"Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings." ~ Rumi
A practitioner recently reminded me that
we are always expanding and contracting.
This is a good reminder for someone
who always looks to be making progress,
moving forward with alacrity and purpose.
Am I there yet?
One step of expansion, eager one.
Then a moment to contract and absorb.
Trusting that expansion will come
again in its own time.
If I can remember that this is
what I happily do with my body
every day on the yoga mat,
maybe I can figure out how to
bring this sort of gentle allowance
to all my journeys.
Maybe you can too.
photo: Ian Taylor
I received this valentine from
A Revolutionary Press in Vermont,
a printmaker who tries to wake up
the world with intentionally placed words.
The above comes from
The Gulag Archipelago, dissident
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 's work
documenting and humanizing how
people suffered and endured Soviet
prisons and labor camps.
In these polarized times,
where I am oh, so certain not only
of my own virtuous opinions but also
the motivations of absolute strangers,
I decided posting this
on my wall might be a good idea.
May your heart feel full this week.
May we consider the complexity
and hidden woundings of
each other's hearts.
the shadow and the light
within our own hearts
to the yoga mat this week.
Come just as you are.
You've never heard me lead you
into neck circling where you loll
your 12 lb skull 360° around.
I've been invited to do this in
countless exercise classes.
One of the great things about
being a grownup is you can
kindly ignore witless things
well-meaning people tell you to do.
Why should you pass
on neck circles?
1- nerve impingement
Those 7 stacked up cervical
vertebrae house your spinal
cord inside. For some of us,
that bony spinal canal narrows,
for all sorts of reasons. Rolling
your head back and then twisting
could result in compressing nerves.
This will not feel great.
2- wear and tear on cervical facets
This rolling your head in a circle
business is not a natural motion.
Your vertebrae are stacked up
brilliantly with cartilage between
for happy nodding and turning
but not so much for a disco whirl
3- restricted blood supply to brain
You have vertebral arteries
which keep a healthy blood flow
to your brain. Throwing your head
far back could stymie the flow,
resulting in dizziness. Perhaps
even more troubling if your
arteries are clogged.
Of course, if you love neck circling
and your body tells you
"no problem, I love it!"
then you can ignore this
well meant analysis and advice.
Hope to see you and
your elegant neck
on the yoga mat this week.
lunch at my house
"In fall and winter, the energy of the plants
is traveling downward, back into the earth,
so this time of year, eating things that grow
in the ground can mirror that action and
in our own bodies, helping to slow down
so we can rest and move slower,
at the speed of molasses."
Mmmm..... it just feels right
to eat warm, rooted things
on a blustery day.
There's a reason for this.
Your body knows what it needs.
You take in not only the nutritive
qualities of your food but the
energetic qualities as well.
This is why you might feel a bit
flighty or anxious after just a
cold salad in wintertime.
Your body wants to feel safe,
My favorite trick is to throw
some butternut squash or
sweet potatoes in the oven
while I'm teaching my last class
of the day. I'm tantalized by the
scrumptious aroma wafting
from the kitchen towards
my mat in savasana.
Steam or saute some dark greens.
Bake some root veggies.
Stir up some stews.
You'll feel better, methinks.
We haven't seen one of our fellow yogis,
Debra Grimes, in quite a while. She's on
a trip 'round the world. If you're following
her travel blog, as I have, you've seen
some astonishing photographs. I'm
inspired by this one from Madagascar.
Yes, the produce is gorgeous. Those
leaves! More beautiful still is the elegant
posture of these women as they carry
their wares. How do they do it? To start,
their bones are wisely stacked.
Shoulders are over hips and perhaps
more importantly, their skulls are settled
nicely atop the spine. None of the
ubiquitous Western forward head here.
I'm taking note. Here's an easy cue:
Walk as if a bountiful bouquet of
bok choy is sprouting from your
crown! Sometimes arresting
images are more effective than
a hundred anatomical rules.
Bring your elongated self
to the yoga mat this week.
I'm hearing a lot about Dry January,
of "sober curious" conversations,
and intentions for mindful drinking.
If you've been abstaining,
here are some of the awesome
benefits going on inside you.
If you haven't been abstaining,
this may inspire you.
If you don't drink, you'll wonder
"and why do people do this to
After 30 days of no alcohol, your brain
can make new neural connections,
perhaps to build new strategies and habits.
After 30 days of no alcohol, your blood
sugar can drop by as much as 16%.
The sugars in alcohol turn into glucose
super fast, causing insulin to spike.
Regulating blood sugar has multiple
benefits such as steadier energy.
After 30 days of no alcohol, your liver
fats can drop up to 15%. Fatty liver
disease is no longer an affliction
of only the middle aged or unfit.
A single drink of alcohol can suppress
the immune system for up to 24hrs.
This is not the scenario you want
during cold/flu/covid season. Regular
drinking can create inflammation in
the body, even impairing the inner
lining of your hardworking lungs.
Alcohol creates shallow sleep patterns.
You may think it knocks you out but
your REM cycles, which work as
essential healing cycles, are drastically
Alcohol increases bad cholesterol (LDL),
which builds up in your blood vessels
causing serious problems. After 30 days
of no alcohol, many former drinkers see
a massive drop in LDL and triglyceride levels.
Your body is your temple, yogis.
Be mindful of what you pour in.
Take care of it, so it can
more easily take care of you.
And do some yoga!
Madhur Jaffrey, Indian-American actress, chef and author
photo by Gabriela Bhaskar for NPR
"When I was younger, I didn't want
to be like major Hollywood actors-
I wanted to be like those Actor Studio
ones. Marlon Brando was fabulous
to me. That was always my goal.
The honesty of certain performers
inspired me; It's very rare,
and you can see it in people's eyes.
Their whole body is moving as one
because they're following
one true line of thought."
To read this 90 year old marvel
pinpointing her lifelong attraction
to clarity, for the ability to follow
one line of thought, puts me
in mind of the sixth limb of yoga
Known as focused concentration,
it's a single minded purpose
that allows you to escape the
monkey mind, however briefly,
while tunneling deeply into
whatever practice you choose.
You've done it before.
You set about doing something
and before you know it
hours have passed.
It's a good idea to hone
this ability, especially these days
of constant split second stimulation.
Come to the mat, friend.
Here we are stepping into a new year.
It's often forward momentum that leads us.
Goals, resolutions, fixes, improvements.
I'm looking in the opposite direction.
What does the year past have to teach me?
There's too much helpful data there
to simply turn away from.
I'm asking 3 questions.
1. What lit me up this past year?
Which practices, people, or habits
brought me benefit, even joy.
2. What drained me this past year?
What practices, people, or habits
brought me down.
3. What do I want more of in 2024?
What do I need less of in 2024?
For me, it's less time in the kitchen.
Less responsibility for others' fates.
More time making noise (a.k.a. music).
More time moving my body outdoors.
That's the brief synopsis anyway.
I wonder what yours might be.
Think about it this week. Your heart
probably has something to say to you.
Yogis hone the power to move
backwards and forwards
in body and in knowledge.
Hope to see you on the mat in 2024.
Happy New Year!
I'll never disbelieve that a single person
can affect the world around them. If only
because of two recent retail experiences.
Finally setting out for our Christmas
tree, circling the dregs of what
remained this late in December while
every salesperson refused to meet
our eyes, slumped into their phones,
sleepwalking through their jobs,
dragging us down as we tried to elicit
Christmas cheer while paying for our
skeletal overpriced tree. Their ennui
was palpable. I exaggerate not!
We had to work hard to resist their
energetic quicksand and raise some
merriment for our long anticipated
tree trimming evening.
A day later, tasked with the typically
vexing effort of mastering a Kodak self
printing photo machine, I pulled into
a very sad CVS in east Nashville.
My expectations were low. Wait, why
did it feel so inexplicably good in here?
It was the young man at the register with
a smile for everyone, never rushing tired
or slow customers, helpful at every turn,
and just radiating goodness in a
purposeful 360 degree forcefield.
He inspired reciprocity. Customer after
customer was roused into cheerfulness.
People were actually
walking out with a lighter step.
He made me feel better about the
world, myself, and humanity.
I told him so. He put his hands in
a namaste mudra and quickly bowed
his head in gratitude, slightly blushing.
That, my dears, was my Christmas joy.
Let's be the CVS guy.
Spread some cheer.
It can be rough out there.
We can make a difference.
Understanding that stress contributes to
physical and mental illness, scientists
hope to uncover keys to improved
emotional regulation. I recently listened
to neuroscientist Dr. Lara Boyd discuss
her particular interest in the impact of
exercise on neurobiology. She made
a startling discovery in her study
Yoga Practitioners Uniquely Activate the
Superior Parietal Lobule and
Supramarginal Gyrus During
A group of recreational runners without
yoga experience was compared to a
group of recreational yogis. The aim
was to determine how exercise
affects emotional regulation ability
by measuring heart rate
variability and brain activity using fMRI.
The study found that yogis with a
consistent long term yoga practice
possessed a unique ability to activate
two brain areas associated with
attentional awareness and reduced
egocentric bias. Yogis proved
neurologically superior to the
other athletes in being able to
tolerate and regulate upsetting
external stimuli. Phew!
This is the best justification
for yoga in 2023 that I can think of.
You may peek at the study in its
entirety, but these final words are gems:
In conclusion, the practice of yoga may help
individuals learn to accept and experience
emotions, and to acquire the ability to
separate their own emotions from
those of others. Such a shift in emotion
regulation may indicate that the
practice of yoga could present
a means for improving
psychological and physical health.
Roll out your yoga mat this week
knowing you're altering your
brain chemistry as well as your body.