Learn who are you becoming on and off your mat


“Yoga poses are not about the postures. They are about who you are becoming as you learn them” I read this quote last week and it was powerful. It reminded me of an interesting process that usually happens as we explore our yoga journey. Often we are drawn to Yoga for the physical benefits but as we get deeper into the practice we begin to care less about the physical poses and more about what that time and movement on our mats lets us connect with deep within ourselves. As we flow on our mats, we become grateful for the opportunity to get in touch with who we are becoming in our hearts and spirits as well as our bodies.

So, last week I asked my students to let their practice not be “all about the postures” but rather about connecting with who they are and who they are becoming as they do them.

We began with Bridge pose and I asked the students to ground down through their feet and let their hearts lift to the sky. From there we explored a modified vinyasa for our transitions which can be hard for the “hard core” in us but served as a reminder it isn’t “about the postures”.  We went from hands and knees, to knees, chest and chin on the mat, then pressed up to cat pose and back to DD several times to surrender the Chaturanga for a while.

Later in the practice as we entered Pigeon pose I explained that this pose is a good example of our practice  because the changes in Pigeon pose happen largely in the mind.  We have days where we have a bit more space but for the most part there is not very far to “go” to conquer Pigeon. That being said, usually when we are new to Yoga, Pigeon can be pretty excruciating simply because there are very few other types of activity that stretch the Piriformis and deep lateral rotators of the hip. Through time and practice, most of us come to like Pigeon in some form. Usually this process….this acceptance and appreciation…. comes from the mind; it is a chance to reflect on who we are becoming as we enter this pose as a comparison to who we were the first time.

We used Bakasana (pictured above) to practice this in a different way.  I asked my students to think about who they were becoming and not about the posture. As we engaged our bandhas and pressed down through the hands, finding strength, length and lightness I asked them to think not about “achieving” Bakasana  but instead about being okay with where they are in the pose and more importantly who they are.

Throughout the week I thought about my continual evolution as a Yoga Teacher; what I have and continue to “become”.  I realized that among other things, I have become the type of teacher that finds a lot of joy in watching my students “do their own thing”. When I see a student feeling free enough and connected enough in that moment to do something different…to not worry about getting into the correct shape, it makes me feel happy with what they are becoming.

As we slowed the practice and came back to Bridge pose once again,  I reminded my students once again to ground down through the feet and lift their hearts to the sky and  I wished for all of us to BECOME that off the mat as well; to find grounding and stability yet feel free enough to let our hearts soar towards the sky. Namaste.

Opposing forces can create a perfect balance



This week I was cleaning out some papers and I stumbled across a contract that I had my daughter sign a month ago when she got her cell phone. It had a list of the rules and you could imagine what those are but one of the rules of the contract was to never send a text or email in anger. As I re read the contract before I filed it away, that rule stuck with me. We were basically asking her to step back and look at all sides of the situation before responding. It seemed to me perhaps a rule that each of us should follow for ourselves.

This concept inspired me and I realized that this idea can apply on the mat and off. In taking a step back and gaining perspective what we gain is the opportunity to find balance. Patanjali speaks of this in Sutra 33. “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of.” He asks us to invite the opposite (positive) thought in an effort to negate the negative thought, to create balance in our mind. The same is true in our asana practice, we use opposing forces to create stability and strength in our bodies.

As we flowed through our Sun Salutations we used Plank Pose as a reminder of opposing forces at work. There is a strengthening required of both the superficial and deep core muscles, hip flexors are working to keep the thighs up opposing gravity and the quadriceps are working to prevent the knees from buckling towards the floor. Plank is a true stabilization pose and because of that it is very strengthening as well.

The same holds true in the mind. When we feel stable and balanced we are mentally and spiritually stronger to handle whatever energy comes our way and when we are able to counteract negative thoughts with opposing positive ones we create clarity, confidence and stability within ourselves.

Back on the mat, we stretched the muscles of the shoulder girdle and chest with Eagle arms and Gomukasana arms in Warrior 1 and then as we slowed down the practice we used Purvottonasana (version pictured above) to complement all of our Plank exploration. Purvottanasana is the perfect counter pose to plank. It stretches the muscles that are strengthening in plank and strengthens the opposing muscles.

From there they moved into Supta Baddha Konasana (reclined bound ankle) and then into Savasana. As they settled on their backs for Savasana, I asked them to release the oppositional forces in the body and surrender to gravity; feeling the lightness and heaviness that comes with that at the same time. From there the practice becomes about  mind; gaining perspective by using opposing thoughts to create balance there as well; When we counter the negative with a positive we give ourselves the GIFT and the STRENGTH that Balance provides, both On and Off the mat. Namaste.




See Goodness all around you by seeing it in yourself


It’s been a while since I have written. It feels good to be back. Last week I arrived home from the trip of a lifetime; an African Safari. My family and I got to see all kinds of creatures and we developed such an appreciation for the wonderment of nature. Each animal has unique characteristics that help them survive in their own special ways. We humans have those as well. We have the power to be resourceful, to control the mind and to create happiness for ourselves.

There were many inspirational moments on the trip but on the last day, there was a moment that stuck with me. It is a strange feeling when you say goodbye to someone who you have spent 10 hours a day with for a while but you know you will likely never see again.  As I was standing on an airstrip in the middle of the Serengeti about to board a small plane to begin our journey home, I hugged our driver Emmanuel goodbye. At that moment he said “Do you know why you saw so much on your Safari? Because good people see good things.” I told him that he was speaking about Karma, a principle that I live my life by and thanked him for his compliment. As I boarded the plane and waved goodbye through the window I realized that the wisdom he imparted on me spanned way beyond our African Safari. And so 36 hours later as I stood in front of my class to teach, it was my inspiration.

As we began to warm up the core with supine Eagle pose, drawing elbows and knees together, I asked my students to connect to the goodness inside of themselves. What we find in ourselves and channel outward is what we receive back. “Good people see good things”.  As I told them my story, I reminded them that the more goodness we find in ourselves, the more goodness we have the chance to find in others. We used our Sun Salutes to build heat (Tapas) in the body to begin to bring the positive energy up to the surface. As we worked into bound Parsvokonasana and then bound Trikonasana, I offered the reminder that being good to ourselves was the priority, not getting into the bind. If we focused on all the goodness that was there for us on the mat, we would see it off the mat as well.

In life, we often encounter people who seem angry, unkind or unhappy. Because they are not connecting to their personal goodness, they are struggling to see the goodness in others. It was just like Safari in some ways, the times we were riding around with no expectations, just an appreciation for the beauty and goodness of the land we were in; that’s when the magic happened… a Cheetah mom and her cubs running alongside our Jeep or  4 young Lions climbing a tree (who knew they could climb) or 30 Elephants showing up to the watering hole right at our hotel. It is moments like that which remind us that the goodness of life is undeniable and putting out that goodness brings it right back.

As we worked through Ustrasana (Camel pose) and Pigeon and from there transitioned into Savasana, I watched as everyone settled into stillness on their mats. I asked them to begin to channel their goodness outward, to think of a person in their lives that needed to receive goodness in order to see it for themselves. Even though I was feeling a bit discombobulated, not yet fully adjusted back to the time zone and the pace of life, I felt a calmness in my heart. I could feel the goodness in my students radiating out and I was very grateful to receive it.  “Good people see good things” so I knew that by sending out all of that goodness, they were going to See So Much.  Namaste.

Be open to the beginners mind and find your joy


This past week concluded my 9 month anatomy program. In our last class we were asked to share the most valuable things we each had learned. I cannot fully remember exactly what I said at my turn, but I began to think more about it in the days following. One of the most valuable things I learned was to have a fresh perspective in my own practice and as a teacher…breath and movement together make yoga even if it’s not a pose in a book; it is listening and learning with a beginners mind; an open mind that allows us to grow.

I asked my students to approach practice with a beginners mind this week; to draw upon a positive memory of a first time they experienced something. As we entered into our first Downward Dog on the mat, I reminded students to think about it as if it were their first ever…what could they do to make that pose feel good…and then do it….not to worry about what it looks like. To practice this way on the mat can be a gift because you can strip away expectations for yourself (i.g. to be the best in the class, to get the heels to the floor). Downward Dog can represent a new perspective…a chance to look at your feet in a different way, to turn the world upside down. Even though I encouraged them to have a beginners mind, the practice itself was challenging. Slow moving from High Lunge to Warrior 3 and then Standing Split staying very focused the entire time. We opened the shoulders with deep binds in both Uttitha and Pavritta (revolved) Parsvokanasana and stretched the IT band and hamstrings with Revolved Triangle and Standing Splits.

Pigeon was the pose I used to truly represent the beginners mind. We built up to it using a slow progression; using various piriformis stretches and then moving into a “z sit” position before finding our full pigeon pose; taking it slowly as if it were our first time working towards that deep stretch. All of that prep work along with our open hamstrings and shoulders allowed us to explore Pavritta Surya Yantrasana (Compass pose–pictured above)

Off the mat we can aspire for a beginners mind as well, to find the extraordinary in the everyday miracles in our lives, to practice having a new perspective, the freedom to go outside the box (or the pose on the mat). Sometimes when we know what is coming next we miss what is happening now. To give ourselves the gift to appreciate something as if it is new allows for so much joy along the journey. Nothing helps me to experience that more than being a parent. Getting to see your children experience things (whether “ordinary” or “extraordinary”) for the first time and feel the excitement they have, the willingness to openly accept and live in the moment….that is the beginners mind at its very best.

As we moved into Savasana, the practice changed a bit. The beginners mind in Savasana is often one of angst and impatience. And as we grow in our yoga practice we discover an appreciation for the quietness of mind that can happen once the body is still. Just as our Asana practice this week was physically advanced yet we used our beginners mind, the process of letting go of judgment and expectation, cultivating acceptance and being present in the moment in Savasana is an advanced practice; however each time it  happens it is just as special as the first time. It is through that practice on and off the mat that we find the Joy. Namaste

Learn Lisa’s Lessons



It’s interesting how the universe works. It offers us perspective at just the right time if we are open to receiving it. Memorial Day Weekend I was feeling the passage of time. We went to Florida for a visit. It has been 7 years since we lived there and I felt….old. My inner voice was loud and negative. On the last day of our trip I was working hard to quiet that inner critic and I had a realization. It was 5 years to that very day that I had lost my friend Lisa. Lisa taught me many lessons in a very short time. And 5 years later, the universe reminded me of those lessons once again.

She taught me what a true privilege it is to get older, to experience the passage of time, to watch your children grow up. During her 6 month cancer fight she told me most of all that she was fighting for the privilege of getting laugh lines from years of joy with her children, wrinkles that come from a well lived life and even sun spots from endless hours on the beach (Lisa loved the beach).

She also taught me to truly listen to my body. Lisa had experienced abdominal pain for at least a year before she was diagnosed. She took Advil and Tums and very good care of her two beautiful children and her husband. She didn’t listen to what her body was telling her. Because she gave so much to all those around her she didn’t have much left for herself; she didn’t make herself a priority. We have the opportunity; the gift to care for ourselves. And when we do that, we are that much better for all the people we love in our lives. It is a selfishness that makes us more selfless.

So, as we began on our mats this week I asked my students to share in the wisdom of Lisa’s lessons. To find gratitude in the time that passes, to truly enjoy the moments along the way and to listen and nurture the body and the mind. We began in Supta Baddha Konasana (laying on our backs with feet together and knees out to the side) with one hand on the belly and one on the heart. We warmed up the abdominals and moved into Sun Salutations and let the flow and the breath begin to quiet the inner critic. We flowed, twisted and balanced on our mats to cultivate focus and cleanse the body of unhealthy energy; to practice listening and nurturing our bodies and our minds. We backed off when we needed and explored revolved Parsvokonasana into Eka Pada Koundinyasana (arm balance) only when we felt ready.

The practice of Yoga truly lives off the mat. Finding the perspective to be grateful for the opportunity to age, to experience stages of life and to be comfortable in our own skin comes from a gratitude and understanding that what we are given each day is a gift, not a guarantee. It is easy for our inner critic to be loud and critical. With perspective and gratitude we can quiet the critic and enjoy the journey.

Back in the room, we slowed into our final seated postures and transitioned into Savasana. As I felt the energy become quiet, I brought myself back to the moment in the picture above; Practicing  Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana on that rock, on a beautiful beach with the waves crashing behind me, I was practicing so much more. I was practicing gratitude for the opportunity to be there in that moment as I had been many times before and for having known and learned from such a special person. I was practicing nurturing the body and the mind by listening and quieting my inner critic. I was practicing Lisa’s lessons.  I feel incredible gratitude for the lessons she taught and for being reminded of them just when I needed them. Namaste.




TAKE your Time, There is never enough.


“TAKE your time, there is never enough”. I heard those words at the end of a talk I attended recently. It started me thinking. We use “Take your time” often to remind people to relax, slow down, to not stress but what about another interpretation…to TAKE your timeto own it and make the most of it because there is never enough. When most of us begin our yoga journey it starts as a physical practice, an opportunity to develop strength and flexibility in the body. As we develop a true connection to the body, we find insight and connection to the mind as well. First we learn to take our time (slow down and be mindful) and then we learn to truly TAKE our time (be fully present in the moment). Once we find that practice, the opportunity exists for more;  a refinement of mindful breath which brings with it a window into to soul. If we both take our time (move slowly and mindfully with the breath)  and TAKE our time (commit fully, live presently and truthfully), that is the journey and the practice.

I asked a lot of my students on the mat last week. I asked them to begin to establish the body/mind and breath/soul connection. As we began our Sun Salutations, synching breath and movement began the process of a mindful asana practice . From there, staying present and moving slowly through transitions such as Reverse Warrior into Half Moon allowed us to practice TAKING our time (making the most of it).

We paired together “Take your time” and “TAKE your time” as we practiced Forearm Stand. Forearm Stand requires deep engagement through the shoulders, back, deep core and trunk muscles. To stay in the pose requires stillness, presentness and patience of mind. It asks us to be mindful in our transition from Dolphin Pose to Forearm Stand and to be “all in” (TAKING our time) once we are up. Students played with one leg bent with foot against the wall and bending both knees (pictured above) and we “took our time”.

Yoga is the practice connecting body and breath to mind and spirit; to live mindfully and presently on our mats also can translate off the mat and into our lives.  When we can pair “Take your time” (slow down and focus) with “TAKE your time” (live mindfully and presently) we have the chance to connect to our soul…the things that makes us truly happy….. and share that happiness with others.

A mindful transition to Savasana came with a reminder that this is where the true work began, the body was no longer a distraction and the mind did not need to be either. Access to the soul and true happiness was there for the taking. Staying mindfully in the moment was all it took to TAKE your time, own it; make the most of it. It’s yours after-all and there is never enough. Namaste.



Be like the Element of Water and go with the Flow


I have taken a few weeks off from writing this blog. It was something on the to-do list that just wasn’t getting done so I took it as a sign to step away. I have been sharing my inspiration with my classes but wasn’t finding the focus to sit and write them down. So I surrendered it for a while and now it has found its place again. In the spirit of Spring and celebrating the Earth on Earth Day, I found true inspiration last week in the element of Water.

Water is strong, powerful, unrelenting at times and it is soft and jovial and comforting at other times. Water is deliberate in its path but able to be flexible and alter course when necessary. Water is patient and a shape shifter; able to adapt to the hardness that lies in its path by going around it or through it and yet it Journeys on.

Water has a lot to teach us. It teaches us that there are times when we need to be strong and powerful and times when we need to be soft and flexible. It teaches us to be mindful of transitions; flexible to changes in the path, and it teaches us that whatever the conditions, that we can let go of the struggle and yield to the natural flow of life… we can Go With The Flow.

So on the mat this week we used our own vinyasa “flow” to connect to the attributes of Water. There were times when we were soft; warming up in Cat Cow stretches and moving freely to loosen up the hips and the spine. There were times when we were powerful; as we held Plank and Downward Dog for several breaths and moved from High Lunge into Warrior Three with the leg pulsing. There was the opportunity to push to our edge in Astavakrasana (pictured above) and shape shift as we flowed smoothly from half bound Parsvokonasana into half bound Trikonasana. We were patient and deliberate…Present,  by using our breath and focusing on mindful transitions from one pose to the next. By doing that we were able to lessen the struggles, connect to the smoothness, the natural flow; as we moved through our asana practice.

Off the mat, we can also develop the practice of connecting to the attributes of Water that will serve us. Just as Water has the qualities of Power, Strength, Softness and Flexibility; So Do We. Considering we are made up of about 65% water, that is not so hard to believe but sometimes we do forget.

As we moved through our final back bending and spinal twisting and began to prepare for Savasana, I reminded the students to draw back to the intention we set at the beginning of class; to connect and remember all the attributes of Water that we have inside us. As they let go of the physical “flow” of the body in their final meditation, I  asked them to imagine a calm, clear, still lake and to put themselves sitting beside that lake in a state of calmness, stillness and clarity; to channel those qualities that are already inside them and to bring them into their lives off the mat.

As I walked out of my classes last week after sharing my message, I felt my own “flow” begin to  draw me back to my writing. Sometimes, just as Water does, We need to avoid or go around what is in our way. And then sometimes…We need to Jump Right Back In. Thank you Water for bringing me forward on my path this week. Namaste.