what is yoga?

During this morning’s practice, I asked my teacher if it was better to keep both of my hips grounded in Marichyasana D –OR- let the back hip float but ground the knee instead. Reaffirming that the primary goal is the twist and the bind that are the priority. Having no issues there, yet not able to ground both the knee and the hips simultaneously, I asked her my question again. She responded again, saying that in all of Primary Series the objective healing comes from the concentrated abdominal squeezing action more than anything else. “Bandhas”, she said, “You don’t find them. They find you.”

Thinking back to a recent conversation around Garbha Pindasana, I asked if that is why we are encouraged to thread our arms through our lotus. She smiled, and walked away.

A few poses later in my practice, I retrieved the water bottle and worked on the pose as best as I am currently able. Although the water did a nice job of allowing me to thread, the tighter ball I was in made it challenging to stay on my mat while rolling around in the circle before trying to lift up into Kukkutasana. I struggled but stuck with it trying to keep my mind on the moment instead of where it has been for the past week: Stuck in a conversation about using water to thread the arms.


Sharath @ Stanford

This is my extended ashtanga family from the bay area and beyond. It has been a pleasure to practice with everyone once again.

Photo by Danielle Tsi Photography

beginning again

My youngest son has been in hot pursuit of his certification to become a personal trainer. Juggling school, a full-time work schedule, among other demands has meant that his 1 year time limit was here before he was ready to take the certification exam. Very astutely, he decided to sit for the exam anyway. This would allow him to learn from it rather than simply letting the deadline pass without even trying. As much as he benefitted from seeing the test and identifying the areas where he needs to deepen his knowledge, his action also set an example for me to follow. You see, I have been quietly regaining my enthusiasm (read: courage) to complete my own certification process over the past 6 months. Ryan’s willingness to brave the test, has me seriously thinking that it is time to finish what I started nearly 7 years ago.

Reigniting my efforts to finish my yoga teacher certification has led me to examine where I would like to take my teaching – in an ideal world. The answer could not be any more clear today than it has been over the past 4-5 years. Ashtanga yoga has been the focus of the 500+ hours of teacher training that I have logged over the past years. It is what I do and, in many ways, how I identify myself. So, naturally, it is where I would want to teach if the opportunity were to present itself.

What better training than to go to the source, where the lineage of resides: Sharath Jois

We are fortunate to live in one of three places where Sharath visits on his yearly US Tour. For the past 3 years, I have been blessed to be able to roll out my mat in the gym at Stanford and follow along to his led count with my extended ashtanga yoga family (from the bay area and beyond).

Although, his verbal cues fall short of what I assume will be expected of me in order to pass my certification, his command of the room and perfectly measured count is exactly what I need to cultivate into my repertoire of tools. And since we are not accustomed to hearing much instruction with a mysore style practice, any verbal cueing is good for me to experience.

Additionally, I have been reviewing my books and videos, ordered a few more, and begun looking for individuals willing to allow me to practice my teaching with them. The goal is to submit my video by son’s birthday and be certified by mine. There is no telling if my certification will lead to anything beyond the satisfaction of finishing what I started.

Photo by Danielle Tsi Photography

real world sh!t – here too

Have you read Audi Moatti’s recent post, “The Real Shit” which appeared on the Ashtanga Yoga Project’s blog recently?  The phenomena of hiding behind an image of perfectly zen ashtanga goodness, real or not, may just be our way of self preservation. Although I have broken into a tearful puddle on my mat many-a-time, this is certainly the case for me. I write this as my own answer to the call to reveal the “real shit” in MY life as JeanMarie did in her brutally honest post, “I am not okay.”

Over the years I’ve been practicing ashtanga, I have traveled through quite a few tunnels of darkness. Yet, admittedly, I do pretend to be okay. I don’t feel that I am unique in my want to conceal those times when I am just NOT okay. But that doesn’t mean that everything is sunshine and roses.

This past month, I’ve been going through some…um…”sh!t” (which I prefer not to post the details of here). This, of course, is on top of me trying to rebuild my yoga practice after my SI joint injury. As a result, there have been many-a-time when I have not wanted to roll out my mat in a room full of unsuspecting yogis. However, I go because….well…it’s what I do. It is my routine. Only those who know me over the past many years, the ones who actually watch my practice, can see that my current practice lacks the joy and ease that it once had.

The rest?

Well, they probably think that I am just lazy or have lost interest in the practice. I have been showing up late and have trouble keeping my breath-movement synched (as any “good ashtanga” would). For me, it is “good” enough that I show up. It’s not that I’ve lowered the bar. Err, perhaps I have. Either way, I am not about to apologize for it; it is what it is.

  • I am NOT perfect, nor do I pretend to be.
  • I do, however, try not to melt down on the mat beside you.
  • Try as I might, I do sometimes do just that.
  • I also try not to let my overly-sensitive self lash out in an act of self-protection.

Although my IG account is filled with flowers, cute dogs, fatty foods, and Spartan racing pictures, I can assure you, everything is not all espresso and orchids in my world — OR perfect ashtangi bliss.

mindful modification weaning

I found myself unable to get to mysore for most of last week for a number of reasons. As a result, my time on the mat was drastically reduced. I returned to the room on Sunday feeling oddly energized in spite of the hour “lost” to the time change. I began in the usual way with my surya namaskaras and standing poses, then moved to the early part of the seated series. I did all of my vinyasas, jumping back and through to the best of my ability as per the ashtanga tradition. At that point, I moved into intermediate to assess how my body would respond to adding back some of the poses I haven’t been doing for some time (namely kapotasana). The plan was to move into the pose with mindful observation, careful not to overdue it.

I surprised myself and touched down for the first time in several weeks. My teacher, who was leading the weekly led practice for all comers had her hands full with a large group of students that included the latest teacher trainees. Unlike most Sundays, she did not have an assistant. I have no idea if she even saw that I was moving into intermediate. I opted to leave well enough alone and stop just prior to all of the leg -behind-the-head poses.

I returned to the room on Monday, feeling brave enough to continue to explore some additional poses from intermediate. With my Spartan Race on Sunday, I opted to modify them so that I could gauge my body’s tolerance to them in a stepwise fashion and be insured not to open my hips to the level of instability they have been at up until now.

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