Unattach and Be Free

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Last week, we had our town vote. The next morning, as I was removing some of the posters that had been hung up around town, I began to feel lighter.  With that behind me, I started to think about my message for the week and it became very clear to me. Non-Attachment. See, the bond had passed which was great, but it was a close vote. And one of the reasons it was close was because the waters had become clouded with confusing and conflicting information. I had a choice to make, do I cultivate negative attachment to those “cloudy” messages or do I free myself of all of it and let it go.

I looked at Patanjali’s Sutras to remind myself of his explanation of Non-Attachment. Non-Attachment is to free the mind of clutter or perhaps “cloudy” messages, so it is possible to instead find focus in what is happening in the moment. Vairagya, which means Non-Attachment literally translates as “colorless”. Each desire brings its own color to the mind. When the color comes to the mind, a distraction in the mind occurs and there is not space for peace and focus. A restless mind cannot have a steady practice.

So I asked my classes last week to connect to Non-Attachment both on the mat and off.   To start, they were to think about a pose that they have become attached to on their mats, either one they always needed or wanted to do or one that seemed to elude them. Once they identified that, I asked them to make their practice about surrendering that attachment. Then I also asked them to identify something off the mat that they were “attached” to that was not serving them, perhaps an event or emotion or past experience that they would be happier and lighter to release attachment from.

These classes were an opportunity for me to share my past attachment on my mat as well, a pose that I had struggled with and wished for when I first became a yoga teacher. It was Mayurasana (Peacock pose, pictured above). I shared with them that the pose only found me once I surrendered my attachment to mastering it. It is funny how the universe works. Sometimes the things we covet and wish for so much, allude us until we can surrender the need for them.

After warming up with Sun Salutes we began to build up to our peak pose, Mayurasana.  We connected to the core and pelvic floor (bandhas) through abdominal warm up, Bakasana and Malasana squats. We discovered our opportunity for balancing using Uttita Hasta Padangustasana and Warrior Three and we stretched and prepared the wrists by moving the hands in all different directions in our Standing Splits and forward bends.

And then it was time. Time to break apart Mayurasana and try it step by step. I reminded my students that this process, this slow building up, actually wasn’t about achieving Mayurasana …but rather the practice of surrendering the need to achieve it, to create a non-attachment to the end result and allow us to appreciate the journey to get there.

Off the mat, in my case, once I was able to surrender the end result of our town vote…both the good and the not as good parts of it….I was able to appreciate the journey of it all. I felt empowered, happy and light knowing that my intentions were true and that I was able to work with people that I truly respected. The end became less important as I remembered the journey to get there. So, of course just as I was happy the vote went the way I wanted, so were the few students who achieved Mayurasana last week for the first time.  However, I reminded them that perhaps Mayurasana found them as it had me, because we weren’t coveting it. When we judge ourselves harshly or have envy in our hearts, our true needs are not fulfilled. Once we let go of attachments, we then have clarity and space for enlightenment to come, and maybe that ever elusive pose as well.

As Savasana came and  I watched my students begin to move their practice off the mat by connecting to the opportunity to non-attach to what was not serving them in their lives, I found the opportunity to do the same. The practice of Non-Attachment is just that, a practice, the more we explore it, the freer we become. In addition, it is a journey…one I am grateful to be on. Namaste.


Be Grateful

gratitude Last week, I was riding the commuter train from my home to NYC. I was reading emails and my mind began to wander to what my inspiration for the week was going to be. It hadn’t come to me yet and I was teaching the next three days. Just as I began to go over my week in my mind, looking for a glimmer of inspiration, I lifted my head from looking at my phone to instead gaze out the window.

I am fortunate to live right near the Hudson River and the train runs along it so I usually sit on the River side of the train to enjoy the view.  But this day, for no clear reason, as the train was pretty empty; I sat on the other side of the train car. At the exact moment I looked up and out the window, in my direct view was a billboard that just said 1 word, GRATITUDE. Sometimes, I have to look deeply for my message but not this week. It was right there in front of me.

On my way home, I sat on that same side of the train so I could snap a picture of this inspirational billboard. I kept wondering why it was there. There was no logo, it didn’t appear to be selling a thing…just the word GRATITUDE. So, I did what any Yogi would do, I googled “GRATITUDE billboard Bronx NY” and I got my answer. This billboard was the work of  a New York Artist named Peter Tunney. He had noticed many unused billboards around NY and decided that he wanted to create inspirational messages to help balance out all of the negative messages we are receiving every day through various media channels. So, he approached owners of unsold billboards and asked if he could display his messages. On that train ride, that day, that message was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you Peter Tunney

So, on our mats we practiced the simple inspirational message of gratitude last week. Very basic, very focused and very positive.  As we began our practice in Savasana as we often do, I asked my students to connect with the Gratitude of just being on their mats that day and as we wrapped the arms and legs into Eagle pose on our backs to begin the abdominal warm up I asked them to be grateful that their elbows bend, regardless of how much.

From there we moved into our Sun Salutes. Suynamaskara A and B are always times for me to connect to Gratitude;  Gratitude for what is already available but also Gratitude for what will become available as the body warms and loosens. We used Eagle arms quite a bit in our practice, first reclined then later in Warrior and then the full Eagle Pose in our balancing series. Whenever I am teaching a Gratitude message, I like to come back to a pose several times throughout the practice because it allows us to cultivate Gratitude for a little more space or a little more focus or a little more breath/movement connection…there is so much to be grateful for.

As we again went deeper using bound Parsvokonasana with a transition to bound lizard, I asked my students to notice the difference from one side to the next. See, we can always find fault with one side…this is my tight side etc., but I asked them instead to find Gratitude for the more open side. It’s a simple change in perspective..focusing on what is available, instead of what is not.

The key to all of this off the mat is finding Gratitude not just in the big things but in the small gifts as well;  like sitting on the other side of the train that day so as to see Peter Tunney’s beautiful message, or the little things our bodies offer us each day.

In the last two weeks, I have learned of two different women who had fallen in ways that could happen to any of us. In each of these cases, tragically, they had broken their necks and are paralyzed. One moment all was normal and the next everything changed…forever. As I tied this back to our simple message of Gratitude to my students, I asked them to be grateful for whatever their bodies could do. Be grateful for the bind on one side even if it wasn’t available on the other, be grateful to be able to stand tall in Tadasana (mountain pose) and to lengthen in Downward Dog.  And to also be grateful for the everyday inspiration that is sometimes subtle and sometimes calling to you on a Billboard.

Moving into Savasana, slowly and mindfully I asked them to begin to move that Gratitude off the mat. Be grateful for the little things and the big things, the everyday things and the AHA moments. just BE GRATEFUL. Namaste.

Make the Choice for Conscious Action



I went to my daughter’s back to school night a couple of weeks ago. Her school is very focused on character education and one of the tenants mentioned caught my attention. It was a question, When is inaction, action? I spent a bit of time pondering this concept and its different interpretations both on the mat and off. There are a couple ways to interpret this and use it on the mat and they are both powerful.

Last week I had a complicated task for my students. I asked them to really listen to their bodies. Sometimes on our mats, we hold poses for quite a while. The instructor dictates how many breathes and we allow ourselves to be led in that fashion. However, by not releasing when we need to…inaction, we could be creating a negative action; not listening to the body. Forcing, holding or going past our edge, can result in injury…an action that we would not want.

As we began to warm up the core on our backs and transitioned slowly into our opening Sun Salutes, I reminded my students of this powerful concept.  I asked the students to work at the pace that was right for them, to make deliberate actions both in their bodies and minds. We added reverse Vinyasas in between each sequence as a way to practice this concept further. When we come out of our comfort zone, move in a way that is different, it sometimes becomes easier to listen to the body; to not just do what we always do even if it doesn’t serve us.

I offered Childs pose several times during this practice as an invitation to experience how conscious inaction could create a positive action. When we rest, we revitalize and create a positive action through inaction. Pigeon worked in much the same way. As we settled deeply into Pigeon pose I asked the students to breathe intentionally and through that breath to focus the mind and channel energy into their hips. From the outside this could look like inaction…stillness….. but there was so much action happening. Tightness and stress was being released and lightness and space was being found…an incredible action from “inaction”.

Off the mat, this question has a different answer. At my daughter’s school they are working to empower kids to stand up for what they believe in and to feel accountable if they witness hurtful behavior and do not take any action. I have been working with this concept in my own life as well recently as I have been part of a  group of people who are trying to inspire and motivate a town to turn up to the polls tomorrow to vote.

By not voting…inaction…. one may be creating a negative action. I have written and talked about this concept in my off-the-mat life several times. I call it the “those people” concept. Sometimes we have the tendency by our inaction, to leave decisions in “those other people who might know better’s”  hands. By not taking action or making a choice we are empowering others to decide for us. Sometimes that inaction works out just fine, but we have to remember that regardless; through that choice to not act (inaction), an action is happening…and it may not be the one that best serves us.

As we slowed down in Bridge Pose and then spinal twisting on our backs, I asked my students to start to transition what we had practiced on the mat into an off-the-mat application. We had explored this concept two different ways on our mats; Firstly, how NOT listening to the body by coming out or modifying (inaction) could cause a negative action (injury) and Secondly, how what may appear as inaction (childs pose or pigeon pose) can actually create a very positive action.

Off the mat, there is only one interpretation. So as they settled into the final rest…perhaps the ultimate display of inaction…..I asked them to use the time for action. To dedicate those few moments to creating a positive action off the mat. As they wiggled their fingers and toes and rolled to their right sides in preparation for our final seated moment together, I felt an active calmness in the room. I felt a wave of gratitude for how fortunate we all are to have the opportunity to Consciously Choose Our Actions Both ON and OFF the MAT. Namaste


Positive Energy can Change the World



This past Sept 11th snuck up on me. When I turned on the news that morning, I wasn’t prepared.  I was watching the coverage from ground zero as my 10 year old daughter was getting ready for school and she looked over at me just as a tear rolled down my face. She asked me why I was crying and I told her honestly that this day, 13 years ago was the day when everything changed, when we no longer felt invincible in this country anymore. There was a fear that came to all of us that day that has never left.

Then later that same day, I had the pleasure of attending a training with Seane Corn. Seane talked a lot about energy, how real and palpable it is and how collective energy can be channeled and felt. Fear is a real emotion and when we feel fear, that is what we are sending out into the world for other people to experience. Cultivating a collective energy of love and peace, (not fear) and sending THAT out into the universe is a service we can all provide as human beings in contributing to the greater good.The collective energy of grief can be felt on days like 9/11. When we do something to make the situation better in some way, it is a chance to make peace with the hopelessness and the helplessness. Seane calls this prayer and I tend to agree.

Clearly I had a lot to inspire me  as I crafted my class for 9/11. I knew I wanted to explore the hips, where some of our deepest fear and emotions live. I asked my students to practice creating this collective positive loving energy on their mats and direct it to a person or a situation that touched them near or far away. As we began to breathe in unison through Suynamaskaras A and B, the unity of energy began to be palpable in the room. I felt the students begin to let go of some of their fear, fear of failure, fear of taking a break and even some fears they may have been grappling with off the mat. We went deep into the shoulders with binding and Gomukasana arms to help us release the fear we could have been storing there, with the hope that with space, comes love and the continual building of this powerful collective energy.

As we moved deeper into the practice and stripped away the pretense and fear, the mood in the room lightened. The positive energy continued to be strong and we started to laugh, to be light. Once we had released the grief and the fear, we could find happiness, joy and love (both on our mats and off) for ourselves and for the world around us. We went deeper into binds and arm balanced from there and then came into deeper hip openers. In Pigeon and then Gomukasana, I asked the students to connect to what they were feeling in their bodies and what emotions came up for them. To accept what is there, not to judge it. To let it go if it wasn’t serving them and create positive energy in it’s place. Back bending and more hip opening on their backs cultivated a reconnection to the earth.

As the students moved into Savasana, the air felt heavy, it had a sound almost….a buzzing, and as I walked around the room adjusting everyone, I could feel the energy coming off their bodies and I knew we had achieved our intention.

On a day of grief for all of us, we acknowledged it, we let it go and we cultivated a collective energy of love and peace and sent that out into the world. Seane says she doesn’t know if this collective positive energy can change the world. What she does know is  how damaging negative energy is and can be.

On Sept 11th of all days, in a yoga studio less than 20 miles from ground zero, I became convinced that positive energy can in fact change the world. I  believe that we can be of service to ourselves, our communities and our world when we create this collective positive energy, in our yoga practice and in our lives. We have the power. Namaste.


Walk your Talk



Today I have been challenged to walk my talk. In my life, as in all of ours I have many worlds. I am a mother, a wife, a Yoga Teacher and I also happen to be PTSA Co-President for my children’s school this year. I just opened our local newspaper to find a very personal attack on me from someone I do not know, who happens to be a man of faith, and who does not even live in our town.

My first instinct (as a human) was to want to defend myself. My heart began to beat furiously and my face flushed and then I began to breathe. I started to think about the other parts of me, the mother, the wife and mostly the Yoga teacher. See, ironically my theme for this week in my classes has been about Karma. Very simply, “How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours”. Karma is an amazing thing. We get to just worry about ourselves when we live Karmically. The Sage, Vashistasana summarized the deepest truth about karma by saying “There is no power on earth greater than the right action in the present moment” 

The law of Karma says that as long as we continue to take the right action in the present moment, that we do not need to personally be responsible for anyone else. The universe is always offering back to you whatever it is you put out there. So, for instance, should someone put negative energy out into the world, then that is exactly what they will receive back. It is not our responsibility to take care of anyone else’s Karma (to “get them back”).  The universe does it for us. All we need to do is have confidence and faith in our own actions. I take comfort with the knowledge that I do.

As a spiritual person I understand the power of positivity and truthfulness. I understand that offering information is all we can do and it is each our individual choice to accept the information or to not. I understand that through the breath and the movement both on the mat and off that I am living my positive karma each day. I feel only a sense of sadness for those who do not.

I know I have departed from my usual style this week in my post but I felt there was a clear opportunity to Walk my Talk. As I settled the mind, found my breath and realized that I knew what the right action was in this present moment, I sat at my computer. And these words came out. I feel such a sense of gratitude for the wisdom this practice provides and the opportunity to be an example of positive karmic living in ALL my worlds. Namaste.

What we have on and off our mats is More than Enough


I caught a short video the other day that truly inspired me.  It shows a young man approaching a few different people who were eating at the airport.  He was cleanly dressed and spoke respectfully and asked if they could spare some food as he was hungry. No one felt they had enough to share. That was not surprising, but then they took their video crew out to the beach where several homeless men we sleeping. The filmmakers approached three different men and offered them some extra food and in one case, $10. Then they continued filming as the same young man from earlier in the video approached and asked if they had anything to spare.  In each case the homeless person shared what they had just been given. That was the inspiration. These people; who by anyone’s opinion had nothing;  believed they “Had more than Enough”.  The final quote of the video stated,  “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”

I asked my students to connect with the mantra; “Whatever I have is more than enough” on their mats last week.  In order to practice internalizing this mantra we explored a couple of poses in several different ways. We used both  Supta Padangustasana (reclined hand to toe posture) and Pigeon pose at the beginning on the floor, in the middle by balancing and then again at the end of practice. Often these poses are performed at the end of class, when the body is more open, but exploring them at the beginning as well helped us find acceptance of where we were, reminding ourselves that even if we had less available at the start that  “Whatever we had available on our mats was more than enough”

Then later as we found both poses again in our balancing series we noticed more was available but still potentially less than we were accustomed. Again we had to remind ourselves that  “Whatever I have is more than enough”  

Balancing can cultivate doubt, doubt in ourselves, doubt in our abilities and with that, a worry that we don’t have enough inside ourselves to share. Off the mat it is the same. The more doubt we have that we don’t HAVE ENOUGH or ARE NOT ENOUGH, the less we believe that we have “More than Enough” to share with others.

As we began to wind down our practice, we explored Pigeon again, this time the way we typically do…slowly and restoratively.  We noticed all that was available and how far we had come. I again reminded my students to release any self doubt they may have been holding onto, any feelings that they weren’t enough or didn’t have enough. And then as we transitioned again to Supta Padangustasana on our backs, we found an even deeper release.

I watched the students settle into Savasana, lighter and more accepting of themselves then when they arrived on their mats.  I reminded them that the capacity to give, to share, to be selfless, starts within. Once we know We have More than Enough both on the mat and off , we get to take it further. We have the chance to worry less about what we get, and Make A Life By What We Give. Namaste.


Live your Pura Vida



Two weeks ago I traveled to Costa Rica for the second time. I felt so blessed to be back in a country I fell in love with 12 months ago and I found a deeper appreciation not only for the natural beauty of the country but the wisdom and internal beauty of the people who live there.

There is a mantra that permeates the daily life of the Costa Rican people, Pura Vida. The direct translation in English is Pure Life but the essence of the saying is a reminder to live life truthfully, authentically, and be happy for what you have. They use this saying pervasively…it means hello, goodbye, thank you and your welcome and works as a constant reminder each day to be full of life, to find gratitude and to enjoy what each day brings.

This was my inspiration for my classes last week. As we began in Childs pose on the mat, I asked my students to begin their journey inside, to connect inward to the mantra, Pura Vida. As we started Cat/Cows and moved into Sun Salutations  all I asked was that they practice from their truth. I always teach my classes with offerings to do less or do more based on what works for each student, but this week was truly multiple choice yoga.  I offered many variations so students could practice creating the yoga practice that allowed them Pura Vida .

We slowly crafted our Asana practice, building and growing from a place inside us. It was an honor to watch all levels of students stop along the way and move mindfully as they tapped into Pura Vida for themselves. Some students stayed in Malasana (squat) while others worked in Bakasana (Crow pose) and even a few tried  Eka Pada Bakasana (one leg extended). However,  each student was where they needed to be to connect to Pura Vida and that energy could be felt the room.

Later as we moved into half Hanumanasana for the 5th time, some students chose to explore full Hanumanasana (pictured above) while others did not. There was no sense of judgment of themselves or others. It was a true expression of Pura Vida.

What we practice on the mat, in this case living from our truth;  from the inside (what is in our hearts) out instead of letting the outside world dictate;  comes with us off the mat. On one of our excursions our tour guide was providing information about the agriculture in Costa Rica and he shared a story that captured the essence of Pura Vida off the mat. He explained that for many years it has been known that Costa Rica produces the best coffee beans and therefore the best coffee. The Costa Rican people feel very comfortable with this truth; so much so that even though in recent years Nicaragua (their neighbor) has claimed that THEY have the best coffee, Costa Ricans do not feel the need to argue. He said, it’s okay, Let Nicaragua believe that, it’s not hurting anyone and we know the truth. They are comfortable enough with their truth that they are not concerned about what Nicaragua says. Pura Vida…living authentically from the inside; not worrying so much what the outside world says. What an amazing practice.

I repeated the mantra Pura Vida often through my classes last week, just as the Costa Rican people do. And just as it is for them, it served as a reminder to my students and myself to love this life, to cherish it and be grateful. On this trip I was reminded that I get to live my true authentic life every day when I get on my mat to practice or teach and what an incredible blessing that is.  I got the chance to further explore a magnificent country, the beautiful people who live there, and myself. Now, that is Pura Vida. Namaste.