This translated from Hung Tzu-ch'eng's Ts'ai Ken T'an (Vegetable Roots Discourses)
compiled during the Wan Li Period (1573-1620) of the Ming Dynasty in China.
And that's all I know about that.
(Though I do know a brilliant yogi who could teach us anything
we wanted to know about literature from Ancient China,
so feel free to lob inquiries my way...)
I simply love the title Vegetable Roots Discourses.
That, and thinking about stillness inside of movement.
the real stillness.
there is stillness
can the spiritual rhythm appear
heaven and earth.
Drop inside that spiritual rhythm
on your mat this week.
"We weren't doing nothing - we were standing still."
When I read this remembrance from
a Merce Cunningham dancer, Marrian Preger-Simon,
about the choreographed art of standing still,
it evoked the the very alert, auspicious feeling
of breathing into an elongated tadasana.
Once upon a time, standing on the coast of Sicily,
gazing into the Mediterranean, upright in tadasana,
I felt free, very alive, and completely present in my asana.
I can conjure this feeling at will,
by stacking my spine, opening my chest,
and lengthening my neck
when I stand in mountain pose.
Okay, it's not exactly the same
standing upon a Nashville floor indoors
without the Mediterranean breezes on jagged rocks,
but kinda close.....
Let's try it
on the mat this week.
I find something incredibly sweet and light in the word itself - June.
For me, this means sleeping outside every night on our screened porch.
Lying quite supine, on a pile of blankets in lieu of a mattress,
arms akimbo, gazing up at the sky, city traffic in the distance.
Waking in the morning to birdsong and bright early sunlight
already warming my pj's means summer is here in my world.
If you, like me, aren't being whisked off to the seashore or foreign lands,
find a little summer pleasure of your own here at home
to soak up the sweetness June has to offer.
Maybe finding your friends
in the yoga circle.
I've always been fascinated by people's peculiar habits, good luck talismans, superstitions.
I recently read Karen Russell remembering her father
as the most superstitious person she knew:
"From him, I learned that superstitions can be a form of prayer,
as well as an exorcism in miniature.
You release the fear that comes from feeling responsible
for everything that happens to you - an especially American delusion.
You acknowledge the mysterious convergence of forces sustaining you,
and you make your humble petition for
more of the same: more light, more love, more life.
Safe passage to the next moment, and the one after that. "
The bit that stopped me was the misguided idea of
feeling responsible for everything that happens to you.
I think this self inflicted delusion is one of the ways
we try to make sense of the world,
one of the ways we scramble to maintain some sense of control
over what may befall us or those we love.
Recognizing the randomness of our fates on this spinning planet
can often be a lot to hold.
Maybe reaching for a tiny treasure
from a happy memory or a previously successful moment
isn't such a bad idea if it helps to soften the disquietude.
Dropping into the reliable constancy of your breath
can have the same quieting effect.
Let's create some tranquility on the mat.
In life, as in a yoga posture,
your intent can change everything.
Often making things a whole lot easier
and surprisingly, simultaneously sweeter.
on the mat this week.
I began my yoga practice learning ashtanga under Diane Avice du Buisson.
I fell in love with the discipline of it. Its exacting nature echoed my ballet training.
There were all sorts of milestones to reach, stamina to build, and postures to attain.
The series advanced into, for me, practically unattainable places.
This served me well for the first eight years of my practice.
We always began in tadasana, mountain pose.
After the opening chant, my teacher would intone "samastitihi"
as we tried to grow taller still in our tadasana.
I just equated that word with the mountain pose,
but it sounded so magical in her peculiarly authoritative, ethereal tone.
Turns out it was.
Samastitihi is an invocation to empty out and step up.
It translates to "equal footing." It asks one to reach for equanimity in stillness.
To wipe the slate clean, to bring yourself purposefully into the moment.
To draw oneself to attention to the sacred practice you're beginning.
This is a learned skill that honors your work on the mat.
And powerfully translates into being present in your life off it.
We'll create it together
on the mat this week.
"One afternoon, I draped myself on my couch and felt an influx of mental silence
that was both disturbing and hallucinatorily pleasurable. [...]
I wanted to experience myself as soft and loose and purposeless,
three qualities that, in my adulthood, have always seemed economically risky."
This, from a book review of new titles which make the case for people to put down their phones.
The reviewer tried a suggested digital cleanse and was flummoxed by the process.
Her final sentence hit me hard.
There are moments when I, too, long to feel soft, loose, and purposeless.
But just about everything in me pulls the other way.
(though it must be said my husband had no trouble
finding pictures of me lying prone and purposeless.... hmmm.)
Our cultural constructs call us to fortifying tasks, ambition, self improvement.
It's a pretty risky business to allow soft purposelessness momentary reign.
Want to get a little subversive?
I dare you, yogi.
We'll find a lingering savasana
on the mat this week.
"Choose compassion over competition,
be the leader who lets the love in,
and know that your laws need to be rewritten if you wish to take a new direction."
In hopes that even one of these thoughts may resonate with you,
so that we can each bring a little more purpose to this daily life business.
Connect soul and body
on the mat this week.
[illustration by Ed Fairburn]
Geoffrey Hendricks (1931-2018), was an experimental performance artist
of the Fluxus movement of the 1950’s,
which defined art in terms of experiences as well as objects.
He was known for his beautiful cloud paintings and his long held headstands,
which he performed all over the world
often painted entirely blue or with signage strung between his feet.
(It does appear his cervical spine would have benefited from some proper yoga instruction. Yikes.)
“I got to seeing a headstand as kind of a bonsai performance, sort of the minimum of performance.
It was dealing with the least amount of space that you could work with,
and it was just simply positing yourself in one place, and then reversing yourself.”
I like thinking about an asana as an art piece
where we use the least amount of space
and even reverse ourselves!
Express yourself as you like
on the yoga mat this week.
Paulus Berensohn, a dancer with Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham,
became a prolific potter always exploring bridges within the artistic community.
Berensohn was inspired by a truth shared with him
on a walkabout with an aboriginal elder in Australia.
When he asked why the people were always making some type of art,
the elder explained that the earth is alive
and works with us energetically in relationship.
Our praise and gratitude expressed in art of any kind, works reciprocally
as the earth in turn supports and energizes us.
They understood the function of the artist is to sing up the earth.
I can't imagine a more fitting landscape to feel this in your bones
than Nashville in the springtime.
Get out and sing up the earth every chance you get
- whether on your knees turning the earth, on your back breathing in the sky,
on your feet dodging the pollen,
simply drinking in the sunshine, or feeling the breeze.
Send that energy through your body
on the mat this week.
"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going.
What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment,
and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."
I find this incredibly comforting.
For those of us who spend a lot of time in our heads,
finding the freedom of only being called to the present moment,
without required brilliance as to divining purpose and plan,
can free up a lot of space -emotionally and psychically.
So, read that quote again, won't you?
Then create some space,
physically and psychically,
on your mat this week.
"The more we put our attention on sensation,
the more we get out of our thinking mind."
A yoga practice is all about noticing,
sharpening our awareness as we move in and out of shapes.
Sometimes we cautiously move towards sensation;
sometimes we wisely move a bit away.
Regardless, we keep keen attention upon the sensation
in order to intuit which direction will best serve us.
A lovely consequence of this purposeful awareness
is relief from a busy thinking mind.
I know more than one yogi who cites this
as her prime reason for regular practice.
I recently read about adults turning to music lessons late in life.
Practicing an instrument for the first time at forty or fifty can be humbling.
One executive said it was the only time her body was so occupied
she could stop her monkey mind from ruling her consciousness.
It brings a whole new meaning to mind-body awareness.
A piano. A cello. A yoga mat. All three work for me in this way.
Come calm your own mind
on the yoga mat this week.
For those who deal with anxiety, sometimes well meaning friends don't seem to get it.
For those who don't struggle with anxiety, it can be tricky to know exactly how to help.
This graphic from Maureen Wilson sheds some light on the situation.
This reflects what I've been pondering lately about listening styles.
Us empathic types tend towards active listening
with lots of receptive expression and a strong desire to mend.
Sometimes though a quiet, strong sounding board without a lot of feedback
can feel safer to those who are bravely voicing their anxieties or fears.
That said, sometimes simply listening to a hurting soul, bearing witness,
without trying to jump in and fix can be the hardest practice of all.
Aiming towards compassionate, steady love with calm receptivity goes a long way.
And, you know what?
Offering this to yourself while moving around on a yoga mat is brilliant.
Come practice a little self love
on the mat.
Sometimes we become disappointed with ourselves
when we fall short, doubt, or lose our way.
These words on embracing a type of lunar spirituality
have given me a new, less judgmental way to see myself.
Every time I look for the moon now,
I'm reminded of it.
Maybe you will be too...
Bring all sides of yourself
to the yoga circle.
There's something about longer days,
warmer temperatures, and more sunshine
that seems to bring a little more happiness into my world.
I like how poet Naomi Shabab Nye reminds me
that happiness floats and is a little contagious.
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records...
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
--Naomi Shihab Nye
Come to the yoga circle
where we may float a little.
(but not even think about trying
supta eka pada sirsasana, pictured above)
One of the sweetest parts of a yoga practice
is noticing and working with the breath.
It's an incredibly powerful tool.
"Take a deep breath!" Sure, always a good idea.
But, man, the exhales hold so much peculiar potential and possibility.
You can use exhales to find your power, drawing deep from within,
toning the pelvic floor and empowering your core.
Conversely, you can use exhales to soften, finding greater release,
and ultimately a calming of the nervous system.
We'll do both this week.
Let's breathe out together
on the mat.
This year's winner for Best Documentary Short,
Period. End of Sentence. came out of India.
It's all about taking the shame around women's periods
and turning it into empowerment.
This a powerful twenty five minute film that had me
finding The Pad Project online to make a donation.
All tax deductible monies go to creating self-sufficient
micro economies run by women for women,
so menstruating girls can stay in school and
women can go about their lives with their heads up.
It has been proven time and again,
in micro-finance ventures worldwide
that women invest their profits in ways that have
a longer lasting impact for their families and communities.
Cast your bread upon the waters and lift someone else up!
And shout down the patriarchy while you're at it.
It's lickety-split easy (and you can see the film on Netflix).
Generous and empowered yogis
on the mat.
Not this, not that.
It isn't our obligation to fix the world,
and take on all the pain of it.
Nor should we give up completely,
resistant or unmoved by the suffering.
Rather, a little softness towards compassion here,
a little strength in advocacy there.
Humble, humble as we make our mark.
A lot like what we try to do on the mat
inside our own bodies and hearts.
Come join us on the mat.
Let's talk about the ubiquitous down dog.
While it's of no consequence if your heels ever find the floor,
(let that sink in, oh ambitious ones, you know who you are)
they should be working in that direction to give you
sweet length down the backs of your legs.
Ever heard of reciprocal inhibition?
It's the theory of agonist/antagonist muscle pairs,
(those pairs which do opposing work in the body)
working in tandem: as one activates, its opposite can better release.
In down dog, the blue muscle above, tibialis anterior, works to draw toes toward the shin.
The red muscles above, the gastrocnemius/soleus complex,
which eventually join to form your Achilles tendon,
work to move the foot away from the shin, like when you walk.
This is what we're trying to stretch long in down dog and various lunges.
So, next time you find your adho mukha svanasana
just trying to draw the top of your foot towards your shin
can help your calves relax a bit.
Your heels will feel a little heavier and who knows, maybe the floor a little closer.
We'll try it out on the mat.
(with reciprocal inhibition tips for flexy yogis, too)
This may be the first time a Home Depot purchase
elicited a cry of delight.
The mister bought us a pitchfork.
It’s cheery tangerine. It’s solid metal.
And it looks like something Neptune might have in hand.
This pitchfork may inspire us to TURN our compost.
Apparently, the step we’ve been missing.
This we learned at a free metro composting class.
Along with the disturbing fact that
a plastic bag takes 200 to 1000 years to decompose.
How’s that for a number to
stop you in your tracks at the checkout cash register?
They also will gift you a splendid backyard composter.
You can sign up here.
Composting is so empowering!
And I just learned you can actually visit Metro's recycling center
to watch what happens to all those things you faithfully recycle.
You can sign up here.
In yoga we learn to conserve our energy,
holding it wisely in abeyance,
expending it with purpose.
Ancient yogic science has proven
it’s a brilliant way to make your body last.
The same principle applies on the macro scale, doesn’t it?
May we all be wise stewards on the inside, on the outside,
and especially on this earth we all share.
Bring your whole self to the yoga circle.
found in my East Nashville neighborhood last week
I recently found myself lugging yoga mats down 7th Avenue at 5:30 am,
my only company being bundled construction workers in tool belts walking past.
I was headed to the roof of a fancy hotel
to teach a sunrise yoga class to a company of New Yorkers.
Once ensconced, I only had to step over the laid out mats and through an impressive glass wall,
to find myself standing over my city, with more than one building crane in view.
Just feet away from my high perch, I glimpsed work boots perched twenty floors up.
With the dizzying effect of swinging cranes over head,
I could almost touch them. It was intense and a little surreal.
I've since learned that Nashville is the South's most dangerous city for construction workers.
Eleven workers have fallen to their deaths, while NOT wearing safety harnesses.
A Nashville native, I've done my share of grousing over the new development
and the accompanying traffic that can make life miserable.
Who are all these people?!
At the moment, I'm struck by consequences I've never considered.
It's helping me move towards compassion instead of my usual instant frustration.
"May you be safe" mister worker dude who's flashing me the stop sign,
making me wait for a concrete mixer when I really need to make the light.
We all might do a little better to calm, to slow down, to look out for each other.
To take the proverbial nap, kitty cat.
Come to the yoga mat
where life is easy
(and we can practice what to do when it's not).
We lost one of my favorite poets last week.
Mary Oliver wasn't particularly lauded by literary critics.
It's been said there may have been a bit of gendered judgment there,
that someone who emphatically loved the world and beauty,
embraced openhearted expression about old fashioned subjects,
valued watching birds and listening to trees,
may not have been quite up to highbrow poetic standards.
Well, dear yogi, this poem saved my life once.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice –
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do –
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Bring your own voice
and wonderful self
to our circle.
To be frank, my superpower wish has always been
to remember absolutely everything I've ever read.
I'm telling you, I would be one ferociously smart cookie.
But to return to my point, kindness.
Two wildly variant tales follow.
After my last gig of the week, I slipped into the Maria Callas documentary at Belcourt.
Regrettably, it was showing in the dreadfully tiny screening room which I despise.
I was angling for the farthest corner seat in the back row when
I had great difficulty passing a big booted woman with her leg angled in a seated pigeon.
She willfully ignored my offered "excuse me"s while mawing
what appeared to be a crumbling, overstuffed oatmeal pie cookie.
I wedged in past her, thanks to my yogic abilities, feeling supremely unwelcome.
She left after the second ten minute aria, leaving her crumbs behind her.
Afterwards, I had to park in a dark garage to visit a corporate bookstore.
(I know, I know, Parnassus didn't have the title, okay?)
Leaving with my validated ticket, the woman manning the kiosk
would not even look at me, no matter how friendly I tried to be.
She wouldn't acknowledge.my fervently shouted "thank you"s.
These two small events left me feeling defeated, disconnected, and unseen.
The next morning I woke up to remember my 10am dentist appointment,
which I did without a sense of dread for maybe the first time in my life.
A dental disaster childhood left me terrified of even a teeth cleaning.
I was the kid who hid in the attic on dentist day.
I was the adult who unfailingly flossed twice a day in lieu of the dentist chair.
I got really brave and was surprised to be met by the kindest hygienist ever.
Nothing dreadful happened, and now I return every six months like a normal person.
Big deal, you think. I assure you this is monumental. My mom can't believe it.
A life changer due to one person's kindness.
So, maybe I take things a little too personally. Maybe my feelings are too easily hurt.
But I think it's a universal truth that kindness can change your world,
or at least the way you feel about being in your world.
You have no idea whose day you might affect
and what kind of chain you might set in action
by offering a little kindness.
Yogi superpower: kindness. Go!
Bring your sweet self to our kind circle.
The onset of a new year seems to inspire abstention in many of us.
Denying ourselves this or that in pursuit of a better self.
Which got me thinking about my fascination with asceticism.
The root of the word, askein, is Greek meaning "to exercise"
leading to the word asketes, meaning "a monk or hermit."
I can attest that some of us revel in a feeling of righteousness
in denying ourselves guilty pleasures (how easily that phrase composed itself!)
or pushing ourselves towards some physical ideal
Wyatt Mason, writing about hedonism, offers:
"The old saw about boxers, that they wouldn't expend a certain kind of energy before a bout
- sexual energy, which would need to be hoarded if the fighter wanted to be at peak strength -
aligns nicely with this notion, one in which the ascetic isn't starving herself
so much as harnessing her powers, because power is a finite thing."
Indeed! And isn't this a good part of what we do in our yoga practice?
Harness our energy only to send it wisely where it's most needed?
Intuit when to go for it in a pose and what to hold in reserve?
And of course the idea is to take what we learn off the mat and into life.
Choosing what to enjoy, imbibe, or steep in by observing how it serves us.
This could work as a far more intuitive and empowering guide
in devising oneself as a new creature in a new year.
But I like your ol' self just as you are.
Bring it to the mat this year!
sculpture by Akira Blount
This was a travel weekend for me.
Planes, trains, and automobiles.
Interestingly, I always found myself next to someone
who was obviously self soothing.
An incessantly shaking foot,
a steady alcohol intake,
zoned out hours on a video game.
We all do it, albeit along different avenues.
I'm challenging myself to try to sit with what I feel.
Notice where I'm holding it in my body.
Try to find my breath, and coax a little constancy.
Acknowledging the sensation or the distress or
the distraction or the loneliness or the boredom
helps it loosen its grip.
Just to see what is.
Allow myself to feel or acknowledge it.
And a little settling begins.
It's curiously simple, and fascinating really.
Holidays and family time prove a brilliant testing ground,
at least in my experience.
So does the mat.
This cartoon ashtanga yoga dude is a little kooky,
though I love the Pattahbi Jois like teacher.
I never studied directly with the Ashtanga yoga master,
but I did practice with his eldest son, Manju.
"Look one place!" is indeed about as eloquent as instruction got.
If your neck ever feels icky in yoga,
it's most likely got to do with your dristi
(where you send your gaze).
In Ashtanga yoga, we are taught very specific dristis for each asana.
After twenty years of practicing different types of yoga,
I have come to believe that general guidelines make sense,
but the ultimate guide should be ease in your neck and head.
If your gaze, and consequently your head, is too dropped, it feels dull and heavy.
If your gaze is too high, your neck hyperextends and can feel stuck.
If it's just right, your head will feel spacious and free and your neck aligned.
That's what we're going for!
We'll practice it this week.
candles of devotion in an errant cathedral I stumbled upon in Rome in 2011
by Carl Dennis
If on your grandmother's birthday you burn a candle
To honor her memory, you might think of burning an extra
To honor the memory of someone who never met her,
A man who may have come to the town she lived in
Looking for work and never found it.
Picture him taking a stroll one morning,
After a month of grief with the want ads,
To refresh himself in the park before moving on.
Suppose he notices on the gravel path the shards
Of a green glass bottle that your grandmother,
Then still a girl, will be destined to step on
When she wanders barefoot away from her school picnic
If he doesn't stoop down and scoop the mess up
With the want-ad section and carry it to a trash can.
For you to burn a candle for him
You needn't suppose the cut would be a deep one,
Just deep enough to keep her at home
The night of the hay ride when she meets Helen,
Who is soon to become her dearest friend,
Whose brother George, thirty years later,
Helps your grandfather with a loan so his shoe store
Doesn't go under in the Great Depression
And his son, your father, is able to stay in school
Where his love of learning is fanned into flames,
A love he labors, later, to kindle in you.
How grateful you are for your father's efforts
Is shown by the candles you've burned for him.
But today, for a change, why not a candle
For the man whose name is unknown to you?
Take a moment to wonder whether he died at home
With friends and family or alone on the road,
On the look-out for no one to sit at his bedside
And hold his hand, the very hand
It's time for you to imagine holding.
Using time travel and ritual acts of devotion
to cultivate compassion
appeals to me.
If encountering a busy mind
in moments of attempted meditation,
perhaps this might prove a worthy endeavor.
Come to practice together
on the mat.
For many of us, our physical yoga practice
works to illuminate our personal spiritual practices.
Opening ourselves slowly from the outside in.
First creating physical forms,
imbuing them with meaning and possibility
offering them upwards and outwards
only to find them working deeply in our subtle and emotional body.
For me, my yoga mat continues to remain a sacred space,
a pool of quiet where I can bring myself
in whatever sorry state or exalted brilliance I might be in.
Come do the same
on the mat this week.
"You probably cannot and should not let go
of your personal ethics and your political beliefs,
but perhaps you can hold these ideologies
in suspension for the time being.
Allow your mind to enter into a space of not-knowing,
of not having solutions, of not casting blame.
Before you go to sleep this evening,
enter into a space of equanimity
in which you regard all people in the same light."
-David Dillard Wright from "A Mindful Evening"
Okay, this is a pretty big ask.
And I'm not pretending that I can easily do so myself.
But this seems like a rather relevant notion at present.
So, maybe just consider it?
Come find a little peace together
before the returns start rolling in.
"When we engage in spiritual practices, it is a beautiful thing, helping us uplift our
consciousness to become the most radiant, authentic, and true version of ourselves.
Voting is the equivalent for the larger society in which we find ourselves. It is
a collective spiritual practice that allows us to uplift the consciousness of the whole
through the creation of more enlightened policies that enable more and more of
society to express its full potential.
Parties and candidates are the vehicle for that expression but at the deeper level,
voting is a transfer of our consciousness and values into the way our society is
designed and governed.
It is an investment of your heart, mind, and soul in creating a better world
- the most powerful mechanism we have to create a society that reflects our
vision of the future.
We are selecting people who will make decisions with far-reaching implications
and thus it's vital that we select the people who exemplify the highest
wisdom, care, and integrity,
In that sense, voting is a sacred act because it is an expression of your reverence,
respect, and care for your fellow human beings (and our precious ecosystem).
It's shocking to me just how many otherwise awake and conscious people become
disengaged from the political process or don't vote. People complain that the
process is too dirty, the choices are all the same, or some other rationalization
for what is essentially an abdication of spiritual responsibility.
Simply put, not voting is an unconscious, regressive, and ultimately non-spiritual
way of engaging the world. It's self-absorbed versus compassionate,
asleep rather than awake.
If you consider yourself spiritual, you need to vote."
I found this a powerful exhortation
on civic responsibility
and spiritual accountability.
Let's step up, yogis.
Early voting is open until 7pm this Thursday
with election day on next Tuesday, Nov 6th.
Cast a bright vote into the world!
All yogis unite
on the mat.
[ vote image by Jeremy Botts ]
Just a note to self for the next time
you're feeling a little beside yourself.
Even the most rational among us can feel a little unhinged in the present environment.
Some people look to yoga to bliss out and escape incessant loops playing out in the mind.
While it's true that dropping into your body and breath calms the nervous system,
a regular yoga practice can increase your sensitivity - to yourself and the world around you.
Making it ever more important to be mindful of what you subject yourself to,
what influences you allow in, what company you keep (digital and in real life),
and where you choose to direct your energies to work good (for yourself and others).
Be smart, dear feeling yogi.
Offer some compassion to yourself.
You can't fix it all.
Tend your own garden, well.
The mat is a good place to start.
We attended a wedding in Dallas this weekend.
It turns out 69 isn't too late to find the man of your dreams.
One of the grooms hails from New Orleans, so a second line parade was in order.
A brass band led Guy and John dancing down the street, parasols in hand.
We followed waving handkerchiefs 'round a city block.
This was great fun, but my favorite part?
Watching the surprise of city onlookers,
especially an elderly Indian couple who broke out in nodding smiles
seeing two men so exuberantly celebrated in marriage.
The kapow! of true love is hard to deny.
And even if only for a moment, the world felt like a vastly loving place.
Bring your wide open heart
to the yoga circle
with all your pals.
You may have read that NASA has set their sights on the sun.
Well, specifically the sun's atmosphere - the corona.
It's apparently a pretty wacky place
with fierce supersonic winds and a temp of 3.5 million degrees Fahrenheit.
While the sun's surface is only 10,000 degrees. You know, only.
But the part I like is this. The designated spacecraft is the Parker Solar Probe.
It's the first time in history a spacecraft has ever been named after a person.
Eugene Parker, born in 1927, studied physics at Michigan State and Caltech and
theorized about the existence of the heliosphere and supersonic solar winds back in 1958.
The elder smartypants profs scoffed at his "preposterous" ideas.
"This is ridiculous," one of the judges of Parker's paper remarked dismissively.
Who's ridiculous now, ol' mister professor smartypants? Hmmm??
I understand nothing about solar astrophysics.
But I love the vindication of a determined dreamer.(visionary?)
Karma is a sweet thing, is it not?
Don't be too sure we understand everything.
Or that your dream/vision is ill conceived, even if everyone says so.
Go, Parker Solar Probe, go!
Yoga practice this week will be air-conditioned,
which is somehow still necessary in October.
I scored this little treasure at my favorite booksale last week.
The chapter on proper funereal etiquette in 1890 reeled me in,
but this advice to well-bred ladies, read in the age of Kavanaugh, stopped me cold.
"A Low Voice"
I think one can always tell a lady by her voice and laugh
-neither of which which will ever be loud or coarse,
but soft, low, and nicely modulated. Shakespeare's unfailing taste
tells us that "A low voice is an excellent thing in a woman."
And we believe that the habit of never raising the voice
would tend much to the comfort and happiness of many a home:
as a proof of good breeding, it is unfailing.
Now, I was raised a girl in the southland,
so admittedly this does not sound like crazy talk to my ear.
But I was convicted by this op-ed by Rebecca Traister in the NYT yesterday:
Many of the women shouting now are women who have not previously yelled publicly before,
any of them white middle-class women newly awakened to political fury and protest.
Part of the process of becoming mad must be recognizing that they are not the first to be furious,
and that there is much to learn from the stories and histories of the livid women
- many of them not white or middle class - who have never had reason not to be mad.
If you are angry today, or if you have been angry for a while,
and you're wondering whether you're allowed to be as angry as you feel,
let me say: Yes. Yes, you are allowed. You are, in fact, compelled.
If you've been feeling a new rage at the flaws of this country,
and if your anger is making you want to change your life in order to change the world,
then I have something incredibly important to say: Don't forget how this feels.
Tell a friend, write it down, explain it to your children now, so they will remember.
And don't let anyone persuade you it wasn't right, or it was weird,
or it was some quirky stage in your life when you went all political
- remember that, honey, that year you went crazy? No. No.
Don't let it ever become that. Because people will try.
I am wrestling with what to do with the fury I feel
after watching all nine hours of the Kavanaugh hearing.
I recognize that entitled bros trigger me like nobody's business,
and that everyone has pain and deserves to be heard.
I have always loved the way my feminine body can inhabit a very small amount of space.
I also love the way I can open it and take up a lot of space, physically and energetically.
I'm finding that my yoga practice helps me process some of this current emotion,
along with shared conversation over the moment we find ourselves in.
To be awake, thoughtful, compassionate, while acknowledging fury isn't easy,
but what is all this yoga for if it can't help us live more authentically off the mat?
After yoga class yesterday, a yogi I love told me her intention for the week was anger.
A pastor I deeply respect told me that we are marked for love and now is the time to rage.
Permission granted. I think fierce, red hot, furious love is actually good medicine.
Come to the mat
and process whatever you're holding.
Last week, an afternoon cancellation led me to take a class
trying out one of the new yoga studios
that seem to be sprouting up all over town.
Arriving in the nick of time to a room full
of well-coiffed and expensively clad yogis
suddenly felt a little like walking the halls of high-school again
- not my favorite sensation.
Suddenly, I was encouraged to sing along to Justin Bieber tunes while pulsing utkatasana
and led in long sets of jumping jacks interspersed throughout the practice.
This is when I realized I was the only one in the room over 25.
Eventually deciding to abandon efforts to keep up with the speed of the flow,
I opted instead to protect my joints and strategize the wisest way to accomplish
the prescribed landing in skandasana from ardha chandrasana.
Don't try this at home. Please.
Why am I telling you this?
Mainly because it was too bizarre an experience not to amuse you.
And to say that there is always something to be learned in a yoga class:
sometimes to consider a new, unimagined way of doing things,
sometimes to empower your inner teacher to reply "Um, think I'll pass on that. Thanks."
Sometimes to soften your judgments, of yourself and of those around you,
to see scary, hard, pretty girls just as soft and scared on the inside as your slouchy self.
I did all four. And kicked that set of push-ups, too, thank you very much.
Come to the yoga circle
where you'll find no jumping jacks or pop music.
competitor Aida Akmatova: "I can help pass down our culture, our traditions."
This was among the many wonders to be seen at the World Nomad Games
which were recently held in Kyrgyzstan
where native peoples are trying to restore their historical identity.
After years of Soviet domination and amid the influence of globalization,
these Central Asian countries are eager to embrace their ancient cultures.
Something like a thousand yurts filled the competition grounds
in the middle of the Tian Shan mountain range where
participants ate, slept, and vied with each other in traditional games.
Many of the competitions involved skill with horses and archery;
some involved tussling with a headless goat carcass,
the tossing of bones, or hunting with eagles.
Somehow, an archer in pincha mayurasana
seemed the most pleasant image to share.
And what enviable, nimble feet!
There's something beautiful about investigating ancient and peculiar practices
that speak to history with the use of able bodies and earnest intention.
Come try the ancient discipline of yoga
(where there will be no weapons or bloodshed).
One of the reasons we practice in a circle
is to see that everyone is up to something,
everyone has their own technique,
and the community holds vital complexity.
How we as individuals relate to others
is an embodiment of ethics.
-dages juvelier keates
My favorite thing about group yoga classes
is the camaraderie we create in our practice.
There's something both vulnerable and empowering
about finding yourself one of many
trying to balance precariously on one foot,
aiming to craft a wicked one arm plank,
wondering "Um, am I twisting in the right direction?"
We can learn so much from each other:
get inspired by someone's tenacity to keep trying,
see a pose expressed with a peculiar flair,
respect the sheer devotion of another's practice.
Most profoundly, we can draw upon the good energy
that we can only create together.
Virya paramita - the perfection of energy or zeal.
It is no small thing to join together each week
with other good souls working to move through the world
with open hearts, clear minds, and purposeful intentions.
on the mat!
Recently, a yogi offered that
one of the best things about her yoga practice
was the quiet freedom it brought to her busy, quick moving mind.
Coming to the sacred space of your mat,
setting aside all the efforts preceding that point in time
and all that remains waiting for your attention,
is to drop oneself purposefully into the present moment.
Attending to the simplicity of the breath,
the direction of your limbs, your gaze, your prana.
Spending yourself into a type of emptiness
somehow makes everything more spacious, more possible.
on the mat.
Maturity beckons also, asking us to be larger,
more fluid, more elemental, less cornered, less unilateral,
a living conversational intuition between the inherited story,
the one we are privileged to inhabit
and the one, if we are large enough and broad enough,
moveable enough and even, here enough,
just, astonishingly, about to occur.
And our yoga practice helps make it so.
Come see at class.
Fleeting summer is the perfect time for escape.
Climb into a book to skip outside of yourself,
and inside another world, or mind, or heart.
That's the kind of thing that can't help but grow you in some way.
Last week, an unexpected empty afternoon found me at the library.
Once home, fetching my pile of books out of the car,
I was suddenly thrown back in time to the visceral childhood thrill
of carrying my very own personally curated pile of books
from the Green Hills library, into my mom's Volkswagen van,
and finally secreted into my own room.
My own private nirvana.
Treat your grownup self to a library outing
and make a stout pile of the unknown to dip into.
No sunblock required.
And may I suggest our downtown Nashville library?
You'll feel illustrious simply by treading the sweep of marble steps
up to the main reading room.
Then bring your enlightened self
to the yoga circle.
Plank is a powerful posture
and a difficult one, I admit.
If we can build it with integrity,
it creates a wise foundation from which we can build many asanas.
Everything from a sound down dog to kooky arm balances.
There are many variations, a couple that we'll try this week.
Usually plank is done with a neutral spine
activating spinal stabilizers and postural muscles
such as multifidus and transverse abdominus.
We can also take flexion into a plank with a slightly rounded back,
firing up global mobilizers like rectus abdominis and quadriceps.
We'll sweetly (I promise) explore both this week.
You'll feel strong, stable, and awesome.
Take inspiration from Nancy & Sarah
who can stack it like nobody's business!
See you on the mat!
I read an interesting article musing over
whether the world is getting better or worse.
Violence and discrimination have actually diminished worldwide.
We have better working conditions, longer life expectancy,
and whether it feels like it or not, more leisure time than our forbears.
There's the rub - does it feel like things are getting better?
Where does our pessimism come from?
The incessant prompting of alarming news buzzing in our pockets,
a growing culture of blame, and general divisiveness to start.
But I am fascinated by philosopher Charles Taylor's argument
that life in the modern age brings with it a sense of spiritual responsibility.
He points out that in pre-Reformation Europe, common people
were held to lower spiritual standards than monks and nuns,
which "involved accepting that masses of people
were not going to live up to the demands of perfection."
Protestantism unleashed individual responsibility for salvation and self-actualization,
and with it a credo that we are each responsible for society, and each other.
Jump to our busy lives in 2018.
We want to make the world a better place
but are doing well to keep our own plates spinning.
Joshua Rothman thinks, "Pessimism can be a form of penance,
and of spiritual humility in a humanist age."
I had to read this sentence several times to discover why it provoked me.
Maybe you will too.
Are we damped down into mumbled pessimism
in light of our perceived inability to save the world?
As yogis, we may not be able to move or mend society single-handedly.
But we can, even in the face of great odds,
again and again, make a conscious choice
to dwell in the strength of inner truth,
to look for the long arc of justice,
and to diligently tend our own flame,
with compassion for the suffering we see
while taking seriously the duty to generate hope that shines beyond us.
A couple heart-openers among friends
might be a good way to start.
There's something profound in this
-considering breath recycled through millennia.
A touch-point to realize how very connected we are
not only to each other and to the earth,
but to our past and to our future.
Inhale. Exhale. Feel gratitude that you can.
Find breathe and movement
on the mat.
"One rule of the game, in most times and places,
is that it's the young who are beautiful.
The beauty ideal is always a youthful one. This is partly simple realism.
The young are beautiful. The whole lot of 'em.
The older I get, the more clearly I see that and enjoy it. [...]
And yet I look at men and women my age and older,
and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges,
though various and interesting, don't affect what I think of them.
Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don't.
For old people, beauty doesn't come free with the hormones,
the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones.
It has to do with who the person is.
More and more clearly, it has to do with
what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies."
-Ursula Le Guin
I don't know about you, but I'm starting to recognize the truth in this.
As I age, and as I work with clients further along the path than myself,
I've come to see how much of who you are is reflected in your physical form.
Yoga keeps us fit, conscious, and well from the inside out.
I've been in the presence of female yogis in their seventies and eighties.
They possess an absolute ease in their bodies
and a steadiness of mind and heart that is inspiring.
They appear to me as though lit from within.
Gimme some of that.
A devoted yoga practice is not only about your physical form.
It's taking the time for yourself in order to tend to yourself,
to incline an ear to your emotional body, to heed what you find,
and build a practice of nurturing so you can shine clear.
Let's support each other in this.
"The difference between real material poison and intellectual poison
is that most material poison is disgusting to the taste,
but intellectual poison,
which takes the form of cheap newspapers or bad books,
can unfortunately sometimes be attractive."
I find it astonishing that someone who would never touch a Pop-Tart,
may not think twice about consuming a vapid hour of violent television
or a poorly written, sensation seeking, objectifying magazine.
Don't get me wrong. Junky sweets can be awesomely fun.
But even after that divine, vegan Nutty Buddy cone, I do feel kinda yucky.
It's interesting to notice how and what you feel after consuming media.
At the risk of sounding a little hippy-dippy,
does what you take in serve to raise or lower your vibration?
Okay, not a very scientific conjecture, but you get the idea.
Do you feel more in touch with the qualities you want to emanate?
Or do you feel disassociated or even blue or anxious?
No judgment here, yogis.
Rather a little self-care.
You are a highly attuned being.
Practice discernment with what you take in,
so you can be awesome with what you put out.
Practice with like minded souls.
"By drawing our senses of perception inward,
we are able to experience
the control, silence, and quietness of the mind."
What could be more inspiring than
making like a tree in the middle of a redwood forest?
In working a tricky balance pose,
drawing senses inwards and energy upwards
can bring you into a surreal, silent stillness.
The breath continues to rise and fall
while the physical body finds a moment of suspension.
Yogis can conjure this awareness
on one foot or two,
seated, standing, or floating.
Come find that powerful quietness
on the mat.
"It takes some training to equate complete letting go with comfort.
But in fact, 'nothing to hold on to' is the root of happiness.
There's a sense of freedom when we accept that we're not in control."
This may proove the work of a lifetime,
but I think the payoff may be worth it.
Embrace true freedom this week
- the kind you create from the inside out.
Let's practice before the fireworks get started!
"In an age of acceleration, contemplation is power."
I find this fascinating.
I love ideas that seem counterintuitive upon first glance
and feel deeper and truer the more you ponder them.
Have you ever encountered a person
who spends a lot of time in meditation?
There is an unquestionable power of stability that they carry with them.
I'll never forget the first time I went to hear
Tibetan lamas, the Khenpo Rinpoches.
When these two brothers walked into the room,
their presence was palpable.
They exuded calm, joy, and stillness, all at the same time.
I'd never seen or felt anything like it.
Reflect on how contemplation could be power in your life.
Not in a pie-in-the-sky, spending hours OM-ing kind of way.
But in a real life, moments of pause kind of way.
Stopping to take a breath before reacting to someone.
Refraining from reaching for your iPhone and instead
just sitting still for a whole sixty seconds.
Reclaim your power, yogi.
We'll find some contemplation on the mat.
Fred Rogers visiting children with disabilities at The Children's Institute in Pittsburgh
The best thing to happen to me this weekend was viewing
the Mr. Rogers' documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? at the Belcourt.
Yes, I got to travel back in time to remember moments of my childhood.
Such riveting things like Mr. Rogers showing us how to stack plastic cups into a pyramid,
or demonstrating how you could put your hand on your belly to take a slow breath to calm down.
A lot of us turned on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for the constancy and calm.
To see a man who exhibited kindness and concern with consistency,
who made you feel as though you counted even though you were just a little kid.
But this weekend, I got to revisit these images from my present adult vantage point,
and see the genuine compassion he had for us all. It was more powerful, still.
Sitting in a sold out theatre of sniffling middle aged fans longing to hear
that someone liked us just as we were - that was a powerful experience.
Giving his last commencement speech at Dartmouth in 2002,
he looked out at all those eager graduates and said:
"And what this ultimately means, of course, is that
you don't ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you."
Wait a minute, what? You.....don't have to do anything?
In our age of leaning in, aiming higher, garnering more likes,
building "a brand" of yourself, who says this?
Well, Mr. Rogers does.
And I'm going to believe him.
No trolley or King Friday,
but all your friends will be there
in our yoga circle.
Love is ambient and omnidirectional,
as tough as lichen and as flexible as a flock of pigeons;
it finds its own forms.
Often I find myself skirting away from the word love.
It can feel squishy and overused. Jejune. Banal even.
Sometimes, when I'm tight and shrinking on the inside,
I'm even less drawn to consider it.
Knowing the true expression of it is far more expansive
than I'm capable of at the moment.
These words from Sam Anderson free me somehow.
Sometimes a mild, ambient pulse is all I'm good for.
Sometimes I'm full and happy and can shine it out everywhere.
Sometimes I feel nothing at all but see evidence,
like the peculiar, native beauty of lichen - long in the making and stuck fast.
And how I long for anything emanating from me
to feel as free as a flock of shifting birds.
Find, or simply notice, your own form.
Maybe on the mat.
"At any sign of serious danger,
the turtle withdraws within its shell.
This is a natural, spontaneous process
which nothing can reverse.
At the slightest sense of unreality,
the realized yogi withdraws consciously into Divine reality."
~Ramakrishna, The Great Swan
I find something beautiful and increasingly necessary
in the practice of withdrawing.
It's easy to be caught up in the latest version of proffered reality.
Deep in your insides resides your true nature, your true reality.
Sometimes breathwork can bring you there.
Sometimes simple stillness.
Sometimes music or movement.
Let's taste them all
in efforts to draw within.
Meet me on the mat.
If Ruth Bader Ginsburg can rock this pose at 85, so can we.
It's a brilliant pose for building strength
in the shoulders, side body, and legs.
It's also a nice stretch for the wrists
when performed with a straight arm.
All of its forms require us to draw upon
core strength to achieve balance.
Vasisthasana, or side plank, has a myriad of variations.
We'll explore a few of them this week on the mat.
Rock it like a Supreme Court Justice!
I spent the weekend pruning beloved trees,
poplars and a maple whose heavy boughs
had been allowed to trail the ground.
I heard the voice of Jacob, the hippie tree guy, in my head:
"You're an artist; just take away to let the shape reveal itself."
Climbing branches, craning upwards, stepping back for the full view.
Talking soothingly to the tree as I cut in, revealing sunlight and space.
It was kind of beautiful and more than a little empowering.
Hours later, I listened to the masterful Michael Ondaatje
at a reading at Parnassus Books.
He explained how profoundly his first work as a poet
informed his later success as a novelist.
He explained you come to realize it's what you don't say
that gives the reader space to interact with the work.
Take away. Let the shape reveal itself.
These are interesting prompts for a yogi.
How could we clear, lose extraneous noise and effort
in allowing our postures to reveal themselves?
on the mat this week.
I don't think I've ever stumbled upon
a more sublime description of savasana.
Read this from Hawthorne's 1835 story "The Haunted Mind."
"You have found an intermediate space,
where the business of life does not intrude;
where the passing moment lingers,
and becomes truly the present;
a spot where Father Time,
when he thinks nobody is watching him,
sits down by the way side to take breath."
Come take breath
on the mat.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or Bridge Pose
setu= dam,dike,or bridge / bandha= lock
Bridge pose is a lovely preparatory backbend posture.
Here a couple of things to think about:
Do keep hips, knees, and feet in line;
don't allow the knees to lazily splay or toes to turn out.
Why? This can compress the sacrum leading to an unhappy lower back.
That said, I've had yogis fitted together a bit differently who find it
necessary to mindfully alter knee placement for their skeletal structure.
This is an example of adapting yoga to fit your body, not the other way round.
Do press the backs of your shoulders to the ground;
don't let them scrunch up shortening your neck.
Why? We don't want any undue pressure on the cervical spine.
When done properly, you'll find the chinlock Jalandara Bandha,
which stimulates the vagus nerve, calming the nervous system. Ahhh!
Generally, your spine should feel spacious.
Imagine if I were to slip a broomstick behind your knees
and lightly traction by drawing them away from you.
Okay, I've never seen this done, but I like the idea.
What's so awesome about bridge pose?
- opens up the chest & lungs, therapeutic for asthma
- improves digestion by stimulating abdominal organs
- stimulates the adrenal glands & thyroid
- relieves menstrual discomfort & menopause symptoms
Best of all, the brain quiets and the heart opens.
Powerful stuff for those of us trapped in a busy mind.
Come calm your nervous system
on the mat this week.
This is a humble offering of one yogi's take on Facebook.
I've never been an avid user, but I purposely left late last year.
I liked yogis posting their asana vacation pics on my wall,
peering into friends' lives and adventures,
and supporting people in their good work in the world.
But yoga teachers are strongly encouraged to grow their clientele
with the posting of ever more aspirational yoga shots,
and humblebragging pleas that frankly make me slightly ill.
So much posing going on, in more ways than one.
I didn't like what Facebook was cultivating in me,
lots of judgment, of myself and of others.
I have enough difficulty on that score, thank you very much.
I left Facebook for first world problems of ego and mental wellness,
but I was deeply moved by recent reporting
of FB's consequences in the developing world.
If you haven't read Amanda Taub and Max Risher's reporting
on Sri Lanka, you can do so here. Here's a small excerpt:
I've also removed the Facebook plug on my website
as I've recently learned it enables FB to glean information
on users by calling code to track digital movements
on all visitors to my site even if they don't have a FB account,
even if they never click the FB button.
Creepers jeepers, yogis!
All that said, I recognize Facebook helps connect people
all over the world in wonderful ways too.
Many people who feel isolated physically and emotionally
find solace and connection through social media.
That is a valuable thing.
One of our yogic precepts
is to practice letting go of what doesn't serve us.
Be thoughtful about what you participate in.
Be honest about what makes your world better
and what distracts or clouds it.
Then you'll be making wise decisions for yourself
and the world you inhabit.
We will all have different choices due to our peculiar life situations,
but we're all in this together, dear ones.
Come see your friends in real life
on the yoga mat.
It is not necessary that you leave the house.
Remain at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, only wait.
Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone.
The world will present itself to you for its unmasking...
in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet.
But if your body wants a little undoing
in the company of other good souls
find your way to the yoga mat
rain or shine.
Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of prosperity
With tax day falling this week, it's an apt time
to think about one's relationship to money.
I've been thinking about how a yoga practice might
influence the way one holds, saves, and spends money.
Some of us want to quench our desires now,
so we can feel better in the moment, at least for a while.
We rankle at the idea of a budget and its constrictions,
and prefer the illusion of freedom.
Some of us deny ourselves pleasures consistently,
out of fear for our financial future,
seeking to control as much as we possibly can.
(a small hand bashfully raised here)
One of the most instructive things about an asana practice,
is observing what we do when things get uncomfortable.
This is partly why we set an intention before practice
-to offer a focus for how we might move through it.
Why not set an intention for who we want to become
in regards to how we keep and give money?
Identifying what values are important to us,
how we want to move in the world with our resources,
what responsibilities we want to show up for,
how openhanded we want to be.
These may not be the same standards we grew up with,
and those that were modeled for us may be stronger than we know.
When we set an intention for who we want to be in the world
it helps to guide our decisions
about where and why to spend and save.
A yoga practice extends well beyond the mat.
Conscious, mindful, clear-eyed intentions
are powerful instigators that create our future.
Come and practice.
pressing into big toes in uttanasa
image from Dr. Long's Daily Bandha
Often when one descends into a standing forward fold,
the pelvis sneakily rocks backwards
sending you away from tidily stacked bones.
Ever notice this?
Catch a fold in front of a mirror and see.
When folding over in a standing pose,
try pressing your big toes a bit forward and down.
This works to bring your bones
into a more properly stacked position.
Why should you care?
Well, when bones are stacked, the body
can rely upon their tensile strength to keep you steady
rather than having to engage muscularly elsewhere
to work to hold yourself aright.
An added bonus is the fact that
leg bones aligned perpendicular to the floor
work to evenly align the bones forming the knee joint,
distributing forces far more evenly around the knees.
Who doesn't love a happy knee
unstressed by misalignment?
This is a brilliant idea to practice
even if you're a wisely-bent-knees forward folder.
It doesn't only apply to flexy straight leg skeletons
like in the picture above.
We'll work to bring this wisdom into our bodies this week.
Come find your toes
on the mat this week.
We took a little road trip to Memphis this weekend.
Not what I would call a sparkling city, but the zoo was brilliant.
I was struck by this gorilla's calm demeanor and stellar posture.
I don't know many 32 year old, 500 pound dudes who can sit like this.
His name, Mwelu, translates as "a touch of brightness and light" in Burundi.
I've since learned that he and I share a similar spinal structure,
give or take one or two thoracic and lumbar vertebrae in number.
He has less curves in his spine, thanks to not standing on two legs all the time;
his discs almost never wear out.
You could learn a lot from a western lowland gorilla.
They are quiet, peaceful, and non-aggressive creatures.
When they have to deal with intruders,
they'll charge but tend to fake out at the last minute,
so nobody gets hurt but they make their point.
Smart. I like a big guy . . . without a big ego.
There is a gorilla pose in your future.
We went to see The Eagles this weekend.
The music! The nostalgia!
I came of age again in two hours time.
Suddenly, I was nine years old having finished
singing my heart out to Carole King,
my next door neighbor's big sister
commandeered the turntable to
impress and frighten us with Hotel California.
It worked. I knew instantly my mom would not approve.
It was soooo cool.
Then I was 12 years old, terrified by a boy girl dance
at my first (and mercifully last) sleep away camp,
where I first heard Life in the Fast Lane.
There was a sudden charge in the air
I was too young to fully understand,
compelling and unnerving me in equal measure.
Prompting me next morning to find a tiny creek frog
for a safe friend, kept in a shoebox beneath my cot,
to help me weather the remaining long week away from home.
We now know much about the power of music and memory.
Your heart flies wide open at a remembered melody,
where or who you were when you first knew it;
your body wants to move with joy or longing.
We know too that the body stores emotional memory
deep in our tissues, emerging unexpectedly sometimes
when we breathe and move in intentional ways.
Throw on a tune that makes you feel this week.
Let yourself go free for a few minutes.
Maybe close the curtains first?
Then bring a free and open you
to move and connect with yourself
on the mat this week.
I'm not sure who these Brits are,
watching Iyengar in his sirsasana,
but I'm seriously impressed at their open hips.
It's not everyday you see
two suits conversing in sukhasana.
If more work meetings were
held in criss-cross applesauce,
the world would probably be a happier place.
Point being, you don't have to be
on your yoga mat to rock your asana.
A kitchen sink is the perfect support
for ardha uttanasana (half forward fold).
A door frame is a nice place
to catch your palms and open up your chest.
Get creative, yogis.
Find ways to open up and undo throughout the day.
You'll be happier for it. Promise.
Free class for photographic evidence
of the best normal life yoga hack.
Ready, set, go!
I recently attended a performance at the Blair School of Music
where an accomplished vocalist and teacher performed
with some of our best classical musicians.
She had been working with Blair students during the week
in master classes exploring how to work with the medium of the voice.
She clearly had extraordinary mastery of her instrument
evidenced through curious, playful, and remarkable vocal stylings
based on snippets of Kafka pieces.
But the most striking thing to me was her open handed remark
to the eager and appreciative musicians in the audience
that she is still learning how the voice works.
"You know that you never really arrive, right?"
It's a humbling piece of truth.
None of us ever really arrive.
We're all feeling our way through with curiosity and wonder.
The very best artisans and thinkers openly admit this fact,
embrace it even, in pursuit of greater understanding.
A yoga practice is no different.
Perhaps you feel you've mastered some postures,
but the body always has something more to reveal,
if you remain open, vigilant to revelation.
Come explore together.
Panning for gold in Madagascar,
the woman on the left is hip hinging rather nicely.
Tending to morning tasks, wafting from the kitchen radio
came a chipper NPR voice espousing hip hinging.
Aha! Anthropologists observing a sound yoga practice
out in the real world among cultures who use their bodies
to tend land, forage, and farm all their lives long!
Hinging at the hips spares your vertebrae,
relying upon those big, sturdy ball and socket hip joints,
and stretching your hamstrings in the bargain.
Just as true in a sari as in yoga pants.
Let's try it
on the mat this week.
Nadia Comaneci 1976
Some of us grew up wanting to be, longing to be
the best at whatever we tried.
Somehow that can translate to wanting only the best,
most perfect situation or experience
for your own kid or loved one
every time, in every possible way,
wrenched true with every bit of control you can eke out.
Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything...
It's taken many humbling years, okay decades,
for me to realize, okay, begin to realize
there is a lot to be said for stumbling into the
unexpected pleasures of the random choice,
something to admire in finding the courage to try something
you just might completely suck at, but find some joy in.
This poem intrigued me:
It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you’d have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction.
The God Who Loves You by Carl Dennis, excerpted
Makes you think, doesn't it?
Come practice with less than perfect yogis
and a less than perfect teacher
but sharing a whole lot of possibility.
After the arrival of smart phones, I noticed my patience for waiting diminishing.
Waiting for information, waiting for a reply, waiting to receive anything
I felt should be quite mine at the exact moment I wanted it.
These days, the main waiting I do is standing in a queue at the grocery store.
A couple months ago, I read Zen teacher and pediatrician
Jan Chozen Bays on waiting and the opportunities it provides.
Instead of becoming cross and impatient,
traversing and strengthening familiar negative patterns,
she suggests seeing it as an opportunity for practice.
The practice of simply becoming more aware.
I tried it. It's kind of awesome.
You can find your feet on the floor and craft your posture.
You can watch, slow, and count your breath.
You can observe the shoes of those around you, guess at their lives,
try to pick up on their energetic state at the moment,
maybe even try to send out a little lightness their way.
It's fascinating really.
And then boom, you've accomplished a mindfulness meditation.
Well done, you!
Then come do yoga with your pals.
American war veteran Alex Nguyen
"One's body is not a project or a problem,
it is the place each of us
is always and already living from.
Embodied practice can turn us toward that reality
and away from tendencies to dissociate.
To live in each of our changing, growing,
yearning, dying, aging bodies
is to be in touch with what is profoundly human.
Practice is not to degrade oneself
or aggrandize oneself,
but to find the complexity of life
as it is on a human scale."
To return to the yoga mat,
day after day,
week after week,
year after year,
is absolutely a study in the complexity of life
as it is on a human scale.
To encounter yourself
where you are in a precise moment
requires not only keen awareness and presence
but posits the question of whether you are able to
pursue with curiosity what the body may reveal
in a spirit of profound self compassion.
To use judgement of your yoga postures
as a marker of reading progress
may deny you the magic of the practice itself.
Not to aggrandize (Oh! Just look at my extension!)
or to degrade (Ugh. Just look at my extension.)
but to provide clear, temporal space
where you might do the work of undoing,
giving rise to physiological and emotional space within
to clearly see just who you are
and to intuit what qualities you'd like to foster
through movement or stillness.
Let's practice together.
I took a yoga class last Friday night.
Firstly, I had just had my hair cut,
so I smelled like a beauty parlor lady,
and it had been artfully blown dry,
so I looked like somebody's mother,
which of course I am,
and could be to every other yogi in that room.
I arrived late and was forced to wedge in the front row
where my nose was inches from the mirrored wall.
I successfully dodged the brightly tattooed limbs to my left,
while slightly distracted by the dude to my right
who had little on but a sock hat and beard.
I'm not sure why I'm telling you this story,
but maybe to illustrate this.....
you don't need your imagined perfect yoga environment
to deepen and grow your practice.
Friday night yoga on the eastside provided me
a fertile landscape for working with my ego,
a challenge of finding focus within perceived chaos,
and opportunity for creating space within me
when there was none around me.
Yoga isn't always about being comfortable,
but you know that, don't you, yogi?
Come to practice
where everyone will have their clothes on.
If you open the armpits,
the brain becomes light.
You cannot brood
or become depressed.
"Sparks of Divinity: The Teachings of B. K. S. Iyengar"
B.K.S. Iyengar, credited with bringing yoga to the west,
knew the power of yoga upon the body and mind.
He inspired many a yoga practitioner with words like these
and helped us to understand the profound internal effects of yoga.
These days, science is beginning to understand
how taking postures with the body
can alter the mind, perception, and emotions.
I love when western medical smartypants discover
what ancient yogis understood centuries ago.
Come find some joy on the mat this week.
We'll open up our hearts and our armpits.
A meal I shared with a Vietnamese-American Buddhist monk
provoked some of this thinking. At the end of our meal,
we closed our eyes and meditated, focused on our breathing,
on the passage of air over our upper lips,
on the stillness within ourselves.
I listened to his steady, quiet voice guide me and my breathing.
I believe, as he tells me, as my Catholic tradition tells me,
that there will be no end to war until each of us
calms the conflicts within ourselves.
A simple task, to change only ourselves, and yet such a difficult one.
I resolve to hold the shell of my self up to my ear every day,
to listen to the sound of my own self,
before I set out into the unsettled world, as I must.
-Viet Thahn Nguyen
This evokes a couple powerful images for me.
One is sharing silence across a table
-something I'd like to give some thought.
This image of holding the shell of myself
up to my ear each day
before I barge into the lives of others
seems a wise and powerful practice to adopt.
Simply stopping to catch the timbre of my insides
would provide a moment of mindfulness and stillness
that might sharpen my awareness and intention,
that might make me more receptive to those around me
as I move into the emotionally noisy world.
Cradle the shell of yourself
for a moment this week
and bring yourself to the mat.
How could we forget those ancient myths
that stand at the beginning of all races,
the myths about dragons that at the last moment
are transformed into princesses?
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us act,
just once, with beauty and courage.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is,
in its deepest essence,
something helpless that wants our love.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1904
I've been reading magical fairytales lately,
which leaves me thinking about villains and heroines.
Of course, you may not know this, (I hope you don't)
but there are such things as yogi villainesses.
Mean girl yogis make me shiver.
Actually, I think they make themselves shiver, too.
No one wants to be stuck up (maybe really scared?),
overly ambitious (perhaps insecure?),
extra fancy pants (SEE me in awesomeasana??).
I've tried this on before, you see. No fun.
This is just background for a 2018 challenge.
If this year, a newbie, a fancypants, a prodigal enters our circle,
let's snap to: beauty and courage, fierce hearts!
Offer a smile, a place in the circle, a friendly word.
I would very much like our yoga space to be the sweetest,
most comfortable space in town for people to do their work
of undoing while feeling safe and loved.
And I think you're just the ones for the job.
Aren't you glad this challenge doesn't involve chaturangas
or mandatory attendance or some such? You're welcome.
It's going to be a sweet year, yogis.
Let's start it out well
and find each other again on the mat.
Looking forward to practice this year!
(My hope is meditating upon images of swooping bluebirds
will distract you from the fact that
it is something like seven degrees at present.)