Monday, March 29, 2010

Testing the Waters

On Saturday, I went to my first yoga class near my new home. I wasn't sure what to expect from a Power Yoga class at a rock climbing gym, but I have to say it left me feeling grateful, inspired, and excited to explore a whole new yoga community!

The studio was beautiful. The people were friendly. The teacher, an athletic type, was decent. Though, I didn't love his sequencing or that he kept saying "High Plank"--There's only ONE Plank Pose, Mister.  But he offered some challenging poses, lots of Andrey Lappa-inspired arm stretches, and he said "damn"--which I happen to find hilarious in a yoga class setting. Here's the context: "Some people, damn them, can bind in this pose. I don't how! Oh yeah. Like that! That's beautiful, and forget that whole 'Damn you' thing." Ha!

Will the studio/rock climbing gym be my new home? That is yet to be determined, as there are a many more to try before I settle on one.

How did you pick your studio/teacher?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Yoga Everywhere, and I Mean EVERYwhere!

I had been feeling pretty bad about my lack of practice when I was getting ready for work one morning. I went to the bathroom to dry my hair as I do every morning, bent over, flipped my hair over my head (it gives it extra volume) and I had an epiphany. I may not unroll my yoga mat every morning, but I at least do Uttanasna (Standing Forward Bend) each and every day.

So I started thinking about other ways I practice yoga poses everyday. With a little extra mindfulness these could be cues to remind me to live my yoga all day long!

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) I practice every morning when I blow dry my hair.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose) Every time I use a public restroom, I practice this one. (You never know what kind of germs lurk on those seats!) Recently, I've been adding a twist to each side before I go back to the office. How's that for yoga in the workplace?

Tadasana (Mountain Pose) I practice this one any time I'm standing in line at the grocery store (duh!). But lately, I've been focusing on shins in thighs out, thank you very much Anusara friends... it makes me feel strong!

Pranayama (Conscious Breathing) I break this one out every day at about 3 p.m. every weekday when I have a sugar crash. Like clockwork my eyes glaze over, my mouth opens and I let several big yawns.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) I'm really good at this one. I practice it for like 8 hours every night.

Where do you practice without realizing it?

5 More Reasons to Do Yoga

1. You ate pizza and popcorn for dinner last night. The increased awareness yoga class brings will spill over into other areas of your life—just like the soda you spilled onto your keyboard while you were checking your email.

2. A yoga studio is the perfect place to pick up girls. (If picking up girls isn't your thing, it's also a really great opportunity to make new friends.)

3. Two words: Yoga Butt. You can be of "those people" who look fabulous spandex. And even if you're not, a regular yoga practice will bring out all of your most beautiful features—inside and out.

4. It will make you more popular. Trust me. People will like being around you more when you're calm, balanced, serene, and uplifted from your post-yoga buzz.

5. A yoga class will set the tone for a great week! It takes just an hour to align your body, mind, breath, and spirit.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Detox Don'ts

This time last year, I decided to try a detox. Why? I don't really know. I guess it seemed like it is so popular in the yoga community, I thought I'd be missing out on something if I didn't do it. I think I was secretly hoping I'd lose 10 pounds, my skin would become magically flawless, and I'd never crave sugar again! Sadly, none of these things happened. (Shocking, I know.) Instead I turned into a ravenous bitch. I apologize for the profanity, but there's no other way to describe it. Even though I had gradually cut out things like caffeine, sugar, and dairy products until I was down to eating only fresh fruits and veggies for a few days, it was a complete shock to my system. When I got tired of the fruits and vegetables available to me I just stopped eating.

You see, here's my problem with detox diets. Everyone seems to talk about these in the Spring, before watermelon and peaches are in season. Last year, all I wanted was watermelon and peaches and I would just about have driven to Mexico to get some, but I just didn't have the energy.

I've only survived only one detox, and may never do another because, well,  I like food ... However, here's my advice for detoxing for whatever that's worth.

-- Don't have unreasonable expectations. Detoxing might give some people limitless energy and perfect skin, but I certainly didn't experience that. I'm sure it affects different people in different ways.

-- Don't detox in Spring just because that's when the workshops are offered at your studio. Do it when your favorite fruits are in season.

-- Don't tell your non-yoga relatives or friends who live in the South. They'll think you're crazy and/or suffering from an eating disorder.

Are you cleansing this season? Do you have any advice to share?

Monday, March 22, 2010

5 Reasons to Do Yoga

1. You noticed your shoulders creeping up toward your ears . . . again. Yoga helps manage physical, mental, and emotional signs of stress.

2. Your yoga mat really brings out the color in your eyes. ;)

3. If someone gives you one more thing to do you feel like your head might explode. Yoga lets you slow down, take deep breaths, and encourages you to do one thing at a time.

4. You're worried about the state of the world. You can make an impact simply by setting an intention, taking care of yourself, and emitting a positive energy into the universe.

5. If you ever want to touch your foot to the top of your head, you better start practicing now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lost (The Yoga Version, not the TV Show)

When I enrolled in a 200-hour teacher training, it wasn't because I wanted to be a teacher. I'm much too selfish for that. I want to learn how to sequence poses together so I could practice at home so I wouldn't have to pay for yoga classes any more. (I'm selfish AND a cheapskate, what can I say?)

Anyway, I finished my teacher training, I worked at a yoga magazine where I took classes for 5 years, and I STILL do not have a home practice. I just... don't. I know many poses inside and out. I know how to sequence and build up to advanced poses. I have all the best props. I have access to a TON of great yoga DVDs, podcasts, and iPhone aps. I KNOW how to practice on my own...

But I can't DO it! I don't know why. But I haven't ever been able to carve out the time, unroll my mat, and get to business. I'll practice some poses here and there, but it's not a REAL home practice.

Anyway, it's been two weeks since I've been to a yoga class, and I haven't practiced more than 15 minutes at a time even once! It's so FRUSTRATING! Lately, I spend more time thinking and writing about yoga than actually DOING it!

Am I the only one with this problem?

OK.. I'm going to go practice now. By myself. Ask me later how it went, so I can't wiggle out of it, OK?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Namaste, Jackass! 5 Steps to a Calmer Commute

I'm a public transportation girl. My favorite time of the day (well, after my morning coffee and my yoga time) used to be my morning bus ride. I'd look out over the beautiful San Francisco Bay as I crossed over the bridge, listening to podcasts or Pandora, tweeting to my heart's content. It was my me time, you know?

This week, however, I'm driving to work for at least an hour each way in my car. My husband, who used to make a similar commute, warned me that it would be horrible. Stop and go for 40 miles. I thought it wouldn't bother me. "I'll be fine," I told him. "I'll take deep breaths, think happy thoughts, and let the aggressive drivers out there just roll on by."

It took all of 10 minutes for Chill Yoga Girl to start yelling at SUVs. "Don't you get in front of me, you boring, personality-less WHITE vehicle!" It didn't help me get there any sooner, but it did make me frazzled for the first day of a new job. So for tomorrow, I have to really extend my yoga practice into my commute. This is my plan.

1. I will leave early enough that I won't stress out about being late.

2. I will send blessings and acknowledge the Divine in each driver who cuts me off. "Namaste, Jackass!" (I do believe that even though we all have a spark of the Divine in us, we also have a spark of Jackass... especially when we're late to work.)

3. I will sit to meditate at least for a few minutes immediately before I leave, setting an intention for a safe and happy commute for both me and others on the road.

4. When I start to feel flustered, I'll remember my mantra. "I am blessed. I am content. I am happy." Even in traffic.

5. I will look forward to this time next week, when I'm all settled into my new place and my commute will consist of walking 2 blocks.

How do you live your yoga during your commute?

See also:
What's Your Mantra
Meditation Minute

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I've Never Breathed Like That in My Life!

The following is from this week's episode of Grey's Anatomy, which I'm not ashamed to admit is one my favorite TV shows.

The scene: Two doctors, a surgeon and an anesthesiologist, walking down the hall of a busy hospital. (I couldn't find a video, so you're just going to have to use your imagination.)

Ben: Do you have plans for tonight?
Bailey: I'm going to yoga class.
Ben: There's nothing about that sentence that makes any sense.
Bailey: Tuck's with his father and the Fascist Vegan next door gave me a yoga class for Christmas.
Ben: No. You're having dinner with me.
Bailey: The Fascist Vegan thinks yoga is going to make me a better person, which is unlikely, but if I don't go I'll have to hear about it.
Ben: "My back kind of hurts. But the breathing, I've never breathed like that in my life!" That's what people say after their first yoga class. Tell her that, and have dinner with me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What is a Conscious Consumer?

Money, wealth, and abundance are complicated concepts for the yogi who wants to extend the philosophy of yoga into her everyday life.

In the name of living our yoga, we spend more money on organic items, buy fair-trade and goods made in the USA, and we donate our old yoga mats to those who are less fortunate. But, if we're really being honest with ourselves, these are all things that we reap benefits from ourselves, too. We feel like we've done our good deed for the day by helping the environment or supporting fair wages for others, and we've helped ourselves become healthier, boosted our images as conscious yogis, and cleaned out our closets at the same time. Everybody wins, right?

At the same time, I don't think twice about spending $18 on one yoga class. My dog eats better than many of the children living in low-income homes in Downtown Oakland (yes, right down the street from where I'm sitting right now). And if I stop buying overpriced organic and fair trade products, I wouldn't have to hurt the environment driving to Whole Foods AND I could afford to donate a lot more than a yoga mat to people in Haiti.

With each purchase and donation, we make a choice prioritizing which lives are most worthy of saving. People or the environment? People or animals? Local or Third-World children?

Could my commitment to being a "conscious consumer" be less helpful to the world, than I've been led to believe? If my intentions are really to make the world as a whole a better place as a whole (as opposed to my own narrow view of the world) would my spending habits change? Is my yoga practice really inspiring those choices, or am I allowing myself to be led by the big businesses yoga machine that boosts its bottom line by taking advantage of my efforts to live consciously?

It seems there are no right answers, but I think these are important questions to ask. What do you think?

See also:
Fashion Forward, Yoga Backward

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meditation Minute

My friends at Yogamint posted this video today, and I had to share it with you. It's a perfect, short guided meditation for those times when you're feeling down or slighted. We are each SO blessed. Abundance is everywhere. Our true nature is happiness!

5 Steps to Instant Happiness

I know, I know. Yoga is a path and finding contentment takes years of discipline and practice. That's fine. But, sometimes, you just need to remind yourself that the world is a beautiful, wonderful, fun place. Whenever I'm feeling whiny, there are a few things I know will help me realize how blessed I am and make me feel instantly happy.

1. Pick a flower. A daisy or a buttercup will do just fine. Tear off the petals one by one, saying to yourself, "He loves me, he loves me not." If you get to the last petal and it's a negative... tear that petal into two so you can end on a good note.

2. Eat a cupcake. Slowly. Get frosting on your nose, and then lick it off.

3. Remember something that gave you the giggles as a child. If you can't think of anything, get some inspiration from a wee one in your life. For example, I recently called my niece to wish her a happy 4th birthday. The conversation went like this. Me: "Happy Birthday!" Niece: "Happy Birthday to you, too! And Happy Buttcrack!" (It was a proud moment for me.)

4. Practice a pose that makes you feel strong, playful, and free. That's right. The skinny, awkward girl who couldn't overhand serve a volleyball to save her life when she was 15, can now do some pretty incredible arm balances. And I'm filled with joy every time!

5. Watch a puppy play. If you don't have a puppy, go to a dog park and just watch for a while. (Put a few treats in your pocket if you need a little extra love.) Or just watch my sweet Penny chase her tail when she was 4 months.

What makes you feel joy instantly?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Corpse Pose, You Make Me Feel Alive!

I know Savasana (Corpse Pose) is all about practicing death and everything, but nothing gives me more energy and makes me feel more alive than a nice, long yoga practice followed by a nice, long Savasana.

Right now, I'm in the middle of a week long vacation. It's the first real vacation I've had since I started working five years ago—no traveling, no family visits, no obligations. And if feels like a 10-minute Savasana. One of those where you enjoy every breath, hoping your teacher doesn't ruin your rest by talking or ringing a chime.

For me, the secret to a great Savasana is practicing a yoga sequence difficult enough to leave me physically exhausted. Then, it's easy to let go. In life, this tactic only works if you have time for a vacation after all that work.

A few more of my Savasana secrets:
— Get comfortable. Wiggle around until all the wiggles are out, then surrender.
— If wiggling doesn't work, use as many blankets, bolsters, straps, and sandbags as you need to help you feel comfortable.
— Make sure you're warm. It's hard to relax when your feet are cold!
— Help to calm your mind by covering the eyes with an eye pillow, scarf, or even a hood.
— When your mind wanders, try to focus on the breath in and out.

And most important, don't stress about Savasana. As my first yoga teacher used to say, "Yoga is about being, not doing." As long as you're there and resting, you're getting the benefits. (And expecting more than what is available to you, well, it's something a spoiled yogi would do!)

When you get back up, it will feel like returning from a little vacation every time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

10 Things I Hate About Yoga

What did you expect? I told you I'm a whiner. And even though yoga is my love, there are things about the practice that drive me nuts (kind of like when my husband gets crumbs in the margarine tub).

1. It's not all butterflies and rainbows. Yoga is hard work, both physically and emotionally. There are times when a teacher asks you to hold a pose so long you want to either cry or scream, but you can't because it wouldn't be polite.

2. You're stronger than you think you are. Part of the practice is learning when you push your boundaries and when to back off. When you get to your edge, you might think that's all you can handle and you need to stop and rest, but there's almost always more room.

3. It makes you realize you than although you're wise, you don't know anything. Sometimes, that's a hard pill to swallow.

4. Just when you think you've mastered the hardest pose you could ever want to achieve, you see that there's a cooler one that will take you 15 more years to learn.

5. There are yoga teachers everywhere--often your best teachers aren't the ones who have studied yoga all their lives, but the ones who reveal something about your path. You have to just sit and wait for those teachers to show up. They don't post a class schedule on the Internet.

6. Yoga pants are usually made for tall people, and I hate getting pants hemmed.

7. I know I'll never understand everything about the practice, no matter how hard I try. There's too much to learn. Many of its secrets are too rich, too deep, and too rooted in another culture for me to fully grasp it. But it's so wonderful and magical than I can't stop trying.

8. I hate extended chanting sessions, kirtan, and yoga dance parties. I like to leave music to the experts.

9. I don't belong in any of the yoga "schools," so in that sense I'm a yoga orphan. And it drives me crazy how divided the yoga world can be sometimes. I hate how people are so attached to their own way of doing things, and that they don't seem to see that there are many paths to the same place.

10. No matter how long you've practiced, in many ways you start over at the beginning every time you get on your mat.

What do you hate?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

On My Own

Image source.

If ever there was a safe, warm, supportive place to grow your yoga practice, it's the Yoga Journal office. There's a yoga class every day for staff led by an amazing, seasoned teacher (a different teacher and style each day of the week). When you have a minor injury or pose question, you can simply take a stroll through the office and ask your co-workers if any of them have any experience with it (someone always does). And when your work stresses you out, no one even blinks an eye at you when you go into the conference room for a quick handstand to help you clear your head.

Yesterday was my last day as the online editor at Yoga Journal magazine. And I'm scared as the dickens that the yoga practice I've spent the last 4 1/2 years building will go down the drains. All the time I've been there, it was so easy. My teachers were chosen for me. I never had to pay for a yoga class. Everyone around me was so immersed in yoga culture, I started talking about asanas and yoga philosophy like it's a part of everyday life. But for people outside of the yoga world—where I'm headed—that's just not true.

Of course, all the things that made it easy, also made me take my yoga practice for granted. When it's everywhere you look, somehow it just doesn't mean quite as much. It's not the respite from the world that it could be. I know it was making me lazy, which is why I started this blog.

And even though, I'll be on my own in many ways—finding my own teacher, making time for practice out of a busy, non-yoga day, maybe even practicing at home—I'm thankful I've found a virtual community that will be a support and comfort.

Do you have any advice for a spoiled yogi looking to do some rehab?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Timers and Technique

When I was a little girl, my mom insisted that I practice my violin for at least 30 minutes every day. "Practice makes perfect," she'd say. My sisters and I would roll our eyes. For every practice session, she'd set the kitchen timer, and I was NOT to stop practicing until I heard that glorious ring that signaled the end of my practice. 

Thirty minutes goes by SO slowly when you're 8 years old. I hated that kitchen timer. Whenever my mom left the room, I'd put my violin practice on pause and adjust it forward a little.

It's a little ironic, then, that I use a kitchen timer now to help me keep track of time when I sit to meditate. 

Unfortunately, I'm not much more patient than I was when I was a kid. I sit for a few minutes, focusing on my breath. Then, I open my eyes to peek at the timer. Thnk, "What? How can there still be 15 minutes left." Then, I close my eyes, and try again. Sometimes, I give up and just turn the timer off. Sometimes, I sit there, eyes wide open, waiting for the timer to get to 00:00. Rarely, do I make it through a whole session without looking at the timer.

A few times, I've been dedicated enough to practice daily for a month or even two without stopping and by the end it got easier. And I felt calmer and more centered as a result. However, I haven't been able to make it a long-lasting habit. It's frustrating. What am I doing wrong?

Do you have a meditation practice? Did it take you a few tries to get it to stick?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rock Me Baby

Today, my yoga teacher focused on hips and used gentle rocking to release the tension.

You know this one? (Rocking the Baby is part of this article from Yoga Journal).

We did a lot of rockin' hip openers, and obviously another song popped into my head and it won't go away! This one:

It may be a bit of a stretch, but it does relate to yoga if you've got a talent for relating EVERYTHING to yoga—like me! You see, my mind is like a baby—well, more like a cranky toddler. The movement of my body in yoga class slowly rocks my mind, soothing it a little more with each pose. Until that sweet moment it goes to sleep, Savasana.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Meditation Teacher

This is my neighbor's dog, a sweet golden retriever puppy with a spiritual side. Like most dogs, she has no trouble meditating. 

 She stops to smell the flowers.

And she knows that each day is an amazing blessing.

For more lessons from Vivi, visit her mom's Flickr stream. I know I get lots of inspiration from it.

My Cat Poops in the Floor (and other Stupid Complaints that Don't Matter)

Spoiled people are all the same. They spend way too much time complaining about how horrible things in their lives are when—let's face it—their lives seem unbelievably amazing to everyone else. That's why we hate them. And, frankly, that's one of the things that I hate most about myself. I'm a whiner.

Here are a few of some of my most recent whineys, along with an explanation of why they are really REALLY stupid.

1. My cat poops in the floor. EVERY DAY!
I have the sweetest, softest, prettiest, cuddliest kitty in the whole world. She's white and fluffy and has the most beautiful blue eyes. But she poops next to the litter box every night even if it is clean and pristine! I have learned many things from my kitty, like how to love unconditionally . . . so I guess I'll put up with a little misplaced poop.

2. I have to move—a lot! That's right. There's a big move in my future and just thinking about all that heavy furniture makes me cringe. But guess what!? I have somewhere to live. I have stuff to move. I have people to help me. It's going to be an exciting and wonderful new adventure.

3. I'm exhausted when I get home from work at the end of the day. I have a job! I do something I love! And when I get home, I still have the energy to sit down and write a blog.

4. It seems like every time I go to a studio yoga class. I step in a puddle of sweat. It totally ruins my post yoga buzz every time! I know it's just sweat and it won't hurt me. . . but it's still gross!

5. Tuesday was supposed to be GIRLS night on American Idol. The boys are just never as entertaining. At least Ellen Degeneres is on this season to lift my spirits.

Earlier . . .
My Husband Hogs the Covers (and Other Stupid Complaints That Don't Matter)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fashion Forward, Yoga Backward?

OK. I admit it. I have a yoga fashion addiction.

It started out innocently enough. I had enrolled in a teacher training course and was required to practice at least six times a week. So my two pair of ratty sweat pants and old T-shirt collection weren't going to cut it. Although I hated to spend money on clothes to sweat in, I headed to Old Navy and picked up the cheapest pants and shirts I could find.

Now, nearly five years later, it's a different story. I spend more money on yoga pants than I do on jeans. I have so many yoga tops, I can wear a new one every day for two weeks without having to do a load of laundry. I get excited when Lululemon or Zobha announces a new collection, and even more excited when something I like goes on sale.

For years, I told myself it was a good thing—well worth the expense as long as these clothes inspired me to unroll my mat. But focusing on the external parts of the practice is really just a distraction from the internal awareness I should have been working to cultivate. Yoga fashion is kind of an oxymoron when it hinders inner peace. And sitting in Lotus Pose dreaming of your next big splurge isn't exactly the definition of aparigraha (non-grasping).

I love my yoga clothes because I drop into a yoga mindset as soon as I put them on, but is it really helping my practice? Probably not. And so, I must seek balance around my tendency to be a yoga fashionista . . . but I'm afraid I will never be able to pass up a great deal!

(BTW, the lovely shirt at the beginning of this post can be found at and it's my favorite shirt right now!)