Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yoga Playlist

Update: Click here to listen to most of the below songs via Spotify.

Another playlist: it's about time, I know!  Following please find some of the songs I play often in the classes I teach.  They aren't listed in any particular order, although I structure my own playlists according to the sequence I've planned for a specific class.   

  • "For You," by Matisyahu
  • "Gasoline," by The Silent Comedy
  • "Down in the Valley," by The Head and the Heart
  • "I Can Breathe Again," by Baywood
  • "Hit the Wall," by Sweatshop Union (use the clean/edited version)
  • "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," by Bob Dylan
  • "Sail," by AWOLNATION
  • "The Polite," by Katie Todd
  • "Remember Who You Are," Eligh, Living Legends, and the Grouch
  • "Bliss," by Yogini (Putomayo Presents Yoga)
  • "Mango Tree," by Angus and Julia Stone
  • "Fire in the Sky," by John Butler Trio
  • "Song for the Road," by David Ford
  • "Waiting for the End," by Linkin Park
  • "Start a War," by The National
  • "Heights of Diamond," by Adam Haworth Stephens
  • "All the Best," by John Prine
  • "I and Love and You," by The Avett Brothers
  • "Giri's Song," by Trevor Hall
  • "Soya," by Ali Farka Toure

Let Go of Your Old Nonsense!

This week I'm focused on another terrific quote from Darren Main (you can sign up for his quote-of-the-day emails at his website; click to sign up for his e-newsletter, and then check the box for "Daily Wisdom").

"Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just love this. Who doesn't need to let go of some old nonsense? Give yourself a break. Treat yourself with the same kindness you bestow on the others in your life. Cultivate this letting go and forgiveness on your yoga mat, and see if you can't take that same idea out into the rest of your day. Better yet, see if you can take it even further and begin each new moment serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with the past. It's a tall order, but, the more you try, the more success you'll have.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


There's a worthwhile documentary on yoga called Yoga Unveiled.  Rodney Yee is interviewed in the film, and I really liked something he said:

"Yoga is to bring us back to our true nature, whether it's the nature of our body to be open and flexible and responsive, or also to the nature of our mind, which is to be like a little child -- the mind becomes one of observation and not judgment.  So that it brings us back to our natural state..."

This week I'll be talking a bit about attempting to practice nonjudgment on and off the mat. Sometimes we especially need reminded that we should say nice things to ourselves while we're on our mats (and in the rest of our lives too). We can get caught up telling ourselves stories about our abilities and inabilities or about the people on the mats around us or the people back at the office or waiting for us at home. The yoga mat is a place where we can begin making our thoughts and the stories we tell ourselves more positive and beneficial.

We can also start to bring our practice to a place of meditation, where we are deeply in our bodies and able -- even if for just a few seconds at a time -- to merely observe our practice instead of getting caught up in thoughts and judgment.  And, during those minutes spent on the yoga mat, our practice will be making our bodies --and our minds-- stronger, more open, and more flexible.

As you practice this week, check in with yourself from time to time. Are you saying nice things to yourself? Are you focusing on your breath, allowing your mind to take a break from the constant judgment and stories we often loop round and round? When you focus on your left big toe or pulling your belly in, you are giving your mind a break. The benefits of this are huge, and you will find yoga even more valuable if you try to make your mat a positive, safe place. Remember, it's just yoga -- don't take yourself too seriously! -- and see if you can't send yourself some good energy while you're practicing.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Make Time to Renew

view from Waikiki Beach, Oahu

This week (and every week!) I am encouraging the folks in my yoga classes to give themselves some serious, well deserved credit for carving out time to get to their mats.  So often we put everything else ahead of our health and well-being.  It can be terribly difficult to make time for ourselves, especially if doing so results in guilt for spending time away from loved ones, the office, whatever feels more important.  As a parent or caregiver, it can feel excruciating to leave the house for 90 minutes to take a yoga class or grab some coffee with a friend.  And these important time-outs do us less good if we have a bunch of stress and anxiety tied up in our efforts to heal and replenish ourselves.

What if we change how we think about the time we set aside for ourselves?  What if we learn to recognize its importance in our lives and the lives of the people who count on us?

In her book The Trance of Scarcity, Victoria Castle says, "Those of us who want to do good in the world are especially accountable to our own well-being.  If we are to be of real service to humanity, we must make ourselves available to be nourished, inspired, and sustained.  Otherwise, how would we keep going?"

This is profound on many levels, but two parts of this quote leap out at me.  First, she says that those of us who want to do good in the world are especially accountable.  Sometimes I think we believe the opposite; sometimes we behave like martyrs, giving to others and never taking time to renew ourselves.  I also love the way Victoria says we must make ourselves available to be nourished, inspired, and sustained.  It is up to us, and it is a necessity. 

If we don't fill ourselves up, how can we expect to enrich the lives of others?

Your yoga practice is an opportunity for you to be renewed, replenished, nourished, inspired, and sustained (not to mention relaxed!).  When you arrive on your mat this week, take a moment to feel good about your decision to spend some time there.  Perhaps take a moment to feel gratitude for your yoga practice, your body, the blessings in your life that allow for your practice.  Do the same if you go out for tea, a cocktail, a meal with friends or family.  A daily gratitude practice -- even just a few minutes or seconds each day-- is itself nourishing, inspiring, and sustaining.

I have a bumper sticker that says, "The meaning of life is to live it."  My hope for each of us is that we take the time to do just that.  Spend some time every single day in your body and with your breath.  Replenish yourself so you can continue to give to others.  Serve as an example for the people in your life.  How amazing would it feel to inspire your children, a parent, your spouse or partner, a friend, a coworker to be kind and good to themselves?  Start a domino effect for the people around you.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Abundance II

wildflowers in Crested Butte, CO

Yoga is very practical.  On the yoga mat, we can learn more about how we're feeling off the mat: what we're resisting, what we're craving, what we need to let go.  We can also use our yoga practice to cultivate what we want more of in our lives.  For instance, cultivating a sense of gratitude on the mat inevitably leads to a more profound sense of gratitude and appreciation off the mat.  

Yogic philosophy teaches us to practice non-attachment, or greedlessness.  (Aparigraha, often translated as greedlessness, is one of the yamas in step one of Patanjali's eight-limbed path.)  Practicing nonattachment can be difficult in our culture, which in many ways tells us to feel attachment, to want more and more, to worry about losing what we have.  But, to feel greed or attachment, we must believe at a fundamental level there is a lack or scarcity.  If you believe you'll always have what you need, there's no reason to feel selfish or attached. 

This week I will encourage the practitioners in my classes to cultivate a sense of abundance during their yoga practice.  A belief in abundance can feel like a radical idea, and it is.  It's transformative.  How incredible to come to a place where you believe -- where you know -- that you have everything you need, that you are everything you need.  You are already enough.  You are already complete.  There is no need to compare yourself to the people around you, on the mat or off.  There is no need to feel competitive.  One of my favorite quotes (sadly, I must admit here that I got this quote from an episode of Army Wives!) is, "There's enough success in the world for everyone."  If you believe this, there's no reason to feel envy or jealousy.  The principle of abundance changes everything, and you can decide to embrace the principle of abundance. 

This week I ask you to give this idea a try.  I ask that you cultivate a deep sense of abundance during the moments you spend on your yoga mat and see if you can take that feeling out of the yoga room with you. 

To feel a deep sense of abundance in your life, you have to let go of worry and anxiety.  Another of my favorite quotes is, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow - it empties today of strength" (Carrie Ten Bloom).  We can cultivate a sense of ease on our yoga mats that assists us elsewhere in our lives.  We can learn to let go of the anxiety that clouds and clutters.  None of this is easy -- I'm the first one to admit that! -- but it is so incredibly worthwhile.

When we believe in abundance -- when we feel a deep sense of abundance in our lives -- we can then cultivate selflessness.  When we change our own story to one of abundance, it becomes easier than ever to be generous with our money, our time, whatever we have to share.  Anne Frank said, "No one has ever become poor by giving."  I find this sentiment beautiful and inspiring, and I hear it as a call to us to live a life of abundance and generosity.  The more we give, the more we have.  Be the change.