Kindly rejecting our own expectations

In pretty much every class I teach is that there will be at least one person that berates themselves for their difficulty in approaching a pose. For example, a student of mine may be working towards Dancer pose, which is a balancing pose as well as a backbend. At the first sign of wobbling, or of falling out, the response is often “I can’t balance!” or maybe, “I’m just so weak” or “I have no strength!”.

What’s behind this unhelpful dialogue? In what universe is anyone expected to be able to do something perfectly every time, or even the first time?

I imagine the underlying thinking must be some variety of the following:

I can’t do this

I look dumb trying to do this

Everyone else can do this except for me

People must think I am really weak

I will never be able to do this

But, here’s the thing. The person who is doing it right now while you aren’t either really worked hard to get there, or has some genetic privilege in their favor. A perfectly executed yoga pose may take hours, or maybe even hundreds of hours to refine. And, here’s a secret you may not know. Yoga giveth, and yoga taketh away. You can practice a pose for a long time, and one day, it may not feel good in your body. Or you may have lost access to it due to illness or injury, or mysterious forces. And, that’s the practice. Yoga (despite what all those glossy magazine covers may indicate) is a practice of non-attachment, of being present with what is vs. what we want it to be. It may come back, it may not, and there are still other things to explore. Yoga isn’t just about one pose, or about perfection. Suffice to say, among many other benefits, yoga makes us more comfortable with our imperfections.

First things first though. Start speaking in the present tense. If you can’t restrain yourself from absolutes, at least put a time frame on them. Say, “I can’t balance today”. “Today, I feel weak”. Today may not be your best day, but you don’t know what tomorrow holds yet.




New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone!  This is the time where we traditionally flagellate ourselves and decide that THIS IS THE YEAR that we will make drastic change.  Generally speaking, these changes are never that easy.  It may the “the year” that you get organized, or never let gluten/dairy/sugar/meat/alcohol/prepackaged foods (or any combination thereof, this is California after all) cross your lips again.  You may decide you will run x miles everyday, stop watching television, give up Facebook, or go on a strict budget.  Perhaps you will even be the kind of soul that is going to create a housecleaning schedule, and if so, good for you.  I wish I were so motivated.

However, these changes often come out of a feeling of backlash, with a large dose of self-criticism.  It often comes from a sense that last year, I was BAD, and this year, I will be GOOD.

My message in my classes the last couple of weeks has been this: how can you be kinder to yourself?  If you are thinking in the context of being “bad” or “good”, how can you reframe that in a kind way?  Change is positive, but change that comes out a root feeling of self-loathing is counter-productive, and probably will be hard to stick to.  Examine the root of your personal resolution, and explore it.  If you find that you are being hard on yourself, think of changing the root thought.

A perfect example of this premise is weight loss.  Everyone wants to lose weight, and hardly anyone ever keeps it off, making the perfect recyclable resolution. Examine it.  Is it to be sexier?  To be healthier?  To live longer?  So your bones don’t ache?  So you will like yourself more?  So other people will like you?  Now, take this thinking a little further.  How can you address the root desire?  Is it an attainable goal?  Let’s just say that you want to do it to be healthier.  What does that mean?  To be able to run?  To exercise?  To have a better resting heart rate?  To lower blood pressure?  To lower your BMI (which is an inaccurate barometer of health)?  Can you address any of these needs directly, without blanketing it into a big order?   Believe it, you can become healthier without focusing on pounds.  Weight is one indicator of health, but it is an incomplete picture.  Think about what you are after, and know it.  If you choose to embark on a diet, go for it.  All I suggest is that you know why.  And then, if you find that you can address it directly, do.

Apply this thinking to any of your resolutions, whether they are financial, spiritual, organizational or physical.  Then, you can institute change with your eyes wide open and a clear goal, caring for yourself.

A resolution that I think we can all get behind, and should is this: Move your body joyously every single day, whatever that looks like for you.  Swimming, yoga, weightlifting, jazzercise, stationary bike, dancing, whatever…find something, and do it.  And exercise makes pretty much everything come true, from confidence and self-worth to a “sexier” heart rate.

If you’d like to give yoga a whirl, I’m teaching Mondays 9:30 am and 7 pm, upstairs at Willow Glen Yoga in San Jose.  Email me if you have any questions, and I am also available for private and small group sessions.  Come tonight!


Genetic Privilege–it’s for you, too

When I took the fabulously insightful Yoga for All training with Dianne Bondy and Amber Karnes, there was this great concept of genetic privilege that just blew my socks off.  In the first module, they talk about how some people have a natural ease with certain postures, and some don’t.  Dianne framed it as “genetic privilege”, which I just found so interesting, particularly when she said that everyone has it.  When I framed it in terms of myself, it had an interesting effect on me.  One, it helped me to focus on the positive, the idea that some things really do just come naturally to me.  Two, it helped me to understand that I can’t have a natural affinity for everything.  Some things are easy, some are hard.  Three, it helped me to feel a little less self-congratulatory on things that do come easily to me.  I got lucky.  Nothing to get to puffed up about there.  For some reason, I find this very freeing.

For me, I am pretty good at opening my side body.  I enjoy it, I have a nice, long torso that makes it come a little more easily.  However, I can’t really clasp my arms up behind my back and lift them.  Namaste in the back?  Ha!  Dream on!  But, by being able to be at ease with the idea that some things I do come easily, it makes me more able to accept that some really don’t.  No longer do I berate my poor, tight shoulder carriage, because heck!  I can do triangle!  The silver lining makes the grey part a little brighter.

So, next time you are on the mat, notice your strengths and weaknesses without getting too attached.  Walk that line of equanimity, thinking in a factual way, without all the emotional baggage and pay attention to what feels good, what feels instinctive.  Be okay with practices that aren’t so simple to you.  You can learn from both, if you don’t get caught up in a miserable cycle of accomplishment and failure.  Recognizing privilege doesn’t eliminate the ability to strive and improve, but it may shift your perspective.

The Thief

When I was a younger yoga practitioner, first starting out, I constantly measured my progress and what I thought I “should” do by looking at the people around me.  “Oh, that person has their head on the floor.  Why isn’t my head on the floor?  I should be able to do that.  I am younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.”  Or, “I’ll never be able to do that, because that person is younger/been doing this longer/skinnier.”  As a result, I was really missing out on the depths of the practice.  The last couple of years, I practiced Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga.  If you aren’t familiar with that, well, here’s how it works.  You go into the studio.  The instructor isn’t instructing the group as a whole, but working through the room, offering individual guidance and instruction to each student.  While there is a led version of the class where you are learning corporately, the Mysore practice is individual as opposed to led.  You learn the sequence from the teacher, and you start when you get there with whatever poses that you’ve been given by the teacher, from the series, while the teacher gives the benefit of instruction as needed.  For more on Mysore Ashtanga, visit this website.  Each person starts with a series of Surya Namaskar A & B, and then moves into the held asanas (poses). When you do see someone, they are rarely in the same pose as you, so there isn’t anything to compare against.  That really cuts the opportunity for chatter.  Also, you tend to practice with the same rough group most mornings, and then you know how hard everyone is working.  So, when your buddy manages to break through to something new, it is thrilling.  A victory for one is a victory for all of you.  Also, it becomes evident that everyone has a struggle.  Everyone.  Some folks can’t open their side bodies so well (in poses like triangle), or some struggle in headstand.  (Well, most struggle in headstand.  Although I was just in a vinyasa class where this one guy held it for minutes, and seemed like he could have stayed there all day).

You can’t predict how someone’s yoga practice is going to go by how they look.  People will surprise you every time.  You also can’t judge what you will be able to do by how you look.  If you continue the practice, you will surprise yourself with what you can do.

Yoga is about finding union between your body, mind and spirit.  Your body, mind and spirit.  The breath links it all together.  If you are looking over at someone else, thinking of your shortcomings, or theirs, or taking pride in doing something that someone else can’t do, you are robbing yourself of the benefits of yoga.

Recently, I was in a gentle yoga class with Kyczy Hawk, who is an amazingly knowledgable, intuitive teacher, with a sense of humor that makes me bark out loud with laughter.  She is funny and wise.  During class, she said, “Comparison is the stealer of joy.  Stop comparing and enjoy yourself.”  While that is something I do know, it’s always good to have a reminder, and it has stuck with me all week, so I think I must have needed to remember it.

Expanding that concept outward, where is comparison your Achilles’ Heel?  Do you compare your house, car, kids, job, talents against someone else?  Let me know in the comments if you plan on taking action somewhere in your life.  And today, when I look at my old red couch with all the smushed cushions, I won’t think of my friends who are impeccable housekeepers with showroom ready furniture.  Oops…I already did.  I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else.


Kapha Yogi in Black and White

So, my fabulous and glamorous friend, Amy, made me a logo for my business!  Here it is!

Small Yoga Logo.jpg

Not only does Amy make yogi friends thoughtfully designed and beautiful logos, she can also make you pretty much anything you want for any event or party you want to throw, and she makes the prettiest one of a kind stationary you’ve ever seen.  Right now, she is on vacation, but save the link to her shop if you want to contact her for work in the future.

In making this logo, it was kind of a fun process.  We discussed what I wanted, which she pretty much understood right away.  Then all the revisions consisted of me saying “make her fatter!” (which I think probably isn’t a phrase graphic designers hear often) and this is where we landed.  I love it!

As a reminder, my Full-Bodied Yoga series launches at Willow Glen Yoga on Monday, July 11th, 11-12:15.  It runs for four weeks, until August 1st.  Sign up at  This class is perfect for beginners, and can go deeper for those who are already familiar with yoga.




I’ve been on a stint of very early morning awakening lately.  Generally, this comes in handy, as I practice yoga around 6 in the morning and I despise waking up to the sound of an alarm, no matter how I dress it up with soothing ringtones from my phone.  For all that my ringtone is called “Walk in the Forest,” all it really means to me is that I am waking up in an abrupt manner.  This particular morning, I woke up at 4:45 and continued reading Jack Kornfield’s excellent book After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.  In chapter 12, Kornfield is exploring the ideas around the physical body, and the tendency people have in or out of spiritual traditions to either glorify or mortify it.  In this section, he quotes from a writer named Eduardo Galeano:

The church says: The body is a sin.

Science says: The body is a machine.

Advertising says: The body is a business.

The Body says: I am a fiesta.

Now, imagine that!  What if we could stop being at war with our bodies, and just enjoy the fiesta?  This doesn’t mean to elevate the body as something to be worshipped (we have plenty of that here in America), but what if we could celebrate ourselves, here and now?  Celebrate here and now, in the body that you have this day.  Just think–what have we ever gained through self-loathing?  Let’s make it a fiesta, people!