The practice of yoga is a constant journey and evolution. This blog is about experiencing and learning through the journey. There are countless opportunities for discovery, challenge, enjoyment and comic relief. It’s a journey that will never end, always a Yogini in Progress. Enjoy the journey!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Juicy Stuff in Between

Moving again!  I'm in the front rocking the blue pants.
When I was little, we moved around a lot. My dad was a Navy man and bouncing around the globe was part of the deal. Between the ages of birth and 12 we moved every year or two, once we lived in the same place for 3 years in a row. Moving brings about change, whether you want it or not. Each move included a new house, new school, new friends and new surroundings.

I don't like change, it took me a while to figure this out. It's partly due to all of those moves as a kid, but could also be attributed to my kapha tendencies. I like it when things are humming along, you know what to expect and you are comfortable in the routine of things. So, when times of change come about I am resistant, reluctant and sometimes downright unpleasant.

My yoga practice has helped me to understand my natural inclinations. Through my practice and the practice of being present I'm more conscious of my knee-jerk reaction to change. A question I ask myself regularly on and off the mat is, “do I dislike this because it's new or is my dislike meritted?” This little question of intention or validity check has helped me to open up to the possiblity of change.

Now that I'm more aware, I've begun to appreciate the beauty in the in-between or transitions. There's a lovely, much needed lull in between sports seasons for the kids, there's wonderful energy and excitement when they transition from school to summer break, there's the joy of finding money in the pocket of your favorite pair of shorts after a long winter and there's lots of time to connect with the ones you love while shuttling between activities. Whether you are transitioning from season to season, age to age, or between roles, there's a lot of juicy stuff in the middle that I've overlooked in the past.

From the perspective of the physcial yoga practice, there's plenty of good stuff in between too. Bringing mindfullness as we transition in and out of poses, through a familiar connecting vinyasa or a common sequence, we can create a more challenging practic, both physically and mentally. Here are just a few areas where I've brought focus recently. You can too, just be mindful of where you are checking out or blasting through and I'm sure you'll find some of that juicy stuff in between.

  • Sun Salutation: arriving completely into bhujangasana (cobra) or urhdva mukha svanasana (up dog) with shoulders dripping down the back, before lifting through to adho mukha svanasana (down dog).
  • Warrior Dance: keeping the deep knee bend while transitioning between virabhadrasana II (warrior II) to parsvokonasana (side angle) and back again.
  • Down Dog Step-Through: from adho mukha svanasana (down dog) engage uddiyana bandha as you draw the knee tight to the chest, lifting high enough to set the foot down with control and a heel-toe rolling action.  Finish by spreading the toes and gently gripping the mat.

Recently, I asked the question of my class, “how to you respond to change?” I was pleased to find out I'm not alone. It was also fun to hear the answers of the more adventurous yogis who almost always relish in something new. I think I'm starting to understand their point of view.

Enjoy the Journey!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tip the Scales

I was blessed last week to receive a visit from a student I hadn't seen in a while. It was wonderful to see how her practice had blossomed. You could tell that she was more responsive and fluid with her body and less reactive and rigid. She even walked a little taller. It's lovely to see the practice of yoga radiate from someone.

The last time we spoke, she was just embarking on yoga teacher training. The conversation was very familiar. (I had a similar one with my teacher when I started teacher training a couple of years ago.) She had no intention of teaching. She wanted to focus on her practice and learn more about yoga, nothing more. I remembered smiling knowingly, teacher training would help her to find her voice and she would be a great teacher. She has a lot to give.

Fast forward a couple of months and here she is standing in front of me an energetic, newly minted teacher, with a passion for yoga and a bring balance to the universe. She told the story of how she recently attended a class with an instructor who was new to her, but has an established following. To her shock and dismay, this instructor was less Buddha and more drill sergeant. Her posture shriveled with disgust as she recounted the teacher's harsh and bullied class. But, her eyes brightened and her light began to shine as she revealed her epiphany. She needed to teach yoga to balance out the universe!

“Can you believe that people think this is yoga!” It was in this moment that she decided that she would teach. She felt called to balance the universe and send loving kindness, helpful energy and peace out into the universe.

The world could definitely use more of teachers, advisers, leaders and citizens with her mantra. So, join the charge, help balance out the universe. Better yet, help tip the scales!

Enjoy the journey!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

5 Love Languages of Yoga Teachers & Students

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who speaks a different language? It can take a lot of energy, nuances can be missed and intention can be misunderstood – making communication difficult or non-existent. In Gary Chapman’s Book, The Five Love Languages, he presents the idea that we all “speak” and “hear” love differently, just like languages.

 The book details the five love languages as physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts and acts of service. We can all speak these languages, it’s just that some are our native languages. Typically, the way that you most comfortably show love determines your love language. Most people have one or two that are dominate. We can definitely choose to learn or practice the languages that do not come easily.

It makes sense doesn’t it? Your sweetie holds your hand (physical touch), trying to set a romantic mood, but what would really turn you on is if he unloaded the dishwasher (acts of service). Your sister sings your praises (words of affirmation), but what you would really enjoy is day together getting pedicures (quality time). These loved ones are all speaking love in one way or another, but if it’s not your language, it might get lost in translation.

Heart HandsThis concept hit home for me several years ago when I first read the book. It helped me to understand my love languages (acts of service and words of affirmation), what I speak and what I hear most clearly and the love languages of my friends and family. It helped me to see that even though my loved ones weren’t speaking my language, they were expressing love in theirs. The piles of presents for my kids from grandma at Christmas were not just an exercise in retail excess, but each one was an sign of her love language, gifts.

The concept rings true at the yoga studio, a place bursting at the seams with love. I think that’s one of the reasons we are a home away, there’s a lot of love here in a lot of different languages. Every day, I see the different languages in action between the teachers and students.

Physical Touch – a warm hug when arriving at the studio, confident touch when adjusting a pose or the loving touch of a savasana adjustment.
Words of Affirmation – encouraging direction during class, recommendation of your favorite teacher or acknowlegement of a well-planned sequence.
Quality Time – arriving to class a few minutes early, being completely present during class or staying after to talk about what you’ve discovered during practice.
Gifts – delivering a tissue to an allergy afflicted yogi, the surprise of a perfectly warm chai tea latte or a discount on purchases.
Acts of Service – providing personal modifications, putting away the props for a fellow student or researching a personal challenge.

So, what’s your love language? There’s no right or wrong answer. Take a minute to think about what fills you up and warms your heart. But, also take some time to think about how you can speak love to the people in your life more poignantly.

Enjoy the Journey!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mama's Got a Brand New (Yoga) Bag

Channel your inner James Brown and sing it with me, “Ain't no drag..... mama's got a brand new bag....”

I made my first yoga bag a couple of years ago when my favorite one gave out. I couldn't find a stylish, unique one, that didn't cost a fortune. So, I decided that with my basic sewing skills and all of the adorable fabrics at the store I could certainly craft one. This really is an easy project, with mostly straight lines. The hardest thing is sewing on the button (just do it before you've added the lining and it makes it way easier!).

This bag fits my standard lululemon mat or my manduka mat, plus a little room to spare. You can adjust the measurements to fit a different sized mat as needed.

  • 1 yard* of cotton/canvas fabric for bag & strap
  • 1 yard* of cotton/canvas fabric for lining & pocket  *if you get 1.5 yards of each, you can make 2 bags 
  • thread
  • button (optional)
  • 12"X1" elastic
Bag Fabric Pieces
  • Bag Panel - 30"X23" Rectangle
  • Bag Bottom – 7" Circle (I used a small disposable plate for a template)
  • Strap – 38"X6" Rectangle
Lining Fabric Pieces
  • Lining Panel - 30"X23" Rectangle
  • Lining Bottom – 7" Circle
  • Pocket (Optional) – 8"X7" Rectangle

  1. Pocket Prep (Optional) – Zig zag the edges of the pocket piece, Fold over the top edge about 1 1/2” and top stitch to stay in place. Sew the button hole in the top/center of the pocket fabric. [Pocket 1] Fold over and press the left and right edges about 1/2”, pin in place. [Pocket 2] Pin the WRONG side of the pocket fabric to the RIGHT side of the bag panel. Pin at the center bottom of the bag panel, lining up the bottom edge of the pocket and the bag panel. [Pocket 3] Stitch the left and right sides of the pocket to the bag panel. Sew the button to the bag panel. 
  2. Strap Prep – Fold the strap piece in half the long way. Stitch together and then zig zag the edges together to reinforce. Turn right side out. Press flat, lining up the seam in the center of the back side. (The back of the strap will have the seam running down the middle.) [Strap 1]
  3. Bag Panel – Fold the bag panel in half and sew RIGHT sides together creating the back seam. Turn, so the bag panel is RIGHT side is out. Pin the back side of the strap to the RIGHT side of the bag panel, centering the strap on the BOTTOM edge of the bag seam. Repeat with the TOP edge of the strap and bag panel. [Strap 2] Turn inside out. Pin RIGHT sides together of the bag bottom (circle) to the bottom edge of the bag panel. [Bottom 1] Sew together and then zig zag the edges together to reinforce.

  4. Lining – Fold the lining in half and sew RIGHT sides together creating the back seam leaving a 1” opening 1 1/2” inches from the top and a 3” opening in the middle. (The 1” opening is for the top elastic. The 3” opening is to turn the bag after connecting the lining.) [Lining 1] Pin RIGHT sides of the lining bottom (circle) and the bottom edge of the lining panel together. Sew together and then zig zag the edges together to reinforce. 

  5. Connect Bag & Lining – Turn the bag RIGHT side out and the lining WRONG side out. Put the bag inside the lining. Sew RIGHT sides together along the top edge, then zig zag the edges to reinforce. Pull the bag through the open seam in the lining. The RIGHT sides of the bag and lining should be visible. Sew the lining opening together (you can blind stitch or just top stitch, no one will see it.) 

  6. Finishing - Top stitch the strap and bag to the lining about 1 1/2” from the top. This will create a channel for the elastic. Feed the elastic through the opening in the lining seam and sew the ends together. (You can blind stitch the opening, but it's not very noticeable.)
The only things left to do are sing a little James Brown, load up your mat and head over to class (in style). I hope you enjoy this pattern. Be sure to send me pictures of your finished creations.

Enjoy the journey,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Teeter-Totter of Yoga and Life

Image credit: <a href=''>jadthree / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
One of the things that drew me to yoga was balance. Not so much the standing on one leg thing, but that ebb and flow, give and take, a little here, a little there balance. What I've learned is that balance is not something that you find, define and replicate. It's in constant motion and finding it can be elusive.

In my twenties and thirties my definition of balance was control. I was on a mission to mold and direct everything. You can imagine my surprise when I found out I had control of nothing. Exhibit A, my children!

In my mid to late thirties, I adopted the mantra of “something's got to give.” This brought a sense of release and with it peace. A good friend assured me that if I said “no” to that project/committee/meeting, then someone else could say “yes” and I could say “yes” to something else. It was incredibly freeing! I could not control the world nor could I do every thing. But, I could do some things well, with great energy and love.

And now I've adopted a policy of trying to find balance, moderation, middle ground. As history serves, the pendulum swings back through the middle every time. Take nutrition craziness for example. Not long ago avocados were shunned because they were too high in fat and wine was just a luxury. Now, avocados are a “superfood” and red wine provides healthy antioxidants.

The practice of yoga has helped me to explore balance and the pendulum swing. In a physical sense, when trying to find that sweet spot of an asana (pose) there is a teeter-totter, a give and take. In adho mukha svanasana (down dog), when I press my hands to the mat, my shoulders creep to my ears, creating tension in the back of the neck and shoulders. When I pull my shoulders back, I lose some of the connection and rooting energy of my hands. Striking that perfect balance of opposites in that moment, on that day is quite the challenge. Bringing focus and awareness to the balance of opposites requires constant awareness and tending.

If you've been in my class and I've adjusted you back and forth, “lift here, press here, lift here, press here...”, then you may know what I'm talking about. Just as in life, when we make adjustments to find balance, it's not usually a one time thing.

In an emotional sense, balance is just as important. At times, it's the emotional extremes that make life interesting. On the upswing there are those big life events that you celebrate, like the birth of a child or the start of a new business. On the downswing there or those major challenges, like the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship. There's also the wonderful comfort of the times when you are in the middle chugging along with daily tasks, that middle ground, that balancing spot when things come together.

So, wherever you are on the teeter-totter, on the high up swing or hitting the ground on the down swing, know that somewhere in between is the sweet spot of the middle. Hang on tight and Enjoy the Journey!


Image credit: <a href=''>jadthree / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Friday, February 15, 2013

Building Blocks of Handstand

International Handstand Day 2011
at Yoga Rocks the Park Omaha
When I teach handstands I refer to 4 building blocks. The good news is that even if you're not ready for full-on handstand, you can work on the fundamentals or these building blocks, so the foundation is there when you are ready to try.

Let's address these in reverse order:

Block #4: Exit Strategy
One of the biggest objections, concerns, obstacles to finding handstand in your yoga practice is the uncertainty, scariness and discomfort of being inverted. The good news is that if you have an exit strategy, a safety net, some of that fear and uncertainty can dissipate. For handstands, the exit strategy is a cartwheel.

So, channel your 7-year-old self, find a nice grassy or carpeted patch and go for it. Stand sideways in a star shape (arms and legs extended and wide). Bend into your front knee, put your hands down, one then the other, lift your hips over your shoulders (use as much momentum as needed) and bring your feet down, one then the other. Knees bent or straight, it doesn't matter. Just have some fun finding the inversion, getting hips over your shoulders and landing your feet safely on the ground.

Block #3: Legs & Feet
In any yoga pose, when we are bearing weight on mobile joints, we want to have as much control as possible. This is especially true in handstand. Many times, when we first attempt handstand, our legs freak out, flail about and don't really help the cause.

Imagine your legs and how active they are in anjanaeyasana (crescent lunge) or virabhadrasana III (warrior III). One line of energy from your hip through the ball of your foot. This is the same length and activity which brings control to handstand. Both legs are straight and active with the inner thighs spinning to the mid line of the body.

The energy of the legs is not enough, the feet need to contribute. Extending energy through the ball of your foot contributes levity to the pose. The upward pull of energy from hip through the foot adds lift and lightness to the pose. To find this energetic foot position, point your toes, then keeping your foot long and in line with your leg, pull your toes back towards your knees. Your feet will look like you are in a high heel shoe or a “Barbie” foot.

Block #2: Integrated Core
Having a strong back and core creates stability in handstand. No floppy backs or splaying ribs are allowed. Engaging the back and front of the core, integrating the body as you do in vasistasana (plank) is essential. It takes more than just a few sit-ups. This is the core strength that helps you maintain a healthy posture. It involves the wrap of the back muscles as much as the front abdominal wall.

There are lots of core exercises that will promote a strong and integrated core. Plank and it's variations are some of my favorites. In forearm plank focus on reaching the heart forward as you lift the belly to the spine and fire up the the back and the sides of the body.

Block #1: Stable Base
The good news is all of those down dogs and caturangas are about to pay off. The first building block, the one required to be most stable is the base which is made up of the hands, arms and shoulder girdle. Keeping the structure of straight arms, shoulders draw away from the ears, biceps spinning towards the ears and hands actively spread provides the foundation. Resist the temptation (especially my guys out there) to muscle the pose. Use this foundation to stack the building blocks, not to force the lift. Trust in the strength and the structure that you are building in down dog and caturanga.

Building Your Tower
Once you have the pieces it's time to put it all together. Try a few “shakti kicks” to play with a controlled hop. Starting in down dog, take the gaze forward, soften the knees and hop, kicking your heels to your tail. Keep the shoulders engaged, arms straight and back fortified. Try it a couple of times and see if you can “catch some air” or find a little float.

You can also try to “kick up” from a short three legged dog. Start in a short down dog, lift one leg up, soften the standing leg and take a controlled hop. You don't even have to bring the standing leg off the floor very far or bring it to meet the top leg. Just play with finding the inversion.

You can practice either of these controlled jumps at the wall or (gasp!) dare I say in the middle of the room. Practicing at the wall is fine and great, but don't get too comfortable there. Be sure to challenge yourself out of your comfort zone. Have fun and worst case, just go back to cartwheels, those are really fun too.

Enjoy the Journey!

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Babies Were Born at Home in Nebraska

Welcoming our third child at home in Nebraska.

I am a mom who has had three babies at home in Nebraska. This may not seem like a big deal where you live, but Nebraska is one of only 2 states in which nurse midwives nor any other health professionals are licensed to attend home births. It's a bit antiquated and there is a wonderful group, Nebraska Friends of Midwives that is currently is working to change this.

Home birth is a very normal choice in my family. My mother had my youngest two sisters at home in California and my sisters collectively gave birth to 10 children at home in Virginia, Colorado and Nebraska. In 1999, when I was pregnant with my first child, thankfully, my sister had already gone before me in Nebraska. She had done much of the legwork to find a lay midwife, a supportive doctor and knew how to navigate the post-birth administrivia (birth certificate, etc.).

It took a lot of discussion, reading and research, but eventually I convinced my husband that, assuming it was a normal, healthy, low-risk pregnancy, we would have our children at home. Here are some of the things we discussed and considered:
  • A woman's body is intelligently made to handle pregnancy and childbirth. Birth should not be treated as a medical procedure nor should it be micro-managed. A healthy mother's body, given the opportunity to open up and give birth is a very natural process. Studies show that more intervention leads to more complication.
  • Influence and control over who was around and in my personal space is my right. A mother's natural instinct is to nest and protect her children. Knowing the people who were there to help me bring a life into the world brought a sense of comfort and peace.
  • Hospitals are for sick people. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate and respect the medical profession, doctors, nurses and hospital staff. But, hospitals are full of sick people and their germs. I was not sick, I was having a baby.
  • An unmedicated birth is a priority for me. I have confidence in my body and the understanding that even the smallest amount of medications pass on to the baby. Why would I spend 9 months avoiding caffeine, alcohol, cold medicine and pain medicine only to go to a hospital and be tempted to receive drugs? It can be a slippery slope. If you are in a compromised position (i.e. full on labor pains) and there is an easy solution (i.e. drugs) it can be easier to falter.
  • Honoring my body and the time it takes for me to have a baby is important. The process is dictated by mother nature, not a doctor's or a staff rotation.
Throughout my pregnancies I engaged the support of a doctor and a lay midwife. These were my lifeguards. When my children were brought into the world they were surrounded by their loving family and greeted in a warm, happy environment. Everything including cutting the cord, the initial exam, cleaning and changing, first feeding was done at a calmed pace.

I know that home birth is not a viable option for everyone. But, for those of us who do want it as an option, we deserve qualified care providers and for our insurance to cover the expenses.

I am supporting LB 428 in Nebraska and have sent a letter of support to my State Senator. If you are interested in offering your support, please consider sending a letter or support the Nebraska Friends of Midwives in their efforts.

Thank you!

For more about LB 428 or Nebraska Friends of Midwives visit

Monday, January 21, 2013

With Closed Eyes and a Camera Lens

Prasarita Padottonasana
Sometimes when I practice, it's with my eyes closed. It started at the gym yoga classes as a way to block out competitive urges or avoid the 360 degrees of mirrors interfering with my drishti (focus). Seriously, how can pay attention when everything you have self-doubt about is all right there in front of you, magnified for the masses to see!?!

When my eyes are closed, I become invisible to the people around me (at least it feels I do). Closing my eyes has allowed me to find a pathway to introspection, focus on the practice and a way to challenge myself.

Vasistasana with Utthita Padangusthasana
The vision of my physical body through my physical eyes at times leads to self doubt, criticism and a little too much thought about what others may think. But, when my eyes are closed I depend on the interpretation of my inner eye. Looking inward, it's easier to experience the practice as is bubbles up from within. What I see is based on more than what the practice looks like, it's defined by what it feels like. Denying the external view has allowed me to move past competitive comparisons and become more accepting of my physical attributes.

A while back I read a blog about things you'll start doing, now that you're doing yoga. One of the items was; you will start taking picture of yourself in yoga poses, often. When I first read this, I thought, “Oh, not me.” I hate having my picture taken. But, it was true, it started innocently enough, trying to get a better view of my shoulder dipping in a challenging arm balance. Then, it snowballed to pictures during workshops and at outdoor yoga events.

Recently, I had the opportunity to have some yoga pictures taken by a professional photographer. It was a fun night with other yoginis pretending we were yoga models. But, the most fun was the revelation of the resulting images. This is how I look when my eyes are closed! The photographer was able to capture how I feel throughout my whole being. It was lovely to find the internal view matched the external one.


If you are in the Omaha area and are looking for a photographer, consider Christopher Tierney of CTF Foto.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Making Changes One Step at a Time

It's that time of year for resolutions and changes. No doubt many of you have big plans for positive changes. But, just how will you get there? Your yoga practice and the concept of viṅyāsa krama can provide some sound guidance.

Imagine you are in the forest or mountains and ahead of you is a natural staircase comprised of stone. The ascension is not uniform or predictable, some of the steps are more substantial or minimal, the stride from one to the next may be great or simple and every so often there will be secure plateau to pause. This is the embodiment of viṅyāsa krama.

vinyasa kramaEvery asana, meditation or pranayama can be viewed as steps in a staircase. Some of them are accessible and easy to run through and others require a little more time, consideration and preparation. Every once in a while, we have to go back down to the bottom and start again. And every so often, there is a natural plateau or pause.

Consider a challenging arm balance like parsva bakasana (side crow). The first kramas of this pose are are fostered and nourished in adho mukha svanasna (downward facing dog). Active hands, arms and shoulders working to support the body create the strength and structure for parsva bakasana. As your practice expands, you are engaging the energy of manipura chakra and tapping into the lift of uddiyana bandha. A major step along the way is finding bakasana (crow).

Moving on, developing the twist of the torso in utkatasana (powerful pose), encouraging the triceps to leverage the strength of the thigh in the twist, while the hips stay in line with knees and feet. Keeping this parivritta utkatasana (twisted powerful pose) squatting down to reach your hands and firmly grounding them to the earth. Only then are you ready to test the waters of bearing your weight, your hips and your heart on you hands. Finally, your heart reaches forward, your upper body engages, uddiyana bandha lifts and your feet fly gently off the early. You've made it to the summit of parsva bakasana.

With each intentional step, respecting the time, effort and energy it takes to work through it, you can get to the top, the apex, the final goal.

So how does this affect those resolutions? Those challenges and goals in your life can be viewed as needing the same special steps to work through them. What are those steps, big and little, that will get you to the goal. If your goals is to lose weight, don't just focus on the final goal, the first step might be a simple one of eliminating soda or drinking more water. If your goal is to organize your entire house, the first step may be to start with a room or better yet, a small drawer.  If your goal is to find a new career, the first step may be rediscovering your strengths and passions.

If you are not making progress or you fall away from that ultimate goal, what plateau has become too comfortable, how can you move the next step? How can you move in the right direction and in the right way?