Friday, July 30, 2010

In God We Trust...

You will never look at money the same again.
It is important to nauseum that my mission is to bring yoga into the everyday. By that, I am starting to do a little more research as a yogi and a superhero, and not with Rumi or Paramahansa Yogananda, but in our history as a people, culture and country.
My classes are starting to form an historical theme these days as I look at my days ahead and look back at history created. It's important to be in the present moment, yes, but it's important to bring up that yoga is in every fibre of our being from past to present and consequently, our future. In reality, it has no attachment to any teacher, guru, tradition or so forth, but is in everything you do, if you chose to observe it.
So, if you happen to take my class over the last month or so, you will see a change. A change that brings the moments together in the present. A change that reminds us where we came from, where we are going and the appreciation of where we are RIGHT NOW.
History is, um, historic. Um, metaphoric. Uh, momentous. We match our lives with what happens in history. We mark our lives with holidays and birthdays. We live our life in history and occasion.
So, it is today, that we mark as a country, the motto, In God We Trust.
Eisenhower adopted this motto for the US in '56. even though it had been printed on coins and such since the Civil War. In 1782 we adopted E Plurbis Unum - Latin meaning One from Many, one from many parts or from many - one which is by definition, Yoga.
God, by definition on google or in the good old dictionary, has many names: Krishna, Allah, Yaheweh/El, Lakshmi, Creator, Moon, Sun, Supreme. Whether its from the Bible, the RigVeda, the Kabbalah, the Talmud/Torah/Tanakh, we all long and speak and tell stories of the higher being guiding all of us to be the best people we can be and live in his/her light.
In God/Allah et al we trust.
Trust, by definition on google or in the good old dictionary reveals synonyms like belief, confidence, faith, hope, care, duty and protection.
It does not matter what religious affiliation you have, we all something...even if you are atheist. You believe in something.
When we come to the mat or go to the gym, we are armed with our day. We know, at this point, that every day is different. We are fueled by different energies, from people, food, circumstance. Whether we've had eight hours of sleep or are listening to a new set list on our iPods, our work-outs and practices change daily.
If we enlist TRUST in the higher purpose for why we do our practice or work outs, our benefits will be evident and fuel the fire within us to do what we do, from mat to life.
Sometimes, it's difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that we have to enlist trust in anything other than ourselves to get things done, but as we can see as a people, culture, denomination, individual, we must trust to get ourselves to the next level.
We must trust in the hand that lifts our ankle and holds us in mid air in a handstand. We must trust our gut to make the decision that moves our passion and momentum forward and we must trust in those we love even if we get hurt, to continue to love and try again.
We must fall and be hurt to trust again.
We must feel pain to feel pleasure.
We must feel loss to feel gain.
We must look at our dollars and cents with the statement 'in god we trust' as we do ALL of our exchanges of energy, money, passion, service, gratitude, effort, strength and emotion and feel the power that we have when we use it.
We must use that power always as an offering to "God, the divine, YOURSELF, your highest purpose, your loved ones, Yahweh, Allah, Lakshmi, and the like"
We are all GOD and we must trust ourselves as we do that divine. As we do our money. As we do our banks, our IRAs and 401Ks as abundant or lack of abundance we feel.
Trust it and you will feel the power.
You will never look at money the same again.
Try a new posture in your yoga class or take it up a notch in your cardio interval training. Push yourself to challenge and say, in God (or insert belief here) we trust!
And when you buy your latte or pay your bill or buy a homeless woman a sandwich, you will know, you have trusted and succeeded in that...even if it's on credit.
Fall out of a posture in your yoga class or stop the treadmill before you get weary. Call your credit card company for an extended payment and know that you can trust in God and the divine to take care of yourself in practice and in life.
Look at everything around you from the money to the laugh you exchange with a friend and know that yoga, energy is around you and surrounding you...on and off the mat.
The check is in the mail.
Trust me.
Falling out of handstand,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

4, 3, 2, 1 Earth below us, drifting, falling, floating, weightless

Finally, we landed on the moon! Did you hear? Well, in this week in history, almost 4 decades ago we reached technological advances we didn't think possible. And to think, I still can't figure out how to tweet but we've been to the moon and back a bunch o' times.

Back in '61 Kennedy made a goal that we would reach the moon by the end of the decade.

On July 19th, 1969, we did just that.

Setting goals is important and when you have it clear in the mind and said out loud for all to hear, well you better figure it out or you'll be in troubbbblleee!

After much trial and error, preparation and failure, we made “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” Neil Armstrong.

In yoga, even the most basic posture for you might be like flying to the moon for another. We all have our moon to reach and no matter where we are in yoga or our life path, it's important that we have something to reach for.

Mistakes, falling, failure, it's all part of the deal for you to reach for the stars. If it were easy, it would have been done in '61. Think about how far we have come as a culture. Think about how far yoga has come. How popular is yoga? It's everywhere. I'm so used to seeing students surpass my own practice when I teach that I'm always surprised but so happy to see someone come into a yoga class and say it's their first time. One small step....

Now that we are in the belly of the summer, it's ironic that we are drawn to tap into the lunar side of our yoga practice. The sun is high and hot and we're all fired up, so it's important now more than ever to tap into our moon energy. I know, so yogi, but really, the cooler, more passive, female, contemplative side of our energy is important to channel and sow now so that we can tackle the rest of our year at an even and manageable pace, one small step at a time.

My goal for Lady Yoga is for people to like it enough to tear it off and put it on their fridge. Now that people are doing that, well, it’s time for another goal!

Begin at the beginning.

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning." - Louis L'Amour.

There will always be more to do. More to achieve. More planets to visit and no, LA does not count as another planet people.

Start here and build. Keep building and achieve.

Keep achieving and begin again.It’s all part of the process and the great big fabric of your existence.

Think about the left side of your body. Close off the right nostril and breathe only through the left for several repetitions, pausing at the top and bottom of each inhale and exhale to calm your energy if you feel over heated. Rest on the right side of your body to tap into your MOON!

Set the goal and know that there is no rush to get there, only preparation and pacing.

Just take a moment to look back at where you came from, how far you have come in your life and that each step you make, calmly and peacefully, will lead you toward that giant leap in your passion, your life, your yoga and mankind.

Landing weightless and yours truly,


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Yoga and the 405...or any freeway...

or, in traffic, in general.

Ok darlings,
I know it might not seem to make a difference, but when 'lil Ganesh and I are stuck in traffic, and yes, even we get stuck in traffic, it can be difficult to keep our superhero cool.
We can only fly with our yoga mat cape under the flight constrictions of LAX so even superheroes have to drive sometimes and always abide by the laws.

It is very important to be a good person and a good yogi when bumper to bumper, sharing the road with so many people.

Here's the deal, we don't know the trials someone else might be going through in a day, so we can't assume that the person to the left and right of us is calm under stress or practices awareness of themselves or those around them. We can only be aware of ourselves, our calm and those around us. It is a good practice.

It is not nice to cut someone off or not use your blinker but it is very common and really, as drivers, we should expect this.
We should anticipate that it might be rough out there to get from point A to point B and allow enough time to get where we need to go. Often, this isn't the case. Schedules are tight and this can produce anxiety in the body and mind when we get in the car and go.

If we follow the rules of the law and the rules of kindness and know that it might be difficult when we get behind the wheel, we will be more prepared to deal with the stress that comes along with it.

Simple remedies can help this situation. Calming music is always a good choice. I enjoy listening to Broadway showtunes, but that's just me. 'lil prefers 94.7 the wave for smooth jazz. We compromise.

Always use a bluetooth when making calls. Talk to good people and save the difficult people for when you are still and can be present to expel their difficult energy when you are clear and not moving amidst the chaos of traffic.

I enjoy talking to my mother. She entertains me with stories of the dog and cat and thunderstorms in NYC.

Try deep breathing to get you through. Full inhales and expand the belly like you were full but not stuffed with your favorite meal.

I think of chocolate chip cookies. That makes me happy.

As you exhale, let it all go. No one is watching so send out the breath with a sigh or if it's really bad on the road, a little scream.

That will release tension in the body. You don't want to keep the tension within as you drive, you need to let it go.
Like a burp.
It's gotta come out otherwise, it's gonna feel strange to keep it in.
If you are a seasoned yoga practitioner, try Ujjayi breathing.
That is an audible breath that sounds like a little snore or a tiny baby sleeping.
To practice this, inhale fully through the nose and let it out the mouth with the H-A sound of haaaa like you were cleaning a pair of your UVA protective sun glasses.
Try keeping the H-A sound as you inhale through the nose and exhale through the nose. It's not easy but once you do it a few times, you will notice your breath becomes deeper, you can relax and you are where you need to be in no time.

Saying a mantra or chant aloud or within is also a yummy way to clear the mind, take yourself out of the stress and pass the time.
I like OM. It's the universal sound that connects us together.
So Hum is also an oldie but a goodie. Inhale Soooooo, exhale hummmm.
Simply put, it means, I am that and that is me. We are one.
Nice, huh?
If you aren't into the whole yogi, sanskrit, chanting mantra thing, here are some other good ones.

If you know of someone who needs some support or love say their name loud and long. The vibration of their name and focus on their spirit will connect you with them and take your focus outside of the crazy traffic and where YOU need to be and on the person you love.
My sister is back at school to become a pastry chef. Going back to school can be hard.
She is making new friends and learning new things and that is a risk! I am so proud and admire her so much so when it took me an hour and a half to get to my client this afternoon, I simply repeated, Kaaaarrrrriiiiinnnnnn. Over and over. Every letter vibrated in my mouth, head and body and chilled me out, while sending her good vibes of comfort and support so far away.
You can chant the name of a country or organization in need or your own personal mantra.

My favorite mantra is, in your divine light I reflect. I'll just say that over and over until I feel relaxed, then I'll play A Chorus Line or The Lion King.
Just kidding. I'm not a fan of the Lion King, but maybe you are...or your kids!!
Hakuna matata!!! translation - there are no worries. Ok, that is a good one!

The repetitiveness of chanting will lull you into a place of bliss. Breathing deeply will relax and soothe the nervous system.
You will take your energy away from the stress of driving and fuel your energy with good, juicy, fun and peaceful feelings of relaxation.

You can also do a bunch of 'physical' exercises while stuck in traffic, but let's save that for another blog.

Until next time my darlings.

thinking outside the mat,

Lady Yoga

Monday, July 19, 2010

the day the sun rose twice...

That title sounds beautiful, right?

Well, I wasn't around 65 years ago when that statement meant something altogether different.

Get some popcorn and go to the bathroom. This is a long one. I tried to edit it down, but so much needed to be said, so suck it up, prepare and hunker down for a good blog.

There's no commercial break...are you ready? Ok.

Today marks the 65th year passing of the bombing of Hiroshima. The day the sun rose twice. Once with the sun, the second with the first nuclear attack, from our country to that of Japan. One of the greatest projects of destruction destroyed lives for decades to come and we remember.

Way to start a blog, right? You should see me at cocktail parties.

How 'bout this...

War is like sex, it ignites such a blushed conversation of fervor and passion that can exhaust both parties involved and if lucky, might result in freedom and release.

I tried.

I mention this tragic moment in history, IN CLASS, so we can process, as yogis and just plain regular people, the idea of war and peace, hatred and acceptance, pain and pleasure and mentally mend our attachment to those polarites, moving forward with the intention of balance and YOGA.

Mistakes have been made in history. Mistakes are made every day. The best thing you can do is learn and move forward.

How many times have you come to a class after having a fight with someone or an altercation on the road or with a co-worker? Just me? Yea, I didn't think so.

And, as soon as we get to the studio and lay our mats down, we are prepared to digest that moment or move on, shake it off and let it go.

There is war. There is peace. But there is the middle path which is choice.

It's the space between where we can find the decision to act in right. The space between breath, the pause between action and the moment between flow postures in a class are all lessons to find the balance between war and peace, muscular constriction and stretch, challenge and letting go, you and me and find the balance.

So often in life we live in these extremes. We are in summer time when heat and sun is in full bloom. We rush to the beach for fun in the sun, but also feel the opposite polarity of the heat which breeds anxiety, anger and frustration. It is in the summertime, when the sun has made its full circle around the earth, that we are forced to reflect on our own path around as individuals and a community. We long for the lunar, moon side of our beings to kick in and balance us out. Reflection, meditation, all key. That and eating light, hydrating, you know the drill. I digress.

I'm back.

I look at history, both tragic and celebratory as a way to gain perspective on the practice of yoga.

Let's explore as we cross another deep anniversary of something that happened so long ago. We might feel removed from history and that's fine, but you can't help but revisit the IDEA of it as something that changed the fabric of our country and in turn, our community.

We might not see war so closely beside us like our neighbors abroad, but we feel it with our mates, on the road, with ourselves.

We are challenged daily to decide if we want to act, react or witness.

When I was preparing this very class, I was alarmed at all the symbols making themselves available for me to blog about and discuss.

I took a class at the new studio where I'm working and teaching. It's a HOT studio, meaning they heat the room up to challenge the mind and warm up the muscles in a way that is intense and vigorous, gets you to move through the muddle of the mind and toxins in the body towards PEACE.

This is a relatively new practice for me. But I was so happy to practice with one of my favorite teachers, a fellow New Yorker, tragically cute and immensely gifted.

In the midst of his teaching, a student broke her practice and scolded the teacher for not sticking to anatomical cueing. The guy talks very fast and uses humor and great visualizations to get you into a pose. I actually thought he might have been extra caffeinated that day, but it didn't bother me. It clearly bothered her and in turn, the students around her as we stood still in horror at her out burst. I was impressed with the teacher's ability to acknowledge her outburst, take it in and continue in a seamless way that left us no room but to do the same. I admire this skill. Had it been me, I don't know if I would have run out the door crying or staggered over my speech. But he handled it with an admirable grace. A gift and a lesson.

Cut to, another teacher at the studio. He was signing in students for his class and a bit frustrated that there weren't many people coming to the class. He, too, is gifted, but you could sense the slight doubt in his air that might have made him think otherwise. Never let them see you sweat...even in a hot yoga studio. I don't want to know that there is any doubt in my teacher's mind, period.

And yet, here I am, with ten certifications and ten years under my belt and I have such doubt surrounding my ability to teach this form of yoga that I can't help but try, because, a. I always do things that scare the crap out of me and b. I find this form of yoga, the structure in it and the woman who is training me to be the most inspiring, transformational and important teaching I have done to date. Just sayin'. And I've jumped out of planes, swung on a trapeze, run marathons, lost a ton of weight and lived in China and THIS scares the crap out of me. But, I digress.

I'm back.

So I see this talented teacher and I empathize.

Finally, I was going for my morning run on the beach. It was one of those unseasonably gloomy mornings that hung around all day. As I left my apartment I saw this man coming toward me with anger in his eyes. Just moments later, I saw a woman running towards him, butt and face clenched and she went up towards his face. They both grasped at one another and pushed and pulled. I could feel the rage as I ran past them and shivered at the energy I so clearly took in while in passing.

The idea of a nuclear bombing today, is terrifying. And just as easily as I reflect on the past, do I witness the conflict in others and myself, see the fear, but also the potential to move forward from that conflict and find a resolution that breeds understanding, patience, empathy and love.

Can we say, YOGA!?

I don't think I heard you.

Is this thing on?

We come to the mat with what we come with. We have our own personal reasons and intentions behind why we practice. Sometimes it is terrifying and it is through that terror that we break through to the other side.

We observe war on the news, on the street, within ourselves. It is in yoga where we have the opportunity to work out and resolve issues from a place of calm and understanding, without judgement.

In the observation, if we are present and aware in body and spirit, we can surmise the value of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil.

So often we go to react mode. We act on instinct before taking the pause necessary to act right in principle.

We might be attacked and attack back with words or fists.

Or, we might take in an attack and let it diffuse into the ether and earth to regenerate into something altogether different, like I witnessed with the first teacher.

We can't take our actions and reactions back, but we can train ourselves to take the pause necessary to chose the right way, the way of peace to get through our own tumult.

It is human and animal nature to protect - material and emotional grounds. We stand for what we believe is right. But we can chose to protect and stand for things by choosing kindness as the way.

I had a conversation with a friend recently about confrontation. She said she doesn’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. I said, I had no problem with confrontation, because I always try to come from a place of compassion and understanding when I confront. Confrontation is NOT a bad word. There is nothing wrong with confronting someone on how you feel in a moment. How you feel is your choice. If you feel because of the way someone has behaved, it is your right to open up the dialog to discussion of that feeling. The other person's reaction to that, is their choice.

If I feel like I’m being snapped at, misunderstood or met with anger, I tell the other person how I am feeling. I don’t tell them that THEY made me feel a certain way, but that I feel a certain way by what they did or what they said.

9 times out of ten I am met with defensiveness.

It’s scary. I don’t know if it’s the NY in me or the way my mom raised me, but I don’t meet anger with anger. It gets me nowhere. That much I know. It only gives me fine lines and wrinkles and really, I can’t afford botox, even at my young old age. But, I digress.


And, I confront. I tell someone what’s up and whatever I’m met with is what I’m met with. If I let it bottle up, it's like holding in a fart, just plain uncomfortable. Think about that the next time you are met with something that makes you feel uneasy and speak up!!

It can be scary. Not hundreds of thousands of casualties scary but scary nonetheless and nuclear in feeling. Don't underestimate the power of your own war witnessed or otherwise.

The bombing of Hiroshima is insurmountable, but that extreme trickles down to the daily challenges we are met with. These challenges can all build to an extreme if not dealt with and diffused properly in the moment.

We deal with the moment through choice of peace. Others will follow and we change the world.

And that's not idealistic. That's simple fact.

When I was working at the studio, days later, there was a woman who came out of class in the middle of it and sat down at the bench in front of my desk. She said the class was too hard. The person who was teaching was the same teacher that was snapped at days before.

The woman told me that she liked the teacher so much she didn't want to leave the room, but the heat was getting to her and making her emotional. It was her first yoga class ever. I congratulated her for coming to this particular studio, a studio that among hundreds of studios in LA is one of the very special that creates a loving, nurturing environment of support.

I told her that she should feel proud of herself for getting through as much of the class as she did on her first time in such intensity. She said that she had so much emotion in her that she wanted to cry. There was no one else in the room with us. I told her that she should cry and let it out because it had to come out. If she didn't let it out, it would find some other place in her body to take up residence and make her unhappy. If she let it out, she could move on and past her emotion to a better place. I gave her a cold towel and she gave me a thank you. She went back into the room and told me later that the teacher changed her life. She would be back. I saw her the next day.

The teacher did not witness this, but I did. He witnessed the outburst and I witnessed the change.

I shared this with him and I understood the polarity of war and peace.

The student who had the outburst was not bursting at the teacher but at herself. She was dealing with her own war within and it had to come out. Her out burst scared me but that was my choice. To nurture the other woman, in a place of vulnerability was a place I understood and could communicate with. I could now look at the angry woman, days later, with the perspective I had for the woman how cried. I could soften my mind from fear to a place of compassion.

It's just another way of getting it out. And the yoga room SHOULD be the place we feel safe to work it all out.

I told the teacher who doubted himself that it just takes one - one person to spread the word that he is amazing and they all would follow. For him to teach like a rock star with one is a testament to his teaching in a room with many.

I don't know if he understood what I said, because just as his doubt seeped in, the masses showed up for his class. As usual, the students left his class better than when they came in.
It is his choice how he feels with one or with many.

Yoga, as science and philosophy, has been around for thousands of years, through war time and peace time through times of abundance and desperation...AND the space and time between, choice.

Even in both polarities, we have the choice on how we want to respond.

The space between is that time we DON'T talk about. We don't often see and hear about the blissful transition to peace but we should.

It doesn't make the news or our calls home to mom. The savored space of bliss is usually shared individually and sacredly. It's when the shit hits the fan that EVERYONE hears about it and discussion ensues. We make reality shows about the craziness.

Chose peace. Make peace a habit and others will follow.

It takes one smile from a stranger to produce ten more in a day. It takes one grocery clerk to engage you in conversation rather than ignore you to turn a dull, sad, challenging day into a day of hope and happiness.

Do not underestimate the power of being good.

Start good and kind and let whatever ‘happens’, whatever you are confronted with, let it roll off you so you can produce more good. It is so difficult to be angry. It is much easier to be kind. It’s softer on the nervous and digestive system and has a ripple effect that effects hundreds of thousands. Turn casualties in to celebrations.

I taught this class and discussed the idea of working through great tragedy, personal war and finding peace.

I walked home to the happy music on my ipod (Broadway show tunes, of course), arms filled with fresh veggies and fruit for dinner and surrounded by the warmth and light of an especially sunny and fabulous day in Santa Monica. The smile on my face was impenetrable. I crossed the street and noticed this beaming couple pull up to the light on their bikes. I faced my smile towards them. Ahh, love. The were smiling at each other. Their smiled met mine. They looked familiar and I thought for a moment, I might know them. Perhaps they came to one of my classes. Perhaps they were on is LA.

And two blocks later, perhaps and smiles became tears streaming down my eyes.

The beaming love was the couple I saw just days before on that gloomy morning, fighting with each other.

I didn't cry for war, but I cried for peace and the pure bliss in witnessing such a transformation. So many transformations and reflections in one week. And I was beside myself, in both polarities and lessons learned.

And, you can't write this shit. But I just did.

The sun rose twice that day, 65 years ago in tragedy.

The sun rose twice for me, this week, in peace.



Peace...the crash course

Today is the anniversary of the invention of the 'peace sign'.
On this day in history back in 1941 Winston Churchill dubbed the V sign for victory representing our success in World War 2. The sign was then made popular by Nixon representing success and victory of his presidency and then spread like wild fire among baby boomers and hippies protesting the Vietnam War and flashing the sign representing the idea of peace. The sign has stuck around in culture as that same sign of peace and victory with the palm facing outwards. The palm facing inwards means something altogether different in other cultures and we won't waste our time here chatting about that.

In yoga, we put our fingers in certain positions or mudras to ignite certain feelings of peace and other blissful emotions during meditation. The pinky represents water, the ring, earth, the middle, space, the pointer - air and the thumb - fire.
Smiling Buddha Meditation uses the 'Peace' sign but it was invented generations prior to it's cultural popularity by placing the thumb, ring and pinky together, while leaving the pointer and middle to form the peaceful V. The mudra has many names but traditionally it is called Kapitthaka mudra and it begins with the V together on an exhale then apart as you inhale...PEACE. It stimulates the wisdom and emotion aligned with moving out fear and welcoming in success, peace and bliss.
Also dubbed, the fearless meditation, it is a wonderful mudra, time in history and technique to do now that we are moving into the belly of summer when the heat is high.
With that heat comes the fun in the sun, but it also brings up a fire and aggravation in many that is obvious around town.
It's difficult to remain cool when everything around us is heating up making it easy for us to heat up our tempers and disposition.
Breathing deeply and practicing this simple mudra, inhaling to open peace and closing to move out fear. Even if you can't do it physically, remember the idea mentally when you get riled up by emotions that might happen externally in our world outside the yoga mat.
Remember, the middle finger is involved, but perhaps when you are cut off in traffic, you might decide to let the pointer finger join in with your motion to flip someone off with the peace sign instead of, well, just the other finger. Keep the palm facing outwards and you won't let their aggressive energy into your sphere of consciousness, awareness, bliss and peace.
Take that road rager!! and peace be with you.
Lady Yoga