Yoga virgins…this one’s for you!

213287732322384514_B5Qdfm7p_bTo all the yoga newbies out there, there are a couple of things I really want to tell you…..

keep coming to class,

keep trying new things,

keep practicing (remember we call it yoga practice not yoga perfect)

and the next time you are in class look around (and yes, even up front at the teacher) everybody started right where you are right now…Everybody!! Talk to the folks that are doing ‘stuff’ in class you think you could never do, I bet you’ll find out they haven’t been doing this yoga thing very long. Learning Yoga, is about learning to express yourself, learning yoga is learning understanding, about who you are and where you’re going. This is Yoga. A never-ending journey to be who we are right now. It is not now, nor has it ever been about trying to put your foot behind your ear, Let me say that again! Yoga is not about tying yourself in a knot, that’s gymnastics not Yoga, but hey if you can that’s Great! ’cause I sure as hell can’t. Baby I don’t bend that way!

So when you take a Yoga class, remember, that practice is an opportunity to wake up our body, shake loose the stiffness and dump that junk we carry. And it’s never too late to wake your body and when the body is awake the Spirit very quickly follows and when the Spirit is awake there isn’t anything you can’t do.


Om Shanti


Crane or Crow Pose

 or ‘whats in a name and does it really matter when you’ve scraped your nose on the mat?’
Kakasana (crow pose) and Bakasana (crane pose)
 2 variations on the same theme, that theme being “Let’s try an arm balance and lets try not to break our necks”. Now as far as arm balances go, crow is relatively easy. I mean it’s not scorpion right?  

Mr. Iyengar in Scorpion poseVrschikasana-II-Yoga-Pose-BKS-Iyengar

So basically the difference between the 2 poses is with the arms, in ‘crow’ the arms are bent so the knees can rest just above the triceps and in ‘crane’ the arms are straight so the core has to do all the work, no resting on the elbows here. To learn the basics of the pose start in a squat (malasana pose) with the feet as close together as you can and knees wider than your hips, place your hands on the floor about 6 -8 inches in front of you, place the knees as high on the arms as possible and hug the inner thighs close to the body to activate more core strength.

Begin to shift your weight back and forth on your toes to get the feel for your core engagement.  Let your gaze be more forward than down, in other words if your hands are at 10 and 2 (like on a steering wheel) then your gaze are at 12. Notice the lifting of the pelvic floor (mula bandha) and then the lifting of the belly (uddiyana bandha) drawing the belly button into the back, then float the heart center forward, pull your ears back to keep the eyes lifted. If you tuck your chin and drop your head you will almost certainly fall on your noggin’ or your nose. Now try lifting one foot at a time by pointing your toes back, rather than just lifting the heel up.   Then try pointing both toes back to take your body up in flight.

Once you have these steps down, you can work on flattening your back, lifting your chest up, and keeping your gaze focused ahead rather than down. And then you can try doing the ‘crane’ version with straight arms.

Remember that even though you’re close to the ground that the energy in the body is lifting up and to create lift you need to press down, moving in opposition helps to create strength. Press the hands down to engage hasta (hand) bandha, this gives you more lift up through the belly and shoulders. The pointing of the toes (instead of just lifting the heels) engages padha (foot) bandha. Notice the opposition here as well, reaching back through the toes & out through the crown of the head, while drawing in at your center, reinforces that strength and stability. And to be honest it doesn’t hurt (as much) to have pillows in front of you for when you fall… and you will, everyone does when learning to fly. And while we don’t have fairy dust to help us fly like Peter Pan, it does help to keep happy thoughts and not get frustrated.

Its fun! Give it a try. Let me know how you do.

Crow_in_the_snow_crop Yep that’s me, in blue jeans and boots Doing ‘Crow in the snow’  October 2011 at Clingman’s Dome, near Gatlinburgh TN

Om Shanti



My friend Denise Hahn Cooper, has a great yoga story to tell, she start yoga less than a year ago with the intent to just see if she could ‘hang in there’ and make it to “100 days of yoga” ( the name of her blog), well over 300 days later, she is now in the finals to receive a grant to bring yoga to schools. Please check out her video and vote for her, she is a wonderful person, a fantastic (Chattanooga ) school teacher and a lovely soul.

Our teacher grant finalists have created videos for you to review. “Like” your favorite. The teacher with the most likes will receive funds to help support yoga in their school.


Learn to conquer.
Conquer what?
Conquer the animal in you.
Learn to fight.
Against what?
Against the human in you.

Learn to surrender.
To what?
To the divine in you.

I surrender to joy
Joy is power.
I surrender to love
Love is a power sublime.

I surrender to oneness
Oneness is the measureless power.

I surrender to God
God is the absolute Power supreme.

by Sri Chinmoy

In Yoga we talk a lot about Surrender. But what does surrender mean? It means giving up the need to control each and everything little thing that happens, whether in a Yoga pose or at work or at home, in our relationships. Trusting that the universal source, the divine, will always be there and will always know the best way to just ‘be’. In the west we think of ‘surrender’ as giving up, throwing in the towel or walking away without a fight. It simply means dropping expectations, of changing the way we act and more importantly Re-act. When we let go of the expectations, we no longer have a need to react to circumstances beyond our control. If they are beyond our control why are we struggling? It is to that idea we surrender.

It’s knowing that I no longer need to struggle with concepts or ideas. Letting go of those old ideas, the old thought processes that create tension, the ones that we struggle with. And yes it means letting go of the expectation of someone else doing what I want, when I want.

As children we follow the example of our family and friends but as adults living in the adult world we need to be able to think for ourselves. If a concept learned at our mothers knee no longer resonates w/ us as true then we stop struggling with it, we surrender to the idea that there may be something else that we can hold in our hearts as the truth.

I often tell my students, especially those struggling in balance poses, to let go of any tension in the body (Clenched jaws and rigid shoulders), when we hold tension in the body then  balance is almost impossible, I tell them the best way to get rid of the tension is to stop struggling with the posture. Like a Chinese finger puzzle, the more you pull and twist and struggle to get your fingers out the tight it gets and the more you are caught up in the grip of the tension.

But once you relax the hand you then move close to the center and can escape the grip.

Letting go of the struggle, i.e. the expectation of what you think the pose should be, allows you to surrender to the moment. When your practiceing yoga, surrender to the moment and give up the need to control the pose and just be in the pose.

So to in life when faced with conflict, struggle or tough decisions we can surrender to those moments, relaxing, trusting the divine, and in that act of surrendering we make a shift from struggling  to an ease of being.

So stop trying to force a solution or suppressing the reaction, give up the reaction and just be in the situation. Problems are solved not through struggle but calm determination.

Om Shanti