Thursday, August 25, 2011


"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that you cannot sincerely try to help another without helping yourself."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Loosening Grip

Noticing where mental or emotional tension is registered in my body today... easy to become obsessed and engrossed in negativity, fears, doubts, regret, troublesome memories. My mind wrapped around these things coiled like a snake, trying to loosen my grip. Softening there, and the physical body immediately follows. The act of surrendering doesn't make me lose control, it provides me with more control.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Everything Is Already There For You

"The bad news: there is no key to the universe. Good news: It was never locked." -Swami Beyondananda

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Be Present is To Express Gratitude

To be present is to express gratitude and fully enjoy those things which you love most. Simple things. Such as green leaves, blooming flowers, soft sand, sunshine on your skin, the bountiful and lively feeling that is in the air during the summer. These are the things we crave when we are stuck in the thick of winter (at least here in Northeast U.S.), right? So all throughout March, we're moaning and groaning, I can't wait until summer, I can't wait until summer... so not only are we are not present, enjoying the gifts that the end of winter may have to offer, but once the summer comes, do we appreciate it? Maybe in June. Once we are well into August, are we even here anymore? Enjoy the August sunshine, before autumn brings its rainbow-colored leaves, crisp air, farm-stands with pumpkins and roasted corn...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yoga Etiquette... what maybe you hadn't thought about?

I have decided to take the time out to post a few things on Yoga Etiquette, which may seem silly, but for some reason many of these things do not seem widely known.

The idea of yoga etiquette is somewhat humorous because when you begin to practice yoga seriously, it is not that you never make mistakes or slip up, but you are indeed more introspective and aware of yourself and your surroundings. So you may need fewer reminders and if you do happen to do something that could be considered somewhat offensive, you've probably already given it a great deal of thought. However, many of us are still just learning, so here are some reminders. (Teachers feel free to share with your students as well!)

Arrive to class on time. We all know what it is like to drive in Long Island traffic, and what it is like to be overbooked. The kids have to be there, and I have to be here, and the laundry, and dinner, and the house, and I need to clean and the gardening, and the guests we're having over this weekend... and yes, we all understand how it seems like there isn't enough time in the day. However, practicing yoga requires a bit of a commitment. And that does mean, maybe give yourself the extra five minutes to get to yoga class? You know you're always cutting it close, and wouldn't it be a nicer trip if you weren't rushing? It is very distracting when someone comes in late, and often times, he or she may not enter quietly. It is true that every other yoga practitioner in the room is working on pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and is therefore conditioning to not be as distracted by someone fumbling around on the other side of the room, but, everybody also deserves to have as peaceful of an experience as possible.

If you do happen to be running late, as this can happen to everybody every so often (it's a matter of not making a habit of it), try opening the door to the yoga room quietly. Peek in. If your teacher is in the middle of a centering period that often occurs in the first 5-10 minutes of class, meaning everybody is seated or lying down or in a resting posture with their eyes closed, getting connected to their breath, and the teacher could be leading a meditation or philosophy discussion... then, wait by the door. Don't come stumbling in to step over mats and throw your mat down loudly in the middle of the room. Sit by the door, quietly, without unloading your things just yet, and listen to the discussion and take YOUR time to make the transition into the yoga room and out of wherever you just came from. Once the class has moved out of that centering period, opened their eyes, and moved into the first posture of the class, they are less likely to be disturbed by your late arrival, so then set your mat down and join the class.

Follow the instructions that the teacher gives you. Just be respectful. Sometimes, when we are accustomed to practicing in a certain way and we've developed habits, we just want to do things the way we are used to doing them. However, if the teacher is asking you to try to enter a pose in a different way, to transition from one pose to another in a way that you are not used to, try it out. There is a reason the teacher is instructing the way he or she is, so have respect and patience and give it a try. If it feels grossly wrong for your body or you are simply incapable of doing it, that is when you flag your teacher down and ask for assistance or a modification. That is why you came to a class to have a teacher in front of you, yes? There is an enormous difference between making the practice your own versus doing your own practice. We, as teachers, encourage students to make the practice their own, to find their inner voice, to find their breath, and to pay very close attention to their bodies throughout their yoga practice. That is how we develop as yoga practitioners and also how we prevent injury. But, if you are just doing whatever you want without listening to the instructions or thinking that your way of doing things is better and you don't want to give what your teacher is saying a chance, then why come to a class? You are always welcome to practice modifications or variations of a pose, but to simply do a different pose without instruction to do so is somewhat disrespectful to your teacher. I have also had students who continue to move through their own practice at the end of class, even once I have led the class into Savasana (Corpse Pose), or the final relaxation, a crucial part to your practice. Take your rest. Do not continue to practice throughout relaxation. You are bringing an active energy to a class that is now trying to calm and cool down, and people will sense that. You are also not being fair to yourself because you need rest.

Tell your teacher about your injuries or limitations. Many teachers, including myself, ask about this at the beginning of every class. The information you give me about your body on that particular day may influence what I teach and how I teach it and also if and/or how I adjust your body. If I know your shoulder is hurting you today because you were shoveling snow all day, I am not going to give you an adjustment that involves putting pressure on your shoulder. If I know almost half of the class has lower back pain (because so many of us do), I may specifically design a class to accommodate those pesky lower backs. Your teacher may or may not be able to help you with whatever is ailing you, but it certainly does not hurt to inform your teacher. Your teacher will also understand better why you may be practicing at the level you are practicing at, or why your practice may look different than it normally does. It does not have to be a chronic injury to count. It can be something as simple as sleeping wrong and ending up with weird neck pain. It is relevant.

Silence or ditch your cellphones. I understand many of us have children or other people we need to care for, and so we want to be reached just in case. If there is a possibility you may receive an important call, then have your cellphone close by on vibrate, but don't keep looking at it. I've seen this in class before; people keep peeking at their phones like the text message or email they are about to receive is more important than Ujjayi breath. Give yourself an hour, seriously. Just an hour of your day taking a yoga class, you can afford to give yourself a break from the cellphone. What did people in the 1970s before cellphones? They lived. If you can, just leave your phone outside the yoga room, in your car, or even at home. It's actually quite liberating.

Come open-minded! This is somewhat related to trying out the things that your teacher is instructing. But, try to leave judgments and the events of the day at the door. Come to yoga class ready to learn something new, ready to be inspired. If not, why come?...

A Critique of "9 Habits That Can Do More Harm Than Good": A Workout Routine That Does Not Include Stretching

As promised, the second suggestion that this article makes that I find sub-par is:

#5: Doing Only Cardio When You Work Out (I will paste here.)

"It’s easy to assume that the best way to lose weight is to stick to the same cardio workout, but “if you only do cardio, your body will become so accustomed to the routine that you’ll start to burn less fat over time,” says Joseph Ciccone, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at ColumbiaDoctors Eastside Sports Therapy in New York. Plus, going through repeated motions on the treadmill or elliptical machine can create tight muscles and lead to injury. Trade in a few of your cardio workouts for circuit training, which involves doing a number of different strength training exercises with little rest between moves in order to keep your heart rate up while also working out your entire body, ensuring that you’ll burn the most calories—without burning out. Integrating resistance training into your routine will create muscle mass, which will help you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you’re at rest, says Jennifer Fleischer, exercise and nutrition coach and owner of Holistic Fitness in San Francisco. She also recommends revamping your cardio routine by mixing in interval training once a week. Try doing 30 seconds of high intensity motion, whether you’re on the treadmill, elliptical machine or in the swimming pool, followed by 90 seconds of recovery at a moderate pace, working your way up to 10 repetitions. The bursts of intensity followed by recovery will effectively and efficiently blast calories and fat."

OK, I agree that doing only cardio when you work out is a major set-back; however, this article is missing something crucial. Circuit training (strengthening exercises with little rest to keep the heart rate up) and interval training (several repetitions of 30 seconds of high intensity motions followed by 90 seconds of moderate pace to recover) are suggested in place of cardio. This is all that is suggested.

The ironic part about this is that the physical therapist or the author (it is unclear who) claims that "...going through repeated motions on the treadmill or elliptical machine can create tight muscles and lead to injury." Yet, neither of these suggestions that are made really fix the "tight muscle" phenomenon because neither involves stretching. It sounds like both of the suggestions that were made are also strength-building activities, which do tend to lead to tight, stiff muscles.

So I recognize that simple stretching may not seem like much of a "workout routine," because most people don't think of it as very vigorous or challenging, and don't expect that it will "effectively and efficiently blast calories and fat," as this is stressed in the article.

I suggest to the author or the physical therapist who neglected to mention yoga to try attending an Ashtanga or Vinyasa class and tell me that it's not vigorous, or challenging, and does not have the capacity to not only stretch out those tight muscles that strength-training builds, but also "blast" that fat...

A Critique of "9 Habits That Can Do More Harm Than Good": The Activity Of The Feet

I was checking my mail on Yahoo this morning and this article appeared: "9 Habits That Can Do More Harm Than Good."

While I agree with most of these, there are two that I had a really hard time with.

#3: Wearing Flip-Flops. (I will copy and paste here.)
"Forgoing sky-high heels and toe-pinching boots for the freedom of flip-flops is giving your feet a much-need break, right? Not exactly. Turns out, your summer shoes aren’t doing you any favors. According to Jordana Szpiro, DPM, a podiatrist and foot surgeon in Boston, “Flip-flops and other unsupportive sandals, which have no arch support and give no structural support to the foot, can lead to stress fractures since your uncushioned feet become strained when they try to support too much weight,” she explains. “Extensor or flexor tendinitis is also a common problem that happens as a result of trying to keep your flip-flips on—the muscles on top or underneath your feet overexert themselves while trying to grip your shoes.” She also advises against walking around shoeless, even if you’re by the pool or in your gym’s locker room. “Aside from not giving your feet any support, going barefoot can also be challenging for those prone to infectious skin diseases such as plantar warts and athlete’s foot, which are easily spread poolside, in pedicure salons and in gyms.” But that doesn't mean you need to spend your summer in closed toe shoes. Dr. Szpiro recommends comfortable sandals that also provide plenty of support, like styles from Fit FlopsOrthoHeel and Mephisto."

There is much talk about orthopedics and supportive shoes. I understand the merit of that to a certain extent, because your feet are your foundation and absolutely no doubt about it what is going on with your feet affects your ankles which affects your knees which affects your hips which effects your pelvis which affects your spine from your lower back all the way up through your neck. And if you have flat feet and tend to over-pronate (collapse to the inner arches) or your have high arches and tend to excessively supinate (roll to the outer edges), this is going to lead to weakness and instability and tension in the foot, and eventually, other parts of the body as well.

However, here is this podiatrist suggesting that we do not walk around in shoes with no arch support nor walk around barefoot. Does this seem natural to anybody? To commit your feet to a life in stiff, thick-soled "supportive" shoes. This is healthy? I wonder, what exactly do you suppose happened before shoes?

There was a time, believe it or not, where humans roamed the earth barefoot and there still are many tribal communities and villages and select eccentric people in every-day society who choose to remain barefoot as often as they can. Our feet were designed in such a divine way to to be able to accommodate quite a variety of terrain and surfaces, including uneven dirt paths and rocky roads. Binding your feet in shoes limits the flexibility and movement of the foot and from what I've observed, can lead to tension in the feet and surrounding areas as much as, if not more than, being barefoot.

As a yoga instructor and practitioner, I do not spend much time in shoes. Nor do I have any desire to. Whenever someone suggests orthopedics to me for my flat feet, I tell them there's no point. I am so seldom in shoes that why exactly would I want my feet to grow accustomed to the support to only then be in worse shape when I am not wearing shoes with support or orthopedics? I tell them, I do not want cushioning on the beds of my shoes to do the work that my feet, legs, and pelvis should be doing muscularly themselves. Instead of wearing orthopedics, I prefer to work my feet by first, lifting the toes (dorsi-flexing the foot very strong) to find the arch in my foot that seems to be missing and connect to the ball of the foot; then set the toes back down, spread wide without gripping the floor, keeping the arches lifted; then grounding very strong into the outer edges of the feet (because I tend to roll to the inner edges), as though someone were holding my feet in place but I am trying to pull them apart. So, in short, to find the balance between grounding into the ball and the heel of the foot equally, and to pronate and supinate equally. Try it. You will feel all over the muscles in your legs and even up into your pelvis come alive. This is the work that our bodies ought to be doing, not collapsing into a pair of soft enabling to only be weakened by.

If you are not sure whether you have high or low arches and whether you tend to roll to the inner edges (pronation) or outer edges (supination) of your feet, take a look at the soles of your shoes. You will likely find that there is more wear on either the inner or outer edges. You want to focus on doing the opposite from whatever your tendency is. If you are doing it correctly, you will feel the muscles of your legs work in a different kind of way than you may be used to. I am under the impression that this kind of work can relieve stress and tension than you may have in all areas of your body, from your toes all the way up to to your head, because it is all connected.

There is a second suggestion in this article that I have a complaint about. I will write on that one later.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The "Yogic Diet"

On two recent occasions now, I have been asked about my diet by a student. "What do you eat?" "Do you eat meat?" And the answer is, I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables; and yes, I eat some meat.

What I want to stress here is that I don't believe in forcing your body into a diet that doesn't work for it or doesn't make you feel right. A lot of people seem to think that all yogis are vegetarians; so when we embark upon this yogic path, we say, OK... so I have to stop eating meat, right? Yes and no. Stop eating meat if that's what your body is asking for, or if you feel strongly enough about the effect your diet and your habits have on the environment, the planet, and every living being as a whole.

I do not think it will necessarily work out if you force yourself to stop eating meat when your body is still really craving meat. Some discipline is good, and getting a little tough on yourself may be appropriate sometimes, so I'm not saying Never do that. What I am saying is that for me, the natural progression of slowly and gently eliminating things from my diet is what works. Because I do not crave any of these things that I have eliminated, so there was really no struggle involved. It is just very natural.

I suffered with some rather severe digestive issues a number of years ago, before my yoga practice became what I consider it to be now, and before I managed the stress in my life in a more effective way. I had, at different points, cut out many things from my diet including, fats like meat, dairy, oils, even nuts; gluten and all simple carbohydrates and refined sugars; and insoluble fibers, even some fruits and vegetables. If you do feel as badly as I did, trial-and-error is the only way to determine what it is that your body is having an adverse reaction to... until you can train yourself to become very attune to your body's messages and you will soon know exactly what is agreeable and what is disagreeable without much effort. However, this may come more easily to some than to others.

I eventually did channel and listen to my inner voice or intuition and it became very obvious what was aggravating my digestive system and sometimes even provoking headaches and other reactions.

At one point in my life (even during my time practicing yoga), I did feel I needed meat in my diet. I was anemic earlier on and felt that I needed the iron and protein that meat provided, so I ate meat. Gradually and without expectation, over the course of a year or two, I felt unpleasantly full and heavy and dragged down every time I consumed red meat. It was this coupled with an experience I had in December 2010 that prompted me to eliminate red meat (cow and pork) from my diet. I still have poultry and seafood, but not often.

In December, I visited a friend in Mexico and witnessed the slaughtering of a bull. It was as humane is I think it could be -- nothing like what we practice regularly here in the U.S. It, however, still disturbed me and I could see such life and consciousness in this bull's eyes (like a cat or dog might have... if you have pets, you know what I mean). It is a different kind of consciousness than I've observed in a chicken or in a fish. Not to say these creatures are not conscious beings, but the energy there is profoundly different from what I can see.

In addition to the fact that the consumption of heavy foods like meat products does not seem compatible with a consistent yoga practice, the other reasons vegetarianism is associated with yoga are because of the effort of mindfulness that comes with the yoga practice and observation of the gunas, or the modes of life, and the aim to live a more sattvic life.

When you set on a path to be more aware of your actions and decisions and how they affect the world and others, you will begin to consider not only what you do, say, think, feel, but also what you eat, what you buy, what you wear, what you make time for, etc. (more on all of this in another post though). Most relevantly to this subject matter is that it is quite natural to begin to feel for other creatures, including cows, pigs, and even the chicken, turkeys, and sea creatures. So, you may not want to eat them anymore. The other part about this that I think is relevant is that I believe in the transfer of energy. Meaning, if an animal was continually abused the way many of the animals that we consume are, there is a lot of negative, unhappy energy registered in that animal's body, in some way, whether you want to believe in that or not. That energy is what you are consuming. An unhappy, overworked, underappreciated being.

The other thing is that traditionally, there are certain foods that are considered sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic, as per the three gunas (which I wrote about before, and you can see it here). Meat products are considered rajasic, meaning they are stimulating, and can produce arousal and restlessness of mind, disturbing the equilibrium of the body; tamasic foods are static and are therefore harmful to the mind or the body producing laziness, fatigue, and depression; sattvic foods, however, are characterized by purity and goodness, yielding mental clarity and tranquility.

Most of my diet can fall under the sattvic diet these days; however, I want to emphasize again this wasn't necessarily something I consciously chose. I believe that when you are practicing the other aspects of yoga (asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing techniques), yamas and niyamas (codes of conduct), etc.), this will happen quite naturally. When the body becomes more pure, it will tolerate and impurity less and less. So, I stopped consuming most food products from the other categories (rajasic and tamasic) because they made me feel unhealthy. If you listen to that feeling, that higher knowledge that we are all equipped with, you will discover what foods and drinks are right for your body because the body knows... and THAT is the "yogic diet," the one that produces feelings of calm, peace, health, and harmony in your body, mind, and soul.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How To Relax

I took a class last week with Bianca and she had us consider what our personal reasons are for not relaxing. We all complain we don't have the time to relax, but at the end of the day, you are going to make the time for what you want and what you need. What do you do to avoid relaxing?

Maybe it's just a mental activity, like worrying, doubting, procrastinating, criticizing, complaining; or maybe it is a physical activity like watching TV, being on the Internet. Anything that agitates your mind or stimulates in a negative way. Instead, consider what you could do that will either calm the mind all together or stimulate it in a positive, productive, creative way. You do not have to lay down to relax. Though, if that's what you enjoy doing, you should. You can take a bath, read a book, write, paint, draw, make music, pamper yourself, garden, even cook or clean, if those activities are enjoyable to you.

So today, I am in this very rare position where I have nothing I need to do. No more classes to teach today, no workshops I am planning to attend, nothing... it feels rather unnatural to relax.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Greater Harmony

"And so that our yoga practices are whatever choice we have to make,we ask ourselves, first, would this choice lead to greater harmony in my life?"

What Do You Need...

What do you need today?

Ask yourself this every day. You cannot meet someone else's needs, take care of someone or something else, until you have taken care of yourself and your own needs. Our needs are moving, changing, shifting, and fluctuating daily. If you are fulfilled, you can then aid in fulfilling others, with love, devotion, and sincerity. If you are not fulfilled, you can try to help fulfilling others, but it will not be from a genuine place and it will not be the same. We can only have sincere compassion if we have taken care of ourselves, which means sometimes saying "no," setting boundaries, and acknowledging limitations. We do the work ourselves first; we cannot do the work for others though, only guide them and offer our hand. We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we can make others happy or that we are responsible for others; when in reality, only we can bring ourselves from darkness to light, from death to immortality, from suffering to liberation.

Through yoga, we garner the physical flexibility to make it mental: to be mentally flexible is to be tolerant, accepting, and accommodating of others and of yourself. We build the physical strength to translate it emotionally; to be strong enough to set boundaries and walk away confident, secure, and empowered.

What Do You Need To Say No To?

What do you need to say "no" to?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hunger, Struggle, Acceptance

In a workshop I took with Gabriel Halpern this past weekend -- who gives inspirational and insightful dharma/philosophy discussions and whose anatomical knowledge and technical instruction is phenomenal -- he posed three questions for us:

What are you hungry for?
What are you struggling with?
What do you need to give yourself permission to do?

Interpret as you wish.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To Be Present is To Be Spontaneous

To be present. This means to be accommodating, to be adaptive, to adjust to the surprises that are thrown at us and change in order to fit the situations that we are placed in. Even if you had another plan, other desires or needs, to be present means to see and hear and feel for other people -- no matter how well you know them, how close they are to you, or how "significant" you believe them to be -- and to recognize their needs may be greater than yours. And sometimes, that means tossing your plans to the side to be there for another person. No matter how great or small the act or the request is, this is what it is to be spontaneous and present, living in the moment.

Monday, August 8, 2011

To Really Be Present, Really, Interacting With the World

Today I can honestly state that I was present for more of the day than usual, I was present more often than not.

Be honest with yourself: were you present today? What does it mean for you to be present? What kinds of attributes or traits may you need to adopt and what kinds of habits or tendencies may you need to strip?

I am present when I am teaching and when I am learning and practicing. This to me, is natural (after years of practicing yoga). The work lies in being present off of the mat, while I'm driving, while I'm cooking, while I'm cleaning, while I'm shopping for groceries. Trivial and mundane tasks where it is easy to be on auto-pilot and just go. Because we know these actions well, we have done them before, and we do not need to be present to get them done again and again. We can close our eyes while strolling down the aisles, close our ears while we cook and clean, and keep one hand on the wheel while the other plans the To-Do list for the rest of the week. Because we are a future-oriented breed. Planning, anticipating, expecting, worrying.

But can you break down those habits, and interact with your world, your environment, and the people in it in a completely new way that means accommodating, adjusting, and acknowledging? That means indulging in each moment as though it were your last, that means embracing each encounter because your whole life has brought you to this moment, to this person that is standing in front of you, whether it is your lover, your boss, your neighbor, or the gas station attendant. Can you be present with this person? Be honest, be real, interact with them, listen to them, speak to them, share with them your knowledge, your experience, your insights, your life.

When the cashier at Trader Joe's asked me how I was, I gave the answer that we all give when we are not present: "good, thanks, how are you." I was hardly asking him, and hardly answering him. I gave him a standard answer because I was already out the door. I was already driving home, I wanted to be home, because I wanted to eat, I wanted to continue the projects I had started this weekend, I wanted to get a lot done before I had to teach my evening classes, so I was not there. It was not an honest answer. Even if you are "good," can you give it more thought? Can you answer the question with more sincerity? Can you slow your answer down, give it careful consideration, offer a different word, a different perspective, and really listen to the other person when they are speaking back to you? That is presence.

It didn't hit me until after. My initial inclination to feel badly about that, to beat myself up for a short time, telling myself Oh you're no good, you're not present, you're not mindful, what kind of yogi are you, how do you teach peace and presence to other people when you can't find it yourself." But not today. No, today, I said, OK. But now I know. I am aware of it. This is a GOOD thing. This is how we change. You catch yourself more and more often, and you grow and expand and move and develop from that. Not to mention, it is a practice. That means IT is moving, breathing, living, and therefore fluctuating. Just because I can't find the presence in each moment, does not mean I am not practicing finding the presence.

One glimpse of that, and you will want to stay there. Everybody that has felt what it feels like to be present, to be immersed in a moment, will work to stay there, because it is worth it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Comfortable with Uncomfortable

Most of today, I was uncomfortably damp. I took an Ashtanga-Inspired Vinyasa class this morning (a real treat, because normally I teach Sunday mornings), and I sweat so much, it was noticeable in touch and in sight (hopefully not smell), through my skin, my hair, and my clothes.

I pretty much had to go straight to a workshop I registered for from there, so no time for a shower. It was also pouring rain this morning. So, between the sweat and the rain, I was unusually wet most of the morning into the afternoon. This reminded me of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

This is what we do in yoga. We put ourselves in often uncomfortable positions so that we can train ourselves to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. We must take ourselves out of our comfort zone. If we are comfortable, we do not change. We get lazy. No shift occurs if we are comfortable because we will keep doing whatever it is we are doing and that is how we form habits and develop patterns and these are the very things we are trying to bring light to, to change, to shift, to become aware of, through the practice of yoga.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Driving in Meditation

As far as I am concerned, driving on Long Island is one of the more stressful activities you can be forced to endure throughout the day. If you can meditate while driving, you'll find other endeavors far easier.

When I say "meditate," I do not mean close your eyes, or daze off, get all dreamy, and end up traveling from Point A to Point B without knowing how you got there. That's not meditating. That's called not being present, and is in fact, the exact opposite of meditating.

When I say meditating, I mean you must be fully present, fully focused, and completely immersed in the moment in the act of driving -- while remaining balanced, content, and peaceful. That means, you're not harshly accelerating because you're in a rush (as everybody seems to be on Long Island). That is rajas, over-activity and aggression. That means you're not blocking intersections, even if it's just the 711, because you had the where-with-all and the foresight to see that someone would need to turn out of that parking lot or make a left-hand turn into that parking lot while you're still braking at a traffic light. That means you're not swearing the person tailgating you, even if he/she flashes his/her lights at you or honks his/her horn. That means you're not missing your turn or missing street signs or signals or sirens because your mind went somewhere else. That means you don't have to slam on your brakes because you looked down to change the song and when you looked up traffic was stopped or a pedestrian was walking in front of you. You are not la-la-ing around, admiring scenery, gazing at the stars, marveling at flowers in bloom... this is laziness, tamas, not what we are looking for while driving. You are arriving at sattva, present, alert, focused, you hear what's going on around you too, because you're not on a call wrapped up in someone else or something else that is not on the road in front of you. This is meditation. Being focused on the road, on your environment, on the affect you are having on the environment and other people on the road and the affect that they are having on you.

The next time you catch yourself curse the person who cut you off, stop. See if you can take a deep breath. You'll notice that when you are in that kind of rush or panic, the stress registers in your body and your breath will get shallow or inconsistent in some way. Witness the effects that driving has on your body physically, mentally, and emotionally. How does it affect your musculoskeletal structure, your posture, your breathing, your mood, your attitude, your thoughts, and your feelings?

See if you can transport yourself from one place to another, without rushing but without being in another world, but being fully in this world, anticipating other people's moves, using judgment and awareness when it comes to your moves, and trusting that you are going to get to where you need to go when you get there, so abandon the controlling, the rushing, the worrying, the aggravation with other people, and allow yourself to just be.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Inspires You?

I've discovered a way for keeping myself on track. I decided that if I can constantly remind myself and remain aware of what inspires me, what motivates me, what my intention is for how I'd like to interact with the world, the environment, the people, and the situations that surround me, I will be able to keep myself in a balanced place.

When I catch myself driving aggressively, I have to stop myself and say: what if my teacher saw this? What would she say? I could hear Mokshapriya saying to me: "you're not present." And what if my students saw this? Is this not what I teach and talk about in class? (And as a side-note to students: our work is all the same. Your teachers are not infallible or perfect. For everyone, the work is about being present, being focused, being mindful.)

So what is it for you? Is there someone or something that inspires you to be better? A parent, a child, a sibling, friend, a lover, a teacher, a student...? If not someone, is there a goal, a higher purpose, a challenge, a path, that motivates you and inspires you to be who you are/who you want to be?

Figure out what that this is, and use it. In your darkest, ugliest, most humiliating, mortifying, unproud moments,   remember that person, that thing, that idea, that image, and let it drive you to rise to the occasion. Let it be the thing that allows you to show up, to pull through, and rise above being someone you don't want to be. Because every single one of us is that person on occasion. Every single person does or says or just thinks something that he would rather not, something that is in stark discrepancy with what she really wants out of life or out of herself.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Today I had the privilege to teach three classes and to take two classes. Over six hours of yoga, and I cannot think of anything else I'd rather be doing.

It is the commuting from one place to another that can get grueling, but while I am mid-Long Island traffic and swearing every traffic light, I have to stop myself and recognize how lucky I am. I get to spend all day doing what I love to do. How many people can say that?

This forces me to stay present.