Advanced Yoga — Practicing is the Point

This Friday evening, I have the privilege of teaching a workshop about inversions (headstands, handstands, shoulder stands) to students interested in pursuing a yoga teacher training.  I love these poses, and they have numerous physical and emotional benefits, from lifting your mood to lowering your blood pressure.  When I first began taking classes, headstand and other more challenging poses inspired me to begin practicing every day at home.

Nevertheless, when I think about the most important thing I want to say about inversions, and about how to gain skill as a yoga practitioner, it’s this: it really doesn’t matter if you ever do an inversion.  Successfully achieving an arm balance worthy of the cover of Yoga Journal, or bending yourself into lotus position — or touching your toes, for that matter — won’t automatically make you more enlightened, more compassionate, or more serene.

Typically we think of yoga as an activity, but in fact by definition it is a state of mind.  Yoga is the state of meeting the conditions that are arising in an unconditioned way.  Yoga is what we are in those moments that pull us out of our ordinary chain of thinking and reacting, and leave us speechless, stunned.  Sometimes it’s a dramatic event that can do this — great sorrow or great joy —  but it also happens many times in an ordinary day.  Honestly, I think that’s why we send each other funny cat videos, and why we share the stories of strangers on social media.  The things that make tears spring to our eyes or laughter burst from our mouths; the things that move us or surprise us; these things bring us to that moment of suspension that in one tradition is called yoga.

Yoga postures can work in the same way.  While we’re trying to find our balance, or trying to find our feet from a whole new angle, our mind can suddenly get very quiet and focused.  Going upside down can literally flip your perspective very quickly.  You may have noticed, though, that one adorable cat video gives rise to billions.  So, too, asana proliferates.  There is always another variation, another challenge to pursue.  So we have to be careful that we’re not confusing the thing that gave rise to yoga with yoga itself.  That we don’t confuse the pursuit of postures with the mind state that actually needs nothing.

Sometimes yoga postures don’t make us inwardly blissful and outwardly glowing.  Sometimes they wake up anxiety, or self criticism, or joint pain, or muscle aches.  And here is the practice.  The state of yoga (call it peace of mind, self-awareness, surrender, sanity, wisdom…) arises spontaneously for all of us.  And it passes away.  If we try to recreate all the right conditions that gave rise to yoga the last time, we’ll be caught.  But if we can bring that experience to bear on our less peaceful moments — if we can find some of that mind space and physical ease, or if at least we can remember that our doubts and worries can now and then instantly vanish —  we might be able to meet the uncomfortable conditions with more freedom and less grip.  That is what we practice.

We practice in the yoga postures so that we an do it in our lives — relax our body in a tense moment, be open to a new perspective when we’re feeling threatened.  I’m really glad I can do inversions.  My self-esteem, upper body strength, and general enthusiasm for life have been greatly increased.  But even more, I’m grateful those poses encouraged me to keep practicing.


Come join me for an inversions workshop and YogaWorks teacher training info session at Bindi Yoga in Lynwood, Friday, August 22, 6-8 PM.  Visit Bindi Yoga to register or for more info.

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Intro to Yoga Classes

At The Yoga Tree

Saturday, October 26,  1:00-3:00


Saturday, November 23, 1:00-3:00

Intro to Yoga classes are a welcoming place to learn the basics or brush up on fundamentals. Based on the classic and ancient practices of yoga, you’ll learn the details of alignment and how to use your breath in the poses. You will also learn general guidelines to keep you safe and confident as you progress. These classes move at a slower pace, with plenty of opportunity for questions and individual attention. No specific fitness level is required as you’ll be encouraged to work within your own abilities and limitations. You’ll also learn what to expect in a yoga class. Read more.

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A User’s Guide to the Nervous System — A Workshop

At The Yoga Tree

Saturday, November 2, 1:00-3:30

Every muscle twitch, every heartbeat, every thought is created by your nervous system, from reflex actions to complex problem solving. So understanding how your nervous system works can help you use your muscles more efficiently, handle stress or tough emotions with greater ease, and work with pain, anxiety, or unhealthy patterns with greater wisdom and compassion. Read more.

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Yoga Therapy

Yoga for Backcare and Wellness Class

At Island Yoga Center

Thursdays, 6:30 – 7:45 PM

With an emphasis on back care, this class uses basic yoga postures to focus on core strength and flexibility. Learn specific yoga sequences designed to bring relief to common areas of pain and discomfort in the body such as the lower back and neck. Drop-ins welcome on a space available basis. No experience required.

Session 1: Sep 5  – Oct 3 5-weeks  $69
Session 2: Oct 10 – Nov 14 5-weeks  $69
Session 3: Nov 21 – Dec 19   4-weeks  $56

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Workshops, Yoga Therapy

Fascia and Fluidity Workshop — Getting Unstuck

At The Yoga Tree

Saturday, September 28, 1:00-3:30 PM

Fascia is a matrix of tissues that connect, organize and support every part of your body.  When it is healthy, fascia makes your muscles supple and strong, and allows your organs, muscles and joints to glide smoothly and function properly.  But without proper care, fascia can get sticky, inhibit movement, and hold us in misalignment – picture a bad case of static cling. In this workshop you’ll learn about the truly fascinating geometry, chemistry and plasticity of fascia – how it shapes you, and how you can reshape it to stay healthy, flexible and strong. Read more.

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Perception, Subtle Body, Workshops, Yoga Therapy

Yoga and the Subtle Body

Yoga and the Subtle Body Workshop

At The Yoga Tree

Saturday, October 5, 1:00-3:30pm

Yoga is an ancient practice that uses body and mind to access greater power, vitality and clarity. Although modern practice often focuses on physical exercise, traditionally yogis have worked more directly with the subtle or energetic body.  This workshop will introduce you to this subtle anatomy and practices to clear and awaken it, giving you a deeper experience of both yoga and yourself. Read more.

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pranayama, Workshops, Yoga Therapy

Breath and Asana Workshop

Breath and Asana

At The Yoga Tree

Saturday, October 19, 1:00-3:30

Our breath is the underlying support for every aspect of our body and our yoga practice.  A fluid, free breath keeps our joints mobile and our cells nourished and cleansed.  A calm, steady breath cultivates a calm, steady mind and a relaxed state for our nervous system.  The very cyclical nature of the breath invites us to practice finding ease in the flow without gripping or controlling.  This workshop will help you deepen your connection to your breath, and enhance your yoga practice by connecting to this essential foundation. Read more.

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New Location on Vashon!

In May, I will be moving my practice on Vashon to a new location in the Vashon Village at the north end of town.  The new space is roomy and sunny, in a building shared with Core Centric personal training.  I’m especially excited about the move because I will have room and equipment to do more movement and yoga along with bodywork — and even room for small group or partner sessions.  I have always believed that the combination of passive and active work is best for healing and creating lasting changes in our body, and I’m excited to be able to offer more to my clients.  Stay tuned for further details about the move!

Peace of Mind

The Asmit-o-meter: More about Doing Less

In yoga philosophy, Asmita is one of five kleshas, or things that distract or distort our otherwise quiet mind.  Asmita is often translated as “ego” or a narrow focus on self.  But it’s not just warning against egocentrism or self-conceit.  And it’s not exactly the Freudian kind of ego, and not a dismissal of the kind of self-awareness and self-knowledge that we all need to function and develop as whole human beings.  One of my teachers calls this practice of Asmita “selfing”: the continual building, elaborating and repairing of our self-image, both in our own mind and in the projected minds of others, that can rule our thoughts and motivate our actions.  Asmita distorts our sense of purpose, and takes up lots and lots of energy.  When we drop our concern about how we are seen, we can drop much of our over-efforting. Read more.

Meditation and Dharma, Peace of Mind

Single-Tasking: How to do less

You may be one of those people who sometimes, or even often, feels stressed.  What’s stressing us out?  I think many of us would say that there’s just too much to do, and not enough time.  We’re trying to get faster, more productive, and more efficient so that we can get more done.  It can seem radical, then, to suggest that you might actually be calmer and more content by doing less.  Single-tasking is a grounding and soothing practice that can help you keep your life at a sustainable and enjoyable pace. Read more.