the heart ache, the loss, the suffering we experience or cause in our lives, within all of it there is at least one space that goes unbent, unmarred, unaffected by the friction of our lives, that there is one space inside each of us that goes untouched by the pain and the worry and the weight of our human experience.

Tonight I am moving my heart-space open in spite of the loss I feel, and the heaviness of that on my shoulders and head. There is a piece of me that remains intact, unharmed, beautifully okay. So tonight I will breathe into that space, trusting that the weight of life that I am more aware of right now will grow lighter and become easier to breath through.

aMUSEing: a poem


And here's one of the troubles:
keeping so busy inside and out
that we define ourselves by the known,
the too well known,
the what-we-think-we-know known,
the misperceptions,
the misapprehensions,
the clever enunciations,
intelligent articulations,
a crisscross of wires
so thick
that no light shows through.
That's the trouble.
Becoming as dense as a traffic jam,
so the wind can't blow through.
No wonder God laughs
when we complain we can't
hear him.

~ Alice Klein

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Leg Work [of Shoulder Work]

This past week, my classes have revolved around the same theme - that yoga offers us an opportunity to learn (and observe) how we can support ourselves through challenging and strenuous experiences.

Hatha yoga is all about the experience. I feel that people who are drawn to this leg of yoga are drawn in part because they need the visceral effect in order to have a shift in perspective. To help facilitate this, I've been working up to a variation on the plank -chatarunga dandasana-bhujangasana sequence, focusing on alignment in the upper back and shoulders. Especially challenging for women because we lack an upper body strength privy to men, this sequence clearly demonstrates how empowering it can be to find support against the weight of gravity. When we are standing (mostly) on our hands, it's easy to feel how much weight we carry in ourselves, and what a relief it can be once we learn how to support it properly.

What I've been seeing is that many people 1.) forget to breathe 2.) don't go forward far enough because they believe they'll face-plant on their way down or 3.) both.

Here's the thing: we need breath to support the physical body and we need to move forward in order to move through challenging things.

This quote comes to mind from Rainer Maria Rilke in "Letters to a Young Poet," where he is speaking about being alone on a difficult journey:

" And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that you want to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult..."

It is fascinating for me to watch this take shape for my students, and to hear their long time student of yoga told me this past weekend that of all the times she has done these poses, she didn't know that she could feel better in them. What an opening for her!

How many times do we find ourselves in an experience (a conversation, a circumstance) that we have been in many times before, and sense that it can be more simple, that it can feel better, that we can breathe easier if we knew how to do something differently?

May we all trust to move forward in our journey, and do the difficult work of learning how to support ourselves.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On the Yoga Mat: Find New Limits

A regular yoga practice lends itself to a lot of newfound self-knowledge [svadyaya]. As a first time student once told me after she had finished class, “It made me aware of all these parts of my body I don’t use enough, and the ones I use too much.” What you do with this knowledge is up to you! If you apply it to an observance of "santosha" [honesty] and "tapas" [perseverance], an ever-evolving practice of self-discovery and enhancement will unfold for you! I think this is one of the most alluring and exciting parts of being a yogi.

We show up to the mat with the knowledge that the work we set out to do is life-enhancing for ourselves and as a model for others. Then, we study. We breathe and we move and we open and we release, and we make room to let our limits be revealed. As we move from a place of honest observation, we see where we are on the physical and mental planes of our practice.

An obvious benefit to a regular yoga practice is an increased cardiovascular endurance as we train our bodies to breathe more completely. Yoga teaches to accept current limits and understand them so that we may move beyond them. This discovery can happen in our posture where we explore how to come into a handstand or back-bend safety, and may happen in our attitude when we discover how it is to maintain composure in gridlock traffic.

Regardless of how long you have been practicing yoga asana [postures] or pranayama [breath exercises], there are always limits to explore and expand. The poses we hold on the mat train us for the poses and positions we find off the mat. It is our beautiful challenge to move through each of them with the honesty, the perseverance and the self-love that permits us to do so graciously.

In the words of Oliver Holmes " A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to it's old dimensions."

Have a beautiful week, readers!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Take a Look at Your Sole

I've been going to a chiropractor for a few weeks now and have discovered some completely new information about my body and how I hold it in space.

Today, during my chiropractic appointment, my doctor tells me that my right foot tends to pronate, or hold my weight more on one edge rather than an even distribution across the 3 major points of the foot [namely, the mound of the big toe, mound of the pinkie toe and center of the heel - creates a triangle] I have the unhealthy habit of wearing [cute] ballet flats which have no way of supporting or enhancing my standing and walking habits. He could tell by the wear on the sole of my shoe that I was a pronator! As I did some research online, I found that I actually "underpronate," which causes stress on the lower leg...maybe the reason I used to get shin splints?... I don't know :)

So in yoga, [think Mountain pose] it is essential to bring the physical body to neutral, and do our best to bring our mental focus to neutral. When we do this, we communicate to the nervous system that we are safe and can begin to restore and repair on both planes. From this place of neutrality, we can then begin to condition specific aspects of the mind-body that we know [through self-study] are our challenge.

Take a look at the link above for some interesting self-study. I'm not really promoting self-diagnosis here, but maybe the information will lead you to discover a small detail worth considering next time you step on your mat, or buy a pair of shoes.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Athletes Need Yoga

Many people who grew up playing sports were taught stretching and exercise routines that are harmful to the body and philosophies that may actually create barriers for success. Yoga is a holistic physical practice, meaning that the practice restores and optimizes the entire human system (including the bones, ligaments, joints, muscles, mind)in a complimentary fashion.

Often, athletes are coached to value winning, competition and physical pain which can result in long term injury or overuse. In fact, yoga can rehabilitate many of the effects of an old injury through its dynamic movements and focus on undoing physical and mental blockages.

Also, there is no “yoga body” - the physical practice enhances the individual frame and composition, so there’s no prototype to strive for on the physical level. Yoga teaches from a place of non-injury, and values self-study as a way to prevent damage and pain, so that each person who practices yoga develops their own individual pace for advancement.

There is nothing to win in yoga, even though the benefits of the practice feel like a reward.

Breathe on!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A reason 2012 needs Yoga

Overcome Electronic Overload -

Texting, web surfing, gaming, blogging, streaming and sitting put a lot of repetitive wear-and-tear on our spine, wrists, fingers and eyes. Practicing yoga not only gives you the experience of being aligned in your body, but also enhances your self-awareness, so when you are squinting, hunched over your keyboard taking shallow breath after shallow breath, a moment may come where you realize you need to sit up straight and breathe deeper.

Take a break from the sedentary routine of being on the computer and help yourself undo much of the mindless misalignment we do while checking our Facebook page.

Try these while you wait for the Hulu commercial to end:

Bound Angle Pose
Extended Leg Squat
Extended Supine Hand to Toe Pose
Wide Legged Forward Bend

In Joy!!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Ever seen an angry buddha statue?

Recently I've been challenged by a flow of emotions that have been difficult to keep breathing through with a clean consciousness. At one point, I even asked my teacher how to deal with anger because i feel "out of yoga," when I'm like this. She responded with the idea that our practice is not meant to take us out of our life, it is meant to put us into it with a presence that serves us to experience it with ease.

This idea really resonates with me...unlike other coping mechanisms [drugs, exercise, sex, drama, entertainment, food, shopping], yoga does not offer an escape from reality. Yoga offers an opportunity to remove the tangles of untruth and distraction so that we may get to the root cause of why we want to escape altogether. Yoga demands that we let go of the stories we tell ourselves, to drop the judgements and assumptions and expectations. The practice requires that we leave all of this and instead exercise thinking patterns and physical habits that actual support our nature.

A few nights ago an old high school friend had a layover in LA, so he and another old high school friend who lives in LA met me for dinner. As we sat and caught up about the last few years, I recognized that we were each at very distinct parts of life. One was beginning a new career and ending a serious relationship; another maintaining a career while raising 2 children; and the other adjusting to living in a new city with only a small network of people to rely on for support, ready to travel the world alone and without commitment. Inclusive of this variety, there we were laughing about old memories as if we were 16 again.

Somehow this kind of variety coexists with an ease that can be enjoyed without distaste at the dinner table. So this leads me to think that the same must be true within the individual - that I can be at different stages of process with regard to several aspects of being and still be in my yoga . For example, how often do we find ourselves enduring the end of an important relationship while maintaining a stable career and continuing to challenge ourselves in our fitness?

So I guess my reason for writing about my recent challenge is this: When you get into the study of yoga principles, it's easy to create this inflated image of what it means to be "a yogi," and to then battle with yourself about your progress toward becoming that image. Yoga, while it explains a process which leads to a state of "enlightenment" and "inner peace," in every step also conveys a message that being yoga is not about being perfectly joyous forever. Yoga itself is a process that unravels many aspects of ourselves as we open up to it.

cheers to the continuum of emotions that we are challenged and gifted with!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teaching Schedule Update

SUNDAY: Aeriform Arts 8:30 am-9:45 am Foundations
Black Dog Yoga 1:30-3 pm Yoga for Beginners

MONDAY: Aeriform Arts 8:30 am-9:45 am Foundations

TUESDAY: Aeriform Arts 8:30 am-9:45 am Foundations

WEDNESDAY:Extreme Fitness 10-11 am Foundations

FRIDAY: Aeriform Arts 8:30 am-9:45 am Foundations

SATURDAY: Black Dog Yoga 3 pm-4:25 pm Basics

Check out the studios here: ; ;