The Joy of Acknowledgement

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to see someone else’s progress but how hard it is to recognize your own? As a yoga teacher, I always try to point out the progress I see my students making. It may be something as subtle as a deeper but more relaxed breath — which translates to huge strides down the road. Possibly, it is something more obvious, like being able to balance on their hands in one of the many arm balancing poses.

Believe it or not, the students don’t always seem to acknowledge the progress no matter how obvious it may be. Sometimes, I take a photo to show them the progress I am observing. I did this for one our mysore students this week, pointing out the lovely lines in her trikonasana and utthita parsvokonasana. If they do finally achieve a goal – such as finally getting their foot behind their head in eka pada sirsasana – they are disappointed that they have to hold it in place or it flies off like it’s spring-loaded.

Quite honestly, I am guilty of this myself. Over the last year, my practice has suffered from a number of compounding ailments including finger fractures and shoulder instablity. My focus has been on the struggle to improve but without a lot of notice taken on the steps forward, only the backward shifts that naturally occur in the effort.

Like this new leaf on my monstera plant, new growth is beautiful. Sometimes, these new leaves go unnoticed for a bit as they hide behind the others. But, oh how I love to welcome the newbies into my practice space. They really make me smile.

Back to the topic of yoga: Although somewhat unconsciously, my efforts in not becoming attached to any success have translated to blindfolding me to any progress made in this regard. I think I feared (or maybe expected) that I would lose it again in the next days, weeks, or months. There’s been a lot of that.

In the beginning, this may have been thought to be non-attachment but I now think that the failure to celebrate the successes has lead to less joy in my yoga practice. And I really need JOY right now. I mean, in addition to the joy of seeing new leaves on my plants.

For this reason, I plan to resurect the habit of daily entries in my yoga journal in the month of May with a focus on listing out some wins each day. In the past, regular journalling about my yoga practice has served as a nice way to highlight emerging injuries and track them back seemingly subtle to modifications or added poses. This month, I hope to be able to pay a bit more attention to little steps of progress as well as the coming and going of poses as I continue to work on healing from the injuries of the past year. Currently, I am calling this exercise the Joy of Acknowledgement.

I invite you to do the same and/or share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. 

Okay Enough

As the date got closer to my longtime plans to return to practice with Manju Jois and Greg Tebb at the No Stress Shala (aka Manju’s garage), I became apprehensive about going. Although we are taught not to judge our practice as good or bad, I find myself disappointed in the limitations of my body more often than not. In truth, Manju doesn’t care what my practice looks like. He is there to provide a supportive environment for therapeutic yoga. If anything, I really should have been thinking of going to see Manju as a MUST. I have just been a bit stuck.

All of the ailments of 2023, (the right shoulder, elbow & finger, left hip, and SI joint) had been improving. I had dedicated a lot of time and resources to the recovery and stablization efforts. As a result, I was having to modify a lot less often than before. Still, I was apprehensive.  Of course, there was no need to be worried.

After our first night at the Comfort Inn (previously the Quality Inn), Eva deemed the accomodations as “okay enough”. We each had a bed, the rooms each had a locking door, and we might not have even known that the sheriff was paying a visit to the room a few doors down from us if we hadn’t left while they were there. The term “okay enough” would be brought up many times during the week — keeping us light hearted and amused. And I would walk into the “no stress shala” with the notion that my asana practice was indeed “okay enough”.

The thing is, once I shifted to being “okay enough”, all my judgement melted away. If I messed up, I laughed at myself. I allowed others to encourage and compliment me without second-guessing. I had fun and let the Manju magic do it’s thing.

The week went by way too fast. Our days at the shala were filled with asana practice, followed by pranyama, chanting, and yummy home-cooked vegetarian meals. We learned new ways to assist others’ in many different asanas.

During the rest of the time in lovely Encinitas, CA. we:

  • drank LOTS of coffee,
  • laughed a whole lot,
  • hiked,
  • visited Eva’s handstand coach,
  • saw the sea lions in San Diego,
  • window-shopped & people-watched,
  • basked in the sun,
  • wadded through large puddles of rain,
  • and ate and ate and ate (even dessert, thanks to Shelly’s encouragement).

All in all, the trip was just what I needed. It was “okay enough” and so much more, of course.

Lessons learned


As the end of 2023 approaches, I wonder where the heck this year went. I am also wondering what happened to my asana practice. *sigh* I mean, in January, I was doing Third Series more regularly. I went to Encinitas to study with Manju Jois and emerged motivated and encouraged that I could work out the kinks in my practice. A month later, when David Swensen came to the studio my body was starting to communicate some not-so-positive feedback to me. Although nothing intense, parts of my body were feeling new aches and pains (left hip, shoulders, right elbow). On the last day of David’s visit, I emerged from Eka Pada Sirsasana with an intense pulling from my neck and under my left scapula. *sigh*

My practice waxed and waned through the next few months. Third Series came and went again and again. My left shoulder and right elbow took turns distracting me from moving forward like I had hoped. I was happy just to practice at all. Then, it happened.

We were in the process of building our garage gym — squat rack, barbell, plyometric box, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, etc. It was pretty sweet but I wanted a padded floor. So, on July 1st, our padded flooring finally came. I moved all of the equipment over, rolled out the flooring, and began returning the equipment back to their new-padded spots. My youngest only had time to help me with the rack at THAT time. He was available after work, but I would have to wait. Well, if you know me, you know that I was pretty sure I could do the rest all on my own. And I did. However, not without a 35 pound dumbbell tumbling in the air and pinning my fingers between the flying dumbbell and a stack of DC Blocks. Suffice to say that I broke a finger in my dominant hand at the distal joint, and strained the neighboring fingers. *groan*

Well, I wore a splint for 3 full months while my finger healed. When my finger was freed, I jumped back into my practice a little too enthusiastically (read: agressively). Mid-September, I resumed Third Series (even though I wasn’t 100%) and tried to modify where I could. I knew it wasn’t optimal but I kept at it — trying to stay positive. I told myself that my come-back was just going to take time. In October, after taking a few days off with a cold, I decided to drop my efforts at doing Third Series. I know it will be there whenever (IF ever) I am ready to meet up with it again.

Which brings us to today.  Read More

$h!t Happens!

We’d like to think that, after years of practicing this thing called yoga (and life), we would be able to avoid all injuries. However, the truth is, you can be ever so mindful and careful, but injuries still happen. You don’t even have to be doing anything intense. In fact, you might simply be rearranging things in your garage. *sigh*

It’s true. We are in the process of building a sweet home-based gym in our garage. My youngest has been making most of the purchases; I have mostly been contributing by providing him with the space to keep it. But, as the equipment has arrived, I have found it rather convenient to workout here at home. In doing so, I save a travel time and time at the gym waiting for the space, specific dumbbell or machine to free up. So, I began contributing by purchasing needed items myself.


It’s not as easy as one might think. My son said we needed some “DC blocks” so I purchased 2 of them to get us started. When they arrived, I realized the ones I’d bought were extra wide and not returnable. My second purchase was padded flooring. After many out of stock, backordered choices delaying this purchase, I finally landed on mat flooring that was in stock and soon delivered.

It was the day that we unrolled our gym flooring when my injury occurred. Being the independent (read: impatient) person that I am, I did most of the heavy lifting, shifting of equipment, unrolling, taping and replacing the equipment back on my own. I had most of it in place, with only the lighter dumb bells and DC blocks left to return to their newly-padded home. My son, who was finishing up a workout before heading off to work, would move the 90 lb adjustable dumb bells later that night. Although I can hold a 35 lb dumb bell in one hand, I used two hands to be extra careful. I’m not sure, but I think I hit the other dumb bell as I lifted the weight off the DC block. The weight in my hand tumbled and fell to the ground hitting the edge of the DC block on the way down. Unfortunately, the fingers of my right hand were not clear when the weight met the sharp, hard edge of the block and were smashed in the process. *sigh*

When Injuries Happen

Although the bruising and swelling did not develop right away, the discomfort pointed to something more than just soft tissue damage. X-rays and exam revealed an avulsion fracture of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint in the 4th finger of my dominant hand. I have a little extension splint to wear for the next 4-8 weeks (or so) and am now learning how to modify the way I do things in my practice and my day-to-day life (i.e. left-handed mousing, brushing teeth, etc.)

Fortunately, I have seen a lot of students (myself included) adapting their practice as their injuries heal during my many years of practicing yoga. I took chatarangas, bakasana, down dog, etc. on my forearms loosely gasped a cloth diaper instead of interlocking my fingers for binds, and skipped poses during the first week.When the sports medicine doctor gave me the go-ahead for doing more “using good form” and “lighter” loads, I explored using yoga jellies to lift my hand and take pressure off of my fingertips. Even my strength workouts are different. I got a weight vest so I can continue to promote bone density maintanence without having to hold weights. I’m doing a bit more cardio than strength. I’m even learning to taking it easy on myself when I take a few extra rest days just because.

This injury could have been so much worse than it was. I am blessed to be able to adapt while the healing takes place.

More Manju Magic

After spending another 5 days in Encinitas, CA practicing with Manju Jois, I am feeling very lucky, to say the least. We were blessed with sunshine and smiles the whole week through. We bonded together, learned a ton, and laughed A LOT – as you can probably guess from the photo below. It was glorious. 

Pulled from my yoga journal, here is a little breakdown of how my own practice played out during the week.

Day 1

Aside from Jamie, whom I met in November, the whole group is new to me. Coming from Chicago, Michigan, Florida, and elsewhere, this group is equally as awesome. Besides Manju, Ginetta is the main assisting teacher. She played tug-o-war with my arms so that I could feel the catch in Marichyasana D once again and enjoy a brief moment of catching in Supta Kurmasana — before the sweaty moment slipped away.

It was a lovely hour and a half of Primary Series and the first half of Intermediate. After practice, we chanted for a while, Manju told us stories from his past, and then we enjoyed some amazing home cooked food. I am looking forward to seeing how the magic will play out as we each journey through this week. Indeed, we are all so blessed for this experience.

Day 2

After yesterday’s assists in Mari D and Supta Kurmasana, I had to revisit Primary Series again. The “catch” is magical when it happens, even with help. Ginetta came right over to help me out and, today, her cue to breathe was a little easier. She also gave me  super sweet assists in Trikonasana A & B (on both sides). My spine loves her.

I split off after Buddha Konasana and moved to Intermediate Series. In the time allotted, I was able to practice through Ardha Matsendrasana before backbends, drop backs, and closing. We finished off the morning with some more chanting.

Day 3

“Yoga is Geometry and Mathematics; It is a Science.”

Today was another lovely day of practice. I moved to Intermediate Series after completing the Virabhadrasana sequence. Manju stood behind me as I took on Kapotasana. He just watched and encouraged me. My fingers climbed my toes but didn’t go much farther than that. I considered repeating but quickly abandoned that thought and moved on. Being unattached to the outcome was liberating. Later on in the practice, Manju stood by as I entered Pincha Mayurasana. His presence provided me with confidence similar to kicking up near a wall. After my 5 breaths, he gently pulled my feet towards my head for scorpion. It felt intense yet oddly freeing. I found the line again before exiting out. Then came Karandavasana. I waited for Manju to finish with Jamie before kicking up. He helped me get my legs into padmasana, fold down, and return to upright. Once again, he pulled my feet towards my head into scorpion.

I managed to complete all of Intermediate albeit not all the poses were good. Leg behind the head (LBH) poses were just okay. These poses were on the easier side 1-2 years ago but not anymore. Non-attachment, right?

Day 4

Last time I visited Manju in his home shala, the yogis each returned to the same place in the shala day after day. This week is different; we intentionally have moved about the room as if to keep Manju guessing who we are. Of course, he remembers us by our faces rather than where we place our mats. It is only each other that we fool.

I mention this only because I know how attached yoga practitioners can become to their “spot” in the room. And although each spot has a different feel, the practice unfolds just as it should no matter where we unroll our mats.

Today, I moved to Intermediate right after parsvottanasana which gave me just enough time for vishvamitrasana, vasisthasana, and drop backs before closing. The practice was much like Day 3, except I was treated to a glorious lift and swing in dhanurasana from Ginetta. Wowza! Manju assisted me in pincha mayurasana but took a hands-off approach to karandavasana. He suggested I cross my feet at the ankles and try to fold down part way. It was no good. I ended up using a headstand modification.

I love this group of ashtangis. It’s hard to believe that we only have 1 day left together.

Day 5

Given it was the last day of these 5 days with Manju, I did Intermediate Series and moved to Third Series immediately following. I wanted to get through as much as I could. It was clear that LBH was not going to go as smoothly as earlier in the week. I gave bhairavasana a feeble attempt, then jumped forward in the sequence to kukkutasana. I am grateful that Manju isn’t a stickler about the sequence.

This relaxed approach should not be taken as an invitation to do what you want. He believes in teaching what is right for the individual’s body on a given day with the sequences as the foundation to build upon.

After the asana practice, we chanted and then did some pranayama before ending with stories and questions. Then, we were all given certificates to document our 30 hours of continuing education.

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