Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bravery in a different package.

In September my daughter Lucia started sixth grade at a huge public middle school with over 1200 kids. Lucia is a natural at school. It comes easy to her and she loves it. The transition to this new environment went well too, with the exception of one seventh grade girl who consistently bugged Lucia. The bugging turned to teasing and after a few months, it was just downright bullying.

Lucia wanted to handle it on her own. She didn't want her parents to talk to the teachers or the school counselor or the other girl's parents. We coached her as well as we could, role playing things to say, brainstorming what, if anything, might be provoking the behavior. My partner Nancy even gave her a boxing lesson one night after dinner.

A few days before winter vacation, the bullying behavior peaked. This was the same day that Lucia had told the girl face-to-face, in a serious tone, that she did not appreciate or like her behavior and she wanted her, in no uncertain terms, to STOP.

The final straw was when the girl stole Lucia's lunch box out of her locker, took it onto her bus and taunted Lucia from a bus full of other kids. Somehow Lucia got the lunchbox back. When she finally made it to my car, she said, "I'm done Mom. I want you to call her parents."

The rest is really history. I called her mom. She was incredibly gracious, and the next day at school was great. Lucia reported that things felt really different (and good).

Lucia tried. She tried really hard. She asked for advice, for guidance, for support. But in the end, she just needed a break, some help. Asking for help is one of the hardest things to do. To say, "I can't do it alone" takes courage. I'm certain that Lucia's experience this year won't be her last battle in middle school. She'll have other opportunities to stand up against bullies, to find her strength and fight back. But I'm proud of her for asking for help, for listening to what she needed.

In the yoga room when I'm practicing, I push myself. I get a lot from trying hard. I like the challenge. I like the way it makes me feel, the endorphin rush I get, the pride that comes from the struggle. There are times though that I need a break. I can't stand on one leg any longer. My body needs a rest. Sometimes I ignore that message and I keep fighting. That's the moment when my yoga practice goes out the window. I'm no longer listening to what I need, I'm just pushing myself to stay in the fight. When I do listen, when I rest in Savasana or Child's Pose, that's when I'm still doing my yoga. I'm listening to myself and truly hearing the internal messages.

How we are in our yoga practice is a microcosm of how we are in life. For many of us, asking for help is hard to do. We often ignore that message when we hear it, choosing instead to stand in a place of pride from doing it on our own. A daily yoga practice that offers us challenges is a great place to start listening more deeply to ourselves. Work hard on your mat, fight the good fight, and practice listening to what you need.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Failure is not a dirty word

Last week I took Aimée's Vinyasa class. About halfway through the class, she stopped us and gave a little introduction about the next posture we would do. She said, "a lot of this sequence is built around failure. When we do this next pose, be open to failing."

As we set up and attempted Firefly pose, most of us did fail, even the teacher. After class, I told Aimée how fun the sequence was. She looked relieved and said, "I taught that earlier this week and it was a total bust."

"Why?" I asked her.

"Because I didn't tell the students they could fail," she replied with the clarity only someone who'd seen both sides could offer.

For some reason, failure is a dirty word in our culture. But why?  Failure is the only way to get to where we want to go. How can we learn what we need to learn without failure. I will need way stronger arms and core to do Firefly. If I just popped into it when Aimée offered us the posture, that would be a bore.

As a parent, I often think about what "failure" means to my daughter. I see her, even at age 12, resistant to trying new things for fear that she'll fail. When does this message start and how do we counter it, make failure something to expect instead of something to avoid?

Maybe it is the overt invitation to fail, an explicit offering that unifies us in the experience instead of divides us. Some people are naturally more pliable in certain directions, born with openly rotated hips and short arms and punching biceps. Other people, like me, have hips that naturally rotate more internally and long, Olive-Oilesque arms. I'll fail more times at doing arm balances that require deep, open hips and others will struggle more to do binding poses with their arms and legs like eagle.

It's okay to fail. It's important to fail. I invite you, me, all of us to fail. Next time you come into the yoga room, give yourself a strong, clear invitation to flounder a little bit, to teeter, to fall out, to fail. Let this be the starting point for the rest of your life. What have you wanted to do but avoided because you were afraid to fail? Notice what you've been avoiding and step into those places. Reclaim it, rename it if you want to. Failure is not a dirty word. Thanks Aimée.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

An Ode to My People

My little village is comprised of two As, one D, two Es, one F, a J, three Ks, 2 Ms, 2 Ps, Rs, Ss and one Z.

Aimée is an actor and you can definitely tell. Her classes are dramatic and creative as hell.
Alyssa is wise, well beyond her young years. Her knowledge of anatomy makes postures so clear.
Dana's teaching is crisp, precise and merry.  Every Saturday she comes to teach us by ferry.
Emily is fierce is the kindest of ways. She challenges us to open our hearts every day.
Erika is our unique Jivamukti teacher. She learned in Berlin and captivates like a preacher.
Frani, dear Frani is the rock of our village. She's the calm in the storm. Having her by my side is a privilege.
Janet is soft-spoken and peaceful and kind. But she teaches some burners that will challenge and bind.
Katy the singer has a big open heart. Her class is consistent and challenging and smart.
Keely, though often is flying the skies, we love to see her and her sparkling bright eyes.
Kelly has shown me a broader perspective, a way to bring yoga to people who are often neglected.
Mary, sweet Mary has the most contagious smile. She'll teach you everything you need to know about a healthy lifestyle.
Meghan! Yay, you're coming back. One of our original, I welcome you home to this place. I've missed your gentle voice and your beautiful face.
Parvanah, the name says it all, a beautiful butterfly answering her call. 
Penni, you go girl, making us work in that room. Your passion and fire help all of us bloom.
Rachael, my sage, my guide, my advisor. You happened upon me and I am so very much wiser!
Reva, our baby, in all the best ways. You work and you work and I can see the change every day.
Seth, our lone hombre, I appreciate you dearly. You're thoughtful and open and wonderfully cheery.
Sunny, the fierce one, a strong, invigorating energy. You bring to us knowledge that's so complimentary.
Zahr, the last Z, the one I rarely see. It doesn't mean you aren't special to me.  
My village of letters, you are so very much more. You are the people I love and cherish and adore. 
Your presence in the world brings goodness to all who you touch. I am grateful to you and love you so much!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dignity, Integrity, Humanity

Many years ago my twin sister Katherine gave me a little metal sculpture made of antique spoons. I still have the sculpture, a six-inch tall metal figure with a face on it and on the body, it says, "Dignity, Integrity and Humanity."

A few weeks ago, I parked in front of The SweatBox at 7:45am. As I got out of my car, I noticed a figure in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk of the brand new apartment building across from the studio. Next to the sleeping bag was a wheelchair. What do I do? Do I walk over and wake this person to see if they are okay? Do I call the police? The paramedics? I decided to wait an hour and go back out. When I peeked outside again at 9am, the figure was gone.

As I prepared to teach my 9:30am class,  this person was all I could think about. Did I miss a moment to connect with this other human? Have I lost my ability? Is this how the world is? How I am?

Before I started the class, I took a moment before the beautiful group of students to share the experience. "When you walk outside today, remember your humanity," I encouraged them. Spending the next 90 minutes in the yoga room with my students, seeing them all working very hard, struggling, each in their own way, I felt so grateful to be in this environment of love, kindness and vulnerability. At the same time, I felt utterly crestfallen about the state of the world.

My job as a teacher is to support and guide and love my students, to help shepherd them to places where they feel good and whole and at peace. These days, on the streets in Seattle, all over our city, there are people who are struggling, who are without support or love or guidance. They are without shelter, proper clothing, consistent food and water.

At the same time, there is development-- new places to live and eat and shop and do yoga. It's easy to separate, to find emotional safety in crossing the street or lowering your eyes. But what does that say? How does it make a person who is struggling feel? How does it make you feel to avoid or dismiss another human? I come back to the sculpture my sister gave me 20 years ago--"Dignity, Integrity, Humanity"-- a message that is so basic, and so important to remember. Every human being deserves these fundamental things. Our world, communities as small and blocks and as large as countries, will not survive without those things.

We are all human. No matter what your political beliefs, your income bracket, your skin color, your mental health status, national origin or hair color. Think about the heart that you nurture and open and connect with everyday in your yoga practice. Recognize how you feel when you are in a space where you are confident that you are being loved and supported and held. Practicing yoga, opening your heart creates happiness, joy, a sense of peace and ease. When you walk outside today on the Seattle streets that have become hardened and sad and desperate for so many, remind yourself that we are all human. Share what you have by showing humanity to everyone. Do what you can to give everyone some dignity and integrity. Challenge yourself to look at each and every person in their eyes. If you don't have money to give or something to share, don't avoid connection. Be a human in whatever way you can.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Writing the beautiful

Last night my daughter Lucia and I wrote thank you letters to Hillary Clinton.  When Clinton lost the presidential race, writing to her was my first instinct. I needed to tell her what her running for president meant to me. I also needed to find a way for my 12-year-old daughter to process her grief about the loss. I hesitated to write this blog because over the course of the elections, I've experienced many moments in my liberal, third-party, west-coast, community being shamed as "right wing" or "ignorant" or "small-minded" for favoring Hillary Clinton. But, now in the wake of her loss of the election, I am more compelled than ever to be honest and open.

At a writing retreat I attended last month, one of the exercises we did was "writing the beautiful." We had to choose something in our life that was bad, even heinous, and write only the beautiful things about it. I didn't think I could do it, but I did. I got up at dawn on the second day of the retreat and set up my laptop overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I steadily wrote two short essays about things I didn't want to think about and I found the beautiful. I found memories, feelings, details that I hadn't let myself see because I was only looking at the event from one lens.

When Hillary Clinton ran for president, a new level of hope and excitement slowly unfurled for me. I was raised by feminist parents. My father, even back then, was the Board President of Planned Parenthood. He taught my sisters and me to play football and encouraged us to start a team at our school. My mother worked tirelessly for accessible clinic services for young women and helped us write letters of concern and complaint to Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

Even with these feminist roots, I never knew, could never imagine that a woman could be president. Sure, I fantasized, I hoped, but I didn't believe it. A woman would make so much difference. She truly would change the world. Hillary Clinton looked like she was getting close. I let myself believe. The unimaginable became thinkable.

And then she lost. The electoral college declared Voldemort our leader, and my heart broke a little bit. As my partner Nancy and I watched Lucia sob over the results, swimming in teenage tears of disillusionment and disappointment, my heart broke a little bit more. The next morning when the dust had settled a little bit, I told my family that I was going to write to Hillary and tell her what her running for president had meant to me. I invited Lucia to do the same. It's taken a week to get the letters done. They were difficult to write at first because the blow of the loss was too close. But it helped, writing the beautiful, expressing gratitude to Hillary Clinton, a woman who let all of us, especially the 12-year-old girls in the world, believe that the unimaginable is possible.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Striving for what?

Right now I am participating in the Fall 30-Day Challenge at The SweatBox. I (try to) do yoga every day for 30 days. Some days I do Bikram, other days Vinyasa, and other days Yin. Some days I do both. I'm noticing is that my mental approach to my practice is changing. I enjoy each class I take and feel grateful to be able to practice yoga of any kind whenever I step into the studio, but I'm aware that how I go into my practice has changed.

My first committed practice, the one I clung to and did religiously for 20 years, before stepping into other styles is Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga appealed to me I think because of my competitive nature. I swam competitively for almost fifteen years and I grew up in a fiercely competitive house with my two sisters, one twin and one 21-months younger. It seemed we were always striving to be seen and heard by our parents in some way. The repetition of Bikram practice comforted me. I could get better at all of these postures, notice my progress, watch my evolution really clearly. The sameness of the series also mentally and emotionally comforted me. I didn't have to worry about being "good" or "proficient" at these postures; I only had to focus on working hard to get better at them.

Then I started practicing more Vinyasa Yoga and the challenge of it also fed my competitive inclinations. I had the strength to do this practice, and I could see how I'd get better if I worked harder. I strived for that, worked hard, and it has been incredibly fulfilling and satisfying.

And then I started doing Yin Yoga. At first it was confusing. Where is the battle? What I am I working towards? Pushing against? That piece was missing, yet I still felt fed by the practice. The challenge was there but the striving was not. It became clear to me when I went to Canada to train more extensively in the foundations and philosophy of Yin Yoga; the difference was the intentional absence of pushing, forcing, grinding. This absence, I learned, was a foundational premise of Yin Yoga. Once I started teaching Yin and watching my students-- the calm expressions on their faces, their eyelids gently closed, the softness of their fingers and toes as they held different postures-- I could see clearly this difference. There is a whole process going on internally, one that is slowly, quietly feeding each of their bodies and minds in ways that each of them needs.

The striving was gone. In its place was allowing, yielding to the body's position and letting the posture happen. It's beautiful. Sometimes when I'm teaching Yin I feel an emotional welling up. It's nothing in particular, just the idea that the competition is gone. There is no struggle to be seen and heard because all of that is happening inside.

Since I've integrated Yin Yoga into my practice,  I notice the difference in my Bikram and Vinyasa Yoga. I work just as hard, but I am a little more open to "allowing" and listening to my body guide me when I am in triangle or half-moon. An outsider wouldn't notice anything different about my practice. It looks just the same but it feels different. I am calmer, there's less fight, less grind. The striving is gone, and I'm working just as hard.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Facial Blindness and Group Nudity

Last week I got a phone call on Wednesday letting me know that I'd made it off of the waitlist for a weekend writing retreat that started the following Friday. I had tried to register for the retreat in May but sadly it was full. Because I had no notice to plan for my trip, I didn't have time to get worried or nervous or anxious. After scrambling to cash in miles and get a last minute rental car, I packed my bag and flew to San Jose and drove three hours to the beautiful Santa Lucia mountains.

The retreat was held at the Esalen Institute, a stunning retreat center nestled in the mountains of Big Sur, Northern California. Esalen is home of the human potential movement and some of the most splendid hot springs (Esalen people call them "healing waters") I've ever experienced.

During the retreat, I had the opportunity to take a writing workshop with Heather Sellers, the author of a memoir titled, You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know. Heather has a neurological disorder called prosopagnosia, also more commonly known as facial blindness.

In addition to being a really talented writer, Heather has a magnetic personality. Her teaching style-- a combination of modern dance and spoken word-- is profoundly entertaining and educational. I learned more in two hours with Heather Sellers than I learned in a whole year of a University of Washington writing program.

One of the things Heather talked about was being open in our writing-- she invited us to throw away the planning of it.  She shared what she's learned from living with facial blindness; she lives every minute of every day living in the unknown. While she'll meet you and see your face, she has no ability to remember it one minute later or ten years in the future. As I sat, riveted by this amazing woman, I thought how much strength and creativity she has cultivated through this experience of living in the unknown.

In between workshops, I had small breaks to enjoy the healing waters of Esalen. On their website, they state that nudity in the baths is "not mandatory" but those words alone let me know that nudity is standard, even expected. I am a painfully modest person so I was naturally nervous about group nudity. I thought, as I walked down to the baths the very first time how it would be great if everyone, including me, had facial blindness.

Personal writing can feel a lot like nudity. It's vulnerable and exposing, potentially embarrassing. During the different workshops, I found myself only wanting to share my writing that was less revealing. Some things I wrote felt too personal to share with people I had just met hours before. But, as I listened to people read their work that was very intimate and exposing, I didn't have any judgment or criticism about their work. I felt grateful and humbled to be able to share what they created.

I did make myself step into the unknown of group nudity. I went to the baths several times, nude. And each time I was okay. Just like in the writing workshops, I felt no judgment, no criticism towards any of the nude bodies at the baths. And of course, none of the other people cared that I was nude. Everyone was equally revealed, equally exposed, and it was beautiful and it was healing.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Make space for all of it.....

Last week on the way to school, Lucia said, out of the blue, “Mommy, I'm just not spiritual.” I’m prone to parental lecturing, oversharing my opinion, but I’m newly enlightened by a book called Untangled by Lisa Damour. The book breaks out the major stages of female adolescence.  Instead of launching into one of my moralistic lectures, I remembered the author’s wise words about how 11-year-old girls are just dipping their painted toes into independence. They are making overt efforts to establish themselves as wholly separate from their parents. 

I stayed quiet. I just nodded and vocalized an “Mmm hmm” of acknowledgment to her declaration. “I mean, it’s just not my thing,” Lucia continued, “spirituality, I mean. It’s just not for me.”

Okay. I thought to myself. She is different from me. She is letting me know how different. And, I, in a clear moment of parenting lucidity, recognized that we were both doing our jobs--- she was establishing her individuality, differentiating from me, and I was letting her do it! Two points for the mother-daughter team!!!!

As I was teaching Yin Yoga last week, the experience of my conversation with Lucia came into my mind. Yin Yoga is an intensely calm and quiet practice, and as such, there is room for lots of mind-wandering. In Yin practice, there isn’t the endorphin rush or constant movement present in more Yang styles like Bikram or Vinyasa. This absence can create an environment where mental wanderings proliferate. It’s easy for thoughts to enter our minds that we perceive to be “bad” or “wrong” or “inappropriate.”

I told my students the story about Lucia’s declaration of “not being spiritual” and shared my response—to let the pronouncement sit there, to make space for it. Once that happened, we could both move on, and feel good about the experience. Had I glommed onto a resistant response, “Honey, you never know. Someday you might become spiritual….. Do you really know what spirituality is? ……blaaaah, blaaaah, blaaaah.” 

As I looked out into the sea of bodies, everyone had their eyes closed. They looked so peaceful and serene. But as a student, I know that closed eyes doesn’t mean quiet mind.  I encouraged the room of students to make space for the myriad parts of themselves, the different voices, unexpected feelings. Resistance to a posture might come. Let it come. Make space for it. Frustration might interrupt your serenity. It’s part of you. Let it be. Only by making space for the things we don’t necessarily want, can we get to the other side to discover what else is waiting to be seen and heard.

Adolescence is a time of rawness, extreme evolution, individuation, and identity exploration, but that process doesn’t stop when we become adults. When Lucia said to me, “Mom, I’m just not spiritual,” I was able to recognize that she is in a moment in time in her life, a moment that is not permanent; her perspective could last ten years or ten minutes. But it’s hers. It’s part of her right now. 

Whether with your own body in your yoga practice or the car with your kid, make space for the new, the different, and the unexpected. Who knows what you’ll find on the other side.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I recently listened to a Dharma talk by Sarah Powers; she talked about how interpersonal relationships are such an important part of the yogic path. When we can find a place of equanimity physically and emotionally, and when we can achieve a level of consistent mindfulness, only then, can we start to truly reach new levels interpersonally. 

It makes sense. How can we love another being if we don't love ourselves. As a twin, I have always struggled with getting connected to my whole self, my own true identity. As a result, I struggle to find a satisfying connection with my twin sister Katherine. Since my conception, I've shared space, been in reaction to another being. First we shared a womb (Katherine refers to us as "wombmates") and then, even though we weren't identical, from the time we were born, we were seen in reference to the other.

I was tall, she was short. I was shy, she was funny. I was crabby, she was playful. I did sports, she did theater. And now, even though we are adults and have maneuvered our way into our own "identities", vestiges of this shared identity remain. Hearing Sarah Powers talk about equanimity made me think a lot about my twin identity. Do I have individual emotional equanimity? No. Will I ever have it? I hope so, but I realize that, because I am a twin, living in this consistently co-reflective space (albeit subconscious most of the time), I might have to work a little bit harder, dig a little bit deeper.

One place where I don't share identity space with my twin sister is in my yoga life. Maybe that's why it's such a big part of my life, a important daily touchstone for me. It's only me. It's mine. Katherine has an equally vibrant, deep connection to her own work in her life in the Bay area, and I'm guessing that she feels equally enriched from having something that is solely hers.

I'm in a particularly uncomfortable time with Katherine right now. We are struggling to connect, to celebrate each other. Even though in current time, we are very, very different from each other, we still struggle with this complicated shared identity; we are still reacting to each other. Yoga helps remind me who I am. I always say that yoga is a lifetime process. It's a wave we ride, up, down, over, in, out and through. It's not all good or fun or calm, but it's a path that gets us to where we need to go. And once again, yoga, my greatest teacher reminds me that my relationship with my twin is a process as well. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Turn it off

On Monday, I went to hear Anne Patchett at Benaroya Hall. I thought she was going to read from her new book, Commonwealth  but she didn't. She stood on stage in front of a very full house and waxed on about her approach to writing, her philosophy about reading, and some wonderful anecdotes about her personal life. She was funny and brilliant and awesome in all kinds of ways.

If you are a fan of Anne Patchett's, you know that her fiction is fiercely imaginative, sometimes far-fetched, and that it clearly takes a ton of research and coordination to pull together each of her novels. At the end of Anne Patchett's talk, the Director of Seattle Arts and Lectures interviewed her.  She asked Anne, who, in addition to writing amazing fiction and non-fiction, owns an independent bookstore in Nashville and seems to have read every book of every genre of all points in history, how she could be both such a prolific reader and writer.

I'm guessing Anne Patchett has been asked that question before because she answered right away. "I have a fifteen-year-old flip phone and I've never texted. I don't own a television and I have never once looked at Facebook," she replied. "I have a lot of extra time."

I'm sure many audience members sank into a bit of despair to hear that. We all know what a time suck innane texting is, what a silly habit Facebook is, and how television can drain hours from an otherwise productive day if we're not careful. As an avid writer and reader myself, I left Benaroya feeling inspired by Anne Patchett, but also a little downtrodden about my own distracted focus and commitment to my writing and reading practices.

But the very next day I went into the studio to practice yoga and had an immediate sense of gratitude and pride for the fact that there are NO screens in the studio. There never have been and there never will be. While I am not reading or writing in my yoga practice, my brain is getting served. Almost every blog topic I've ever written has come to me in the yoga room, either while practicing or teaching. Most of my big life decisions have been made on my mat.

Not everyone can be an Anne Patchett, who knew at a very young age that she wanted to be a writer. Most of us wander through life testing out different waters and landing somewhere for a while before moving on more than a few times. I'm so happy to have been inspired by the brilliant Anne Patchett. I'll continue to read the books she writes and keep my ears open for books she recommends. I'll look to her and other great writers for inspiration. But most importantly, I'll keep coming into the yoga room everyday, the one and only place in my life where there are no screens to suck my time, focus, and energy. I hope you'll join me!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Human Kindness

Last week I had an experience that left me with an unsettled feeling-- a combination of gratitude and elation tinged with seeking and inspiration.  I feel its presence subtly, at different times during the day, but mostly when I'm teaching or practicing yoga. Kelly, a wonderful yoga student of mine and now teacher of me, invited me to help her in a class she teaches called Adaptive Yoga. Adaptive Yoga offers people with mobility restrictions (spinal cord injuries, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson's Disease) accessible yoga instruction. And, as I experienced last week, it is so much more than that.

There were just two students in the class I attended, a small group for that session. One of the students was quadriplegic and the other paraplegic. Kelly and the other teacher Julie led the small group through seated postures and then moved them to the floor for a series of supine postures.

I hesitate to even try to describe my emotional experience in this class because I don't have the technical writing skills to really explain it. There were so many moments, moments when Kelly or Julie gently laid hands on a body that "couldn't feel." But was that right? Who was I to say what another person could feel. Watching the teachers, I was brought to the brink of tears. Why? I'm not sure. I've been trying to sort it out all week. I suspect that maybe it was the recognition of my own assumptions about people who are paralyzed. Or the beautiful message from the instructor to feel what was happening internally when the physical body was in a posture, regardless of their paralyzed status. The energy in the room, the combination of vulnerability, determination, and human kindness literally overwhelmed me.

What I'm left with in this time before I go back to volunteer again (which I plan to do as often as I can), is the sense of how small the world can become when we define "feeling" in only a handful of ways. I, being an able-bodied, fully "feeling" person, was knocked out of my comfortable state being a part of this class--- in a really good way. That unsettled feeling-- elation and gratitude and seeking and inspiration-- come to me when I practice. Today when Rachael had us do 27 sun salutations, I closed my eyes during a lot of it so that I could feel in a different way, a deeper way. And when I teach, I am so filled with gratitude for being able to teach yoga, a practice that goes beyond just physical postures. I am grateful to be in this newly seeking place, to explore more deeply myself and to be able to invite my students to do the same.  Thank you Kelly.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

You can do anything for ten seconds

I recently started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It's a series about a young woman who is rescued from a cult in Indiana and sets off to create a new life in New York City. I've only seen three episodes, but I'm keen on Kimmy. She's possessed by a combination of extreme naiveté and intense optimism.

One of the things Kimmy learned in her cult captivity was to endure intense boredom and monotony. Though she doesn't share her bizarre past life with her new friends in NYC, she does share jewels of wisdom from her cult-life, like her regularly doled out advice, "You can do anything for 10 seconds." She says this to herself and to other people in her life who seem to be unable to manage whatever situation they are in.

Ten seconds is not very long.  It's the time it takes to turn on the water tap and fill a glass of water. It's writing a quick grocery list in the morning or bringing in the mail. It's about the length of time it takes to inhale in Pranayama deep breathing.

In life, we don't have control over much. Shit happens. The other night I saw a friend who's long-term relationship suddenly ended. She was shocked, bewildered, and heart broken. She had no control over the break up, it just happened and now she was slowly blinking her way out of the wreckage. What I said to her, which is what a kind soul offered me when I was in a similar situation many years ago, was "all feelings pass." It helped me and I hope it helps her. In times of deep sorrow, crazed anger, or intense fear, I told myself, "this is a  temporary feeling. I will not be here forever. It will pass." And the feelings did pass. They came back with great regularity, like the garbage truck every Thursday, but they also didn't stay, and eventually, I got through it, ten seconds at time.

Sometimes the experiences we think we can't endure are short, like when Half-Moon pose feels like it is going to go on for 30 minutes. Break it down. Remind yourself, as Kimmy would, "You can do anything for ten seconds." And once those ten seconds are over, you're onto a new feeling, different sensations. Other times, the struggles are longer, harder-- a break up, the loss of a job, a death. It's the same game plan-- break it down. Take a deep breath and give yourself time and space for things to shift. Even in the worst of times, remind yourself that you can do anything for ten seconds.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Beauty of Human Variation

I come from a tradition of Bikram Yoga, a practice that is very regimented, rigorous, and black and white. For many years, for myriad reasons, this practice worked well for me. As I've grown older and found myself wandering into the mysterious waters of menopause, my physical flexibility has lessened, but my mental flexibility has flourished. Over the past few years, my changing flexibilities have led me to broaden my yoga practice.

As the owner of a yoga studio, I am in the unique and thrilling position of creating a vision. In the fifteen years that I've been doing this work, I've learned a lot. For example, I know that it takes a village to run a business. I am blessed to be surrounded by people who share and support the vision of The SweatBox. As The SweatBox visionary, I am excited to share my expanded view, one that acknowledges all yoga as good yoga and all bodies as perfect bodies.

Something that's become crystal clear to me as I've expanded my personal yoga practice and teaching knowledge over the years, is how significant human variation is and how important it is to honor these differences. There is no one "right" human. We are all different and perfect in our own way. As a yoga teacher and student, I have found that expanding my view of "the right way" to practice yoga has been profoundly liberating. I want to share that with my community.

Bikram Yoga everyday is great for many bodies, but it's not great for ALL bodies. The Pranayama that we do in Bikram, for example is an amazing exercise that develops lung capacity, efficiency, and oxygen flow in the body. The repetition of postures in Bikram Yoga can, for many of us, create an unparalleled moving meditation that leads to significant stress reduction.

Vinyasa Yoga everyday is wonderful if you have the strength and agility. The unexpected nature of the flow offered by the teacher, the new and different challenges that come with every unique class help us stay creative and open-minded. But a daily Vinyasa Yoga practice is also not the magic bullet for all bodies.

A Bikram Yoga practice is a therapeutic, healing practice to be sure. Adding Vinyasa and Yin Yoga (which are also healing and therapeutic) into a regular yoga practice, can facilitate create a greater sense of physical and mental balance in one’s life. Many Vinyasa students who have been staunchly Vinyasa-based will find themselves surprised and delighted by how a regular practice of Bikram provides healing and respite for their tender shoulders and wrists.  

Yin Yoga is the counter, the balance for both Bikram and Vinyasa practitioners that brings a greater state of physical, mental and emotional equanimity to all bodies. This technologically turned-on world we live in is fast-paced and often relentless. Yin gives us all an opportunity to slow down, to step off the moving walkway.

Each of our skeletons, the placement of our organs, the hormones that course through our bodies, are individual and unique. As such, we need to experience a variety of yoga options to understand what serves us. This will lead to a greater understanding of who we are and what we need. It might be one kind of yoga one day and another kind another day. It might be practicing one style more, one style less. It might mean adding Qi Gong. It might be practicing at a different time of day or making subtle modifications to what you've been doing the same way for decades. Only by trying new things can we know what best serves us and helps us grow.

I believe a daily yoga practice is important—whether it is a Sunday morning home practice of Yin with your partner combined with six days a week of more Yang yoga at your favorite studio or yoga in the woods with your family every morning with a periodic visit to the studio. It doesn’t matter what yoga you do, it’s that you do it. In expanding my own vision of what yoga is good yoga, I have been able to commit more deeply to my own yoga practice. I invite you to do the same. Try something you haven’t tried. Challenge your body and your mind in new ways. Be a beginner again. Practice some good yoga everyday.

Work Life Balance

Yesterday while I was working I thought to myself, “I could do this all day long!” And that’s a good thing because that was the plan. I rece...