2019 has been a bear so far

An interesting insight I’ve obtained from having two family members die within 2 months from one another:

This thing is too big to handle in the usual way.

If you don’t know what I mean, think about what you do when something small, and say, more than an annoyance, but less than catastrophic happens in your life. We usually have a comfort zone of how we handle things. I, for example, will generally take refuge in books (generally something that has a half-clothed duke or baron on the cover holding a wind-swept, but lovely lady) and hunker down, waiting for the storm to pass.

When your brother dies, and then your mom dies, all the Julia Quinn in the world isn’t going to help. This is when we have to think about our resources, and not just put out fires, but watch for a hint of smoke, a hard, dry wind, and try to keep the yard damp.

Instead of my usual MO, I’ve called in my people (and there are so many of you!), and returned those phone calls of love, and responded to those texts, and gone to the acupuncturist. I took a couple of weeks off of teaching, am continuing bereavement leave from my other job, and cancelled volunteer engagements that I was already committing myself to for the new school year. My usual way was not, and is not going to cut it here. I have the grief to deal with, but I am also the executor to my mom’s estate, and I have to say, it’s a horrible and onerous job.

But friends, I’m back to teaching, and available again. And for all of you that I’ve heard from, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. I am loved. Thank goodness.


America often has these love affairs with other countries, and their various aesthetics or the way of raising children or serving food. Right now, publishing in America is all about the wonders of the Nordic countries with their clean lines, warm foods and cozy books on Christmas Eve.

Swept away in a wild moment in Barnes & Nobles a few months ago, I bought the book American Cozy, which combines the Danish concept of Hygge with American sensibilities. While a fluffy sort of browsing book, it did have some good ideas about how we can cultivate our sense of home.

Lately, my extended family life has been full of grief and confusion. I had a bit of time, and I lit a ton of candles and played soothing music, and did all I could do to be fully present in my home. While it didn’t fix anything, planting myself more firmly in my environment and out of my head for a little bit gave me enough energy to move on to the next thing I had to do.

When our brains hijack our souls, we need to bring ourselves back into the present moment over and over again. I’m curious, how do you bring yourself into a sense of home?

On Platitudes

Friends, I have been so busy. The last two months has been a whirlwind of activity and a sinkhole of responsibility. Because of this, I haven’t written much. When I finally came out of the intense period about a week ago, I went to ground and READ LIKE CRAZY. I read some fun stuff, some serious stuff, and then I read this.

Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved is a work of art. So often, we wish for answers to what we are going through. We want reasons, explanations, assurances, and the conviction that we are doing exactly what we should be doing. Unfortunately, while things sometimes do turn out well, it isn’t a given thing. A Job story isn’t a source of comfort to me, nor is it to our author, who gets a delayed death sentence with a baby in the house, and a history of faith. (If you don’t know what a Job story is, you can read about it here on this Wikipedia page or in brief, Job is a good, God-loving man with a wonderful life and family. Due to a wager between God and Satan, they basically destroy Job’s life and family to see if he is still righteous at the end of his suffering. Lucky Job, he passes the test, and gets an even better family. If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of this tale).

Bowler’s story isn’t just beautifully written, she offers solid advice for people who want to help in times of trouble. I have a number of friends who have been going through some really rough times. Other friends will say, “I’ve been meaning to call, but I don’t know what to say!” Just call. You don’t have to say anything wise or good. Be practical. Send letters. Drop off food. Be yourself. And read this book. It’s brilliant.

How a Legacy is Made

I just read this amazing book about Joseph Lister, a 19th century Quaker surgeon who revolutionized medicine, studying and perfecting the process of asepsis, which keeps bacteria from taking root. Before Lister’s methods were implemented and popularized, getting surgery was a game of chance, with poor odds. An enormous population of post-surgical patients died from sepsis or post-operative infection, so even if the initial ailment didn’t kill them, the surgery often did.

Things of note about Joseph Lister: His Quaker faith held a strong principle of doing good for mankind, accolades were a distant second. A questing mind kept his curiosity and rigor in testing his methods sharp. His goal did not waver. Over decades of his professional notebooks, the first and last entries deal with the issue of sepsis and post-operative infection, showing that he was always striving for more understanding. His friends and colleagues that he associated with were of a similar mindset (such as Louis Pasteur, who provided the framework for Lister developing his theory). And if a patient needed assistance after surgery, even in life circumstances, Lister did his best to help. He was known as a keen teacher. Whenever the occasion presented itself, he did his best to spread the Lister method and create converts. Who could count the number of lives saved? When vision, intellect, and a strong moral imperative are united, great work can be achieved.

In The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, Lindsey Fitzharris shows us what character combined with purpose can be. So much of our lives tend to float us from one happening to the next. How can we contribute to something greater than ourselves? A common question that many people ask at the end of their lives is “will I be remembered?” Let’s make that easier to answer.

Not all of us may know what we may yet become, but what are you passionate about? What could you prioritize? What is the framework in which you live your life, and are you staying true to the goal? Not all of us will change medicine, but your life has worth. There is something out there that only you can do. As the line from Mary Oliver’s oft-quoted poem The Summer Day goes, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your with your one wild and precious life?”



Letting go and moving on

I know I’ve spoken of this before, but so often, people keep themselves from finding satisfaction in the bodies that they are in because they dwell on what they used to be able to do/look like/fit into and so on. There are other things to lament too. I often say that people should have met me before I had kids. I was such a clear thinker, a firecracker! If you have kids, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, we long for a period, a person, a feeling from the past. The good news though is that things have always been this way, or at least since the poet Hafiz wrote about it back in the 14th century. So, if you lament in this way, you are unique just like everyone else.

Here’s a poem of his for your enjoyment, excerpted from the translation by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: poems by Hafiz, the great Sufi master. If you’ve never read any Hafiz, this has been a very enjoyable and thoughtful read.

Stop Being so Religious


Do sad people have in


It seems

They have all built a shrine

To the past

And often go there

And do a strange wail and


What is the beginning of Happiness?

It is to stop being

So religious



Stress and Diabetes

In doing all my research for my end of year presentation in Yoga Therapy, I researched like crazy. I must have read 50 peer-reviewed articles, letters and meta-analyses. I read 3 books. I surfed the web incessantly, and here’s what I found out. Stress magnifies the effects of Diabetes tremendously. Yoga absolutely has an impact on blood sugars, cardiovascular health, and stabilization, particularly when paired with pranayama (controlled breath practices) and meditation. The physical poses are good for building strength, confidence, and many other qualities, depending on the pose as well. If you want to know more about it, or set up your own Yoga Therapy session to get you on a plan, email me.

But, those who know me know that I love books, and I found Dr. Napora’s Stress-Free Diabetes: your guide to health and happiness to be a fine read to help put Diabetes in perspective for those who would like to add more tools into managing the condition.  This one gets a rare 5/5 stars from me.

Stress-Free Diabetes: Your Guide to Health and Happiness



Yoga for Depression

I’m finishing up an excellent book, Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way by Nancy Liebler and Sandra Moss. I am not currently depressed, but I certainly have been in the past. Actually, I was first introduced to yoga about 20 years ago when I went through a severe clinical depression, which included a hefty dose of anxiety as well (as depression often does). Yoga is, and has been a touchstone, and a first line of defense when depression and/or anxiety looms.

A little more on that, because this is a topic near and dear to my heart. For many people who get out of control depression, anxiety may be the first sign. If you find yourself acting and thinking more intensely than normal, take care. The body and mind get so wound up, that eventually, the system shuts down and depression may result. Think of it as a car engine overheating. If you’ve ever driven a really crummy car, or series of (as I did for an entire decade of my life), you may have experienced this. First the gauge starts to show that you are getting too warm. If you are a reasonable driver, you may decide that you really need to get somewhere, and maybe you will see if driving slower will still get you there, or to a service station. You turn off the air, pray you hit no stoplights. Eventually, you either manage to fix the problem, or you break down. This process is very like the reality of unchecked anxiety. If you don’t slow down, and regroup, you may not make it to your service station. You may just break down, which is when anxiety turns to depression. Having a daily yoga practice is an excellent way to keep on top of how and what you are feeling.

In this book, the authors offered a great overview of the different types of depression, some Ayurveda informed practices to support the different types, lifestyle changes, and some sample case studies to use as examples. If you find that depression, sadness, or anxiety loom heavy on your heart, I encourage you to find human help. If depression is something you revisit periodically, try reading the book before you are in crisis. You may discover what your early signs are, and be able to minimize your next event. More people have experienced depression than you know. And when you make it through, I urge you to be a light for others who are caught out in the dark. Having made it through, I feel like it is my duty (and a welcome one) to look out for others who may be stumbling, or have succumbed.

If you have never experienced depression, don’t try to cheer your depressed friend up. Just sit with them. Honestly, the best thing you can do is to acknowledge their pain, in a spirit of empathy. There is a wonderful Brene Brown video on the difference between sympathy and empathy. Watch it. Being there means everything.



Inspiration of the Week

From time to time, I come across something truly extraordinary. Last week’s inspiration was so timely and sweet, it’s been with me this week too. This was printed in this month’s issue of The Sun, and it’s a poem by David Budbill from the collection Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse.

Bugs In A Bowl

Han Shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled

Chinese poet of a thousand years ago said:

We’re just like bugs in a bowl,

All day going around

never leaving their bowl.

I say: That’s right! Every day

climbing up the steep sides,

sliding back. Over and over again.

Around and around.

Up and back down.

Sit in the bottom of the bowl,

head in your hands, cry, moan,

feel sorry for yourself.


Look around.

See your fellow bugs.

Walk around. Say,

Hey, how you doing?

Say, Nice bowl!


If you’ve got a poem that has just landed in your heart and set down some roots there, share it with me in the comments. Nice bowl!

Clairvoyant, I’m not

I have many excellent qualities, but clairvoyance isn’t one of them.  But no matter how many times I tell myself I don’t know the future, well, I think I know what is going to happen.  For many years, I’ve told myself, prepare for the worst, so I can be pleasantly surprised.  This, I’ve realized, is just one more way for me to justify my tendency toward catastrophic thinking.

Being a worst case scenario thinker isn’t all bad.  One benefit is that I tend to adjust to difficult situations quickly.  I don’t lose my head when something legitimately awful takes place.

What’s the flip side of that though?  Perhaps a tendency to give up too easily.  Because I don’t stretch myself as hard as I could, maybe I achieve success too readily, like a hurdle jumper hopping over uncooked spaghetti, conveniently distanced 2 feet apart.

When something is hard, if something isn’t working out, are you too quick to drop the thing you are working on?  Acceptance is good, but if you are flinging yourself into the lap of failure, calling it “being realistic”, are you doing the best thing there, or are you doing yourself a disservice?

I often fall back on the “realism”, on the worst-case scenario, into the status of someone who gracefully settles into failure.  And, I do it all because the first thing to pop into my head is where I think something is going.  Oh well, it must not be meant to be.  Sometimes that’s true, and you don’t want throw energy at everything.  You only have a finite supply of energy and time.  But, perhaps, acknowledge and accept that you don’t know the future.  A bad day is just a bad day.  One day, everything is crap.  The next day, the world has opened up.  A phone call, a good cup of tea, a hot shower, a walk, even just a good night’s rest could be all that is standing between you and progress.  Sometimes, it’s just your mind.

I am reading Perfectly Imperfect by Baron Baptiste, and I love it.  He says:

Every student has his or her no pose…But you actually don’t know for sure that you can’t do that pose.  What you’ve come up against isn’t necessarily a physical limitation.  Resistance can be very deceiving behind the many masks it wears.  Maybe you haven’t been able to do that pose in the past, but what about today?  The yogis say you can never step into the same river twice, because the current is always shifting and changing.  You’ve never stepped into this exact river before today…

How many of us know people who act as if their assessments, personal opinions, and judgments are truth and fact?  This is a common phenomenon.  It is no surprise that people who view life as if their subjective assessments are The Truth have difficulty forming an empowering relationship with the practice and with life.  There’s no room for new possibility or perception if you are locked within your perception, holding it as the cold, objective, unmovable truth.

Today, there was something that I perceived as hard in a yoga class, and I didn’t want to even try.  I could see that a bunch of people around me didn’t want to try either.  But then I remembered this good reading I’ve been doing, and I decided to think, YES.  I will try.  And I did it.  And it was awesome.

Who knows what’s next?  I don’t know, and you don’t know.  We never step into the same river twice.  Even if the water was the same, we wouldn’t be.

New Classes Launching and Finding Progress in your Practice

In an absolute windfall of awesomeness, I have been picked up by another yoga studio, and have brand new classes at all three that I am working with!

On my home page, all details will be listed, but in short, I have the following in September:

Mondays at 10 am, Yoga Basics at Willow Glen Yoga

Tuesdays at 7 pm, Vinyasa for All at Downtown Yoga Shala

Wednesdays at 10:45, Full-Figured Yoga at Almaden Yoga (a 4 week series beginning 9/14)

Thursdays at 6:30 am, a refreshing dose of Vinyasa at Willow Glen Yoga

What luck, right?!?  I hope to see some (oh, heck, all of you!) there sometime.  If you have questions, please email me.

On to weightier matters, recently I read Yoga Beyond Belief by Ganga White, and honestly, I think it may be one of my most favorite reads ever, and definitely at the top of the list for yoga and mind/body books in general.  One of the many quotes in this work that I liked follows.

Advancing in yoga is more related to refining than to attaining.  If you want to know if you are advancing in yoga, ask yourself these questions: Am I gaining greater understanding of my body?  Am I learning how to heal myself?  Am I learning subtler and different ways of using the poses and how each asana affects the body to produce different results…Am I beginning to get some control of my own autonomic nervous system and some of the unconscious processes of the body?  Am I less rigid in my beliefs and less fixed in particular systems and structures?  Am I alive and awake in my practice, constantly questioning and willing to vacate my position–figuratively and actually?  Am I questioning, not only of others but of myself?  Is my mind becoming more open, compassionate, more peaceful?  (White, Ganga Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen your Practice Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2007)

One person may not feel all of these shifts all in one go, but you might get a taste of them.  Often, we focus so much on the “progress” of the asana, which, let’s face it–it’s a clear measurement, but we forget all the intangible benefits of yoga.

When I was a much, much, younger woman, I came out of a very bad relationship.  It was all the dysfunction, without any of the “fun” in it.  Having come out of a chaotic home life, into a relationship with a very unpredictable man for the formative years of my adulthood 5 of them!), I craved stability of any stripe.  The man and I separated, and consequently, I was easy pickings for a very strict religious sect in which I attempted to live “by the rules” for the next 5 years of my life.  Eventually, this led to a real disconnect for me that was absolutely shattering.  When I picked up the pieces again of my life, I made this my litmus test for religion and philosophy: does it make me kinder?  If it doesn’t make me a kinder person, it is not the place for me.

Look through that list above, and honestly, if you love yoga, read the whole book.  It isn’t a hard read at all.  But, is your practice making you kinder?  Is it making you more open?  Compassionate?  Self-aware?  Peaceful?  Are you coming to greater self-knowledge?  Are you sensitive to your flesh and subtle bodies?

It’s a great thing to burst through into a new asana.  It really is.  But, it isn’t the only measure of progress.  Drop a line in the comments to let me know how yoga has affected you.