Friday, December 30, 2011


Well, we’ve made it through another year. Can’t believe how quickly the time went. Soon, we will be stepping into a whole new year. As you well know, people at this time of year make New Year’s Resolutions. Have you made one? I’d like to suggest a few things to you if you’re still thinking about a resolution for 2012.

If you’re the kind of person that likes to make New Year’s Resolutions, try this one. If you have made the choice to continue living a healthy life (mind, body, and spirit) be sure to look at the things in your life right now that allow you to continue along that path without too many obstacles. One thing that I did a long time ago, which made a big difference in my life and my life journey, was stopping taking the newspaper and watching the evening news.

It was probably back in 1994 or ’95. It was when the O.J. Simpson trial was being televised. I remember that it was all over the news, people were so drawn into the experience, and it was all people talked about. I remember thinking, “I don’t even KNOW O.J. Simpson. Why would I want to know about his business? I don’t KNOW if he killed his wife or not. Should this even matter to me?” It was then that I decided to not follow the trial on television. I found that it had no positive impact in my life. Further, I decided to stop watching most news programs and stopped taking the newspaper. I’ll tell ya, after taking that step, I noticed that I was more positive in my outlook on life. The news can be so depressing and negative at times. It really served no significant purpose in my life.

So, as a New Year’s Resolution, why not try watching LESS news and watch more programs that are motivating, inspiring, and life changing.

Here’s the other option. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like to make resolutions, perhaps try this instead. Sit down and think of something that you did THIS year. For example, donated to charity, helped out at your kids’ school, or bought lunch for a friend. As a resolution for 2012, perform that same gesture again. Simple.

Overall, make it an inspiring year. Try new things along with some of the old things. Just continue to live the life you WANT to live. Move positively forward on your life path.


Friday, December 23, 2011


This can be a very busy time of year for most people. Christmas shopping, holiday parties, decorating the house, traveling, visiting relatives, and the list goes on. There's hardly any time to sit and rest. But since it IS the giving season, why don't you give yourself the gift of least for a few minutes!

Just taking a few moments for yourself, especially during the next few days, will be very beneficial to you. It may just be the quick relaxing moment you need to get through the holidays.

We will practice Ujjayi Breath. It is the breath that we typically use while practicing yoga. When translated directly, Ujjayi means "victorious," but I often add to the definition "vibrant" and "uplifting." This certainly should be an uplifting time of year, so why not practice this way of breathing as a way to relax AND rejuvenate.

Start by sitting comfortably on your yoga mat. Close your eyes and just take a few deep breaths to settle into this moment. I will describe one way you can practice Ujjayi Breathing.

Imagine for a moment that your breath "lives" in your belly. With the uplifting, vibrant, and victorious breath, you will move that breath upward into your chest, lungs, and heart center. The action of Ujjayi breathing is developed by gently constricting the throat slightly to create some resistance to the passage of air. Try your mouth a bit and "pull" in breath through your mouth. You might feel a cool air hit the back of your throat. Now breathe out as if you were fogging a mirror. This air may feel warm as it leaves your mouth. Keep doing this for a few more breaths. You will notice that light constriction of the throat as you breathe in and out. Now, try breathing in the same fashion, but with your mouth closed. This is Ujjayi Breathing. The sound you make is often called the Ujjayi Sound. It may resemble the sound of an ocean wave.

Now that you have engaged this style of breathing, use this method to move breath from your belly up to your chest. You will find that breathing this way allows you to take slower, longer, and deeper breaths. As you inhale, feel the breath leave your belly and rise up to fill your lungs. Hold onto this uplifting sensation by engaging your Abdominal Lock (Uddiyana Bandha, oo-dee-YAH-nah BAHN-dah). This will engage your abdominal muscles so the breath doesn't "fall back down" into your belly. Keep breathing this way: filling your heart space with this vibrant and victorious breath. Feel it's warmth and energy move through you. Take at least 20 breaths or just sit for a few minutes (3-5 minutes) practicing this yogic breath. Notice how you feel when you are done.

You can do Ujjayi Breath ANYTIME, really! You don't have to do it just when you're practicing yoga. Do it while driving, or shopping, or cooking (but keep your eyes open!) It's healing, calming, relaxing AND energizing, motivating, and inspiring. Sounds like Christmas to me.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


Can you get head-strong like me sometimes? How about allow your ego get the best of you? I know, when that happens to me, I tend to hurt myself or move in a direction on my life journey that is sometimes not very pleasant. It’s more like straying AWAY from my original life path. I often have to remind myself to slow down, take it easy, pay attention, follow my heart, rather than follow my head. (Does any of this sound familiar?)

There are some yoga poses that can teach us to pay more attention, to be more present, so that we are treating our bodies with kindness, keep us on the original life path, and even reduce the risk of physical injury. One such pose that I teach often in class is Extended Side Angle Pose. When done properly, one can experience hip opening, a side body stretch, practice core strength, and good alignment. When done without integrity, we sometimes miss the benefits of this posture. To work into this pose, it may take a simple act of modifying.

If you open up a Yoga Journal Magazine, what we see are wonderful yoga models demonstrating dynamic postures. For some, this can be intimating, thinking, “I could NEVER do that.” With that in mind, one may never experience the benefits of yoga and never step into a yoga class. For others, looking at those picture-book poses may create the mindset that that is the ONLY way to do the posture to experience benefit. But more often than not, when one tries to replicate those poses, they may not get the fullest benefit from the pose or they may even harm themselves. The poses in Yoga Journal are great PICTURES, but not every body can do those postures in the same way. We have to remember that when practicing yoga, we are allowed to modify the pose to fit YOUR own body.

Extended Side Angle Pose (Modified)
This is actually one of my favorite poses to do and to teach. You can really gain some great flexibility performing this posture over time. The secret is...take your time. Move gently into the pose. Start with modifications of the posture then eventually ease yourself deeper into the posture over time.

Start in Warrior Two. This is a pose of strength and confidence. Be very aware of your own strength, yet stay humble and gracious for that strength. Don’t allow ego to take you too much into your head in regards to your own strength.

For good alignment, be sure your upper body is straight and tall and your legs are extended equally from your center. With your right foot in front, be sure the knee is bent (moving toward 90 degrees) and the knee is stacked directly over (or slightly behind) you ankle. The back (left) leg is straight with the entire foot pressing into the yoga mat. Your arms are extending outward and are parallel to the floor. Make sure there is energy moving all the way through your arms and out your fingertips. Your focus is over your right hand.

To move into Extended Side Angle, start reaching out over your right leg (perhaps toward a wall out in front of you). Your torso will begin to angle. Be sure to keep your hips and feet solid. It’s just an upper body movement. Keep moving along this plain. Imagine your back is up against a wall. Slide along that imaginary wall. When you cannot move forward anymore without pulling away from your imaginary wall, turn your arms so your right hand is extended down toward the floor while the other is reaching up toward the ceiling.

The Common “Mistake:”
The Yoga Picture Books often show the model touching the floor with their palm while the other is extended up toward the ceiling. (They’re often smiling, too!) What happens if YOU bring your palm to the floor? What did you notice? What often happens is you begin to pull away from the imaginary wall. The body begins to bend over (like you’re sitting back into a chair)....out of alignment from the original pose. Your butt will stick out, you’ve collapsed into your hips, and the top of your head is pointing off to the side rather than staying in line with your front knee and toes.

The Modification:
Instead of THINKING you HAVE to touch the floor, try this modification. Once you begin to reach out over your right knee (remember, your back is still up against the imaginary wall), bend the right arm at 90 degrees, then rest it lightly on your thigh. Then extend your left hand toward the ceiling. This modification will keep you aligned and in the full integrity of the pose, AND you reap the greatest benefits here. (Now you can smile!)

When the body is aligned this way, your back will stay against your “wall,” the top of your head is pointing in the same direction as your knee and toes, you experience more opening in the inner thighs and hips, and strengthen your core body. Over time, you may not need to rest your arm on your leg. As your body continues to open and release, you’ll find that you’ll start to reach down and actually touch the floor. (Just remember that you really NEVER HAVE to touch the floor, though.) I have not read in any yoga rules books that suggest that you HAVE to touch the floor in this pose. You MAY eventually touch the floor which is just a sign of your progress. Stay humble. Stay gracious.

Do the pose on the other side for balance.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Go Wild!

Sometimes we just have to have a little fun, right? We can take things so seriously sometimes. Even yoga. Keep it light. Have fun. Be spontaneous. Just go out and do something crazy and totally different today. Buy a frosty from Wendy's, eat some fruitcake, sprinkle bacon bits on your chocolate ice cream, AND color your toenails pink.....with green polka dots!! (Yes, I'm talking to you, Justin!) It's time to step out of the box.

To symbolize your spontaneity, try this yoga pose at home. The pose in Sanskrit is called Camatkarasana, but we commonly call it Wild Thing or "Flipping The Dog" in yoga class. It is essentially a one-armed twisted backbend! Let's try it.

Start in Downward Facing Dog. Use this pose to set your intention. Take a few deep Ujjayi breaths. Think of something playful and funny. Don't worry about what you HAVE to do today, think about what it would be FUN to do!

Be sure to press your hands firmly and strongly into your yoga mat. Feel the straightening and strength of your arms. Hug them a little closer to your head. This will help with stability. Continue this lengthening sensation while extending your spine in this inverted pose. If it feels difficult to straighten your back, try bending your knees a bit so that you have mobility in your hips. That will allow you to push your hips farther up and back - lengthening your spine. Because you will eventually will be moving into a back bend, you want to have a full extension of your back and spine first.

Next, lift your right leg. Continue the lengthening sensation as you raise your leg. Reach with your toes toward the back wall or ceiling. Now bend the leg that is in the air. Bring your heel down toward your back side. Lift your knee higher so that it is higher than your hips. With your left heel pressing firmly down toward the floor, twist the body open toward the right side of the room. Be sure to keep your hands solid on the ground as you twist open. The next step is to carefully step all the way over until your right foot is on the floor. Once planted, turn your other foot around so all ten toes are facing the back of the room. Keep both feet securely on the floor so you have a strong base. Your right hand will come off the floor when you step over. Extend that hand toward the ceiling. You're now in Camatkarsana. Hold for 5-10 breaths.

To get out of the pose, exhale strongly and flip back over and return to a Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog. If you'd like, complete a sequence by stepping your right foot up to the top of the mat, set your left heel on the floor and lift up into Warrior One. Exhale and place your hands on the floor on either side of your front foot, step the right foot back to plank pose, and lower to Chaturanga Dandasana. Inhale to Upward Facing Dog. Exhale to Downward Facing Dog. You're now ready to repeat Wild Thing on the other side.

This is a fun and dynamic posture. Because it is a backbend, it is also a heart opener. Perhaps view this pose as another way to open your heart, to express yourself in a new and fun way. We can easily get caught in our ruts and routines. Even in yoga! So take a step into the wild side and explore a flavorful new part of yourself. Have fun!


Friday, December 2, 2011

Slow Down

As we approach another holiday season, it seems like things begin to get a bit more hectic: company parties, holiday shopping, entertaining family, decorating, etc. Because there seems to be so much to do, we tend to rev up our pace in order to keep up and get it all done.

So, as a challenge, in the midst of all the chaos, can you take the time to s l o w d o w n ? ? As your "to do" list gets longer by the minute, realize and accept that you may not be able to do ALL of those things on your list in one day. Give yourself the permission to postpone some of those things for another day. Instead, be sure to give YOURSELF the time you DESERVE to take care of yourself. Take a moment to breathe, stretch, have a cup of tea, read a magazine article, or something that you enjoy that would be relaxing and rejuvenating. Better to have the strength and energy to pursue your long list of "to-do's" rather than feel like you're dragging your feet and trying to keep up.

For today's practice, let's simply move through one Sun Salutation slowly,, then finish in a seated or reclining posture to give you that simple gift to yourself of slowing down during this holiday season.

A Slow Sun Salutation
Start in Mountain Pose. Take a moment here to get in tuned with your breath. Breathe slowly and deeply so your mind and body can relax completely.
Inhale to extend your arms overhead. Take your time breathing in and lifting your arms. Slowly count to five (1.....2.....3.....4.....5) as you move into Extended Mountain Pose.
Using the same pace of breath, exhale to Forward Fold.
Inhale to lift slowly to extend your spine.
Exhale and step both feet back to Plank Pose.
Lower very slowly to Chaturanga Dandasana.
Inhale and lift into Upward Facing Dog.
Exhale into Downward Facing Dog.

Remember, move very slowly through this sequence. There is no rush. If you'd like, move even slower...perhaps a slow count of 7 or 10 as you breathe and move. The idea is to take your time, move slowly, and not feel the pressure of time at your heels.
After Downward Facing Dog, feel free to move into Child's Pose then a seated or reclining posture to complete your practice.

Hold onto this new sensation of relaxation. Carry it with you the rest of the day and evening. If you're able, take moments throughout the day to take slow deep breaths. Use this exercise as a reminder that it is ALWAYS good to give back to yourself and to take care of yourself.