Opportunities for Obstacles

“Man, I wish I started yoga when I was fourteen years old!” We’ve all said some version of this. It would just be soo much easier. The binds, the backbends, the will power. Physically, yes this is true. Your body learns and heals faster when you’re a teen. But what would you have been able to use your physical practice for? How would it have changed your behavior if everything just came naturally?

In our summer philosophy course, my teacher David Garrigues said that the older you get, the more opportunity for suffering you have. WHAT?!

Yes! More opportunity for obstacles because facing, observing, and possibly overcoming them means growing as an individual. Challenges force you to question who you are, your purpose and what you want out of this slice of the universe.

Hey, even if you had started yoga at fourteen there would STILL be challenges. Frankly, I would argue that it would be beneficial to study a different discipline so that could learn something exciting and new rather than leaning into your strengths.

Sri Swami Satchidananda writes in his translation of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yoga practice is like an obstacle race; many obstructions are purposely put on the way for us to pass through…We seem to need to be challenged and tested in order to understand our own capacities…If a river just flows easily, the water does not express its power. But once you put an obstacle to the flow by constructing a dam, then you can see its strength in the form of tremendous electrical power” (2012, p. 48).


It’s true. Daily practice requires physical expressions and a quiet mind. This helps us better understand who we are beyond the mind chatter and physical projections. Our attitude and expectations impact our experience. Opportunities often yield gratitude. Thanks for the chance or the experience. If we look at these physical challenges as negative then we’ll never truly understand what we may learn. It is our choice how we experience the world. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika says that enthusiasm and perseverance are basic requirements for success in yoga. Treating each practice as brand new, listening for the lessons.

When presented with a challenge you can grimace, push through pain, quit altogether OR you can learn the mechanics of your anatomy, test your physical limitations and accept them graciously for what they CAN do. You can also listen to what goes on in your mind. You could berate yourself, identify with your body as your entire being OR you could enthusiastically listen to your body’s direction and compassionately watch what passes through your mind.

The choice is yours! I am so very grateful for these countless DAILY lessons (even though I sometimes forget and have an internal tantrum.)


Savor the Cupcake!

I made puppy birthday cupcakes for Gypsy because well….she is the most spoiled. I sat it down right in front of her and gave her the “OKAY!”

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She inhaled the WHOLE thing in one swallow. EVEN the pepperoni on top! No sniffing, no chewing; just a single GULP.

I can’t help but be reminded that this is how many of us especially myself can want to practice asana in one fell swoop: Adding more, eyes on the destination, a satisfactory checkmark to complete. Yay! All done. I did my best to look like the picture and now it’s time for literally anything else. This is no different than swallowing a yoga cupcake.

It’s not “in vogue” to do a quarter kapotasana or a finishing backbend with the head on the ground. But that’s just it! To get the yoga, to become the best freaking listeners of all time to feel how the parts create the whole  we have to go SO slow and respect each moment. Taking five minutes to do one suryanamaskara A instead of five breaths. Doing wayyy fewer movements to produce MORE awareness.

We think…

“Well if I just watch these videos of other people doing it then it will really help me!”

I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t look at videos because they can often be a helpful tool BUT it is not going to make you a better listener to what is going on inside YOU. I urge you to practice beyond the five breath limit and see what happens. Close your eyes if it helps.

Our mind LOVES moving fast. It has downloaded a photo of the pose and it doing it’s damnedest to get in and on out! On to the next one! Soon it will be over! I won’t have to listen anymore and I will continue to control all thoughts! MWHAHA! YOU CAN’T SLOW ME DOWN!

Allow for extravagantly long and elegant movements. It’s often in these moments that vulnerabilities are exposed and you’ll see what your mind tries to do get you to do so you don’t have to focus on that! Maybe you find yourself picking at your feet for a second. Maybe you usually go to the bathroom at this point. Maybe you stare despairingly out the window about all this things you have to do in an hour.

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Who wants to stay where it requires physical work and hyper attention?! The mind sure doesn’t! It doesn’t like that you are exposing your weak spots and drawing attention to them. It’s labeled them unpleasant. Instead, we work to retrain our brain to not associate weak or vulnerable with BAD and scary. Try smiling at the sensations of wanting to get the hell outta there! Your mind-body patterns don’t get a chance to improve unless you teach them how to work better together. Give a rest to the powerful dominating muscles and let the smaller, tighter ones have a chance. So what if it doesn’t look like the pictures…those pictures aren’t you and they never will be. Brace for the slight changes in movement and revel in it.  

We might not all get to turn off our minds completely. But how do we listen better? Imagining a line from the top of the head through the soft palate down through to the pelvic floor as you practice is one way. Focusing on full even, strain-free breathing is another. Keeping a soft gaze at one spot certainly helps. Learn to feel for each piece of a posture with all of your senses.  Not just when you are in it but your entrance in and exit out of it. Not moving to the next one until you have tediously and lavishly maximized your focus. Search for all the parts and listen to what arises uniquely in you.

Listen and, for heaven’s sake, taste the peanut butter, carrots, honey, wheat flour and Pepperoni on top!


Discipline & Motivation

Discipline and Ashtanga Yoga are best friends. The practice IS a discipline and it requires discipline to experience any results. But I am not always a discipline enthusiast (at least not any more.)

Punishment comes to the forefront of my mind. Weighing and fearing the results of not having self-control or motivation. When I was younger, it was the fear of ending up in Hell but now it comes through fear of not being good enough.

I used to look at exercise as penance for food intake or simply something I had to do in order to be perceived a certain way, no-nonsense and driven.  Discipline to me meant hard work and sacrifice. 

There needs to be a balance for sure! Is it important to show up on your mat as often as you can even for just a few minutes? Well, of course. I’ve been known to say, “I hate skiing!” but the truth is I had my one and only experience skiing at night in college. Can I actually say I’ve fully experienced skiing? I have made zero effort to go again. If you try Ashtanga a few times or stop it and try to jump back in where you were, you can’t expect to have it change you all that much.


We all have a limited amount of time and dedicated energy to put towards things; to put toward relationships and interests. If practice starts stealing that energy from those things rather than giving you more energy (i.e. through mental clarity or self awareness and purpose) than it’s time to reduce the amount of postures or time that you are practicing. You’re not going to have a boyfriend or girlfriend if you’re not going out on that date. If that is something that is important to you, then allow physical yoga practice to take a back seat. (Sorry I keep using dating as an analogy but the truth is I’ve decided that I would either teach yoga or manage online dating profiles.)

I used to practice in the morning BEFORE teaching. This was starting to impact my energy levels and also my marriage. I just had less physical energy and less time to spend with Derek in the evenings. I had to ask myself WHY was I practicing so early when I could try and find time elsewhere. Was it because Sharath says I should? Was it because many teachers do? Neither of those really made sense to me when I thought about it.

There is an Ashtanga Community joke that there is a secret “Ashtanga Police” that will come and arrest you if you are seen fudging the vinyasa count or adding in a little play here and there. I am not a fan of this idea as I enjoy researching poses in ways that are not “traditional.” So come arrest me

But that brings us back to necessary discipline. Losing motivation is an honest part of continued ANYTHING. My now afternoon time slot alone can be tricky. It’s easy for me to lose the sacredness of practice; to slack, get bored or to lose focus. So I try to see Michael Joel HallCory Bryant and Georgia Gerstein to have some oversight and surround myself with others . Sometimes I'll throw on a Led Primary to get me moving or some Vedic Chanting because it reminds me of the feeling I get in India. All of this to remind myself that practice is not a place where I should fear the outcome.

It is a place where I can find God in me. It’s a place where I can use my body to experience a quietness. A place to offer whatever effort I have to God/Universe/Fill in the blank.

The moral of the story is I strongly suggest not being that yogi that won’t have pizza on a Friday with friends because you won’t bind the next day. Also, though not being that yogi that skips practice because you only have fifteen minutes or are too tired so you might as well not do it. Every little bit counts! Manage your energy for things and people you want to be with. Let practice be something you look forward to and makes you a better all-around person.

AND I promise I am not trying to police you if I check in because I haven’t seen you in a while. Rather, I am here to help motivate you, even if that means you are practicing at home or in an airport lounge.


Same Message, Different Avenues

I listen to roughly one podcast a day while walking Gypsy in my neighborhood. Usually NPR related because they offer such a wide variety and I have come to trust them. How I Built This, TED Radio Hour and now Hidden Brain are alongside yoga and spirituality based ones like Chitheads, The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast, and Asana Kitchen Podcast.

Lately, it seems that so many episodes are devoted to self-awareness and improvement, sustainable relationships and God/the Universe. We are in an era where we can dissect the reasons WHY we make certain choices, WHO inspires our decisions and WHY our actions matter.

This is not unlike the Yoga Sutras, the manual for stopping thought and being united in a blissful union with all that is True.  

This practice allows us to wrestle with these questions. We establish a language we can understand: arms, legs and the buttocks so that we can communicate. Developing control to recruit or relax them. We can discuss based on our own experiences, emotions that flare up, or eyes that wander because although we are all uniquely shaped, we share many of the same fears and desires.

I personally want to surround myself with people who elevate me. Folks who support me but also challenge the reasons why I am doing things.  Is it because I believe in Karma? Will my intentions in my thought processes determine the outcome of my choice? Do I believe that we are all interconnected, the same divine essence? In David Garrigues Yoga Sutras course suggests (I’m paraphrasing) that getting to know these thoughts and our bodies allows the seer, (the true self) something to experience. The idea that our “material,” our body and mind, can produce our dharma or purpose.

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This can be a lonely endeavor, which is why our community is so important. Even though we are independently moving, we are all looking to be better in some way. To observe ourselves and use that experience to build empathy for others. To see whether or not our thought patterns in physical practice can train our mind to see results from our choices. Also to wonder why we have gratitude? Is it to God/Universe? Are your actions rewarded in some way?

I see all of these questions in these podcasts and think how grateful I am for having a system that offers insight into HOW I can begin to know myself and train myself to make better informed decisions. By starting with a physical practice surrounded by others that both challenges and inspires us we can spend time reflecting on the results of these choices. Dedicating time to listen for my purpose and reflecting how I can live it fully.



Walking with Intention

“Stand up straight, you silly girl!” Mrs. Haddad would say to me. She was my ballet teacher but she could have been a Navy Seal as far as I was concerned.

We would practice standing up as tall as we could while imagining we were holding “Mommy’s large china plate.” The idea was that wherever we moved this imaginary plate, we would stand proudly with long necks, chests forward and shoulders back and down.

She had a way of instilling the discipline of good posture. She taught me that the way you hold yourself is indicative of how well you believe in yourself and offers more opportunity for connection. True, in this case, connection meant between the music and me. Learning to evoke emotion through movement. It also meant connecting with the audience. Using technique to allow the body to move more freely through grace. Turning choreography into a living emotional experience.

Practicing yoga operates in a similar way. A proud, erect posture is no different than samasthiti. It requires a degree of necessary pride because it takes discipline to uphold, a certain level of grounded “togetherness.” Consistency is required to progress through the technique of the sequence of steps. Unlocking areas of the body and making them free and strong. Coming to practice and fully embracing emotions without letting them direct you. But there is no music nor audience. Your breath creates the rhythm and your willful concentration creates the connection to what is the true self.

How you carry your body as you walk around offers insight into your mental and emotional health. The yoga practice will help you to control your muscles and skeleton so that you can walk tall. However, it’s so easy to go right back to poor postural habits once you leave the mat. This is where the connection piece comes into play. Having had the opportunity to connect with yourself on the mat, can you uphold that or at least periodically tap into that connection elsewhere?

I find the simplest way for me to dip back into this connection is to adjust my posture. Bringing awareness to my steps. While I am walking am I looking at the floor or directly in front of me? Imagining that if I were to run into something it would be my chest first, my head staying back in line with my shoulders. Where is Mommy’s plate?! Staying disciplined to stand erect and meeting people at eye level. Meeting someone directly in that way allows an opportunity to see the other person and to be seen myself. Creating room for connection. Not needing an audience to project.

I would suggest as your own social experiment, seeing the effects of an upright posture as you go throughout your day. Even setting a reminder timer midday to check in. What does it do for you? Does it provoke anxiety at being seen by others? Does it make others feel at ease?

I know what it does for me, but I don’t want to give it all away or impact your experience. Also, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being silly. I enjoy being silly! BUT if I am to take myself seriously and make a difference in how I interact with myself and connect with others, then I need to walk tall.



Yoga for Adults.

I often receive messages that folks are intimidated to start Mysore style yoga. “It looks too advanced.” I certainly understand why! If you google images of Ashtanga Mysore style you will see some crazy stuff. Legs behind heads and confusing twists that both look inspiring and impossible. No one starts that way. It’s like looking up baking recipes and thinking you should start with a chocolate soufflé.

I once had a new student describe Mysore classes as “Yoga for adults” because you are taught bits of choreography at a time. Ultimately, it’s up to the practitioner to remember and execute postures in accordance to their breath and ability. The teacher will potentially point some patterns out or new approaches but in the end, the student makes the decisions.

In my opinion, this level of student independence is crucial to personal development. As in, the desire to be a better human for you and for others. Empowered with repetitive technique, the student can take practice anywhere, learning to trust their body and what it needs. It sounds easy but it takes discipline! (Yoga for adults.) Taking responsibility for your actions. Showing up to your mat or rug and dedicating some minutes to LISTENING! Not asking your body to play along with your mind’s intentions but the other way around; using a familiar framework to go inside.

It would be much easier to be told what to do every turn. At least I think so for me! Inhale stick my foot here, put my arm here…blah blah. But in truth, so many of us already spend so much of the day doing that already! You have projects to get done and someone or something that demands things of you.

Treat yourself to some self-guided yoga. Yes, in the beginning you are taught the steps, but over time you can enjoy the freedom that practice creates; challenging your beliefs and conceptions of who you really are and what you are meant to do.


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Keeping it Together

I recently took a personality test. They fascinate me and frankly it has been a WHILE. As usual, it’s typical for me to dwell on the parts that ring true but are considered less desirable. One result in particular was the need to appear that I have it all together. That there is some control or steadiness at all times. Unrealistic, but it sure makes for a good impression.

I love a regimen. Heck, I even love a hairstyle. I braided my hair the same way for years because it was my uniform – my identifying mark. Another ritual of control over an unpredictable body and mind.

Perhaps one of my number one reasons for daily practice is that it allows me the very opposite; space for me to not have it all together. To tune into what is going on – especially when I don’t like what I see. Trying to find steadiness when inside it feels weak.

The rest of the day you can put on a “happy” face to be a professional, a parent, or a friend but the asana practice gives you space to look at your thoughts and question their validity. How are my thoughts controlling my decisions today? Am I able to shift them? What will support me today so that I can live the rest of the day more fully?

Sometimes for me that looks like pushing myself past limiting thoughts that say, “Quit while you’re ahead.” Paired with a wince of disapproval at the inability to perform proficiently. Other times that means keeping my practice to fifteen minutes. Allowing myself the ability to focus for a shorter duration so I can then use that focus and energy elsewhere; teaching, meeting friends, even mundane household chores.

I know I’m using my mat-time wisely if I have energy for processing emotions, researching my interests and feeling motivated to connect with God and others. What does energy management look like for you?  How can you better use your asana practice to support times when life feels jumbled?



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The Evil Power of Should

I have certainly felt self-imposed pressure in physical practice.  The thoughts,"I should be able to do this by now!" and "Shouldn't this posture be easy?" These are usually met with a grimace. A dissatisfaction with myself.

I see this in my friends as we turn thirty this year. Somehow the new decade measures levels of success in adulthood. How far in career and an intimate relationship we should be or owning certain things. And when we haven’t met certain steps, there is a disempowering fear that without these goals or items, life will derail. Perhaps we will succumb to loneliness or an acceptance of weakness.

I see this in my brother and his friends as they graduate college. Pressure to figure out next career steps. They have studied for an extended period of time and yet it doesn’t create an obvious path. Even when they make plans, sometimes they realize that they no longer want what they thought they did. This fear that every step could easily prevent a chance for happiness.

Measuring our lack of ability to reach these “ideals” or goals that we ourselves or society has set doesn’t give us a chance to question our purpose.  To pursue enough wealth that allows us to make our own choices. Why are these goals set and who set them.

Why is my inability to do “X” well, embarrassing instead of an area of growth; a steady evolution in my own time.

These fears of should-haves and weaknesses in character give opportunity to build strength. They are not shameful or another item to add to your list of faults. It is not something you should fix, but experience for yourself.

This is what I tell myself when I get entrapped in fear. I’m currently experimenting with my physical practice in such a way that might create lots of asana issues; exploring my physical weaknesses and seeing what shows up. Maybe what I thought could only happen one way can actually include so many more avenues.

This rule-follower is excited to throw away the should and research the why. Healthy questioning that I hope will permeate into my third decade of life choices.


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Standing silently at the front of the room reminds me of my role. Not to fix but to simply function as a mirror.

Say what you need to say out loud. Tense your jaw, shake your head, squint your eyes, even lose your drishti. But I hope you also exhale deeply, spread your eyebrows & laugh. These reactions reflect who you think you are. What you say to me, you really are saying to yourself.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

Is this good enough?

You have God/truth/the whole universe inside of you. How could you not be enough? This bind does not represent whom you are inside. It can’t be measured with a clasp of the hands.

I can’t do this.

What is THIS exactly? What is your image of perfection? Are you imposing a certain end point on your body?

I’m too tired.

Let’s shift then. Sleep more? What are you eating? What patterns are making you less vibrant? Is it a pattern you can change? If no, then let go.

Is this right?

Are you moving with intention and breath? Everything else will fall into place. Breathe and just go.


What are you receiving from practice? Feel stuck, motivated, joyful or bored? You know through consistency that these feelings change. Respect that and monitor your ability to evolve as a person.

Reflecting back on what you’ve said out loud or in your head, breathe compassion and remind yourself of the perfect unchanging piece inside of you. Surrender everything else to change. The real you will remain the same.


Yoga for All.

“It is virtuous not to be integrated and centered, but to be flexible, embracing, tolerant, patient, and complicated.”

– James Hillman

Mary said, “I like that there’s no bandwagon to jump on in this group.” I asked her what she meant. She said, “You don’t have to subscribe to a certain diet, wear specific clothes or conform to any one way of ‘being a yogi.’”

It’s true. There aren’t too many should(s) or musts other than overall cleanliness of mat & body and showing up as often as you can. But in terms of how you arrive, the mood you’re in or your approach practice—that is entirely up to you. Your grimacing practice face or sweat does not offend me in the least. When I made the Ashtanga Nation signs I added, “Yoga for All” as a reminder that however you show up is good enough.

Your appearance or ability is meaningless. Embracing yourself and showing compassion toward your mat neighbors is what directs the energy inside of you and of the room. Dedicating time through physical practice to try and see who you really are is plenty.  

I’m sure glad to have had this modeled for me in Michael Joel Hall’s room and with Stair Calhoun. If not for their general outlook on practice, this rule follower could have easily turned into a drill sergeant (and perhaps for a little while I was…)

Our diverse room shows commonality with its commitment to change. Patience for the changes of body and mind. Learning to witness thought patterns and poses come and go.

Stay complicated and kind :)



Practice will always be waiting for you.

Cold bunk beds. Morning wedding. What to do when Seventh Series demands your practice time?

I tend to be an all or nothing kind of lady. Sometimes that’s good. When I started Ashtanga, I told myself I would show up everyday to give it an honest shot. It’s also not useful. When practice is cut short due to 7th series (family time) or an injury, I can dwell on all that I was unable to do. Attached to my practice and a mourning of its shortcomings. Will all the poses I wasn’t able to do go away? All this does is rob joy from my practice. It cheapens it to a militaristic exercise game. Quantity over quality.

This past extended weekend I was gone for a family wedding in Hill Country Texas. No service, shared bunk-beds, cold nights, & the early morning wedding and brunch made little to no time for practice. I found myself coming home beating myself up for not getting more practice time in. Noticeable stiffness and lots of party food to boot.

Part of me doesn’t want to practice because I don’t want to see how much I can’t do. At least if I do way less, I won’t have to see what I’m missing. All or nothing.

I asked myself what the alternative was? Wake everyone up in our shared room to practice on the creaky floor in the cold? Expend all my energy so I couldn’t fully participate on the dance floor? None of these options were nourishing to me or loving of my family and their time.

Sometimes being a present participant is all I can ask for and expect of myself. It’s useless to beat myself up.

How many postures does it take to learn the same lesson? That it isn’t about how much but for how long you can pay attention. Some days it’s longer than others. Can I find Samasthiti and breath there? A small focused moment in time is everything.




Bringing Breath to the Foreground

Breath is my inner tempo. Background music; often ignored but it allows me to concentrate on everything else. The breath is expected, undervalued and taken for granted. Often shallow, withheld, and restricted. I depend on its rhythm but rarely recognize its capabilities.

Luckily I practice within a system that states exactly when and where to inhale and exhale. Seems elementary? No. Not when I try to follow it with the prescribed vinyasa. Not when I realize I am blissfully unaware of its quality.

What happens when I bring breath to the foreground? Pause all the worry over being worthy enough to teach, catching my heels in Kapotasana & Saturday night plans. None of that is relevant. None of that is real.

SO I say to myself…

Can I slow down the inhale? Will it match the length of my exhale? Breath before movement. BREATH BEFORE MOVEMENT! Let the breath carry you. Notice the burning muscles but override the sensation with breath. Can I make it louder?

Remember Mary Margaret, slow and steady breeds grace but short and strained brings fear.

Maybe today is the day I breathe more fully! Move steadily past the anxiety and cut through the projections. Perhaps it’s not. Lord, give me the compassion to move forward and not beat myself up.

Then I get to ask YOU the same questions. Find your breath patterns, test your capacity and mirror my breath to match your tempo.

Is today the day?

Yes?! Good. Keep your attention there and enjoy it.

No?! Good. Have compassion & try again tomorrow.




Returning from Mysore (India)

Where to begin?
Two months in Mysore complete. Fond memories imprinted and fresh ideas ready to be implemented. This experience is always about more than the practice.
Eliminating all expectations. Get your order wrong. Bathe in a bucket. Cake dirt on your cracked heels. Live with one spoon. How much do you really need to be happy?
Building patience. Curled in a ball for two hours outside the shala. Wait for food & friends to arrive. Learn that five minutes means an hour. This builds resistance to needing things immediately. Waiting turns into reflection time and the realization of how little I spend alone.
Making family out of colleagues. All taboo topics are on the breakfast table. Folks who can handle discord and offer insight. Compare notes and swap ideas. What makes a good teacher anyway? Friends who create community in a career that is often lonely. Laugh so hard together we can barely breathe. Cry hard when we leave.
Zipping around on the scooter. No four way stops are there, just four way goes. Keep moving even if it’s unclear. Weave with everyone in the chaos. We will all end up somewhere.
Practicing in a focused cauldron. Sweat and breath. No technique required. I am enough but do I believe it? Do I need more than I already have? What do I have to prove and whom am I trying to impress?
Flexing the brain. Creativity spurts and anatomy courses. Study for me and my students. Books of every variety. Motivation to better myself.
Being in the presence of your teacher. Thrive on intense practice in the hands of an expert. Question and reflect on the subtle energetic offerings. Learn to embody his compassion, presence & dedication. 
All of these pieces comprise an alternate life. It would be easy to keep it separate but I want bring the best pieces back with me for you.
My teachers.
I am grateful to Sharathji for offering me his blessing this trip. With or without this paperwork, I am beyond grateful to be teaching and part of this lineage. He and his space have rejuvenated me. I anxiously look forward to the next trip with him.
What to say to Michael Joel Hall? Grateful doesn’t quite capture the sentiment. Feeling “blessed” falls short. I wouldn’t be teaching this way if not for his passion and commitment to excellence. He has always given himself abundantly and supported me as student and teacher. I am so proud to be linked to him in this lineage.
I am thankful for getting to practice under David Garrigues. He inspires me with his wealth of knowledge and the endless energy with which he delivers the teachings. I am looking forward to seeing him in a couple months at our shala.
Thank you, Mary, Allison, Jonathan & Ning for holding the space for the students and for making it possible for me to have this opportunity.
I have thought of you often and look forward to seeing you. I plan to practice with full jet lag on Saturday. I have a small something for you and will bring it then! The schedule will remain the same as it has been these last two months. My first official class will be Monday morning!

I look forward to getting back into the swing, practicing and learning with you.



Resiliency in Practice

Mis En Place.
Everything is in its place. This is commonly referred to having the kitchen prepared, vegetables chopped etc to cook food.
Over the last week, in our current chilly situation, I have been thinking about this phrase and how it applies to practice. Is it ideal, that the boiler in the church is broken, that we have to wear more layers and huddle together to practice? No. While it is temporary, it opposes challenges. You have to likely do all 5 Sun As and Bs, maybe keep the speed in your vinyasa, or conversely allow for more time to allow muscles to lengthen. But when is anything in your day ideal? Can you ever expect it to remain the same each day? To have your meals planned out, preparations for meetings, commute calculated, positive interactions with friends? Also, No.
How do you react when something imbedded in your routine is absent?  Your meeting runs late and you can’t make it into the studio. Your long awaited beach vacation is flooded with rain. Or in our case, the boiler is being repaired and it’s rather chilly!
Do you panic? Do you get angry? Do you pity yourself? Do you neglect practice?
In truth, you have everything already in its place. You have BREATH and a body to manipulate it with. You are equipped to handle these alterations if you simply carry on. And no matter what shifts, you can still practice.
In fact it is arguably MORE important to practice when you think something is missing. When you’re heartbroken, depressed, lethargic, cold, fearful, or anxious. Instead of opting out, why don’t you practice less with longer breathes. Allow yourself to enjoy the luxury of a movement practice. Come with the intention of allowing your practice to support you. To remind you that everything changes and that you can train your thought patterns to respond more openly to it. When I remind myself that everything IS in fact in it’s place, then I get a sense of relief. The reminder that while I can’t control the variables in my day, I CAN choose how to I respond to them.  
Why bother coming into the cold space then and not practice at home? Because there is power in community and to set an example for one another that you can always practice. Showing up is enough. Showing up for yourself creates the community. Maintaining your practice in difficult times elevates the community. Positive lifestyle patterns in the face of adversity are powerful.
Sometimes I fantasize that our Mysore Program is a troop preparing for deployment. That one day, if we were deployed to defend Yoga (yikes…that is quite a task) that we would be the first and last people on the field. That despite low rations, clothing, & even faith we would be able to represent resiliency.

Thank you ALL for practicing that resilience this week in the alternate room and for simply moving and breathing.


Anxiety & Yoga

Anxiety has been at the forefront of my reading material lately and also has been brought up in many conversations in and out of the yoga room. I am surprised with the number of folks, like me, who have experienced panic attacks or extreme anxiety and also relieved that I am not alone.

This practice has both helped me mitigate panic attacks but also occasionally increased my anxiety! Why is that? I think it has to do with the increased ability to focus on the breath, creating more awareness of the body’s movements and therefore becoming more present. It also requires that you persist through uncomfortable situations. Many of you may remember the first couple of supta kurmasanas, feeling constricted, bound, stretched, in a dark hole that you created with your own legs! Or maybe in the classic example, of kapotasana where you need to “crack” your chest open and vulnerably trust that your feet are somewhere back there for you to grasp. Then you learn to stay, breathe and soften.

This can translate to real life situations pretty easily. You may start to pay more attention to your breath while you are at work or you are more easily aware of your thoughts while you are folding laundry. You begin to process what is true or what you are avoiding. For me, yoga has forced me to take a look at the negative thoughts that I wished to avoid and bury away. In Ashtanga, you are BY YOURSELF doing your practice. If you don’t like what those thoughts are telling you or you struggle to be alone with yourself then its time to face those thoughts. This is HARD WORK! Like therapy, sometimes it is harder to manage before it gets better. We are spending less and less time alone, free from distractions. Use your practice wisely. Let it move that body you have on loan to change your daily actions and world view.

In fact, if you haven’t started watching your thoughts and questioning their validity and origin then you might want to practice a little more often and passionately. If you aren’t altering your mental bandwidth and becoming a more grounded, aware, kind person then what the hell are you doing on your mat for 90+ minutes??? You are wasting your precious time worrying about that bind.

In addition to the practice there is an extremely simple and effective breathing technique, Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing.) You may have seen myself and some folks in the room doing that as part of their closing postures. Give it a try! It is so safe and simple that even Sharath teaches it on youtube:


(I also do this if I wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety or even when I’m driving and feeling spun up.)

I am currently reading “The Charisma Myth” by Olivia Cox Cabane and she spends a great deal of time talking about anxiety & self-doubt and how that impacts our successes in life and our interactions with others. She says that during a panic attack, “the mind thinks we’re in a fight or flight situation, declares a state of emergency and shuts down what it deems to be superfluous functions. Unfortunately, that means the body is reducing our cognitive abilities just when we need them most…rest assured that this reaction is an entirely normal, natural one.” She goes on to prescribe visualization techniques to help calm the anxiety. Where do we use visualization techniques? IN PRACTICE EVERY DAMN DAY! Can you actually see your sit-bones, bandhas, diaphragm? Nope. But you visualize them and reorganize your internal self toward samastihi. This is no different.

If you have ever had a panic attack, you know it feels like you are DYING. Just remember, that your intelligence has been shut off and you are now operating in fight or flight. I have found that in these times, alternate nostril breathing is also VERY effective. It is also important to remember that panic attacks usually last NO LONGER than 20 minutes! Guess what?! Eddie Stern (look this dude up if you don’t know him) just came up with a breathing app that is very simple and effective:


If you have a panic attack or some anxiety before a meeting you can set a timer (20 minutes for a full-on attack) and do your alternate nostril breathing with the sweet little ball that expands and contracts.

I decided to rant on this today because this popped up in my news:


More real yoga people!

Summertime Sadness....A Call for Tapas

It’s true summer time as a student is ROUGH. Folks travel and stay out late. It is arguably the easiest season to fall off the wagon. I too haven’t had as much time to practice in the morning because I love sitting on the deck! Who wants to go to bed early when you’re being called outside by the warm sun? If you’re in need of some yoga inspiration, perhaps rethinking your time on the mat can help...
I'm almost finished with David Garrigues’ “Yoga Sutras Book 1 Summer Course” and fireworks have been exploding in my brain. He demystifies the connection between the physical asana practice and the guidelines in the Sutras' text. He discusses the recipes for stopping thought, realizing one’s true nature and discovering our unique purpose in this life. WHOA. I could discuss this for hours and with some of you I have. Some of you have walked right in as I am processing this information and I blurt out an unpacked phrase, perhaps sounding even a little crazy.
I used to hear the phrase “The mat is a mirror of your life.” I would think….hmm interesting. Yeah, okay…makes sense. I’m being lazy during X and so therefore I’m probably not paying attention somewhere in my life blah blah..
I am here to tell you that I am now ENRAGED by this phrase (thank you DG.) As David puts it, the mat is a laboratory or a training ground to learn how to use your body and your mind. You have dedicated time each day to practice higher levels of thoughts such as meditation on the breath or arranging your body along the imaginary central axis so that you can dispel all thought. Thoughts that are often fueled by desire and suffering (among others.) Your mat is a training ground to practice positive thought patterns that directly influence your thought patterns the rest of the day. THIS IS HUGE! This is not a passive practice. This is not simply exercise.

Yoga and in our case the Ashtanga practice assumes that we all have these problems, desires and pitfalls in our nature that cause us to think that we are only our body and our memories. Instead, the Ashtanga practice is intelligently designed to awaken your awareness to the one unchanging piece in you, your true self. To separate what changes from what doesn’t.  And we can realize this through the simplest series of postures. You don’t have to do your whole freaking practice every day. This is training so you can get out of the illusion that you are your body or your suffering. This practice has the potential to elevate your thinking and bring about wellness in your body too.

This is YOUR practice. The work is up to YOU. You have to face suffering and look at what is real and true. You are not doing a pose because ahhhhh this feels so good or this music really jives with this flip-dog. This is your life right here in every moment and there is no time to waste. When you practice, each jump out or inhale is an opportunity to align yourself to the truth, to the awakened unchanging self. So, no. No mirror. No mere reflection. Train yourself to elevate your understanding. With that, you are RESPONSIBLE for taking that into your life and applying it. To be an example around others and to react with compassion and joy, which the sutras say are finer thoughts than anger.  You are encouraged to find your purpose. I’m stating this to you but I am even more so writing this for me too. I needed to hear this through this summer course. To remind myself that I am lucky to have found this lineage that is designed for me to discover my truth.
Thank you David Garrigues for always expanding my understanding. I sure am looking forward to his visit in April :)


Why Ashtanga?

I’ve been really curious about WHY you all are practicing Ashtanga these days. I’ll admit that I came to Ashtanga because I got bored with power yoga. It was no longer challenging or exciting for me and I wanted to do MORE....like handstands! And then of course only to find out that you don’t really get into handstands much much later (but really THANK GOODNESS because there is so much other fun to be had.)

My current reason is that I feel like I have a capacity to FEEL MORE; experience more emotions more fully and often. This is both thrilling and sometimes exhausting. It's as if more than before, I can explicitly list what I love and enjoy but at the same time fully experience anxiety and gloom. It’s no longer buried as deep, and there is the room for all of it to be felt. I also sense that I have so much further to go. As if there is a direct correlation between connecting with deeper parts of my anatomy and realizing that they are there and that there is MORE SPACE, a greater capacity for SOMETHING; yes, strength and flexibility but something beyond that. It’s so thrilling really.

There is never an end! That the same postures still have possibilities and expansiveness. This for me personally is NOW why I practice. I had to really think about that when I had hurt my back a couple years ago and had to scale back practice. Well if I can’t do all the cool shit then WHY?! Because even with so very little there is so much possibility. My perspective is constantly challenged and what I was so very positive and “right” about is often turned upside-down. How exciting that is! To never actually know anything for sure and to question what I believe in or why I do certain things. This used to TERRIFY me so I can only attribute daily practice to this change. 
I’m really so curious to hear from you all on this because I promise there is no wrong answer. There can’t be, because whatever reason it is, you are showing up and working on SOMETHING. That is so much better then nothing :)
And who knows, it might completely change on you and throw your "perfectly made for TV" reason into a spin like it has mine.  


All Practice Counts

March 2017 is going down in history as one of the hardest practice months for this girl. I’m wracking my brain. Stiff. Unmotivated. ZERO concentration.  
Mary asked, “dips?”
Sure. Just so you can see how stiff I am.  
If I were to also describe my mood this past month in all honestly I would say the sammeeee thing. I even found myself shopping in the Amazon “New and Interesting Finds” section titled “MEH.” I considered purchasing prime a graphic-t featuring “Meh” but then I realized I needed to take a harder look at what was really going on.
Is it the flip-flops to boots in a day weather changes? The new puppy potty breaks at 2am? My Lady Holiday sugar cravings that spilled over well past the holiday? These could ALL be reasons why. So I’m taking a step back. My practice this month is a wake up call that changes are happening and it’s OKAY! No one is going to care if I didn’t get my full practice in. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I need this reminder or else I will force myself to go through the whole thing. As if it’s not an honest practice if I only did a little. And GUESS WHAT? Those days are so crappy. Those are the days I tweak my knee or lay on my mat in despair looking at the high high high ceilings WHYYY MEEE!  
I find myself fighting the common battle with myself:

Patient Practioner: “Oh did I miss something? Today is yesterday?"

Eager EGO: “This was starting to come so easily and feel SO GOOD.”

Patient Practioner: "Did you honestly think that once you do something once or even regularly that it’s going to remain THE SAME?!” Has this been true in any other aspect of your life? Shit changes, Mary-Margaret."
So it could all be entirely out of my control! Either way, it’s time to hit the reboot button. I’m doing a spring detox cleanse (Derek too mwhaha) to redirect my digestive system, sleeping patterns and over all habits toward the new season.  Pay attention to my daily decisions and mood swings. I’ve been here before of course. It’s just easier for me to recollect the good feelings and practices. The effortless speed or the floaty mcfloatness. Nope, not this month. I could easily stop practicing. But now is the time for Tapas (HEY BOOK CLUB YOGIS YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS!) to invest my energy (however much is there into my practice.) Short. Long. More sirsansana. Less backbends? It all counts.
Enjoying practice for me means not feeling anxious about the amount of time or postures. This is my motive for April. April showers bring May flowers, April detox brings May tick-tocks? Perhaps. Perhaps NOT. Meh.


Another Kind of Holiday ;)

ARE YOU OKAY?! WHY aren’t you practicing?!
It’s okay everyone! No need to sound the alarm. I’m just on my period, or as Ashtangi’s call it “Lady’s Holiday.” I can usually tell when it’s getting close to a “moon day” or couple days leading up to it when practice gets SO slow and I give Jeb Bush a run for his low energy title. This month I knew it was on it’s way when I cried about the laundry.
I didn’t always respect these three days of glory. I would persist through practice OR I would try and do something else extreme like a HIIT workout because I am a STRONG DETERMINED WOMAN. Ummm calm down Mary-Margaret! You can be both. Stira, Sukha, what? Oh yes yes. Strength and ease. Opposing forces. #Respecttheforce
Why isn’t it suggested that you practice these three heaviest days of your cycle? Well, there is the natural fact that there is a downward flow of blood and energy that the body is expelling. In the asana practice we try to redirect energy with bandhas, and physically challenging postures. It is not recommended to invert during your period because don’t we want to have a shorter period? There’s only one exit…
For me, it comes down to the fact that I need to trust my body’s natural process and not get so worked up every time it happens. In “Yoga Sadhana for Mothers” there are many women who write about their cycle and how to use that time for rejuvenation. Many also talk about the ability to give up attachment to the practice during lady’s holiday as a preparatory practice to motherhood and the body’s natural fluctuating process. (Note: Mom, if you are reading this, just because I read a book that has “Mother” in the title does NOT mean I plan on becoming one yet! I know you’ve seen that Rocking Chair in the studio!)
What is something positive that I can do with the extra time I would normally have for practice? I can take more time to read, bake something, sleep more, eat more, write, shop etc. Oh I also like to watch something that makes me cry solely because it feels so damn good to. Like tears are pent up and hormones are waiting for the slightest chance to unleash the waterworks. Have you seen the t.v. series “This is Us” with Mandy Moore? I really didn’t like Mandy Moore before but now I have to say, she’s prettttyyyy wonderful. Tissues are a must!
IF YOU ARE A DUDE: Maybe you just support your partner or mat-mates during their holiday. You might think to yourself, how would I know? Oh, keep practicing and listening. You’ll pick up on it. Derek folded the laundry I cried about. (He’s a keeper.)
So unfortunately, we don’t get the whole three days to take a full vacation somewhere. What are some small things you can do for yourself that can embrace your femininity? You may find a well rested and respected body appreciates the practice more, like I have. Try it! I dare you :)


On the Move!

Change is rarely seamless. The move to the new studio space at Faith Lutheran was DEFINITELY sudden. On Monday we ekam inhaled on Wilson Boulevard and Tuesday we dve exhaled on Arlington Boulevard. Typical Ashtangis (myself included) can exhibit a strong distaste for change. After all, we do the same postures, at the same time. We have a routine prior to practice that involves some fasting, coffee and bathroom time. Some of us even balk at the idea of setting up your mat on the other side of the room. Quelle Horreur!
You know though, that somehow within these same postures, practice is never identical. One humid Wednesday morning, those index fingers latch onto each other for a precious moment in Supta Kurmasana. You start gasping, sweating and wondering, “What changed?!” Well, YOU did somewhere along the way.  One day you smile at the person next to you whose dusty foot extends onto your tank top instead of panicking that you now have foot sweat up in your business.
Hey! I have news for you. The more pro-change you are the less suffering. Adapt or Cry! (I hope my husband doesn’t read this or he’s going to make me recite this every time we go camping.) Really though, even if you don’t like change you somehow knew it was the leafy greens for your mood because otherwise you wouldn’t be committed to this practice. Every time you inhale you have an opportunity to experience bliss (or suffering.)
Lucky for us, the space is the only big change. It is filled with the same warm group of crazy people that I love and recognize (even from upside down and in a twist.) We will continue to adapt as individuals in our behavior and develop as a troop.
This first month we have exciting events in our midst! First off is our Grand Opening Soiree next Friday, the 3rd at my house. Interact with your mat-mates and meet people from the morning and evening that you don’t know yet! Second, is that I am so tickled to host Jeff Lichty in the new space next month. I am rarely going to offer workshops and I am a little star-struck that this Canadian is coming to the nation. He has been to India over fifteen times and offers a practical approach to teaching. He will guide us through KEY topics like samastitihi in foundations, intermediate series highlights and sutra and pranayama discovery. Talk about learning some extra tools to change your practice! I hope you can join us for one or all of his workshops and take advantage of his time and experience.
I have never been happier, more energized (or caffeinated.) It is my utmost pleasure to see you every morning and evening in this new space changing alongside you.