Collecting Wisdom


I do this thing. When I’m feeling unsatisfied, or insecure, I start collecting. I Pin beautiful images, and try to figure out how to make my life mirror them. I read memoirs and try to imagine my life as theirs. I look outside of myself for the missing piece. As if there is some room I can sit in that will make it all clear, or a tiny slice of wisdom outside of myself that is going to make the difference.

I know that’s not true. And still, I collect. I used to beat myself up about this but recently I took a look at one of my collections – a list of inspiring women – and I learned something.

What all these women seem to have in common is that they aren’t copying someone else. They’ve forged their own paths, ones that might look very different from what they thought – or what anyone else thought for that matter.

This is awesome and frustrating. Because there is part of me that is still looking for an instruction book on life: “The 5 Steps to Being Happy,” “Here’s How to Be Radiantly Yourself.” But the longer I go at this, the more I realize, there isn’t a model to follow. I can look at these women and be inspired by their stories, but in the end, they are not my stories. I can’t do what they did. I have to come up with this life on my own.

That said, here are some women I admire for their vision, commitment and pluck, honesty, and individuality

Erin Loechner of Design For Mankind

Andrea Scher of Superhero Life

Katie O’Connell of Dragon Fly Yoga Barn (Not a website, a real-life place)

Shauna Ahern of Gluten Free Girl

So Fresh! Notes From a Newbie


Second time’s a charm! Well, the first time was a charm too. Writing for Teachasana is such a treat for me. It’s so exciting and I love the opportunity to share with other teachers out in the world.

This time I offered some tips for staying on your teaching toes, even if you don’t have a regular gig. I write what I know, people. (Even though my irregularly scheduled programming is about to change: Stay Tuned!) Are any of you in the same boat? I’d love to hear your points of view.

Thanks so much to Pamela for giving me the opportunity to put my voice out there.

My last article, on subbing classes, can be found here. And did I give you enough links to the latest one? If not here’s another. Aah, vanity.

Student and Teacher

I often find myself looking outside for wisdom I later realize I already have. I forget that I’ve studied. That I know anatomy and physiology, that I know asana. And more than that, I forget to listen to the wisdom of my own instincts and my own body.

My back has been bothering me lately, and I went online today looking up yoga postures to ease the strain. What I found was a series of postures from Sadie Nardini (here) all of which, I realized, I have been doing on my own for the past couple of days.

I’ve been lingering in forward fold and pigeon in my daily practice. I stay in down dog and child’s pose for extra breaths. I found myself in wall plank at my niece’s birthday party yesterday, taking deep breaths as the cake pops were served.

Seeing an ‘expert’ affirm what I’d already been doing felt good, but it also reminded me that I know this. I know my body and what it needs. I’ll always look for advice from others because I’m always a student. But what I’m learning is more than a posture recommendation. I’m learning that sometimes I am my own best teacher, too.

Condo Yoga, Relaunch

I am incredibly pleased, proud, excited and nervous to announce the official relaunch of Condo Yoga, my wee company aiming to bring yoga to the people – wherever they are.

This venture is a work of love, and I’m so hopeful for its future and the possibilities it brings. If you’re so inclined, please take a visit. The new site is up and running here, and I’ll be adding news, updates and offers on the Facebook page as well.


Hiding Behind the Mat

I feel like it’s important to share this no-dairy journey, but I’ll spare you the play-by-play action. It’s only day deux and I’m not facing any particularly interesting challenges or feeling any special magic vegan fairy dust. I am happy to be on this path knowing I will feel better in the long run, and I’m really looking forward to feeling clearer.

In the meantime, life goes on. I’m currently looking for new health insurance (again!). I’m working with my daily practice and am considering taking this show on the road – adding some classes into the mix and considering taking up the teaching mantle once again.

It’s intimidating to think about going back out there. I’m afraid of rejection, of putting myself “out there” and it seems so much safer to practice at home and pontificate online.

I wonder, too, if I’m waiting to be “better” before I go out there. Waiting to have it all figured out – I have a perfect daily practice, I eat like a superhero! – to build myself up before I step out on the ledge. Even though I know damn well there is no perfect and that I just need to get out there.

Oh, man. Sometimes I hate those kinds of realizations. Because once you get there, there’s really no excuse to stay where you are without moving forward. Anyone want to come with me?

To Thine Own Self Be True

[via imagezoo]

I had the honor of assisting another Prana Yoga Teacher Training class this weekend. The students, in month three, are focusing on the manipura chakra, the seat of creative self-empowerment.

Even though my training was just a year ago, I realize how far I’ve gone from my yoga focus. And going to these teacher trainings reminds me of how powerful this practice can be. It seems appropriate as the year comes to a close, to focus on core energy and the creative power of the third chakra.

This last year, I’ve been rebuilding my self and my core, and lately I’ve felt an itch for more creative action. With a more stable base, I feel like it’s time to take myself and my energy and put it out into the world.

We also learned teaching points for setu bandhasana. Bridge pose has never been my favorite, and I’ll often skip it – or use a block for supported bridge – when I do my own practice. (Yogis can be lazy sometimes!) But as an assistant, I had to demo bridge for the class. And so up to the front of the room I go.

Along with the support of the class (and maybe a little ego pushing past my laziness), I had such a complete experience. I’m not sure how else to describe it. My breath was deep and my chest open. I felt that my base was stable enough that the rest of my body was weightless and I could lift up, up, up. I could have stayed there for an hour.

After a day of kind of letting the class settle in to me, I realize those thoughts or experiences are so closely related. The rebuilding year I’ve had, the building of the strong base, and now the readiness to expand outwards, pushing my heart out into the world a little more.

I’d love to hear how a pose, or a meditation, has clicked for you recently. Inspiration is welcome.

The Things We Say

During my training, we were taught to become aware of our language. We were encouraged to be direct, avoid surrounding the guidance in cushions of ‘want’ or ‘need’ – like saying, “I want you to rotate your upper thighs back” or stating things in the future, “And then we’re going to push up into cobra.” It is simpler to hear “Rotate your thigh muscles,” “Push up into cobra.”

As you teach you become aware of new ways to describe a moment, new angles, new metaphors. And sometimes, you try one that doesn’t work for everyone. I’ve definitely tried some pose descriptions that seem natural to me, but have my students craning their necks to look up at me wondering what the heck I’m talking about. A shaft of light from where? Rotate my what, now?

I haven’t been in front of a class for a little while now, but I read a blog today that reminded me of teaching, of being a person, of loving the whole concept behind being a human being in front of other human beings in yoga. And, it made me laugh.

I’m starting to find my own language in teaching… the phrases that come naturally. The pauses. The intentions. But there’s one thing I get a little hung up on: What to call the tushie/bum/buttocks/rumpside/tu-tu during class. I’ve been experimenting with different words and when I’m already talking about various muscles I, of course, say “gluteus”. But that’s that’s just so… ew. Can’t like it. So last night as I was teaching bow pose, I heard the word “butt cheeks” slip out of my mouth. And some students started giggling. And then I started giggling. It was bad. (Laughing in bow pose is really challenging!)

[via Penelope Illustration]

As a teacher, and a student, I think a little laughing in yoga is a good thing. And I love being able to see my teacher as a real person, not just a lithe body and demonstrative voice.

My dad often makes jokes during long pose-holds to help people let go. And I’ve always thought a little levity was welcome. Though, full-on giggle fits have been rare

What do you think about a prana-induced giggle attack? Is levity a distraction?

The illustration in this post is also by Penelope Dullaghan, and if you like it, you should visit her shop.

What makes you excited?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who was in the doldrums. Happens to the best of us. And I was asking a lot of questions, trying to see if I could get him to vocalize what his blah-ness was about. From the outside, there were some good things going on, and also some disappointing things. Anyway, I think they were canceling each other out to just create ennui, because none of the good stuff seemed to be registering.

So I said: “Well, what would you be excited about?” When I heard myself ask it, it was like the Edison bulb appeared over my head. It was hard to believe I hadn’t thought to ask myself this same question.

In the past six months or so since I’ve been home, I’ve been working hard to get back on my feet. All the good things come as a relief, but there’s always more to be done on the horizon. More things to be taken care of, more things to cross off the list. And I make these lists until they exhaust me, and then I stop, wasted, and slump down into a rut.

What would make me really excited? I didn’t even know how to answer. A bunch of things came to mind, but none of them really felt right. I have so many things on my list, but I’m not excited about any of them. No wonder crossing them off is unsatisfying – they aren’t things I really care about anyway.

So, it’s time to make a new list. An exciting list. No things I think I should do, or should want to do, or feel like I have to do. I have those lists already. This one has a completely different purpose.

Real Dads Do Yoga

My father is among the best teachers I’ve ever had, on the mat and off. He taught me to breathe, to cry, to listen and to ask questions.

Every day he continues to teach me about love and support. I try to think of ways to give back to him, and there is no golf club, tennis lesson or pair of yoga shorts in the world that could do the trick.

Thank you for teaching me about a life well lived. Happy Father’s Day, Pop!

* * * * * *

As a side note, you may have guessed that none of these photos are of my Dad. But they are Dads, and they do yoga. So I’ve made some kind of strained connection as an excuse to post more pictures of yoga yum. You’re looking at Sting, Hugh Jackman and Russell Simmons. Happy Father’s Day, guys. Namaste. And enjoy!

What do you do with an angry yogi?

[image via mac]

Despite my many years being a human, I’m still somehow shocked when “yoga people” display human traits – like rudeness, disrespect or just plain absentmindedness.

When a “regular” business person fails to return my call, I chalk it up to business. But when a “yoga” person does the same thing, I am not so willing to shrug it off.

I was even surprised to run in to a yoga teacher of mine at a bar. How dare she have a glass of wine, when even I am here to meditate on booze and peanuts!

Of course, I acknowledge we are all simply people. Some seeking more actively or more loudly than others. But I think I somehow expect more from people who I know are trying. Am I harder on “yoga people” than I am on everyone else?

And where do I fit in to this package if I consider myself a yoga person? I certainly try to be mindful. But, just like anyone else, I get frustrated with the person in front of me online, or the cab that won’t drive me home. Do I have an even higher responsibility to keep my cool if I’m carrying my yoga bag over my shoulder?

Do we all judge people who claim to be trying to mindful even more harshly when they’re not? If so, why do we do this? Is it an ego thing? Some sort of schadenfreude at their inability to be perfect?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Comments: open.

PYT(T) #best09

December 9 Challenge. Something that really made you grow this year. That made you go to your edge and then some. What made it the best challenge of the year for you?

Almost a year ago, I went to an introductory night for yoga teacher training at the Open Center – just to see. I sat there for a couple of hours letting the joy and wisdom of the program leaders wash over me. Before the evening was over, I knew I’d be jumping on board – for better or worse.

Even though the decision was made, I found myself up at the front of the room approaching Priti, one of our beautiful teachers. Before I knew it, I just blurted out: I’m scared! And without a moment’s hesitation, she embraced me. I was so overwhelmed at that moment, and so, so nurtured. I still get choked up thinking about it.

The journey to becoming a teacher has surprised me (and still surprises me!) in its simplicity, and in its challenges. I mean, frankly, there are times where I am a complete mess – as a yoga teacher and as a functioning adult. But this challenge has touched me to the core and changed the way I approach life for the better, even with the fear and the mess.