Friday, August 29, 2008

Stop Trying to Be Perfect...Stop Trying to Be a Saint!

"Stop trying to be perfect...stop trying to be a saint. Just stoooop! Ok? Have some fun! Stop trying to be perfect, and make a mess...make a big mess!"

When I was at Yoga Teacher Training at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health this was my favorite thing to hear, and I got to hear it, often. Now you have to hear this in your own head with the most delightfully, lilting Singapore accent, because the speaker was Jovinna Chan, one of our teachers, and that is what she sounds like. Every time I heard her say these words it was like all the bones went out of my body. Ahhhh....I would just sink into that delicious release from the slavery of perfection. How long had I waited to hear those words? To be given permission to be "imperfect"; permission I would never fully give to myself? A very long time.

Perfection is a hard task-master. It keeps our nose down on a grindstone with singular purpose, believing in the end we wil grind out something of beautiful, polished perfection. But, all we end up with is a sore nose and a pile of grit.

On and off the mat, yoga is a great way to become, like myself, a "Recovering Perfectionist". Anything you carry with you will show up on the mat, and as you work with it you take the awareness, and the biological changes that occur in your mind and body, into your everyday life.

Dinabandhu Garrett Sarley, the CEO of the Kripalu Center, says that, "There is a physical analog for every spiritual experience." (You can read more about this in Dinadandhu's article in the current issue of Yoga Bulletin here).

Our work on the mat is transformational, bringing us in very concrete ways closer to our own humanness. And humans aren't perfect.

So, let's just let that one go... all together now...

one...two...three, deep breath...I N H A L E... and...E X H A L E.

All gone.

Hmm...perfectionism can be stubborn. So, if you feel some residue of that grimacing task-master left behind, maybe this offering which we read so often in Yoga Training will speak to you, as it did to me. Maybe you can read it to your task-master.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

May you be happy, May you be free from all suffering,


P.S. Check out the two related articles below, they are excellent.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kripalu Yoga: Exploring the Yoga of Life

I am a Kripalu Yoga teacher, so I know I am biased, but I really think the Kripalu tradition is one of the most accessible and compassion-centered approaches to yoga.

If you are new to yoga, or just don't know about Kripalu Yoga, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health Website is a great place to start. The center is located near Lenox, in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts, and it is a fabulous place. They offer classes, workshops, retreats, and teacher-trainings in practically every yoga tradition in the world. World renown teachers come from around the globe to teach there. It is also an amazing place to just go relax, eat some healthy vegetarian food, take a yoga class, hike in the hills or swim in the lake, and just chill out! I spent a month there during my teacher training and it was one of the best things I have ever done.

Check it out...

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health - Get inspired. Explore fresh perspectives emotional wellness, physical health, and spiritual sustenance. - :

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Meditation-In-Motion: a Kripalu Yoga Experience

A statue in Bangalore, India depicting Siva me...Image via Wikipedia In this post I am going to set the stage for you to experience Meditation-In-Motion, which is a unique aspect of the Kripalu Yoga tradition. This type of "prana awakening" will open doors to new body wisdom for you. First a little background, and explanation.

Kripalu Yoga comes from the lineage of Kundalini yoga and so it is all about cultivating, releasing and harnessing prana, which is energy or life-force. (I will discuss the concepts of prana and Kundalini in greater depth in up-coming posts.) The idea is that as we practice the different components of yoga, like asanas (postures), prana is strengthened and focused. This in turn has great and far-reaching effects in every area of our lives.

Meditation is often an elusive term for most people conjuring pictures of yogis cross-legged in full lotus for hours, but really it is a mental, physical, and biological event that occurs quite naturally when the conditions are right. Creating the conditions is key.

If you have ever been so totally absorbed in work that hours passed without you realizing; have felt the absorption of oneness with a beloved; walked in the forest and had a sense of oneness with all things; participated in an ecstatic dance class, or just danced with reckless abandon by yourself (one of my favorite things to do!) then you have experienced a form of meditative absorption, or Dhyana.

Spontaneous posture flows are something that can occur as prana is released during these deep states of meditative absorption. In fact, this is how yoga asanas were developed. 5000 years ago, yogis living in seclusion, spending hour upon hour in meditative absorption, began to have spontaneous movements as a result of their increased prana. They began recording some of the most common movements, and I would speculate the ones that seemed most effective in harnessing prana, and helping the body to deal with excruciating hours spent in sitting meditation. These were eventually refined into common sets of postures and practices that moved forward with the evolving yogic tradition.

So... what Meditation-In-Motion is, simply, is to allow yourself to come into a relaxed, meditative state and then let your prana move you.

Not you doing doing you.

To begin...
Find a space where you have room to move around, and lay out a yoga mat (if you have one-it's not required for this experience.) You can use music if you like, BIJA by Todd Norian is a favorite of mine for MIM. Begin on your back in Corpse Pose. Inhale and exhale deeply through your nose.

Feel the breath as it moves into your body and imagine it swirling in a spiraling motion in the center of your body. With each new breath, let this spiral expand, moving out into your limbs. Let the energy flow and grow with the breath as you inhale and exhale. Keep expanding until the energy is moving out through your finger tips, toes, and the crown of your head.

Now let the breath and the energy begin to guide your movements. Forget what you know of yoga postures, or dance movements; follow the waves of sensation and energy. There is no wrong way to proceed.

You may find yourself, moving a lot, or a little, staying on the floor, or transitioning to standing movements. You may sway, arc, make shapes, find yourself in long, holding positions - anything is possible, everything is good.

Notice your breathing, and feel free to release any sighs or vocalizations that may come through. Continue this way, riding the wave of sensation, allowing your prana to awaken and flow, for as long as you like. When you feel complete, make your way back down to the floor and end with a five to ten minute Sivasana (relaxation and integration time), in Corpse Pose.

I hope you enjoy dancing with your prana-
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Child's Pose: It's Child's Play...

A reader request...this one's for you K...

OK, no really, it's called Child's Pose (or, Garbhasana in Sanskrit). But, some of my awesome students back in Houston sort of inadvertently renamed it "Child's Play," and the name has stuck.

It's an apt renaming because this is a really, really easy pose, and the great thing is you have been doing it since you were a child, so no practice required.

This posture is a forward bending movement and so it is extremely calming to the central nervous system. This is something yoga really excels at: turning off the sympathetic nervous system which initiates our "fight or flight" responses, and turning on the parasympathetic system which makes us feel, "" Too much of the former and not enough of the later leads to chronic stress syndromes, weight gain, adrenal depletion, and many other "dis-eases" of the body, mind and spirit.

So, lets practice together:

Come down on to your hands and knees on your mat, or the floor. Sink your hips back onto your feet and fold forward at your hips so that your hands come down in front of you and your forehead touches the floor; you can also move your hand to your sides with the palms facing up, still keeping your forehead on the floor. Experiment with both and notice the differences. Allow your tail bone to lengthen down towards the floor so that your spine feels very long.

Stay here breathing deeply in and out of your nose for at least three minutes. Allow your body to sink into the posture more deeply with each exhale. Repeat the mantra, "I have everything I need. I have everything I need. I have everything I need."

Notice the changes in your body and mind from when you start to when you complete your posture. Allow the sensations you feel at the end of the posture to resonate inside of you for a minute or two. Remember, as you move slowly out of the pose and into your day, that you carry this calm and equanimity within you...after all, it's just child's play.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Om Peace, Peace, Peace
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mountain Pose: Standing on Your Own Two Feet

Standing on your own two feet sounds like one of the simplest of tasks, but it is something I find challenging my students again, and again. Making contact with the ground in a firm and balanced way doesn't always happen automatically for a number of reasons.

Firstly, we all have our own habitual ways of standing, and the longer we stand the more pronounced these usually become. A teacher of mine used to say, "Let me see your best grocery store line stance." And there we'd all be, leaning on one foot or the other, maybe a heel rocked back; a slouch though the torso. When we get tired we tend to alternate putting more pressure on one foot, then the other, when in reality we would get heaps more energy if we would just push down into our feet evenly.

Secondly, these habitual patterns create, and reinforce muscle and skeletal imbalances. In turn we feel more fatigued, and this spreads throughout the whole body.

Thirdly, our footwear can be truly horrendous. Much of it fails to give adequate support to our feet and legs, some of it tips our pelvis and torso at odd angles (high heels, anyone?), and they can reinforce or exacerbate imbalances already present.

But, never fear...YOGA is here, and it provides an easy solution in the posture known as Tadasana, or Mountain Pose.

This posture is basically standing evenly on your own two feet. Try it out (get outside in the grass if you can, it will make this exercise even more yummy):

Come to a standing position in your bare feet (important so that you can feel them!) Stand with your big toes, heels and ankles together, if this is very uncomfortable for you, try separating your feet about 6 inches, but keep your feet parallel. Allow your hands to hang down by your side.

Begin to press your feet firmly into the ground. Can you feel each of the four sides, of each foot, touching the ground? Notice if there are any gaps, or if you are leaning a little more to one edge or another. Press down the balls of your feet and lift your toes; then spread them out as if they were fingers, and place them back down one, by one. Press fully into your feet again. Notice the sensations that come as the soles of your feet make contact with the earth; feel the energy that is being drawn up and into your body.

Notice what is happening in your legs as you press. Do you find a new firmness? An increase in energy? What has happened to the pelvis? Bring your awareness further up, and notice the position of your chest, shoulders, neck and head. Do you feel lighter? Straighter? Stronger? Take note of all these things and the way your entire body feels in its position in space.

In Yoga we use the energy of moving down, to rise up; this is the foundation of every posture.

If you are new to yoga, WELCOME, you are doing it, and can continue your sadhana (practice) every time you are standing on your own two feet.

May your feet always rest joyfully upon the earth,


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Monday Mantra – August 19, 2008

Another Monday Mantra...on Tuesday. Do you think the Universe is trying to tell me something? Honestly, I tried to carve out a bit of time yesterday for this post, but it just didn't happen. Mondays are always just so busy. But, I love it, because the Universe does have a sense of humour doesn't it? I mean, my thought on posting a mantra each Monday was that it is such a frenetic day we could all use something to give us a mindfulness break, and opportunity to shift focus, to regain steadiness and concentration...and then, I couldn't find time to do that. Hmmm... will have to work on that, for now here is a new mantra for you.

Om Namah Shivay (Aum Num-ha Shi-vi-ya)

Om Namah Shivay, is a mantra of transformation. It is an homage to Lord Shiva, the Hindu aspect of the Divine responsible for the transformation of the Universe. Sometimes referred to as the Destroyer, but in the cyclical Hindu world-view nothing is really ever destroyed so much as it is transformed, changed, or "reborn" into something new.

So, one of the great and powerful uses of this mantra in personal practice is for transforming one energy into another. If you are feeling stuck in a certain mind state, Om Namah Shivya; if you are feeling tired and need to build some energy, Om Namah Shivya; if you are feeling stricken with grief that is weighing you down like an anvil on your chest...Om Namah Shivya.

It is critical that you say the mantra, out loud or in your mind, with the greatest intention, but be aware that the mantra will do it's own work after that. You may not feel that it is working, you may even feel it is making things worse, or just a lot of resistence or anger towards it; these are always good clues that the mantra is doing its work. Stick with it awhile.

Shiva, whos mantra this is, is also the symbol of the inner self that is left intact after everything else has been consumed, so in speaking it the chanter is bowing to her inner shelf.

Let this mantra vibrate in your heart.

May it bring you great transformation, a returning to that which you already are.
Abide in Peace.

Chanting of this sacred mantra from Krishna Das



Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Mantra for Monday

This is a day late, but hey, what's a day in the great expanse of consciousness....

I've talked a little about Mantra, now here is my very favorite. I chant it every day and it brings great peace to my life. Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudeva, can be translated: I Bow to That Which Sustains Me. I find it is a beautiful way to bring mindfulness into my life. To stop, and think about what sustains me in my life, and to bow in honor of all those blessings.

Come into a moment of mindfulness, take a deep breath, and try it for yourself...

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudeva
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudeva
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudeva

Here is a video of my favorite chanting of this precious mantra, by the lovely Deva Premal.

May you have peace,


My Review of Asolo Attiva Hiking Boots - Waterproof Gore-Tex?? (For Women)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

Closeouts . Asolo Attiva hiking boots provide the waterproof breathable protection of Gore-Tex??, superior support and comfort, and Old-World quality. Heel and toe bumpers Convenient rapid lacing system Padded collar Gusseted tongue Pull loop Suede and nylon uppers Removable insole Non-mark...

Incredible boots!

By from Gastonia, NC on 8/12/2008


5out of 5

Sizing: Feels half size too big

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Stable, Comfortable, Durable, Breathes Well, SUPER comfy out of the bo, Warm

Best Uses: Wet Weather, Casual Wear, Hiking, Travel, Cold Weather

Describe Yourself: Comfort-oriented, Looking for good value, Looking for high-quality

Asolo was recommended to me by my cousin who is an avid outdoors man, and wears the boots for construction work all day. He said they were a great fit out of the box, warm and durable, and they are ALL those things. I literally put them on and went hiking for 3 hours and my feet and legs felt great. The tred gives good traction, the ankle stability is excellent and the weather proofing really keeps the moisture and cold out. I have worn them on 100 degree days as well and my feet have stayed comfortable, so they breathe well. I would recommend these to anyone and will definitely by them again. Also, the price at Sierra Trading Post was unbeatable (and I shopped around a lot!)

On the recommendation of other reviewers I ordered a half-size smaller then my normal size and they were a perfect fit.


My Review of SmartWool Adrenaline Cushioned Hiking Socks (For Men and Women)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

SmartWool's specially processed merino wool gives these socks soft, itch-free comfort, warmth and wicking that will surprise you. Merino wool is warm in winter, cool in summer Features include ankle and arch braces Contoured flex zone for all-day action and comfort Waffle knit instep for tempera...

The best socks EVER!

By from Gastonia, NC on 8/12/2008


5out of 5

Fit: Feels true to size

Pros: Wash and dry well, Wicks Away Moisture, Comfortable, Regulates Temperature Well, NO blisters EVER, Stylish, Durable

Best Uses: Daily Use, Travel, Team Sports, Backpacking, Hiking

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

These are wonderful, as are all the SmartWool socks. Your feet will be so happy! I usually get blisters ALL the time, and I never get them as long as I wear SmartWool socks (even if my feet get wet.) I wear them for hiking and running, and I put A LOT of miles on them. They are extremely durable and machine wash and dry well. Sierra Trading Post definitely has the best prices on them.


Friday, August 8, 2008

8 Greats! honor of 8.8.08

In honor of this auspicious date of 08.08.08 here are 8 great things that I hope will bring you a little joy:

1) Heritage Products Rose Petals Rose Water:
I use this everyday and it is SO refreshing, especially in the heat. Its great for hydration under make-up, and rose essence is famous for relieving depression and lifting spirits. You can find this rose petal water, essential oils, massage products and many other beautiful products at excellent prices at:

I discovered this as a podcast on i tunes and love it. It provides clear, simple information on Buddhism and related topics.

3) Lavender and Peppermint Oil
I use this particular combination of essential oils in my bath a lot in the summer. The lavender is relaxing, and the peppermint leaves you feeling cool and tingly, and refreshed. You can get them both for a great price at:

Use source code: aetna608 and get an 8% discount of your total order (this code worked as of 8/8/08).

4) Poetry and Spoken Word by Joya Lonsdale
While your in the bath, listen to the CD or read the chapbook, My Mouth is Open to All Rivers, from this exquisite, emerging poet. Joya's poetry is silky, sensual stuff and her imagery will carry you away...

5) Eye Pillows from Hugger Mugger
After all that you'll be ready for a nap! These eye pillows are my secret to napping, actually, I sleep with mine over my eyes at night. The coverage and weight of the pillow help with sense withdrawal making it easier to relax. Great for sivasana as well. BTW Hugger Mugger is a great resource for all things yoga. I order all my studio props and mats from them.

6) Vitamins and Supplements
They do your body good, but not always your wallet! My brother introduced me to years ago and it is still by far the best place I've found for vitamins, protein powders, essential oils, beauty items...all sorts of stuff. They carry lots of green and vegan products, and their house brand, NSI, is very good quality. Use source code: aetna608 and get an 8% discount of your total order (this code worked as of 8/8/08).

7) Rainbow Light Protein Energizer
If you are hungry after you nap, try my favorite protein powder. I drink this almost every morning after my run, or sadhana (yoga practice.)

8) Something Great from Teal!
Well, this list wouldn't be complete without a little shameless self-promotion. If you are looking for some yoga or green living inspired clothes and gifts, some fine art cards, or just some REALLY silly t-shirts, check out my ever evolving CafePress shop...

Hope you enjoy these 8 greats, and have many more than 8 blessings this day, and every day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Monkeys & Mantras

In my last two posts I likened the ever fluctuating nature of Mind to the ever changing movements of ocean waves. "Monkey Mind" is another widely used metaphor for the frantic, sometimes seemingly haphazard trajectories of our thoughts. I like this one because, well, my mind at times really does feel like there is a wild monkey loose in it, and because I get a really awesome mental picture of a wild-eyed, bright orange monkey swinging from limb to limb inside the limitless spaces of my mind, and that in turn makes me laugh, and usually lighten up a bit. Lightening up, I think, is always a great thing.

So, if you imagine this wild little monkey, what would you do to quiet her down, to give her a bit of focus? One answer the sadhus (ancient yogis) discovered, was to give the "monkey" something to play with. Give it something to keep it focused and occupied, so that other states of awareness are allowed to unfold. If we give a real monkey a pile of blocks to put back in a basket she will stay quiet, and focused on the task. If we give Monkey Mind a singular and repetitive task, it too will settle down and create some space for our awareness to expand into.

One of the most effective techniques for doing this is repeating a mantra. A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase that is repeated over and over. The most well known of these is the Hindu syllable Om (sometimes spelled Aum, and also used widely in Buddhism). This syllable is said to be one of the great sounds of the Universe, echoing throughout all eternity. It is easy to remember, to say, and produces a deeply resonant feeling in the body.

Give the Mantra Om a Try...
Lie down on your back, or come to a comfortable seated position with the hands palms up, on top of your knees. Inhale, close your eyes, and begin repeating the sound of Om on each exhale. Begin the sound with your mouth wide in the shape of an "O", feel the sound filling your belly and your chest, then close in around the sound, finally completing it by pressing your lips together and allowing the final "Mmmm" sound to resonate in your sinus cavities. Start by repeating this mantra at least 7 times, and gradually increase until you can sit and chant mantra for many minutes. Let each breath and repetition be as long as possible. Let the mantra linger and savor the delicious vibrations.

Don't worry if you feel silly a first. You may even laugh out loud. Don't resist this! Have fun with it! Laughing is mightily good for your soul.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti (Om, peace, peace, peace),


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Smoothing Out the Waves

What to do with a wavy, wavy mind...

So, in my last post I talked about the wavy, fluctuating nature of mind and how it can create a lot of confusion, feelings of separation, and general suffering of all sorts. So, what can we do about all that? It's a bit of a bold statement to say that yoga and meditation can help us to change something so innate to human nature. But, I have experienced in my own life, and seen in the lives of others, how very effective these modalities are, and the great thing is there are literally millions of approaches and techniques, so there really is something out there for everybody. Here are a couple to get you started.

Walking Meditation
If you have trouble sitting still than this is a great way to start. Choose a peaceful, restorative place to walk; in your neighborhood, out in the country, by the sea, where ever you feel the energy is best for you. As you walk, breath deeply and allow your awareness to rest lightly on everything that is around you. Use all your senses. What sounds are present? Are there scents? How does the air feel as it moves across your skin? How do your feet feel as they make contact with the ground? Take off your shoes, if you can, and take in the sensory experience of placing your bare feet upon the earth. Bring your attention, and your whole heart to every moment and sensation as you walk and breathe.

Meditation in Sivasana
This is a very restorative, relaxing way to meditate the only trick usually is not to fall asleep! But, you know what? If you do, that is just fine.

Start by lieing down on your back on a yoga mat, the floor, or any flat surface. Allow your toes to flop out to the sides, and let your palms face up about 6 inches away from your body. Close your eyelids gently. Begin by breathing deeply into your belly. Allow the breath to become very full as you begin to relax. Imagine your belly is like a giant balloon that fills with each breath, and then collapse back in on itself with each full exhale. Continue this cycle for at least 7 breaths and notice the sensations throughout your body. Continue to rest and breath in sivasana for 5-10 minutes, or longer if you like.

Both of these techniques help to still mind chatter by relaxing the body and bringing the mind into focus on inner and outer sensations. Try one or both of them at least once a day for 7 days and notice the changes in your thoughts and feelings.

May you be happy, may you be free from all suffering,