Saturday, April 4, 2015


In yoga, the term "transitions" usually refers to how you get from one pose to the next.  As a yoga teacher, you want this process to be smooth and controlled; you want to be able to instruct your students to move fluidly from one pose to another.   This requires their attention, focus, and they move forward in their yoga practice, it becomes easier because of gained flexibility, and that pointed concentration is what enables students to find in their yoga practice solace from everyday frustrations and stress.

When you think about it, however, life itself is full of transitions, and those same mindfulness techniques of your yoga practice can hopefully help you move from one point to the next with a minimum of frustrations and/or stress.  

This week, the yoga studio where I have been teaching for almost two years will be shuttering it's storefront.  In fact, this morning, I taught my final class in that space.  It was a great class to teach - a full-house, if you will - with students of all ages and experience.  Some folks were part of my "regular corp": faithful attendees to the 8am Saturday class, some folks were using up their class cards, and others were just dropping in.  We worked on building some heat with Sun Salutations, then we transitioned into some standing poses, setting the foundation for each, and then incorporated that into a smooth mini-flow.  Students took what they learned and experienced from each pose and made a smooth transition from one to the next.  Judging from the smiles and relaxed looks after Savasana, I think it was all pretty good.

Now, as I move forward, I am unsure of what is next, and I am okay with that.  Perhaps the opportunity will present itself for me to continue what I do in a new space.  Perhaps my role as a yoga teacher will transition into that of a student for a little while.  Whatever the path, I hope to be guided by strength, focus, and flexibility!

Stay tuned, and know that the light within me salutes the light within you.  We are all fibres of the same fabric, and our strength and resiliency reinforces one another's ability to transition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Filling the Space...

Last Saturday, in my Yoga Foundations class, we paid tribute to yogacharya BKS Iyengar, who passed away on August 20th. Iyengar was a leader in the world of yoga, mainly responsible for bringing yoga "to the west".  He credited the practice with helping him to overcome Malaria, Tuberculosis, and Typhoid fever as a child.  Since he lived to the age of 95, I'd say he was on to something!

We followed the beginner's sequence outlined in Iyengar's book, "Light on Yoga":  Tadasana, Vrksasana, Trikonasana, Parsvakonasana, Virahabdrasana I, Virahabdrasana II, Parsvottanasana, Sarvangasana, and Halasana.  Iyengar suggests holding each pose for 3 to 5 minutes.  My class is only a 60 minute class, so we held the poses for 3 to 5 BREATHS.

 Breathing is important.  With each of these postures, we create SPACE throughout our practice.  You stretch, and open up something, be it your side body (in bends), your back body (in forward folds), or your front body (in back bends).  Perhaps you are opening up your hips or shoulders, creating space in your joints, allowing the synovial fluid to bathe and lubricate your articulating cartilage.  No matter WHERE you create the space, it is important to FILL the space.

I reminded my students to fill the space with their BREATH.  If you don't fill the space, nature abhors a vacuum, and something will rush in.  Doubt (Can my body do what I am asking it to do?).  Fear (I might fall over if I try this pose!).  Resentment (Why on Earth does my teacher think I am this flexible?).  Insecurity (Am I getting to old to be doing this?).  These feelings can ruin your yoga practice.  They will block your progress in your practice, so it's best to not let them even enter in.  Don't give them the opportunity.  This is why the breath is so important.  Fill that space with your breath, and there won't be room for anything else, and you can just BE.

What will you fill your space with?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Triathlon Tuneup Schedule

Do you Run?  Maybe you fancy cycling.  Swimming more your thing?  I have a lot of friends (and even more acquaintances) who feel that yoga is "not for them"; they are more interested in replicating the adrenaline rush of a road race on their slim-line bikes, or they enjoy the possibility of besting their personal time in a mile, or they just love the steady cadence of a freestyle stroke.  I understand perfectly well the demands on time and schedules, and if you have just ONE hour to get some physical activity, yoga is probably not at the top of your list.  That understanding aside, what I propose is that it might not be such a bad thing to carve out some extra time now and then to add yoga to "the rotation".  Either way, countless studies have shown how yoga helps with just about any sport. The combination of improving breath work, building strength, and increasing flexibility can only serve to enhance an athlete's performance, no matter what the sport!

I have designed, with inspiration from an article by yoga teacher Sage Rountree, a 4-week series to help support your athletic training, no matter if you do any one, two, or even ALL THREE of the sports involved in a Triathlon.  I have called this series "The Triathlon TuneUp", but the program is not just limited to triathletes!  Here is the schedule of events, in case you'd like to join me for the entire program, or just one session that is tailored to your specific interest:

Week 1 (Sept. 9th):  Creating an open body for efficient breathing
Week 2 (Sept. 16th):  Building core strength along the back body and supporting shoulders SWIM
Week 3 (Sept. 23rd): Building strength in hips and thighs CYCLE
Week 4 (Sept 30th):  Strength and flexibility in the legs RUN

So you're not doing a race.  You're not training for a triathlon.  WHY should you participate in this special Yoga series?  I have three answers for you: 1 - You'll gain better posture.  Reduce injuries from repetitive movements in sports through the better posture you gain in yoga exercises.  2 - You'll create a more efficient form.  The increased flexibility you'll get from a yoga practice will get better results from your workout.  Finally, 3 - You'll build upper body strength (sleeveless tops never looked so good!).  Power in your workout is a function of speed and strength.  If you want to get faster, you need to get stronger.

The Triathlon Tune-up is a 4-week series, one hour per week.  $75 for the whole series, or $22 ala carte.  You can sign up HERE.  Space is limited.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Being Fat.

The September 2014 cover of Health Magazine
Does that cover say what I think it says?  You can BURN FAT doing YOGA?  God, I hope so.

On the East Coast, it's been an amazing summer, weather-wise.  Not too many days that required Air Conditioning; we've had very restful nights sleeping with the windows open - in August!  When it rains, it seemed to only do so for half a day, and it was usually the half of the day when I needed to be indoors, anyway.  For the end of August, our lawn is remarkably green (mostly crabgrass, but green, nonetheless!).

Socially, it has also been an incredible summer.  Several friends celebrated mile-stone birthdays, and we celebrated right along with, desserts, fabulous drinks - hey, it's summertime!  But with every upside, there must also be a downside.  To every yin, a yang.  With all that celebrating comes the dreaded bulge, which is harder and harder to get rid of the farther and farther over that hill I get.

I had some dental surgery this weekend.  I was suffering for over a week with tooth pain, and several dentist visits with X-rays revealed nothing, so I was referred to an Endodontist, whose X-ray also revealed nothing.  However, she performed "official" tests (testing the temperature sensitivity and pressure sensitivity of my tooth) which revealed that I probably needed a Root Canal.  Oh joy.  Regardless, the pain of the previous week, and subsequent pain-killers have been zapping my energy and affecting the quality of my workouts.  I've been eating like crap, drinking too much, and a sluggish lump of human flesh lately, so it should be NO surprise that I step on the scale revealed my heaviest weight of the summer!  YIKES!

Time to get more disciplined, time to cut out the never-ending party, time to get back on the wagon of healthful, mindful living.  And I'm glad that Yoga is there to help.  The meditative qualities can help keep me focused on my goal of being healthier.  The physical practice can help realign my muscles and prepare them for more strenuous events like the elliptical machine and playing around with my children.  For now, i'm going to read this issue of Health Magazine, find out who Erin Andrews is and how she got that bod, and read about how Yoga is going to help me be the best I can be this summer.  I've got two weeks left!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Unity, Stillness, Infinite possibility

There are 108 beads on a Mala, or set of Mantra counting beads - sort of like a Hindu Rosary.  It is said that if you chant your mantra 108 times, once for each bead, you will imbue the Mala with your mantra, and you can bear it like a talisman.  But what is the significance of 108?

Mathematicians can pontificate on the meaning of this number, and the connections between 108 and various truths and statistics in our universe are interesting, if not startling (108 is a number divisible by the sum of its digits.  1+8=9.  9 times 12 = 108.  There are/were 9 planets in our solar system.  There are 12 months in a year. The angles in a pentagon equal 108 degrees.  The diameter of our sun is 108 times that of the Earth.  The atomic weight of silver/Argentum is 108.  The first manned space mission, by Yuri Gagarin, lasted 108 minutes.).

The connection to yogic spirituality are even more extensive (there are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, each with a masculine and feminine form.  54 times 2 = 108.  It is said that in calm meditation, a person need only take 108 breaths in a day.  There are 108 Indian goddess names.  Buddhists ring a bell 108 times to ring in the new year.  The River Ganges spans a longitude of 12 degrees and a latitude of 9 degrees.  12 times 9 is 108.  There are 108 texts of the Upanishads.).

But quite simply, 1 = God, a Higher truth, Singular Unity among all.  0 = Emptiness, stillness.  8 = Infinity or Eternity.

I just registered for my very first Triathlon.  Not the traditional sort of triathlon, I'll admit - it's a "Mindfulness Triathlon".  It's a one day festival put on by Wanderlust to invite citizens to explore the concepts of pushing your body, calming your mind, and connecting with others.  They aim to do this by hosting a 5K run/walk, a meditation session, followed by a group yoga practice.  This festival is called Wanderlust 108 and I'm pretty psyched about it!  I'll report back...

In the meantime, I encourage you to look for signs of Unity, Stillness, and Infinite possibility either in your practice or your daily life!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Can Yoga Help with Athletic Training?

In short:  Yes!

Roughly 2 million Americans compete in Triathlons each year.  There are over 700 Marathons scheduled on US soil in 2014, and more than half a million people finish them.  Despite having just 180 riders on average (20 teams of 9 riders), the Tour de France is the worlds largest annual sporting event with over 3.5 BILLION spectators each year. Competing in such events requires cardiovascular strength, fortified bones, and a tremendous amount of willpower to keep pushing yourself forward in training.  Seeing as many of these skills are also emphasized in yogic philosophy, let's just say that a regular Yoga practice can't hurt!

A typical yoga class has a mix of poses and sequences, and together with the breathwork and mind-body connection, you can hone a durable, injury-resistant body that's ready to absorb the demands of heavy-duty sports training.  Adding tailor-made sequences to the type of athletic event you're training for can really enhance your performance and minimize the potential for injury (which can typically set back your training schedule)

Anyone who has experienced the flowing sequence of a Sun Salutation knows first-hand how you can build cardiovascular resilience on the mat.  Balancing poses help bring your focus and attention to the task at hand - important in building endurance and training discipline.  The strength-building standing poses of the Warrior series enable you to hold poses longer with less tension.  You can improve breath flow and efficiency, while other standing poses and certain inversions can tap into smaller, under-utilized muscle groups that will help support your major muscle groups.

It takes perseverance, commitment, and confidence to bring yourself to the mat - just as these qualities are brought to task during any training event: running, cycling, or swimming.  Maybe adding a little yoga to your training plan might not be such a bad idea afterall!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

That was fun while it lasted...

Summer is over, folks.  For most people, returning to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day is not a big deal; the long weekend was a nice break, but it's back to business as usual.  For teachers, it's a different story.  We are 10-month employees, and our two month respite is over.  I know, I know, what I complaining for - no one else gets that much time off, and "gets paid" for it.  (can someone please explain this to my dad:  teachers do NOT get "paid" for the summer unless they choose to take a reduced paycheck for the months of the school year so that their salary may be spread across 12 months rather than 10.  If a teacher gets "paid" for the summer, it simply means he/she elected to be paid less from September through June.)

Lots of teachers were lamenting into their Labor Day MaiTai that "summer went too fast" or they "can't believe it's over", and at some point, it begins to sound cliche.  I was so busy (in a good way) this summer that it felt nice and long, and I think I'm ready to get back to a routine.  I think part of the reason I feel this way is because I never really got into a routine this summer.  The "routine" was to change it up every couple of weeks, so it always felt like I was going-going-going.  Perhaps I'm hoping that going back to school will normalize everything for all of us.

In any case, Summer was fun while it lasted.  We had some great trips as a family, caught up with friends near and far, and made great memories.  For our family, it turned out to be the "Summer of Baseball", with full credit going to my DH for planning out visits to some fun cities and tacking on an MLB game for the boys to catch.  In June we took a long weekend in Philadelphia to see the Phillies.  My brother got married in Virginia in July, so we took the "long way" home, stopping in Washington DC for some sightseeing...and a Nationals game (boy was that stadium HOT!).  The first weekend in August, we took another long weekend and drove to Baltimore, for some Inner Harbor touristy stuff, but the boys were able to catch an Orioles' game.  Finally, week-long family vacation to Miami would not have been complete without a stop at the Marlins' stadium - by far the best.  Air-conditioning!!!  Frozen Adult Beverages!!!  A light-up Marlin ferris wheel (that never saw any action because no one hit any homers)!  Best Stadium EVER!!!  Summer of Baseball, indeed.

So what does fall hold for us?  For starters, September is National Yoga Month, so hopefully your plans include some time on the mat - I know mine will.  Kids will ease back into their routines of homework, sports practice, and music lessons.  Grownups will continue to schedule work and juggle kids' schedules behind the scenes.  A fall detox might be in order - if only to help your body internally adjust to the cooler temperatures (and perhaps lose a couple of those pesky pounds that crept up on you courtesy of all the MaiTais and sundry Frozen Adult Beverages).  Whatever your plans may be, remember to slow things down a bit and appreciate, notice, and express gratitude.  These are some of the wonderful themes I will be focusing on while teaching yoga this month, but they are sentiments that are perfectly okay to take off the mat, as well.

Even if you don't make it to a yoga mat this week, or next, Go Slow.  Notice the gradual change of seasons.  Appreciate the new routines.  Feel gratitude for the memories you were able to make in the summer, and look forward to the new opportunities that lie ahead.

Namaste.  The light within me salutes the light within you.

Teaching schedule update:  my 1-hour Yoga Foundations is changing time, starting this week!  Saturday mornings, 8am to 9am Prasanthi Studio in Pelham.  ALSO, I'm teaching a FREE community class at Yoga Haven on Friday, September 27th.  I'd love to see you on the mat!