Monthly Archives: July 2008

It got quiet…

It finally got quiet.
Like the day after rain.
Now I can listen and understand.
There is nothing left to organize or clean or clear in my apartment.
The wine has run out.
The shelves at CVS will always be stocked and beautiful and there.
I can finally rest.
I can stop ironing my hair and spraying it in place. I can let it frizz and curl.
And let go.
of control.
And let be.
I go to the ocean and see it for the first time.
I finally understand why I love it so much.
It's just like me, always moving.
Rough and peaceful at the same time. Scary and soothing. A constant contradiction.
But, I don't have to run to it anymore. I can just be by it, next to it and watch. I can love it and be still inside and out.
I don't have to burn anymore. I can simmer slowly and be gentle.
With myself.
I can enjoy this time I have with myself. I'm a great date.
I can hug myself, love myself, treat myself with care better than anyone else. I can cry and most importantly I can laugh and make myself laugh. I quite often crack myself up. I can write and be alone and meet people with no agenda and talk with them at Starbucks, the library of today.
I can live free and stop judging and critiquing myself.
I can stop giving myself a hard time for not living up to this idea I have of what a yoga teacher should be or what a good person should be. I can stop rushing to finish first or be better or do more.
Everyone grieves for loss in different ways. I gave myself a slap for feeling, for asking for help, for being a part of a process I didn't understand but had to go through.
The staying up late, crying, venting, drinking, overindulging, listening to sad music.
It's a phase and like everything, I'll get through it. Worrying about when won't help.
Being alone is good, healthy. Being quiet is priceless.
Being is rewarding, healing.
But not being able to open the pickle jar, well, that still makes me a little sad.


I remember one of my first yoga classes, when I had just taken it up again. I was one of those gals that was religious about my practice for about a week. Then I would come back in a month for two weeks, take off for two months then come back again. Now I'm a lifer.

This one time back, it was right after I had of very bad car accident, not my fault, that had totaled my car and rendered me injured and off any kind of exercise except for walking to work 'cause I had no car.

When I was feeling healthy again, I decided to take a class. By the end of class, when we got into final resting pose or Sivasana, a wave of emotion had come over me and the flood gates opened. I'm not a crier by nature. I got it all out in my youth in the form of temper tantrums outside of the bathroom while my mother was trying to have alone time. That woman is a saint.

Whatever we had physically opened up in class, welled up inside and needed to be let go. For me, it was not the most appropriate time. I wish, if tears were gonna come, they would arrive when I'm in the safety of my own home whilst in the company of Ben and Jerry. Nonetheless, it had to come out somehow and like my mom always says, "Better out than a poor man's eye." I don't know either. I think she just got that from her mom. So, it was quiet, still and I'm just lying there, balling.

I tried not to release any wimpers as to notify the other students that I was outwardly emotional. How embarrassing, mortifying. I just held my breath until I felt pressure on my chest and let the tears gather in the pockets of my ears. All I felt was a heavier sense of sadness and an undoing feeling that my whole hour and a half practice was for naught.
I gathered my belongings and jetted out of there.

Then it happened again.

The following week, I had come to class and we got to Sivasana. Within a minute, the waterworks were on. I didn't want to feel that pressure again. I didn't want to hold it in. So, I just let it go. It wasn't nearly as noisy as I thought it would be and nothing to be scared of. I just started to focus on my breath. I took long, slow inhales through my nose and even slower exhales out my mouth. I continued until I began to feel a sense of 'there, there' stroking on my head. Figuratively speaking.
Calmness replaced pain and I knew I would have to keep returning to yoga in order to heal.

Well, after years of teaching in the studio, I'm here to say that crying or getting emotional within a pose is a completely natural process of letting go. And it is what yoga is all about.

When we are in class, we're not just moving our body in odd ways to tone the thighs. There's a method to the sequencing of a class and a method of opening up on the outside so we can get to open up and discover what's going on inside.

It's like a story, in your body, that unfolds in chapters. When you come to class, you might know exactly how you are feeling. You are excited to start moving and turning the pages. You don't know what's coming next (unless you are in an Ashtanga or Bikram class) and you are elated to find out. Sometimes the story takes twists and turns you never expected. Never judge a book by the cover. That fight with your dad or that strange altercation with that lady at the place or the pain of a breakup or the fear that you can't pay the rent, live your dreams, find true love, might come to the surface and startle you. Emotions come up in all forms on the mat. Anger, frustration, fear, tension, disappointment, elation, joy, surrender, serenity, bliss, calm, sadness. It's not always easy to tell on the surface, but acknowledging it for yourself is the most important thing. Don't let the ego get in the way. Don't judge how you are feeling. Let yourself feel the emotion and work its way through the body.

Like emotional digestion. The last thing you want to do is keep it in and become emotionally constipated. It's going to have to come out somehow and somewhere and the yoga room is very much the most appropriate place to heal and let go.

We don't want you leaving the studio with your emotions and taking it out on yourself or others in a harmful way so let it work through you in the safest, soundest place.

If, however, the emotion or ego does take you over and you get too inside your head about it, simply excuse yourself from the room, take a moment and come back if you can. If you are so overtaken and need to leave all together, I'd encourage you to take some moments before going back into your life to reflect on where the emotion is coming from so you can identify it and work through it in the way you need whether its venting to a friend, talking to a therapist or writing it down.

Your mind has an unbelievable memory. We can remember childhood, our prom, that day at camp when you laughed so hard chocolate milk came out your nose, our friends, our weddings and the the big break up. Our body, is the same way. It holds on, physically, to emotions, experiences and thoughts. Some are good and we don't mind holding on to 'em, like the chocolate milk incident. Still makes me laugh. But, it's impossible to hold on to everything and certainly if an experience is toxic, it absolutely needs to be freed. Sometimes it might take weeks, months or even years for it to come to the surface. But what a thing to witness. One's capacity to feel is so natural and beautiful. Whatever the emotion, it reminds us how human and alive and in turn, how connected we all are. We all do it.

I admire those students that have the courage to let themselves go through an emotion and not cling to it. It's the only way to move on, heal and uncover more of they're inner light to shine.

Tune in to the emotion that is coming up and allow it to softly exit the body. You no longer need it for yourself. This is the body and mind telling you it doesn't want it. So don't hold on, letter' rip! Set yourself free.

Yoga-To Go

There is nothing like unrolling your mat, lying down, breathing deep and getting ready for an hour and a half practice. However, we don’t always have the time to take a class or hire a teacher to come to us.
How can we drop yoga into our busy day?
Well, here are perfect examples of how to infuse yoga into a daily routine.

Drive your Yoga
I talk a lot about driving in my classes. It’s a staple of the Los Angelenos daily routine.
I’m in my car so much, driving to the studio or to your house that the topic is unavoidable. It's on my consciousness consistently. It’s also a great lesson in bringing yoga off the mat and into your life.
If I don’t have time to practice, I must have time between sessions to relax and tune in, in order to be fresh and open when I teach. I can’t teach a class or frazzled and out of breath. No way. And when I’m in my little tin box, puttin’ around town, I am met with a lot of aggression and tension from people dealing with their own circumstances. They used to drive me crazy and now and then, they still do but for the most part, in scenarios when I am up against it, I put myself in their car for a moment to realize that they might be dealing with something that makes them behave in a way that is toxic, aggressive and tense. They know not what they do. They don’t know that their shallow breath and tense features are aging them by decades. Perhaps there is too much heat and ego clouding their car that they are unable to be empathetic to those driving around them. Perhaps they are late to pick up their sick kid. Or perhaps this is a practice they are used no matter where they are going or what is going on in their life. In that scenario, I can only hope they are lead to some peace somewhere daily. It’s always interesting to try putting yourself in another’s position. And then you can simply think about whether you will remember a tense moment on the road or at the grocery or on the subway or anywhere you are around other’s energy in a day, week, month year. Our brains simply can’t hold every memory so don’t hold onto a tense moment. You don’t have room for it.

Moving on…Stress works on all of us in similar ways. Its what we chose to do in those stressful times that is important. If you wanna think of it this way, stress, anger and tension are worth ten bucks apiece. Do you really wanna spend $10 bucks on the mini cooper that cut you off on the 405? I wouldn’t. I’d rather save it so I can use it on the old lady in front of me at the post office who forgot her glasses and is paying for her package in pennies she can’t see. I’m kidding. I’d rather save it in my anger bank because it earns happy interest. For every 10 bucks saved in anger, I earn $20 bucks in calm, delicious, happy joy. Sweet!
So, think about it that way.

Ok, back to my whole deal about finding yoga in your daily day to day.
So, I’m driving to your house and there is a lot of traffic. I can feel it in my neck and shoulders. I can feel the shallow breath and the blood begin to percolate in my veins.
Let’s start by taking a deep breath. That automatically brings me into the present moment. Fill up and soften the entire belly, which is where we hold our stress. As soon as I can soften that whole area, the rest of the body will follow suit.
Try to notice where in the body is tensing up and start to let go. I obviously can’t be a pool of mushy goo whilst driving. Many muscles are engaged. But they don’t have to tense. I tune into long breath or peaceful music on the radio or CD while I keep my gaze forward on the car in front of me only. I think about my fingers on the wheel. I think about my legs. I try to engage only the muscles that absolutely must be engaged in order to drive the car. The right ball of the foot. The rest of the leg can chill out a bit.
The arms can soften but the palms can grip like you would hold onto a grocery cart, not hold on for dear life as if you were hanging off the side of the building. That’ll send the wrong messages to the nervous system and I’ll be a mess. So my hands and right foot are engaged. That’s drivasana. That’s a pose. If I’m paused at a light, I might do a shoulder shrug or head roll. I might release my left palm into my lap face up in a symbol of openness.

In addition, I always try to leave extra early so I can get to where I need to go and not rush. I like having a little bit of time to just sit before transitioning into another space with different energy. Having rushed feelings before even getting into the car is a bad sign. It sends a ripple effect of hell through me and in turn, every driver I see. Be the change you wanna see. I made that up.
Sometimes I don’t have the luxury to leave early. My schedule is packed and their isn’t a lot of time. So I don’t make my schedule that way and I do what I can to have that space.

Ship & Shop your Yoga
If I’m in line at the grocery or post office, I might lift a foot into tree pose or stand in mountain pose (Tadasana), which is simply standing at attention. I shift my awareness to the weight of my body on the inside of the feet, fronts of the feet, backs of the feet then evenly on all four corners of the feet. I might lift both heels and feel the strong engagement of my calf muscles. I might drop into Ujaaii or audible, meditative breath by slightly constricting the base of the throat so I make and ocean sound. Usually it’s too noisy around me for anyone else to notice so I don’t attract attention. This is a great way to pass the time, get my yoga practice in and soon as you know it, you’re at the counter payin’ for your goods. What a good use of time.

Wash your Yoga
If I’m washing dishes, I try to think intently on the glass, bowl or plate I’m washing. The warmth of the water, the tickle of soap. I think about how grateful I am for the meal I ate on that plate. That was fast, the dishes are done, now I can go enjoy the rest of my day in a peaceful state of being whether I unrolled my mat or not.

Eat your Yoga
When I eat a meal, I say a little prayer of gratitude before I eat. If you are out to dinner with friends, no one will even notice you did it. Just close your eyes and say thank you. Take time to eating by being aware of each bite, how it was prepared, if it came from the earth or an animal or processed in a plant. Take a moment to acknowledge everyone involved in making this dish happen to be eaten and enjoyed. If it’s an animal product, take a moment to thank the animal or fish for giving up its life for me to be nourished. If you are a vegetarian, eating with your carnivorous friend, try not to judge him/her for her choices but admire them for being different from you. I try not to have a tv or music playing, just quiet. That’s the hardest part. Especially when I used to be the kind of gal with a banana in one hand, the steering wheel in the other and talking on the phone with my Bluetooth. Too much multitasking is going to lead to indigestion. Even though YOU can focus on ten things at once, your digestive system can’t and that leads to GAS. And gas is expensive. And stinky.

Pencil in your Yoga
When I was told by a very wise man to start scheduling things, the idea made me roll my eyes in disgust. I’m spontaneous and live by the seat of my pants!! I thought.
However, as soon as I started scheduling simple things from meditation to writing to meal times to laundry, a butt load of time opened up to me. I never thought there was enough time to do anything and now I have time to do everything; work, play and practice, be outside and enjoy time with my friends. Now, throw that idea away because you never know when life will throw you for a loop.
Meditate on peace in schedule AND spontaneity, ‘cause really, you just never know.

In summary, it’s challenging yourself off the mat that is the true yoga. If you can remain as relaxed and calm as possible in all situations, whether stressful or mundane, you are living yoga. It’s not easy and I’m not saying I don’t have times when I’m on the road wondering what the heck the guy is doing in front of me, but then I think of all that happy cash I’m earning and get to spend on you!!