ain’t nothing new…

Last year I became a certified Reflexologist.  I love doing the work.  For most of last year I worked with a friend who went through chemo, surgery, and finally radiation for breast cancer.  She said…“I could not have made it through my ordeal this year without you.  Your mojo is what balanced out all the scary medical stuff.  I knew I could get through, but relaxing as you did your thing was one of the only times my mind was clear enough to truly embody that message.”

I became a Reflexologist #1, because I was inspired by some awesome reflexology I received in India and #2, I wanted to learn something new and different.

But the bottom line is…

Nothing new under the sun… all it is is re wrapped and sold in a different language

I also do what I call “Shamanic Energy Work” (I use the word Shamanic because I’m Native) but there’s a ton of energy healing modalities out there.  Reiki, Quantum Touch, Reconnective Healing.  Same same but different as we say in India.  Aint’ nothing new.  Energy is energy.

It’s so true that there is nothing new under the sun.  I’ve been teaching Yoga since 2002. Today I looked at the Omega and Kripalu offerings just to see what’s what.  My first thought was, “I’ve been teaching these same things for 15 years.”

“Trauma sensitive yoga? I was teaching Yoga in a domestic violence shelter long before anyone even heard of Dave Emerson or “trauma sensitive yoga.”  Other than learning about the physiological aspects of trauma in the body, the training was a rehash of what I had already learned in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition.

“Introduction to Yin Yoga”?  I was one of the first Yin Yoga teachers in the Chicago area and taught classes and workshops at least 12 years ago.  I brought Yin Yoga to the Yoga community in Arusha, Tanzania in 2010.

Sorry J. Brown, but I was teaching “slow yoga” before it became a thing.  Breath-centered Yoga?  Starting teaching that way in 2005 and ever since.

“Mindful Yoga”?  I was in the first Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation Training at Spirit Rock in California 2007-2009.  Combining the Buddhadharma and Yoga in my classes felt right to me before I took that training.

“Therapeutic Yoga”?  I offered a workshop on Yoga in the Krishnamacharya Tradition for Yoga teachers after my first time at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005.  No one signed up.  Not one teacher at the studio where I taught at the time was interested.

Ain’t nothin’ new, kids.  The only thing is that those teaching at places like Kripalu and Omega can market themselves a hell of a lot better than I can.

As a long ago private student told me, it’s hard being a pioneer because pioneers get the arrows shot up their asses.  Much easier to follow the leader.

Like anything else, I see a lot of people running after that new, best thing.  It’s always been there, right in front of you.

Look for the Yoga Elder in your neighborhood.  You might be surprised at what you find in the deep hole you dig once you stop digging the shallow ones.

arf-arf! recommended by da' Dawg...



do I need to be anointed to be credible?


So much goes on in the Modern Yoga World (TM) now that it’s hard to keep up without it sounding like a constant rant.  Maybe I should just write about what actor or rock star does yoga, post a photo of them drinking a latte with a mat under their arm, and comment on what brand yoga pants they wear.  That would really be so much easier and would probably get me more readers.  But I digress.

I’m sure by now many of you have heard about the Yoga Alliance stance on using terms such as “yoga therapy” or “therapeutic yoga” or anything that sounds like a teacher has anything to do with “healing” or “medicine” or even “alleviating.”  You can can go on their site and see the restricted words.  As someone who worked for litigation lawyers for 20 years I know it was a CYA (“cover your ass”) move.

The policy does not only apply to your YA profile but also to your personal website IF you are YA registered.  Don’t register with the YA and you can say whatever you want about what you do or how you teach.

I am now an E-RYT 500 teacher with the YA and also an official “Continuing Education Provider.”  Yes, yes, yes, I know — I ranted for years about the Yoga Alliance, I totally own that.  You can read what I wrote in 2011 here when I was a mere E-RYT 200.

But the fact remains that there are those WHO WILL NOT STUDY OR TRAIN WITH A TEACHER UNLESS THEY ARE ANOINTED BY THE YOGA ALLIANCE.  I resisted reinstating my YA registration for years and finally broke down.  Of the teachers I know who also consider the YA useless and a waste of money, 100% say that the reason they pay up is because of the above reason.  The teacher training I took at the old school Chicago studio where I originally certified in 2002 was never YA registered until people starting asking the owner whether his training was YA registered.

The fact is that I re-joined the YA purely for marketing reasons, not because I think it means anything.  The fact is that after teaching for 15 years, training for 10 years in India, and being featured in a book, I am a yoga nobody where I live so if the YA seals give me “credibility” and “presence”, so be it.

I do not have the luxury of owning a studio that can attract students.  And yes, if you are surviving and making money with a yoga studio that IS a luxury in today’s yoga business market, consider yourself lucky.  I live in a town of 25,000 and there are three studios besides a park district that offers yoga.  Fifteen years ago when I started teaching and basically knew nothing, I had 40 students in another park district’s class.  Now I am lucky if I have five students who show up consistently.  Those students don’t care about the YA but if I can get teachers who want more training by using the YA seal, I am going to use it to my advantage.  It ain’t personal, it’s business, baby.

Cora Wen told me that back in 2001 Judith Lasater told her: “Every profession has an organisation and YA looks like they are winning in the registry.  Get the certificate now.  Or you will one day have to pay someone less qualified than you are to get a certificate.”

There ya go.  Like I said….


Now the International Association of Yoga Therapists has rolled out their “certification” for yoga therapists.  I’ve been an IAYT member for years and even wrote an article for their journal on teaching trauma sensitive yoga.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think there should be some type of measure of a yoga teacher’s ability just as there is a measure for massage therapists, for example.  And yes, I know MTs are licensed which I absolutely do not agree with for yoga teachers.  But for these paid for labels to be the be-all and end-all and the only thing that makes a teacher worthy in the public eye makes me very itchy.

I looked into the IAYT certification process but I don’t have the proof that in all the intensives I took at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram that there was any “yoga therapy” involved.  But there was because there always is something about yoga therapeutics beyond asana practice.

What got me thinking about all of this was the article “Are We Entering a Golden Age of Yoga Therapy??” by Eden Goldman.  According to Goldman’s quote…

“Yoga Therapy is the philosophy, art, and science of adapting classical Yoga techniques to contemporary situations to support people with physical, mental, and emotional ailments. According to the definition of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), “Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga.”

Practically speaking, Yoga Therapy is the reinvention of a personalized Yoga experience where the practice is modified to meet the individual’s ever-changing needs. Since ancient times, adaptability in one’s teaching, practice, and approach has rested at the heart of Yoga’s most fundamental influence: the relationship, insights, and trust created through the practice by one teacher working with one student.”

…I’ve been a “yoga therapist” for 10+ years.  Do I still need to be anointed by the IAYT to be credible?

I’ve done 10 years of many intensives at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, multiple yoga therapy trainings including two levels of Phoenix Rising, 300 hours of Svastha Yoga Therapy with Dr. Ganesh Mohan, a Therapeutic Yoga for Seniors training at Duke University, and trauma sensitive yoga.  Besides teaching in India and Africa.

Can I call myself a “master teacher”?  You tell me.

Do I still need the YA and IAYT seals on my website to prove my worth to the rest of the world?

It’s become crystal clear to me that the name of the game in the Modern Yoga World is MARKETING because no one gives a damn about all of the above.  I don’t have the $6,000 that I need to upgrade my website to grab SEO and make it the latest and greatest Yoga Business site.  It’s much cheaper for me to lose myself in South India and hang a shingle that says “YOGA TEACHER TRAINING.”

In my 15 years of teaching I’ve never put myself out there as a “yoga therapist” because I believe all yoga can be therapeutic if applied in a beneficial manner.  Even Bikram Yoga was beneficial to the Vietnam War vet who spoke to us about his PTSD when I did the trauma sensitive yoga training.

I’ve always said that no one called Krishnamacharya a yoga therapist, he taught YOGA.

Krishnamacharya’s principle was “Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other.“  He taught that Yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.

Does one who jumps through the hoops and pays for the IAYT “certification” automatically know more or is more capable of supporting or empowering someone than I am?  The buying of labels has been problematic for me for years. It’s the same old story: people will study with a Yoga Alliance or IAYT labeled teacher before they will with someone who has the years of experience.

In the end, I don’t need validation.
I know what I offer.

But then in this Modern Yoga day and age there is this passing itself off as “Yoga Medicine.”  Yes, you CAN think yourself thin AND sexy!

It’s Tara Stiles’ Slim Calm Sexy Yoga all over again.  Just use the word “meditate” and it makes it all credible and so deliciously New Age.


Women with eating disorders feel bad enough about themselves already, how much worse will they feel if they can’t “think themselves thin”?  At least she didn’t mention bra fat.

How is this in any way empowering?  I’m all about mindful eating and eating healthy foods, but the buzzwords used by this “master yoga teacher and specialist in sports and Chinese medicine” are what is typically found on a magazine cover at your grocery store check out line, the same bullshit that sounds like “LOSE YOUR BELLY FAT IN 5 EASY YOGA MOVES!”

No wonder us old school teachers throw in the towel

Funny.  I did not see the Yoga Alliance or IAYT seals on her website.  Anywhere.

Without them you can say whatever you want to say about yoga.

A student’s story: Real Yoga

What I do.

My work is akin to that of a Medicine Woman. I dose intuitively as any good Medicine Woman does.

What one student has to say, reprinted with permission.


red yogini


“If talking did shit, we’d all be cured by now.”

“That is a line from one of my favorite movies, Girl Interrupted. It’s a movie about a girl’s struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder, one of the many diagnoses I was branded with throughout my journey of mental illness, in addition to anxiety, psychosis, ADHD, severe depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm tendencies, and bipolar disorder. By age 30 I was hospitalized 7 times on a psych ward, had undergone psychotherapy for nearly 20 years, and was prescribed just about every medication for which they could write a prescription. None worked other than on a temporary basis and a lot of which made matters worse. My life becane a series of crises and interventions with very brief bursts of sanity.

Luckily, through the course of all that madness, I met Linda. When I was 19 I walked into a yoga class at my college to fulfill a PE credit. I took her class every semester after that, every single semester. Over the next 10 years I would periodically look Linda up and drop into a class here and there or just chat with her. I had tried other yoga classes, most of them I would leave before the class was even over. I was blessed that the first yoga I practiced was with Linda, because only real yoga was going to help me. Around my 30th birthday I found myself again inside a chaotic darkness that I had created, so I looked Linda up again to see if she had some wisdom to quiet the demons that were haunting my soul. She was doing private yoga sessions and I scheduled one as soon as I could.

I will never forget that first session with her. Just being in her presence calmed me like it always had. We talked a good long time and the things she said changed the way my brain worked as if she had rewired it.

One of her first bits of wisdom was that “the pain is the cure.” This brought me back to something a counselor had said to me, a lovely woman who taught a spirituality class on the psych ward. She had always said, “depression is ungrieved loss.” Those words hit me every time she said them but when put into the context with what Linda said, it finally clicked.

I had been running from pain for as long as I could remember, pushing it away with drugs, alcohol, boys, shopping sprees, anything so I wouldn’t have to feel the hole that was ripping through my soul. I was conditioned to think by many psychiatrists that I could not trust my emotions because they were so dangerous and so extreme and my brain chemistry was working against me, so they had to be controlled with medication for the rest of my life. But all that did was put a band-aid over a bullet hole, when what I needed to do was dig into it and clear out all the dead tissue that was not serving me anymore. I came to the conclusion that I had to feel in order to deal and Linda explained that I needed to think less and feel more which completely contradicted everything I had ever been told.

She was absolutely right. I needed to radically accept the fear, the hurt, and the anger that were choking my soul.

But it did not stop at words with Linda. She showed me through yoga and breathing techniques how to allow these emotions to surface in a safe place where they would not be judged or labeled or manipulated. They were allowed to run their course no matter what that course was, and I learned what fear and anger felt like in my body, and grieve. I have many memories of being in a state of psychotic breakdown, crying, struggling to breath, and screaming out, “I want to go home,” and I was in my bedroom in my house, but I was not home. I never felt home anywhere until this day with Linda. I found that home I did not know existed. I left that first session in a bit of a daze. I drove home and I sat in my room and all I could think was, “it is so quiet.” All of my life my mind never stopped, I was constantly thinking, analyzing, scheming, or rambling, and now it was quiet. There was nothing, sweet, sweet nothing. For the first time I knew I was going to be okay.

People ask me why I don’t just go to see a “regular” therapist, and the answer is simple and goes back to the first thing I said. If talking did shit, I would have been cured a long time ago. The way I see it, a psychotherapist’s goal is to help you make peace with your past to make you functional in society; a religious therapist’s goal is to get you right with your Creator so that you are happy in the afterlife; but yoga therapy is about finding peace within yourself for yourself right now. Plus, yoga is so much more then talking. It is connecting your mind, body, and breath so that you are empowered and know that you are in control of yourself, the only thing you really can control. It is being able to be Home no matter where you are because home is inside you. You cannot put a price on that.

To be continued….”

Yoga for Emotional Balance — Chicago Training, May 1-3, 2015

survivor“Trauma sensitive” or “trauma informed” Yoga is the new buzzword in Yoga training.

Whether for domestic violence survivors, sexual assault survivors, or military vets with PTSD, Yoga for trauma survivors seems to be all over the place and that’s a good thing.

If you’re in the Chicago area you can take my training at Ganesha Yoga and Adventures in Fitness at 3113 North Lincon Avenue.  I originally planned to offer this training in my shala in the far western suburbs but received no interest whatsoever and frankly, that astounds me.  I am grateful to the studio owner in Chicago for hosting me and I am excited to teach in Chicago again!  You can read some of my blog posts on trauma sensitive Yoga here. 

Here are the details:


This ground-breaking weekend training utilizes Trauma Sensitive Yoga and Yin Yoga therapeutics.  Each day includes lecture and discussion and body awareness practice via Yoga and guided meditations.

Many people experience a traumatic event and develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The number of diagnosed military PTSD cases has jumped 50% and many go unreported.  According to the American Medical Association sexual violence is the most under-reported crime.  People have been in car accidents, have witnessed violence in abusive households, or have lost a loved one and experience traumatic grief.  Yoga combined with talk therapy can be doubly effective in lessening traumatic responses.

THESE ARE OUR STUDENTS.  Because trauma is held in the body I believe every Yoga teacher should be informed about trauma phenomena — odds are that there is a trauma survivor in class.  This training is designed for Yoga teachers, Yoga teacher trainees, and clinicians who work with trauma survivors.  Required reading is Linda’s article “Compassionate Presence: Teaching Trauma Sensitive Yoga” in Yoga Therapy Today:

Some of the topics included in this weekend training are:

  • What is PTSD?
  • Yoga as therapy for PTSD
  • How to teach yoga to trauma survivors using asana, pranayama, and mantra
  • Trauma triggers, using props, inclusive language, adjustments
  • Taking Mindfulness to the mat
  • Liver (anger) and Kidney (fear) Meridian theory in Yin Yoga practice
  • Metta (loving-kindness) meditation practice

MAY 1-3, 2015
Friday night, 6-9 pm
Saturday and Sunday, 10-1 pm and 3-6 pm
Early bird pricing $395.00 before April 1, 2015, $450 after April 1, 2015

$150 deposit holds your space and is refundable until April 15, 2015 minus $75 cancellation fee
No refunds after April 15, 2015 




“Linda has been called a maverick, an innovator, and a facilitator of deep healing.  Seeking a paradigm shift in the local Yoga scene, she takes students beyond asana into the deeper dimensions of traditional Yoga.  Linda trained for 9 years in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition in Vinyasa Krama and Yoga Therapy both here and in India.  She has taught in Africa and India, was one of the first Yin Yoga teachers in the Chicago area, and is certified by The Trauma Center in Massachusetts in Trauma Sensitive Yoga.  She is humbled and honored to be featured in the 2014 book “Conversations with Modern Yogis.””

every picture tells a story


No $100 yoga pants.

No OM – wear.

No fancy mats.

No embellishment.

Pure yoga.



A group of young men attending yoga class at the Sivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India.

For more information see

“Humans are More Than Hardware”

I always welcome guest writers at this blog, and today’s writer is Alex O’Malley whom I connected with when we did the Trauma Sensitive Yoga training together in Boston — and it’s always cool to meet your Facebook friends!

We both have an interest in yoga therapy so when she said she was attending SYTAR (Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research) that is put on by the International Association of Yoga Therapists, I asked her to write about her experience this year.

Thank you, Alex!

healing hands

“Aerin Alex O’Malley is a graduate student in Somatic Psychology at JFKU, CA.  Having traveled extensively, she has practiced and taught yoga in many parts of the world and is currently based in San Francisco, CA, teaching privately.  In the spirit of yoga she is excited by all styles and teachers, therapeutic uses of practice, and the power of conscious change.  You can contact her at alex [AT] meeturfeet [DOT] com –


In September, 2011 I attended the International Journal of Yoga Therapy Symposium.  Hosted by the International Association of Yoga Therapy (IAYT), it was an awesome event full of some of the brightest minds and yogis from around the world.  It was held in Monterey, CA. at the Asilomar conference center.  The gist of the symposium was to share empirical research that impacts not only how the established medical community is beginning to embrace yoga as a healing modality but also how the yoga community is beginning to recognize the power of the practices we share to make a somatic impression on every individual we encounter.  What follows is a smattering of some of what I learned.

There are numerous studies in the works and recently published regarding the efficacy of yoga as a prescription for preventative healthcare, depression, anxiety, lymphedema, PTSD, ADD, insomnia, pain relief, and stress.  The IAYT Journal has recently been accepted into the WEB MD publications as a source for healthcare alternatives.  The IAYT itself is a member of the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care (ACCAHC) and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA).  These relationships are important because they demonstrate the commitment to science within the Yoga Therapy community in order to more wholly blend ancient knowledge from the east with current western practices.  As Yoga translates from the Sanskrit, to yoke, this blending represents a real time example of the changing paradigm from conventional mind-body dualism towards integration.

Doctor Rajmani Tiguanit, PHD, the spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, addressed the symposium about the importance of defining therapy.  He stressed the need to incorporate philosophy, psychology, and Metaphysics in training and treatment.  As therapists, he said, it is our job to combine the components for treatment.  There were a number of variations on this theme throughout the weekend.  A woman from the Bible Belt talked about the gigantic church in her town which has denounced Yoga as devilish and asked for suggestions about how to present her work.  Gary Kraftsow from the American Viniyoga Institue, suggested that in place of the word “yoga”, she introduce the use of “breath and stretching for relaxation.”  This idea, that the use of language can reach an audience who would not be open to yoga is beautiful and again, incorporates all that is the essence of Yoga!

Technology has jumped by leaps and bounds over the last 25 years and has provided a window into the functions of the brain and connections between the brain and body.  The key concepts that drive many of today’s researchers are that of neuroplasticity and awareness of the basic structure of the brain.  Neuroplasticity refers to the capacity of the brain and the nervous system to “reprogram” messages/stimulation and interaction with the body and mind.  Understanding the structure of the brain plays a crucial role in the ability of therapists to make choices about appropriate treatment.  Here are some of the ways in which yogis, doctors and psychologists are incorporating the science to create more efficient, holistic treatments for patients with any number of emotional and physical challenges.

Shoosh Lettick Crotzer specializes in developing yoga practices for the prevention and treatment of Lymphedema, arthritis, MS, and fibromyalgia.  At the symposium she shared a practice for breast cancer survivors, approximately 38% of who develop lymphedema.

Matt Fritts and Mona Bingham presented the work they are doing with the U.S. military to create a system called Total Force Fitness.  This system incorporates yoga and mindfulness training into the traditional requirements for military readiness in order to build emotional stamina as well as physical.  [“Humans are more than hardware” comes from Matt Fritts’ presentation: Yoga for Military and Veteran Populations, International Journal of Yoga Therapy Symposium. Asilomar, Monterey, CA. Sept, 2011.]

William Hutschmidt discussed his weekly yoga classes with homeless vets.  One of every 4 veterans is homeless in the US.  Hutschmidt’s yogic practice manifests as a relief from the constant stressor of homelessness and the emotional, physical, and psychological toll it can take.

Bo Forbes discussed the role of yoga as therapy in the treatment of mental health.  She emphasized that yoga and psychotherapy are in the business of transformation and spoke to the need to narrow the gap between understanding the process of emotions and the real experience of change.

What each of these practitioners add to the working pool of knowledge is the connection of yoga to the treatment of physical ailments, preventative health care, and mental health respectively.  It is exciting as a yoga teacher and practitioner to realize that so much of what has been only a felt sense of the power of yoga is being studied.  The general takeaway from this symposium is that we can “change” our minds and in turn have an impact on our biology.  In the age old argument over nature vs. nurture, it is becoming more and more evident that it is wise to include both and to nurture what we can on both the physiological and emotional levels for the most positive outcomes.  Yoga Heals!

how yoga heals: yin yoga and ulcerative colitis

I believe that all yoga is healing if applied in the right manner. No one called Krishnamacharya a “yoga therapist” and you were surely not able to become certified as one back in his day. When I took my first two courses of study at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, we listened every day to the stories of private students about how the particular style of yoga that is taught at KYM is a healing path. I have experienced my own healing at KYM with the private yoga therapy that was prescribed for me, certain asanas that I still do.

My work with private students is a mixed bag, but I always use what I learned, and continue to learn, at KYM. I have heard that style of yoga called “old ladies yoga” because it is a slow, deliberate practice, breath-based and heart centered. Some believe that “the kind of yoga he [Desikachar] espouses is becoming, like the polar bear, something of an endangered species.” I can tell you that I met more than few astangis at KYM, some of whom studied directly with Jois in Mysore, who came to KYM to heal their bodies. They told me that the yoga practiced at KYM was like a light bulb going off over their head. As for myself, after my first month-long intensive in 2005, my practice and my teaching changed forever.

So I am never surprised when my students tell me their stories of healing. Below is a story written by one of my students who is only 22 and no longer has a large intestine. I felt that a yin yoga practice would be extremely beneficial for her condition and my intuition was right-on — as I said, I believe all yoga is healing if applied correctly, it does not matter what the style is. I asked her to write her story so that others can read about the true power of yoga. However, please remember that yoga is not one size fits all — your body is different from this student’s, so your mileage may vary…;)

This is why I teach, and I am blessed to have students like this. I couldn’t get a better Christmas present than that.


“For the past seven years I have been dealing with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disorder of the large intestine. During these years I have been hospitalized and medicated to keep my symptoms under control. Since the doctors could not find a medication or therapy that would be sustainable for my treatment over the long term a full colectomy, the removal of the large intestine, was performed on me in May of 2008. After some complications, I had my second surgery in July of 2008 and was considered “cured.” I was doing well until May of 2009 when I developed autoimmune pancreatitis. Twice in two months I was hospitalized for this condition, the doctors supplied me with pancreatic enzymes to take whenever I ate. Because I developed another autoimmune disorder, I decided that it was time for a change in my lifestyle and mindset, time to learn how to deal with the stress that life brings. For me, that step was to start taking a yoga class.

It was the last semester of my associates degree and I needed one more P.E. credit and since yoga was an option, my counselor and I decided that it would be a great class for me to take. This was not a decision based on physical fitness, it was a decision based on a need for a new mindset. So, I bought my textbook, leafed through it, and went to my first day of yoga. I walked in exhausted, nauseous, and in pain from my latest autoimmune disorder of my pancreas. That class we went over the syllabus and did some breath work. Before class ended, Linda announced that if you had any physical conditions, to stay and talk with her after class, little did I know that the conversation we would have would end up being my cure.

So I stayed afterward, waiting for the people with bad backs and knees to let Linda know about their issues that could affect the different poses that we might be doing in class. I explained to Linda what I had been through and that my surgery scars bothered me when doing core work because of scar tissue issues I had. We delved into my ailments, and she had a thought. Linda explained a little to me about what yin yoga is and that she had a class that I could join. She thought that yin might be more beneficial to my issues than only doing the regular yoga. I was on a mission for change in my life and yin sounded like the idea that might help me.

The next Wednesday night I went to Linda’s house for my first yin yoga class. When I arrived I was terribly nauseous, so badly that I almost did not go that night. Linda decided to do a stress practice that focused on the stomach meridians. By the time I left that yin class, my nausea had dropped by about 80%. It was absolutely incredible to leave feeling as I was, I hadn’t had that lack of nausea for about 4 months. I was excited, but nervous that this might be a temporary fix and not long term. I left open minded and with anticipation for the next class. Reading my yoga text and taking that class simultaneously with my yin class was another benefit of the last 5 months. It was interesting to see how I felt if I missed a yin class one week, but still had my regular yoga class.

After a month of doing yoga, especially the yin, my symptoms had improved so much that I was able to stop taking my pancreatic enzymes. Also, I started to do my own yin practice on a daily basis. Everyday, whenever I could fit it in morning or evening, I do a full hero [supta virasana] for 10 to 20 minutes, then child’s pose for 5 to 10 minutes, and the downward facing dog for 10 to 12 breaths. This daily practice has given me days, and now months, free of nausea and pain. Accepting the realization that reality is reality and it is always changing and out of my control along with watching my breath, which has brought my mindfulness to a better level, has truly been a life-changing process and I can’t wait to continue on this journey. [emphasis supplied.]

From my first yin classes where I could feel my insides unwinding, to now where I can still feel my meridians winding out, I am 100% positive that yin has benefited my health in ways that I would have never imagined. I love doing my yoga practices, but my daily yin practices, focus on breath work, and the realization of what reality is, has been the most beneficial milestone is my life thus far. I am always looking forward to my yoga time and what I learn from it, and encourage anyone with autoimmune disorders to give it a chance, because such a simple thing can be so life-changing.”

yoga healing, yoga journey

When one goes through a transformative experience, whatever it is, I believe that the shadows of our lives come forward like hungry children staring through a restaurant window, waiting to be acknowledged and given sustenance. I believe these hidden but never forgotten experiences are what cook us, and we can choose to allow them to either teach us or kill us. I will not say yet which yoga therapy training I did (maybe some of you can figure it out) because it is still cooking me, but in all my years of yoga, it was by far the most potent, profound, and transformative experience I’ve had, even compared to my India training, and this was only Level 1.

It confirmed and validated for me what I already knew, but maybe don’t listen to as much as I should: that I am not “just a yoga teacher”, but am a teacher of the dharma and holistic science. I feel like I’ve been energized, that my intuition and energy (my kundalini) has risen exponentially. all day yesterday it felt like there was a little energy engine inside me that was going full blast — I had a vision of a cartoon engine held together with spit and baling wire, pumping pumping pumping almost to the point of exploding, the pistons almost popping out of the top.

the training also confirmed what my personal life Path (other than yoga) should be.

For four days we partnered up and worked on each other, learning certain postures, where to place our hands, etc. and the last session on the last day was the icing on the cake for me. my partner sat back and said “you have a true gift.” he told me how when I placed my hands on his heartspace, front and back, my energy felt like an “electric wire” going through him. he said “you’ve probably heard this all before.” I must say that when I’ve heard talk like that before it always made me deny myself, that maybe I did not deserve to hear things like that.

I will never again deny my truth.

I told him yes, that I’ve heard it all before, but that usually with most people it translates to my just being “weird”, not “healing”. for most of my life many people actually can not handle being in close proximity to me (and it’s not because I don’t take a shower! :)) I’ve been told that my energy enters a room first and it takes a secure, strong person not to be intimidated. after she did my natal chart, my own astrologer told me that 10 years ago she would not have been able to have me as a client, my energy would have overwhelmed her, but her own spiritual path has cooked her to her essence. this is why I stopped doing thai yoga massage. the images that the energy in my hands brought to my mind’s eye were too frightening for me, and I had enough of my own demons — but not any more.

This training again confirmed for me that asana is such a small part of yoga, yet here in this culture yoga has become purely asana based. as yoga teachers we come to our classes with a “fixer” mentality, some teachers enjoying how many adjustments they can give their students instead of allowing them to just “be” and to go inward and feel what is going on (I’m referring to the style of yoga I teach, vinyasa.) in this training, we had to let go of the fixer mentality in order to allow the student/client to heal themselves.

The training also reinforced what I already knew: that a meditation practice is an essential component of an asana practice. speaking only for myself, yoga is not yoga without a meditation practice. the teachings in this training were firmly grounded in Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness. if we can not master our own minds, how can we master anything?

we don’t do yoga — yoga does us.

I truly feel called to continue with this training, but timing is everything. I don’t think I can do Level 2 in early 2009 so I am planning for June….and Shiva/Buddha/Kali willing I will live for two months in an ashram in South India one year from now studying yoga therapy with a swami. I think that also will be icing on the energy cake for me and will add to my yoga therapy toolbox. half of this training class said they were jumping right in to finish their training as soon as possible, but I will wait to let it all digest, because in March-April 2010 I will return to India for the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering in the Universe. there is much to be said for the power of place and Ma India is my healer.

It is said that the only difference between us and the ancient sages and yogi rishis is that we have forgotten we are divine, they did not.

I will never again disavow myself.

“In ancient Egyptian mythology and in myths derived from it, the Phoenix is a female mythical sacred firebird with beautiful gold and red plumage. Said to live for 500 or 1461 years (depending on the source), at the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises. The new phoenix embalms the ashes of the old phoenix in an egg made of myrrh and deposits it in Heliopolis (“the city of the sun” in Greek), located in Egypt. The bird was also said to regenerate when hurt or wounded by a foe, thus being almost immortal and invincible – a symbol of fire and divinity.”



The Keys to Your Life

Anything good in your life comes from boldly confronting the darkness.
Illusions are dangerous, and you benefit from seeing the world as it truly is.

Anything bad in your life comes from not being true to yourself.
Trust your instincts and follow them. Only you know what’s best.

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….

getting back to yoga

(Dr. NC @ KYM, The Power of Yoga, March 2006)

I guess maybe it’s about time that I start writing about yoga again. but then again, maybe not, as I’m beginning to think that my yoga thoughts are too radical to be accepted calmly by some people. I told my students this morning that I’ve always felt like an outsider and now, returning a third time from my yoga life in India, I feel even more radical.

Every time I go to KYM to study, it always brings home to me how much I dislike about the state of yoga in the west. Maybe “dislike” is too strong a word — I will rephrase: how certain things about the state of yoga in the west bug me. Now before anyone jumps down my throat, I am not saying that one is better than the other, i.e., east v. west. I’m saying that to me there are marked differences between the two and I know which one resonates with me in a much more profound way.

KYM is known for yoga therapy or what was formerly called viniyoga. Desikachar no longer refers to his father’s style as viniyoga. We each met with a yoga therapist and received a consultation for whatever ailed us, physically, mentally, or emotionally, then an appropriate yoga therapy practice was prescribed for us. That practice became our private asana class with a therapist, and we took the daily classes in pranayama, meditation, and the Yoga Sutra-s together.

I came to India with a painful back problem that I’ve had for about three months. My ego was telling me I’m a loser because of course as a teacher I’m not supposed to have any physical problems because I do so much yoga…right? One day in October I woke with severe muscular pain on the right side of my lower spine and I had done nothing to my back like pick something up the wrong way or get up from a chair the wrong way, and it certainly did not happen doing yoga. I just woke up one day in severe pain. The pain would go away during the day as I moved around and I was still able to teach, but it served as a reminder of one of Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of the Body, and that no one escapes sickness, old age, and death.

My consultant at KYM was Dr. NC (we call him Dr. NC because he has a last name with about 26 letters) who taught the yoga therapy classes in the intensives I took in 2005 and 2006. I explained my problem and my pain and he had me do some asanas and examined my spine. He asked me to squat and asked if I noticed anything. At first I said no, then he told me to repeat the squats and to pay attention. I noticed that my left side felt like it weighed a ton and my right side was very light. I told him this and he said yes, that I favor my left side to the detriment of my right. He said my spine had curved to the right and that the right side of my pelvis is higher than my left.

I was horrified. How could this happen, I asked, I’M A YOGA TEACHER! (as if we are supposed to be invincible.) Dr. NC said that walking a certain way, sitting a certain way, standing a certain way with a hip hiked up and out, constantly carrying a bag on my left shoulder, all of this contributed to a spine curvature after 50 years. It just happens, he said, it’s just the way it is.

So after he said that it’s wonderful I am so flexible and in such great shape for an old broad — OK, he did not say “old broad” but he was amazed at my uttanasana — he wrote a yoga therapy program for my back that is simply amazing and wondrous. He said if I did the practice every day for 3 months my spine should be back into alignment.

I did the practice for 5 days with Usha, one of the KYM yoga therapists. She was also wonderful, adding a little something every day to the asana mix, so I came home with five different yoga therapy sessions. I did the practice every day in India until I got food poisoning and I have not done it for two weeks now, but I started again from square one yesterday and I will build it up again.

It is an amazing practice because I can literally feel the change in my spine and pelvis when I sit in sukhasana. At the beginning of the practice my right sit bone is off the floor. At the end of the practice both sit bones are firmly grounded and I have no pain for the rest of the day. Before I started doing this practice, I would wake up at night in excrutiating pain when I turned from my right side to my left side and now that no longer happens.

So what does this have to do with yoga east v. west?