my life on the yoga D-list

I returned yesterday from my Level 2 Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training in Vermont to find out that there was a glaring omission in Yoga Journal’s story about yoga blogs — me. And how did I find out that Yoga Journal neglected me? From my brother from a different mother, YogaDawg. So just like a good brother he came to my rescue by mentioning me in his blog post about being anointed by Yoga Journal. He said that he “couldn’t let it go without giving you a plug at the end of my blog post”, reminding people that I continue to “kick yoga’s ass.” Thanks, bro!

Let’s see who else thinks that Yoga Journal should have put me on their A list of yoga blogs…Dr. Jay over at Yoga for Cynics who said “I think you should’ve been in the YJ blog list, too” and Yoga Dork who thinks that Yoga Journal should have also included “Linda’s Yoga Journey, Everything Yoga, Yoga Nation, Svasti and It’s All Yoga, Baby.”

I feel like Kathy Griffin. Kathy is a loud-mouthed, snarky broad from Chicago (what is it about Chicago women?) whose show My Life on the D List is hilarious (at least I think so.) The show follows her struggle as a self-proclaimed “D-list” celebrity to climb the Hollywood ladder.

Hey, wait a minute. This blog is about the same thing, only in a different world. This blog is about my journey up (and down) the yoga ladder and like Kathy, I’m also unplugged, uncensored, and unafraid to dish the dirt about what really happens on the yoga road. So how can Yoga Journal ignore me?

Yogini writers (real writers who actually get paid to write!) like Anne Cushman and Lucy Edge could not have been wrong when they wrote their kudos about LYJ. Over 30,000 global readers can’t be wrong. What’s a yogini blogger to do? I’m just so vaklempt that YJ writer Lauren Ladoceour did not think LYJ worthy enough to be listed on her yoga blog A List, especially not worthy enough to be called snarky and satirical! After four years and 300+ cathartic and snarky posts? Moi?!?

So just like Kathy Griffin who enlisted her mother, her assistants, and her Mexican housekeeper to call musicians to ask them to vote for her Grammy nominated comedy album (I know I am dating myself by calling it an “album”), I am asking all my lovely and faithful readers from all over the world to email Yoga Journal at letters@yogajournal.com to tell them how you feel about their glaring omission. In no uncertain terms. Let your throat chakra open up and speak your truth. Pretend that you’re calling Simon Cowell and voting for the next American Yoga Idol. Over 30,000 readers have passed through here so let’s see if Yoga Journal’s computers can handle all the emails! Yeah! Knock ‘em on their asana!

Listen, Yoga Journal, who needs your stupid list anyway? I will hold my head high and proudly channel Groucho Marx who said:

“I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

So there. Besides….

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE YOGA BLOGS WHO MADE THE LIST….SERIOUSLY. MY A-LIST OF BLOGS, YOGA AND OTHERWISE, ARE IN MY BLOGROLL, SO VISIT THEM.

YOU CAN FIND THE BOXER SHORTS AT KATHY GRIFFIN’S WEBSITE.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510′;

my brother from a different mother

While I was at my final retreat for the Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock in California, YogaDawg sent me this video saying “this one’s for you, couldn’t help but think about ya….”

Thanks, Y Dawg, I LOVED IT!

I also received another blog award from Grace over at Graceful Yoga, a lovely and gentle yoga blog — she lists her favorite yoga blogs so check them out. Thanks for the blog love, Grace!

As for my final retreat, I will write about it soon. I will say that the retreat and the entire training was amazing. It truly was a groundbreaking training in the western yoga world. It was a never before offered training that combined Buddhism and yoga, the twins separated at birth, so to speak. If you think Buddhism can be separated from hatha yoga, think again.

There were 88 retreatants from around the world, but my “dharma buddy” and I were the only two yoga teachers from Illinois (there were only four teachers from Midwest America.) Out of all the yoga studios in Chicagoland, both of us came from the same studio in Chicago. We think that says a lot.

Enjoy the video and dance to the music — I will give you a little preview about my Spirit Rock retreat post….we ended the retreat (after a solemn graduation ceremony) with a yoga rave dance….Shiva Rea doesn’t have anything on the Spirit Rockers, believe me.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510′;

every picture tells a story

Thanks, YogaDawg!

and this is why I am not a yoga superstar like Shiva Rea, Seanne Corn, et. al.

That pup looks drugged. Have you ever seen such a lifeless puppy? And I hope Ms. Doga did not get that puppy from a pet store — pet stores buy puppies from puppy mills!

Please feed shelter animals! Click the link in the sidebar — my three former street cats thank you!

I also want to give a shout out to my new favorite yoga blog, Yoga Dork. Any yoga blogger who can hold Lululemon’s feet to the fire is OK in my book!

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510′;

the retreat, part 2: Yoga Dawg goes legit!

I have finally found some time to write a a bit about my second 10 day retreat for my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. You can read about the first retreat in October, 2007 here.

We had the same teachers from last year except for Stephen Cope from Kripalu. I missed him because I love his style. In his place was Chip Hartranft who wrote The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary which is the version of the Sutras we are using for this training. In his book Chip skillfully shows how the buddha-dharma can not be separated from Patanjali’s yoga philosophy.

My interview with a yoga teacher was with Chip and I loved his style as much as I loved Stephen Cope’s. Chip is sweet and down-to-earth and the real deal in my opinion. We were both sorry that our 15 minute talk seemed to end so quickly. I look forward to seeing him next year as he will be one of the teachers leading asana practice, along with Jill Satterfield.

The guest yoga teachers for this retreat were my teacher, Sarah Powers, and Judith Lasater. It was good to see Sarah as she is my teacher for yin yoga together with Paul Grilley when they come to Chicago. We did a yin and yang practice with Sarah and restorative yoga with Judith Lasater. I will say that after spending two days with Judith and her style of yoga, I wanted to leave the retreat — more on Judith’s classes in my next post.

Anne Cushman, who wrote Enlightenment for Idiots (see my sidebar), is one of the coordinators of this training and she led us in classes and also gave a talk on yoga. Although it was a mostly silent retreat, I thanked her for sending me her book and she told me she was going to quote YogaDawg in her talk — so that’s how YogaDawg became legit, his book quoted at a yoga and meditation training. I was amused when I saw students furiously writing down his words about yoga students, and I wondered whether they realized it’s yoga satire….after all, Lindia is YogaDawg’s evil yogini sister, bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha (that was supposed to be an evil laugh.)

Anne opened her discussion by posing the question: how does asana practice help mindfulness practice? she said because everything — meditation, pranayama, Patanjali’s and the Buddha’s words — are used in the service of waking up. she said that yoga was never supposed to be for anything other than awakening and seeing the world clearly as it is. that is enlightenment.

in the retreat asana practice cultivates a deeper exploration of our emotions, mind states, and body and breath. we use our asana practice to explore our relief from suffering, to bring us ease, and to explore the Four Noble Truths in relationship to our practice and therefore our life. yoga is life — Krishnamacharya knew this when he said “breath is central to yoga because it is central to life and yoga is about life.” practice is life and our life is the practice. yoga has the toolbox to bring us blissful states but the problem comes when we think that’s the only thing yoga can do, i.e., when we use yoga as a quick fix. what do we do when there is no quick fix? what are the larger principles we can bring to our asana practice?

Anne named four things:

1. bring the quality of metta (loving-kindness) or self-compassion to your practice. she said that sometimes metta was more important than mindfulness because we are judgmental about our practice. we forget that we are already complete and as yogins we have too much internal criticism about our practice. when we practice self-compassion our mindfulness will flourish naturally.

2. remember to use asana practice AS IT IS; know the difference between goal and intention. be present and develop a new relationship with WHAT IS. be willing to be present in your practice and transformation will occur. use your asana practice as a counterpose to the culture at large where we are pressured to constantly and continually become “better” because it is never good enough to be just as we are.

3. don’t use your asana practice as a way to support your conditioning — use it to counterbalance and transform your conditioning. Anne gave the example of Type A personalities always doing the same type of practice which supports their conditioning instead of transforming them into a less agitated Type B. if you live your life in constant agitation, don’t do a practice that will agitate you even more. be flexible with your practice, not dogmatic. As Jack Kornfield writes in A Path With Heart, mental flexibility is one of the marks of spiritual maturity. embrace the yin along with the yang.

4. most importantly, use your asana practice as a means to get in touch with impermanence. our bodies are changing every day even though we act like they aren’t. all of us will die yet we live as if we won’t. use your asana practice to recognize the changes in your body while at the same time celebrating it and appreciating it.

Anne reminded us that our asana practice is a constant dance between form and formlessness. as yogins we devote ourselves to the study of form and to being healthy, but at the same time we must realize that the forms we turn our bodies into are impermanent, one asana flows into another, as do the seasons of our lives. embrace the two truths of form and formlessness at the same time and always remember that it’s just a pose.

This second retreat was a mixed bag for me, good, bad, and indifferent, yet I experienced some epiphanies. I used to tell my students that a wise-ass Buddhist once said, life sucks, but suffering is optional. I now realize that life is suffering, pain is optional — big difference, think about it.

During a meditation practice on forgiveness, I finally forgave the alcoholic yoga studio owner, I no longer feel the rage. actually, the forgiveness was ultimately for me, not her. I forgave her for myself, to relieve MY pain over being betrayed. self-compassion is a wonderful thing.

the entire trip was a lesson on impermanence. before the retreat I spent five days with a friend exploring the Big Sur area. as it turned out, we cheated death by a few days because when we left, Big Sur went up in flames. the restaurant and the store that we went to and the Tassjara area, all were engulfed in wildfires that are still being fought.

addthis_pub = ‘yogagal60510′;

response to "getting back to yoga"

(Please read Getting Back to Yoga, Part 1 and Part 2 in their entirety before reading this post.)

This post is excerpts from an email I received from a regular reader who is also a yoga teacher. She gave me permission to use it, with edits. she asked me to disguise her words because she is worried that she might lose her job if someone recognized her.

is that what the state of yoga in this culture has come to? think about that. that might be the bigger issue here. are we as teachers so afraid to call a spade a spade, so afraid to speak our truth about teaching and the state of yoga as some of us experience it that we are afraid to lose our jobs? a job that we do because we love it and not because we can make any type of money to support ourselves.

call it a yoga rant if you want to but it’s food for thought and I believe these things need to be said because the mainstream yoga media doesn’t talk about it. the mainstream yoga media is more concerned with marketing to the perfect yoga demographic. as my yoga cyberpal YogaDawg says, no yoga BS here.

I thought her comments important enough for a post of their own instead of in the comments section where they might be ignored.

“…this whole “Americanized” yoga thing is the same thing that is going on with our whole culture…skinny, tight, no wrinkles on a 65 year old woman, tummy tucks after babies, puffy collagen lips…I won’t even get started.

I had 30 in a class last night, way too many. After class a woman asked if I always do postures that you have to support your weight…she has a severe arm injury…no upper body strength at all. this is a public class, for the general population…this is not private instruction, which she needs.

I am working with a young man with rheumatoid arthritis. he was going to take a community class with a student teacher. When I heard that I told him absolutely not. I am working with him for free to keep him from injuring himself.

Yoga is advertised as a cure-all, body opener, strength builder, look beautiful like the pictures in Yoga Journal, your wrinkles will disappear as soon as you feel your breath….And everybody can do it, just modify a pose in a group class, no matter what the asana is.

A woman came when she was very pregnant and said, “I know you will modify every posture for me.” And what am I supposed to do with the 20 other people (half of which are new) in class while I am attending to her? And she was new to yoga. Not a good time to start when pregnant with your first child. I told her to start a prenatal program.

At one of the first classes I taught I was asked, “Oh wow, are you going to teach us those really hard arm balances and all that cool stuff?” I said, “no, that would not be me”, and the student hasn’t been back. they have no idea that you go to an advanced class or one-on-one to learn those asanas.

Wow, I really took off on this one…sorry, but I do feel better….”

hey, even yoga teachers need to let off steam, none of us are enlightened yet.

and I totally get what she is venting about. because for as much as yoga is portrayed in western culture, for as much as we hear or read about it in the media (it had its 15 minutes of fame on Oprah), for as much as we yoga teachers like to think that yoga is “mainstream”…it’s not. yet yoga IS advertised as a cure-all (“GET THAT YOGA BUTT IN 20 MINUTES PER DAY AND OPEN YOUR THROAT CHAKRA, TOO!”), and as much as I believe in the healing power of yoga, this is a huge disservice. people who could benefit from private yoga go to group classes because they don’t know any better and end up getting frustrated or worse, injured, sometimes seriously.

as I wrote in my last post, I was taught that personal transformation can begin in a group class, but is accomplished by working one on one with a trusted teacher and having faith in that teacher. there have been many times when I have suggested to certain students in a group class that their needs would be much better served by private yoga sessions. yet, for some reason, the idea of private yoga classes in this culture is met with skepticism. it boggles my mind that people will pay someone $75 or more to clean their house or to pick up their dog’s poop (not to mention the money one can spend at Starbucks in one month), but the thought of paying a highly trained yoga teacher $75 or less for a private yoga session is anathema to them. people pay more than $50 for a pizza party for their kids.

it’s all about priorities….

arf-arf! recommended by da’ Dawg…

YogaDawg that is!

woo-hoo, gettin’ down with the Dawg! I received an email from the Dawg himself telling me that he picked this blog as a “YogaDawg recommended blog”

I first wrote about YogaDawg back in January and again in October when he posted his video bio. Dawg’s video would make Bikram fall off his yoga throne with laughter.

I check in every so often to see what snide and sarcastic bits of yoga humor he has come up with. My favorite parts are still the sections on Yoga Teachers and Yoga Students — read through the descriptions and you’ll see someone you know or maybe yourself. Uh…and no, I’m not any of them. really.

Dawg and I are probably going to end up in a Buddhist Hell Realm for wise-ass yogis.

and yes…I’m still sick of seeing Shiva Rea’s hair blowing in the wind.

Long live YogaDawg!

who is YogaDawg?

One of my favorite yoga sites is YogaDawg’s and the Dawg honors me occasionally by popping in to read this blog. He commented on my $49.99 yoga certification post so I thought I’d give him a shout-out.

“Yoga Teacher Sub-classes:

The Clueless

These are new teachers who have graduated from one of the many teacher training courses that Yoga studios offer. The course will be for 4 weekends for a month. They will have taken this course and might have been practicing Yoga for a couple of years.

The Very Clueless

Same as above, but they have taken the Express version of the course that is held for two weekends in the month. You pray they have some Yoga under their belts.

The Extremely Clueless

Same as above but have taken the weekend teacher training course and probably exaggerate about how much Yoga they have done. Your only line of defense is to completely ignore them, do nothing they say to do. If you make the mistake of following their instruction be prepared to get injured.

TIP: It is always a good idea to make sure your health insurance is current before taking a Yoga class with the Extremely Clueless.”

Yoga Students

The $1,000 Classer

The $1,000 Classer is easily identified by their Yoga accoutrements. They usually fall within the Yuppie and BoBo (Bourgeois Bohemian) class. Their mat will be all natural and organic with a surface embedded with grasses from the plains of India, hairs from the Indian Rhino, peacock feathers and dropping from Monkey Temple in Jaipur, India (sanitized and de-odorized of course). This mat will be in a designer mat bag patterned with images of Yoga poses, seated Buddhas and symbols of Shakti and Shiva. They will be wearing designer name yoga clothes made from a mixture of organic hemp and flex. They will sport nifty yoga wristbands and even Yoga shoes.

The $1,000 Classer will be carrying a bottle of water whose bottle is a designer masterpiece. It will contain water melted from the polar ice cap drilled from a mile and a half deep. They will have had so much fun buying this stuff that they will also purchase a yearly, unlimited pass the first day of class. The $1,000 Classer will be secure in the knowledge that the pass will allow them to strut around for a year in their new yoga getup. They will be salivating at all the cool Yoga stuff they see in the Yoga shop within the studio. The $1,000 Classer, however, will end up only attending one class….

No one is spared from Dawg’s scathing wit!

You rock, Dawg! There’s a special place in a Buddhist Hell Realm for both of us! See ya there!

my third eye itches…

…I couldn’t have said it better myself…

take a break from my India travelog and check out the YogaDawg website…it’s hilarious!

I’ve always thought that too many yogis take themselves WAY too seriously…is anyone else sick of seeing Shiva Rea’s hair blowing in the wind?

Shiva, honey — I moved like you LONG before you ever trademarked “yoga trance dance”! I wish I would have thought of that because then I wouldn’t have to depend on these Google ads to finance my next trip to India…click on these ads, y’all, and send me back to India!

nice marketing strategy, girlfriend!

anyway, check out YogaDawg and see if you recognize anybody…or yourself!

namaste!