the image on top is "Welcome Home Sweet Sugar" by Kelsey Brooks

Monday, January 31, 2011

Nicci Gotto & Yoga at the Ashram @ Lululemon

Lululemon has complimentary classes EVERY Sunday at the Natick store. How ridiculously incredible is that?

This week, class was with Nicci Gotto from Yoga at the Ashram.

Someone asked Nicci what kind of yoga she taught.

"Hatha," she says.
"What's hatha?"
"Hatha is yoga...it is where all yoga comes from. It is the uniting of the sun and the moon, together into oneness".

There's an ethereal quality to Nicci's white-veiled arms, and her class is a series of meditation and long, slow holds. No one ever said hatha was easy. I found it easy to connect to a quality of emptyness, calm and peace through her teachings. She also gave me the best adjustment ever! She pressed my thighs down in baddha konasana and...they stayed there once she was gone. So liberating.

Free classes at the Ashram for lululelmoners this week!

Check out Lululemon Store in Natick.


Usually, the first thing I do when I walk into a hot yoga class is ask where the warmest spot in the room is. Usually, I barely break a sweat.

Masaaki Okamura's class was the hottest yoga class I think I've ever taken. Ever. At least since YTTP- I really thought no one heated their studio the way Greg Gumaccio did.

So wrong about that. Masaaki's class is packed, and with that, of course, comes the collective consciousness that aids one on the path to clarity. Seriously, did I mention it was hot? Was it just me? It was a very Baptiste-style flow, lots and lots of Sun A's and B's :). I liked the corework at the end, too. Pidgeon was quite a surprise, I hadn't expected it that late!

One of my favorite moments in Masaaki's class was his comment about how yoga enables you to step away from all the people that you have to be (mother, daughter, boss, employee, student, teacher, etc) and just, for a moment, be. That was why I fell in love with yoga and I crave that sensation when I step on the mat still.

So. Hot class. Hot studio! Hot Yoga and Pilates, Needham and Wellesley : )

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tom Hogan

A solid short post about a solid short class:

Tom Hogan has found the way to be knowledgable and confident without the slightest trace of ego, a sense of complete acceptance, respect and humility. I'd love to ask him, what's your secret? How do you impart such an accepting awareness with precise alignment?

I was also impressed by an energy shift he picked up on in class. "it seems like I'm picking up a vibe- you guys want to do core work". It's easy to imagine someone saying this sarcastically, I know, but this wasn't the case- Tom was not being sarcastic. There was indeed this restlessness pervading the front row- at the time, I felt the intense urge to go running. After some corework and pidgeon, I relaxed a little.

What I loved about Tom's class was that there was no throwaway pose, everything we did was imbued with such meaning. I never felt we did a single down dog as, oh you know, as an expected part of class. There were so many sun salutations, and some how each one felt completely unexpected. Energy liberated from the snow.

Down Under Yoga: Lunch Flow: Tom Hogan. Immediate post-class thoughts.

Shadow Work: Frivolity

Shadow Work: Frivolity

I've taken a few workshops of Kimberly Theresa, and she always discusses the concept of shadow work. Simply put, whatever irritates you in others is a part of yourself, or, alternatively, your "shadow" that you are not willing to look at and work with. So it just follows you around.

In one of the workshops, she asked for an example of an irritating quality, "Entitlement", called out one man. I thought that was such a telling trait, that with that one idea "Entitlement bothers me", that man just gave me enough information to craft him a life story, if I wanted to.

Mine is "Frivolous". The Frivolous bothers me. And let me define this with an example. It's important to note that by frivolity, I don't mean gaiety, or taking interest in life's details.

Here is what I mean:

A woman is giving birth. She's screaming, and doctors are running around her- her husband holds her hand. A nurse walks in "Oh, the sheets are tucked in wrong!".


You just climbed the top of Mount Everest. You are standing around with your buddies friends, looking at a sunset, and one of them goes, "Dammit, I got the strawberry chapstick. I always keep meaning to get cherry. By the way, I wonder if I remembered to pay my credit card bill".


The president is giving a speech. It's about the economy. You and your three brothers just lost their jobs. Your uncle is watching the speech with you as well. He remarks "I can't believe the President is wearing blue, everyone knows black is in nowadays, what is he thinking?"

This is not to be confused with humor. I love humor, particularly absurd humor, and the pattern of contrasting the serious and meaningful with the lighthearted and absurd. It does not bother me when someone *intentionally* comments on the President's mole, as a way to contrast with the "seriousness" of the event. That strikes me as funny.

Frivolity, however, drivers me crazy. Frivolity occurs when someone does not at all appear to notice that anything meaningful is taking place, and is genuinely convinced that the mole, the sheets, or the chapstick, are a worthy topic of conversation at the moment.

Why does frivolity scare me? Because I'm scared of solipsism, that what strikes me as meaningful (birth, death, choice, kindness, courage) is as relevant to someone else as chapstick. That I am alone in this type of experience and exploration.

Also, it irritates me because it steps upon my ego, or my meaning-generating narrative self. I am in the middle of a narrative, I am experiencing attachment and emotional up and downs, an adventure, a story....and instead of sharing this experience with others, BAM my story turned into an absurdity by a simple "I can't believe the bedsheets aren't tucked in". Dude, you just ate my meaning. Not cool.

If I wanted to go deeper into an authentic, non-defensive self, I think I can begin by finding meaning in absurdity, not away from it, and also by having faith in my own experience. If it is meaningful to me, it is so, without need of another's opinion. If a woman is giving birth, she is not going to stop giving birth because a nurse made a frivolous remark about the sheets. So I need to have faith that I am not going to stop being, becoming and experiencing because of a frivolous remark, too.

.....dammit, I think I just assigned myself some homework. Especially working with this in terms of yoga.

Inner Voice

My mom and I had a plan today: Yoga Down Under for a noon class, lunch, wandering, and another heated class at 5 or 6. Our lovely luncheon ran late, however, and by the time 6 o'clock rolled around, our stomachs weren't empty enough for inversions. So we went home and watched a Stanley Kubrick film instead. Now, I'm not saying it's poor Stanley's fault, but my attention strayed, I got fidgety, wanting to move. This is one of those times you have to balance between the ability to calm and relax agitation, and the rallying cry "to the gym!". I tried my mat again, but after my fifth handstand, it was clear I craved a different flow. To the gym!

I needed to swim. Hot pride to battle the icy repression of winter (the last thing I one wants to do when coming from the cold is undress). I had my contacts out, so I didn't notice see who my lifeguard was. I just saw an white-and-red blur man.

Just as I was about to leave, the blur man wishes me goodbye and I recognize him- Ryan. Last week I got into a conversation with Ryan and another swimmer about how I felt I was missing true meaning in my translation of the Bhagavad Gita. (I felt that some words, when translated into English, such as sin or duty, carry historical and emotional baggage that the translator may not have intended, but the reader cannot shake off). Ryan was a religious studies major, particularly Indian religions. As I apologize for not recognizing him right away, he says he could not find the version of the Gita he meant to bring in for me. He does, however, have The Heart of Understanding by Thich Nhat Hanh and Psychology and Religion by C.G. Jung, both of which I should enjoy reading. He says, as he hands me the books.

Wow. Just wow. What a wonderful, kind and thoughtful action. I'll have to think of a way to reciprocate: Pema Chodron, definetely, and Love without Conditions, perhaps? An existential text?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Double Luck

I wonder how many posts I could write about Chanel before the temptation to title them with her last name as a pun over whelms me. Lucky again? Double Luck?

Waves come in three, so of course I get hit again with a strong and gorgeous dose of flow yoga, which I am convinced is the perfect cure. I'm a bit sad that I waited to write this post instead of blogging immediately, because although the impression the class made on me was profound, it is difficult to pinpoint the precise points. I think what's more telling is the way that I've been incorporating the hip and shoulder joint mandala into my daily morning practice, and how I've found freedom in mandalas. I also want to use the child's pose shoulder manadala in my opening sequences- I'll ask about that Saturday. I like asking permission and crediting inspiration, yes,I know no one "invented yoga", but it's nice, you know.

Again, my love of Chanel's seamless sequence, that tricky lunge where the top of the floor remains on the floor while you lift the knee. I take every opportunity to become more fluid in a pose, to get a little bit uncertain. This time I got the savasanah I wanted. And so much more : )

Taking class Saturday morning again. I'll write down the details right away next time.


So, last night was my first Mandala. Mandala is a sanscrit word meaning circle.

This was, by far, the "flowiest" class I've ever taken, and I love it. Meghan Burns taught the class, which was wonderfully sequenced.

We started with a "hip joint" mandala, in which we brought our knee up in three-legged dog, up and around, "lubricating" the hip joint.

Oh, another glorious start, from cat cow, bringing your right arm up, back and around, leaning back on your hips for a moment of child's pose, then coming back forward again. Then threading the kneedle.


The particularities of the sun we saluted, the slow movement of our arms down to Om.

An up and down movement of the arms in chair pose that reminded me of breath of joy.

Crescent lunge for a straight-forward, intense start, followed up by humble warrior. (My own favorite sequence is, after three Sun A's, two regular Sun-B's and then humble).

More reverse warrior to side angle

crescent lunge back to......*ah*, that lunge on one side where you keep your chest parallel to the flow and sort-of fly with your arms.

(why, for the love of me, although I can follow and recognize this direction in class, do I always forget the name of this pose?)

And then, the finale, a Shiva-Rea-style mandala. A cross between warrior II and a horse's stance, we swept our arms up and around, back and forth moving to your movement, and your flow. Familiar terms from a distant YTTP past, carrying all their lingering truths.

Megan's emphasis was on water, fluid, I picked up that the class was patterned on waves (and even a brief sojourn into surfing will teach you one thing: waves come in three.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blog for the choice

Taking a brief moment to applaud NARAL Pro-Choice America on Blog-for-the-choice. It caught my attention when my New York Times Headline this morning read "Lawmakers in Many States Pushing for Abortion Curbs". How "many" states? Well, according to the New York Times, 29 governors are now solidly anti-abortion, compared to 21 last year.

On the bright side, New York, the, uh, "abortion capital of America" according to Expectant Mother Care, is passing a new law that will make it easier to arrest protestors who are try to harass women or block their entrance to a center. Note, it does not arrest protestors. Just those who harass women and block entrance outside of clinics.

I don't know how my views are effected by a yogic perspective. Although yoga has generally made me more peaceful politically, when it comes to women's bodies, I can still get pretty riled up. But learning to balance and center in debate....that, too...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yogic Distraction?

When I found yoga, before I dipped my toes in it's history and intentions, I thought it was intended as a process of distraction. Of brilliantly executed distraction.

It seemed simple: you stick yourself on a mat in a room with lots of people, and you hand over all sense of responsibility to this person in sweatpants at the front of the room. And then the guy or girl tells you to move up and down and sideways and awkward, and after a while you just get so damned exhausted negotiating lefts and rights and upside downs that you just kind of go along with it. And by the end of it, you've soft of let yourself and whatever-important-thing you were thinking about go. For a while, you experience hang out in a world where someone seemed to turn up the sound and brightness, and things seem pretty pleasant.

This might seem shallow. After all, isn't distraction the problem of our modern world? And in some strange paradoxical way, I think one needs to get distracted from distraction.

This is really easy when you are first starting yoga. This was my first yoga 'plateau' and it was overcome by heated yoga (the extra challenge awakened the present moment), and by teachers (e.g. Jessie Barr at Go) who loved to bring something extra and new into my practice. Then, it became "too easy", so I looked for more challenging poses (finding them in hip openers, longer holds, inversions, arm balances and any proximity of one's knee to one's shoulder).

My second plateau was overcome with knowledge: I looked out for instructors that would give me a different way of seeing or experiencing a pose. I became addicted to books and articles that would unlock hidden secrets for me. This unfortunately had an unpleasant side effect: I would come to my mat to practice pre-intended ways of beings- e.g., now I am sequencing for A, now I am opening my hips by doing B, now I follow this ashtanga sequence.

Now I am in a third plateau. I dont' see the point of yoga as "distraction" any more. By far. But I think there is something charming and wise in distraction.

Here's what I'm trying out that is helpful. Any advice would be surely appreciated.

1. Inversions. I start each morning off with a 1-5 minute headstand.
2. Repetition. What I am least likely to do on my own if I don't make the conscious effort.
3. Not sequencing for my own practice. Trying to tune into my own body to decide what to do, not having a designed mindset for what my yoga practice is going to look like.
4. Inversions. Jumping up into a handstand or forearm stand really does the trick.
5. Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Standing big toe pose. Does the trick.
6. Utthita Parsvakonasa to viparita virabhadrasana. Side angle to reverse warrior.
7. Tittibahasana.

I'm going to try "rock star" (camatkarasana) and see that effect.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chanel Luck

I found yoga Down Under.

That's not a poorly executed pun, it's a studio. And a brilliant one at that.

If one could read the underlying current at Down Under it would sound something like this: genuine respect for students, love between instructors, joy for the practice and my favorite: community. They started in 2004, and now have master teachers that including Patricia Walden and Shiva Rea.

I had intended to take an Iyengar class (their Iyengar program was very strong), but the temptation to take a "Flow 2/3" class was overwhelming.

...and so worth it. I love vinyasa. I really, really do. I took Chanel Luck's class and it was everything I love about vinyasa: dynamic, fluid, challenging and inspirational and soothing all at once. I felt incredibly comfortable in her presence (which may explain why I flipped/fell over so frequently....I have the greatest Falls Per Class ratio of any yoga student I have ever met!). There were a bunch of poses I loved, too, that I normally don't work on.

1. Lizard pose with dynamic movement, and reaching forward with the right arm and bringing it to the side- the effect is the the shoulder is above the kneed. If one had the balance, they could even move into a bind.

2. This low lunge...not anjaneyasana....it's when you're in a lunge similar to the ones you would do in gym class....I will have to ask about it tomorrow, and I'll update this post then.

3. Another gym-class reminiscent pose. I actually heard a teacher call it just that...when you cross your feet and bend forward. I noticed a greater possibility to activate the bandas and pull one's navel in, allowing a more powerful forward bend.

4. Playing with one-legged crow.

It was a perfect class. I would have wished only for a longer savasanah, and that I can do only own afterwards :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mystic Fitness

I've been to Mystic several times, but I've yet to give it the attention it deserves.

First, a bit of history. I used to practice at the Tae Kwon Do center right nearby, many, many years ago, when it was under different ownership. So when I enter the area, I get a burst of nostalgia and an Pavlovian sense of focus, strength and peace.

Mystic is full of positive quotes, and beautiful, beautiful yoga pictures. The decor is gorgeous, comforting yoga studio, the instructors are bright-eyed, enthusiastic and entertaining. My first class I took was a Bikram, with Joe, and it was an excellent class. Joe is a compassionate instructor, empathetic and enthused, and well loved by his students and community.

Occasionally, Bikram is a marvelous way for me to quiet my mind. I've never quite fallen in love with Bikram (though I've spent much time analyzing the practice: including panopticism, purity, perfection, radical self-acceptance, obedience, standardization, heat, hatha yoga and spine articulation).

Hot vinyasa, however, is a passion of mine. So Amy's Monday rockin vinyasa is going to be a part of my weekly routine. Amy is a marathon runner. She tells a harrowing tale about how she ran a half-marathon in Florida, as a prelude to a full marathon the next day. The story harrows only the listener. Amy tells it with a smile.

Her energy and determination charges her students, much like Jeanne Magazu's equally merciless and merciful Baptiste classes in Cambridge. Amy's facial expression, the way she dips down, bending her elbows, expressing energetic emphasis with her hands. Her voice resonates with a strong belief in the power of the body and the power of her students. These factors all create the sort of vibrancy that only happens in hot vinyasa. This sense that your body is limitless, that it is smooth and flowing, that it extends infinitely outward in every direction, touching every corner of the room.

It's sweaty heaven, including a lot of humble warrior, one legged chaturanga (three-limbed staff pose?) and a knee to the chest after each flow. The mirrors, which usually distract me, turned out to be a powerful tool for alignment and I found out that, actually, my side plank looks a lot better than I thought it did. Hot yoga always creates that "Oh my god, I did not know my body could do that" sensation, accompanied by "Look at me go!" and "I can do anything!!!".

It's like trading your toxins for endorphins, a pure mind and body, and flowing energy channels. It's love.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jenn Pici

Karma Yoga is a cleverly designed and operated studio in Cambridge, MA. In addition to many lovely rooms and classes, they also have a gym upstairs and a fair trade cafe. That makes your choice (hmmm, do I go outside or do I stay and soak up this positive energy forever?) that much easier.

My first class at Karma was Jenn Pici's hour at noon. Jenn's voice chimes well with her excellent aural tastes, as her sweet, inspirational tones resonates through the room.

What I loved about Jenn's class was it's flawless execution and impeccable timing. In one hour, Jenn warmed up our bodies with lively sun salutations, then brought us into deep hip work. I was pleasantly inspired by the twist we took to our open side in lizard, which I've never done before but opens up the front body.

I experienced a drop down into my central channel I was not expecting in such a short vinyasa class. A strange oh-am-I-there-yet-oh-I-think-I-am sensation. I hadn't expected to fall into meditation so quickly, nor finish class with the calmest state of mind.


This is not my sunniest post. But I believe in facing fear, not avoiding it (remember that, dear self?). For the past few months I’ve been so obsessed with my own little pitiful narrative, that I’ve missed out on some fundamental changes to the world I live in.

These are things I’ve known in the abstract, but never taken the time to process fully, because to do so is terrifying. We are growing up in a recession. Which is a sugar-coated way of saying that the way the past generation lived, the quick consumer oil-driven culture, our high levels of employment and mobility- that’s trickling down.

And then accept that. Not, “oh, I won’t be able to buy as much stuff”. That’s not such a big deal. It’s that our entire economy is funded on the principle of being able to buy that much stuff. So the jobs cut down, the malls crumble, industries fall. I'm experiencing an almost "be-careful-what-you-wish-for" moment. Many a time have I hoped our society would become less materialistic. I hoped such a sentiment would evolve out of organic choices to have fewer, more creative and sustainable goods. I hoped such choices would not be forced. Now, they may be.

Consider this: Your parents were able to afford a house, you, maybe not so much. Or an apartment, or car. Won’t be able to travel so often. Will spend the bulk of your money on food, shelter and heat. Won’t have job mobility, job choice, hell, even a job- your career on hold, your business goes under, high unemployment rates, more restaurants start closing, no money for big productions, no student loans, tiny quantities of credit, far less champagne. All hard work, little reward. And that’s a recession. A little dip. I’m not taking about a depression. I'm not talking about what happens when our country becomes less competitive and more incapable of paying its debts, when we our oil goes down and the infrastructure we've sent abroad because it was cheaper.....

I don't want to talk about it because I'm scared to, also because I have a deep-seated prejudice against worrying so much. But every so-called 'step-back' is an opportunity for innovation, creativity and glory.

Do I think it will get real bad? I hope not, and I would even go so far as to say, probably not. But much of it is true. A friend of mine says, “I fear that I won’t be able to provide my children the kind of life I want. We are squandering our natural resources. ” Another says, “Our generation just won’t have the same quality of life as the past generation. They took it all on credit, we are paying the bills”.

If one has hopes for a jolly life, one should focus their energy on clean-tech, sustainability and the social psychology of a generation that will have to rebuild many of the things we have taken for granted.

Here’s just some things I’m thinking about:

1. Get off the grid, or get out of the climate. Expenses are going to rise exponentially over the years, and, for low-income earners, heat may become a luxury. That’s a risk I would never want to take (cold temperatures are my weak spot). Alternative energy investments for one’s home, if one intends to live there for a while, are critical.

2. Support small, American farms that are local. Once energy gets expensive, they will be critical. Join a CSA. If you own land, consider using it. Grow plants; grow trees.

3. Invest in people and projects. Money used to buy one an easy life, no matter how uninvolved he or she was in the local community. It still will. But that will be a privilege for fewer and fewer people, people whose lives are tinged with anxiety should they loose their foothold. Get involved in community. Live somewhere that means something to you. It will make a significant difference in your quality of life. It will also keep the miserable mindset of one’s “own poor little state at bay.

4. Look out for your health and your body. Do not ignore your body now and leave the health care costs for tomorrow. For your sake, and for the sake of everyone you care about. This will be really difficult, as there will be much pressure to overwork oneself and intoxicate the body. I’m just saying.

5. Green collar. Our country needs individuals to step up to the plate and create sustainable companies that are local, so that when energy runs low our quality of life does not. Lobbying for green collar jobs, asking corporations to go green, making more and more individuals conscious of the choices we need to make.

In today’s climate, I really think I’ve made a good choice. I cannot think of anything a society living in a recession needs more than yoga. (Of course, I could make that argument for anything....our buy-it-break-it-fast-upgrade-it lifestyle wasn’t exactly healthy either). All the insecurities I’ve had about choosing such a profession (and I admit that was many, many, many) are gone, I am dedicating myself fully to yoga and everything I believe is a part of it- philosophy, bodywork, psychotherapy, healing, responsible, sustainable ways of life.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Possibly my favorite Pema Chodron Moment

"As Milarepa sang to the monsters in his cave 'It's wonderful you demons came today. You must come again tomorrow! From time to time, we should converse'". (p. 122, When Things Fall Apart).

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I was reading resources for teachers. This is an exercise. It's called "scripting", writing an image of your life as you would wish it to be.

I experience a huge sensation of embarrassment when it comes to talking about goals and ambitions, you know a "who am I to..?". The thing is, everyone does. Facing your dreams is just as hard as facing your fears. And just as worth it. So, here goes:

It is 2015. I am leading a retreat with twenty people and more in Costa Rica. We discuss concepts such as authenticity, structure versus flow as related to freedom versus responsibility, fully experiencing savasanah as a way of becoming more present in the moment.

I fly home. I wake up in my apartment in San Francisco which has a backwards running block, my fractal glowing through the window and all my bookshelves. I roll over on my mat and begin my morning yoga practice. Then, I tie up my long hair, and eat an apple while making a teccino cappucino before heading to my first class. I am teaching a 10:30 class at The Yoga Tree, which has twenty people and more, fifteen of whom are regulars. I move through mandalas and sequences, back-bending this morning, opening up the heart chakra, then move into an extended inversion and savasanah. At 1:30 I take a break and go get lunch and juice with a few colleagues and close friends. Then I teach an afternoon class at 4, and 5:30, this time I feel that the room is looking more for a refreshment of energy, there is more movement and repetition, gradually increasing the lenght of forward folds. I meet up with a close friend for dinner, then go teach a private lesson at 7, to a lady who is founding her first company at 65. I go home and enjoy the company of my close friends, as I plan a joint workshop with a musician friend.

In the morning, I attend a close friend's class, enjoy lunch, then teach another private lesson at 2. I go swiming before my 6 and 7:30 classes, then go home to cook dinner with a few friends. We have a run through of a new sequence that we want to try, rejoice in each other's company and plan our adventures.