Monday, October 26, 2015

Emotional Bullying - let's try AHIMSA

So I'm thinking... bullying. yeah, it sucks. stop bullying in schools. Of course - teach children that it's inappropriate behavior to bully.

But the problem is, when it comes down to it, managing in LIFE is about managing bullies every step of the way, not just in school. Bad bosses, sleazy car salesmen, angry boyfriends/girlfriends, thoughtless drivers, indignant cashiers, frustrated teachers, ANYONE makes you feel "do it my way or ELSE I'll hit-expose-hurt-embarrass-dismiss-overcharge-belittle-ignore-undermine you.

Let's be honest - we ALL do a bit of huffy bravado chest thumping when we tell some customer service agent "If you don't satisfy me I'll NEVER buy your product again and I'll tell everyone you suck." We may be talking about a product, but someone reads that letter - someone is on the other end of that phone call. Have you given a sneer to the cashier at the grocery store when they weren't moving quickly. Yup - that's bullying, in a manner of speaking. What positive response can you expect to get form such haughtiness?

There's bullying on the global scale too - world politics is one big game of Who's the Biggest Bully - genocide, class struggles, interment camps, castes, republicans vs. democrats, police vs. the people, people vs. the people, government vs. the people.

Bullying, though I hate to admit it, is part of life. I mean, that's how animals assert dominance right? And we are animals. We cannot control human behavior any more than we can control any animal behavior.

When it comes down to it I don't really think we can stop bullying. BUT - we can modify how we act, we can adapt and learn from mistakes that have caused insult in the past. We can pass on lessons of AHIMSA (peace and love and gentility and non-harming) to try to make this world, even our small ones, a better place.

So what we do? How do we help our children, not just protect them but prepare them for the world where we can't always talk to a principal, or swoop in for rescue? Well it seems to me that is a three step process.

1) TELL them bullying is wrong because it hurts people's feelings.

2) SHOW them bullying is wrong by modeling thoughtful behavior ALL THE TIME. Even when someone cuts you off on the freeway. Even when you are in hurry and you want someone to drive faster. EVEN when you know you are right but especially when you know you are not.

3) TEACH them how to adapt, how to be happy, how to be strong, how to be self-confident and know when to engage in dialogue, and when it's smart to walk away.

Trying. In loving parenthood attempts, one day at a time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cancer Awareness Month - Donations for Eye Pillows

With October month being Breast Cancer Awareness Month (as if it's impossible to not be aware), I want to do more than send good energy: I want to put my money where my asana is. I would like to create yoga eye pillows for my network of amazing people, and donate some of the proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, to help fund mammograms for women in need.

Three standard sizes and a child's size eye pillow
The pillow I make are similar to the ones I've used in class (the envelope-sized silky covered flax- or bean- filled pads that you see in spas and yoga studios), but these are even more special. For you, these will be hand  sewn pillows filled with a combination of flax, rice and lentils, plus dried lavender, chamomile and/or peppermint. Each pillow has a removable and washable cover, and a heavy duty insert that can be put into the freezer for cold therapy, or in the microwave (for 10 second bursts) and used as a hot compress. The pillow is also quite nice at room temperature to be used to cover the eyes during Savasana, providing a nice weight against the closed lids, and a subtle herbal scent to sooth the nervous system. 

Eli age three modeling the kid's size
I have a variety of cotton, flannel and fleece fabrics in beautiful colors so every piece will be different. Let me know if you have a color preference and I can try to match your request(s).

Standard "eye pillow" size is 8.5"x4" (more or less). I can also make head wraps (that drape over someone's head who is lying down - great for migraine sufferers) that are twice that length (same width), and I can make longer neck wraps if you like (about 20". The larger items have pocketed chambers to keep the inside goodies evenly distributed. I'm also experimenting with "knee wraps" that are about 12" x 8" with four long channels to facilitate the pad wrapping arounnd the knee joint.

I'm somewhat winging this retail operation so bear with me while I get the nitty gritty details ironed out. I just want to share the goods and good will.

I will donate 25% of every paid purchase to the National Breast Cancer Foundation to help provide mammograms to women in need. Alternately, if you are, or have a friend or loved one "fighting the good fight" undergoing any kind of cancer treatment, it would be my honor to give you or them an eye pillow for FREE. This offer is good until the end of 2015 (and will probably be extended well beyond).

Please know that since *I* am not a non-profit these are not tax deductible "donations" from you. However if you purchase one and then gift it to a non-profit fundraiser may to deduct your cost of the items (please contact a tax professional for accurate information).

Local San Diegans we can arrange a meetup, or pickup at one of my yoga classes. If you need your items shipped email me and we'll get the details worked out.

A stack of eye pillow pets
The photos show some of my previously created (and sold/given away) items to help motivate you (not all the fabrics/animals are available but I have many more options). 

Pricing (sizes are approximate):
5.5 x 4 Child's size eye pillow: $5
8.5 x 4 Standard size eye pillow: $8
15 x 4 Large head wrap: $15
20 x 4 Neck Wrap: $20
12 x 8 Knee Wrap: $18
Stuffed Animal pillow (for kids): $15

Closeup of a eye pup-pillow

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Senior Events Around Town

Just looking around the newspaper and found quite a few healthy living events and information resources focused on our Gold Silver and Platinum age bracket folks (can I at least be bronze? or pewter? sometimes I just feel like Iron Oxide). I love the idea about constantly trying to create, improve, contribute and be part of a community - a sangha space.

The City of La Mesa will host its 6th annual Senior Expo on Friday, October 30, 2015.
With a wide variety of speakers and exhibitors, Expo will offer free “one-stop shopping” for adults facing life changes that may affect their independence, or those who would like great tips on safety and security. Supported by funding from SANDAG, Expo will be held at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive, La Mesa 91942 from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.
Other La Mesa Upcoming Events

Live Well San Diego Live Well San Diego is the County of San Diego's vision for a region that is Building Better Health, Living Safely and Thriving. Although Live Well San Diego began in 2010 as a health strategy, it has evolved into a greater vision to improve the health, safety and well-being of all County residents. 

Senior Services for the City for San Diego
Legal assistance, book exchange programs, newsletter signup (The Scroll), trips, park clubs, and more.

Serving Seniors
Serving Seniors is a safety net for seniors to look to in times of need.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Inpsiration - Big Girl Yoga

I just had to link to this woman's website - she embodies all that is truly yoga.

Self love through yoga.
Valerie aka Big Gal Yoga is a yoga practitioner, installation artist, ceramicist, radical self love enthusiast, and body positive encourager based in the SF Bay Area. She started her yoga practice at her university with yogi Lawrence Caughlan who gave her a positive view on practicing yoga, and believing that as long as you have the determination, motivation, and patience anyone can do yoga. Valerie's yoga practice is about learning to love yourself physically and mentally through yoga. Learning to listen to your body, to know when to push it and when to protect it.
Now that Valerie has finished her undergraduate studies in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Spatial Arts, she will be focusing more on her yoga practice and connecting to the yoga community. As well she is announcing that she will be doing Yoga Teacher Training at the beginning of 2016. There will be a fundraiser for her YTT during the fall/early winter, as well as she has a GO FUND ME to raise $4000 to train at the 7 Centers Yoga Arts in Sedona, Arizona."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Non Judgement

A sign at the gym where I was teaching read "Your body is a reflection of your physical standards."

That message alone would discourage most people I know from going to the gym. Is the gym implying that someone with a prosthetic or in a wheelchair or who had a congential problem or is trying to get fit but is overweight has low standards?

Now I'm sure it was just someone's attempt at being pithy and trying to garner memberships and they didnt' think about it too much. But really, that was pretty shallow and callous.

In a cheerful demeanor I suggested they change it to be less insenstive, less judgemental, less superficial.

I didn't state this but I would prefer (at least in the context of a "fitness gym"):

"Your state of mind has a direct relationship with the health of your body. Elevate the fitness of both!"

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pinatas, Ahimsa, and Charity

I take a small departure from the purely yogic world to talk about something that came up for me at my son's 6th birthday party yesterday.

Instead of a traditional candy filled pinata, we filled one with 720 ping pong balls, and told the kids that when the goodies fell out of the pinata, they were to collect whatever they wanted, and then put them in any of six boxes around the party site - 2 each for charities that Eli picked out. Ever ball was worth five cents toward that chartiy. Children were welcome to take some home as well. Though Eli thought the kids would be upset there was no candy, then scramble to shove ping pong balls into pockets and shirts and hands and pants seemed to entertain them well enough, as well as playing "basketball" tossing the balls into the boxes.

I was pleased with my cool new idea, saving quite a bit of money by not buying candy, and sparing parents and kids the sugar hang-over as well as reducing the "gimme more candy" scramble the invariably leaves some kids crying.

But it turns out my new "trend" isn't so new... at some point in history, pinatas were used to help children learn religious lessons, with one of them being Charity. From the interwebs ""Finally the piƱata symbolized ‘Caridad’, Charity. With its eventual breaking, everyone shared in the divine blessings and gifts." (see

Which brings me to my point. With these sweet and celebratory roots of the tradition, it pains me to see children elbowing one another to get at the candy. Which is why did the HUGE quantity of ping pong balls AND made the kids use a wiffle bat (so that more kids had a chance to play, and EVERYONE would get prizes).

But I started to question the practice in general when I saw that children that were having a difficult time NOT punching and hitting the pinata long before we were playing the game because they KNEW (well, assumed) that there was a ton of candy inside. I heard them say they "couldn't wait" and "I really want to SMASH it" That bothered me. A Lot. I mean, it's just a little game that sometimes gets you some candy - why was it jacking them up so damn much?

When the game started it was innocent enough. But some kids were so riled up, they tried to use the bat to tear the pinata from its hangar, tried to punch through the bottom and stab at it with the bat. Then when the first gifts fell from our pinata, a few grabbed at it and started to aggressively tear the panels open so they could dump out the contents. And then it got ugly (uglier) - kids on the ground having fun picking up the ping pong balls, but what I was drawn to watching were the few that tore the darn thing down from the tree, using hands, feet and the bad to beat it into submission, to absolutely dismember it. When the ball gathering had completed, the (battle) ground was littered with little yellow streamer paper and shreads of cardboard, dirtied and damp, he whole thing discarded and dismissed, as they all went on the enjoy the party.

I'm being a bit (ok, a lot) dramatic here, but what I felt when I watched this take place was a complete oxymoron of emotions. One the one hand, the charity experiment was WORKING - kids were loving the game, parents were loving the game, and there was much joy as balls rolled all over the grass so kids were spread out and NOT climbing on top of one another.

On the other hand, I felt a sinking failure as a parent: that my son and his sweet friends would participate in a mob that was bent on destroying something innocent. That platiutdes like "oh kids will be kids" and "they need to get their aggression out on something" were running through my mind and uttered by others. That I created a scenario that encouraged aggression and unregulated release of it through destruction. That I had tried to teach Tzedakah (charity) and Tikkum Olum (healing the world) but Ahimsa (kindness/non harming) had been lost - or at least misinterpreted.

I should have said "please do NOT get all Lord of the Flies on the pinata - once it opens we'll get the goodies out but we will NOT be tearing the thing apart limb from limb." I should have, but I didn't. I didn't want to be that parent that ran into a feverish group of children yelling "STOP" and (probably) not being heard, because, well, "everyone does this."

When did this trend to "grab the goods and then tear that thing limb from limb" start? And why do we... why did *I* ....let it continue?

Studies show that even young children can be easily led to participate in mob mentality (

And as adults we engage in it all the time in SEEMINGLY harmless ways: sporting events, rock concerts, piolitcal rallies. How often do WE just let our "spiritedness" out in what might be a less than savory manner - how often to we show our children it's ok to act out, to lash out, to lose self control, as long as (you think) it's not harming anyone, or if there is a reward (candy?).

Anyway, I'm more than pleased that in the end, a few kids really really liked the message, as did my friends. And i know that it's just a pinata, really I do. But the issue of "what do we teach when we aren't paying (enough) attention" seems to be something to which I'll certainly (try to )be paying more attention.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yoga, Sciatica, Neck pain

I receive a lot of queries concerning how to utilize yoga to relieve certains pains/tensions, specifically sciatica nerve pain, and neck tension/stiffness. I am not a doctor, nor a chiropractor nor a PT (but I have visited them all many many many many many times). That being said, below is a selection of links that I have found useful for my own self-care practice and perhaps they can benefit you.

Know that here is a plethoria of (good and bad) information out there, but first and foremost you have to see a doctor if the pain is chronic OR severe (indicating injury or damage).

There are yoga poses to strengthen muscles to help with joint problems like arthritis and stenosis, but remember that range of motion may be limited so you have to be VERY aware of your own body and not push (but also know WHEN to give a little more effort).

There are yoga poses to stretch the muscles around the sore area (if there is an issue with tight and/or overused muscles).

And there are poses that do a little bit of both.

There needs to be some good body awareness for any of the remedies to help: for neck issues posture can be a huge component. Notice, do you thrust your chin out when sitting at a desk or driving or walking? Do you walk hunched over with rounded shoulders and head hanging? Small postural adjustments will do you a world of good but you need to be aware of the issues first and be willing to make conscious corrections until the good habits take over for bad.

As for sciatica, the terms usually refers to pain along the sciatic nerve. This nerve runs out of the spine and down along the back of the pelvis to the back/side of the leg. It can go under, over or sometimes through the piriformis muscle, which means when that muscle contracts, it can press on the nerve.

Walking with the feet face out ("duck footed") is common when we lose our good posture and walking technique because the legs rotate OUT and this contracts the piriformis. Extreme sway back positions (lordosis) can strain the low spine and cause nerve discomfort. On the opposite note, the tail tucked under from squeeing the glutes can also compress the pirifomis.

Learning better techniques for posture, for standing, and especially walking properly, with the hips leading rather than the feet, or the chin, or shoulders, can help relieve strain on the neck, the low back and piriformis.

There are great stretches for the outer hips and low back too, but please know if your piriformis runs through the muscle rather than around it, some of the stretches might cause increased pain. For chronic pain and MRI might be helpful to determine appropriate course of action.

So, what is the bottom line? See a doctor if necessary - try different things, do really intentional self care, be aware of small changes, practice good posture, experiment a bit and don't give up. You'll find what works.

Good luck!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Intention Setting - excerpted from Elephant Journal (link below)

5 Steps to Intention Setting During Your Yoga Practice

see more at

Attitude of Gratitude: 

When you arrive for your practice start to shift into a state of gratitude. Take a moment to be grateful for this moment and the time you have on your mat that you have set aside for yourself. Practicing gratitude is a great tool that will help you a lot in becoming more open and more receptive.

Assess the Situation:

The first thing I ask my students to do in my classes when class begins is assess the state of their body, the rhythm of their breath and then, the state of their mind. Chuck Miller, one of the founders of Yogaworks in Santa Monica, used to say that before you start you first have to stop.

Create an Offering:

After their assessment, I ask my students to take a moment to offer their practice to someone they love or to the Universe. This small gesture can be felt immediately. Just by dedicating your practice to someone else or offering it to the Universe you feel yourself opening up a little, becoming a little more receptive.

You're Already There:

When you are setting your intention it’s important to feel the intention already working on you.  Imagine that it has already happened. You’ve already reached your destination.  See yourself already having made this shift in your life.  It’s already done. Try to see who is there with you.

Give Thanks: 

Offer thanks for everyone who has helped you along the way on your journey. If it’s hard for you to visualize then practice repeating your intention to yourself over and over again.
- See more at:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Special Yoga for Silver Sages!

Silver Sage Yoga for Bone Health and Balance

with Carolyn Boline

Saturday 9/12/2015  2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

$35.00 Early Bird, $40.00 at the door

This 2 hour workshop will include :
-moderate strength and weight-bearing poses to build and maintain bone density
-develop balance with stabilization poses
-props, including chairs, will be available to modify poses when needed for stabilization
-take home Yoga for Bone Health & Balance sequences for at home practice
-provide ample time for rest and integration for practices over 30 minutes
-lecture on benefits of Yoga with handouts

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Create what you believe in; believe in what you create.

In prenatal yoga we often do svasana or pranayama with one hand on the heart and one on the navel center, connecting our hearts with those of the children, helping us hone in to the soul to soul connection between mother and child, facilitate transfer of energy and draw awareness and calm into the body.

I like the symbolism behind connecting the heart center to the creative center, but I also tend to add in the power center to the mix - the anahata chakra is the heart, the svadisthana chakra is the sacral center, and the manipura is the navel center or solar plexus. All three are connected with our hands spread across our chest and bellies.

It's a drawing together all the energy of the torso, circling it around to energize and purify the organs, stimulate awareness of all the vital workings of our bodies, and facilitate us feeling the breath move throughout the entire abdomen. In and of itself this is a great mind/body connection meditation.

But you can extrapolate this to an off-the-mat lesson by considering the idea of creating something that not just comes from the mind, but the heart, the instinct, and out of your own personal strength and willingness to move forward. As well, devoting time and energy and focus into the things that you have lovingly created. Why create something that isn't worthy of your utmost attention, and why devote attention to something that you don't truly want to create?

Food for thought. Go forward and be awesome.

On Success

Do you undermine your own success by distracting yourself with things that aren't relevant in your life or underestimating your own strength to overcome adversity? You need to trust yourself and your instincts and do right by you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Yoga with Provisions II - more yoga, more provisions!

Back by demand, Yoga with Provisions returns on Sunday August 9. Once again, we'll start with a little more than 75 minutes of yoga at the wonderful San Diego Creative Arts Project, the move on to Polite Provisions (or Soda & Swine) for cocktails and sustenance (for a discount). NEW: included with your ticket price is one house beer (aaaah, so refreshing), and a chance to win a complete premier set of Yoga Joes, the evolved army "men" in yoga poses support for our returning people in uniform. We'll also be collecting additional donations for Give Back Yoga/Warriors for Healing, to show we care.

Class size limited, so email me or message me on Facebook to reserve your spot ASAP. In the meantime, explore your universe and have a great July.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Yoga with Provisions recap

"Release what holds you back, and the universe will provide."
- byomyoga (inspired by just about everyone she knows)

Just a few shots from the amazing Yoga with Provisions class held yesterday at San Diego Creative Arts Project. 15 beautiful souls joined together to move, breathe, be, release, and welcome in the provisions of the universe (and a few cocktails providing by Polite Provisions afterwards). Thank you all for sharing the experience with me. Thank you Laura at San Diego Creative Arts Project, for the idea and the space, thank you Heidi at for the photographs that bring out the joy, thank you Aaron at Polite Provisions for the whatever-it-was-was-delicious victuals!

Starting savasana - cultivating body awareness and centering ourselves
Adjustments in Durga-Go (cat cow sequence)

Balance - ah yes, balance.

Spinal flexion/extension

Prepping our shoulder for poses to come in Urdvha Hastasana (upward hands pose)

Anjanayasana - option on the knees, reach for the heavens
Lunge pose option 2

Drawing the hips and heart open in Warrior II

Open the left side and breath in "reverse triangle"
Opening to the right 

Deepening our Virabhadrasana (warrior) II

Delightful side flexion

Hamstring release in utthanasana (forward bend)

Tripod Dog (tri pada adho mukha savanasana)

Dogs in black and white
Dogs in color
Child's pose option - prayer hands

Relax the shoulders

Child's pose option (polar bear)

Child's pose assist - breathe through the back
Holding space for the class in Savasana

Fetal pose - preparing to awaken renewed

Waking up

Love to all!

Self with Provisions (i.e., the photographer Heidi and sweet TerriSue)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lucid Dreams and Lowered Expectations

In a rare occurrence of lucidity, dream-me thought "shit, why am I whinging at the dream-person that is frustrating me? why am i being the opposite of who I want to be?" I woke up sad, but aware of the rarity of that "aha" moment.

To that end, in a particularly challenging yoga class today I was actually brought to tears; not big sobbing ones, but hot weepy ones that come on stronger when you hold your breath. I was carrying the frustration of the dream and personal conflict, plus a sympathetic nervous system response (adrenalin surge and anxiety spur) to a particular difficult asana. I needed to STOP making my blissful practice the opposite of what I wanted it to be.I needed to be lucid about what I was experiencing and not victimized by it. So I sat my sweaty ass down, took a deep breath to loosen my throat lock that was just holding in all that negativity. I wanted this practice to be joyful, and I had to choose to make it that way.  I wiped away my tears, breathed into my hips (a bit of a tensions reliever) and carried on with content dharana (concentration) instead of frustration based in unrealistic expectations.

As far as the dream was concerned, like always, a few hours away from the waking moment and the conjured emotions dissipated (but the lesson was well remembered). As for the personal conflict, I resolved that the issues were really, truly, external to me, and only *I* had the power to prevent myself from emotional collateral damage. I realized that I could lower my expectations (of myself, of the universe) as over those things I have no control, but that doesn't mean I should lower my standards for the kind of person I want to be(come).

Sometimes recognizing the futility of the fight is just what we need to create more space for the possibility.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Yoga with Provisions - a special event!

I am very excited to invite you (all?) to my newest social yoga venture called Yoga with Provisions. The hour long yoga class will be hosted by the San Diego Creative Arts Project, a 501c3 organization providing theater/voice/fitness/dance lesson for kids and adults, with cooperation from Polite Provisions/Soda and Swine restaurants. Tickets are just $15 and include the yoga class plus special discount at the restaurants directly following the class.

Email me to reserve your spot (spaces are limited) or with any questions. The yoga will be an eclectic blend of hatha and vinyasa styles, with props provided to assist, as well as a very groovy soundtrack and extra soothing savasana at the end.

Link, share, like, tweet!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Humility, a 8-limbs lesson

The last time I traveled to Sacramento I went to one of their local hot yoga studios. In fact, it seems like that's most if not all of what is up there, which is fine at least there are studios that I can afford.

Don't get me wrong I enjoy a good sweat just fine, and luckily after 11 years I (usually) know how to gauge myself to keep it real and out of potential injury (and I guzzle more water than probably two or three hot devotees put together). I'll usually position myself in back and just do the class a lot slower, because I know that if I build up too much heat I just pass out, or I render myself unable to stand up for a day or two because I've overstretched.

When the instructor asked who was new, I raised my hand as I hadn't ever attended one of her classes before. She started class with the usual "pace yourself, embrace the process" standard patter, but even though there were just a few newbies, neither she nor her unshirted mail assistant came by my mat for any adjustments or support. They both did seeme to pay repeat attention to a specific few regulars, one of whom was severe ectomorph, wearing a full arm sweater and full length leggings in a 95 degree room, bending her body in ways that in my training would indicate unhealthy wear and tear on joints.

Regardless, I was content just to have a place to practice that I could afford (and thank heavens for my amazing in laws that allow me the time to indulge by watching eli and letting me use their car).

After class upon exiting...wait, first I have to mention that more than one of their drippier students exited the classroom and sloshed through the lobby leaving sopping wet footprints across the very slippre tile floor, and didn't bother to mop up... so what did I do, I took my towel (and a few others from the dirty towel bin) and wiped that bodily fluid up, partly to prevent myself from slipping, partly to prevent others from slipped, and party to just call attention to it (gross) and hope someone would assist. Perhaps a bit passive aggressive, but it's just not appropriate to a) do that, and b) not fix that.

Ok, back to the story: I was cooling down in the hallway when a woman (a bit younger than I) said "Oh, you did really well for a beginner." I smiled and said thanks because any other response would have been, snide? defensive? egotistic? inappropriate in the face of what was supposed to be compliment? Mostly I realized she was trying to make a friend and had I said anything other than a genuine thanks I would have alienated the only person to try to make conversation with me

Those that have met me know I'm a bit of a chatter, a bit of an extrovert, very much vested in creating positive relationships (and sometimes too concerned with being liked). I have been told that "I'll talk to anyone" and know I get that from my very outgoing (and quite popular in his day) father and being someone that was TERRIFIED to open up to the world when i was an early teen, I LOVE that part of me now.

So when I had trouble engaging the front desk person in even business related conversation, and felt she looked past me my entire enrollment time to chat with her better knows, I was discouraged. And as a patron, frustrated, because she kept mixing up whether or not I had paid for and had been given a mat (no), a towel (yes), and a class (yes, and it turns out I already had a package of classes on the books that she didn't mention as she charged me for another series of classes).

In her defense, and before someone shouts "she was probably busy" I need to point out that I was the only person needing attention at the desk, everyone else just had to sign their name on a sheet so it wasn't much to ask for a BIT of focus, but oh well, I have my ADHD moments too.

So now that I have 10 classes at this place (and would feel petty asking for any money back), I need to bring myself back to a place a humility and:
  1. be grateful that I have a place to practice, period;
  2. be grateful that even one person did try to reach out to me and consider her words, truly, authentically, a compliment;
  3. not mind if no one offers me an adjustment because it allows me to stay focused on me and maybe it means I'm actually in good alignment;
  4. mop up sweaty footprints because it's the right thing to do;
  5. being patient with the woman at the front desk because she's trying to do a good job, and well, I'm nice enough to not hold a grudge. 
In terms of the 8 limbs of yoga, this calls me to practice more on the Niyama facet of Svadhyaya which is self study and a whole bunch of non-judgement, as well as the limb of Pratyahara, or going in ward and withdrawing of the external senses (like, looking at someone else on their mat).

So, even though it's not my "ideal" studio, with my favorite teachers and familiar student faces, I am in fact getting an amazing practice sessions in yoga - far far more than just asana.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A different kind of flow

If every yoga class you walked into started with the same breathing chants, same movements, same flow, same timing, same pattern from start to finish, would you be bored, or would you embrace the routine? Would the routine become dogmatic movements or could you, would you, keep refining and exploring your breath, your postures, your movements so that they were seamless and graceful, fluid and strong? Would you be able to vary your effort and modify the poses based on how you felt that day, or would you keep trying to "perform" the same every single day?

Sometimes, you just have to change things up completely to break the ritual to prevent it from becoming habitual. No where that I have studied has it said that you MUST do Surya Namaskar A exactly as in a textbook. No teacher that has imparted their wisdom has faulted me for exploring different ways to express my movements. In order to make yoga mine (or, yours), it must fit what you need, integrate your essences and help you grow your understanding of yourself.

So, why not move a little differently? 

Create your own flow that focuses on subtle graceful movements, and focused muscular engagement rather than pure momentum and power to get you thru a sequence. Refine from the ground out, from the inside out, rather than just taking the form of the pose and then trying to force the body to a static hold.

Try circling the arms and lifting one knee up, balacing on one foot not just at the ankle, but inside the foot, up the calf, around the front and back of the thigh, deeply into the hip, reaching the spine up up up the arms up up up, shoulder strongly rooted on the back and the drshti soft in front of you. Hold the lifted leg with integrity, rather than like a dead weight. Breathe fully into the thoracic cavity, then as your sweep the arms with control back down, bring the lifted leg down. 

With minimal transition of weight to the other side, repeat with the other leg. Continue a few cycles, left up, right up, engaging the low belly, strong upright posture and healthy spinal curves, with minimal extra movements - don't let the energy "leak out" through inactive limbs (limp ankles or wrists) or be drained away by extra movement made with momentum (aka "flinging body parts"). Like strong cables wrapped around a healthy framework move seamlessly through the sequence, not really pausing but transitioning very slowly, guided by the breath. Placing the foot down is a silent and easy process - noiseless and gentle.

Add on to this movement, take the leg back, side, twisting the body, straightening the leg, even bowing forward. All this work in the core, all this control with the raised arms, all this lengthening of of the body and intentional placement of limbs creating a harmonious, integrated yet unconventional flow that just may take you deeper into a practice of mindfulness.

You can intensify by adding stepping forward (or back, or sideways) to lunges or straddles but doing so place the limbs quietly, shifting your center of gravity and really call the muscles into action. I like to conjure images of a dancer in my mind, each movement strong without being forceful, controlled without being rigid, energy stored and released in just the right way to make the entire being vibrate with light. 

Or you can intensify by taking deeper and long inhales and exhales, and slowing down your movements even more, practicing balancing along each increment of body positions, feeling the heart rate calm and noticing subtle shifts in energy as the heart beats and the internal seems to move more quickly than the external!

Just a few suggestions  - let me know what works for you!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Diagnosis and Treatment of Injuries, Pains and Aches

I am not a doctor. Nor physical therapist. Nor any kind of licensed health worker. I am a certified yoga instructor. I am a science-curious, anatomy-fascinated, yoga practitioner who studied so that she could share information about yoga with other people in a safe, productive, interesting and functional way. I am learning about how the body works (or doesn't work) through my own practice, and self-study, and hope to inspire other people to do the same.

That being said, I MAY have had an experience or studied about an experience that MAY be able to help you improve your practice AND prevent injury during it. I MAY, however, not be able to.

Some yoga instructors in fact ARE PTs or MDs or PhDs in the health profession and may be able to not only diagnose a problem but also offer a route to wellness.

So, if you have a condition/problem/ache/pain that has been bugging you for more than, oh, say, two weeks and hurts MORE when you practice yoga (or when you are still), PLEASE go see a qualified medical professional to diagnose the problem and hopefully send you down the path of healing that may include a yoga practice.

Some modalities of self care and healing may be more obvious.

1 - If it hurts when you engage the muscle, it's possible you have injured the muscle, the tendon, or fascia. Stretching may NOT be the smartest option. You just may need to REST it. Take an Epsom salt bath, drink a lot of water, do the anti inflammatory meds thing if you are so inclined. Exercise in a way that doesn't exacerbate the discomfort. Seems obvious, but I can identify two stories just this week where someone had pain when using a muscle, told me it had gone on for years, yet they continue to overwork the area of discomfort instead of letting it heal/rest.

2 - If you have a lump, a bump, a bruise that won't go away, or a sharp pain when you move, PLEASE see a doctor. Growths that cause pain, things that don't heal, and sharp pains MAY be indicative of something that may not be fixable with a lunge pose or just a deep breath. They may be nothing, but seriously, if your child or best friend winced in pain when you touched something on their body, wouldn't you recommend they go to see a specialist versus try to just "asana it out?" It may be a tumor, it may not be. But you won't know unless you check it out.

3 - If you take a pose and you feel like it's your bones that just won't let you move more deeply in a pose, it may very well be that you have an anatomical structure that disallows that variation of a pose. Few folks have hip joints that allow opening the legs to 180 degrees, and as few have shoulders that rotate fully with arms parallel. Sacral joints are ones of stability, not flexibility (quote from Judith Lassiter). Destabilizing a joint without proper support (and instruction in a practice like Yin yoga) can, yes, lead to injury, so, be okay with where your body is (and is not).

4 - If you get really dizzy when standing up quickly or moving from standing to bending forward or vice versa, you may have a blood pressure issue (If you get nauseated this could mean something more dire - see a doctor asap). Make sure when you stand up from a forward fold or squat that you move on the inhales, to help counteract drops in blood pressure. If you typically have low blood pressure, don't expect your body to "fix" this - enjoy your sought-after systolic/diastolic status and stand up SLOWLY to minimize the chance you'll end up back on the ground without warning.

5 - Drink a lot of water, even during your practice. Yes, some practices of yoga dictate when you can drink water and when to take breaks, so if you like that dogmatic style then fine. But even if you are participating in those practices, if you feel faint, dizzy, weak, or sick, then DRINK, for heaven's sake.

6 - Let any injury heal, and know that it may change your practice drastically once you do, or it may not change it at all. But you have to be open to observing how that injury affects even the small movements, and be willing to start slow and be patient. The bigger the injury, the more acceptance you may have to do. Hamstring tears take months (or longer) just to heal, and overstretching or overworking them too soon will just re-injure.

7 - Contrary to popular tee shirts, pain is NOT weakness leaving the body. Pain is the sign something is amiss. It may be small or large, but you need to go within to figure out if it's physical discomfort, emotional discomfort, small ache, or real pain. Be honest with yourself, try not to react but rather observe, whatever the scenario, Be open to solutions that your intuition offers and try not to second guess yourself. Ask for a professional opinion, Don't judge yourself for taking care of yourself. And don't suffer. PLEASE.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

On Practice and Achieving

"Yoga has always been hard for me - I get SO frustrated in some classes."
"I hate that I can't touch my toes."
"So, how long do I have to practice before I'll be able to (do some posture)?"
"What level is this class because I have been taking beginner classes for a while and I want to make sure that I'm improving so I want to get to more advanced classes."

Any of those sound like you? Or someone close to you? Or overheard in class? Yeah, probably. The thing is, we may just be "condemned" to wanting to constantly improve, hone, and perfect things we do. You may call that ego, but in some cases (like, running from predators or enhancing job skills for better wages) it may just be a function of biology, or financial survival (sociological impacts).

Regardless, trying to turn that off can be difficult, even seemingly impossible. We are raised on superlatives (big-bigger-biggest, bendy-bendier-bendiest) and comparisons (grade point averages, SAT scores, sports team stats, MPG) so it seems almost unnatural to decouple "working hard" from "working harder than I did before or someone else so I can be better and then be the best." How can you put in effort but not make it a fight? How can you be focused but not obsessed, and balance intensity with compassion?

In Yoga this is called the balance between Sukha/Sthira - effort and ease. No easy task, and it has many parallels in asana and in meditation, In poses we ground down (into the earth through whatever is making contact) while reaching up and creating space in the body. We engage agonist muscles but relax antagonist muscles. In medtiation we focus and clear the mind at the same time. We work hard but still allow the body to tell us when we need to pull back. We breathe deeply, but softly; we have thought but try not to judge or label them as they pass through our conscious mind.

We are taught to (try to) use the breath to help us do these things. Inhales call our nervous systems to action, exhales calm them down. Each breath cycle is a chance to find balance. Inhale too much and exhale too little, you are taking in too much (energy) and not releasing/relaxing enough. Inhale too shallow and exhale too much and you may be giving away to much energy, lose your stamina (and also get a little lightheaded).

A yogi friend said today "Yoga always frustrated me. But you help remind me of how to focus on what's important and I really start to enjoy my practice." The thing is, yoga frustrates me too when I practice, and a reminder from the teacher that this is not DOGMATIC practice, with information on how to change the position of my body, to help teach me how to not get frustrated and enjoy trying to find the balance of effort and ease...THAT is what makes me continue to do yoga (and revisit that teacher).

Every student is told "remember it's not about perfecting a pose." But, honestly, teachers and students alike.... do we really buy into that or do we just say it? Because (as a teachers), if it's just lip service, people know. What information do we give them to help them truly live that mantra? Do we instruct on use of props, detailed body alignment, personalized hands-on adjustments, and/or hold back from offering the hardest version, to help students unlearn the "overachieving" instinct? Do we all practice what we preach?

Do we - all of us yoga practitioners - all allow ourselves to experience a practice rather than trying to "get better" at a posture? Do we remember to breathe and integrate the breathe with your movements? Do we remember the subtleties of those fundamental poses, breathing techniques, and meditative styles that are the foundation of an honest yoga practice?

Some yogis and yoga styles are so focused on physical improvements in asana that not pushing to the limits can seem like underachieving. But consider that just showing up to the mat is an achievement of large magnitude in and of itself. Consider that staying in the room for a whole class that you didn't like to be a profound achievement in patience, respect and integrity (plus you don't have to go back). Consider not pushing yourself to fainting in a hot yoga class, and taking water and cool air breaks to be achievements in being in touch with your body. Consider just trying (and quite possibly failing) to do a difficult pose (and laughing about) it an achievement. Consider resisting the temptation to overpractice when injured an achievement. You can't achieve if you've pushed yourself to the point of dysfunction, because pushing is different from encouraging. The former creates stress. The latter comes from a place of compassion.

We all react to stress differently. Some grit their teeth and dig in. Some cry. Some get angry. Some give up. The sympathetic nervous system and one of its well known agents adrenalin create different responses in every one of us, but "less functional" responses don't make a person weak. If anything those responses are an opportunity to learn about how to engage yourself more productively, so to speak. If your practice overstimulates your sympathetic nervous system, then consider that you need to scale back to truly "get better." If your practice doesn't engage you (enough), then consider that you may need to change how and/or what you practice (or even what) to get better.

Be careful to not judge yourself or anyone else by the depth of their postures or the ease with which they performs (any asana or even meditation). Some have a natural affinity for strength, or flexibility or deep contemplation. But that doesn't make those of us who have to hone our practice more in any one area "less than" or "worse" than others. We are just different, and all practicing. Try not to perpetuate the myth that improvement is in the performance, not in the honest experience of being on the mat.

So, taking this full circle, when I practice yoga, I try very hard to be patient. To scale back a posture so that I can breathe and NOT kick my nervous system into overdrive. To remind myself that only way I can allow things to happen is if I make space for them. To (try to ) be calm, and focused, and breathing, to move intentionally and with body awareness, and not to push myself (or allow someone elses's teaching or practice to push me to). If I practice these things, then I am balancing effort and ease, and gain by letting go. In short, achieving yoga. And that is a damn good practice.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On Loneliness

it occurs to me that the world "lonely" though has roots to indicate singularity, it really has very little to do with not having company (or a relationship). Of course, if you are in the wilderness lost by yourself you are quite alone and quite possibly lonely as well. But for the most part, the times in my life I've been the "loneliest" have been more about me not being happy with myself, and therefore craving company of another person to distract me/validate me. You can be alone and happy and content, or in one more relationships and still feel lonely. Learning to be content by myself was a HUGE lesson that required professional therapy, personal therapy, yoga (and yes, some medication), and a willingness to go past the quick and easy solution. I now CRAVE alone time, and if I'm lonely then I enrich myself with a movie, a walk, a yoga class, a museum visit or something that feeds that yen in the most positive way!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Free and Donation Classes around town, January 2015

I just wanted to share the love by helping to promote these free, donation,and special deal yoga classes going on around town this month. As always check the actual studio websites for details or to validate class times (schedules subject to change). HAVE FUN - DO MORE YOGA!

Note: As someone who tries to make a living doing what I love, but also is well aware that good yoga comes at a price, I need to acknowledge that when you find a studio that you like, it's important to continue to patronize their business(es) to help them continue to provide good yoga, and be part of the community!

at Niantic Court in Mission Beach, on the sand (in front of Edgewater)


4242 Camino Del Rio North #10 | San Diego | CA | 92108
  • Donation Class Friday 1/23/15 @5:30PM with Lindsey (her last class) 
  • Donation Class Saturday 1/31 @Noon with Angelica (her last class) 
  • Free Class every Friday @10am Yoga and Alignment (suitable for beginners and those looking to deepen their practice. 

A Gentle Way Yoga and Joyful Movement Center

8274 Parkway Dr. #101, La Mesa, CA 91942
  • Free Classes until January 31 for AGW members or $5 each for non-members (with coupon below only). Terms and conditions apply - read coupon for details.
1150 7th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
  • Free Flow Level 1/2 Classes taught by YTT graduates (donations optional) Tuesdays @9am

Core Power Yoga Free Classes

  • North Park: Monday January 19 @3:30pm - Illuminations Hot Power Fusion
  • Mission Valley: Monday January 19 5:45pm - Illuminations Core Power Yoga 2
  • Del Mar: Tuesday January 20 @7:30pm - Illuminations Core Power Yoga 2
  • Encinitas: Tuesday January 20 @5:30pm - Illuminations Core Power Yoga 2
  • Pacific Beach: Wednesday January 21 @6:15pm - Illuminations Core Power Yoga 2
  • North Park: Saturday January 24 @10:30am - Boot Camp
  • La Mesa: Sunday January 25 @ 9:30am - Illuminations Core Power Yoga 2
  • North Park: Sunday January 25 @2pm - Core Power Yoga 1 (taught by YTT)
  • Pacific Beach: Sunday January 25 @2;15pm - Core Power Yoga 1 (taught by YTT)
  • Clairemont Mesa: Monday January 26 @ 7:15pm Boot Camp
  • Poway: Sunday February 1 @ 1:15pm - Core Power Yoga 1 (taught by YTT)
  • Point Loma: Sunday February 1 @2pm - Core Power Yoga 1 (taught by YTT)
  • Pacific Beach: Sunday February 1 @2;15pm - Core Power Yoga 1 (taught by YTT)