Sunday, December 16, 2012

Responding to Tragedy

Yesterday I found myself weeping while listening to NPR's story about the Connecticut elementary school shooting.  What a horrific tragedy.  My heart goes out to the parents and families of the children and teachers who were killed.  The scope of their grief is unimaginable to me.

My response has been deep sadness, anger and confusion.  And the part of me that wants to fix it, prevent it, says:  What can I do to help?  How can I make a difference?   While I do believe that serious gun control regulations could make a difference, I also think that people who commit such violence would come up with other means to express their feelings  if they couldn't get guns.  I think the root of the problem starts early, with families, child-rearing, and social pressures.  So while I'll do my part with gun control, I'm more passionate about sourcing the root of the issue.  And I realize it's incredibly complex, from media influences to drugs, to family issues and mental illness.

Questions arise like:  What makes people want to commit such horrific acts?  Why and how did they learn that violence was the best way to handle their feelings?  What happens inside of them to drive them to such measures?  As one of my teachers said, everything that people do is because they think they need to do it in order to survive.  

Almost two decades of teaching yoga and spiritual practices has shown me that the greatest human suffering we face is related to our emotions.   We want to be happy and don't have skillful training in how to express ourselves or how to get our needs met.  We are told (especially for women) that it's not okay to express our anger or (usually for men) our sadness.  And we either bottle it up and let it make us sick, or we lash out at ourselves or others in some way.  We feel separate and alone because we forget our inner light, that we're ultimately all the same on the inside and want the same thing: happiness.

So I've been studying various communication skills and spiritual practices because I want to help myself and others with this emotional suffering and confusion.   I want to learn and teach people skillful means for self expression and self-honoring, and how to see the love and beauty in themselves and in each other.  Through my recent foray into the Hendricks' work,  I'm discovering how to love myself more fully, finding the courage to express myself authentically, and learning how to coach others in doing the same.   It's another level of my yoga practice, a powerful and sometimes terrifying journey of exploration, and one that I'm deeply committed to for it's great rewards. 

I'm enjoying bringing this work forward into my weekly classes and longer courses, like Awakening the Voice of the Heart, and eventually I plan to coach individuals, couples and groups.  But when tragedies like this hit, or when I hear stories about long-term prisoners who've committed murder, theft, rape or abuse and lost 20+ good years of life because of deep suffering and emotional outbursts, I imagine taking this work out where it can have the greatest impact:  to children, parents, teachers and prisoners.   

I pray that we can live in a society where we know and love ourselves enough to share our true feelings, have the courage to ask for what we want, and can see the light within and in everyone we meet.   

Many Solstice Blessings to you,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Essence and Authentic Self-Expression

I've had a great time exploring the concept of Essence in my classes over the last two weeks.  It came up from studying the Hendricks' work and they talk about living from your Essence.  For them, Essence is who you really are, like who you are at the core, behind your foibles and ego constructs.  I like to think of Essence as in flower essence, as in the concentrated form of You when you're distilled down to the most pure qualities of yourself.  So I've been thinking of it as a very personal flavor of Essence, ie. my Robynness.  Like how much could I remove and still be me?   Like what is my most authentic form of me?  I love this contemplation.  I love to think of a new born baby and how they are so pure, and yet they very definitely have an Essence, a nature that is unique to them.  We know that this never changes.  We can look in the mirror year after year, and though the outer form keeps changing, there's something inside that feels very much the same.  From Essence, we're drawn to certain types of people, environments, textures, activities; we experience the world from a certain perspective, move at a certain pace.  

I think the goal of our yoga practice is to take us back to the experience of this Essence within, our purest form, before it got layered on with beliefs, stories, catastrophes, ego development, etc.  And how does it feel to be in our Essence?  As Marc Takaha said today in our interview about his upcoming Conscious Loving workshop, when you're in Essence, you have a feeling effortlessness, ease, and pleasure.  It's an experience, not a mental concept.  So, as I see it, you're embodied presence when you're in your Essence.  Movement can take you there, especially conscious movement like yoga and ecstatic dancing.  Meditation can also take you there, as can doing the Hendricks' relationship work.

What I'm learning from the Hendricks is very much like the Yoga of Relationships, as I've been calling it lately, because in their work, we are trying to uncover Essence, fully know it, and then live from this place, and this is exactly what we're doing in Yoga.  In Tantrik philosophy, Yoga is about knowing your true Self as Divine Consciousness and letting it shine through your full expression.  So our Essence is then both our unique personal flavor as well as a Universal presence that ties us all together.    In yoga, it may also be called Essence, but other names are Self, Divine Consciousness, Shiva/Shakti, Spanda, and more.   And if we can live from this experience of Being, as Ekhart Tolle calls it, then not only can we feel more free and alive, but we can also relate to others and the world from this place.  

I think of this as living in alignment with what's true; living authentically.   This is the practice of yoga on the mat as well as off the mat.  For example, if I'm in yoga class and honoring my Essence if what's true for me is that I love gardening, I love dancing, I love studying, resting in the sunshine and deeply connecting to nature, and I'm not doing those things on a regular basis, then I am not living in alignment with who I am.  I'm avoiding it. in denial or not tuning in, etc., and I will not be resonating at a high frequency.  I will not be thriving.   So living from Essence is living your Yoga.

According to Tantrik philosophical teachings, the Divine Consciousness chooses to express itself through each of us, and it's will/desire, known as iccha, is for each of us to then fully express ourselves so it can know itself more fully.  This is known as lila, the Divine Play.  In fact, it chooses diversity by creating each of us to be totally unique from each other, including beings and things, because with more diversity, there can be a greater range of expressions and then more possible self-knowing.   This is very close to what the Hendricks are teaching, as far as I understand it, with the addition of many wonderful nuances and techniques to support skillful our expression through conscious communication, movement, play, etc.  

So this work of sourcing truth, feeling into Essence and then letting it be expressed, is what I've been teaching in classes, and it's been really fun.  It's really the perfect pulsation of inner and outer.  Turn inwards to know the truth, and then open outwards and let it shine as your unique individual expression!  

I'm on a super fun journey of doing both these things, continually refining my understanding and experience of who I really am and exploring how I want to express this in my own unique way.   

I so appreciate all of you who are along for the ride and I'm super excited to gain more skills so I can support you in stepping more fully into your unique expression of You!  

On that note, I want to encourage you to check out the free interview I just finished with Marc Takaha who I mentioned earlier.   We discussed his long background in the Hendricks work and his upcoming workshop in Arcata called The Art of Conscious Loving on Sunday, November 11.  If you listen to the whole call, you'll hear the special offer at the end, but you must act by October 29.  You can listen to the call at this number:  (641) 715-3800 passcode: 34279, extension 23 or download it to your computer at this link: 

You can find out more about Marc's upcoming workshop and sign up online here:

You can find more about other upcoming interview calls here on my website:

I hope to see you soon,

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Receptivity of Studentship

I've had a great week of teaching this theme which is dear to my heart.  Last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Dan John, who is a creative master in his field of weight training for athletes and special military forces.  Dan is also an Olympic-class athlete and a Highland Games champion.  He is in his prime, traveling the world sharing his foundational system for fitness and strength training.  Patrick has been training with one of his students here in Arcata and feels stronger and more fit than he has  in the last 11 years.

What I appreciated the most about Dan was his receptivity, humility, curiosity and honesty.  He was interested in yoga, and liked the little lesson he got from Patrick, so I offered to teach him a full private lesson before he left on Monday and he was thrilled.   He was a wonderful student;  he took notes, asked great questions, and earnestly tried to implement everything I offered him, which was a lot!  He wanted to know all about the 5 Universal Principles of Alignment of Anusara Yoga, and loved the three A's of Attitude, Alignment and Action.  

I was reflecting later that with all his knowledge, I was quite impressed at his great humility and curiosity as my student.  He was completely receptive and open to all I had to say,  like water receives salt, he took it and let it mix inside of him.  In our yoga school, when we discuss studentship, or what it means to be a good student, receptivity is high on the list.   As the Dalai Lama says, if you're already a full cup, then anything that gets poured in, just spills over; it has no where else to go.   In order to receive, you must empty yourself out and let somebody else, or the teachings, or your experiences, fill you up.  Dan was a great model for this, considering he was so full already of such great wisdom and experience, he could have come to me with a full cup or a strong ego ready to tell me how his method was just as good, impress me with his own facts, etc.  But instead, he emptied himself out so he could let me fill him up.  And it was fun.  

A great teacher must be a great student and I could see that in Dan.  He wouldn't be where he is today without his dedicated studentship.  When we are receptive and open to receiving from others, we can then integrate what is offered into our own experience and understanding.  And I have a hunch this is what Dan will do.  

These qualities of receptivity, humility and curiosity are also paramount in our intimate relationships.   When we are given feedback, if we can fully listen and cultivate wonder (adbutha), then we can ask more questions instead of thinking we have all the answers.  We can open ourselves to the possibility of learning from what we're given instead of closing down with defensiveness or anger.  If we immediately defend or think we have the answers, then our cup is full and there is no intimacy, no connection, no room for growth, just a shield.  

May you cultivate receptivity, humility and curiosity.  May you become a great student of your own mind, of relationship, and of life.  And may all being benefit.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Yoga of Relating

I recently spent 8 days in a Conscious Loving training with Kathlyn Hendricks of the Hendricks Institute. It was so cool to read their books and then meet her and husband, Gay, after having been introduced to their work and books at least 21 years ago in my Heartwood days.   The training was a wonderful blending of the paths I've been exploring for the last many years:  yoga, somatic movement, conscious communication, and more recently, coaching.  For me, it was the yoga of relationships and I found it incredibly enriching.

The main emphasis for me was to take l00 percent responsibility for myself, which includes not blaming or complaining.  This practice showed me places I still wasn't fully taking responsibility even though I'd been practicing it in many areas and had the awareness and intention to do so for many years now.  My awareness of my patterns shot up to a whole new level!  I found it quite fascinating to see that if I'm upset with somebody and wanting to cast blame, for example when somebody doesn't do something they say they're going to do, then instead of blaming or judging, I can choose to look at how my words or actions may have contributed to the situation.  I can inquire about what I can learn from it and how I can communicate more clearly, change my attitude and even the nature of my relationship with them.  So instead of "out-sourcing" my issue to them, I can look at myself and see where I'm responsible.  As they say, we're each 100% responsible for what happens in each of our relationships.

The other big "aha" for me was the awareness and use of commitments, both conscious and unconscious.  The Hendricks say that if we want to find out what we're most committed to, we can simply look at the results we're having in our lives. This may show us some unconscious commitments that we didn't know we had.  For example, I may say that I want to hire a helper, but yet I keep finding reasons or excuses for why I can't do that right now.  So my unconscious commitment is not to have help, to overwork, or to stay in control because that's what's actually happening.  For some, it's around quitting smoking, getting a job, leaving a relationship, losing weight, being late, keeping the house clean, not fighting, etc.  So the idea is that whatever we're committed to energetically, we will produce.  We may be more committed (unconsciously) to staying safe, staying in control, or holding up a certain persona than to making a big change.   So when we realize we're not getting the results we think we want, we then have the opportunity to make a new (and conscious) commitment, ideally supported by concrete action steps, to follow through on our new intentions.

So this is a start to what I'm now exploring, as there are numerous layers to what I learned there.  I'm pretty psyched about seeing how this will unfold for me.  But for now, I'm focusing on my intimate relationships and playing with how I can take more responsibility for my words, actions and thoughts than I ever have before.  This is the yoga of awareness, presence and mindfulness for me. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

9 Easy Tips for Staying Flexible While Traveling

Since I've been traveling so much this Summer and felling challenged to find time for my practices, I wrote up this short article about some of the tricks I've developed to help me stay connected to my body on the road.  I hope you find them useful!

Traveling can be very ungrounding and hard on the body because of all of the hurrying, being away from normal routines, lack of access to healthy foods, changing time zones, and moving at great speeds in planes and cars.  Here are some great ways to get grounded into your body and keep up your flexibility on your next trip:

1- Go to yoga classes!  It's one of my favorite things to do while traveling.  Not only will you get grounded into your body, but you just may find a new pose or new instruction you've never experienced before! 

2 - Every morning, no matter where you are, start you day with about 3 minutes minimum of simple somatic movements like: Reclining pelvic tilts with knees bent (inhale to arch low back, exhale to flatten 10 times gently) or Cat/Cow from the table position (all fours) about 10 times.  This will lubricate your spine and free up your neck and low back.  You can even do it seated while traveling on a plane, train, in the car, etc.

3 - Road Trips:  Make a promise to your self or your travel partner that when you stop at a rest stop, you'll do at least 5 minutes of stretching.  Even better, promise to stop once every 3 hours if you're on a longer trip. Try Side Angle Pose, Warrior 2, Triangle Pose, Wall Push, and Wide Legged Forward Fold with interlaced arms overhead and then a squat for starters.  

4 - Airplanes:  If you find yourself on a long plane ride, make a promise to yourself or your travel partner that you will practice some yoga at the back of the plane or in a quiet corner of the airport.  Try the poses mentioned above.  A shoulder opener (hand on wall and turn your body away from the wall) can also be perfect for the back of the plane.  In your seat, try some simple sitting twists, seated figure four and bend forward (cross one ankle over the opposite knee), and some pranayama and meditation.  More on this coming in a new post….

5 - Layovers in Airports or other stations:  try any of the above suggestions, or better yet, bring a travel mat and roll it out in a corner of the room for a more complete practice with Sun Salutations, standing poses, pigeon pose, a few other hip openers and back bends and reclining hamstring stretches.  Patrick and I have often done this in places like Mexico and Japan, and in general, people will just ignore us and give us space.  Or, even better, they'll check us out and get inspired to do some stretching themselves!

6 - Hotel Rooms: bring a travel mat!  These are light weight and easily fold into your luggage.  Otherwise, use a towel on the floor and commit to at least 10 mins before you start or end your day.

7 - staying with friends or relatives:  tell them about your promise to take care of your body and ask them if they'd like to join you. Ask them to go to a yoga class with you.  Or, tell them you need to spend at least 15 minutes in the morning or before bed doing some asana for yourself.  They'll be inspired. 

8- having guests:  Bring them to your favorite yoga class, or one appropriate to their level.  Or, tell them about your promise to stay connected to your body and invite them to practice at home with you.  They'll probably be very inspired to continue when they leave!

9 - All the time:  remember that when you take the space to care for your mind and body and remember to breathe, you are much more centered and happy with yourself and therefore you're more fun to travel with!

For more ideas about getting grounded on a daily basis, look at my last blog post about "Earthing."

And if you're interested in a free audio download on Rest Stop Yoga and my upcoming free video series on yoga alignment, go to the link to sign up for my monthly newsletter and check to join the list on Upcoming Tele-Courses and Webinars.  In a week or so, you'll get an email with a link to the audio program.  While you're at it, if you'd like to get monthly news about Inner Freedom Yoga events, sign up for the All Yoga Announcements list.  And if you'd only like news about international retreats or workshops or retreats with me in your area, please check those lists.

Please let me know if these tips have been helpful to you!

To your safe and ease-full traveling!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Get Grounding by Earthing Yourself

How often do you take off your shoes and walk barefoot?  How often do you let your bare skin touch the skin of the earth?  If you're like I was until recently, then it's probably very rare.  But now that I've discovered "Earthing," I'm trying to do it every day.  

Earthing is where you actually put any part of your skin on the surface of the Earth (unsealed concrete or stone also works).  Since I've read the book, Earthing, by Clinton Ober, I've started to garden while barefoot, eat my lunch on the stone patio while barefoot, practice yoga directly on the sand at times, walk on the sand barefoot, make sure my calves and heels are off the towel and on the sand when I'm sunbathing, and yesterday, I even enjoyed a few hours of cruising around at the Humboldt Folklife Festival in my bare feet.   It helps me to feel more connected to my body and to the moment, as I'm forced to slow down and pay more attention to where I step.  I also become more sensitive and aware.  And I feel more grounded and calm, like my inner vibrations slow down.  Plus I'm noticing better sleep.

The Earthing book discusses how the earth's surface is full of free electrons which are negatively charged and how contact with it's surface balances our body's imbalanced positive electrical charge.  So when we get our skin on the earth's skin, we get neutralized. "Earthing naturally protects the body's delicate bioelectircal circuitry against static electrical charges and interference….Earthing remedies an electrical instability and electron deficiency you never knew you had."  

Our problem is that we have spent most of our life not actually touching the earth.  We have rubber or wooden soles on our shoes, carpet, plastic or wood flooring, asphalt on the roads, towels on the sand, blankets on the grass, etc., and free electrons cannot conduct through these surfaces.  But if we put our bare skin on the ground or even on stone or concrete (that's not sealed or painted), we can gain the benefits of Earthing.  At least 30 minutes a day is recommended.  

And what are these benefits?  We not only feel more grounded, centered and relaxed, but many people get benefits like reduced pain and inflammation, increased vitality, better sleep and much more. There are now many studies and testimonials which report decrease in causes of inflammation, increase energy, reduction of stress,  improvement of blood pressure, reduction of muscle tension, headaches, hormonal and menstrual symptoms, increase speed of healing, reduction or elimination of jet lag, protection against EMF's, acceleration of recovery from intense athletic activity, and more.  

So I encourage you to take advantage of this warmer weather and take off your sandals and put your naked feet on the ground! 

Let me know what you discover!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Growing Up a Powerful Woman: more thoughts on the Women's Herbal Symposium

I wrote the other day about how women feel more comfortable in themselves by being supported by others at the Symposium, but I forgot to mention how they also get it by example.  I'll get to this in a roundabout way through a quick personal story.

I just spent a couple of days camping w. my niece and nephew on the Smith River.  It was so perfectly warm and beautiful.   I'm a big fan of spending as much time outside as possible, and I was raised to appreciate nature through lots of camping excursions, so I love having the opportunity to spend time camping and playing in the river w. my niece and nephew.  They're now 10 1/2  and 8 years old and they love making fires, roasting marshmallows, playing in the little rapids and sleeping in a tent.  

This week was special because I was with them alone for 24 hours and in that time they made new friends w. a family from Seattle with 2 kids of similar ages.  The kids hit it off immediately and by the end of the day, the girls decided they wanted to have a sleepover.  I love that easy open-hearted connection that kids make, especially girls!   So we had a slumber party at our place and they had a grand old time romping around in the huge family tent my brother brought.   

I was observing these two 9 - 10 year old girls laughing and becoming great friends with such playful abandon.  There was no concern for the shape of their bodies or what they were wearing, their income level, age or intelligence.  But I know that soon, much of that will change.  They will become self-conscious;  concerned about body shape, clothing styles, hairdo's, which boys they like, who's cutest, etc.  

Here's where the herbal symposium comes in.  Many girls sort of grow up there, coming with their mother, their aunt, grandmother, friends, or all of the above, every year from the time they are very young.  The Symposium offers them many forms of support:  they can take classes just for their age group about herbs or making baskets or natural dyes or about coming into their "moon cycle" and they learn to nurture themselves and to take a part in their healing.  They can perform in the kid's talent show or in the adult one, and everyone will clap for them and celebrate their unique offering.  Or they can go into the "moon hut" and pick a tarot card or a Rune, read about women's wisdom, rituals and celebrations of womanhood. 

And the living examples at the Symposium are pretty amazing too:  we all attend the Maiden Ceremony on Sunday and the girls get to witness young women (or themselves) being honored for their transition into womanhood;  they witness women of all ages introducing themselves on the first night, openly sharing their stories of pain or loss, joy or success;  they see some women relaxing in classes or by the river with their clothes off and they see that women can be relaxed in their bodies, no matter what size, age or color they are.  

This is how I see the Symposium as a great example for young girls in finding a great ease and comfort with themselves.  The Symposium forms a community of women who support and uplift each other.  It reminds me of the Anusara gatherings we used to have, with the Tantric vision of celebrating diversity, seeing the good in everybody and having the shared intention of lifting each other up to our highest potential.  We would all leave feeling brighter and this is what happens at the Symposium.  So I think the more often young girls and women attend, the more they will "get it" in their minds and bodies that being a young woman and a powerful woman is an awesome thing.  

For a few years, I've been wanting to find a way to bring my niece to the Symposium as my friends have been bringing their kids or nieces.  It was sad to me that once again, I wasn't able to make it happen (she lives about 6 hours away).   But writing this today has renewed in me the desire to manifest that for next year. So, if anyone is coming down to the gathering from Ashland (next May) and can give her a ride,  that would be an answer to my prayers!  

In fondness and love,

Monday, July 2, 2012

I have missed writing in this blog.  Honestly, I've been having so many great experiences, I keep thinking of all the things I want to share about them but them but haven't taken the time to sit down and do that.  So here's a quick synopsis of my escapades and contemplations from the last month or so.

Women's Herbal Symposium- Memorial Day weekend.
This was a fabulous event!   I started going in 1992 and used to go almost annually, especially in my 20's. I hadn't been in about 7 years.  It was wonderful to be back on this beautiful land (Hog Farm in Laytonville, CA) with about 400 women of all ages from new borns to infants and toddlers, kids of all ages, teenagers and women from 20's to 70's.  WOW!   I love seeing all the variations on beauty as expressed through a woman's body, especially when she's comfortable in her own skin and not trying to be anyone but herself.  And the symposium helps women to find this place if they're not already there, by example and by support.  They are supported in sharing their stories around the campfire the first night, and we practice listening and offering support.  At the end, we have a ceremony for the maidens who've come into their "first moon," like of rights of passage.  It's so beautiful to honor the beginning of womanhood in this way when so often in our culture it's such a private or shameful secret.  And there's the elders (crones) who form a clan over the weekend and come together to give the blessings to the maidens.  So powerful!   So we are supported at all ages, all levels of our being.  I have never seen anything like it before on this scale.  Women often come here feeling broken or isolated and leave feeling connected, held and empowered.  Many feel more relaxed and comfortable in their bodies, even though they may have come initially to learn about the plants and self-healing and being a healer.  There is something magical that happens when women come together without any men in sight in an environment structured around healing and support.  There is sweet ease and freedom, peace and joy.

So besides all the inner healing that happens, there is the great schedule of classes offered on herbs or food medicine in topics like first aid, herb walks, wild crafting, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, cancer, diabetes, breast health, making lotions, making medicine, diagnostics, kitchen spices, salves, baskets, kids classes, seaweed harvesting and usage, and much more.  This year, my favorite classes were on breast health and Ayurvedic kitchen spices.  I learned a ton.  I taught yoga there several times over the years and this year they also had some fun classes like Zumba, aerial silks, hand mudras and Indian Orissa dancing!   I appreciated that they'd expanded their offerings of physical classes.

I went with my old friends and now many of them have kids.  It was wild to be there in my 40's and especially to observe the ways I've changed over the years.  I used to be uptight about taking as many educational classes as I could (as I was a trained herbalist), and this time I was more interested in having fun and chilling out, as well as enjoying some fantastic learning.  I used to have some social stuff come up around being included in the group.  It was so poignant for me to recognize that I'm way more relaxed with myself in this kind of environment now and not so concerned about what others think and how popular I am.  I was able to trust in my friendships and in my ability to socialize with strangers and aquaintences without any charge about who I "should" be with at any given time.  What a big difference from my 20's and what a relief!   I'm pleased to report that aging does wonders for maturation!   Of course, I think all my spiritual work has probably also paid off in this arena.  
Well, that's probably a long enough blog for now.  I'll write soon on some of the other recent adventures. 

Happy Full Moon Guru Purnima- the day to honor your guru and make prayers and offerings which will be multiplied by 1,000 times at least!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Yoga of Cleansing:

For me, cleansing is a part of my yoga.  It's like a retreat where I commit to taking very special care of my body, with several extra practices like juicing, making almond milk, sprouting, oil rubs, taking herbs and shakes at specific times, and eventually doing enemas.  I love how I get more sensitive to my energy levels and how I take the opportunity to listen more attentively to what I need each day regarding food, exercise, communicating, work, etc.   As Krishna says to Arjuna, a yogi with disciplined action and be unattached to the fruits of his actions and s/he will have great peace.  So that is what I did.  I worked diligently taking herbs and shakes, making juices, etc. with steady commitment each day.  And, I surrendered any attachment to how long it would last and to the results I would receive.  And I am pleased to say that I had peace around this experience, and great results to boot!

I have been cleansing since my first juice fast in the early 90's, but I've found the Ejuva cleanse to be the most comfortable and compatible with my lifestyle.  I just finished this 4-week cleanse and feel thrilled that I made it gracefully through to the end this time.  I knew going in that I may not be able to  physically  handle it as last year I chose not to do much of the final phase because I felt too depleted.  I tend to lose quite a bit of weight for my small frame and so I try to moderate it so make it doable.  This year just felt so much easier!  I made sure to eat plenty of avocados and do lots of oils during the first 3 weeks when eating is permitted.  What I love about this cleanse is that you slowly reduce your food intake each week, so your stomach shrinks and you're not too hungry.  So by the 4th week, you may be ready to do the final phase of no foods, but lots of juices.  I extended my 3rd week of one meal for an extra day and psyched myself up for no meals, with lots of doubt about whether I could make it more than a day.  But I told myself I'd listen to my body and not push towards any goals.  My intention was simply to honor my body with kindness and love and release any attachments to how I thought it should be.  I was successful!  I just took it day by day and I ended up doing pure juicing and almond milk for 4 days with only a bit of fruit on the day before and the day after.  I had very good energy much of the time and my body felt more open and light! 

Now, just a few days post-cleanse, it's been very cool to see how much energy I still have and how I'm still surviving quite fine with less food.  Cleansing always teaches me about my relationship to food.  Because of my high metabolism, I have some anxiety about being hungry and I often tend to eat more than I need.  Plus, I just love to eat!   But the cleanse shows me that I actually need less than I think and that I feel better when I eat less, as long as I'm not hungry.   It also reminds me of the healing benefits of cutting down on acidic foods and increasing alkaline and raw foods, which are also noticeable in the joints of the body.

So here we go into Summer Time, cleansed from the inside out, and loving all the fresh fruits and garden veggies.  May I remember the benefits of this alkaline diet as I begin my travels back into the world of eating! 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Letting Go and Trusting in My Teeth

It was a great visit to LA.. The main reason I came was to see a cutting edge orthodontist at UCLA for a second opinion about my teeth. They'd spontaneously moved out of alignment a few years ago after about 20+ years of being perfectly aligned. I was prepared for more news of needing X-rays, braces, mouth guards, lots of big bills, etc. to move my teeth back and realign my jaw. But what I got instead was some counseling from a very experienced, sweet, fatherly-type orthodontist. His prescription: no orthodontics, no mouth devices (for now). Just relax my jaw, stop touching my teeth together, stop trying so hard, have more fun, and things will start to shift back into place.

Wow! Really? I was shocked. This was not at all what I expected to hear, yet it was exactly what I needed to hear! In fact, I have done a lot orthodontics and many alternative therapies in the last few years, with minimal results. It's been rather upsetting as I've been concerned about continually chipping and wearing down my teeth, as were the specialists I've worked with. So, to hear an 40+ year expert say to just let it go and basically trust that it will be okay, after so many experts have wanted to give me extensive and expensive treatment, really caught me off guard. And, yet it's so very perfect. It will require a lot of awareness for the ways I hold tension and chew my food. But I am so ready to release the stress that I carry in my jaw and ready to trust even more in the Universal support and wisdom that is always present within me, wanting to be known.

In fact, increasing awareness is exactly what I've already been focusing on in the area of speech (see last 2 blogs). So to be told to actually put my awareness into my mouth is just too ironic. In yoga, our speech (vak) is said to start in the unconscious. It then moves forward into the conscious as thought energy. Then it forms in the mind as thought words, and finally it comes out of the mouth as actual words. So it's perfect as I'm already so focused on what comes out of my mouth in that last stage of speech, and now I just need to focus on the actual muscles of my mouth/jaw and how I'm using them in those thinking and speaking stages.

As far as relaxing more and having more fun goes, well this is also just the perfect advice for me and something I've already been attending to. From my coaching work, I recognized I wanted to prioritize more time with friends and community. From my Voice Dialogue coaching, I recognized that the "Spiritual Pusher" and "Doer" parts of me tend to run the show and the parts that want to relax and play are often left behind. So I've been taking more time off and scheduling in play time with Patrick, friends and family. Summer is going to be chock full of fun!

For now, I have surrendered my plan to work with an expensive bio-aesthetic dentist and have already greatly heightened my awareness for how I chew, talk and hold my jaw. I'm excited to recognize that I can be my own healer on this journey of the mouth, and am looking forward to more inner mouth freedom! Frisbee anyone?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Yoga Immersions and Conscious Communication

Vanessa and I just finished our 3rd weekend of the Ashland Immersion. I'm happy to be halfway through both Immersions now. It's a very busy time for me, since I'm co-teaching two Immersions simultaneously, plus doing a Level 2 Immersion in addition to my weekly classes. Whoa! I've never taught the Immersions simultaneously like this. It's not my ideal schedule, but it's how it worked out, and there's a lot that I'm appreciating about it. I'm doing all the planning and scheduling for the Arcata Immersion, since it meets first, and we're using that for the Ashland one. It's more efficient for us, plus our students can do make-ups in either group if needed, which has been cool. So what's been interesting is witnessing the similarities and differences between the two groups and teaching experiences. I get to watch how my teaching evolves and improves between the two weekends, and how the different groups respond to the same material. I also enjoy watching the various group dynamics as well as how my co -teachers bring in unique perspectives and insights. I really appreciated how organized and clear Joshua's anatomy session was. I'm now in the midst of teaching my 9th Immersion and it seems there's no end to how much I can learn from these courses. It just keeps getting better!

What I especially enjoyed covering these last 2 weekends was the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and specifically the yamas and niyamas (social restraints and personal disciplines). I felt great resonance with the topics of ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth), as these are very much at the forefront of my mind. I've been looking deeply into my own communication habits and those of our society at large, and have felt surprised to see all the times we mask our feelings, hide the truth, or use subtle forms of aggression (usually in the form of judgments or blaming), in our speech.

So it was fun for me to bring forward a bit of my knowledge about NVC (Non-Violent Communication) and my recent work in coaching and speaking my truth (see last blog) during that Immersion lecture. And I could see that the students were also quite inspired by the discussion. It was super juicy for them as it was so relevant to their daily struggles. And I'm guessing my enthusiasm was pretty contagious too.

For me, paying attention to my speech (vak) is a huge part of my practice (see Sept. 22 blog and April 3). It's where I am bringing so much more svadyaya (mindfulness) now than ever before, and it's what I am finding huge passion about. And I'm loving the fact that my friends and students are really open to learning about it. They are recognizing places where their communication habits are falling short or even inhibiting them from reaching their communication goals, and they're wanting to make positive change. So when appropriate, I offer my knowledge and coach them along. It seems to be helpful for them and I think it's fun!

And I really appreciate when people are willing to coach me too. I thrive on constructive and compassionate feedback, and am always happy to grow and learn, even when it's hard work. I recently had a great email session with a friend who's quite skilled in the language of ownership/truth-telling. She helped me to see where I could step it up even more in fully owning my feelings. She showed me how wanting something "for" somebody else was not taking responsibility for my feelings. It was so satisfying to get clear about what feelings were mine and which were actually projections. I can see this takes much steady practice over a long period of time (abhyasa)!

So this is my yoga: bringing mindfulness, kindness, compassion and truth into my speech in a much deeper and more conscious way. I'm excited to see how it will all unfold over time and who in my community may want to step forward and play with me in this fun game of truth. Is there somebody you'd like to be get more honest with?
Look for NVC workshops and practice groups coming to the Community Yoga Center soon!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning by Telling the Truth

I've been doing so much inner work lately, it's like I'm Spring Cleaning from the inside out, and boy does it feel great! What most excites me is practicing the yoga of conscious communication and telling my true feelings when it feels risky. This is satya, telling the truth, the second yama (social guideline) of Patanjali's yoga sutra. It's not like I've been lying, but I just haven't been disclosing all of how I feel, in order to protect myself or the other person in some way. But it's created disconnections rather than the true connections I crave.

I've stayed away from phrases like "you made me withdraw," "you've caused me so much frustration," "you hurt my feelings," etc., because I want to avoid blaming the other person for causing my feelings. I know I am the only one responsible for my feelings ( = "owning"), and "telling the truth" for me has been sharing them. The truth cannot be argued with. Nobody can tell you what you're feeling is incorrect, right? It's yours and yours alone. So when we let others know how we feel without putting any blame on them, they are much more likely to be receptive. It's a win-win! And for sure, it takes commitment and steady practice (abhyasa).

One tool that I found especially helpful was the NVC (Non-Violent Communication) lists of actual feelings and faux feelings. Many of us don't have a large vocabulary for how we feel. It's just not something that we're trained in. So even when we may be trying to take full responsibility, we often end up using words for feelings that are not true feelings, they're actually assessments of how we think others are treating us, and people may respond defensively. Here are some examples of faux feelings (notice they can even be positive): accepted, appreciated, blamed, ignored, abandoned, criticized, attacked, pressured, intimidated. Those words are actually attempting to evaluate what the other person has done "to you" instead of saying how you actually feel. This is judging language. It tends to close the door to intimacy rather than open it. And it is not taking 100% responsibility, so it is disempowering.

In fact, it's quite common to insert the words "I feel like" in front of a thought, belief, or one of these faux feelings, to make it sound like a feeling. For example: "I feel pressured," or "I feel like you're neglecting me." I know this a tricky one to grock because this language style is deeply imbedded in our society. So if "I feel like, I feel you, or I feel that" could be replaced by "I think, I believe, or I think you," then it's an assessment, not a feeling, and it will probably not be received in the way you'd like.

Go here to learn more and for a great list of true feelings: Also, Marshall B. Rosenberg's book, Non-Violent Communication is a great read and an easy introduction to learning the practices of NVC, which involves much more than expressing our feelings.

So lately I've been taking big risks in some close relationships like never before. I've been telling my truth where previously I've withheld it out of fear of being rejected or hurting someone's feelings (which of course is impossible)! It's been scary for certain, but also incredibly liberating. I'm doing it consciously, fully owning it and the outcome has been awesome. I've found that when I've shared my truth, my friends have been very receptive and appreciative. They want to be let in and it inspires them to be more honest with me. Together, we break down a wall that we hadn't even realized was there.

Aaaah, I'm thrilled to finally be doing this deep work and letting in more intimacy. The Spring Cleaning has begun: I'm clearing out the old habits that have been hiding in the dusty corners of my closets. It's not always an easy task, but definitely very satisfying!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Seeing the Divine within

From my March Newsletter:

Spring is just around the corner. The earth is bursting with life and color - are you delighting in the creation?
As the teachings of Tantra Shaivism remind us, this entire world is an emanation of Shiva, the incredible source essence of auspiciousness, consciousness, presence, and joy. Then who we truly are is this radiant goodness, as is everything that we see, feel and think. All humans, plants, animals, rocks, roads, buildings, thoughts, behaviors, etc. have these auspicious qualities and are of the same positive source.

When we chant Om Namah Shivaya in our invocation (I bow to Shiva), we are remembering this source and honoring these auspicious qualities in the source and in ourselves, something we so often forget to do. But our practice is one of remembering.

Can you believe that everything you think and feel and do is an act of the Divine, even if it's not your best? Try the heart-opening practice of looking into the mirror and saying Shivo Ham (I am Shiva). Repeat this silent mantra as much as possible, especially after you've said something you wish you hadn't, and feel your heart soften. Next try looking into a baby's, a pet's, a lover's eyes and see Shiva looking back at you - om namah shivaya. Can you recognize this radiance in the rose bud, in the new grasses, in the yoga mat, in the clouds, in the trash heap? If you practice in this way, you just might experience less judgement and separation and more connection and joy in your world. I dare you to try!

May you delight in the abundant radiance of Spring. May you fully engage in the riches of the world and make every encounter one of divine recognition and joy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking My Seat with Anusara Yoga

Where do I sit with this current scandal surrounding my teacher, John Friend? I sit here, holding strong, dedicated to Anusara like I always have been. Sthira Sukham Asanam are the lines from the Yoga Sutra stating that the seat (asana) should be steady and comfortable. While it hasn't been so comfortable lately, it's been steady, even as more details have come forward.
I love my teacher and I love Anusara. This is the method that I teach because it works and it resonates for me. It has completely empowered and transformed my life in incalculable ways over the last 11+ years, as it has for thousands of people. I have built my life around it. It is my truth.

So I am separating the method from the man, the teachings from the teacher. I have never had John on a pedestal so I do not need to knock him off, run away, or re-align my path. I have always seen him as a brilliant teacher, a guide, a smart business man, and more recently, as a friend. I have seen his ego and his faults, and yet I still bow to him as a master of asana, a great leader on the path of the heart, and an intelligent, silly, and playful being. And now I see that he has some shadows that he needs to deal with. Don't we all? He has given hundreds of thousands of people access to transformational spiritual teachings, and alignment principles,and many an awesome career, while teaching around the globe constantly, sustaining a massive organization and supporting a growing community and staff. So, I understand that he would need an outlet, want to have fun, and that he could get confused about priorities or power dynamics. He is human. And this type of thing happens SO often! But, we expect the highest from yoga and spiritual teachers (though he never claimed to be a spiritual guru, and certainly was not for me).

Of course, I am greatly disappointed that my teacher was not in alignment in his private affairs and some business relations. This is upsetting to me because I highly value accountability and integrity. And, I am very sad for any people that he may have hurt. He had breaks in integrity that I find hard to fathom. So he will need to earn my trust again, but I have faith that he can. He is still my teacher (one of many) and Anusara is still my home, at least for now.

Ultimately, I do not think that my teacher's actions need to reflect on the power of his teachings, the viability of his business or on my students, business or lifestyle. The yoga is still awesome, whether the leader messed up or not. He made stupid choices and had some screwy power plays, and he is paying big consequences. And I know it's an intensely painful journey for him. I am sad for him as he's worked tirelessly for 14 + years to help thousands of people and it is all shaking down so quickly. The public scrutiny has been harsh. But structural and personal changes needed to happen and now they are.

He has now stepped down as the CEO of Anusara Yoga and named a new CEO, a woman named Michal Lichtman. He is restructuring the business into a 501C3 non-profit organization and is forming committees of teachers to carry us forward. How exciting! He is also planning to take a sabbatical from teaching for some inner reflection. So I have faith that Anusara will live on in a new way, one that is more egalitarian and empowers the certified teachers to have a voice in the growth and direction of the organization. And I have faith that John will do some important inner work and come back even stronger.

The silver lining here for me is this: I have had to source my truth in the face of watching my teacher fall from Grace and witnessing many of my peers resign their affiliations. I have had to recognize that just because people I highly respect are bowing out, it does not mean that I feel the same way or have the same needs. So, it's been a time of much reflection about ethics, morals, relationships and the seat of the teacher. I have asked some bigger questions and sourced my own truth. My truth is that I am dedicated to Anusara Yoga and John Friend. I am honoring my truth and I am settling deeper into my seat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I've been teaching about spanda this week in classes and really appreciating the different angles that keep coming up for me about this topic. Spanda means vibration or pulsation and it refers to the constant contraction and expansion of the Supreme Consciousness in everything and everyone. So everything at its core is pulsing, whether we notice it or not. Expansion and contraction are part of nature, like the rhythm of our breath, the cycles of the moon and the cycles of each day and each year. We can't have contraction without expansion and vice versa.

I'm finding this especially helpful right now, as I've just come through a difficult time and I now have a couple of friends who are in a dark time. Even that expression, "dark time" connotes that it is a period of contraction that will end, and will be followed by expansion again. Often the trickiest thing for us is to remember this when we're in the darkness. We tend to feel shrouded in our darkness, sometimes lost in it and often can't see past it into the light. This is what friends are for. They remind us of spanda, that everything is pulsing and that we will eventually make our way back to the other side, the light.

I think it's also helpful to remember this when we're already in the light. We tend to get attached to it and forget that even the brightest times come to an end. Pulsation is inevitable so the practice is to learn how to ride the waves of the pulse without getting attached to either side, dark or light, contraction or expansion. Ultimately, we just embrace it all and see it all as a powerful learning opportunity on our adventure of life.

See you on the waves!

Monday, January 2, 2012

following through with our intentions

I realize I didn't mention a couple important things in yesterday's post.

Re. the Releasing Practice and letting go of past habits, beliefs, etc:
One thing that helps me, as I mentioned, is once I recognize I'm doing something habitual, I stop and really feel into it. I feel the bodily sensations associated with the thoughts or actions. (And often a "negative" habit pattern is associated with intense feelings). And I take a deep breath.
I recognize them as energy, shakti, and I watch their vibration (spanda) and how they often transform when I pay attention. When I can see the feelings or thoughts as simply energy, then it helps me to soften around them. To recognize everything is vibrating energy/shakti helps me to let go of the story of it and just rest in the energy. This helps me relax around the contracted feelings of attachment that arise when I'm believing my story or stuck in a "negative" habit or thought pattern.

Re. following through on our New Year's resolutions:
What has worked for me this year is to schedule my new "positive" habits right into my daily calendar. I don't just remember my intentions, or even look at a written "to-do" list, I actually put down the new habits directly into my calendar exactly when I'm going to do them. Of course, this works better for an actual task than for a belief or thought-pattern. So with new tasks: for me one of them is practicing my cello, I write down exactly what time each day I'm going to practice and for how long. Then it's best if most other events of my day are also scheduled with realistic time frames (this is key) so I'm more likely to follow through on my plans.

At first, I found it useful to put down absolutely everything I intend to do each day and for how long. For example: I put down what time I meditate and do my asana, what time I'll be eating, when I'll call to make a doctor appt. or a date with a friend, what hours I'll be working, doing errands, what time I take a walk, cook dinner, laundry, etc. (In the working and errands time slot, I make a list of tasks I intend to accomplish and when I don't accomplish them, I put them into the next day's schedule).

It seems very rigid at first, but for me, it's actually been very freeing. It's given me a sense of peace to know it's all written down and I don't have to remember everything. I stick to it as best I can and move things when necessary. After a while, a couple months or so, I notice that I am following through with certain new tasks; they become a new positive habit that I want to do and I automatically budget them into my day. So now, I find I schedule only the non-regular stuff and the daily rituals are already accounted for.

Best of luck and please let me know how it goes and whether you find this helpful!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year- expanded version of 1/1/12 email newsletter

Happy New Year! I hope this Holiday time has been filled with great love and restoration for you.

This darkest season and time of transition into a new calendar year is a traditional time to reflect on the past and clarify our visions for the future. I like to do what I call a Releasing Practice. I look back over the last year to acknowledge what I've learned and recognize where I can continue to grow. Then I intentionally release any unhealthy habits or beliefs. A great way to empower this is to write on a piece of paper, in present tense, all that you want to surrender from the past. For example: I surrender my worrying about the future, I release my habit of blaming others for my experience, I let go of the belief that I'm not enough. Then you burn it ritually in a fire with the word Svaha! which means hail! or so be it! The ritual fire has been used in India for thousands of years. It symbolizes the burning of impurities and the offering of our prayers to Spirit through the rising smoke. This year, I am keeping it simple and only writing two things down which I want to focus on the most.

But how do we actually release our unhealthy habits and beliefs which are so deeply ingrained? Oh, this is a process. I believe we must return to them again and again with new consciousness and discipline ourselves to do something different, anything besides the old habit. It really helps to ask our loved ones to support us in making a change; they can remind us kindly when we're behaving in a habitual way, but it's up to us to stop the habit. Having support is super helpful in making change.

The complimentary practice, I call Intention Practice, is to write down what you want to manifest or focus on in the next year. A nice thing to do with this piece of paper is to make it beautiful using colors or artistic writing, etc. and put it on your altar or somewhere visible as a daily re- minder of your intention (sankalpa in Sanskrit). This year, I'm writing just one thing for each of these categories: creativity, spiritual life, social life, work, play, home, and health. Other areas might be family, finances, relationship, body, community, studies. Do you know most New Year's resolutions only last about 2 weeks? They say it takes 8 weeks of a new practice to create a habit. So don't let your resolutions slip away. Keep coming back and ask for support!

Ultimately, it is best to start with acceptance if we want to grow or change. Trying to force out the "bad" habits or beliefs is like fueling an inner battle. So we welcome all of who we are first, fully feeling into our sadness or pain or discomfort. Then with compassion, we embrace our whole self before choosing what to release. And every time we catch ourselves in the old habit, we compassionately acknowledge it and then choose to let it go.

I wish you the best in your 2012 journey of yoga off the mat!