Friday, October 2, 2015

New Permanent Classes

It's official: I've found a new yoga home here in Portland. Thanks to the wonderful folks at YoYoYogi for welcoming me into the family. 

Starting tomorrow, I'll be teaching 3 permanent classes:
Mondays at 715pm
Wednesdays at 545pm
Saturdays at 830am
 I look forward to seeing you on the mat.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Save The Date

I'm coming back to CALI! Save the Date: Oct. 24th. We'll hike Bear Valley and jam at Yoga Toes Studio.

Details to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ten Days And Counting

We just flew back from a sweet family gathering in Washington, DC. Got home late Monday night.

(Pre-emptive apologies to all the rad college friends I didn't get to see even though we were just hours away from one another for a few rare days. It was a wild 'n woolly family-filled weekend. Of the best kind. Including family pictures. Which I generally resist and which as a parent I have totally failed to properly take as of yet. Until now. So, in spite of the humidity, and how weird it felt to put on non-leggings for a few minutes, it was worth it, since my cute kid has now been enshrined in his bald little sweater-vested glory for all eternity.)

The dry air here in California feels so good. Cool. No humidity. I spent four years living just up the coast from DC in Delaware. I remember the muggy, malarial Mid-Atlantic summers. But I am no longer strong enough to push through them. Northern California has made me a weenie.

It is so nice to be back home. For a week or so.

Our new Portland house is officially ours, as of last week, all papers having been signed and all bank accounts having been pillaged. This makes everything feel real. I have just three classes left to teach. Most everything is packed, including the bed frames, including the frying pans, including the nice towels and sheets. Robb drove one of our cars up already this week. I'm sitting on the bedroom floor tapping on my laptop with one eye on my sleeping kid and a yoga mat under my feet. It feels minimalist and monastic and awesomely spare.

Moving Day will be here before we know it.

The East Coast flights went fairly well, considering they were 5-hour trips with a time bomb of an energetic toddler on our laps. Little man slept for a good 3-hour chunk of the first flight. (Bless him.) Virgin wins big for in-seat screens and hip lighting and the excellent fact of being headquartered in Terminal 2 at SFO. We got lucky and scored an empty back row on the way home Monday night, so Duke got to ramble and scramble and crawl and push buttons and lift the tray up and down and up and down and do all of those things that inquisitive 17-month-olds like to do. We were vastly relieved to get wheels down at SFO and to have survived two long flights without having to resort to administering Benadryl, which is what other parents in the know seem to recommend for such long stretches. Nothing wrong with drugging your kid to survive a few hours in close quarters, um, right? Um.

Speaking of close quarters...

Tuesday morning we slept til 6:15 (jet lag be damned!) and were super stoked to have the babe totally not be affected by the 3-hour time difference. I was in the kitchen making coffee when I looked over at the sink and, to my surprise, saw a middling brown spider under Duke's plastic blue sippy cup.

Surprised because, well, I'd trapped that damn thing under said sippy cup a full week before.

I've got a thing with spiders lately, see. We have a lot of them (something about the drought and the heat, says my friend Cassie). But I can't just squish them anymore. Ahimsa, you know. Non-suffering.

There's this Buddhist teaching that at some point in time every living being was once your mother. So that spider was once my mama. That cicada once held you close to her breast. (Do cicadas have breasts?) That chicken once tucked you under her feathers. That geeky dude with the bad goatee who sits in the cubicle one over slurping his ramen once cuddled you close at night.

Once you start to see the world as full of sentient beings who were once your loving, tender, compassionate mother, it's really hard to squish them. To kill them. To smush them. To suck them up with a vacuum while they skitter up the wall and over the window frame (not that I would know anything about that very particular example involving a very particularly LARGE and certainly-poisonous spider).

Whether it's a beloved lion or the pig that some people call lunch — they were both once your mother. So how can you ever even consider killing them?!?

Back to the spider on my kitchen counter. It had turned up a week or so ago while I was in the kitchen making lunch for Duke. I couldn't kill it. I couldn't manage to shoo it out the window. But I also couldn't just leave it there knowing full well it might scurry into one of our coffee cups or the coconut oil or a Tupperware full of French lentils.

So I did what any well-intentioned weenie does and grabbed the closest cup and hastily plopped it on top of it. Spidey-Mama was fine, still breathing, and no longer a threat to me and mine. He walked around in his new terrarium, checking out the walls, climbing them, crossing to the other side, climbing the other, trying to find a way out.

I felt like it was the least-offensive way to resolve the situation. He'd eventually starve to death or suffocate, right? (Ok, maybe not so inoffensive, then.) But at least then I wouldn't have to squish him.

Fast-forward to Tuesday morning. 6:30am, making coffee, happy to be home in our child-proofed kitchen. I look up. And there's that poor Spidey-Mama, still making the rounds, still climbing the walls, searching for a way out, liberation taunting him from just outside the blue plastic walls.

He'd spent the last week searching, thinking he could get out, thinking there was hope, if he could just find the right window, the right crawlspace. He didn't realize that his time was limited, that eventually he'd run out of air, fuel, wouldn't be able to continue.

Or not.

It was striking. I saw that little guy fighting, searching, seeking, not giving up. And it left me inspired and depressed all at once. I thought: is this what Samsara looks like? That endless cycle of suffering and rebirth? That fruitless search for ease, freedom from suffering, liberation, fresh air?

Are we all just doomed spiders searching hopelessly for the way out of our suffocating blue terrariums?

Monday night, about halfway through the flight, I puked. I knew it was coming in that weird quiet creeping way you always know a puke is coming. Whether or not it had to do with the fact that I was watching Kim Kardashian on I Am Cait is another question. But I knew it was coming.

Duke was passed out on my chest, having exhausted all the scrambling and the buttons and the climbing. I made urgent eye contact with Robb, held the crinkly puke bag up to my mouth, and managed to transfer Duke just in time to empty the contents of my belly into the vomit sack.

There was a lot of chocolate.

Thanks to the fact that we were in the back corner of the plane, I don't think anyone heard me. I grabbed my purse, pulled out the Ziploc bag of baby wipes that I always carry with me, and quietly wiped off my mouth and blew my nose. I rang the bell and passed the bag to the (unfortunate) flight attendant and that was that. Felt much better.

Duke slept through the whole thing.

Not sure if it was the airport food we ate at DCA or the claustrophobic lack of air in the back of the plane or the large quantities of chocolate I ate to numb the anxiety of flying with a toddler. It came and went and was over with, and we were all fine.

But then in the car on the way home, Duke looked uncomfortable. His face turned red and he started smacking his lips. He started pointing toward his belly. I had a foreboding sense that something wasn't going to go well.

Sure enough, just before we hit San Rafael, little buddy puked. Out came the milk. The strawberries. The peas. All of it.

I wiped him off, snuggled him close, as one can best snuggle a kid strapped in a shitty-ass carseat. He clasped my fingers, relieved, two in each hand, and nodded off, heavy eyelashes drooping. I thought that was the worst of it.

I was wrong.

We hustled home, eager to get the little guy out of his wet clothes, leaving the luggage in the car. I carried him into his room, laid him gently on the changing table, and he looked up at me, fear in his eyes, smacking his lips, and yakked again, three times. I made it to the sink for the last round.

Poor blessed little buddy. Broke my heart to see him sick.

But minutes after the whole episode had come and gone, Duke perked up. He was his vibrant, jolly little self, thrilled to be home, running around the house in his jammies, bouncing happily on the bed, dragging books over to read together. It was such a relief.

We changed our clothes, fell into bed and watched him closely that night, making sure he didn't yak anymore. He was fine. We were all fine, and woke up healthy and happy and hungry.

I am always struck by the lightness most of us feel after we puke. The clarity and quietude, the emptiness, all of which are really, well, kind of nice. I felt it in myself and I certainly saw it in Duke.

The moments of suffering had passed. In the midst of them, there in the back of the airplane waiting for the vomit to come, knowing it was coming, they'd been forboding. Then again in the backseat of the car, headed home, watching Duke puke and not being able to pull him close to my chest to comfort him, the moments stretched, long and awful.

But they passed. And we were fine, and light, and maybe somehow strangely a little better for the clearing-out of whatever poison had momentarily made its home inside us.

And the Spidey-Mama is still circling the plastic blue sippy cup, trying to find his way out, searching, optimistic, that maybe, maybe if he just finds that one right little exit, he'll be able to escape, and start fresh, and head outside, brand new.

Maybe we are all stuck in our own little airless terrariums, with just enough light and air and view to think we've got hope. Maybe the view is enough to keep us from getting mired in the fact that we are all, yes, all of us, due to suffer and age and wither and die. I am grateful for the moments of lightness and clarity that come after the suffering, just enough to keep us going, to help us turn the corner, to remind us of the gift of simple things, like a settled stomach and a bouncy kid and the ability to fly thousands of miles above the earth in the midst of clouds and sky, traveling the length of a continent in a single afternoon.

And the unabashed joy of an urban splash park on a sultry summer day in DC, with your fearless 3- and 5-year-old nieces, who'll soon be your neighbors in Portland.

We have just a few afternoons left here. I got cranky today, in the August heat and the boredom of having already gone to the library and walked to the park and played outside and done all the usual toddler energy-burning kinds of things you do. I forgot. I took it for granted. The afternoon passed. I wished for bedtime to be here so I'd have some quiet and space to tidy the house and do yoga and catch up on work.

Don't let the average Wednesday afternoon become a mundane nothing. Let it be a marvel. Let it be rich. Let it be ripe.

The days pass too quickly.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 2015 Newsletter

Hi friends.

Here's my latest newsletter with details on the move to Portland, final classes, and more. If you are not yet a subscriber and would like to be, just click on the "Subscribe" button in the upper left corner.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

August 8th Yoga Retreat & Beach Hike

August 8th Yoga & Beach Hike

August 8th Agenda

We had such a great time the first time around that we've gotta do it again. And I'd love one last vinyasa with y'all before my family and I move to Portland the following week.

This time we'll start with a yoga & meditation practice again at YogaToes Studio in Point Reyes Station, and from there we'll head out to Limantour Beach to hike the Coast Trail.

(Have no fear: the Coast Trail runs a good 17 miles, but we won't be doing the whole thing. We'll hike for a solid hour or two and then head back to Point Reyes in time to stuff our faces and soak up some wine.)

The day's agenda is above. It'll be an ideal little summertime escape.

UPDATE (7/24):

Due to an unexpected conflict, this retreat has been postponed until later this autumn. Thanks for your interest. Stay tuned for new dates to come!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

So Long, Bay Area. We're Moving To Portland.

The rumors are true. Along with the rest of the Bay Area, we are moving to Portland.

After over a decade in California, we're joining the mass exodus northward.

(Can you believe it?)

It's rare these days not to run into someone who knows someone who just moved to Portland or Seattle, or who is thinking about moving to Portland or Seattle, or who just put an offer on a house in Portland or Seattle.

We are some of those someones.

It's been coming for awhile now, really. About three days after Duke was born, overwhelmed and exhausted and feeling quite alone, I turned to my husband and said, "Maybe we need to move to Nebraska." And buddy, trust me: those are words I never, EVER expected to say.

Yoga philosopher Michael Stone posits that the idea that the nuclear family is sufficient for raising small children is actually a social fallacy. I so agree. There is such great truth in the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child. We learned that quickly, living there in stunningly-beautiful but oh-so-isolated Inverness. It was a hard and lonely first few months. Right away we turned our attention to landing somewhere long-term where the public schools were excellent and we could buy a nice house (not for $900k) and where we'd have family nearby.

That thought kind of simmered on the back burner until we heard from my Madison, Wisconsin-based sister Mariah that she and her husband Paul were considering a job offer in Portland. Robb works in Portland regularly, so we've always imagined that it might be a clever spot to land. And the prospect of living just minutes from my sis and bro-in-law and their two adorable daughters was exciting. So exciting.

So when Paul got the job, we got serious.

We'd looked at buying a few homes here in the North Bay, all of which were, well, let's be honest: shitholes. $400k shitholes, to be exact. 130-year-old houses needing to be gutted or torn down. Hoarders' paradises. Located in school districts that wouldn't even muster an "average" rating.

It was disheartening, to say the least.

As this and so many other articles point out, the 1000-square-foot house that goes for $1 million here in the Bay Area goes for $375k in Portland. Now we're talking. Now that feels a little more reasonable. (Even though the real estate market there is now a feeding frenzy almost on par with San Francisco's, and most homes in inner Portland are already going for $50-60k over asking.)

The great news is we've bought a beautiful home in a hot Southeast Portland neighborhood full of hip cafes and cute coffee shops and libraries and parks and yoga studios (yep, yoga studios) and a sweet-ass Whole Foods-style market where I'm sure we'll spend all our money on raw brownies and organic vegetables. It feels like urbanity sans pretension, totally fast-paced and walkable, but also utterly idyllic and safe: a win-win in every regard. It's not far from Reed College, with its campus of lush green avenues, and within walking distance of a top-notch public elementary school that's not unlike something out of a Harry Potter book.

I do so deeply believe in public schools. As a proud product of South Dakota and Nebraska public schools, I have great gratitude for the populist Great Plains institutions that taught me how to value diversity and work hard and not take my economic privilege for granted. My mother was a long-time music teacher for Lincoln Public Schools, too, so it's really in our bones, you see?

But you can't send your kids to the public schools around here. They're horribly underfunded. (Don't even think about arts or music programs.) And the private schools here are outrageously expensive and competitive. (Paying the equivalent of a semester in college for kindergarten, just to be surrounded by a bunch of rich white kids and their helicopter parents? No thanks.)

Enter Portland.

Enter smart cousins who'll be like older sisters.

Enter green. Not brown, not dry, not on the precipice of drought-addled disaster. But green.

The move will happen sooner than we expected. Mid-August. (Yep, I know.) We're already halfway packed, thanks to my uber-motivated, uber-organized husband, who's filled the garage with carefully-labeled boxes and run through countless rolls of packing tape. I'll teach my regular classes through August 11th, and then we'll close things up here, the movers will pack the truck, and we'll head northward to settle into our new home before the autumn grey sets in.

So we are looking at a little over a month left here in the Bay.

It is oh-so-emotional, of course. I moved here in August 2003 (on the 11th, actually, funnily enough), chugging up California Street in my 5-speed Ford Festiva packed with all my worldly belongings. Right away I sensed that if I ever ended up having kids, this'd be the place where I'd want them to grow up. Ethnic and religious diversity, progressive politics, stellar weather, fantastic arts and music opportunities, breathtaking natural beauty; you name it.

And I will be incredibly sad to leave all those things behind. Not to mention the wonderful family and friends we've found here over the years. So bittersweet.

At the same time, the Bay Area is a very different place from the post-Dot-Com-bust San Francisco I encountered in 2003. The moneyed elitism that has come with the recent influx of tech wealth has changed it so much. The gritty Polk Street I lived next to for almost 10 years has become a tech bro's paradise of sleek bars and boxing gyms and health food stores. I don't know that I recognize the foggy, romantic, pretty little city I loved so much and for so long.

And the truth is, it's a different season of life. I'm leaving closer to age 40 than age 20, with a really beautiful husband and a really beautiful son, two unexpected gifts that San Francisco has bequeathed to me. We'll start a new chapter, and, perhaps most importantly, be near family as we age.

Last week, Paul lost his father to a heartbreakingly sudden bout with brain cancer. It has been a sobering and shattering reminder that we never know how long we have with one another. Death is this strange and unwelcome guest with no regard for our own schedules and expectations.

In April 2005, I flew back to Nebraska to say goodbye to my own father. We knew the cancer would take him soon. My siblings and my mother and I gathered around his hospice bed in the family room one last time. In that shimmering instant — I can still picture it so clearly — I realized: family is the only thing that matters. At the end of the day, when your body gives out, when your mind is too tired to go on, your house, your car, your job, your awards; none of them matter.

Family is it. Nothing else.

 And you only get one shot to do it right.

So you take a leap. You leave your established life behind and begin anew, knowing there's nothing you can really count on in terms of time.

Mariah and I have a long-term vision for opening our own yoga/dance/wellness center. She's a fantastic dance therapist and modern dancer, and with my yoga and mindfulness work, we have the potential and the passion to create something really special. We're excited. That will birth itself in time.

In the meantime, please make your way to a class or two before I head out. I'd love to see you and sing with you and sweat with you. I'll be teaching my full schedule at Flying Studios until August 11th (away a couple of dates traveling — just keep an eye on the calendar for that info). I'll also be subbing a couple of Monday nights (the 13th and 20th, to be exact). And I'm planning to lead one final yoga/hiking retreat in Point Reyes, too, on August 8th. Stay tuned for details to come.

Lots of love to you all. We've built relationships here that will be dear to me for the rest of my days. (You know who you are.)

I am so grateful you're in my life. Onward.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A New Piece Dear To My Heart.

I've long been a fan of the NPR podcast series On Being.

Krista Tippett facilitates regular interviews with a diverse array of fascinating folks who are at once spiritual and grounded, artistic and wise, and always with a nod toward meaning. Those podcasts accompanied me lovingly through many long commutes and meandering hikes when we were living in West Marin. I still often listen to them on my way to and from teaching in Oakland.

So I am thrilled to have a new essay published in the On Being with Krista Tippett blog. "What Masculinity Looks Like" is a love letter of sorts to my husband, to my son, and to the great butt-kicking, heart-cracking yoga teacher that is parenthood.

Here's a quick screengrab. The link to the full piece is here.

I hope you'll enjoy it.

Read the entirety of the piece here.

In other yoga news, I've been really quietly impressed by the quality of the work coming out of Yoga International of late, both in regard to philosophy and asana. They don't dumb things down, and they're willing to have risky conversations. Check out this smart piece exploring the concept of God according to yoga. No splashy product placement going on here.

Give them a follow on Twitter or FB and keep up with some of the intelligent stuff they're putting out. They've upped the ante in graphic design, too. This piece on Pigeon pose and this one on making the most of your Plank pose are both particularly good.

I know I've talked shit about Yoga Journal in the past, but I still skim their newsletters now and then for interesting material. They're being proactive about bringing some new content into the mix and asking some harder questions; I'll give them that. And I've been on a big core kick as of the last six months or so.

(Can you say Navasana?!? Love.)

Anyway: this little article on the best yoga poses for a strong core is pretty great. I taught several of these poses in class yesterday and did them in my own practice Saturday night — and they are FUN. Check out this fab variation on a Twisted Navasana above right.

Finally, as a bonus prize for making it this far, here are a few early-morning partner yoga photos from the long holiday weekend.

My heart.

They are so dear.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pick The Plums. Wipe The Nose. Mow The Lawn.

The other day, lovestruck, I dashed off a quick FB post before running out the door:

The plum tree in our backyard is Going. Off.

Yesterday we gave brimming bowlfuls to our fairy godmother nanny and our friend Chris. I ate 3 for breakfast. This morning around 7 my kid and I went out to collect more (so many had ripened overnight!) and he was in plum heaven, looking up at the leaves shouting "Balls! Balls! Balls!" with wild disbelief. We'll take another bowlful to a birthday gathering this afternoon.
They're tart and lush, and I can't get over how abundant I feel standing out there picking them under the sun. That I didn't do anything to earn this bounty. How time seems to freeze, and I could easily be my grandmother, or hers, in that moment. And how thrilled my kid is to just run around the house with a plum in each sticky hand. All morning. Til the juice leaks out into his hair and his eyebrows.

I can't remember the last time something so mundane gave me so much joy.

Nearly two weeks later, the tree's still going bazooka. We've got plums up to our ears. And they're better than ever. In spite of the drought. In spite of the fact that I'd long ignored that tree until the day it decided to overwhelm us with ripe fruit.

The whole thing feels very much like grace. The kind of grace we talked about in 7th grade Lutheran confirmation class, in the dingy basement of an old church in Lincoln, Nebraska. Grace being the unearned love, the unexpected bounty. The kind of blessing that comes whether we work for it, or deserve it, or asked for it, or not.

Grace. The grace of those ripe plums falling off the tree and landing heavily, gushingly, on the ground. More quickly than I can pluck them.

Grace. The fact that some anonymous someone, once, one unremarkable day, planted a tree that he or she would never see produce fruit.

Grace. The ability to see the little blessings in our lives that are so often so easy to overlook.

Duke has been sick now for a good two weeks. What started as a runny nose caught at the children's museum a few Saturdays ago turned steadily into an oozing green monster clogging up his nose and glomming up his little eyes with crusty monster gloms.

He's been up, feverish, restless, every night, hardly sleeping. Chattering through the fever dreams with words and sentences I'd never known he was capable of speaking.

Then it moved into his chest and now our sweet little 16-month-old wonder has been hacking up mucus for days like a 19th-century tuberculosis patient.

It breaks my heart.

He is chirpy as ever. Happy-go-lucky. A little more cuddly, certainly, with zero appetite, but essentially himself.

It breaks my heart.

I mean, your kid suffering? It's pretty much the worst goddamn thing you could ever witness. I don't know how any parent bears suffering of a greater depth than the common sinus infection. I can't even think about the fact that he's due to suffer down the line because he's been born into a human body that will age and break and love and hurt and lose and grieve. It's too much. I want to take it all on right now, so he doesn't have to, ever.

And yet, of course, that's not life-giving, nor is it at all edifying for him, in the long run.

Fifteen years ago, I discovered Joanna Macy's work in a dusty corner of the University of Delaware Morris Library, and her words have followed me ever since. She's an ecofeminist Buddhist scholar who draws the most beautiful threads between ostensibly unrelated bits of our lives. She writes:

The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe. Your heart is that large.
Trust it. Keep breathing.

This sentence has been the living-and-breathing, thumping, rushing heart of my practice and my teaching and my writing ever since. It speaks so much truth. Reminds me of the universality of suffering, big and small. And having a child certainly makes me realize that the way my heart breaks when he suffers offers me the vastness of the entire universe in one breath.

In one plum.

The cherries are ripening, too. I didn't even realize we HAD a cherry tree until I took Duke out one morning to harvest the ever-zooming plums and turned around to see cherries on the tree across the yard. We went out this morning and tasted them. They're soft and fruity and not tart at all. I've got a recipe buried somewhere for an old cherry bundt cake. I think it called for scary cherry-flavored gelatin or something else gross. We will adapt it. But there will definitely be plum and cherry crisps coming out of this oven as soon as I can get a few minutes alone with my paring knife in the kitchen.

It's been a nerdy pleasure to wash and dry and pack and share the plums over the past two weeks. Seeing the delight on students' faces when they bite into one out of the bowl after class. We took a bowlful into the pediatrician's office last Friday and the nurses lit up.

It's such a selfish thing. I'm embarrassed to admit how good it makes me feel to give them away. So much better than it makes me feel to eat them.

And yes, it's a cheesy-ass yoga cliche to talk about how one tiny action can ripple out to affect others. The whole butterfly effect idea, you know? That whole "as within, as without" idea. That we start small by creating peace and joy and tranquility on the micro level, on our mats, in our own minds, and then, sure enough, that stillness ripples out until it creates peace and joy and tranquility on the macro level.

Sounds dreamy and totally unrealistic, eh.

But. Hot damn.

It might just be right.

(Of course it's right.)

I can't stop thinking about how some anonymous person planted those trees decades ago; what, 20 or 30 years, maybe? I don't know fruit trees very well. But they planted them, and maybe watered them a few times, and then left, with no expectation of return on their investment. And look at the joy, the magnified joy, that has come of that simple little action!! Incredible.

The little things matter.

And maybe they aren't so little.

The other day while Duke slept, I read this article from the NYT.  In "Mow The Lawn," Roger Cohen writes:
I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done.  
I love this. And not just because it's labor-friendly. Or embodied. Or populist. But because it's so very Zen.

I remember the excitement of being about 10 years old and learning how to mow the lawn. We lived on a good quarter-acre lot and it required a fair amount of mowing. My dad always had a fleet of half-working John Deere riding lawn mowers, and one day he taught me how to drive. 

It was thrilling.

I was driving! A moving vehicle! By myself! Under the sun!

I remember telling my preteen self: "Don't ever forget how exciting this is. Don't ever take this freedom for granted. This ability to drive a lawn mower all by yourself. Don't ever forget."

Well, of course I did.

And after a few years of mowing the lawn singing Rodgers & Hammerstein showtunes at the top of my lungs under that prairie sky, I graduated to a shitty little Dodge Omni. And I experienced that same moment of incredible liberation, of revelation, the joy of getting behind a wheel and going wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, by myself.

And again I told myself: "Don't you ever take this for granted. Don't you ever forget the rush of being alone in a car going wherever you want like a grown-up. Don't ever forget how in this moment there's nothing else in the world you could imagine would ever make you so happy again."

And, of course I did. 

And the wild joy passed.

And what was once thrilling (mowing the lawn! driving a shitty hatchback!) became mundane, run-of-the-mill, not enough.

I grew sick of getting bruises on my knees when the riding mower's front wheel lurched into unseen gopher holes, barreling my body forward.

I grew jealous of my high school friends who drove fancy new 1996 Honda Accords. 

The world kept turning. Buddhism calls this the universal experience of lack, of dukkha (suffering, or restlessness) that comes of desire; the kind that leaves you craving and wanting more. The kind that makes you think there's always something bigger, better, more fulfilling, more exciting,




I've been thinking about this of late. I think about it in the mornings when I wake up and wish I were gazing at the Mediterranean in some sparkling Greek resort instead of stumbling into the kitchen to make coffee. I think of it when I'm wiping sunflower butter and brown rice off the floor and feeling like a janitor. I think of it when I wake for the 10th time that night to a crying restless feverish little man who wants only to be nursed and held and loved, and I'm so very tired, and my reserves are empty, and I wonder if we will ever feel rested again.

But there are always moments — moments like the ones under the plum tree — wherein I pull back and really see it all with clear eyes and it's all Vishnu, it's all God, it's simplicity, it's the quiet daily holiness that reminds me how sacred this ordinary existence really is. Vishnu the Preserver, he in Hindu mythology who governs our unsexy day-to-day grinds, the God of small things, the Zen-like quality of mundane sacrality that comes in the peeling of the potatoes and the picking of the plums and the mowing of the lawn.

Our plum tree has a few days left, max. The ground beneath is covered now with rotting fruit. Maybe we'll see a few through til the weekend, if we're lucky. The cherries will be done soon, too, and then, other than a middling fig tree, that'll be it til next June. 

So you love it while you've got it, knowing it will always, all, pass. 

And you remind yourself: Don't you ever take this for granted. Don't you ever forget how in this moment there's nothing else in the world you could imagine would ever make you so happy again.

And you know you'll forget.

But you do it anyway. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Point Reyes Yoga & Hiking Retreat

Mark your calendars for a day-long yoga & hiking retreat in Point Reyes Station on Saturday, July 11th.

Click on the image above for the day’s agenda and all the deets. We’re gonna have a fab time. This retreat will definitely fill up (people are stoked!), so register here now to save your spot.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Urban Flow Babes

Sweet morning reconnecting with my old colleagues Jennifer and Andrea (and our babes).

So grateful to Urban Flow for bringing these women into my life some five years ago. Even though the studio is no longer, the community it created continues to bless and brighten my life.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bhakti In Bloom 2015

Just home from a great weekend with Yogascapes at Sierra Hot Springs. Our annual retreat is always a highlight of my year. Love having the time to dive more deeply into metta meditations and long savasanas. My voice is tired, my mind feels content, and my heart is full.

Really a wonderful group of folks. You can tell just by looking, eh? I wish we would've had a week longer to get to know one another over vegan blackberry waffles and slabs of chocolate cake.

Here are a few quick pics. Big love.

Monday, April 6, 2015

7 Things I Didn't Know About Life Until I Had A Baby

I'm happy to have a new article up on MindBodyGreen. Check it out:

Ten weeks after my son was born, I returned to teaching yoga. Between diaper changes and feedings, I hadn't had much (OK, any) time to do asana. I'd barely done a full 90-minute practice. But I'd had a helluva lot of time to do yoga: the kind of practice that looked like chanting lullabies at 3 am whilst bouncing on a blue exercise ball for hours on end, crying babe in arms, trying to stay calm.
It was the hardest yoga I'd ever done. Way harder than Kapotasana. And it was also the most rewarding.
Having a baby has been tremendously educational, for my body, mind and spirit. With that, here are seven things having a baby has taught me about yoga....

7 Things I Didn't Know About Life Until I Had A Baby (MBG)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

In Which She Gets Her Opinions On

I'm sitting at this uber-spare, self-consciously hip, wooden-and-metal cafe listening to the 20-something dudes across from me talking about how they should eat more greens and fewer tacos and why you should run outside instead of going to the gym.

They're totally charming and I never would've expected to hear these plaid-shirt-wearing, man-bunned kids talking about why fruit has a lot of sugar in it and where on your foot you should land when you run.

It makes me happy.

(Sometimes the world pleasantly surprises us.)

Two afternoons a week, for two hours at a time, I escape to this little cafe and pretend that all I have to do in the world is drink coffee and read and write. It reminds me of 2004, on then-seedy Polk St., with cloches and ecofeminist theology books.

It's kind of nostalgic. Medicinal, really.

Always at this moment, just after walking in and opening my laptop, I get a little anxious. Jittery. Not because the coffee has set in yet. And not because I'm particularly afraid of anything.

But because I'm so damn excited. Because there are so many potential new articles to write. And because being anonymous in a cafe is one of my favorite experiences of being a grown-up. It hasn't happened much in the last year, mostly because I've had a little boy attached to my boobs for much of the day. But this fairy godmother nanny named Charise (for real, that's her name) came into our lives in early February, and it's because of her that I can get away like this while my husband is at work and I can trust that my kid is playing his happy little guts out under the sun at the bright playground up the street, chasing woodchips and bugs and generally loving life.

As a new parent, and as a writer, I appreciate the solo time more than ever before. I've heard other introverted parents admit the same thing, but wow, does solitude feel sacred when your days have gone from largely quiet and solitary to perpetually social. (First World problems! Poor me, with my healthy child and my indoor plumbing and organic vegetables and basic human rights.) I know this phase will pass; little man will start preschool in the fall, and that means three big chunks of writing time a week. So for now it's about appreciating what is right here, the fact that I can actually be with him most days instead of hustling my ass to a job I dread, and trusting that life will just keep on changing.

I keep reading more and more about shitty American parental leave policies and feeling grateful for my own situation. My husband and I have been so lucky to not have to hire permanent full-time childcare; between his regular corporate hours and my weekend/evening teaching hours, we can manage to mutually cover childcare and both remain committed to our careers. I know that's rare. And I'm realizing, more and more, that most people (women?) either would rather quit their jobs and stay home, or are staying at home and would rather be working. (The grass is always greener, we always want what we don't have, yada yada.) It's hard to find a happy medium.

Speaking of...

I've had lots of Strong Opinions of late. About yoga and parenting and politics and, you know. The usual.

So can we talk about this bullshit article that was in the NYT a few days ago? Featured as a legitimate parenting option, this "sleep training your 8-week-old" crock of shit that's got all of us people with brains and hearts up in arms? It's appalling, neglectful, inhumane; straight-up child abuse. Long story short, this famous (and very popular) NYC pediatrician advocates locking your 2-month-old infant in his room at 7pm and not coming in again til 7am, no matter whether he screams the whole time, rolls around in his own vomit and/or feces, or worse. I read it and turned bright red. My heart beat fast. Smoke came out of my ears. The only thing that comforted me at all was coming back to stalk the comments and reading the outraged, compassionate, reasonable words of folks who were appalled, like me, to find such abominable content in the NYT.

Now, I have friends who've sleep-trained their babies. I know, I know; you were exhausted and dying from sleep deprivation and had to be able to function. Totally get that. Been there myself. I don't mean to judge you. I know you love your kids. I know you just wanna be good parents, like we all do. I hesitated to even write about this because I didn't want to offend you.

And I write as the parent of a toddler who's never slept more than 7 hours at a time (and that was a rare freak accident that happened back when he was about 3 months old and has never happened again). He still wakes multiple times a night and needs to be nursed or comforted back to sleep. And honestly, it's totally fine. I get it. I know he'll eventually sleep like a rock. (I hear all these stories from parents who have kids who magically slept 10-12 hours a night on their own, and simply cannot comprehend how different that kind of experience would have made my life. I've heard, too, that formula-fed babies sleep longer, because the formula is harder for them to digest than breast milk. I'm willing to get less sleep in order to accrue the benefits of continued breastfeeding.) The bottom line is: my husband and I haven't really slept in a year, and my radiant, brilliant kid is and always has been a restless light sleeper, so we co-sleep, because it's the only way we all rest, and it's actually pretty cozy and sweet and wonderful, even though we pretty much can't go out after dark because he needs someone near him cuddling or he'll wake up, but I still, still, love him so very much, and trust that soon, one day, he'll sleep, and would not, nor could not, ever EVER do the shit they propose in this article. Because it's fucking inhumane.

The thing is: babies aren't convenient. They don't fit our adult schedules. They shit and throw food all over. They need a great deal of time and attention and sacrifice and love. But they're not supposed to be convenient. They're babies. They're growing like crazy and their bellies are tiny and they may need to eat more often than every 12 hours. They need to be cuddled and touched and loved. They need to be responded to, cared for, met with tenderness. And I feel certain that one day we will look back at "sleep training" (even that phrase makes me crazy, like you're training a cat to pee in a litter box or something) as a terrible, psychologically-damaging socio-cultural error.

Until then? I was so happy to find this excellent rebuttal. Please read it. The author makes such a great case for the insanity of this whole 8-week sleep training idea, comparing it to what would happen if we advocated a similar protocol for the "care" of the elderly:

To follow through with Cohen’s “advice” doesn’t require “guts.” Sleep training an 8-week-old doesn't require "guts." The instinct to respond to a baby's cries is empathetic, wise, and vitally important to the healthy development of future generations.  
What requires "guts" is seeking out a new pediatrician when one's current doctor advocates medically sanctioned abuse and neglect. It takes "guts" to change our federal maternity leave system and finally catch up with the ethical and family-friendly legislation that characterizes the modern world. It takes "guts" to be present and respond to a baby who isn't physiologically wired to "sleep through the night." It's healthy for babies (and toddlers) to wake and breastfeed and connect. It's normal.  
It takes courage to respond to our most vulnerable with compassion, connection, and evidenced-based clarity in America today. We stand together in opposing the neglectful abuse of our elderly. Authorities would shut down any nursing home that practiced the neglect described [here]. It’s time we stand firm in opposing the purposeful nighttime neglect of our children.

Read the comments in the NYT piece. Be comforted by the fact that so many smart, mindful people are aware that it's actually not biologically normal for babies to sleep through the night. That wakefulness is evolutionarily standard for babies and toddlers. That even most adults don't sleep through the night without waking to pee or have a drink of water or adjust their pillow. That breastfeeding is supported by co-sleeping and night feeds. Blah blah blah; I could go on. I won't. Just please. Don't leave your kid to cry his eyes out. There's a reason it breaks your heart. It goes against every parenting instinct we have. The end.

(And on that note: if you're interested in intelligent, biologically-inspired parenting, check out Evolutionary Parenting. It's a godsend.)

Next, let's talk about this piece from On Being: "Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists." I appreciated it. Now, I'm not so much an Iyengar lady (ok, it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out), and I'm not an atheist, but I get what the writer's saying. Really, I do.

The author writes:

I don’t want to be part of a yoga world of happy talk about unending potential and perfect happiness. I don’t have much time for the kind of self-impressed platitudes that give yoga a bad name. Like so many of the secular, health-oriented, somewhat prideful members of my clan, I do yoga to quiet my brain, not to fill it with nonsense.
And yet nonsense abounds. Several years ago, I dropped in on a class at another studio. As class began, the teacher offered her thoughts about the goodness of the world and its benevolence toward us. “If you just reach out with your intention,” she said sagely, “the universe will rise to meet you half-way.” I almost walked out. The earthquake in Japan had happened the day before.

Nonsense. Oh yes. I am familiar with this such nonsense. It abounds. My Facebook feed is full of this shit.

Anyway, she goes on. Cites a few great teachers. And then says

The point is that the practice of attentiveness — the fundamental practice that yoga cultivates — should lead us to contemplate the full reality of our life, which includes its inevitable end. As the yogi Richard Freeman puts it:
“Yoga is a rehearsal for death.”
That is the universe rising up to meet you.
For me, this discussion was a rare moment when I had some inclination of what “yoga spirituality” might mean, particularly for someone who doesn’t actually believe in spirituality. In this version, there is no promise of health or happiness. There is only our embrace of reality, in both its quiet joys and its suffering. We recognize ourselves as part of the universe, and we accept that universe’s fundamental indifference to us. Then we see what flows from that.
I suspect that this embrace of death, and life, doesn’t arise from an act of will or from reading the right books. Maybe, though, it comes from the act of the placing one’s feet in exactly the right alignment, and paying attention.

Yes on suffering. Yes on practice for death. Yes on embracing reality, both in light and shadow. Read the whole thing. Really worth it.

Now, finally, if we wanna get really capital-S Strongly Opinionated: let's be real about eating meat, 'cause that shit's making the California drought 10x worse.

I try to be patient about this stuff and not be that annoying militant vegan. I try to respect people's choices and keep my mouth shut. But this drought is no joke. And it's time to drop the charming/exhausted "I love bacon-wrapped-everything" act and take some responsibility. The personal is political, yo.

Meat (well, both the meat itself and the resources necessary for producing it) is killing our water supply. It's unsustainable and environmentally damaging. It's implicated in the epidemic of sexual violence in this country. It's responsible for the devastation of the rainforests. It's not good for your heart or your cholesterol. It's steeped in drugs and suffering. There are a million and one reasons to stop eating it, even beyond the drought. So why not consider cutting it out? What's the worst that can happen — you lose weight, you improve your cholesterol, you live more lightly on the planet, you save a few bucks and whole lotta water?

Ok, whew. If you've lasted this long: great. Thanks for putting up with me.

I just don't have a lot of patience for woo-woo these days. There's a fine line between making an effort  to respect everyone's opinions and moving through your life like a boring vanilla milkshake, too afraid of ruffling feathers to ever take a stand. I see a lot of the latter in the yoga world, and it feels disappointingly neutered and toothless. I'd rather opt for the non-milkshake route, myself, even at the risk of alienating.

I wrote this little FB post quickly yesterday while my kid slept in my lap. This is where my heart and mind are of late. This is the yoga that's calling to me right now:

Some of the most advanced yogis I've met in my life have never taken a yoga class. They don't speak self-empowerment mantras and they don't have websites proclaiming them healers and masters. 
They're the old church ladies who bring tuna casseroles when someone dies. They're the quiet farmers who shovel the neighbor's driveway at 4am after a blizzard. They're the kind elderly women who knit teeny hats for premature babies in the NICU. They're the ones who show up, humbly offering, asking nothing in return. No glory necessary. 
That's yoga. That's what I wanna be someday.

The tuna casserole ladies have been heavy on my heart. Their book will get written once preschool begins.

In the meantime, happy Tuesday, y'all. It's great to see you here.

Go cuddle your kid and eat some broccoli.

Sleep Training At 8 Weeks: "Do You Have The Guts?" (NYT)
It Doesn't Take "Guts" To "Sleep Train" An 8-Week-Old (
Listen, Learn, Practice: Yoga Spirituality For Atheists (On Being)
Meat Makes The Planet Thirsty (NYT)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Yep. Even The Oatmeal.

My yoga practice feels like training for motherhood.

How to bend, not break. How to be gentle. How to not throw things. How to laugh instead of freak out. How to not mind oatmeal in my hair. How to take a deep breath and start over. Again. And again.

Atha yoga anusasanam.

The yoga begins. Here. As we are.

Unshowered. Tired. Loving. Loved.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why A Good Book Is A Secret Door

It's no secret around these parts that I love me a good book. So when somebody recommended this TED talk, I was intrigued.

Listened to it last night as I drove to Oakland to teach. It made me laugh out loud — and weep.

Give it a listen, especially if you've got little ones in your life.

Mac Barnett: Why A Good Book Is A Secret Door

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Upcoming Yoga Retreat: Bhakti In Bloom

Our 4th-annual yoga & hot springs retreat, Bhakti In Bloom, is coming up this April. Join me at Sierra Hot Springs for 3 days of rejuvenating yoga, great company, delicious food, and healing hot springs.

Deets here.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Yoga On The Sky Deck

Taught yoga on the Sky Deck at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco this morning.

So great to see my OMpower Cycling & Yoga sisters Jennifer and Devine there.

SF, you'll always have my heart.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Duke

Over Labor Day weekend, I had the pleasure of officiating the wedding of two dear yogis at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur.

(So beautiful. Epic setting.)

Turns out my kid had a pizza named after him at the cocktail hour.

Coincidence? Or just badass?

You decide.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Evening Classes Start Sept. 2nd

 YES, it's TRUE!! 

I'm returning to teach regular Mon/Thurs evening classes at Flying Studios starting next week!! Thanks for your patience while I've been easing back from maternity leave. 

My permanent schedule as of Sept:

      Sundays 10:45am-12:15pm 

                     (in the Annex)
      Mondays 7:15-8:45pm (Annex)
      Thursdays 7:30-8:45pm

Can't wait to see you in the twinkly twilight.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Six Months Old.

Six months old today. We have kept him alive for six whole months.

Someone deserves a cocktail.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Why My Butt-Dimples Just Unsubscribed From Yoga Journal

Yesterday I sat with my kid in my lap and leafed through the latest Yoga Journal. There was a fashion supplement, a celebrity profile of a pretty teacher who married a famous actor, and a whole feature on how to dress to hide your figure flaws to look thinner on the mat ("How can I conceal my butt dimples?").

I cancelled my subscription.

I felt sad. And dejected. And not good enough, especially since I'm a butt-dimpled new mom with a muffin top and it's been awhile since I've done Natarajasana in high heels on a rooftop like Hilaria Baldwin. But mostly, I felt disappointed, because I've written a few pieces for YJ in the past and have always felt proud of finding a market for intelligent mindful writing amidst the glossy mainstream rags.

Today I'm sitting on the floor with my kid in my lap and he's chewing on a soft fabric car with wheels that spin across the 3 sheet-covered yoga mats that we've laid out across the living room floor as a playmat. We're making frozen toaster waffles (nope, not organic) with maple syrup and reading Where The Wild Things Are, which, incidentally, includes no fashion supplements. He's learning how to sit by himself, and falling forward into Paschimottanasana every time. I'm wearing old black tutu-leggings with a hole in the crotch, my peeling, calloused feet haven't had a pedicure since January, I ate 27 dark-chocolate-covered almonds from Trader Joe's for breakfast (after finishing the peanut butter cups first), and my bare face is blotchy with postpartum rosacea.

It doesn't look anything like a Yoga Journal spread. There are no high heels or probiotics to be found. And yet, it feels very much like yoga.

My son is the child of two long-time yogis. He'll grow up learning a lot about yoga. We'll teach him the Primary Series when he's ready. He already does Navasana in the bath, and says goodnight to Buddha and Ganesha and Shiva and Vishnu every evening before bed. But I want him to know the kind of yoga that's about being wild and loving and unpretentious and free. The yoga that means learning how to be real, and fearless, and gentle, and compassionate, and kind. Not the type that wastes precious life energy worrying about covering up the "flaws" in your "apple- or pear-shaped" temple of All That Is Good And Holy.

So we'll keep eating waffles. I'll bandage my blistered toes. And we'll leave the Yoga Journal on the magazine rack for someone else to buy.