My yoga room and all is coming

It's so close I can feel it! Walls painted. Storage solutions pending. I just need a little space with not too much clutter. A place to put my books. Light streaming in the windows, especially on these wintry days. A big pile of blankets, bolsters and straps. A few (really good) mats. An elephant or two. And that's it. How will this space change my practice? I don't know yet, but I'm mostly hoping it makes more practice -- more practice to find more of my yoga, my me, teaching more privates to help others find their yogas. Pictures soon, I promise. What about you? Where do you practice at home?

Yoga, Moving.

As we start getting ready for our big move, yoga sometimes struggles to make the to-do list. How frustrating. What moving needs is yoga -- the breath, the flexibility, the strength, the stillness. Moving is about turning everything upside down, moving everything around, getting everything from here to there. Yoga is about moving only inside to just be, right where you are, right now. It is such an interesting juxtaposition. Even while I'm running around in the whirl of the move, I'm thinking about that stillness, looking for the crystal of yoga which just exists within. Breathing. It isn't easy, but that is the yoga. Tonight I'll get on the mat. Then I'll lead some yogis in their practice. I know I'll find the yoga there. But then I'll step off the mat back into the mess of boxes. I hope I can bring the yoga with me. That's the point, isn't it?


I'm really enjoying teaching my series Yoga 101: FUNdamentals at Shakti Yoga & Living Arts. (So much so, in fact, that Yoga 201 is coming up soon!) It got me thinking. Of course.

There is so much I am not good at when it comes to yoga. Yes, yes, and I know, "practice and all is coming," but we all want to be "good" at what we do, right? Well, I can't reliably do handstand, bind, or even step my foot forward in surya namaskar. Sometimes it makes me feel silly to announce myself as a yoga teacher when I can't do some of those sparkly poses -- or even some of the "easier" ones. But I do practice. And practice well. And as much as I love asana, I like my practice to be about the big YOGA -- not just the stuff on the mat.

Interestingly, I am pretty good at teaching. I was a teacher before I was a yoga teacher, so I came to the top of the mat with a bit of experience. A bit, mind you. There are so many incredible, long-time teachers out there to whom I bow. I am awe of their practices, in many cases. But if you are a great teacher, I'm really in awe. It means you are connected to your students, have that presence, that voice, and a great approach that is serious, but not too serious. And in some ways, that's really what I want to be as a yogini. The teacher that makes you want to come back.

A few in my Yoga 101 series asked what would happen when the series ended. Would they be able to come to my class? (I must have blushed with delight! What a compliment!) And then it hit me -- it doesn't matter that I can't do titibasana (yet). They don't care. They want to feel safe, soft, open, strong, challenged, and successful in their yoga. These gracious yogis have bonded with me enough to want to practice with me more. Well, right on. I'm confident we'll have fun on the path together and find the yoga we're all meant to share.

For me, teaching is a big part of my practice. Spreading the love, opening the door to yoga that someone maybe couldn't find, or worse, had been turned away from. I never really thought about that before. I am so lucky to have these students that help me rethink everything I do on the mat. I take that with me off the mat. Hari OM.

I don't know

SO much.

Or, there is SO much to try/read/learn/practice/know. It's incredible, really. Lately, I've been thinking about how many of the things I've enjoyed doing in my life: singing, writing, yoga (heck, GOLF, even!) require lots of practice, study, and self-inquiry. I'm kind of a junkie.

I'm reading a book (finally) recommended to me by a fellow yogini, and it is just great. It is practical, historical, and key to moving my practice and teaching to the next level. I'm pretty sure I'm not one of those yogis whose hallmark will be doing lots of WOW! poses -- that's just not me. Though who knows, practice and all is coming -- but I digress. Rather, I like the idea of introducing students to and using in my own yoga practice on and off the mat the depth and breadth of riches that yoga has to offer. There is history, culture, poetry, anatomy, music and more to be explored. It is, in fact, what makes yoga such a colorful, wonderful thing.

Sometimes I feel lucky to not have the strongest, most flexible practice. Not being an athletic juggernaut on the mat in part allowed me to be open to the other elements of yoga: it's philosophy, language, music, ritual and more. And each time I pick up a new text about it, I am reminded just how much of a beginner I am, of how little I know. It's so freeing to approach life this way -- just being in the moment, empty and open to all that is.


I was never good at algebra, or any math, for that matter. And maybe I'm not really good at solving problems in general. I don't know.

I hadn't really thought about making resolutions, or even about the new year that is upon us. Really, is there time for that? My friend Nancy, the Flying Yogini, got me thinking, though. She posted a little gem on Facebook about breathing through the letting go of things -- my paraphrase -- but you get the gist? It was about letting go. Practicing non-attachment.

I've been resolving to lose weight since I was about 12. I make the resolution every year -- even in the years I said (say) I wasn't making any resolutions. It has always been the thing I need to fix about myself. My self. Nancy's idea about letting things go in the new year somehow led me to the idea that resolutions are really new attempts to re-solve something. Solve it again. So maybe I would resolve to re-solve the weight problem. But I thought more about it.

And I thought about how I might let go of this. Let go of the resolution and the re-solution. Let go of the idea of fixing myself. Let go of the idea that I am less because there is more of me. Loosen the white-knuckled grasp. Let go of the attachments that bind me into this mindset, this heartache, this body. Because that's the yoga. The practice of just being, rather than just holding on.


Then another gem from Nancy: "The universe is listening." Write it down, she says.

So I wrote it down here. I'm letting go. I'm not sure I even know what that means, but I have the year to find out.

And now I ask you -- what might you let go of?

It's that old refrain:

The days are long and the years, short.

Six months since the last post? I can't imagine how that would happen, except for the runaway life.

The period since my last post reminds me of why sometimes the most important yoga is off the mat. Finding peace in my breath and in new ways of responding to things has been a challenge as life has swirled around me. As time and money come and go, being content with what I have seems too simple, but it, too, is a challenge. But I know how lucky I am. I know that I only have to tune in to connect to my practice, even if getting to the mat is a challenge. My girls are my yoga. My husband. My house. My chores. Teaching.

Life is the union, the yoga.

The days are long and the years, short

It's really true.

Today is Lucy's third birthday, and it seems like it was yesterday she was born.

I know we all say that, but

Lucy's arrival was particularly special because I fought hard to have a VBAC and had it. It was a transformational day for me in that it seemed like for once my body was doing what I wanted it to -- just being normal. This was the fruit, I think, of my yoga practice taking off during my pregnancy. (And of course I was lucky to have the support of my dear husband and my awesome doula, Kim Collins--) I was deeply connected to Lucy as she grew in my womb, and I was deeply connected to myself in my first year of motherhood. Josephine had just had her first birthday when it was time for Lucy to join us. It was an intense time. Carrying Lucy to just shy of 42 weeks was intense. Labor was intense. Two under two was about to be really intense.

It was obviously the start of many things: my dear daughter's life, our life as a family of four, Josephine's life as a big sister. But for me, it was really the start of possibilities -- the importance of my yoga practice and how it could shape me had been revealed. All that intensity was possible because I had found something steady and comfortable in my life -- yoga. It's a kick now to watch Lucy giggle and drop down into a three-legged dog, her favorite pose -- one I know I did a lot of in my prenatal classes. Maybe it is a legacy, maybe not. But it sure feels like the seeds have been planted. I hope I can keep giggling as I try new poses and refine the ones I love. I sure got a giggle on Monday, when I lurched into my first assisted handstands.

With Guru Purnima upon us, I am so grateful to my many, many teachers -- yoga and otherwise. I've added a few new ones to the list this week, especially Amy Ippoliti and Sadie Nardini, who have infused new inspiration into my practice. But my most powerful teachers are my daughters, for sure. Their giggles and cries teach me something new everyday. Jai!


Yesterday, struggling to keep up with tweets, I was knocked down by this one:

“There is no such thing as an advanced variation. My body can not be more advanced than yours. It's just mine, and yours is yours.”

Whoa. Talk about changing my teaching in three quick sentences.

This came from Michael Taylor, a yogi I've followed for a while. In his profile picture, he’s rocking a pretty awesome pose. I’ve never practiced with him -- I’ve never even met him.

Though I am an active, vocal advocate for yoga for every body, I know I think of variations of poses in an hierarchy. And I know I have refered to them in the context of the hierarchy in my classes. Students who might have been turned off by this: please, please accept my apology.

Interestingly (or obviously, I suppose) I owe this same apology to myself. This hierarchical thinking about the poses has infiltrated my own practice, as well. I can hear myself thinking as I take a “prep” pose that someday, maybe someday, enough practice of the “prep” will lead me to the really cool “advanced” version, as if where I am isn’t good enough or doesn’t count. I’m going to have to turn that tape off -- I know it too well.

Of course, in yoga teacher training, like everyone else, I learned about the beauty of the beginner’s mind. But am I always able to get down with it and love it? Apparently not. It is so easy to be wowed (by others). And so easy to compare (mostly me to whatever is “better”). And even easier to discount (my own practice because it isn’t as awesome as _________). Easier to get my head out of my own practice and out of the moment. So I need to listen to Michael Taylor to pay back my practice the honor it is due. A more advanced practice does not exist. There is only the practice. My pose is just mine, and yours is yours.

Many people, myself included, begin practice with eyes closing and tuning into the breath. This begins to move the gaze -- the attention, really -- inward to what is important. Each of our hearts is the unique crystal of our own practice, the divine essence that we share with everyone and everything. Looking inward keeps our eyes off other people’s mats because it just doesn’t matter what is there.

When I read Michael’s tweet, I immediately thought of how it tied back to so many of the yamas and niyamas, yoga’s ethical guidelines. It speaks to Ahimsa in not thinking violent thoughts towards oneself, to Asteya in not coveting what someone else has, to Santosha in practicing contentment, to Svadhyaya, knowing oneself, and Ishvara Pranidhana, surrender to something bigger than oneself. And back to the concept of the beginner’s mind: in the start of each practice, we begin, and we are still beginning at the end. This openness to what is, this willingness to allow the breath to bring us into the pose (whatever version), without judgement, is pure love.

Just as I know my breath is mine and yours is yours, so it is as well with the asanas and all the other elements of the practice. We are not categorized or divided by how we practice, we are united by the very fact that we do it. Thanks for reminding me, Michael.

The List

Inspired by beautiful fellow yogini Nancy at Flying Yogini, I started thinking about (and drafting) my yoga bucket list. It goes on and on and on already! Maybe too much, in fact, as my yoga journey got fired up a little later in life than some, and there might not be time for it all. But yoga is about being here, now, in the present, so I have to believe that the right items will be checked off my list -- as I know they will be from my friend's list.

But one item on my list sticks out to me: I want to have a more yogic household, a home and family more inspired by and in tune with the principles and philosophies of yoga I hold dear. What struck me about this item is that there is nothing to stop me from doing this RIGHT NOW. I am responsible (with my dear husband, of course) for the way in which we treat each other, what we teach our children, and how our house is kept. We are not just inhabitants of this house, we are instead the light of this home, together and collectively.

Let's be honest: a lot of times I don't feel like such a divine light and the home doesn't feel much like a beacon either. A home with two little children isn't all blissed out all the time. There are plenty of raised voices and crying, unhealthy foods, clutter everywhere, frantic movement. Not exactly like an ashram, if you know what I mean. But at the root of all the madness is our love for one and other and our gratitude for the great lives we have. And here is the seed of our yogic home.

So here I will begin to sow the seed and see what flowers forth. Maybe I just need an easy to do list to get things going. Here are a few things I think we can do to start:

- Be more conscious of how we communicate with each other, being mindful to honor each other as the divine beings we are

- Actively integrate seva, selfless service, into our family life

- Be on my mat more often: in keeping with that old saying Happy Mama, Happy Baby

- Incorporate a yoga practice (an age-appropriate one) into the kids' lives more regularly, and find ways to practice yoga with my husband

- Work to de-clutter our home wherever possible so we have fewer distractions and more peace

- Persevere in cooking the healthy, vegetarian food I love, even when it seems too time consuming or tiring

It's the start, I think, of something wonderful -- and it could grow into much more: a way for us all to be a part of and relate to the world around us in a most positive way. I have more ideas that might be a bit more involved, but I need to find a steady comfortable pose for our home life, so to speak. When we make adjustments in our asanas, it takes practice to make them flow. To deepen, we move to the edge and then back off just slightly so we can soften and sing. So it will be in making changes in our home -- it will take practice. But like Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said, "Practice ... and all is coming."

Down in the dumps

No, no, not those dumps.

The other dumps. I'm dumping into my hips in lunges (and many other poses, of course), and it's getting more and more annoying in my practice. I'm finding it particularly inhibiting in lunges in Surya Namaskar when I have to step the back foot forward, and there I am. Stuck in the front leg hip. I have to really push off to move the energy and my body forward. No good. It certainly doesn't feel good on my tender ankle. In fact, it feels like yanking. And I'm pretty sure there's no yanking in yoga.

I know what you're going to say. You're not working from your core. Well, duh. I know. Ever since the "quick" c-section I had four years ago, it is hard to access that core strength. And honestly, I hate the word core. Oh I know, there's no hating in yoga, either. But as soon as I hear that word, I feel like I'm in a screaming Jillian Michaels workout. I'm not a big fan of that sort of thing. More importantly, I don't want my yoga to be reduced to one muscle group. And yet my yoga isn't going anywhere without my abdominal muscles.

So today I revived a cue I learned from Debbie Kurilla, one of my YTT teachers. Hug in to the midline. I like this a bit better and avoids that other word. It's a little more imagery-based than just saying engage your abdominals. For me right now, I think that works. It's a little gentler -- after all, it's got a hug in it. Gentler feels good -- and feels far way from that workout-bunny paradigm. I had some success applying this cue to my standing balance poses -- poses that are particularly challenging for me. So let's see where this takes me.

Here's the thing: I know that my issue with my abdominal muscles is more than just an issue with the muscle fiber. Stuff has built up there -- the trauma of a difficult birth experience and probably more --to be uncovered and tended to with love. Thus begins that endeavor. As I know it is more than just my body, I know that more than just asana needs to be applied here. This calls for my whole yoga.

So I guess this is just a riff on my last post -- it's about honoring where you are, wherever you are. Or maybe it is the beginning of a much different deeper post.

I know everyone has these practice hurdles to jump -- wanna share yours?

Honor thy _____________

I cut my index finger making dinner last night. Thinly slicing onions. It will affect my practice today.

I am nursing a posterior tibial tendon tear for going on eight months now. It will affect my practice today.

I have rheumatoid arthritis. It will affect my practice today.

My body is a map of discomforts -- the swelling at my ankle, cesarean birth scar, hitched right hip, uneven shoulders. It can make it hard to get to my mat. My body, being the instrument of my life, often takes a beating before it arrives on the mat to be an instrument of my yoga. And it will affect my practice today.

A few weeks ago, Al, one of my favorite teachers at Shakti Yoga & Living Arts, gave me a lift during his class. I was in urdhva dhanurasana, and he came to me with a yoga strap. He put the strap around my waist and gently eased me more deeply into the pose. I'm pretty sure I groaned. My arms and legs were working, my heart was wide open. I could feel all kinds of this-es and thats in my body -- those injuries, that stiffness -- adjusting. He asked me if it felt good, and I laughed and said, "Well, I wouldn't say that..." I'm pretty sure we all chuckled -- But I breathed into the new depth of the pose until it did.

One of my teachers doesn't like to address injuries as thus -- she likes them to be called sweetnesses -- or something equally loving -- to adjust how we feel about them. Corny? Maybe, but it can reframe something from pain to healing. It honors what is. Sometimes pain is. So we should honor it.

None of us like to honor what is "wrong" with us. Too bad.

Today is going to be one of those days when stepping on to the mat might not feel so good -- at least at first. This damp weather taints my knees with a certain sweetness that could get really juicy as class unfolds. Pressure on my cut finger will certainly remind me of those onions. It will affect my practice and give me new awareness about how to move, how to breathe, how to heal. I'm going to try to honor it with the flow of my breath and the openness of my heart.

What sweetness do you carry in your body? How do you work with it in your practice?

Tune up?

I love thinking about my practice almost as much as I love practicing. Corny, I guess, but it is where I am in my yogic journey. Today a conversation on Twitter amongst fellow yoginis (thanks Sonia, Maria and Faern!) got me thinking...

Why do I practice (and teach) in silence?

I know that music in yoga classes has gotten really popular. I love music -- heck, way back when I was a singer, I spent hours in practice rooms trying to sound good. Never enough hours, though, I guess... But I digress.

In yoga, I find music distracting. If I'm teaching, it distracts me from the students in front of me, the theme and sequence I've developed for the class and from the mindfulness I like to demonstrate in setting up and holding poses. Music makes me want to sing along or keep the beat or sway, but I don't find this helps my yoga. If I'm practicing, music distracts me from my focus on exploring sequence, alignment, breath -- from finding my steady, comfortable pose and from trying new ones.

But I've written before about how much I love chanting. I utilize chant in all of my classes -- to open and close. I find it particularly moving -- especially in my prenatal classes -- to have all those voices unite in honoring their practice, thus deepening it. I have secretly wanted to teach a class with chanting throughout. I listen to loads of yoga music, but off the mat -- in the car, the kitchen, the laundry room. I somehow have this compartmentalized in my practice.

My asana practice for me is about focusing in on my breath -- the sound of me -- breathing -- being -- as I move. It is a break from the din of motherhood -- the constant noise of my beloved toddlers being toddlers. It is about being with myself (as uncomfortable as that may be sometimes...) and honoring the divine in me, in the room and people around me, and in the universe beyond us all. Somehow I haven't found a way to do that to a soundtrack. I know I'm going to get hate mail on this one, but I just don't want to hear anything as I find my Trikonasana. I want to hear Trikonasana.

Part of it, I suppose, is that my teachers don't use music and so as the lineage goes, neither do I. Purists? Perhaps. I'm not sure I want to pin that one on myself at this early stage in my yoga life. I'm going to have to think and listen more about this -- I love the idea of yoga-ing in different ways. This is obviously an opportunity for me.

Maybe I need to tune up. What do you think? What do you like to listen to as your practice unfolds?

Where does the time go?

I looked at my daughter today as she walked towards the door of her preschool on picture day -- her first school picture day. She was dressed in her Easter outfit -- her own choice -- and she maturely walked in front of me, her white shoes click clacking on the sidewalk. "Where does the time go?" I thought to myself. "Who is this little girl? Where is my baby?" It seems like just yesterday I was ushered in to the operating room, terrified of so many things, to give birth to her. And now here she is, a walking, talking, singing, arguing, drum-playing preschooler on the verge of her fourth birthday. Who said that all-too-true thing about parenting -- that the days are long and the years short?

"When the breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the breath is still, so the mind is still." -- Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Lately, the most important thing for me about my yoga practice is that is slows things down. When I breathe and that breath fires a movement, I can only be in the moment. When I still my breath, my mind stills. I love this. I crave it when I'm not on my mat and I'm swirling from one task to the next, just trying to keep up. There is no keeping up in yoga. If you are with your breath, you are right where you need to be -- and you are all that you need to be.

I'm not going to lie -- those of you who know me know that I have trouble slowing down, letting things go, being still, steady. I am prone to being unsteady, even falling -- surely this is to happen when my breath is unsteady. Even when I get to my mat and close my eyes to tune into my breath and begin to chant, it is a struggle to quiet my mind and bring my attention to the present. (Is this a struggle for everyone?) Sometimes it takes me more than one try to make myself comfortable in my breath, in the stillness, in the present. But I know this is the gift of yoga. Yoga gives you the fullest version of the present moment -- if you're willing to sit and open yourself to it.

So where does the time go? It goes. I don't want to miss too much of it, so I'm happily tethered to the thing that keeps me present: my yoga.

Holy Pufferbelly!

When I was in yoga teacher training, I realized that I'm a pufferbelly. Well not really (although many would say I'm full of hot air), but I puff out my belly. All the time. I do it when I'm just standing around, but even weirder, I do it when I'm practicing yoga. Sometimes I do it when I'm trying to sleep. Not only do I not engage my abdominal muscles -- I actually push my belly out. It's more than a year later, and despite practicing and teaching regularly, I still do it. I realize I need to address this Samskara in order to continue to deepen my yoga.

I think this Samskara took hold during my pregnancies. Growing babies shifted my posture pretty dramatically, and somewhere between the birth of my first via cesarean and getting pregnant just three months later with my second, my slashed, weak abdominals got stuck: puffed out.

Pufferbelly is problematic in yogasana. The belly gets in the way in forward bends: Uttanasansa, Paschimottanasana. The belly throws off balance in standing poses like Vrksasana. The weak belly allows the hips to drop and makes it very hard to hold the legs up in Bakasana. (I have been practicing this daily in honor of my friend, The Flying Yogini!) The belly makes lifting the legs with ease virtually impossible for poses like Headstand and Handstand. I am astonished at how pervasive and difficult to reverse this Samskara is.

So what to do: draw in, hollow the belly, navel to spine. And again. With each pose. Be aware.

This whole thing has me thinking about habits: good and bad, when and where they take root, how to nurture the good and release the bad. The wonderful thing for me about my good habit (yoga) is that it revealed to me my bad habit (belly puffing). Rooting and revealing, I am on the path to myself. This is my yoga.

So what about you? What are your Samskaras? How do you address them in your yoga?

Happy Baby

I have been blissfully busy with my family visiting for Easter. There were baskets to make, visits with the mall bunny, and of course, cooking up a storm for 15 on Easter Day. My dad and brother left for home yesterday, but my mom stayed on a few extra days to lend a hand with my little ones while my dear husband is away on business. I have a backlog of topics for blog posts that I hope to write this week when things settle down, but today I thought I'd write just briefly while everyone enjoys a rest and before I hit the mat for a short practice and meditation.

One pose I know I'll do today is Ananda Balasana, or Happy Baby. It reflects how I feel right now, my mom here to mother me while I mother my girls. But often it is a go-to pose for me when things aren't so rosy. Happy Baby pose is one of those poses that I think can be really transformational, especially when times are tough or just busy and stressful. There is something in the physiology of the pose that gives people a sigh or a giggle when they reach the outer edges of their feet with their hands. It is almost as if they didn't think they could do it. (And for those who aren't able to reach comfortably on any given day, a strap wrapped around each foot is an easy solution.) As the spine lengthens and the low back releases towards the floor there is a peace that settles in as though no tenderness had ever graced those muscles. With each exhalation comes more surrrender and more peace. And if the body gently starts to rock, there is truly that feeling of a curious baby finding her feet for the first time and just playing -- a sense of pure openness and joy.

When I teach, I often sequence it towards the end of a practice, preparing the bodies in the room for even deeper surrender in Savasana. Today though, I might open my practice with it, acknowledging how glad I am to be a bit of a baby right now -- but maybe I'll circle back to it at the end of my practice, too!

Chant this?

One of my interests in yoga is chanting. I was first turned on to it at Kripalu in a session with Bhavani, in which she taught the basics of mantra meditation with and without a mala. It was great -- it was a full room, people were really open, and even some of the simplest mantras she taught took off.

I am thrilled to be attending Kirtan with Dave Stringer this week -- but truthfully, I feel like I don't know enough about this tradition...

In yoga teacher training, I was lucky to have guides from two different traditions -- one, of a more traditional, Sivananda lineage and one Anusara-inspired. It made for an interesting conversation, even with languaging differences and even some philosophical differences. We learned chants from both traditions, and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to work into my teaching. To me, a yoga practice feels a little thin without chanting. I need those vibrations to open and close my practice at least. The room always shifts beautifully when chants are invoked -- every person, every thing in the room, seems changed.

So I have been surprised in teaching, for a year now, how often people are hesitant to chant. Sometimes I am the only one singing -- not something I shy away from given my background in music. I am curious about other teachers' experiences with this -- do you offer chant in your classes? How is it received? Do you always do the same chant to encourage familiarity or do you mix it up for variety?

I'm also hoping to deepen my knowledge of this tradition. To that end, I hope you'll suggest your favorite chant resources. Oh -- and Sanskrit resources, too -- Books? CDs? Artists? Practices?

Give props

My husband and I often share a particular giggle when he "sings" songs that are waaaaaaaaaaaaay out of his range. Think Rush. Journey. Gwen Stefani. I look at him, roll my eyes and (usually laughing and covering my ears) say, "HONEY! Not all songs are for all people!" And then he tries even harder -- and louder. Now of course, he could accommodate himself and sing the song down an octave, but that would be no fun, right?

This happens all the time in yoga. Poses seem out of our reach -- literally. We can't reach the floor, our other arm, head-to-knee. But there is a solution for that in yoga: props. So often I see fellow students or my own students not take a prop they really need. I get it that you're there to push your edge, but often, using a prop actually moves you deeper into the pose. And not only that, but more importantly, using a prop can protect your body from the bad alignment (and karma) that will come from jamming your body into a pose -- this isn't comfortable and steady like it is supposed to be. There are so many examples of using props that could make your practice really soar. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but here are just a few:

A blanket, folded, under the heels during malasana, supports feet and ankles (thus protecting the knees), making the deep knee bend accessible while the heels are still in contact with the ground.

Blocks, used under the hands in uttanasana (especially the first ones of the day), give something to press the hands into. Start with bent knees, slowly straightening them, lifting the hips. (This gives so much more stretch than bouncing your fingertips two inches from the floor in hopes of touching it!)

A strap, used to draw the leg back in supta padangusthasana (or heck, even pigeon or bow) will ultimately make a deeper expression of the pose possible.

Even in wonderful, peaceful sukasana, many people need the support of blankets. With a clean fold, sitting right on the edge can encourage the hips to open and knees to drop while supporting the low back, allowing the torso to sit taller. Check out Cora Wen's awesome blanket-folding tutorials on YouTube.

As teachers, if we really want to make yoga accessible to everyone, then we'll offer students appropriate props. It makes practice safer and more fun. I often use props when I teach -- some that I really need and some that I don't -- to show that using a prop isn't cheating or weird or anything less than real yoga. Sometimes I'll have everyone work with a particular prop. As students and practitioners, we are to honor our body in what it needs and use the block, blanket or strap when necessary. It doesn't mean that you'll have to use that prop forever -- or maybe you will. It's a practice, not a destination.

It is about being open, I guess -- open to what is needed and what possibility might unfold -- and being true to yourself, wherever you are in your yogic journey. It would be nice if we could all sing along with those Rush tunes. I can actually, but I'm flexible that way. Binding in parsvokonasana, not so much -- yet.

Third time's a charm

It took me three tries today. I rolled out my mat at 6 this morning after finding myself awake and not feeling like going back to sleep. But I was tired and my joints were sticky, so I put the mat away and enjoyed reading a few YIOM blogs instead. I rolled it out again as soon as the girls went down for their nap. I felt good in Sukasana and enjoyed a meditation, but I could get my mind focused on how to move next. I was thinking about my desk and about ten projects I "should" be working on...

But I kept thinking about what Lorin wrote at The Vegan Asana, and I listened to myself with the mom face.

It took me about an hour, but I went back to my mat. I decided to start with Trikonasana, my favorite pose because -- well, because it's my favorite. I disregarded all the information and ideas I have about a proper sequence, and I just moved from one pose to the next. I found myself moving in a pattern from standing poses through lunge to heart openers and back. It was weird, but it was what felt good. I hit a bunch of juicy poses besides Trikonasana -- Sphinx, Parsvokonasana, Downward-facing Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Bhujangasana, Vasisthasana. Of course I made it to Stork, too, and even toyed with Natarajasana briefly. But I realized my ankle wasn't feeling so great -- maybe the humidity or shift from yesterday's warmth to today's cooler weather -- or maybe just because. So I did a long Prasarita Padottanasana and made my way back to my folded blankets for more quiet.

I'm more focused now (look, I wrote this post!), and I think it will be easier to focus in on my projects. So listening with a mom face worked for me -- I won't forget it the next time I'm avoiding my mat! Thanks, Lorin!


I struggle with balance -- in yoga, in life, in everything. So needless to say, the standing balancing poses are generally not amongst my favorites. Add in the ankles -- one with a big fat tendon tear and the other just terribly weak, and you have a recipe for -- well, falling over.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took a wonderful Anusara-inspired class with my teacher Debbie Kurilla at Shakti. The class was all about balance (oy), and her apex pose was stork. I immediately shuffled myself to the wall, to practice the pose in a way that wouldn't draw attention to my wobbles. And I've been obsessed with the pose ever since. For me, it is so different from Vrksasana or Natarajasana, because there isn't a weird angle to add to the difficulty of the balance. Rooting the four corners of my standing foot into the ground, thigh bones back, shins forward, activating my abdominal muscles, lifting the bending leg with care and awareness, activating and flexing the lifted foot, lifting the arms into urdva hastasana, engaging the shoulder blades firmly on the back while releasing the trapezius muscles -- I'm sure I'm leaving out a slew of crucial cues -- but you get the idea --

For once, I'm having fun with a balance, and I'm just going with it. I practice it in the shower, while I'm at the sink doing dishes, waiting in line at Target. I'm wearing a big 'ol brace on my ankle, so I think it is safe, but who knows... did I mention that I'm actually having fun with this pose? Fascinating. It makes me wonder how I can find fun in the other areas where I feel I lack balance --

In the dark

Confession: having wonderful, inspiring conversations with fellow yoginis sometimes makes me blue. Sometimes I feel resentful, envious, ashamed -- or just dark. And I know all that just isn't yogic.

My daily yoga practice varies dramatically, and as a result, so do my abilities. My body isn't what I'd like it to be, my abdominal muscles still a weak mess from the blowout of having two babies in two years. My poses aren't pretty. I can't balance on either foot reliably -- and certainly never on my right. I wobble. A lot.

So I find myself in a dark place with my practice. I feel like a bit of a fraud, to tell you the truth. But I keep showing up on the mat. Fumbling. Trying to hear the teacher I am to others so I can be led. I bail out of poses too early and then go back in. I engage whatever I can. I release what I can't. I ground. I lift. I bend backwards to open my heart. I bend forwards to look inward. I make space. And breathe. I move my body so my mind will still. And you know what? It works:

Suddenly, it doesn't matter if I'm in the dark. I'm looking towards light.