Dharma Talks

A Dharma Talk is used to open a yoga class. It’s used to set the theme of the class, share insights, teachings or philosophy. It is typically comprised of themes, subjects or issues the instructor is currently navigating or studying. Depending on how long the class is, the talking portion can last three and a half to five minutes. I have been in class with a very experienced, senior teacher and she spoke for about fifteen minutes. She had stuff to say. Anyone with sense in their head chose to listen.

Last weekend I went to a yoga event in Alabama. It was a celebration of a yoga teacher training graduation. Four gradates taught an hour and half yoga class to open the day’s events.

There were three women and one man. The man opens the class from behind a harmonium, a squeeze box type of instrument not unusual to yoga studios. He is sitting cross-legged behind the instrument. When he begins speaking on the theme of the day I really recognize he has something to say. He is practiced and prepared with the material.

The subject of the Dharma Talk is the Heart, the light of our being, the ability to be present and compassionate in the world without losing our bearings. He quotes his teacher, he uses poetry, personal stories and humor in his monologue. He talks for about twenty minutes, which are not part of the hour and a half class. There is a brief intermission when he is finished speaking.

The first five minutes the group of a hundred or more people are attentive and sitting with up-right posture. But then it happens; shoulders slump when it seems obvious this guy is talking for more than the unofficially acceptable three and a half minutes at the beginning of yoga class. I see heads lolling around, phones coming out, legs stretched out, bathroom breaks become contagious.

Most of the students present remain attentive, but I know that the majority of those who are twitching like Samantha’s nose are not reacting to the speaker or the topic. For the first ten or so years of practice it’s a struggle just to keep your ass still while you try to do the more quiet, reflective practices. I get it, any instructor whose been at it long enough understands it is hard to sit still. There is a whole practice devoted to just that!

What is interesting is that Dharma Talks as a topic have been on my mind lately. It intrigues me that I end up at a large scale gathering of practitioners and see the dynamics between speaker, topic and students magnified by such a large number and massive space (we were in a church gymnasium).

I could design a whole Dharma Talk around its very topic, which in a way is what blogs are anyway. So if you have a hard time sitting still or refraining from looking at your phone when you’re not wholly engaged with your body in headstand or crow pose, I have been thinking of you. This post is for you.

I know that sometimes when you arrive to a yoga class you may have just left an office where you sat at a desk for seven plus hours. I know your back might ache or your hips are tight or your mood is sour.

I know that sometimes, you have been standing behind a chair all day, curling, straightening, coloring and perming hair and smoothing wrinkles from crumpled personalities and sprinkling fabulous where you can. Perhaps you spent the day folding laundry or zooming around in your car in a lifestyle that is the complete opposite of #workfromhome. I know you need to stretch and move your muscles so you can remember what it feels like to move like an animal again, to breathe like the wind again, to flow like the river again.

I know this, these sometimes, because I have experienced feeling an urgency to get on with it, to begin movement, for the instructor to shut the hell up already! Because, as a student, I have felt itchy at the beginning of class, have been agitated and restless on my mat, I do not take it personally when I am leading a class and see you fidgeting, eyes rolling all over the room in desperation, your hand roving around for your phone.

I understand. Really, I do.

As a student, I have been in a class when the instructor was really on to something. They said something really pertinent to what was happening in my life even though they might not have known it. More than once an instructor has started class with an innocent reading or idea or by simply sharing something they heard on NPR and I suddenly felt less alone in whatever storm I was experiencing in my life.

When I am the one opening or leading a class I don’t know what is going on with everyone in the room. Rarely do I have the slightest indication of what is churning beneath the surface in the folks who come to my classes. I know they are there for a yoga practice and I just try to do a really good job. Part of that job is relating teachings to the best of my ability and sharing stories I think might be helpful. Part of my job is to say what arises and what comes from my heart, whether it’s funny, important or relatable remains to be seen. It is not my job to know if it lands anywhere.

You never know who that person is who needs to hear the thing, whatever it is that day. It might be you, but only later, after rolling your eyes back into your head like a wild horse crossing a craggy mountain in a lightening storm at the end of the world, do you realize that something you heard opened a dark space inside you and let a little light in.

It’s my job to share what I study. It is your job to pay attention.

Previously in this post I said how I know this and that about your day. The truth is I don’t know anything at all except that these practices work. I also know that they are not one dimensional, exclusively physical or easy. I know they are worth it. I urge you not to give up, especially on the stillness. It is there, it really is.

If you find yourself struggling with being able to settle into the beginning of your yoga class, here are a few things to consider.

If you feel frazzled or jangled when you arrive, consider taking a class later in the afternoon so you don’t feel frenzied leaving work or harried by afternoon traffic. Conversely, if the afternoon is a struggle, consider taking earlier classes like a lunch hour practice. Try different times and see if that effects your ability to show up mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

Be on time, or five minutes early. Settle down on your mat, make yourself a cup of tea, lie in Savasana. It’ll help ground you. Try arriving twenty minutes early and taking a nice walk around the block at a slow pace to center and ground the different facets of your being.

Eat light a couple of hours before practice. A heavy meal before practice can make you feel sluggish or drowsy. If you don’t eat enough it can make you feel un-grounded and focus can be a challenge. Experiment with what is right for your constitution. Try a smoothie or protein shake and see how that improves your practice.

Set an intention to bring all of yourself to practice. Ask the Universe to help unite your body, mind and spirit and see how this request changes your experience. Ask to learn something, ask to hear just the right inspiration that you need. And show up, bring all of you to the mat and shine.

What I Am Reading

Stephen King strongly urges aspiring authors to read as voraciously as they write. Granted, as an aspiring author, I admit being prone to fits of despair around the whole topic of it and wallowing not in productivity but in procrastination. What a waste of talent, I know.

I used to read a lot more than I do now. There are shiny distractions, interactions and general malaise that keeps me from a few of my favorite things. But, because Stephen King has done something I have yet to do, parlay story-telling into an art and career, I figure his advice ought to be heeded. And I’ll tell you something; the man is right – writing comes a little easier if you’re reading good writing.

I travel to Atlanta fairly often. I occupy myself on the drive by paying attention to the road, drinking coffee, listening to Michael Jackson and talking on the phone. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, offers that listening to audio books is the same as reading, if one is reading to be a better writer.

I went to the library (yes, there are still such a thing as those). I took To Kill a Mockingbird and something else I cannot remember to the counter for checkout. I hand over my little library card. It is declined.

I am not kidding.

I feel like I’m standing at the grocery store with a six pack of Miller Lite and a box of Magnums without the money to pay for them, so snarling and dismissive is the expression smeared across the face of this young librarian dressed in mute tones.

“Madam, you are mistaken.” I say. I hand over my card again, certain there are funds left on it.

“You are no longer a residence of this county. We need proof of your address.” She holds my driver’s license between us, proof of my unworthiness. She’d asked to see my license so as to renew my library card, I couldn’t have known I was walking into a trap.

“The devil with you!” I bellow at the quiet library desk where no one pays me the slightest bit of attention.

“I’ll just take these…” she says, sliding my selections across the counter with a sly smile that ejects me from the library of my hometown of nearly twenty years. I watch Harper Lee disappear behind a stack of Harlequin Romances meant for the friends of the library book sale.

I stew and fume and bemoan my lot in life. I do not want to visit the library on the other side of the bridge where I now live. It feels so inner city and downtown and large. The other side of the bridge has always felt like its own country, in the very least a different state.

I drive over the bridge. I drive around the looming, dark civic center and I skirt the edge of the cool part of town. I slide beneath a warm streetlight and park on the rain shiny curb, which feels dangerous and wild. I go into the downtown library. There is a massive marble staircase and a little grand piano.

This place is not unlike the library of my home, not the one from which I was just ejected but the town in Alabama where I grew up. This library is sprawling and wrought iron and new. It feels like the majesty of Scarlet’s mansion, Tara, before the Civil War. There is the smell of books and the long distant fragrance of coffee someone brought in at lunch. Now it is after dark and I am leaving for Atlanta in two days. I don’t have the luxury of admiring everything, I am there for a book on tape – er, CD.

Perhaps the coolest part of this venture, other than that Charlie Brown is on my library card, is that my library card is issued to Prana Devi. On this night, with my new library privileges in a facility far beyond the grandeur and selections of that place from which I was previously excluded most coldly, I check out The Isle of the Sequinned Love Nun by Christopher Moore.

I listen to this book all the way to Atlanta and back again. It is awesome. The narrator is funny and has a voice for each character, even the ladies. I think perhaps the narrator is a little bit crazy and wonder what he looks like. Probably very handsome, if crazy is any indicator.

I find when I get back from my trip my writing impulses start firing. I begin keeping a notebook in the console of my car again, to make notations during stop lights and in parking places. I have ideas and more than anything else, renewed interest.

The next book on tape I check out is The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman. I find myself staying in my car extra, sitting in the driveway to get to the end of each chapter. There are three narrators for three different main characters and each is wonderful. I find myself wondering what it might take to be a narrator for books like these.

The third book I borrow is The Secret Magdelene by Ki Longfellow. This is the most remarkable book by far, and I am grateful to be able to listen and not to have to read because there are words and names I wouldn’t know how to pronounce by sight, phonics or no.

And then the CD starts skipping. This is not a book that you can miss a few words in. In fact, this is a book written in such poetic language I had to pause in my listening to make sure my heart’s beat hadn’t become too quiet for the listening.

I took the scratched CDs back to the library and checked out the book instead. I’d heard enough to know how the main characters names are pronounced, anyway. Finally, even while holding this book on my lap, I ordered my very own copy so I could sleep with it on the covers at night and leave hearts and stars in the margins in sky blue ink.

This is my companion for my stay-cation, this book and my cats. For the next two days I don’t plan on leaving my house unless its nice out and I take my mat outside for some poolside yoga. There is a slim possibility I will go for a walk between chapters, writing or reading, I am not sure.

My Thursday classes have substitute teachers who will probably play better music than I do, anyway. I will be home reading.



The Seat of the Yogi

In my mind Not Yoga is its own genre in the blogosphere. I have a friend who just discussed wanting to write in the Not Yoga genre, though the Yoga genre is also nice. Her idea got me thinking. Of course I like to write about yoga, but when ya’ll aren’t looking I also write about Not Yoga. I do longhand writing practice to stir up ideas and muddy the waters in my mind so it’ll eventually run clear. I work on my novel.

I had a wing-back chair about ten years ago, but it was actually my writing chair. It was the color of dandelion petals with a broad back like every girls’ first crush. This chair sat on graceful wooden legs and had a nice thick cushion. There were tiny scratch marks that ran vertically on both armrests from my cats gaining purchase when they tried to join me in my work.

This was the era of Pixie and Merry Weather. Those two cats watched me finish two novels, a collection of short stories and no few poems. Pixie was a black Manx with a personality disorder who I love dearly. She had green eyes set in her wide fluffy face. She was missing one fang from the time she attacked the bulldog. I called her Rambo because she drew first blood.

Merry Weather was the softest being I ever felt. She had an aura like golden cashmere draped across my arms. Her fur had a downy quality that billowed in the softest exhalation near her body. Her blue eyes stared like topaz excavated from a King’s tomb. She was beautiful and sweet and ancient when she died. I still miss her.

I miss that damn yellow chair, too. During a move nearly nine years ago my writing chair got put in the back of the garage. It ended up in the we’ll do something with this later pile. I was at work and so couldn’t tell anyone to put it in my room, for heaven’s sake, if I were ever to get any work done.

It is unfortunate that the we’ll do something with this later pile was in the back of the garage. Nothing ever got done with it. A year and a half ago we moved out of that house and that chair didn’t make it out alive. There was something in the way the thick cushion was discolored in such a way that prevented me from wanting to sit on it. There was a smell that prevented me from being able to really lean back into it or want to go near it.

I have made due. I didn’t really think I missed that chair except for when it came up in a memory during which I was thinking of someone or something else. I have been able to get work done since that chair and I parted ways. In fact, I began working on the floor at a table made just for little ‘ole me. It was measured to the perfect height for writing practice on the floor. It is also the perfect height for me to use as a tea table during meditation practice.

Last night there were tornadoes in my area. Living in the south, I’m not really sure what you call what happened here last night. I know hurricanes and squalls and thunder storms like nobody’s business. Tornadoes are something entirely different.

Not one born with strong nerves to begin with, after looking at the weather radar the night before these storms hit I cleared sitting space in a walk-in closet for me, the cats and my mom’s rotten little dog (mom is safely in Colorado for the week, skiing the slopes). The new cat contingent is remarkable, I should add, though they are unseasoned as far as writer cats go. They have not seen me complete one long work of fiction, though to their credit they’ve watched me finish more than a few malas.

The storms started whipping the skies with noise like a bad metal band. We were in the front room when these new sounds started, and so me, the cats – and my little dog, too – move into the back of the house. I’m not really ready to sit in the closet. It doesn’t feel like closet weather yet.

I have enough books and writing materials to keep me busy for the better part of next week but I do not know where to sit with it all. I do not want to get in bed as the headboard is in front of a large window. I do not want to get in the tub, the curve is terrible on the lumbar spine. I don’t want to sit on the floor yet because I already do plenty of that.

Alas, there is a wing-back chair beside the door that is now closed. I do not know from whence this chair comes as it is one of my mother’s salvage finds. It is pink with a moderately broad back, little wooden legs and a comfortable seat. I cover it with a flannel fitted sheet with a Christmas pattern on it.

I sit down. I have my security blanket (you know you have one, too) and a large book on my lap. I cross my legs and settle in just like I have always had a wing-back chair to catch me when I fall. I nestle to the right, just a bit, so my shoulder blade presses against the corner like a hen settling comfortably in her roost.

For a moment I forget the howling wind and remember every time I sat in my favorite chair. The memory floods my mind in an instant as though that entire part of my life flashes  before my eyes.

When the tornadoes did everything terrible they came to do and I retired to my own room my current working chair hurt my back a little more than usual. It felt a little too high and a little too narrow. The cushion was less forgiving and the word count goal for the day was hard won.

That wing-back chair is in my room now. It’s on loan until I find one for myself. I’m sitting in it right now, in fact, composing this endless missive to you. I am leaning just a bit to the right with my legs crossed like Aladdin riding his magic carpet.

Earlier when I said that I was going to write in the Not Yoga genre I lied a little bit. I have to sneak a little bit in here at the end because it fits so nicely. You see, since one’s seat is so important we’re going to be talking about it tomorrow in both of my classes. Of course, I’ll be talking about sitting in meditation, where the magic happens. I hope you can make it.

As for now, I’m going to try to make magic of a different sort happen, the sort that dreams are made of – hard won word counts and wild ideas.





Tonic of Longevity and Enlightenment

The first time I met my Teacher I was at Dragonfly Yoga Studies in Fort Walton Beach, where she visits to teach once a year. The room was full of folks, from professional yogis to curious visitors and everyone in between. I was in yoga teacher training and felt nervous and excited just to be there.

During meditation class she drinks from a large mug filled with some steaming substance. There is also a tall cup with water in it. Among the many things I’m intrigued by, I’m really curious about whatever is in that mug.

I imagine the concoction of herbs and exotica cooked for days over a blazing fire so seers can peer between the veils. I imagine blue flames licking the sides of a copper cauldron while this tonic is transformed into its magical brew. I wonder what color the rose petals floating on the drink’s surface might be. I want to know what special drink that is, made for Swamis only. Where in the world do these teas come from and how are they measured and prepared, no doubt in secret, prior to meditation class?

After a couple of years studying with Swami I still wonder what delicious brew is in the cup every time she teaches meditation class. By this time I’ve made friends with other students from the ashram. There are a few with whom I feel comfortable enough to ask my silly questions.

I’m at breakfast after class on a Sunday morning in Greyton Beach. It’s interesting for me to be anywhere having breakfast since this is not my optimal time of day. But here we are, friends with a Teacher in common dining at the crack of dawn (eleven thirty or so).

While asking about the seasonal detox that was coming up, I lean forward with a little conspiratorial whisper and I ask, “What’s Swami drinking from that mug?”

“Hot water.” My friend’s pretty eyes sparkle when she says it, because she knows… She knows as well as I do that I’d cooked up something outrageous and secret because maybe at one time she did too.

“Hot water?” I ask, sitting back in my chair. No secrets of the universe flying across this table at Another Broken Egg.

“Yeah. Hot water.”

She goes on the explain it’s called Ushnodaka, pronounced not unlike it’s spelled, and is often used in Aryuveda as a therapy for dehydration, vata derangement and the various imbalances a human can experience. Aryuveda is a sister science in the yoga tradition that deals with balancing the human condition on all levels using food and lifestyle as affirmative therapies.

Since this conversation over eggs and toast I have participated in 5 detoxes with Swami and every time I am amazed at how wonderful the simple act of hydration makes me feel. Ushnodaka is a primary component in the 10 Yoga Detox and today is the 10 day of the Winter 2016 detox. I’ve been drinking hot water like crazy all week. I look and feel like an 80’s supermodel – ready to trounce around on the beach in my Body Glove one piece at a moment’s notice. Hydration can do that.

Recently I read an article where a woman decided to drink a gallon of water a day for 30 days to see what would happen. Curiosity is such a powerful tool on the road to self-healing and well-being! She takes a picture on day one and then one per week for four weeks. The side by side photos between day one and day thirty speak for themselves.

She looks like she’s been to the plastic surgeon, like she got a chemical peel without the rashy red skin that can sometimes follow. There seems to be some sort of filler in her wrinkles and like the crepey skin under her eyes got scraped off and replaced. The surface of her face has a more even skin tone and her eyes, which showed the greatest transformation, are sparkling and bright.

I saw this article just before the Winter detox began, at a time when I’d neglected my efforts at daily hydration. I redoubled my efforts knowing that during the cleanse water (both room temperature and hot) is emphasized.

That initial curiosity about Swami’s tonic she drinks while she teaches returns to my mind. I remember how caught up I was in its contents, so intrigued by what exotic and top secret tonic of longevity and enlightenment she is drinking.

Water, available to everyone and so simply vital to our existence. As this ten day detox concludes I’m going to try to maintain this wonderful level of hydration I am enjoying right now, where my joints move smoothly and my skin looks fine. If you’d care to join me in my efforts, I’d love to know how it works for you.

To visit the article to which I refer, please visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2480491/How-drinking-litres-water-day-took-years-face.html





Woobie Mala

When I was in teacher training I found a place in India from which I could order all sorts of malas. There is one in particular I still wear all the time. It has Rudraksha, crystal beads, Tulsi, Sandalwood and Lotus seeds all strung like popcorn ’round a Christmas tree. It has a blue tassel, which I am not sure is traditional but what I asked for and what they sent me.

When I ordered these malas I ordered a 27 bead Rudraksha, which is a brown seed sacred to Shiva. I ordered other stuff, too, but these items are what I want to talk about now.

I’ve been making malas since February. Making malas began out of necessity; I had one in mind and couldn’t find it anywhere so I made it. It is awesome, too, and I took it directly to Atlanta and asked Swami to bless it. Since then, it has been broken, re-strung, re-blessed and held with love in the silence of my meditation space.

I don’t take this mala out too much. It is quiet and dark much like the space in which I meditate. I like to feel the subtle energy between the beads and the soft drape of the black tassel. It’s my praying mala.

Not all malas are meant to be kept in the dark. The one from India with all the different seeds on it goes out in public, gets left in the baby’s bed and dropped into my purse when I’m about to teach headstands and don’t want it to fall unceremoniously over my head onto the floor. It’s my teaching mala.

Then there’s the woobie mala. You DO know what a woobie is, don’t you? A woobie is typically a blanket one uses not for warmth or cover necessarily but as something to cling to and rub for emotional support. Woobie.

On the topic of malas and also woobie, I should add for those who don’t know that malas are prayer beads, typically used to count mantras or prayers so a practitioner can keep track of their practices. You know, chant this mantra for 108 times for 40 days and see what happens. See if you can’t transcribe the meaning onto your bones in the process.

Sometimes when chanting it’s a relief to get to the 108th bead, especially if it’s a longer mantra. Sometimes the practice is so grand and sweeping you’ll want to go another round, and another and another. But there comes a time when the mantra doesn’t really stop, but your practice begins to encompass your entire life. Eventually, hopefully, you don’t stop the mantra and the mantra doesn’t stop you. (For more on chanting and kirtan I suggest you listen to anything Krishna Das has to say on the subject.)

If this is so, then why in the hell have a mala to count anything? If 108 times ’round the mala is only the beginning, why bother counting?

This leads me back to the Theory of Woobie. The mala, much like a woobie blanket, is something we can cling to. There is something beyond even the chanting of the mantra, though. After a time of practice I think these malas hold the current of our practices so we can draw on them when we can’t seem to find the resources within.

I’ve found that the mala doesn’t even have to be one on which mantras have been said very much at all. The small hand mala I mentioned earlier, the one made of Rudraksha and with only 27 beads, stays in the same place most of the time. This mala has been known to make it to the top of a harmonium during kirtan, but for the most part it remains draped over a photo.

This mala made it to my upper arm a few nights ago. I wrapped it ’round my bicep and got in bed. I could feel the round grainy texture of those beads pressed gently into my ribs and there it remained all night. Why? I cannot say, but with tender awareness of its presence I drifted into sound sleep.

Counting mantras has been around a long time and they’ve been doing it all over the world. But I wonder if counting mantras is only part of the reason to use malas. I wonder if the malas don’t become some sort of containment unit for Shakti, like She hides in there as an act of Grace. For in our moments of forgetting we may draw on it when our energy is low and when we need sustenance Papa John’s simply cannot provide. Inherent in the design, are malas simultaneously the lasso that ropes us back onto our path and also a conduit for the current we dive into again and again?



November Scarab


The symbolism of the scarab represents renewal, forward momentum and the cycles of regeneration. These beetles roll balls of dung that become their food and home. Interestingly, these little guys and gals will roll their dung into a ball following a straight line no matter the obstacles set before them. They are creatures whose very livelihood is dependent on fierce determination.

Sometimes I feel like every turn is up hill and I’m not doing a very good job with my ball. These instances are rare but can come upon me like a sudden summer thunderstorm. During these times I will sit in front of my meditation table with a cat or two near my side and we’ll try to talk about things. We’ll vision board and mind map and do pranayama together; mine sort of a deep wailing technique and theirs a quiet purr of discomfiture.

Eventually my eyes alight on the black spine of a journal with Ganesha on the cover. It was an impulse purchase my mom made at T J Maxx a few years ago. She saw it and thought of me. Thanks Mom!

Sometimes a journal will be special to me because it is a gift from a parent or a beloved friend. I don’t have the heart to jam it full of maudlin thoughts or melodramatic dialogue on my less enlightened days. So I assign these journals special tasks. A green journal my dad gave me for my birthday goes with me to see Swami. I write mantras and meditations and teachings that are especially meaningful to me.

This Ganesha journal my mom gave me became a gratitude journal. At some point in the evening I’ll write things I’m really grateful for. I try not to repeat the same things too often; God totally knows I’m grateful for my nephews, nieces and the cats. It’s good to stretch gratitude to include more nouns.

Keeping a gratitude journal is a cool and effective practice for getting a person out of the dumps because of neural plasticity, a theory that states that whatever the mind is asked to recall will cause a chain reaction of seeking out more of the same from its daily environment. So if at the end of the day I make a list of things for which I am grateful, then during the next day in anticipation of that practice my mind will scan the environment for things to add to the list.

As the mind starts looking for a reason to say thank you, gratitude grows. When we spend more energy being thankful for our lives we expend less energy in despair, or at least begin to see light breaking through those dark clouds.That’s why when I can’t seem to pick myself up from whatever storm of malcontent my mind has whipped up I’ll dust off the ‘ole gratitude journal practice again.

Because Thanksgiving is upon us this month, I thought it’d be interesting to dedicate the month to this practice. We’ll be like little dung beetles adeptly rolling up great big balls of poop, but instead of poop we’ll be increasing our gratitude day by day, line by line; it’ll nourish and house our hearts.

Here is a magnificent scarab with a giant ball of poop. He’s been working hard.


In addition to discussing gratitude in yoga class this month, I’m going to talk about a mantra my Teacher introduced during the seasonal detox I participate in at Kashi Atlanta, where I study.

Om Hrim Namo Bhagavati Maheshwari Annapurnee Swaha

Swami said in the daily email, “In the Sanskrit language ‘anna’ means food and ‘purna’ means full or complete. This is a nurturing mantra invoking the healing essence of the divine mother to create health, fullness, satiation and satisfaction. I like to think of the words going into the ghee and sending all that healing, mothering energy into my body.”

For many people I know, when asked to gather ’round and give thanks there is a challenge to reconcile their path with the expectations surrounding a traditional Thanksgiving prayer. It’s nice, when mingling with family and friends of different faiths, to have something sweet and simple to offer when asked to say Grace. This mantra is a beautiful example of that.

In honor of gratitude and our ability to move mountains with our fine determined Selves, this month on Saturdays at 2 pm the Kali Natha yoga class at Uru Yoga and Beyond we will practice The Grateful Monkey asana series. This series is devoted to Hanuman, the monkey general from the Ramayana who embodies the path of Bhakti (love and devotion) and service.

In Rama’s story, Hanuman flies to a far off mountain range to find the medicinal herb to revive Rama’s brother who has taken ill on the battlefield. Hanuman cannot recognize the exact herb that is needed and in his haste, lifts the entire mountain to take to the physicians so they can gather the healing herbs themselves. Rama’s brother is saved, the demon defeated and the queen restored.

The Grateful Monkey asana series teaches the Yogi to move the body in gratitude, so that every interaction is an offering and every gesture is a mudra of Thanksgiving. I look forward to practicing together. Please visit URUYOGA.COM for schedule up-dates and class descriptions.

Hanuman mountain

List Maker

Sometimes I’ll make a to-do list to cut mental tension. I’ll use the list like a slippery wet rope handle I can wrap ’round my wrist for a short time before climbing the rest of the way up the water slide steps. Because my spine felt shortened by some imagined weight, I decide to make a list of simple silly words written one above the other…

buy cat food

practice yoga

make lentils

dust meditation table.

Everything on this list will probably get done sooner rather than later whether they are on the list or not. I think this is sort of the point; they take attention away from what ought to be on the list, or worse, what I don’t know should be on the list.

Working smarter, not harder should be on the list. I’ve been meaning to put my two weeks in at the restaurant where I work on the weekend for the last five years. Also, become a better business woman. Buy new socks. The unlisted items are a nebulous gathering of unspoken ideas playing peek-a-boo between sheets on my mind’s clothesline.

I had a particularly harrowing work weekend. I didn’t even work very hard, which bothers me in spite of that whole work smarter not harder item that ought to be on the list, but ain’t. This particular night at work creates a crossroads where some decisions need to be made and I don’t even know where to start.

So I made a list….

write a poem

brush the cat

read the poem to the cat

make coffee

practice yoga.

The list made me tired, because of what was behind it. The unspoken list that’s born from wild longing is spooky and real. This weariness made my spine feel shorter from the imagined weight of it all. The spine, my spine! The home of scintillating light and presence felt compressed. Yoga practice should help. Good thing it’s on the list.

Without putting down a mat or clipping up my hair, I just sorta lower to the floor like I’m bowing to a queen and don’t know really when to stop. At the bottom of the bow I crumple and envision myself the old woman who lived in a shoe. I hope, listlessly, that it is a very nice shoe.

Not sure where this new crumpling style of yoga is taking me, it doesn’t take long to realize my body is making its way very naturally to corpse pose. I’m not being funny, that’s a real thing and usually at the end of a yoga practice. Seems that’s where I’m starting.

Savasana, the posture of the corpse. I feel myself stretching out on my back with the sensation of the jute rug bristling comfortably against my skin. I tuck my shoulder blades beneath me like tired wings folding against aching muscles. My feet roll away from each other and my jaw becomes slack, just as I often cue students to at the end of each yoga class; there’s nothing left to be done but to lay there and play dead.

Sometimes I cue people to let the idea of their bodies completely drop away. Instead of seeing themselves on the mat, imagine all they can see of themselves with their mind’s eye is a horizontal streak of light on the mat. Just see that aquamarine white shot of lightening stretched out and pulsating in the space of the physical spine. When I remember this I see it in myself; light reclining against light.

high frequency 1

Stretched out as I am, one of the cats comes over to check on me. She settles near my head as I watch the ceiling. I feel restful and my skeleton starts to elongate some. The pressure is off. I see that streak of light in the middle of my body. I think of Shiva, wild sweet Lord of Yoga, who when nothing else could be done lay down at the feet of Mother Kali.

My to-do list dissolves. My spine feels taller, like a Yogi’s ought to.


Is It Hot In Here?

20140402-104958I think we all know by now that hot yoga is a thing. People like it, they want to practice it and it’s here to stay. Hot yogis walk into the studio with a beach towel, gallon jug of water and a sweat band across their forehead; there is no need to inquire as to which class they are there for.

You wouldn’t expect me to be teaching a hot yoga class on the schedule at Uru, mostly because I haven’t been able to warm up to the practice – yuk yuk. I mean come on, it’s hot in there! Then there’s all that planning. You’ve got to take a change of clothes or drive home naked so you don’t soak your driver’s seat with sweat and all those toxins you’ve excreted.

Also, please hydrate. If you don’t, you’re looking at a headache later in the day or evening. Also, without enough water you’ll experience tiredness that requires a ten to twenty minute nap with the cats to cure. Admittedly, the napping part is pretty nice.

So let’s talk about what happened that lead me to this….moments before teaching my first hot yoga class ever.

hot yoga

That room I’m sitting in, looking at ten people on beach towel covered yoga mats with gallon jugs of water near ’em, is about 98 degrees. If you look closely there’s a bit of sweat already on my brow.

It started when I took a hot class at Uru on a Wednesday. Normally, I am at home on Wednesdays because my Teacher has class in Atlanta and they stream it so long distance students can participate. The end of August, first of September, she is on retreat, so I decided to take a friend’s hot class at Uru2.

They have those infrared heaters at this studio. I didn’t think there’d be a difference between one hot room and another, but I knew there was something going on when I sat on my mat directly beneath one of these ceiling panels and felt a descent of warmth something like a late afternoon stream of sunbeams alighting on my skin.

I am not kidding.

My friend teaching, Dave, really is a great teacher. He says such nice things and makes everyone feel like he’s just so glad they came to class. So when the next Wednesday comes around and my sweet Swami is still on retreat I go back to Dave’s hot yoga class.

I even have my own hot yoga towel now. I don’t know who I am. It’s like I’ve discovered some type of drug that I have to spend all day preparing to take – hydrate hydrate hydrate people!

In class I stretch in two directions balanced on one foot in Warrior 3 and feel the radiant heat evenly distributing warmth across the entire length of my right leg from the sole of my foot to the small of my back. I feel rather like a goddess illuminated by the flames of a distant star.

I email the studio owner when I get home. The email begins…”I hope you’re sitting down, there’s something I need to tell you.” No doubt she thinks I’m about to put in my resignation or to admit to wrenching a student’s arm out of socket in a mis-guided adjustment, neither of which occurred, fortunately.

The email goes on to tell her that I don’t know what I’m doing exactly but I may want to teach one of these hot classes in which the room is heated with infrared plates in the ceiling; a totally different way of heating a room. My previous experiences with hot yoga have been with air heaters in the corners of the room, which effectively heat the room, but with a different quality of heat.

What I have learned is that the infrared heaters warm surfaces in the room as opposed to heating the air. I am better able to breathe in this heated environment, as the space doesn’t become muggy. I have been looking at studies on infrared heat and its effects on pain management, clinical use for treating inflammation and depression as well as its effects on  cell regeneration (as in wound healing) and relaxation. I am deeply intrigued.

I have also been thinking quite a bit about yoga teachers who I spent time with who were greatly opposed to hot yoga and everything it involved, including hot yogis themselves. There were yogis in my life who were very outspoken against hot yoga and I realize, in retrospect, I took in their opinions as my own. I have been known to be outspoken against hot yoga, too. I don’t like the heat, the risk, the puddles of sweat on the floor.

It wan’ts until I was wandering aimlessly on a Wednesday in need of someone to say nice things to me that I ended up in Dave’s hot yoga class, not because it was hot but because it was Dave, and I gave myself an opportunity to really give the experience a chance. The warmth – of both the ceiling panels and the instructor – were catalysts for the change of heart that would put me on the schedule at Uru3 teaching hot yoga there.

I’m excited and a little nervous because it’s all so new. Learning to teach yoga in a completely new environment enhances my ability to instruct in all environments. It’s interesting to be humbled by admitting to a change of heart and mind and it’s wild to see this whole new group of people in my class. People who simply will not take class in a room temperature room. It’s very nice to meet them.

I have learned there is no distinction between hot yogis and temperate yogis. We are all Yogis, just some of us need to have a change of clothes on hand and an extra towel to mop up that puddle on the floor.

Yoga, the umbrella term under which these physical practices lie, gives us limitless opportunities to grow. I have to say this hot yoga experiment has been a really cool opportunity to grow. I hope you join me on the mat, either basking beneath hot panels like a long tailed Komodo dragon or in a nice, cool room with a steaming cup of ginger tea near your mat. Either way is good.

Thank You Mr. Sunshine Man

Last Tuesday, I think it was, I was feeling mighty tense in my own skin. The day started hot and got hotter and when I walked out the front door the humid oppression weighed on my shoulders like a drunk I was trying to help into the house.

I was feeling very put upon. You know the feeling, “Why does my life have to be this way? Now I have to stop and get gas, is anything ever going to go right for me in this life?” You know, the typical interior drama of an overheated constitution. This, my friends, is why I don’t regular the hot yoga scene. No one would want to talk to me ever.

This feeling of put upon got piled up on top of other put upon feelings like having to do stuff, like get out of bed, let the dogs out, put sun block on, brush my teeth. Have you ever had a day when everything felt like a chore?

I pull up to the gas station with sense to be grateful I remembered to get gas before the nightmare of a gas station at the foot of the three-mile bridge, which I have to cross to teach my afternoon yoga class. This is also a busy gas station, but the one near my house has plenty of parking and enough folks working the store.

I shuffle around in my car, pull cash out of my wallet and walk across the steaming pavement in flip-flops made of yoga mats. I wait in line behind someone else who looks equally put upon. I try to stand like I don’t have an attitude about everything, though I suspect I fail pretty miserably.

When it’s my turn, the man behind the counter is tinkering with the register. Surprisingly, I’m not in a hurry to rush to another point of put upon-dom, so I wait patiently. I look at him, curious about how yellow his hair is. Everything about him is in the sunny family, and when he looks at me I feel the full effect of his radiance shining upon my own dark and stormy countenance.

This man smiles and turns and looks like he’s glad to see me. I don’t mean in the “customer service” sense in which those of us relegated to customer service must make the customer feel like they’re glad to be seen.

This guy was different. It’s like he wakes up and is so glad to see himself anew that he just shines that on everyone the rest of the day. When he smiled his chest inflated, too, like he was gearing up to laugh or blow the storm clouds off of me with the generosity of his gaze. Then, perhaps, a rainbow might appear.

“Please put twenty dollars on pump six.” I see his eyes move from my own to the orange shirt with a charging, decorated elephant on the front. He looks from my chest to my left arm, where tiny white skulls circle my wrist; a Christmas present from my Teacher two years ago.

“Okay, twenty on six. Have a nice day!” He turns to tinker further with the register, telling it what to do.

When I walk across the still steaming parking lot, I notice I feel much less put upon. In fact, I feel pretty better (the language of a four-year-old that really suits this mood). I pump the gas and get back in my car, but am frozen there.

I feel this urgency, as though something has happened and also there is a small window of opportunity to act on this moment. I felt like I peered into the boundless possibilities of kindness and seeing one another and what that sort of presence can do, how it can change the air around us. I drive into a parking place right in front of the store, retrieve a business card and  go back inside.

I wait behind someone else. I notice they are put upon, too. “I know buddy,” I want to say, “it sucks. But I’m glad to see you.”

When it’s my turn Mr. Sunshine leans on the counter, asking if he’d gotten the right pump. I lean across the counter, too, it must look like we’re flirting. Alas, no.

I say, “No, the gas is fine, you did a good job. But when I walked in here today you smiled at me like you were glad to see me,” for no apparent reason, I wanted to add, but didn’t want to come off maudlin, “and I really needed that today. Here’s a card for a free yoga class with me, I hope you come.”

Ah, that smile again! And now, he’s on the receiving end of something surprising and nice. Then do you know what this guy says? He says, “I knew you were yoga. I saw your bracelets.”

I knew you were yoga. He says. I’ve never had it put to me like that before, and never have I had someone so clearly state the purpose and point of my practice so succinctly. The “doing” drops away and eventually we just are.

Also, I could add that on this day, feeling put upon as I was by everything, I had forgotten that I was yoga until he put that sun shiny smile on me and made me remember.

Root to Rise


Since I was licensed to do hair in the state of Florida fourteen years ago I have not spent a great deal of time working in salons. I have become pretty good at rinsing someone’s color out in the sink with the hose. I learned the hard way that perms aren’t meant to be done in the time span it takes to cook a frozen pizza and I know for certain one should never ever trim bangs while the hair is wet, unless that person wishes to look like they belong in kindergarten.

Whether I’m working in a salon or not people think I’m a professional or something, so they ask me questions and usually don’t take my advice. Also people tell me how to do my own hair while I’m busy growing it out to look like a wild Himalayan sadhu. I believe that’s my ultimate calling – though I’m not entirely sure what that might entail. Sometimes someone will have a great idea for a hairdo, which I might be persuaded to do for them and it turns out really great. When the person hits on the hairdo of their dreams, I can tell you nine times out of ten it’s the same hairdo they had in the happiest time of their life.

I quit coloring my hair approximately twenty years after I began coloring it. I have grown my hair out so it lands between my shoulder blades. Aside from the bangs I have the exact same hairdo I had in kindergarten.

Yesterday my mom was watching a special on the Nancy Kerrigan and Tanya Harding case from twenty years ago. They interviewed Connie Chung who interviewed Tanya Harding twenty years ago and, I am not kidding, Connie Chung’s hair never changed. Google Farrah Fawcett or Dolly Pardon – an icon with a long history in photographs for comparison – and you’ll find there ain’t too much variance. It’s kind of comforting. If Dolly is still wearing those wigs then maybe we’re all gonna be okay.

We all have a way we see ourselves. I want to see myself as a wild Himalayan sadhu and so aside from righteous dread locks, I’m going with that look. It just so happens wild Himalayan sadhus look suspiciously like precocious kindergartners (though I hated school even then, I really liked that age; six was a good year).

How we see ourselves is a powerful thing, driving life choices, holding us back or propelling us forward. Combine this with the element of history, how we were, how things were, the way things used to be, we get caught up in recapturing moments that are, if anything, mists loitering in time.

No posture is ever the same, balance is never the same day to day, back bends and arm balances fluctuate like the tide- sometimes they’re up and sometimes they’re down. No hairstyle or wallpaper like grandma used to have can bring us back into the moment of happiness we remember for that time. We are here in the present to be happy, not to recreate it.

This week in class as we gather in the spacious Uru Yoga and Beyond let’s bring to mind our reason for practicing that day, in that moment and also bring awareness to the heart of the practice – to remember who we really are without the back pain and heart ache and thoughts and feelings from long ago that still effect us. It’ll take years and years to uncover even a little terrain but it’s such a glorious process, it’s infectious and others will want to participate and grow with us.

The more things change the more they stay the same. The more advanced practice becomes the more we should lean on the basics. The smarter we think we are the more careful we should be with the heart, which is where the essence of Yoga resides. As we grow, let’s return again and again to our roots and see what we uncover.

Monday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4:30 pm and 6 pm

Tuesday and Friday 3:30 pm Chips 24 Hour Fitness in Gulf Breeze

Thursday Uru Yoga and Beyond 4 pm Intro to Yoga Flow and 5:30 pm mixed level