A yoga pose looks to leverage the body to discover
feelings and sensations contained within.
A meditation practice uses awareness to observe thoughts,
and in turn identify and transcend the core beliefs
that create those thoughts.
We go layer by layer over time.
As we reduce matter to its most finite,
we create a path to discover the infinite.
Leveraging the body in asana
to discover sensations
and deeper still, feelings held within.
This is when yoga gets really interesting.
Strategically strengthening muscles,
clearing energy lines,
enervating connective tissues,
and elongating our form
are all worthy and intrinsic benefits
when we move our bodies on the mat.
Attuning to the subtle body
and what it has to reveal
brings us to a deeper dimension.
In my experience, it's not always revealed
in the moment, but often in the after effects
of a yoga practice.
I've learned not to hurl myself from my yoga mat
into the thoughtless overstimulation of distraction,
but to savor the effects and see what's to be felt.
We'll find moments of introspection
inside practice on the mat this week.
I just heard the NPR commentator mark the birthday of Prince.
I imagine I'm not the only one in our yoga tribe
who spent her adolescence dancing to his music.
After long ballet rehearsals, we all gathered around Nadine's
orange Volkswagen bug in the parking lot at sunset
Prince blasting while we danced our hearts out in steps of our own.
There was something so authentic and free and thrilling
in his work. Talk about someone fully embodying his art.
It seems he also had some foresight into staying free
in a future of creeping technology.
Here's what he said when accepting
an Internet music award in 1999:
"Don't be fooled by the internet.
It's cool to get on the computer;
don't let the computer get on you.
It's cool to use the computer;
don't let the computer use you.
[...] There's a war goin' on.
The battlefield is in the mind.
And the prize is the soul.
So, be careful."
Prescient words from decades ago
when the insidiousness of the internet
was just beginning to be realized.
May we all stay free in our bodies and in our minds
choosing wisely what brings us joy and living on purpose.
Including on the yoga mat this week.
-acceptance speech for Best Internet Only single "War" in 1999
at the Second Annual Yahoo Internet Life magazine Awards
Share a moment of brightness this week with a stranger.
Sometimes just getting an unexpected smile
from someone on the street can turn my day around.
I'm remembering two run-ins with strangers that marked me,
both at my neighborhood grocery store.
One was when I picked up the small tab of the woman behind me.
I was so nervous; she was so surprised.
It was a tiny but sweet exchange for us both.
The other was in an afternoon snow storm in the parking lot.
I simply reached to return a cart for an elderly man.
He looked as though he had walked out of an Andrew Wyeth painting.
Thin silver hair parted on the side, walking slowly In an old overcoat
"Well, I don't see no wings. But you sure look like an angel."
This was probably fifteen years ago. I think of it still.
He said it with such love and wonder; I felt like a million bucks.
I certainly received the greater kindness in that exchange.
Sharing a second of happiness with someone
you'll most likely never see again
rewards you tenfold. It's quite a high.
We'll be kind to ourselves
on the yoga mat this week.
"To become a welcome vessel for the breath
is to live without trying to control, grasp, or push away."
Well. Recognizing that I, in fact, do spend
a significant portion of my waking life
trying to control, grasp, or push away,
this statement hit home hard.
My early yoga training led me to imagine the breath
as a highly directive means of control.
Gosh, there were so many things you could do with it.
There were so many precise instructions
as to pace, direction, suspension, and intention.
It took me years and years to know the breath as a softened wave
and to realize the immense possibility such softness held.
We'll ride the wave of the breath this week.
If lucky, we might feel as though we're butterflies.
"We are used to thinking of freedom
as being free to do what we want,
but the Buddha sees it
as being free from wanting."
Talk about a radical reframe.
My very American ambitious self
just bowed her head upon reading this.
Yes, to embrace what is,
but pragmatically to look at where I am in my life,
what I have, what I don't have,
and realize it is possible to stay the pernicious desire for more
- more certainty, more security, more to show for my life's efforts.
A free breath of "this is enough" helps quiets the wanting
and not only stills the mind from consequent machinations
but swells the heart with a natural feeling of gratitude.
And if I keep practicing, maybe one day I'll become
one of those self possessed, beautifully alive crones
who seem to want for nothing.
A spark of utter freedom in their wise eyes.
Come find freedom
in yoga practice this week.
"After six days had passed he would never think about
Cairo or the music or the streets or the women;
by then he was moving in ancient time,
had adapted into the breathing patterns of deep water."
-Count Ladislaus de Almásy walking the desert of 1930's Egypt
in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient
I once listened to Michael Ondaatje reading
when he visited Nashville. He struck me as the sort of man
who has spent a good deal of time moving and thinking slowly.
While I was not traversing the Arabian desert last week,
but only the white sands of the Florida coast,
I did begin to lose myself to deeper time.
Day after day we trod the same path to the seashore
in the morning and back to our cottage at night.
I never looked at a clock, but dropped into
the rhythm of the water, sun, and moon.
There's a profound shift to one's nervous system
when you can slip into this sort of rebalancing.
I intend to recreate this occasionally
in normal life as best I can.
Let's try for an hour on the yoga mat this week.
So looking forward to seeing you again.
While you and I won't be practicing yoga together this week,
I certainly hope you might gift yourself a personal practice alone.
There's nothing better than getting outside for ten or twenty minutes,
gazing at the sky, feeling the grass beneath you,
recognizing yourself as one with all that is.
Maybe some standing postures with a tree for support
or some supine postures with the sky to focus upon.
I'll be doing the same.
Hopefully in a bikini with crashing waves as my soundscape,
thinking of you and wishing you well and happy
'til I see you next week on the yoga mat.
Bishop Michael Curry says:
There is a Jewish proverb,
"Before every person there marches an angel proclaiming,
'Behold, the image of God.'"
I don't know about you, but this proverb and the image it conjures astonish me.
Somehow if I can believe this is true, it radically alters how I see the world.
And when I catch hold, a hushed reverence falls.
It's pleasing and inspiring to remember when encountering a stranger.
It's proving vexing when I encounter a neighbor I'm not fond of.
Try it for yourself and see what softens, what lifts you up and
consequently the effect upon those who receive your gaze.
Come find the holy ground of your yoga mat.
image: Godspeed 1931 Rockwell Kent
When yogis begin to warm into backbending,
we often are prone on the belly finding our way to cobra.
It's easy to fall into the habit of leading the lift with the chin,
almost scooping our way up into a backbend.
Why is this a bad idea?
Well, it certainly hyperextends the neck but more troublesome
is the pernicious effect of tightening the lower back.
This renders what should feel like a fluid motion of the spine
into a stuck fight to lift. Ugh.
Instead, we can create a more fluid snakelike action
undulating through the spine after grounding
internally rotated legs and a heavy pelvis.
The chin never juts upwards, but the neck remains clear
as a natural extension of the lifting spine.
As in so much of yoga, height is of little significance.
(Some of us would do well to read that last sentence again. Ahem.)
We'll unfurl our spines wisely
this week on the yoga mat.
"In spring, the Kapha that has accumulated in the body during winter
is liquefied by the warmth of the sun. As a result, the digestion and
metabolism can be affected and a large number of problems can arise."
-from the classical Ayurvedic textbook, Charaka Samhita
Yoga's sister science, Ayurveda, teaches us to care for ourselves
by understanding our deep connection to the elements.
Earth and water are said to create the kapha dosha,
which is most in evidence in the springtime
as winter heaviness begins to melt away.
Spring is a brilliant time for cleansing, inside and out.
Just as we declutter and clean our environments,
our bodies could use the same degree of care.
We're reminded that the digestive fire that gets us through winter
begins to lessen in spring, warning us not to jump too quickly to raw foods.
If feeling sluggish or congested, include warming spices such as
ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and black pepper in your meals.
Even a few days of detox, eating lightly and with care can be beneficial,
giving your system a rest and reset for the new season.
Ginger-lemon tea or cardamom-clove tea are particularly effective
in neutralizing excess kapha in your system.
Ayurveda also instructs us to practice abhyanga,
full body self massage with plant based oils.
In Sanskrit, "oil" and "love" can be translated as the same word: sneha.
This self care practice not only aids lymphatic drainage and
nourishes the skin and nervous system, but makes you
feel magically wonderful and vibrant.
A third way to care for yourself in spring is fluid movement
rejuvenating your system in its entirety.
So, I hope to see you on the yoga mat this week!
Spring is here, dear yogis.
If you're like me, you're spending a lot of time on the ground
investigating, digging, and weeding.
Perhaps you could add nibbling to the list?
A master herbalist once instructed me to stop and notice.
He said if you have loved and cared for one plot of land,
it may offer you just what you need medicinally.
I was astonished to notice this is true.
The good people at High Garden help us learn what to look for:
Purple Dead Nettle Lamium purpureum- (Aka Fairy Towers) All above ground parts are Edible, highly nutritive and contain significant amounts of quercetin which can be helpful for seasonal allergies. Wonderful chopped, battered and fried, added to soups and stews, or finely chopped in salads and smoothies. Provides early nectar for pollinators and seed for birds.
Henbit- All above ground parts are Edible, highly nutritive and mildly cleansing. I really love this chopped in salads, soups, stews or casseroles. Provides early nectar for pollinators including hummingbirds. Helps to aerate and feed the soil after dying back.
Chickweed- All above ground parts are edible. It is a lymphatic tonic, blood cleanser, cooling to inflamed and “heated” tissues such as skin, throat, respiratory system, bowel or urinary tract. Helps to break up lumps and cysts. We put this herb in our Wildly Healthy herbal infusion for all of its incredible benefits and help.
Dandelion- All above ground parts are edible and the root makes a marvelous tea. Dandelion flower fritters are a favorite in our house and dandelion greens are in all of our spring salads, smoothies and soups. The flowers are noted to be “food for the eyes” while the leaves are a powerful diuretic helping to shed excess fluid while not dropping potassium levels in the body... the magic of herbs. The root is a wonderful liver tonic, blood cleanser and promotes gut health by feeding the good bacteria in your bowel.
Cleavers- Above ground parts make a powerful tea or tincture. One of the strongest lymphatic tonics I know for any lymphatic swellings. Wonderful urinary system tonic, diuretic and soother. Makes a great vinegar or tincture.
Blue Violets- All above ground parts are Edible. Makes wonderful syrups, vinegars, smoothies, teas, salads and soup additions. Lymphatic tonic, lung tonic, moistening to dry tissues, anti tumor, blood cleanser and simply beautiful. I’m pretty sure most creatures feel the love from violet and its heart shaped leaves.
Continue to nurture yourself
on the yoga mat.
I was tending to emails when the mister left home for a bike ride.
He shouted a final goodbye through the window as he whizzed down the alley.
Not thirty seconds later I heard a screeching car and a horrific crash.
It took two seconds to register what this could mean.
I was out the door, running down the street terrified of what I might find.
A bashed up car hobbled past me to a stop, but no bike or husband in sight.
He had headed in the opposite direction.
Thank God. Everyone was alright.
Once back indoors, my mind prompted me that all was well and to return to work.
Then I remembered what I had learned from Peter Levine
- the power of somatic experiencing.
Animals physically shake off troubling experiences,
thus returning their nervous systems to balance.
We're the only animals whose outsized brains tell us
we can reason our way out of trauma.
But here's the thing. . . . the body remembers.
In order to complete the experience and restore equilibrium,
we would be wise to allow our bodies to disperse that trapped energy.
I went to the back yard, got my bare feet on the ground, and started to shake,
allowing all that anxiety to move through and out my body,
thus completing the experience, along with a prayer of gratitude.
This never fails to work for me.
A near accident, a sudden shock, you name it.
Shake it, baby. Let it go.
Bring your wise self
to the yoga mat this week.
When we train ourselves by constant practice to stop verbalizing,
the brain can experience things as they are.
By silencing the mind, we can experience real peace.
—Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
Oh my. To begin, stop . . . . verbalizing?!?
For someone who loves words, this alone is a challenge.
It's not that I speak a good deal, but gosh I think a lot.
Think in - w o r d s - day and night. Endlessly.
This Sri Lankan monk is teaching me that the brain doesn't
manufacture thoughts unless we feed it
hrough habitual verbalizing.
(see my small hand confessionally raised here above my bowed head)
The more I practice not verbalizing,
the freer my poor brain might be free to simply be with what is.
Instead I might focus on experience
without my telltale inclination to name or describe said experience.
Something as simple as tracing the breath
or feeling space inside my body.
We'll experiment with breath
along the tentorium
in practice this week.
image: Leonardo daVinci's divine portrait of Beatrice d'Este
(I would love to rock a headpiece like this.)
Collectively, we're reflecting upon an entire year of quarantine.
I confess I haven't written a novel or created profound artworks,
heck, I haven't even finished painting my kitchen. Sigh.
Maybe this is why I found these words from inaugural poet
Amanda Gorman such a balm. She answered the question
"If you'd known that you'd be so isolated for so long,
what would you have done differently?"
"I think if I could go back in time and give myself a message,
it would be to reiterate that my value as an artist
doesn't come from how much I create.
I think that mindset is yoked to capitalism.
Being an artist is about how and why you touch
people's lives, even if it's one person.
Even if that's yourself, in the process of art-making."
Collective exhale here, my dears.
WIth whatever tiny power is invested in me as your yoga teacher,
I absolve you . . . of aspiring to greatness, profundity, or completion.
Pondering how and why we touch people's lives, that you can do.
As will I.
Let's meet ourselves
in the process of art-making
on the yoga mat this week.
I found myself rapt by an image in the paper this weekend:
the meeting of Pope Francis with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq.
In Iraq, Francis brought a message of peace and respect for all religions,
naming the hating of our brothers and sisters as the greatest blasphemy.
"Love is our strength" was his message in Baghdad.
The ninety year old Sistani lives a reclusive and ascetic life,
expresses a mutual tolerance for all faiths, and has worked
for reconciliation of opposing sects and ethnicities in Iraq.
When Francis arrived at Sistani's humble home in Najaf,
doves were released as a sign of peace.
The Pope, struggling with sciatica at 84,
respectfully took off his shoes before entering.
There is something beautiful to me
about esteemed men of power and faith
taking each other's hands, eye to eye with respect.
May it be a model for all of us
- to move through the world with conviction,
manifesting an open respect for those
who may appear to be the other.
Bring your open heart
to the yoga mat this week.
Ponder the semicolon, dear reader.
It's a candid punctuation mark that means what it says.
It's a period and a comma that can do the work of both.
It puts me in mind of asana; a single yoga pose can
perform more than one purpose, depending upon your intention.
A charming essay by Lauren Oyler says it well:
"There are so many things to fear in life,
but punctuation is not one of them.
That semicolons, unlike most other punctuation marks,
are fully optional and relatively unusual lends them power;
when you use one, you are doing something purposefully, by choice,
at a time when motivations are vague and intentions often denied.
And there are very few opportunities in life to have it both ways;
semicolons are the rare instance in which you can;
there is absolutely no downside."
Hear, hear! I adore semicolons.
Fully optional and relatively unusual?
Perhaps an apt descriptor of your favorite yoga pose.
We'll explore some familiar yoga poses
with peculiar intentions
on the yoga mat this week.
I just listened to President Biden grieve the milestone of 500,000 Americans lost to Covid:
"While we've been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to sorrow."
What is a yogi to do with such intense suffering and sorrow?
I tend to push sadness away, only to succumb to overwhelm in an unexpected moment.
These days I'm putting into practice something I learned from Pema Chodron:
tonglen, the ancient Buddhist practice of taking and sending.
The idea is to foster emotional spaciousness while turning poison into medicine.
It makes me feel as though I'm helping the world and tending to myself too.
First, I breathe in a negative feeling. Then, I breathe out a positive one.
I inhale a textured, felt, heavy emotion. Then, I push light outwards on my exhale.
I breathe in imagined feelings of those who are suffering,
or the very real fear or pain I know a loved one is experiencing.
I breathe out fierce light, hope, whatever might be peculiarly needed.
Inexplicably, this practice leaves me buoyant, empowered, hopeful, and clear.
As yogis, we know the power of an intentional breath on the mat;
turns out the possibilities off the mat are endless.
Come to the yoga mat this week
to foster clarity and hope
in your own being.
this morning and all day
continued, its white
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning: such
an oracular fever!
-excerpt from First Snow by Mary Oliver
While I've yet to divine profound meaning from today's snow,
I've taken great pleasure in the sound of icy flakes striking my window,
especially as I'm safe and warm blanketed in newsprint on the other side.
I hope you, too, are cozy indoors with the gift of shelter and provision.
We'll create some warmth
with purposeful breath
on the yoga mat this week.
Who doesn't love an inversion?
Especially a sweet one that is well supported
requiring no upper body stress
and offering variability as to height.
You'll be stacking the novel(s) of your choice this week
tidily beneath your hips, allowing collarbones to spread wide
and the upper back to melt into the floor.
Yes, it feels dreamy but why?
With the hips higher than the heart
we're encouraging venous return wherein our blood
flows easily back to the heart without fighting gravity.
By the same means, we're facilitating lymphatic flow.
Your immune system will thank you.
So will your endocrine system as this posture
stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid.
Yum. Good yoga to support our systems.
Meet me on the mat with a book or two
(or yoga block if you're fancy)
There's no better time than the present to refine the breath,
as doing so undeniably boosts our immune systems.
Something we all need in this COVID winter.
Proper diaphragmatic breathing helps lymph move,
enabling the flushing of toxins from the body.
In fact, the diaphragm is the primary lymphatic pump for the abdomen.
Deep controlled breathing actually alkalizes the body,
neutralizing the acidity that breeds inflammation and disease.
It's nothing short of amazing how the body is devised to heal itself.
In yoga practice, we work to draw the breath deep in the belly
to aid the body in its housekeeping.
We'll breathe deeply together
with some guided pranayama.
A h h h h. . . . . . .
that's the sound of a freeing exhale
when I really take this truth to heart.
Just as you are.
Methinks this applies to the yoga mat too.
So, let's find a playful energy
rather than a striving one
in practice this week.
"In every important way we are such secrets from each other,
and I do believe that there is a separate language in each of us,
also a separate aesthetics and a separate jurisprudence.
Every single one of us is a little civilization
built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations,
but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable
- which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy
and by which we struggle to live.
We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likenesses,
because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs,
trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less,
the same notions of decency and sanity.
But all that really just allows us to coexist
with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us."
- Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
As we move towards and through Inauguration Day in our country
of vastly different souls with our separate understandings,
may we learn to coexist though spaces remain between us.
May we offer this compassion even to ourselves
as we perform our own curious and honest excavations
of our own private civilization built upon those of our ancestors,
known and unknown.
The internal work persists.
Take it onto the yoga mat
"In a moment of intense transition, I'm asking myself questions
like: Are you rested? If not, what can you do to rest?
Let's reframe rest as part of the work. That's really easily lost.
We see rest is the antithesis of revolution or productivity,
but it is the bank - it's what is going to allow any of us
to do any type of work sustainably."
-Marisa Hall, a Black femme community herbalist in the Bay Area
I think one of the deepest gifts of this challenging time
is the opened up space and opportunity to rest.
We know how important rest is for our bodies
enabling cell regeneration and strengthening immunity.
Deep rest is what is required to fortify ourselves,
body, mind, and spirit for the work ahead.
Some have been frustrated with what they
haven't been able to achieve during quarantine.
When butting up against lethargy or inability to focus,
listen to what's truly needed. It could be purposeful undoing.
Deep nourishment makes all things possible in time.
Find your way purposefully
to the yoga mat this week.
So, here we are
back at the beginning.
I'm not one for ambitious makeovers in January,
though I love a new blank page as much as anyone.
I love pages in general, which is how I find myself at the end of a year
with piles of torn out pages covering flat surfaces of my house.
Quotes, poems, images, essays, recipes, you name it.
January is the perfect time to order them
thus creating open space for new piles to come.
My somewhat haphazard filing system led me to
discover this little collection from years past,
and within the perfect quote for January 2021.
This feels about right to me.
I'm not claiming transcendence or perfection.
I'm not even resolutioning myself towards that goal.
But muddling with a hopeful squint?
That, I can do.
Join me, won't you?
It's ever so much more comfortable in company.
Let's find each other on the yoga mat this week.
May your last week of the year be a restful one.
Here we are in the quietest week of the year.
The festivities (however altered) have come to an end,
and optimistic aspirations for the new year yet to entice.
I hope you might gift your nervous system
a complete reprieve from expectation
and simply be.
I'll be sleeping in, eschewing screens, abandoning ambition,
and vexing my partner with my reticence to make any plans whatsoever.
There will be no formal yoga practices this week,
though you might find yourself supine contemplating the setting sun
or in a messy supine twist under a fading Christmas tree.
At least I hope so.
Breathe. Nurture yourself. And be grateful you are alive.
I'll look for you in the new year.
Here we are at the winter solstice.
It feels like a moment suspended in time
as we mark the beginning of winter yet
begin to journey back towards the sun.
Embrace the dark internal quieting of winter,
but remember what we're turning towards.
Set your face, and your heart, towards the light.
The yoga mat is
just the place to begin.
These long months at home make you look at your surroundings in a new way.
Or maybe it's just me
who suddenly thought my weathered kitchen cabinets and windowsill needed some love.
Even though the first chink of a paint scraper always drops me down an endless chasm.
A century of paint layers, ancient hardware that never seems to go back the same way,
toxic dust, unexpected wood filler someone used in 1940, you get the idea.
Friend #1: "Don't do it. Live with the imperfection. You'll regret it."
Friend #2: " Do it! And you must have before/after pictures."
These two are always speaking to either end of my inner self.
Friend #3: "Hmm.. Sounds like you're creating for yourself
a nice, juicy project to take you through the winter. And maybe beyond."
This older, wiser one is always a calm observer - what I aspire to be.
So, here I am. Still scraping, sanding, and painting.
Constantly weighing the question - how perfect does it need to be?
Turns out, less than perfect is absolutely good enough.
At least this is what my right scapula is crying out.
This Saturday, at a low point, nursing a splinter:
Me: "Will I be cross if it's not perfect?"
Husband: (not missing a beat) "Well, you don't have to be."
Life lessons abound, do they not?
There's a reason this one keeps surfacing for me.
Maybe you're noticing something that keeps coming up for you.
Attend to it. Or at least acknowledge it.
God knows I don't have even all my own answers,
but there's something that begins when you simply say
"Ah, ______________ , I see you."
Be sweet to yourself yogi, but be awake too.
We'll embrace imperfection on the yoga mat this week.
We’re usually too hurried to savor the elemental in our lives: the reeling sun, moon, and stars;
prophecy of clouds; ruckus of birdsong; moss brightly blooming; moon shadows and dew;
omens of autumn in late summer; fizzy air before a storm; wind chime of leaves; fellowship of dawn and dusk.
Yet we abide by forces so old we’ve lost the taste of their spell. It’s as survivors that we greet each day.
In this slowed down time of quarantine,
instead of sinking into ennui
or a self created productive frenzy,
surrender to the slow,
and notice something.
Something ancient you've taken for granted, perhaps.
We'll do some noticing on the yoga mat this week.
Well, dears, it's just a wee bit chilly out there.
Personally, I would be very happy if our warm autumn lasted forever, but
one good thing about cool temps is warming yourself with nourishing food.
There are moments in 2020 where I think if I have to cook one more meal
I might scream, but working with aromatic spices always cheers me right up.
Here is my latest favorite recipe for quick, warm goodness.
It takes no time to make and makes me feel sated and happy.
The star here is the fenugreek powder.
Fenugreek has a sweet, slightly nutty flavor and enkindles
the digestive fire while supporting optimal absorption of nutrients.
It's widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and has a grounding effect.
1/2 cup red lentils
1 1/4 cups water
2 TB ghee (or butter or olive oil)
1/4 tsp fenugreek powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 1/4 TB chopped fresh basil
Melt ghee, add spices, cook 1-2 min.
Add salt & lentils, stir to coat.
Add water and basil.
Bring to boil, lower the heat.
Simmer covered 15-20 min.
Note this makes just enough for a yummy bowl or two.
I always double the recipe for a certain someone in my house
who has a particularly enthusiastic appetite.
We'll find some warm, grounding yoga
in practice this week.
This very traditional week feels anything but this time 'round.
But gosh, it takes no effort whatsoever to feel grateful
- to have a home, to have friends and family that are whole,
to be able to move and breathe in your body with ease.
And that's precisely what we'll do this week.
Foster a grateful heart in your yoga practice.
The Roman poet, Horace, wrote a celebrated treatise on poetry.
Though the Ars Poetica was published around 18 or 19 BCE,
I found much of it instructive not only for crafting a poem
but for crafting a yoga practice.
He gives excellent advice to teachers:
When you give instruction, be brief, what's quickly
Said the spirit grasps easily, faithfully retains:
Everything superfluous flows out of a full mind.
And his guidance to poets applies to yoga practitioners:
There are faults of course that we willingly ignore:
The string doesn't always sound as hand and mind wish,
You call for a bass and quite often a treble replies:
The arrow won't always strike the mark it's aimed at.
Yet, the beauty can be found in the pairing of two qualities:
Who can blend usefulness and sweetness wins every
Vote, at once delighting and teaching the reader.
dulce and utile
sweetness and usefulness
While your body may not hit every note as you wish,
every single yoga practice,
there is both utility and sweetness to be found each time
you step on the yoga mat.
The sweetness you witness, often in the after effects.
The usefulness gains you a more attuned, pliable body and mind.
We'll look for both on the mat this week.
Saturday, I pedaled past a group of female tourists
in our neighborhood park about to kayak in the Cumberland.
A woman of forty, if she was a day, was sporting the words
SHUT UP LIVER, YOU'RE FINE upon her chest.
I realize it's just a dumb t-shirt, but I was astonished.
It takes a degree of ignorant hubris to even think
of addressing your own body in this way.
Might I suggest instead Dr. Zhi Gang Sha's qi gong practice of
purposefully, specifically greeting your liver,
and each of your organs, with gratitude each day?
Good morning, liver. Thank you for your good work.
Please continue. Feel supported. I love you. Thank you.
You can place a hand upon the organ
or simply visualize it, sending light and breath there.
Maybe you can't readily locate all your organs.
Start with one you know, greet it.
Over time, add another. You'll be brilliant in no time.
The older I get, the more interested I am
in learning to care for this frankly unbelievable matrix
of being that I somehow continue to inhabit.
May we all seek to notice, nurture, and respect ourselves,
our valiant organs, our intricate minds, and our wise hearts.
Take nothing for granted, dear yogi.
Come listen to and support yourself
on the yoga mat this week.
I donned my mask. I stood obediently upon placemarks.
I snaked through a line, under trees and down sidewalks.
Kind, brave, competent people ordered and equipped us
with new untouched pens and red coffee stirrers.
When I pressed the tip upon my presidential choice on the screen
I was unexpectedly flooded with emotion and surprised to be so.
I have zero emotional connection to my candidate of choice,
yet had to stop myself from weeping while standing at my kiosk.
Once in the car, I cried out my relief in the sudden understanding:
I finally felt a moment of agency. . . in all this mess.
If only for a brief moment, what I had to say mattered.
My husband's confused but kind hand rested upon my knee
as I let loose this stream of consciousness realization.
The rest of the day, I allowed myself to shake loose stopped up existential dread
that I have been holding, for God knows how long, just to keep myself together,
I sang at the top of my lungs through the sunroof driving down an open road.
I spun upon my newly shined wood floors to Aretha, alone in the house.
I remembered anew that we hold emotion in our bodies.
Sometimes you need more than a sun salutation.
Sometimes you need to sing, shout, shake, dance, laugh, cry it all out.
So if you've yet to do so, GO VOTE.
Then make a joyful noise.
Then. . . .
I'll see your clear, empowered self on the yoga mat.
This summer, I made my way straight through John Updike's Rabbit novels.
Lauded as one of American literature's great postwar tales of the everyman,
Updike takes us from the fifties into the eighties through four sequential novels.
I felt a little virtuous making it through the entire tetralogy
despite my feeling of suffocation, misogynistic decade by decade,
in the myopic world of barely sympathetic, white, male Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom.
Updike is brilliant, but this is not advised reading for a sensitive female in mid-life.
While inside his Rabbit Redux of the seventies,
the violence and upheaval within its pages were
hard to tell apart from my lived summer of 2020.
But this bit was a breath of hope for me.
Updike makes Jill, a hippie runaway, say this to Rabbit's young son Nelson:
Without our egos, the universe would be absolutely clean.
Stepping on the yoga mat is a good place to start.
Attend to your own consciousness
in your practice this week.
One of yoga's superpowers is the ability to alter your awareness
by simply placing your body in purposeful postures.
Infuse that shape with breath and intention
and you're on your way to shifting things on multiple levels.
Throwing your heart open to sky, arms akimbo
is a brilliant way to unburden your heart,
to feel more spacious, light, and hopeful.
That's something all of us could use right now.
We may create some heart openers
on the yoga mat this week.
the first colored leaf discovered underfoot in my neighborhood
We've officially turned towards autumn, dears.
Though my body knew all about it a couple weeks ago.
My joints were feeling creaky, my emotions a bit labile.
I turned to Ayurvedic wisdom for wise counsel in my favorite season.
Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga, works to balance our systems
by understanding our place in the greater ecosystem.
Autumn is a vata season, reflecting the elements of space and air.
While this seasonal change can bring enthusiasm, creativity and joy,
it can also leave us feeling windblown and hanging on by a thread.
Keep to your circadian rhythms. Constancy is a brilliant remedy.
Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time,
try to eat around the same times each day. Enjoy warm, grounding foods.
Your system will be more steady and leave you better supported.
Keep your head and feet warm while you enjoy the wonders of fall.
It sounds simple, and it is. But the effects are profound.
on and off the yoga mat.
The malady of the quotidian . .
Perhaps, if summer ever came to rest
And lengthened, deepened, comforted, caressed
Through days like ocean in obsidian
-excerpted Wallce Stevens
When the world around us seems unpredictable
and grief, uncertainty, and concern rampant,
dropping back into the constancy of the seasons
can buoy us with its steadiness.
As summer comes to rest in Nashville,
I often leave behind the cries of the radio newscast in the kitchen
for the backyard where the insects seem disinterested in current events.
This meadowhawk rested on my bowed zinnia head.
His focused quietude a lesson.
Find tenacious hope in your heart
and steadiness on your mat this week.
There's no escaping our present reality, though
it's fascinating to notice how we aim to distract ourselves.
But perhaps inspiring to realize that in being forced to reckon
with uncertainty, our own mortality and wellness,
and the lack of steadiness we depend upon,
we are in essence trying on Buddhist concepts
of facing impermanence with courage.
It's a profitable reframe, no?
Rather than despairing or becoming angry or fed up,
perhaps: "Ah, impermanence, I see you."
And then some compassion for yourself as you
strive to be a spacious container, less reactive.
Facing impermanence with courage.
Your yoga practice is an essential component.
an enormous statue we discovered at the Valley of the Temples in Sicily years ago (remember travel?)
"I spent three years looking at details on a sculpture that I was working on, including a toenail.
And I asked Silvia, 'Will anyone ever notice the slight changes I'm making to this one thing,
the subtleties?' and she said, 'No, but the meaning in these details adds up over time, like an ecosystem.' "
-Charles Ray, sculptor
This truth resonates to any form of art, including that of living a purposeful life.
Details do add up over time, creating an ecosystem.
All the choices we make in a day, where to place our attention,
how to respond to a stimulus, what to take into our hearts and bodies..... matter.
They create the energetic landscape of our existence;
they carve out habitual feeling and thought patterns;
they form the tissues of our physical form.
We are artisans of our own selves, whether we realize it or not.
What an opportunity, really.
We might take this artful approach on the yoga mat.
Not only in attention to detail in the shapes we create,
but with that which we infuse them -
dogged perfectionism? calm curiosity?
compassionate allowance? expectation laden striving?
We probably cycle through all of these.
But each practice, even each posture, is a new chance to choose.
Be artful & purposeful
on and off the mat this week.
early this morning on Shelby Bottoms Greenway
I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 35.
Perhaps this is why I was, and remain, completely elated
by the sense of freedom it brings.
I have little skill so stay well away from city streets,
but give me a wide open path
preferably surrounded by wildflowers or arching trees
and I'm flying through the air grateful to be alive.
Be it a typical road bike, a fancy recumbent, or a stationary one,
cycling is fantastically therapeutic for healthy knee function
and proven to actually reduce arthritis symptoms and joint pain.
You can even create full range bicycling actions for your knees
while lying flat on your back on a yoga mat.
Love your knees, yogis.
Better yet, do anything that makes you feel free!
We can do both on the yoga mat this week.
photo credit: Gentl & Hyers Arts Edge
Grace Paley, at the age of eighty, recounted her own father teaching her how to grow old:
That’s a metaphor, right?
Metaphor? No, no, you can do this. In the morning, do a few little exercises for the joints,
not too much. Then put your hands like a cup over and under the heart. Under the breast.
He said tactfully. It’s probably easier for a man. Then talk softly, don’t yell.
Under your ribs, push a little. When you wake up, you must do this massage.
I mean pat, stroke a little, don’t be ashamed. Very likely no one will be watching.
Then you must talk to your heart.
Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart,
beat softly but never forget your job, the blood.
You can whisper also, Remember, remember.
It is no small thing to talk to your own heart.
Words, intentions given and received, are powerful.
So is moving your body to lovingly attend to all your inner bits.
We'll do so on the yoga mat this week.
i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world.
- excerpted from a brief meditation on breath by Yesenia Montilla
Do you notice your breath when you're not on your yoga mat?
Often your emotions dictate what your breath may be doing.
Better yet, your purposeful breath can move your emotions.
You know your exhales work to ground and calm;
your inhales work to lift and lighten.
The skills we hone on the mat are for real life,
not for better pretzel shapes but for more conscious living.
Breathe & move with ease on the yoga mat this week.
I've become intrigued of late with open eyed meditation
gazing at a tree's canopy, the clouds, a blazing moon.
And recently, inviting my whizzing mind to take a nap while
my hand attempts to simply follow the trajectory of my eye.
I find contour drawing with a pencil a meditative act.
Seeing as I have no real training or skill, my expectations are minimal.
I'm delighted when my drawing even remotely bears some resemblance
to my chosen object. "Gosh, I just made a bird! Kinda...."
Honestly, there's something organically beautiful about the
scrambled expressed energy of my object manifest on the page.
In the same way, our yoga practice when void of expectation or
perfected reproduction of a posture can yield surprising results.
Your triangle might not look like hers, but gosh the energy of it
feels just right and true and peculiarly yours alone.
Keep that in mind this week
on and off the yoga mat.
We might learn from swifts who rise higher and higher at nautical twilight
(when the center of the sun is just 12° below the horizon, morning and evening).
These moments of rising beyond our sight are dreamily named vesper flights.
"[...] migratory birds orient themselves through a complex of interacting compass mechanisms.
During vesper flights, swifts have access to them all. At this panoptic height, they can see
the scattered patterns of the stars overhead, and at the same time they can calibrate their
magnetic compasses, getting their bearings according to the light-polarization patterns
that are strongest and clearest in twilit skies. Stars, wind, polarized light, magnetic cues,
the distant stacks of clouds a hundred miles out, clear cold air, and below them the hush
of a world tilting toward sleep or waking toward dawn. What they are doing is flying so high
that they can work out exactly where they are, to know what they should do next.
They’re quietly, perfectly, orienting themselves. "
-Helen Macdonald "Vesper Flights"
It occurs to me that the stars, the wind, the clouds, the moon, and the trees
surely have messages for me too, were I quiet enough to hear them.
Pulling out of the noise of our everyday and the worries of our present moment
is essential to find not only the resonant hope of our true selves but
also to divine direction as to what we should turn our face towards
to chart our own highly personal path through this time of uncertainty.
Let your heart take flight on the mat this week.
In our times, it is radical to choose to sit still and be silent,
to resist an identity of busyness, ceaseless motion, and noise,
and to reclaim our sanity and humanity
by coming home to ourselves.
—Sumi Loundon Kim
Inhabiting our realm between earth and sky
gifts us the opportunity to draw upon
the steadiness of the ground,
on occasion the fluidity of the waters,
and always the endless shelter of the sky.
Each time you settle into stillness,
all the elements are there to draw upon
to fill you up from the inside.
This is just one of your yogi superpowers.
Put it to use a few minutes each day.
Your nervous system will notice.
We'll come home to ourselves
on the yoga mat this week.
Our Real Work
by Wendell Berry
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Almost everyone I find myself in conversation with lately
is in the middle of considerable questioning.
Many of us long for some kind of certainty, somewhere!
Unknowing and bafflement bring me to this poem,
where I can remember that
the impeded stream is the one that sings.
As plans and hopes fall away and morph,
listen to what's singing true for you.
It may lead you to exactly where you need to be.
Your yoga mat is a brilliant spot for listening.
At the moment, many of us are overwhelmed with emotion
that may change by the day or even by the hour.
I've been fascinated by Karla McLaren's ideas of how to work with emotions.
While I tend to think of emotion as all about FEELING,
she explains that emotions work to attach meaning to data.
They are actually the underlayment of all our cognition.
Rather than sink in or push them away,
we might recognize they hold aspects of genius.
"Emotions don't cause the problem,
they come to help you deal with the problem."
Okay, I could use some help. Thank you, emotion. Go on.
Each emotion brings a specific kind of support in McLaren's theory.
Anger helps us to set boundaries.
Sadness helps us to let go of things that aren't working anymore.
Anxiety helps us to organize what's going on.
Fear helps us to access our instincts and intuition to prepare for the future.
Grief helps us mourn what we've lost.
The way I see it power lies in acknowledging the yucky emotion,
naming it to see more clearly how it might help us move forward.
One thing we know as yogis, we are not going to feel good all the time.
Our practice is about learning to create space wide enough to acknowledge it all,
without feeling ruled or stuck or captured by an emotion.
Maybe this frame of understanding might help you too
in untangling what you feel,
and discovering what wisdom might be held within.
We'll be with what is on the mat this week.
Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper (1950)
Something about the days of quarantine brings me to Edward Hopper.
I've always been drawn to the open caughtness of his paintings.
And now, well, can't you identify with the at odds juxtaposition
of being contained, held inside, yet free to ruminate, look, and think?
Critic Peter Schjeldahl (no slouch himself) looking at Hopper now, offers:
"The free, questing citizen has devolved into one or another of millions
rattling around on a comfortless continent.
Can you pledge patriotic allegiance to a void? Hopper shows how,
exploring a condition in which, by being separate, we belong together."
Trapped in our own safe spaces, negotiating brave forrays out,
we are all suddenly keenly aware of our own personal energetic field.
We should recognize that all these separate bubbles, each housing a disparate soul
longing for connection, make up a greater, expanded energetic field.
Feel yourself a part of a whole, even if you can't physically realize it.
Tend to yourself like it matters, because it does.
The consciousness we bring to our own living right now feeds the collective.
Spark this through your yoga practice this week.
Lately, I have fallen in love with the sky.
We've been sleeping outside each night,
so it's the last thing I gaze it before falling asleep
and it's the first thing I see in the morning.
And then I heard Sharon Salzberg's advice.
Her young goddaughter inquired about mindfulness and working with emotions.
Sharon tried to explain that it was helpful to be like the sky, rather than a sponge.
After an argument with a little sister, the young girl was heard running through the house
shouting "I am like the sky! I am not a sponge!" as she worked to process her emotion.
Now, here's an image I can relate to. I have been that shouting child this week.
We know it's important not to squelch emotions when they arise.
Otherwise that energy becomes trapped in the body and tissues.
But there is SO much to feel right now!
Our job as yogis is to notice that, feel it, express it somehow, and let it move through.
Making ourselves as vast as the sky means there is no limit to what we can hold and release.
Emphasis on the release, dears.
Simply holding it helps no one.
Whether it's anger over oppression, fear of the unknown, grief over loss, or unnamed anxiety.
It's often not as easy as breathing it away. . . . 1-2-3- poof.
Sometimes the expression involves inspired action towards change.
Sometimes it's sighing it out, shouting it out, crying it out, moving it out through your body.
It's a daily practice of empowering freedom.
Be as vast as the sky, again and again.
Bring it to the yoga mat this week.
As I'm typing this on a Sunday evening, I've paused to howl.
The East Nashville Howl happens every evening at 8pm.
All my neighbors step outside to howl in solidarity;
you can hear the echoes from blocks and blocks away.
It's fantastically cathartic. I've become a real fan.
It's gotten me thinking about the power of the voice
to claim, to release, and sometimes to take a stand.
This is why I made my way to the rally on Legislative Plaza Saturday.
I, who have been quarantining hard for months, felt compelled.
The terrible violence that manifested later downtown that evening
bore no resemblance whatsoever to the peaceful rally of the afternoon.
While none of us should look away from the pain and outrage
evidenced all across our country right now,
I want you to know a couple beautiful things I saw on Saturday.
Practically everyone was wearing masks and people
of every color were moving respectfully around each other.
I was keeping distance and the sound system was poor,
so very few of us could actually hear the speakers.
But here's a little of what I heard around me:
"Look! She's burning sage! She's protecting us,"
a young, disheveled white boy said of a solemn, beautiful, young black girl
moving slowly through the crowd holding sage aloft.
"I can have one?" the older Asian man in a sun hat asked of
the muscled men pulling wagons of free, cold water bottles for the crowd.
"May I take a picture of your sign?" one girl asked a fierce woman who obliged.
These were the people of my city, not at all sure what they could do
but intent on bearing witness, taking a stand, and supporting each other.
This is the Nashville I know and love and call home.
May all we take responsibility for our privilege, own our own racism,
and honorably work together for every single person to be respected.
Yoga is not always about being comfortable,
but it is about being honest with ourselves.
Find your own true heart on the mat this week.
As we move into the reopening of our city, unknowns remain and questions arise.
Each with her or his own idea about risks and how best to care for each other.
Find your way through attuned to your own inner wisdom and leavened by compassion.
No pose more fully expresses this drop
into compassionate wisdom than folding forward.
When paschimottanasana is created gently, allowing
a heavy head to bring the torso softly towards the legs,
and one stays for awhile surrendering bit by bit into the floor
and into gravity, another type of surrendering begins.
One in which you might trust the universe, allow an unclenching
of your troubled mind, and let your breath flow like water.
Water being the element evoked here, as you open
the kidney and urinary bladder meridians along your back body.
Drop into a flow of what is,
though it may change moment to moment,
floating free in the present
trusting you will know how to be, how to move, when to stay still.
Body, breath, noticing. It's so connected.
Use your time on the mat to teach you how to live.
Your next home yoga practice, should you choose to accept it,
is an interesting writing practice for good inner work.
Many of you may already be prodigious journalers.
Not me. I've noticed I only journal when my life is falling apart.
This means I have only one slim book not even half full
to cover the last thirty years of my life,
but were you to read it you would think
"Good God, this girl needs some help."
Enough about me.
Lynda Barry created this pandemic diary project for the New York Times.
I found it enticing. Not only to help me process what I'm feeling,
but to serve as a history of what we're moving through.
My favorite histories to read have always been the personal ones.
Now I'm creating a tiny one myself.
Maybe you will too.
Sitting quietly. Seeing what you remember.
Unspooling and assessing.
Sounds a bit like yoga, doesn't it?
Yoga is a powerful practice for releasing emotion.
Perhaps writing might serve the same purpose.
Do your good work - in yourself, first, and then the world around you.
This is the window I look through as I practice or teach each day.
I gaze out at my budding crepe myrtle, keeping track of the chickadees, wrens, doves,
and blue jays that often peer right back at me in my curious shapes on my yoga mat.
It's lovely, but now. . . . . . . . . there's a rose.
It's been so long since fresh flowers have been in the house
that when my rose bush came to life and I waited for a second bloom
before considering snipping one to take indoors,
I was overwhelmed with joy just holding it in my hand.
And, really, each time I glimpse it anew, I feel a little ray of hope.
We know flowers have a long symbolic history throughout the ages
and even a ceremonial history in many faiths.
During historic plagues, people carried them to ward off contagion,
tucking small bouquets in buttonholes and hands to smell
when odors of sickness threatened.
It seems fitting, does it not, to delight in a single bloom now?
These days of quarantine have made me more appreciative, more attentive
to tiny pieces of beauty presenting where I may not have looked before
and quite content with whatever is given.
Your home yoga assignment this week is to find a bloom.
Somewhere. Anywhere. It could be a dandelion
or a mystery bloom borrowed from an anonymous yard.
Take one for your own to love.
(Some say you should ask permission first, of the plant that is, not necessarily the property owner.)
Let it catch you by surprise when you walk into your room,
sparking new awareness, sheer happiness, and even hope.
Springtime love to you, yogis!
Greetings, beloved yogis.
Another week, another offering in our home yoga series.
This may be particularly helpful if your lower back is feeling
a little stuck from too much sitting or
a little cranky from not enough movement.
You'll be on the floor, relying upon a strong wall for your feet.
Here comes some atypical bridge work to create suppleness in your spine.
step 1: scooch up a shin length's distance from the wall
- your hip, knees, and heels should be in two straight lines
- you're set up alignment wise just as you would be for a traditional bridge pose
- knees are bent at a ninety degree angle
- settle in, let your back body relax into the floor, both shoulders sink
- press feet evenly into wall (outer edges & big toe mound)
add-on option: begin to breathe slowly, inhale to fill belly, exhale navel to spine
step 2: begin to lift and lower hips along with breath
- when exhaling belly to spine, feel tailbone barely rise from floor
- when inhaling, feel pelvis return heavy to ground
- move slowly in tandem with breath, height and speed at your own liking
add-on option: hover for a while with hips elevated or
take halfway movements to work through sticky parts of your back
step 3: turn it into a supported half shoulderstand
- have a block or books at hand to slip under your hips
- rest comfortably with hips completely supported
- keep palms flat on the ground and shoulders spun open
- stay for as long as you like
- this pose calms the mind, relieves stress, stimulates the thyroid,
and gently stretches the neck and shoulders
By the time you're done, your back should feel happier,
your energy a little lighter and calmer.
Ahhhh...... that's better.
This week's installment of home yoga will nudge you out the back door
into the grass, in search of a tree wherever you can find one.
Feet Up The Tree
Don't you like the ring of it? (simply a variation of viparita karani)
step 1: sidle up close to your chosen tree
- introduce yourself if you're not already acquainted
I always embrace my tulip poplar first in gratitude
(my neighbors already think I'm odd, so no worries there)
step 2: sit close, swing your legs up, and wiggle about til comfy
- nestle in, around the bumpy roots, the spongy moss
you may be on a blanket or yoga mat or not
step 3: sink, breathe, feel supported from the earth
While we feel jostled and troubled by the trials of the moment, the trees do not.
They have a deeper, longer wisdom and penetrating roots from which to draw.
But they will share that energy with you. Take it.
Then take some time - to notice. Notice what you smell. Notice what you see.
Feel supported. Allow yourself to delight in the offering of a single minded calm.
Stay for awhile. Nurture your nervous system, leaving the emotional roller coaster behind.
If you find yourself isolating at home without other bodies to share touch,
you may find this profound nature to heart connection particularly needful and sweet.
I do this practice so often, sometimes I think I hear my poplar calling out to me.
Interestingly, it's never that the tree needs me, but rather has something to give.
Make a new friend, yogi. No mask needed.
Here I sit, listening to Neil Young
my long silver teaspoon in and out of a peanut butter jar
gazing wistfully out the window.
I'm thinking of you and hoping you're tending to yourself well.
Here's your next installment in our home yoga series.
This one will take a bit longer, but you're chill on the floor,
elongating your hamstrings, so what's not to love?
Find the edge of a wall, a bookcase, a refrigerator,
a doorjamb, even a sofa side will do in a pinch.
Supine Hamstring Stretch
step 1: sidle up to the edge of your support
- your right hip is in line with the supporting edge of your furniture or wall
- a bent right knee enables your right foot to press flat to the support
- your left hip is free with a bent knee and foot on the floor
- settle in, let your back body relax into the floor, both shoulders sink
- over time, one leg may begin to lengthen until you feel a little resistance in your right hamstrings
add-on option: stay 5-10 minutes exhaling navel to spine, right hip grows ever heavier
step 2: sneak closer to your own edge
- your right hip may draw closer and closer to your support "wall"
- your right leg can work towards straight
- your left leg can drop long and heavy to the floor
- this should be a very slow process, the longer your take, the more compliant your hamstrings will be
add-on option: sweep your left arm overhead and let it rest comfortably as you breathe along your left side body
Of course, you will repeat this whole bit on the other leg.
Slow and steady is the ticket on this asana, kids.
Maybe you're listening to a podcast, reading a book, breathing in meditation,
or listening to your loved ones complain about how bored they are.
You, though, are in heaven.
And your hamstrings will be open, long, and grateful.
I hope you will feel this way, too.
I want you to be well, feel deeply hopeful, and know you are loved.
Oh my goodness, another week begins in this curiously paused state.
Yet here's the sun to assure us the earth is still spinning just as it should.
I hope you're treating yourself to yoga snacks here and there
throughout the week, as you're snug at home.
I've always believed that a little yoga consistently throughout each day
is even more powerful than a full hour of yoga once a week.
To that end, here's my initial offering for your home yoga practice.
We're starting where I regrettably seem to be spending most my time lately.
asana 1: oven pull back
-feet hips width or wider
-arms shoulder width or wider
-step back until you're pulled out long in a half forward fold
-navel to spine, shoulder blades drawing down
-feel stable and strong as you lengthen
-deepen to more down dog-ish /
-sway your hips / make it feel awesome
-but don't hang in your joints please
asana 2: spunky oven plank
-try to keep your hands and feet where they are
-transition to a solid plank and hold
-calf raises while in plank holding steady
here's the spunky part.....
-take a chaturanga pushup ( or two or.....)
keeping elbows drawing back, collarbones broad, navel to spine
-slow draw back to your starting position of oven pull back
Over and over til the oven preheats?
Each time after you wash and dry your hands?
In defiance of washing dishes for the fourth time that day?
But do it with love.
Making yourself stronger and saner each time.
Be well, yogi. Be patient. Think of something that makes you smile.
I offer a bit of a poem (excerpted and type altered by me)
in hopes it sparks in you an image or two that might
bring a sense of renewed resilience or new hope.
Or simply an opportunity to reframe,
which is something I seem to be doing a lot lately,
sometimes wisely by design, but sometimes
simply reactively in light of my shifting feelings.
There's a lot to feel, to hold, and to make sense of just now.
I hope you took sustenance from the sunshine this weekend.
Know that I miss you and earnestly wish you well and steady.
Praise for the seas and rivers, forests and stones who
teach us to endure,
Give thanks for your ancestors, for the wars and plagues
they endured and survived, their resilience is in your
bones, your blood,
Blessed is the water that flows over our hands and the
soap that helps keep them clean, each time a baptism,
Praise every moment of stillness and silence, so new
voices can be heard, praise the chance at slowness,
Praise be the birds who continue to sing the sky awake
each day, praise for the primrose poking yellow petals
from dark earth, blessed is the air clearing overhead
so one day we can breathe deeply again,
And when this has passed may we say that love spread
more quickly than any virus ever could, may we say this
was not just an ending but also a place to begin.
— Christine Valters Paintner
Much love to you, yogis!
We'll practice together again one day soon.
illustrated by K. Beverley & E. Ellender, 1929
Daylight savings here at last! It heralds the onset of springtime.
Ayurveda, a sister science of yoga, works to balance our health
through understanding three main doshas: pitta, vata, and kapha.
Each of these doshas hold varying qualities of the natural elements.
Spring holds kapha qualities, meaning earth and water rule this season.
Kapha qualities are heavy, slow, dense, dull, soft, oily, and cold.
We can work to foster light, sharp, dry, and warming qualities to balance us
as we shake off the damp heaviness of winter, moving into spring.
Waking with the sun can help bodies adjust to both the time change and the season
by harnessing the vata qualities of dawn - light, clear, and subtle.
At this kapha time of year, the muscles are said to be strongest between 6 and 10am.
A brisk morning walk outdoors could do us a world of good.
Bursts of energizing activity at any time of day can help clear the lethargy and sluggishness.
Cleansing your insides with warm, light, digestible foods can support your body's
natural inclination to purify and renew concentrating on pungent, bright, astringent tastes.
We'll put these nurturing ideas into practice
with sun salutations and energizing pranayama this week
to move us into spring, well balanced and supported.
I was reading a writer, Parul Sehgal, writing about a writer, Jenny Offill,
who addresses the messiness of living in our present situation of climate collapse.
Looking beneath how we care for ourselves, our close circles,
and ultimately the world at large - humans, animals, the planet.
There exists a deep connectedness within these things.
Firstly, a layered connectedness among them
and, in my way of seeing, a particular connectedness
between the energetic work we do within ourselves,
the energetic lines we cast towards those we love,
which, consciously or unconsciously, ultimately extend beyond to the collective.
It would be a mistake to imagine that any intention manifests in isolation.
Offill has her novel's protagonist listen to an environmental podcast where a caller asks:
"What do you mean interconnected?"
There is a pause and then the ecologist speaks.
"There is a species of moth in Madagascar that drinks the tears of sleeping birds."
Take that in.
We are connected in ways we've yet to fully understand.
Just as the work you do on yoga mat has consequences beyond your body.
Take care, dear yogi. Be purposeful.
And move lightly through the world with awareness
and always, always, with the motivation of love.
Start with yourself on the mat this week.
Don't just do something; sit there.
I heard this advice from Pico Iyer in his reading of his book
"The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere."
Esteemed for his brilliant travel writing, Iyer reveals
the vast new territory he has discovered in sitting still.
As I drive back and forth across Nashville most every day,
I've been following the bright wonder in his voice
as he encourages me to find stillness. Sitting on I-440
proves an unwished for boon in this regard, I must admit.
I don't see myself heading to a monastery anytime soon, but
I've discovered many ways I can take this practice into my common urban life.
You're watching a show with your person and he hits pause to leave the room for a moment.
Rather than eyes darting to a newspaper to occupy the five minutes, simply sit.
You're standing in a queue that doesn't seem to be moving.
Find your feet, your breath, and exude some still peace out into the situation around you.
You're feeling a little cross over a sudden slight from a companion.
Rather than enumerating the injustices and just how you might best articulate them
(sadly, one of my well honed strengths), sit still for a minute,
feel where you're holding those emotions in your physical body,
give them some space, quiet curiosity, and breath.
My tenacious resolve has never failed to paradoxically resolve itself in this way.
It's not all sudden sunshine, but gosh, the gripping falls away.
I'm sure you discover your own opportunities for stillness in a common day.
Take them. You'll be rewarded with a greater, happier spaciousness.
I'm certain of it.
We'll try a bit of stillness at the end of yoga practice this week.
It's precisely what all that physical asana was designed for!
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important
and least recognized need of the human soul.”
As we approach the holidays, it can feel as though things are spinning.
Lots of outgoing energy: planning, making, shopping, fitting it all in.
If you find yourself a bit unmoored, simply pause.
No fancy yoga asana or particular pranayama required.
Feel your feet on the earth. Notice your hands. Find your breath.
Recognize where you are, and what is truly essential in that moment.
Sometimes it really is that simple.
If you can go stand beneath a tree, absolutely do.
Draw upon the support of the roots and the earth beneath you.
Or if you've an evergreen indoors at present,
gaze upon its beauty and forge a heart connection.
Strength. Steadiness. Resilience.
One could receive much wisdom from a tree this season.
Come to the yoga mat this week.
I've had my dear boy home the first week of December.
Sunday night we were searching for a Christmas service of some sort
and happened upon a glorious oratorio downtown.
Over a hundred voices and an orchestra gave us Saint-Saens' Christmas Oratorio, op.12.
The sweet clarity of the tenor soloist literally straightened my spine.
Sitting upright, expectant and overwhelmed by the music,
fully attuned to the beauty around me, connected to and grateful for the heart next to me,
I felt as though I was physically taking in beauty to feed my soul.
At that moment, I knew the world would be a better place
if more of us joined together to sit among artists of all persuasions
simply allowing their good work in the world to wash over us.
Something unbelievably powerful occurs when
vocalists, musicians, artists, actors, or dancers
offer what they love through their bodies and hearts.
Take advantage of the open doors, festivities, and services
that abound during this month of December.
Go sit among your fellows, strangers or friends,
and drink in the wonder of this season when we're all encouraged
to lift our voices, to greet a stranger,
to sit entranced by the talents that surround us.
Offer your own body and heart
into your yoga practice this week.
We took a day long hike recently, scrambling over rocks,
gazing at colorful leaf litter. It was pretty glorious.
By the sixth hour, I admit I was kicking up my heels just a little less.
We made it safely back to the car at day's end by moonlight.
The last bit, trying to stay true to the trail before we lost all light,
I happened upon a sturdy, beautiful wooden gangplank along a curve in the path.
It didn't seem to serve any pragmatic purpose.
We were well away from rushing water; the ground was even.
I felt a stab of gratitude at this sudden kindness of the trued and tight boards.
Here you go, dear. This way. We've got you.
To find yourself supported when you don't expect it.
To feel a part of a great whole where people are looking out for each other.
This is no small thing, but can easily be taken for granted.
Try to notice such moments or situations in your world this week.
Even better, try to provide such a moment for someone else.
Sometimes it's just what one needs in order to continue
the valiant work of making it through the world.
We'll try to find this
in our bodies on the mat this week.
It's finally here, dears. The bestest season of the year.
I'm practicing letting things fall away in my own life.
Maybe you will too.
A responsibility that it may be time to let go of,
an expectation that might be better abandoned,
a judgment you might loosen your grip on,
fill in the blank here.
It can be a little scary, but I'm finding solace
from a century ago in Rilke's Fall.
The leaves are falling, falling as from far
where distant withering gardens grace the skies.
They're falling with a gesture that denies.
And in the nights the heavy earth
falls into solitude from star to star.
We all are falling. This hand falls, as it extends.
And look at the other one. It's in them all.
And yet there's Someone, holding all this falling
with endless gentleness in both his hands.
We'll do some falling and turning
on the mat this week.
my favorite 1940's phone, which the mister brought home from a street market in Germany
In my efforts to reduce EMF exposure at my house,
we've re-instituted an old school phone line.
An admittedly nostalgic person, you can't imagine my happiness.
But you might try by reading this poem.
If you're old enough to remember real phones, you'll drop right in.
And if you're not, well..... do try, won't you?
Telephone Years by Deborah Garrison
There are gestures that have been lost.
One was picking up a desk phone
Using a couple of fingers
To snag it under the little shelf where the receiver
Rested when it was not in use;
You’d carry the phone with you if you needed to pace,
Perhaps with a studied restlessness that felt good:
You were removing a solid object from its position
And that had meaning. You gestured with it in hand,
Or held it against your hip. Something both possessive and devil-may-care in it.
The disruption of a ring, the caller unknown,
Was one of the day’s small dramas. We lived for them.
There were hours unaccounted for, pages turned.
Ticking of the heart between rings . . .
A feminine variant was to wear the curling receiver cord
Sashed across your waist, over the elbow, up the arm
So the curls were stretched long, the receiver
Tight-tucked in the neck hollow and pinned to its job-
To speak and to hear, companion of both mouth and ear.
Maybe standing while talking, at a window.
A light pleasure in the binding, an intimacy
With the subject or the person listening
That he couldn’t see.
And the pauses when neither of you spoke
Were alive, space-filling, somehow physical.
You could hear rooms.
Conversations were rooted in them.
They didn’t move around.
You knew there was life in another house-doors slammed,
Supper bells, doorbells, messages scratched on pads, handwriting that told,
People who left rooms and never came back.
People who might surprise you, come from so far there was no phoning them.
I don’t mean that life was better then,
But our conversations were theatre.
You didn’t know when.
We'll make some gestures that are ancient
-yoga poses that linger still-
on the mat this week.
listening to the world around me one morning in Maine, in a supine savasana
“Well, when you really listen, when you really keep your mind
open and listening to another person — and by the way,
I highly recommend that if a person wants to increase
their ability to understand another person, that they start out
listening to nature because you’re totally uninvested
in the outcome of nature. You can just take it all in,
all the expressions. And isn’t it wonderful that,
when a bird sings, that we do hear it as music?
The bird doesn’t sing for our benefit.
So there's a lot of joy in that listening and when
we become better listeners to nature, we also become
better listeners to each other, so that when another person
is speaking with you, you don’t have to search for
what you want them to say. You can dare to risk
what they really are trying to say. And ask them too,
“Is this really what you’re saying?” And feel your own
emotional response as they talk about risky subjects. . .”
-Gordon Hempton taking with Krista Tippett
about vulnerability and silence
We'll practice listening in silence a bit this week.
Yoga asana was designed to prepare us
to exist in a meditative state.
We'll see what just a few purposeful minutes
of silence might reveal.
And see if we can't foster a listening nature
on the mat this week.
My life has been full of a lot of coal dust lately.
This is what happens when a century old plaster ceiling
falls eleven feet onto the wooden floor below,
in a house that was heated by burning coal
at the turn of the last century.
Hence, my darkened husband pictured above
in what used to be a white t-shirt..
So, the last week has been spent cleaning
Walls, baseboards, furniture, objects,
every slat of blinds, every hardwood plank of floor.
In an effort to, ahem, enrich this work,
I've been playing at ambidexterity.
Using my non-dominant hand every chance I get.
It's not easy, and I am far less skillful.
I suggest you try it when you can.
We have so much asymmetry in our bodies.
Habitual postures and actions are a big part of that.
Mix it up when you're able.
Try using your non-dominant hand for less precise tasks.
It's kooky stuff. And in the search for balance, quite good for you.
You'll be a bit more attentive to the task at hand
and ultimately, its consequences in your body.
See you on the mat,
clean and shiny,
“It is through your body
that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”
– BKS Iyengar
Take some inspiration from my friend, Scout.
He's discovered the joy of prasarita padottanasana.
Spark of divinity, indeed.
Finding the expression of your life force
surging from your very core into all your extremities
is empowering and works to enliven you from the inside out.
Conversely, simply creating such shapes with your body
may work to empower you from the outside in
by positively affecting your hormonal balance, lessening anxiety,
and boosting your confidence.
Come find your spark
on the mat this week.
I found myself finally visiting the new Tennessee State Museum Sunday afternoon,
surrounded by silver haired ladies in floral dresses and men in suits. It felt like
a real southern summer Sunday outing. Most of us were there to hear the
Nashville Opera's offering of Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915
based on James Agee's prose poem, hence the Sunday finery. It was glorious.
Afterwards, we ambled around the Tennessee Quilts exhibit.
I noticed a couple things.
Firstly, I will henceforth always dress like a grownup when visiting a museum;
it truly heightens the experience. I may not wear faux flowers in my hair, but I'm
so glad that beautiful seventy year old did. Secondly, people used to spend a lot
of time doing quiet, repetitive things that may have taken months or years to reach fruition.
Lastly, communing with art on a daily basis, specifically lying beneath or upon
hand-wrought textiles is a powerful thing.
I have a few, old, tattered handmade quilts rescued from charity shops that
I've lived with my entire adult life. I've inherited perfect quilts from my German
mother-in-law that I've been hitherto afraid to crumple. But, you know, the antique quilts
on display that had stains or imperfections were the sweetest ones.
When something looks loved and used, it seems to hold and offer more meaning.
Kind of like me, I suddenly realize when I look in the mirror these days.
Your yoga mat can offer the same sweetness of a quilt.
A place to find solace, a place to hold you while you quiet.
Bring yours to practice.
"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.
"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.
"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.
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).
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.
"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.
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.
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!
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.
This shifting weather, a tiny morning flurry one moment, a sunshiny afternoon the next,
mirrors the distractions of the holiday season as we move towards winter.
Take care to ground yourself when you can, with your breath or a moment of stillness.
I have held on to this poetic encouragement to move like all things green, in one direction.
This weekend, I would lose my way while entering one room to retrieve stamps
only to find a decoration strewn on the floor meant to find the tree
to arrive empty handed back at the table, blank envelopes gaping at me "Seriously?"
"One direction, dear one," I compassionately remind myself. "One direction."
I look upon the spindly plant in the library, its two stems straining towards the window.
It's a daily reminder (of my less than green thumb, yes)
but mostly to remember to reach towards the light,
intuitively in a simple, true, single minded direction.
Hope to see you in the yoga circle.
Autumn finds me lying beneath trees even more than usual.
Lately, I've been thinking of this poem by Mary Oliver.
On Meditating, Sort Of
Meditation, so I've heard, is best accomplished
if you entertain a certain strict posture.
Frankly, I prefer just to lounge under a tree.
So why should I think I could ever be successful?
Some days I fall asleep, or land in that
even better place - half-asleep- where the world,
spring, summer, autumn, winter-
flies through my mind in its
hardy ascent and its uncompromising descent.
So I just lie like that, while distance and time
reveal their true attitudes: they never
heard of me, and never will, or ever need to.
Of course I wake up finally
thinking, how wonderful to be who I am,
made out of earth and water,
my own thoughts, my own fingerprints-
all that glorious, temporary stuff.
Bring your glorious, temporary self
to the yoga mat.
[extra credit if you spied me in forest savasana]
An intelligent yoga practice encompasses
both internal and external alignment.
Internally, the practice is used to measure yourself
using the fits of your body
to participate in the health of your organs and glands.
Each posture is used to give measurable results.
This is about cleaning and reorganizing your internal world
so that it becomes a joy to live in the body.
I love this pragmatic perspective on a yoga practice.
This is why we do what we do.
Postures on the mat, visited again and again,
work to give us a measure.
A measure of how things are fitting together,
on the outside and on the inside.
We practice to create order in our bodies,
on the outside and on the inside.
When you recognize this,
your work becomes a very internal practice.
You don't care what the postures look like in the body next to you.
That's not your body, not your information, of no value to you at all.
You get incredibly interested in what you find in your postures.
How they affect your breath, your mind, your emotions.
Where else do you get an hour to simply observe yourself becoming?
There's nothing like adventuring in the wide world to give one a fresh perspective.
First, realizing how tiny you are
while safely held by ancient trees in a Canadian forest.
Second, hearing just about every language surrounding you on a city street,
but recognizing just how much we are all the same.
I miss home.
Kicking around Canada's oldest Chinatown.
These narrow alleys led to opium dens in the late 19th century.
Today, they lead to vegan gelato.
(raspberry swirl for me, thank you)
We're heading next to a remote coast
on Vancouver Island for some stillness.
Remember, no yoga classes this week.
It's a great time to try something new!
Perhaps explore a different yoga class somewhere you've never been
(you're well equipped to step on the mat anywhere, promise),
or try some new modality (a forest meditation , swimming, badminton, a bike ride).
In any event, take care of your sweet self
'til next week when I see you again.
Much northern love,
Some of my favorite shapes to take in yoga
are the ones where I feel like a starfish.
Open. Radiating outwards. Limbs askew.
Who knew that in esoteric yogic anatomy studies it's a thing:
enlivening asana with navel radiation.
The idea is that from our very beginnings, in utero,
we received all our nourishment through our navels
radiating out into all our forming systems and limbs.
Once born, we still breathed and moved in this way at first.
Natural abdominal breathing that helped us
extend our energy out into unfurling limbs.
In yoga, we have the opportunity to recapture this freedom.
If you watch an accomplished yoga practitioner,
even in a still posture, you can sense her energy moving,
radiating out into her limbs with intention.
If we can soften the belly, connect with breath there, and then send it out,
we're on our way to using navel radiation to empower our asana.
It's not only physically powerful. It opens you up emotionally.
We'll practice this phenomenon this week.
It will feel awesome and sweet.
And you'll leave the mat feeling long and free.
Design your emotional posture
and let your practice take care of your cells.
As yogis, we know the power of intention
whether in where we send the breath,
or how we move in and out of asanas.
Even off the mat, out in the real world,
you can design your emotional posture
(lest it design you)
-cowed and defeated,
open and receptive,
strong and steady.
All this feeds your cells, energetically
and we now know, physiologically as well.
Come take care of your cells.
[yes, this is our own yogi, Anna Cramer,
caught in yogic waterfall bliss]
Other than the sea, the most amazing thing
I saw at the beach was this heron.
Her majestic stride with
such beautifully articulated feet stunned me.
I couldn't stop watching.
It put me in mind of Martha Graham
writing about the sacredness of the bodily form.
The beauty of the heel as it is used to carry one forward into life.
Of course, the heron doesn't lead with her heel,
but peels her talons from the sand,
suspends for a moment,
and plants them again to earth.
We're going to find our feet this week in practice.
I've just obtained some happy props precisely for this purpose.
So, there's very little in yard work
that gives a feeling of utter recklessness.
The chance to mow down monkey grass with abandon
at the first of spring before the new shoots push up is one.
One that my dear husband was denied
as we waited far too long to attend.
"Hey mister, don't you think we should give the front yard a quick mow
and hit the monkey grass before it starts sprouting?"
I offered a couple weeks ago.
"Mmmmm..." I heard from behind the computer screen
where he was mired in dissecting some endless code.
Fast forward to last Monday, when mowing the grass seemed a necessity,
but the monkey grass was half new and hopeful, half old tatters.
Ta da! Enter the shears, a keen eye, and a meditative opportunity.
There's something contemplative and sweet about going so slowly,
looking at what to nurture and keep, what to snip and toss away.
Spring presents a chance for such culling.
Spring cleaning inside and out, yogis.
Creating a little more space for what we want in our lives.
Were you to do dishes in my kitchen sink
(and please, feel free, anytime)
this week, you would find this at eye level.
I love when fortune cookie slips or tea bag tags
whisper to me "here. this one is for you. really."
Rather than grasping for the perfect hook
to reach people in a yoga class,
to persuade my son he'd love nothing more than to hang out with me,
to quantify my peculiarly personal stamp of success in any form,
I think I'll just try this.
Feels like a sweet exhale, doesn't it?
Let's practice together
and see what comes.
"Travel makes one modest.
You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world."
The vast and simple beauty of Maine
leaves this yogi humble and grateful
for newly discovered landscapes
within and without.
A little garudasana (eagle pose)
in honor of our nation's capital.
Here in D.C., I've found myself elbow to elbow
with people of every culture, ethnicity, sexual identity, social class, and race.
While peeping through the fence at the White House yesterday,
I watched a proud Pakistani-American father
place his young, bespectacled son just so for a snapshot.
I suddenly remembered
my only Obama encounter,
standing in Nashville's Public Square in the fall of 2006
hearing then Senator Obama exhort us to embrace
the growing diversity of our own city,
reminding us that to do so would only make us stronger and richer.
And I realized that
it is the coexistence
of all these disparate souls around me
that makes the United States a country like no other.
(insert patriotic fiddle here)
"Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding,
and under ideal conditions produces finally a sort of ecstasy,"
Might I suggest the ideal conditions of
a midsummer's afternoon
and quite barefoot?
Then you can find your way to your mat.
In our yoga circle here in Nashville,
I look around the room and find many faiths represented.
The sweet thing
is that each and every soul is nurtured
peculiarly and individually
through a practice we share together.
grasshopper in down dog
The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
~ John Muir
I spent the weekend in Asheville
getting lost in forests and leaves
and sleeping under the moon.
There's something about time in the wilderness
that helps you see more clearly.
Lose yourself outside this autumn,
even if it's only for an hour somewhere.
Your soul will be the better for it.
forest hand-standing husband