Saturday, October 15, 2011


We all stray from the paths we wish to be on. We set up nice, organized lives for ourselves, planning out how we will take care of body, mind and spirit.

And then we stray from those paths. Then we catch our straying and start over. And over again and again.

It's a good thing God knows this about us and loves us anyway.

I've noticed that the straying can be big or small with yoga and the 8 limb path. With the niyamas it can be moment by moment. We have a flash of discontentment, a point of anger, an impulsive act that betrays our inner, unleashed minds. Or it can be bigger and more obvious straying, like not practicing the asanas regularly, or even at all.

I think the part of the path that is most tempting to move away from is dhyana. Too tired, just don't want to, forgot to... sit in meditation.

My mom talks about the "light coming on" when she refers to health and nutrition and diet. She says when we have allowed ourselves to just eat junk and stop moving and become sedentary, there is not going to be a successful change until a light comes on. We can make ourselves move and eat right, but we will keep straying, keep eating junk, until we have an inner conviction to change. When we are convicted, we will change. And we will stay on the path for a long time.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Break-Ups are all about the Yamas

Several months ago my best friend and I broke. It was angry and hurtful and full of apologies and declarations of love for each other.

We are still broken and, now that I am more removed, I see that we will most likely not be unbroken.

She was the person I played with. We shared the same hobbies. Hobbies I've not shared with any other friend. That makes it all the more painful. I don't want to take out my camera because it makes me think of her. Hiking? Think of her. Cooking? Think of her. And worse yet...YOGA...think of her. Yoga was what brought us together.

And so now I go about my daily life, my weekly life, doing all of these things alone. As time passes I find the pain lessening a bit. But there are still flashes of anger and resentment. I think, though, that most of that anger is pointed to myself for allowing myself to be so deeply invested in her friendship.

I have a wonderful spouse. But part of what makes us work is that we are not alike. That we each have our own interests. But that doesn't mean I like to pursue these hobbies on my own.

I've done a lot of soul-searching these past months. Realizing where I erred in that friendship and hoping I can overcome the parts of me that may cause me to do that again in another friendship down the road. I see how that relationship taught me lessons I needed to earn. I see that God brought us together and saw us break apart with the purpose of teaching us valuable life lessons.

Now I'm just wondering how long I will need to be going on alone.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Is hate too strong a word? I'm actually just bored with it. When the yoga teacher says we are going to do tree pose, I groan inwardly and sometimes actually roll my eyes (not so she can see).

It's been an easy pose for me from the start. I like just about any other balance pose than this one. I'd like to modify it...bend down, work on balancing on my toes...but then I'm worried others might think I'm showing off.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


Personal observances. Care of the body, disciplined use of our energy. Tapas is part of the Niyamas, the second limb. It involves caring for our physical body...keeping it fit...feeding it well.

I've always thought of myself as being a good steward of my body. Hmmm...maybe that's stretching it. Better to say I've thought that of myself since after I had my second baby (was that really 16 years ago?). I dropped the baby fat, exercised more, paid attention to my diet. And then a year-and-a-half ago I became vegetarian. And now I'm starting to think more about the kinds of foods that heat and cool my body. I've felt that I have a vata dosha. I need warming and oily comfort in food and skin. Since I figured that out last fall, I found this past winter, when I concentrated on staying physically warm, I felt better than I normally have at that time of year.

I started acupuncture three weeks ago to see if I could alleviate some sciatic and IT band pain on my left side. I've also been battling bursitis in my left shoulder this winter and I thought it might help with those issues. I didn't count on it also becoming a study in my digestive system, which has always been a little fast. Very soft, frequent stools have been part of my life for years and periodic upsets have been the bane of my existence. My acupuncturist zeroed in on this right away and has been working on my colon and energy level along with the pain issues.

Everything really got a lot better after the first treatment and then I had a major setback this week after eating large salads for lunch two days. And so today she counseled me to cut back on raw foods. To use salads as sides, not the main event, and to have some hot or warm food with each meal. Instinctively I can tell this is will be right action.

I'm looking forward to better and better health!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

my restorative life

This is a guest post I wrote for Sara Duke, of Do Restorative Yoga.

I first became interested in Yin Yoga, and then Restorative shortly after that, two years ago when my friend and yoga teacher mentioned it to me as a possible way to relieve muscle tension and the stress that causes it. She loaned me a book by Sarah Powers, "Insight Yoga," and a DVD by Paul Grilley, "Yin Yoga: The Foundations of a Quiet Practice." I fell in love with the long, slow poses and the quiet contemplation they encouraged. For my birthday, she gave me Richard Miller's book & DVD, "Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga," and I immediately incorporated that and yin into my weekly rotation of asana practice.

Life is so YANG! With sons in the military and college and another one in high school (where I also work), a husband whose job demands travel and long hours, it seems like I'm often struggling to catch a long, slow, deep breath! Throw menopause in there and my brain and body are often caught up in a confusing, spinning vortex of activity and fatigue. I have found that these practices are helping me to cultivate a calm, positive energy. Indeed, that is the heart of my sankalpa...that intention I set for myself... when I lie down for a restorative session.

When Sara of Do Restorative Yoga took on her 40 day challenge to rest and restore every day, it encouraged me to find time for a little every day, not just once a week. I jumped in with her around day 25 and enjoyed reading about her experiences and sharing impressions of the different personalities and styles we encountered in the recordings. I found that even on my busiest days I could fit in a 15 - 17 minute session with Katie Meehan or Vicki Hansen after work before running to a late afternoon Jazzercise class. In fact, I found that short lie-down to really give me the energy for the dancing and weight training we do in Jazz. On days where I stay in for the evening, I'll choose a longer session by Amy Weintraub, Richard Miller or Winter Robinson.

I attended a weekend workshop at The Asheville Yoga Center in February about using yoga to manage your mood. The workshop was led by Weintraub and she explained that she does yoga nidra every day without fail. She usually does it while still lying in bed in the morning. She just reaches for her earbuds and ipod and switches on one of a few different recordings she has. She explained that doing it in the morning is nice because it's easier to stay awake. I've found that to be the case, too. My favorite mornings are those where I rise at 4:30, do a short kundalini morning warm-up, 11-minute meditation, and then end with a 20-minute yoga nidra recording. I find myself energized and ready to greet the day.

When I began my meditation practice, my mentor said, "It's 11 minutes! Everybody can find 11 minutes!" She's right. And now I find that I also feel that way about Yoga Nidra. Everyone can find time for a short practice. You just have to keep your mind open to those little spans of time where nothing is going on. And then? When you find it? Lie down with a recording and do nothing!"

Monday, March 7, 2011

yoga nidra & autogenic training

So as I've been doing yoga nidra twice a day for the past several days, I've tried out many different recordings. One of them has been an album by Dr. Louise Montello called "Relax into Wellness." She has a track on there called "Progressive Relaxation," which I didn't care for at all. It involves a lot of scrunching up of your muscles and then letting it all go. Just didn't do much for me.

But she has a track called "Autogenic Training" that I've tried twice now. I don't remember my first impressions, but last night I listened again while in bed and I found that I had a wonderfully sound tossing and turning like bacon in a pan, which I've been doing for about a week. I don't remember any dreams, either. I've been having some wild ones since I started YN.

Here is a Wikipedia article on Autogenic Training. I may try some other recordings, too.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

yoga nidra

So I've been adding yoga nidra into my life more and more and I'm really liking it. It gives me a lot more energy and emotional balance.

In the morning I've been doing shorter ones...around 20-25 minutes. This gives me time to do some asana first. And doing it in the morning is great for my brain because I don't fall asleep. One morning, however, I picked one that was 17 minutes when I actually had about 30 minutes of time. I felt ripped off when it was over and I still had 10 minutes to relax before taking the dog for his morning constitutional. My friend Sara Duke of Do Restorative Yoga mentioned that those short ones might really come in handy at one point.

And she was right. I slipped in the 17 minute one today before leaving for my Jazzercise class after work.

But I like the really long ones for days when I come from from work and don't have someplace to be that Mondays and Fridays. I usually nap, which leaves me all warm and cozy and lazy and not wanting to cook supper. But YN leaves me relaxed and awake.

I'll mention some of the recordings I'm using in another post later.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


At the Amy Weintraub workshop in Asheville, my chosen sankalpa was that I would be (am) "independent and content."

I'm changing that.

I chose those words because I struggle to be happy with myself. With my own life. Independent of how people feel about me...whether they want to spend time with me...whether they like who I am. I want to be content with who I am.

But I think a lot of that is the depression talking. As I get healthier and wake up to life more, I think my new sankalpa is what I've been repeating to myself these past couple of days:

I am calm, positive energy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

asana & yoga nidra

So I could tell I was starting to feel well enough to go back to getting up early again. But whenever I set the alarm to get up at 4:30, I'd wake up, advance it an hour, and then go back to sleep.

I refuse to feel guilty about this. What makes early morning yoga, or any commitment like that work is that I won't feel guilty if I break the commitment. Or tweak it. I'm a pretty disciplined person. If my body or mind wants to change something I've previously decided on, I figure there is a reason. And I allow myself to go with it. If it's important enough, I'll go back to it. Or some form of it, anyway.

But I wanted to get up at 4:30 again. I wanted to wake refreshed, do some asana, some meditation, walk my dog and start my day clear-headed and content. So I just lay in my bed Tuesday night and said, "God, I'd really like to wake up refreshed at 4:30 in the morning. But I'd like to just wake up without an alarm. I'm going to let you and my body tell me when it's time to get up."

And so I did. 4:22 a.m. And the next day too. And the next day. And I've had some really nice, calming mornings.

I've been doing some Yoga Nidra in the morning to cap off the practice instead of meditation or svasana. I'm rotating through several practices I have on my ipod. And I'm getting ideas from Do Restorative Yoga, a blog by a yoga teacher in Duluth, Minnesota. She's on a 40-day Relaxation quest. Read about it. It's good.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's been a long month

since I last posted.
I've gotten myself caught in a spiral of depression and have lost my meditation practice. You know how that works: you skip a day and sleep in a day. Then the next. And the next. But my depression symptoms worsened and that made the skipping even more significant.

I could kind of feel it coming on. Paranoia starts to ramp up and then the ruminative thoughts. Finally I discussed it with my prayer partner, who also suffers from depression.

"I wonder if I should increase my medication?" I asked.

"Well how long has it been going on?" she asked.

I told her I didn't want to answer. It'd been 3 weeks. And so she gently walked me through the same conversation she and I had had last year about her. And so I decided to increase by half that very night.

The ruminative tape turned off overnight. I was overjoyed by the silence in my brain! I've gotten better and better over the last couple of weeks and then went to a workshop at Asheville Yoga Center. Led by Amy Weintraub, founder of LifeForce Yoga, the workshop touched on many techniques for using yoga, pranayama, and meditation for treating depression. It was a good workshop and I came away with the conviction that I need to do more yoga nidra.

The days are also getting longer and warmer here. Today it hit 75 degrees. That always does a lot to alleviate my symptoms.

I'll be writing more about this and other things.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


As I deepen my spiritual practice through meditation, I find myself less pure about it. At times I'm struck by a deep guilt about the pride I take in my practice.

I can't say that the pride I feel is not so much when I'm actually doing meditation or asana. It comes about when I am with others in worship. As I sit in our Sunday morning worship service, I find myself casting judgments on those around me. I question their motives for sharing their joys and concerns during the congregational prayer times. As they mention their concerns out loud, I find myself doubting their sincerity...assuming that they are just speaking out loud to let others know that they are "in the know" about something. Or that they are just wanting attention.

I fully realize that this is probably not the case most of the time. But I find myself sitting there smugly, thinking about how I take my own concerns to God in private. "In my closet," so to speak. My husband and I rarely bring our private concerns to the congregation.

I know that this is not an attractive thing to do. I know that God does not appreciate my feeling that I am superior to others. This causes me deep shame. I don't know how I'm going to work on this, but I'll find a way.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

dhyana-the group

It wasn't a group tonight. Just me. I lit the Advent wreath and altar candles, and plugged in the sanctuary Christmas tree that was still up. I did the Smiling Buddha kriya for the first 11 minutes (Sa-Ta-Na-Ma) and then just sat and listened to the silence in my body. You know, bodies aren't really that quiet. You can hear the heart beating, the occasional gurgle and, in my case, the ears ringing.

It was sweet. And went by very fast.

Last week I told the others that I would no longer do a guided meditation. I will just unlock the church at 7 and sit. They can come anytime between 7 and 7:25 and let themselves in. I'll lock the door when I leave and they can let themselves out.

I'm going to like this even more without having the prepare a meditation.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Kriya

Happy 2011! It'll be a great year, I'm sure. I liked 2010, though. I really didn't have any  major complaints.

I've taken on a meditation mentor to bounce ideas off of, and to give me ideas for meditation strategies. She is my kundalini teacher. I only get to see her a few times a year, as her class is during the day when I'm working. The studio has three other teachers who actually lead meditation sits, but something pulled me to this teacher instead. We have one of those funny, unspoken spiritual connections.

So she's give me the Smiling Buddha Kriya to do for the next 40 days. To cultivate Christ Consciousness. You sit in easy pose, hold your hands up at 30 degree angles, bend down your ring and pinky fingers, holding them with your thumb. You then inhale Sa-Ta-Na-Ma and exhale Sa-Ta-Na-Ma. 11 minutes. The meanings are infinity, life, death and rebirth. It is said that Jesus practiced this meditation. I don't know how that would be verifiable, but it adds meaning to me.

Think about it. Who other than Jesus would truly understand this life cycle? Jesus is the only person who actually experienced this in its' entirety. And if he did this while on earth, it would have been a constant reminder of his mission here.

So my primary goal this year is to meditate and do some asana 365 days in a row. My mentor also gave me a 15 minute morning set to do, so this is definitely something that can be in my schedule. I just need to be sure I keep it up on weekends and breaks!

All that said, I must add that this 15 minute set has some killer moments! I mean, do we really need to pull the root lock THAT many times? And on the exhale? I'll see if I can find it online and link to it. The worst part is the shoulder stand bit. You hold shoulder stand for 3 minutes, which isn't a problem, but you pull the root lock on the exhale, and kick your legs at the same time. I get quite out of breath doing that upside-down.