Monthly Archives: October 2008

Meditation Nation

Let's meditate!!

Woo Hoo!!

Does that sound exciting or scary?

It's Halloween so both are appropriate responses.

It's also the dawn of a new era in our country's leadership and an economy made frightening by the media and well, the Dow and Jones and all those other names an symbols comin' up and going down and running amuck on long tickers and freaking us all the f-out.

This is where I find pause.

Because life is also happening.

Because, inhale...
The downpour of fear and frustration around us looming like heavy, thick and dark clouds that never seem to release into rain or release into the ether, coupled with the responsibilities we as individuals and families face enduring our 'new normal' in wonder, hope and doubt, attempting to behave like everything is alright; when we are in the stir of change; this can be alarming.
...and exhale.

What staggeringly negative words Laurie is using in her blog. What the fu?

I'm just addressing the obese, hot pink elephant in the room that's getting bigger and bigger and making it more and more difficult for us to breathe, smile and find peace amidst the tumult.

How is it possible to find Tadasana or mountain pose or stillness when all that is around us is changing and shifting?

It's super duper mucho important to find that time and space to clear out the clutter in the mind and body and connect with our inner source of goodness - our highest selves and our brightest light.

I know. It's hard for me to do it too.

Let's just sit down for a sec.
Turn off everything that makes a noise.
Listen to your own noise for a moment.
The noises outside.
Just pause and breathe as deeply as you can.
Observe and watch and don't stop the thoughts that might come in waves or roaring traffic in the mind, just watch.
And breathe.
And watch.
And sit.
And breathe.
And watch how everything settles. Like a snow globe. Put down your life and your city scene in the snow and watch as the little flecks settle to the bottom.
And breathe.
And notice.
And if you start feeling bad, smile.
And breathe.
And if you feel pain, say this...
taught legs, let loose so that I may walk with ease to the things I'm drawn to in passion and obligation.
tight tummy, let go and allow the strength of breath to fill me up and fuel me like a yummy meal.
tense shoulders; relax so that I can carry my confidence with ease.
clenched heart, let go so I can open myself up to love, of myself and those around me, including the people that might frustrate me.
closed throat, free the hold that is keeping me from expressing myself, speaking my truth and sharing good words and laughter with others.
strained mind, release so that I can think positive thoughts and turn up the light within so that I can nurture others and myself.
face, soften so I can smile and mean it.
head, liberate yourself from those people, energies, thoughts, stimulus that keep me from being present in every moment I have to live, good and bad, which is a gift.
And breathe.
And if that doesn't work...
you have real problems.
Seriously though, make your meditation more about sitting and plugging yourself into the cosmic source that makes your screen saver brighter and iTunes play louder.

If you want to look at yourself like some of our favorite technological gadgets, then there you go.
Nothing will bring us more joy than the energy, space, breath and recharged fuel we need to create and continue in times that might not be so efficient. We do it for our cars and our computers.
And, we have it all in us for ourselves and can drop into it whenever we want.
We can grab it when we chose it.
We can take it here and now.
We can take it to go and best of all...
it's free.

And you can be too.
I'm not only the hair club president. I'm also a member.
Gosh, I hope you get that.

Shanti Om,
Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu,
Jai Ma,
Peace, peace, peace,


We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog programming about yoga and fitness to bring you this story...

Ok, I'm comin' out of the closet!!! The water closet that is. I'm sick and tired of keepin' it in and like my mother always says, "Better out than a poor man's eye!"
Over the last year, I have been battling strange (bladder and lady) symptoms that a gal at my age should not be battling. Let me be vague. Just 'cause I'm comin' out of the closet doesn't mean I have to show you what I left in there!!
I've seen 6 doctors of different specialties, none of which could really diagnosis me with anything in particular but were happy to charge me so much money that in toll, has cost me more than my first car.
My 'symptoms' have kept me from enjoying my life fully, doing the things I love and the things I hate too. It has taken me over.
At first, I was like, nah, to drugs and surgery. Now that we're at almost a year and a few grand in the hole with nothing to show for it, I'm like, bring it the F on. Give me mass quantities of drugs and surgeries et al.
What's wrong with you?!?!
I know. I'm still asking myself the same question.
Needless to say, what I 'have' is something old women or women with many children get, not a young vibrant girl like moi. No sirree.
I've been commuting down to Long Beach now for the last month to see the 'God-Doctor'. That's not his name. I'm protecting his name to protect those innocent around him.
Besides being 900 years old with the head the size of the great pumpkin, this guy is the complete opposite of good bedside manner. And yet, he is the 'God-doctor'. I can't imagine enduring him for one lecture let alone studying under his guidance.
Nurse Marissa, a lovely and quiet lass checks my vitals. At least I think that's what it’s called. That's what they say in Grey's Anatomy. Ya know, blood pressure, weight...height?!?! I haven't been heighted since the DMV, when I was 20 and blonde.
First trauma. I'm not 5' 8". Nope. I've been living my life thinking I was taller than I am.
I'm 5' 7" and I had her do it twice I was in such shock.
Then, my weight. Always a sore subject with any female. Yup, of course. You saw it coming to right? Gained three pounds. I haven't been eating a thing, I'm all stressed out and here are a few pounds to compound your stress.

Within moments of meeting my 6th doctor - the 'God-doctor,' he spoke few words, asked no questions, told me to 'relax' which you just about never say to anyone without it getting under their skin.
I start sobbing, something I rarely do and then he cleans his hands, walks out and tells me he'll see me next week for more testing.
Ok, well, how did this one go?
Cough, cough.
Oh, excuse me, that's just me choking on his dust. He was out of that room so fast. It took him no time to skewer me and yet I waited 55 minutes just to see him for two minutes.
That'll be $300 please.
This dude is old school and he has his series of tests you have to do weekly to give your 'organs' (to be vague), a break.
I leave the office, sobbing, uncontrollably now. I just want my mom and a cookie. Chocolate chip, to be precise. And warm, please.
I don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for Sylvia who promptly wrapped her arms around me and told me I would be ok.
I just needed to hear that, even though I knew. Thanks Sylvia.
And dear Surye for handing me tissues and telling me that everything was going to be ok, even though I wasn't so sure. Little angels in that office.
Do I get a plastic giraffe, a matchbox car or a piece of gum for this?
Just 'cause I'm not a kid anymore, doesn't mean I don't want a prize for getting through this exam.
And I'll have to wait for the cookie. I have a long drive ahead.
And so the weekly commute continues. Each week gets more unbearable. I bring a buddy the following week and the support was sooo needed.
More things being stuck up me.
I've spread my legs for more guys this year and, no, it was not good for me.
I make jokes to get through the moments. Marissa talks to me because 'God' doesn't know how to.
Mr. Personality tells me that my jokes are a defense mechanism an I explain to him that it's all part of my big performance, the one I'm going to do at the end of this nightmare. I will charge a large cover and only invite those in the medical profession.
I can see it now. There is a big musical number where I am supine, legs in a V and back up dancers in brightly colored scrubs and crocs kickin' it Rockette style while I sing a tune of epic grandeur about my life in a doctor's office.
What's wrong with that girl? She acts like she's got a rod up her.
Well, that's because I do.
Still no freekin' cookie.
Week three and I have to re-take a test that I already took less than six months ago. Apparently God doesn't think that the other doctors in his profession meet to his standards.
This test is the crescendo.
The one where there are so many things stuck in me, I may as well be a voodoo doll.
And, I'm alone.

Dr. P is playing the role of God and he is the complete opposite of 'bad' bedside manner. The man sat and listened to me tell him what I've been through over the last year, every symptom and doctor and woe. Not one doctor I have met, thus far, had the compassion and empathy I saw from this man and his staff.
Give him a rag and a bottle of Jack and he would have been a bar tender. And I would have been drunk.
And it might have actually made the test go over well. But alas, I was not.
God love him.
The real God, not the 'God-doctor'.
Although I knew what to expect with this test, it made it even worse. I knew what to expect, how painful it would be and how long it would take.
It didn't matter how much yogic breathing I did, I just could not relax.
All calm, yoga, relaxation, no matter how much I tried to control it, went out the window. It got to a point where I started to feel light headed, my hands and feet went numb AND they gnarled, curling in stiff weird directions. What the F!
I've never experienced that before.
The waterworks opened for business and I let it all go. The whole year of sobs, sadness, pain and frustration that I had held in and tried to hold together.
Dr. P tried to calm me down and Surye, 'The Great,' tried talking me down from the ledge I had apparently found myself on and did not know how to get off of without help.
I was so freaked, I had to call my mom.
Picture it, me supine, things stuck in me, doctor holding my hand, legs in a V, beautiful nurse in brightly colored scrubs and crocs and me, not singing a happy tune, but wailing like Snoopy to my mother. Sound familiar?
I'm at an age where I'm not quite sure the following exchange is acceptable. See below.
Me, between gasps, "Mom, I'm at the doctor."
Mom, "Are you OK? How did it go?"
Me, "No, you don't understand, I'm still here and I'm in pain and scared and freaking out. Like panic attack freak out."
Mom, "Well, when the doctor comes back in the room, tell him you already had the test and that they will have to accept the results of the test you took a few months ago."
Me, "Mom, the doctor is here, with me, holding my hand."
Mom, "He is!! Put him on the phone!! Let me talk to him!"

Hmmm, The rest, I couldn't hear.
My sobs turned to fits of laughter and embarrassment as I could hear only my mother ranting on and Dr. P just nodding calmly and looking up from underneath my gown.
I thought, this idea must be a monologue someday.
I think she scolded him or ripped him a new one or just reiterated my feelings in a Shirley McClain - Terms of Endearment kind of way.

Dr. P agreed to cancel the test.
Surye told me everything would be ok.
Que Sera, Sera, Whatever Will Be, Will Be. (That's how you say her name).
For the love of all things good and holey (pun intended) would someone please give this girl a cookie!?!??!

When I knew I was literally off the hook, Dr. P told me that he would review all of my tests, charts and files and that I didn't need to see God again. He would handle my situation and we'll go from there.

This story is to be continued. Although I didn't have the test today and I am weary with emotional exhaustion and in physical pain, I am taking an hour off to rest before going off into the world again.
And you bet your ass I'm comin' back home with a cookie.


Yoga is Cool

Yoga is cool. It might not have been in the 60's. In fact, it was probably pooh-poohed as an elitist group of hairy arm pitted women and men speaking in tongues and getting in touch with their chakras, whatever that means.

Ok, this is what I thought it was when I was a teenager, dating a boy whose dad owned a yoga studio on the upper east side in Manhattan.

When I first went to the boy's home, to 'hang out', he showed me around his suburban NY estate and took me to the back room of his house where his dad's 'studio' was and where, still engrained in my memory, I saw a group of women and men, sitting cross-legged Indian style, in white turbans, eyes closed and chanting words that were certainly not English.

What are they doing??, I thought. I didn't dare ask. I just wanted to hang out with the boy. The whole thing freaked me out.

Cut to, my early 20's. I'm working at a nightclub and hosting a music show that aired Friday nights on NBC. We shot during the day so I basically slept, two hours a night and was up and working all the rest of the hours of the day.

One day, I met with the executive producer of the show at a 'healthy' restaurant in Venice, CA. He was that hippie type of guy that 'did' yoga and always acted 'Zen'.

He could see how stressed out and strung out I was by simply existing in the world.

He gave me a book called, 'The Miracle of Mindfulness' by Thich Nhat Hanh. It's a manual on meditation.

Ok, I thought. Now, I'm going to have to find time to sit still and think about nothing? This is going to go over really well with my schedule, I thought.

I still can't pronounce the author's name, but my dear friends, that book changed my life.

It explained how, by doing simple tasks during the day and focusing your attention solely on those tasks, you are in meditation. How often do we, cook dinner while on the phone and multi-tasking a myriad of other things?

We are always multi-tasking!! We are rarely looking at our task and just 'doing' our task without thinking of the next thing and the next thing.

Dang, did that guy get it right. He knows me so well.

If you asked me ten years ago, if I ever thought I would be teaching yoga, I would have told you that you were crazy.

My first yoga class at 21, I stepped in to the studio all loud mouthed and ignorant, didn't know I was supposed to take my shoes off or anything. I left the studio, quiet and, well, still ignorant. It didn't bode well with me. Many classes later, I still didn't 'vibe' with whatever this 'yoga' and 'meditation' was. I didn't understand, but that is because I didn't have the right teachers. There was nothing wrong with the teachers that I had, I just didn't 'get' it. Their style didn't work with the person I was.

But here's the thing, sometimes it takes a while to find the right teacher to take you to the place where yoga can be designed for you, not what images you might have of what yoga is.

Even now, yoga has been made trendy and accessible to people, but not ALL people. There are still so many people who think they can't do yoga because they can't touch their toes.

They are overweight or can't focus or don't have the time or whatever. Yoga is more of a lifestyle workout than anything else and it takes some time to find out what and where that yoga is for you.

I found this great studio in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of NYC that was the right fit for me.

There were no hairy armpits or skinny ladies telling me to feel the breath in my toes. (There was actually a part of me that thought, am I really supposed to feel breath in my toes? Is that actually physically possible?)

Yea, what did I know?

The teachers were from all 'traditions' and 'styles' of yoga and accessible to me.

Me, who was an overweight teenager, battled an eating disorder and an addiction to diet pills and other unhealthy ways of living. On the flip, I was also a marathon runner, who couldn't touch her toes. I was never a gymnast or dancer which you may see a lot of in studios. I didn't think this type A gal could ever be still long enough to order a non-fat latte let alone move my way over an hour to a place of stillness within that got me thinking....

I'm just tired of living outside of myself, working tirelessly and spending my energy like it was cash on a shopping spree, focusing on pleasing others or my parents or society, trying to do what is right or what I 'should' do.

Let's just take a moment....

And that moment brought me here...

I'm still here...

Are you with me people?

I had never lived inside of my actual body and let what was inside lead and dictate my decisions and passions in my external life.

I'm not getting all spiritual yet, am I?

Seriously though, I found a place to find myself and it eventually lead me to teaching all this stuff because I was THE person against all of what I thought yoga was, only to discover and create what yoga IS to me.

Yes, it's one of those things that you have to be there to get, but I promise you, you can find and get it no matter how insane your schedule and daily life demands are.

Here's the fun part.

Yoga can be whatever you would like it to be for yourself. That's the way those in India did it and do it and that's what we can do.

Yoga can start at anytime with any BODY.

Teenagers can benefit from yoga, as their body is something new every day. It's something, as adults, we long since ceased 'discovering.' But as a teenager, we are just starting that journey. We're not sure what to do with all these new thoughts and feelings that come up as we are growing up. Couple that with school, exams, friends and extracurricular activities and you are looking at a difficult transitionary period. A time, that if neglected, can keep you confused and a little unfocussed even into you 20's, i.e., me. I was all over the place and I needed a good and healthy place to put all of this energy.

If I only knew then, what I know now. If I had a kid and/or a teenager, they would be doing yoga right out of the womb!!

With yoga, you not only get a physical workout, but you get in your body enough to get a mental workout. And by mental work-out I mean you literally work out the things you no longer mentally need to hang on to so that you can be present in all of your activities, more productive and of all things, more FOCUSED.

Woo Hoo!

Yoga works the bod, but in the mind it keeps you focused on what is important and what needs to go away. In this day and age, that is super important. We are inundated with so many stimuli from TV and technology to the friends and family in our lives that hold our attention.

With yoga, we can find out just how important all of those things are and put in perspective the absolute things we need to put our attention towards.

Priorities people!

You might also find that by doing yoga, you can find other things to find 'yoga' in. Yoga translated from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, means, union.

Many people I work with might discover that the actual 'poses' of yoga don't get them feeling Zen, but they find that feeling we talk about when they go for a run or take a spin class, make dinner, watch Oprah while having a cup of tea or even take the dog for a walk. It's about being mindful in your moments not mixing the moments up and missing it all.

Yoga is not limited to a studio where you have a mat, don a cute top and pants and do downward dog.

Not to mention the fact that yoga can be extremely bonding. I can't tell you how many girlfriends or mothers and daughters that I work with or husbands and wives that, in our time together, there is no blackberry or facebook or homework or e-mails popping up in your face.

There is just a mat or two, some breathing, moving and good 'ol chatting and catching up. It's nice to be quiet when you are doing your practice, but a lot of people I work with use this time to just be with each other, be quiet or talk. There is nothing more yogic to me than that.

My image of yoga has changed over the years as I have changed. Yoga has become my life because it is how I live my life. 90% of it is off the mat and outside of the studio, but yoga is what helps me stay fit, focused and happy. I can live with a grade of 90%. It's an A+ to me and on the permanent record of life; I can live with that score.

Be good to yourselves, call your mother and drink a lot of water. And moisturize a lot in this dry heat.