Category Archives: yoga

What I Learned Doing 30 Days of Yoga

When I first posted this picture of Sam, I had no idea that only two weeks later, he’d be gone. I thought of it for this post because seven years ago today, I’d posted on Facebook: “On our walk this morning, I smiled at a little boy on his way to the bus stop, which made him smile. Then he said, ‘I like your dog.’ I said, ‘thank you,’ and then he said ‘I have a tall one too.'” It made me smile, made me miss Sam. Another memory came up from 11 years ago, a picture of Obi, our first dog, on a walk we’d taken in the final few months of his life. We knew we were losing him, as he’d been diagnosed with lymphoma seven months earlier, a treatable but incurable cancer in dogs. I’ve been so blessed in my life, and I have lost so much. Both, and.

That’s the trick, the dilemma, the riddle. To be aware of impermanence, how precious it makes every single moment, being, and thing, to be able to hold space for that truth without freezing up or freaking out. It’s a lot: everything and everyone we love will eventually be lost to us, bad things will happen. This is the truth of being human. As yoga teacher Michael Stone said, “Pain, loss, confusion, and illness are all part of what it costs to be human.” Nobody gets out of it. We might not all be in the same boat, but we are for sure riding out the same storm, and there’s ultimately only one possible outcome. I don’t know about you, kind and gentle reader, but most of the time I don’t feel great about that.

As a practitioner, I work to soften to what is, to stay with it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I try to make room for all of it, including joy, grace, love — all of it. Practice is intimacy with what is, connection to the inherently creative energy of life. Cultivating my ability to stay, without shutting down or running away, is the antidote to impermanence. Seeing our experience as precious, our lives as sacred exactly because they are temporary. Weirdly, the thing that is the most awful about being alive is precisely what makes it so precious, if we can surrender to it, accept it, stay with it.

Practice keeps me going. Even when I am completely lost, wrecked, shook, I keep showing up, hoping that things will come together, start to make sense, that I’ll know what to do. I have a whole regular daily routine for practice, and there have also been “30 day” challenges that have helped me to stick, to stay. For example, Susannah Conway has hosted three different month long Instagram challenges this year — April, May, and August — that have helped to ground me, given me something akin to a flotation device. There’s also Blogtober and NaBloPoMo (“National Blog Posting Month”), challenges where bloggers publish a post a day during the month of October and November. There have been others too, some that I credit for getting this blog off the ground, keeping it going.

Recently, I’ve been grieving the loss of my yoga teaching gig, along with everything else there is to grieve. The clinic where I taught is too small a space for us to continue to pack in together and practice, and I’m not comfortable subbing at my other studio, in person or online, so I’m just not teaching right now. And, I don’t know when I will be again. For a few months, the only yoga I was doing was a Sunday morning class I’ve attended and taught for at least the past four years. I couldn’t figure out why I was so reluctant to practice. With some mindful contemplation, I realized it was because for the last few years, yoga asana, even my own practice, had been all about my teaching. Sure, I practiced and took classes because it felt so good, because I felt so good afterwards, but other than that, it was mostly about coming up with (sometimes outright stealing) ideas for the classes I was teaching.

I needed to find my own practice again, the one that was just for me. In August, I committed to doing Adriene Mishler’s (Yoga with Adriene) August calendar. Each month, she puts together a collection of videos that follow a theme and releases a calendar and puts together a playlist on YouTube. With August now over, I wanted to share what I learned/remembered from doing 30 days of yoga with Adriene.

  1. A little bit of yoga is just as valid as a lot. There’s no need to make it a big deal, a project. Even if you simply get out your yoga mat (you don’t even need a mat) and stretch, ask your body what would feel good and do that, it’s enough.
  2. I liked having Adriene’s calendar to follow. I didn’t have to choose a video (she has hundreds) or a teacher, I just did the next video in the playlist.
  3. Yoga teachers can make and share videos that are short. It doesn’t have to be a full class, a full practice. Some of Adriene’s videos are only 10 or 15 minutes long.
  4. If you slow down when you teach, it won’t be boring. I tend to be an over planner when it comes to teaching, trying to cram twice as much stuff into a session and keep things moving because I worry my students will lose interest, get irritated if we take our time, (some will, but that’s okay too).
  5. It’s okay to slow down when you practice. Pay attention to your breath, be mindful of transitions between poses, don’t rush or push yourself. Notice what is happening and stay with it.
  6. As accommodating as you try to be as a teacher, you’ll miss the mark. And that’s okay, as long as you continue trying, learning, listening to your students. Every teacher practices in their own body, from their own experience, and we all have blind spots.
  7. “Breathe lots of love in, breathe lots of love out.” This is something Adriene says a lot when she teaches, and I love it, the way it reminds us to be as open to receiving love as we are to giving it, and vice versa.
  8. Having dogs around when you practice is a very good thing. Adriene has a Cattle Dog named Benji, and I admit that’s 70% of why I like her so much.
  9. Be yourself. It’s not as hard as you think to let people love you, and it’s usually the weird, awkward, messy things that make you the most lovable, especially if you have a sense of humor about it.
  10. The mix of substantial free offerings and a more in depth paid version works.

One more bonus thing I learned/remembered: I always feel better having done some yoga, moving my body. Getting my heart rate up, taking deep breaths, doing what feels good, breaking a sweat, is very very satisfying, releases stress and trauma built up in my body along with a rush of good energy, and it actually benefits the other practices I do, as well as the people around me, the world.


In my yoga class this week, we considered the notion of “alignment.” As a Hatha yoga teacher, this concept is central to how I teach. The most fundamental, obvious understanding of alignment in asana practice (the act of putting our body into a particular sequence of shapes) is to be sure that we line up all our parts in a way that allows for the fullest expression of the particular pose, enabling us to get the most benefit and not hurt ourselves or anyone else.

An even deeper understanding of alignment is an individual awareness of where we are and what we need. This means that even though the teacher might cue a particular alignment, our individual energy and experience may require an adjustment. This level of alignment requires the student to practice discernment, to trust themselves to know what they need and to honor that need.

Another quality of alignment we practice in yoga is “union” or mindfulness, which simply means making an effort to have our mind, body, and heart in the same space at the same time. We are conscious of our body, our breath, our thoughts and emotions. We cultivate a quality of curiosity about our experience and generate a sense of compassion. We show up for ourselves. We don’t abandon ourselves. We are integrated and whole, making space for whatever might arise as we practice, and not judging any of it as “good” or “bad,” not judging ourselves as good or bad. The intention is if we are fully present, all our parts, and we approach our experience with curiosity and compassion, that we can learn to be with whatever shows up, respond with wisdom and skillful means, and that this will serve us both on and off the mat, enable us to be of service to others.

I’m trying to find this sort of alignment in my life off the mat, (off the cushion, off the page, off the leash). I tend to lean towards the dark, the difficult in life. I’ve always been that way. When people around me were clinging to the positive trying to keep themselves afloat, I was diving down into the deep asking “yeah, but what about this?” As an introverted Highly Sensitive Person, if there is suffering it is incredibly difficult for me to ignore it. I’m completely open and vulnerable, like a sponge, completely porous. I naturally have a much lower tolerance for engaging with the world because of this, and yet I also am driven to connect and to help.

For a lot of years, my boundaries weren’t great. I worked a people intensive and demanding job at a university for two decades, I was a teacher on and off that campus holding space for people working with hard stuff, and was in a series of harmful relationships with difficult people, experiencing trauma on a daily basis. All of this lead to a pretty significant state of burnout. Add to that recent events — the impeachment trial, the SOTU (where Rush Limbaugh was awarded a Medal of Freedom), DTs behavior at the National Prayer Breakfast, what happened to this sweet little girl, and a person I love whose addiction is spiraling out of control — and I feel completely and utterly overwhelmed. I internalize all the stink and the shit, hold it, carry it around, all that sad, all that anger, and at some point it gets too heavy and the only options are to collapse under the weight of it, let it bury me, or to put it down and walk away, to heal, to restore, to get strong enough to try again.

So I’m trying to shift my focus for now. In no way do I intend to swing the other way and start practicing toxic positivity. I’m not burying my head in the sand or ignoring what’s happening, but I am turning the volume down — which in and of itself is an expression of my privilege, that I can choose to engage or not, that much of the suffering happening in the world isn’t part of my direct daily experience unless I decide to let it in. That said, I’m tuning in to where I’m at and what I need, working to trust and honor myself, approaching my experience with curiosity and compassion so that I can learn to be with whatever shows up, respond with wisdom and skillful means and hopefully in this way be able to help.