Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#notjustmoreidlechatter


My girl Claudia directs the incredible Buddhist-inspired modern dance company The Anata Project. Amazing new show opens in two weeks. Follow 'em. Go.

#notjustmoreidlechatter

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why Yes, I'd Love To Jump Into That Teeny Bed

Dissected Buddha, By Gonkar Gyatso (2011)

I've been hunkered down the last few days prepping material to teach 15 hours' of philosophy workshops this weekend. It's nerdy-awesome and of course waaaay too much information, but I dig it. And am always vaguely surprised and delighted that anyone else would like to tawk about this sort of thing.

Most afternoons while my kid naps after preschool I've been throwing on a history or philosophy podcast and squeezing in my home practice. Love listening to some of these Big Deal yoga scholars (most of them male) being interviewed and hearing small children chattering and hollering in the background while they're trying to have Big Serious Conversations about sannyasins and Tantric mudras and the Bhagavad Gita.

It gives me hope.

Inspires me that these folks are getting Big Things Done whilst still chasing tiny little butts around the house trying to get them to wear pants. 

Picturing these Smart-As-Hell British Philosopher Dudes muting their phones and hustling over to the doorway to whisper "Shhh! Take the cat out of the washing machine and pipe down, Nigel!" and then jumping back into the conversation trying to be cool, as though they totally didn't just miss that whole thread about Vivekananda slaying it at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Makes me feel like a comrade in the struggle to strike some kind of elusive work/life balance.

It's hard to blend the life of a yogi (ascetic? monastic? contemplative?) with that of a middle-class householder. Really hard. But the teachers I respect most are the ones who've figured it out. Or who are trying to figure it out.

(Steph Snyder, anyone? Jason Crandell, anyone?)

It's pretty easy to be peaced-out when you're sitting on a mountaintop meditating listening to coyotes. Or when you've got gazillions of bucks for nannies and house-cleaners so you can focus on your AAAART

But I am moved to seek out teachers and friends and scholars, yes, who are standing knee-deep in the compost pile of unfolded laundry and scattered Play-Dough and ten thousand library book variations of Old MacDonald.

It's kind of like deciding to take a hot yoga class. You already know, walking into a regular yoga class, that at some point you're gonna feel awkward or tight or frustrated or off-balance. But adding in the 100-degree element kicks the intensity up a notch or seven. More opportunities to practice, right?

This is parenting whilst being a yogi.

More opportunities to practice, baby.

A little bit of quiet can go such a long way. A few deep breaths behind the bedroom door. You can find it in the stolen moments, in half-assed catches of stillness, in remembering to let go and begin again. (Emphasis on the half-assed.) Until you hear the kid waking up, and you roll up the mat and accept that you're gonna get a 20-minute practice in today and that's ok, even if you only did one side of Revolved Triangle and half a backbend, so you scramble up the stairs and take a deep breath and jump out of the meditation and into the relationship.

Michael Stone describes enlightenment as intimacy. A closeness with what is. A clear-seeing. A realness. So jumping into that teeny-weeny toddler bed and scrunching your knees up into your armpits while still half-sweaty from Sun Salutations to snuggle a sweetly-rumpled-waking-up little boy is just another kind of yoga, right? 

Toddlerbedasana. Remind me to trademark that. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Next Weekend At YoYoYogi

I'm delighted to be teaching three big fat days of Yoga History & Philosophy next weekend at YoYoYogi. Please join me for a little or a lot. This is gonna be goooood. 
(I promise to keep it real.)
There are 3 options to participate:

1. The Full Weekend: $299
September 16 - 18

Curious about the roots of yoga, but not sure where to begin? Wondering what the heck all that Sanskrit's about? Ready to dig in a little deeper? Here's your chance. Join Rachel for a fascinating weekend packed with the wild, renegade history of yoga (for real!), the brilliant philosophy behind the poses, down-to-earth tools for working with a racing mind, and so much more. This stuff will rock your world, deepen your practice, and change your life.

2. The History of Yoga $49
Friday, September 16 from 6:30 - 9:30p

Did you know yogis were once such scandalous rogues that no decent person would be seen with them? Or that sun salutations are really a hybrid of British military exercises, Indian nationalist wrestling, and Scandinavian gymnastics? The yogic tradition is rich with mind-blowing history, most of which is news to us contemporary practitioners. Come on down for a glimpse of the dishy roots of yoga you never knew existed. Get the lowdown on all those lunges, the true story behind the Tantra, and so much more.

3. Foundations of Yoga Philosophy $49
Saturday, September 17 from 2-5p

Join Rachel for a down-to-earth look at the inspiring, powerful philosophy that underlies the asana practice we know and love. Here's your chance to break down some of the key concepts and texts of yoga, both on and off the mat, in super-relatable ways. Learn how to apply yoga philosophy to your crappy job, your gnarly commute, and that pain-in-the-butt boss. You'll walk out lighter than you walked in. And your practice will never be the same.

You can register here.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

4 Ways To Find More Santosha In Your Everyday



Do you scroll through people's perfectly-curated FB feeds and feel like your life sucks? That you'd be so much happier if you could just get that dream job or lose 20 pounds?

This one's for you.

My new piece for Yoga Trade:

 4 Ways To Find More Santosha In Your Everyday
In yogic philosophy, the word Santosha basically translates as “contentment.”
This isn’t contentment as in, Hey, let’s get stoned and sit on the couch eating donuts and bingeing on Netflix for the next five hours.
It’s not contentment as in Eh, my life is pretty decent as it is, so why bother learning a new language or playing piano or planting a garden or traveling to Greece?
This is contentment, as in looking around at your perfectly-imperfect life, waking up to the little graces, and being ok with it, instead of constantly seeing happiness over there, once you get that body or that car or that job or that partner or that kid.
Buddhist scholar David Loy calls this grass-is-always-greener phenomenon LACK. It’s the ubiquitous, unsettling sense that there’s something intrinsically missing, a perpetual void, always the experience of not enough.
You see this everywhere. Capitalism stokes the fire. Our economy is fueled by the message that YOU ARE NOT ENOUGH. That if you just buy this moisturizer or that Tesla or that pair of sneakers, you’ll be lovable, you’ll be popular, you’ll be complete.
BULLSH*T.
We all know that’s not true.
Because as soon as you get the Tesla, you’ll want the newer model. And as soon as you get the McMansion, you’ll want the one with the pool next door. And as soon as you get the trophy wife, there’ll be a younger one with fewer wrinkles and better boobs around the corner.
So we practice cultivating santosha.
And you know what one definition is for enlightenment, right?
That’s right: WAKING UP.
Here are 4 things you can do to find more santosha in your everyday:

Read the full piece at the link.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Washing The Dishes, Waiting For Death



I wrote this new piece for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. (Feels kind of like a bucket-list publication for me, as I've long read and respected their work.)

It might be helpful for anyone who loves someone who's terminally ill (oh hey, that'd be all of us). Or for anyone with a mind that's busy thinking, planning, or worrying.



The first time I really “got” meditation, I was standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes.

My father was dying. Cancer.

Hospice bed in the living room-style cancer.

I’d flown back to Nebraska to see him one last time, to hold his hand, say goodbye.

Now, the haunting question of when.

I was 26, living in a 100-year-old flat in San Francisco, bartending my way through grad school, subsisting on coffee and cocktails. Standing there at the sink, I could hear the young couple upstairs vacuuming, the Chinese family across the alley clattering pans, and the cable car clanging one block over on California Street.

My mind was obsessively circling the drain.

When would Dad die? Where would I be? Walking out of class? Trudging up Nob Hill? Shaking a martini? Tomorrow? Next week? I should buy a black suit. I should book a flight. I should cover my shifts. But no. That’s so morbid. He’s still here. But when? How am I supposed to prepare for this? How am I supposed to think about anything else?

You can read the full article here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This Is Us.

Meet YoYoYogi.

These folks, led by the kind, grounded, and lighthearted Alex and Terri Cole, are just the best. Here's a glimpse into what we do there, and why it's such a warm, welcoming place.

I am delighted to be teaching history and philosophy as a faculty member for the 200hr and 500hr trainings this fall. We have an interest meeting coming up tonight at 6pm if you'd like to learn more.

August 8th Playlist

Heya friends.

I had a few requests for last night's playlist. You can find the majority of it here. (Apologies for the crummy screen shot. My iTunes isn't syncing today.)


("The Greater Silence" is by Bombay Dub Orchestra. And that dreamy savasana song was Ingram Marshall's "Entrada: At The River" from his Evensongs album.)

Happy listening.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The word "Namaste" is overexposed. Played out. But here's why we need it.



My new article is published today on Yoga Trade.

I've been having a hard time writing about yoga lately. It feels crass and trite given everything going down in the world. Here, some thoughts on that overexposed word "Namaste," and why the hell we need it now, more than ever.

(Thanks to Kerri Kelly for inspiring.)


 
The word “Namaste” is pretty played out these days, isn’t it?

You can find it everywhere: on yoga mats, on bumper stickers, on water bottles. You can buy a “Namaste In Bed” t-shirt on Amazon. You can pick up Namaste bracelets and handbags and trucker hats on Etsy. You can dig into Namaste-brand gluten-free pizza crust and chicken noodle soup. You can walk into Namaste-branded pilates studios and wellness centers.

(Not to mention the hilarious yoga-world-skewering web series Namaste, Bitches.)

The word itself has taken on a certain cultural significance. It’s become a brand, recognizable even to someone who’s never stepped foot on a yoga mat.

Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this phenomenon spiritual materialism. Spiritual materialism occurs when a spiritual concept or practice is turned into a product for the purpose of making money. It’s rooted in the idea that you can buy and sell spiritual qualities like peace, grace, or transcendence.

Namastizzle, baby.

There’s no going back now.

*

I’m having a hard time writing about yoga lately.

There’s such a cruel juxtaposition of things going on in the world.

It’s summer yoga festival season. My FB feed is packed with photos of half-naked tan bendy people decorated with henna tattoos and patterned leggings doing yoga poses on mountains everywhere I look. And they are having so much FUN and sweating and chanting and living and doing their thang, you know? And I’ve been there and done that myself, and oh man yes, is it so fun. Right on, people! Namaste! Jai Ma!

But those yogis-gone-wild posts are bookended with videos of awful shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis and Dallas and heartbreaking massacres on the French Riviera and hand-wringing from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where fiery speakers are calling for gun rights and white supremacists are offering prayers.

How are we supposed to even reconcile the two?

It feels crass, doesn’t it? To share happy-pretty-shiny yoga pictures on Instagram when the world feels like it is, quite literally, devolving into chaos?

I’ve only got one word...

You can read the whole thing here.

Monday, July 25, 2016

In Which This Bernie Gal Says: Sigh, Ok.


 I know I've been an outspoken Bernie Bro. (Since we Sanders voters are all white hetero bros, right? Ahem).

But, can I tell ya? I am really feelin' the DNC right now. Really, lemme say it, excited. Not just because Boyz II Men just sang Motown Philly. Not just because there have been more people of color onstage in the last few hours than in last week's entire RNC. And not just because there's a stellar line-up of speakers this week that pretty much makes me want to camp out in front of my TV with a notepad, nodding, til Thursday night.

But because last week's faux-patriotic Drumpf shitshow reminded me how important it is that we all come together to ensure that this demagogue doesn't get elected. There are smart, passionate folks out there right now like Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich who also find their hearts more aligned with Sanders' policies. But they GET how important it is that Drumpf not be elected. I mean, the prospects are terrifying. Not just for us, but for our kids.

I think Jill Stein is great and my political stances certainly align more with hers than with Hillary's. Yes, she's more progressive. But she's not going to win. And if I vote for her, that's one more chance Drumpf does. So for the sake of the Supreme Court ALONE, we need to ensure HRC gets elected.

From there, we elect progressives down ballot. We ensure that Bernie continues to lead a movement (and maybe a new party) of New Progressives for folks like us who don't see our leftist values reflected in the current Democratic Party. And we keep chipping away at the establishment bullshit that allowed folks like Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the primaries.

Not that I know what I'm talking about. Not that I am a political pundit! Unless perpetually scrolling Twitter in search of more #DemsInPhilly news makes me such. I am a yogi. A student. A human. A mother. And I am looking forward to hearing what the mothers of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin and Michelle Obama and Joe Biden and Cory Booker and President Obama and yup, even Bill and Chelsea Clinton have to say before the big final HRC speech Thursday night.

Sometimes you gotta know when to let go. That's yoga, right? Don't get attached? Bernie's telling us as much.

I feel sad. But I listen to folks like Gavin Newsom and Elizabeth Warren speak, and I feel a little more hopeful. At least this party affirms LGBTQ rights and religious diversity and the right to choose. It's far preferable to the alternative.

So let's watch. See what happens. Over the course of the last 9 months, I have felt fired up and demoralized and excited and disappointed. But right now I am just grateful there is an alternative to Drumpf, even if a far-from-perfect one. Now we just need to make sure she gets elected.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Poker Chips, Meet Yoga



Hey friends.

First of all, I hope you dig my new fashion inspiration. Gonna be wearing that yellow ensemble on the right tonight to teach.

In all seriousness, I've been doing a lot of thinking and reading and listening lately. There's some really intelligent and thoughtful dialogue in the professional yoga world right now about hands-on adjustments: whether we should actually be adjusting people (since many yoga teachers are not trained bodyworkers), what the purpose is, and how adjustments feel for folks with a history of trauma (which, according to some statistics, is 1 in 4 women — whoa, right?!).

Do the math. That means in your average class of 32 people, you've got 8 or so who might be super-triggered by a seemingly-innocuous adjustment — and that's not even counting men! (I don't have the statistics in front of me right now, but they are sobering, and that's just the reported cases. Glad to dig them up for you if you'd like more info.).

Needless to say, we've come a long way from the days when Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar would just crank students into poses, whether their bodies were ready to go there or not. There's a ton of fantastic cultural commentary coming from folks like Matthew Remski in the wake of the recent Jivamukti scandal (and the many other yoga-world sexual harassment scandals which have preceded that one), much more nuanced than I could ever write. So I encourage you to follow what he's saying, and to stay engaged in the evolving conversation.

In just my own anecdotal research, I've discovered tons of hot and cold opinions about adjustments. A lot of people say "Ohmigod, I love them!" Which I totally get. Because usually I do, too. There is nothing like a great forward fold assist to get you just a little further than you realized you could go...especially when you're a bendy person who doesn't feel much in some of those poses by yourself.

So, yes, I usually love them too. That is, unless they feel creepy, or inappropriate, or I don't really know what the teacher's trying to get me to do, or I just ate a huge lunch and I kind of want to be left alone, or I'm having a challenging practice and really want some space, or if I'm not sure if the teacher is really qualified to be giving assists, or if my knee hurts, or I'm pregnant, or injured....

You get the drift. For every person who's told me they loooooove adjustments, there's another who says "Hell no, get out of my space, unless I know you, or you've been my teacher for years, or you ask me ahead of time, and I give you permission." Which I totally understand, too.

I have very distinct memories of being adjusted in Downward Dog some 7 or 8 years ago. I wasn't prepared for anyone to touch me, didn't know the assistants, and was already feeling contracted and anxious on a rough day. The minute the assistant (a wonderful, warm, well-meaning woman) touched my low back, I felt my whole body tense up. I tightened. I retracted. I got angry. I wanted to shove her away, shake her off, scream at her to leave me alone.

But of course I couldn't do that. I just got even quieter, turned even more inward, and stayed tense until she finally moved on to the next person.

Then again, there was that class at Yoga Tree Castro back in 2009. I was hiding in the back row doing my thing. Debbie Mobley (then a stranger, later a dear friend and colleague) came up and adjusted me in Happy Baby. She smiled and made a nice comment and I felt warm and welcome and seen, in the midst of a roomful of sweaty strangers. It made me want to come back.

So, you see? Adjustments are such a shitshow of possibilities. And what I'm learning, the more I listen to senior teachers like Jason Crandell and read nuanced commentary by folks like Matthew Remski, is that maybe the best thing to do right now is step back a bit. It's not enough to just offer folks the ability to say "Thanks, but no thanks." Many people might not feel comfortable doing that in a class setting between vinyasas anyway — especially folks who might not have a strong self-care voice due to past traumas.

Let's be frank here: I have been witness to inappropriate adjustments myself. I have heard too many stories, seen the aftermath of too many invasive and presumptuous adjustments that left students afraid to return to a studio, or a particular teacher. And, honestly? Even the kind of adjustments that left students feeling sexually harassed.

And that's flat-out wrong.



So for the time being, meet my new yoga assistant: poker chips. This cheesy little turquoise OM bag will come with me every time I teach a class, and you can find it on the stereo by my iPod. All you have to do if you want to be left alone is grab one, place it on the top of your mat, and I will happily give you tons of space. Whether it's a matter of being injured or being hungover or just wanting to be alone in your practice, I'm so glad to honor that.

I am grateful to my teacher Rusty Wells and the staff at Urban Flow, who first devised this "No Thanks, No Touch" chip back when we were teaching there. In classes that could sometimes swell to 175 students, it was an easy, elegant way to communicate that desire to just be left alone, for whatever reason. I spent years assisting Rusty and MC Yogi there at Urban Flow, and will always be grateful for those hundreds of hours of hands-on time that offered me an unmatched opportunity to be quietly with people's bodies, in all their sweaty, stretchy glory. And I am glad to be able to share some of that learning with students now.

My sister Mariah and I are in the process of developing a curriculum for trauma-sensitive trainings for yoga teachers. She's a dance/movement therapist who's got a terrific amount of knowledge to share about somatics, embodied trauma, and empowering students to observe and adjust their own bodies. I look forward to sharing more of this with you in the weeks to come. 

Thanks and love to you. See you on the mat. With or without a poker chip.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Guru Purnima



Thank you, teachers. Thank you, life. Thank you, tired aging body. Thank you, grey hair. Thank you, vibrant toddler. Thank you, loud truck outside my window while I'm trying to write. Thank you, every single relationship. Thank you, every single success and every single regret. Thank you, every piece of chocolate cake. Thank you, Donald Trump. Thank you, Hillary Clinton. Thank you for being my teachers. Thank you for teaching me yoga.

Happy Guru Purnima to you.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Get Lost, Start Over: Why Yoga Starts When Things Fall Apart



I wrote this new piece for Yoga Trade. It's a flashback to my first yoga class back in 2003...and that time a few weeks ago when my car died in the middle of the road.

In other words: why the yoga starts when things fall apart.

Delighted to be a regular contributor over at Yoga Trade. Look for more in the months to come.


Get Lost, Start Over: Why Yoga Starts When Things Fall Apart

It’s a cool, grey Saturday morning in Portland.

7:45am.

I’m on the road, cruising along about 45 mph, pleasantly caffeinated, smoothie in hand, headed to teach my 8:15am class.

Life is calm and quiet and good. (The caffeine helps).

Good, that is, until, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the road, surrounded by other metal deathboxes zooming along at 45 mph, my car just dies.

Shuts off. Loses all power. Sayonara, baby.

The dashboard lights flash once, ominously, and then they die, too. All of them.

Holy shit. What’s going on?! What am I gonna do?!

I shift the weirdly-energyless car into neutral. There’s a parking lot just a few hundred feet ahead to my right, if I can just manage to get there. Deliberately, clenchedly, I steer that lifeless monstrosity of glass and leather and steel into the parking lot, shove it awkwardly into Park, sit for a breathless moment hoping nothing explodes, and turn the ignition off.

Exhaling, I think to myself:

This is why we do yoga.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thoughts On Orlando + Next Week's California Retreat


Just sent out my newsletter, including thoughts on Orlando + next week's California yoga retreat. You can find it here.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I'm not going to vote for a moderate war hawk just because she has a vagina. That's not how feminism works.

Screenshot via CNN

Ok, can I say something? 

It's not PC and it's not safe and it's not pretty. But I am so tired of keeping my mouth shut and trying not to piss anyone off. Trying to be some neutral soft-spoken yoga teacher without opinions. I can't do it.

Just last night, the mainstream media (led by the AP) suddenly, magically, decided that Hillary Clinton had "clinched the Democratic nomination." What a coincidence! The night before the YUGE California primary (+ 5 others), and on the basis of "surveyed" superdelegate counts: votes which won't even be cast until July 25th. Now every major news site is leading off with triumphant stories about how Hillary's the one and she's breaking the glass ceiling and hooray, ladies, we did it! And all the Twitter feminists-of-a-certain-age are celebrating this supposed lady-victory and wishing their mothers could be here for this moment.

Here's the thing: I'm a feminist. I did undergraduate and graduate degrees in feminist theory. I read and write and live and breathe feminism. I raise my son feminist.

Bernie's principles are more feminist. Period. 

You don't vote for a woman just because she's a woman. You vote for her because her principles inspire you. You vote for her because her ethics and integrity and track record leave you certain, deep down, that she'll do the right thing.

I'm not going to vote for a moderate war hawk who was against gay marriage until 2013 just because she has a vagina. That's not how feminism works.

Feminism means fighting climate change and ending the death penalty and paying for college and providing universal health care and supporting gay marriage and fighting against segregation and inspiring grassroots progressives and independents of every age and race and class in service of the 99%.

You know what's NOT feminist? The Iraq War. Fracking. The death penalty. Getting funded by Time Warner and JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup. Giving $225k speeches to Wall Street and refusing to release the transcripts. Calling young black men "super-predators". Opposing gay marriage until it's politically expedient.

I will vote for Hillary in November if I have to. Maybe. I will begrudgingly support the lesser of two evils, a candidate bought and paid for by big money.

But now?! Now, when I have a choice?! Now, I'm voting for an old man from Vermont. Not because he's a man. Because he's a feminist. And because his progressive vision calls for the kind of political revolution we so desperately need.

So, my California peeps, and everyone else: even though the media tells you it's already over: VOTE. Today. Get out there. Do it. This primary race is not an anointment. It's not a coronation. And if the voice of the people will be heard, it's up to each of us to make it happen.

#FeelTheBern


Thursday, June 2, 2016

20 Things I'm Really Thinking At The Children's Museum


 I wrote this little ditty for mom.me. It has nothing to do with yoga. :)



My toddler son and I spend a lot of time at the children's museum. It's an oasis — that rare place where a rambling, fired-up little guy can run freely, a sanctuary of rounded corners and rubbery surfaces where I can sit down and exhale for a minute or two without worrying that he's going to dart into the street or careen down a staircase.

But every time we go, I find myself stealthily scoping out the other mothers (or fathers or nannies or grandparents) and wondering what they're thinking. Are they, too, relieved and exhausted and under-showered and over-caffeinated? Do they look at me and see a cool, calm mama?

If only they knew...

1. Why doesn't the cafe serve wine?
2. My kid is cuter than yours.
3. Where’s the Purell?
4. These tiny potties and sinks are brilliant engineering.
5. If I had a dollar for every kid named Carter, Ava, Miles or Sophia, I could buy this place.
 
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

5 Things Fight Club — Yes, Fight Club — Taught Me About Yoga


One of my favorite things about yoga is that you can find teachers and texts in all kinds of unexpected places: movies, politics, basketball, you name it. Thanks to Yoga International for picking up my essay about how a bruised and sweaty Brad Pitt taught me yoga.


5 Things Fight Club — Yes, Fight Club — Taught Me About Yoga

Take a look at any mainstream yoga rag, and you might think "yoga" means skinny white ladies lounging around in stretchy pants, talking about probiotics. But yoga is so much more.

Yoga's smart. Yoga's radical. Yoga's counter-cultural.

Yes, really.

The modern yoga scene is at a tipping point. Commodification and “Instagramification” have transformed this profound meditative practice into a trendy, upper-middle-class fitness craze.

It's time for populist, philosophy-loving yogis to reclaim yoga from its widespread assimilation as a sanitized, fashion-driven workout. Believe it or not, the philosophical tradition's got much wisdom to offer regarding the messy, sweaty, sacred/profane reality of being alive. Which brings us to...Fight Club. Yep, you heard me right.

You can read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Death Taught Me About Living Fully


I wrote this new piece for Yoga International. It's dear to my heart.

"On a pristine Sunday evening in late spring, we memorialized the life of my old friend Greg.

It was a perfectly Aloha party, an anti-funeral on the rooftop deck of a restaurant under the Bay Bridge, complete with Hawaiian shirts and rollicking toasts and great seafood. The weather even behaved on behalf of the celebration: no fog in sight.
At the request of Greg’s friends and family, I’d agreed to officiate the memorial.

This left me anxious as hell.

The morning of the service, I woke up with an unnameable knot in my belly. The pressure to sum up a beloved friend’s life in a few brief words completely trumps the pressure of doing, well, pretty much anything else...."

Grateful for yoga's ongoing reminder to relax into authenticity, and to savor the shadows along with the sun.

You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Four Months, Awake


Mamalode published this piece I wrote when my little guy was just 4 months old. I am delighted to be a part of their May theme: ‪#‎cherish. Such a good reminder to cherish every moment, both the wonderful and the challenging. We don't get this life forever.

Here's a blurb:

Four Months, Awake

He's fallen asleep, finally, finally.
His teething mouth is clamped onto the Ergo strap.
Is he breathing?
I check.  
Yes, phew, breathing.
I am so tired. He is so tired.
He's been up every hour the last two nights.
Out of the blue, after settling into a nice pattern of sleeping for 6-7 hour chunks, followed by a quick 3am feeding, then cuddling in the big bed til 7am. It had become a lovely routine.
We took it for granted.
He hates to nap. He needs to nap.
I need for him to nap. Desperately.
Those naps save me.

Read the full piece here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When A Zen Yoga Teacher Gets Real About Postpartum Depression



I wrote this for today's Washington Post. It's deeply personal, and pretty scary to publish. But it's a piece that's been writing itself on my heart for a long time now. And the personal is political. So if it makes even one woman feel less alone, then it was worth it.



My son was born on my birthday.

February 22: George Washington’s birthday. Drew Barrymore’s birthday. And mine.

My phone pinged with Facebook notifications as I stood over the hospital trash bin and retched. Three times I emptied my stomach of the apples and peanut butter my husband had lovingly sliced a few hours before. Once into the trash can. Again. And then again into the birthing tub laced with lavender essential oils.

Fiercely feminist, I’d always been ambivalent about having children. I’d watched my peers spawn with nary a twinge of jealousy, content with my books and my yoga. I told myself, “If it happens: great. If it doesn’t: great.”

On our first date, I teased my future husband, Robb, that I’d likely go the way of Sylvia Plath, making the kids sandwiches and sticking my head in the oven.

Six months later, drinking champagne on a pier overlooking Tomales Bay, we were engaged.

A year later, I was pregnant. Robb promised parenthood would make me a better yoga teacher. I rolled my eyes and took a swig of my chai, wishing it were vodka.

He was right. Motherhood has made me a much better yoga teacher.

But I was unprepared for the shattering.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Finding Your Dharma In A Bookstore


Later this afternoon, I'll be teaching a History of Yoga workshop for the YoYoYogi teacher training.

For the last week or so, I've been up into the wee hours each night nerding out on Indra Devi and the Bhagavad Gita and more Marilyn Monroe asana pictures than you knew existed. I should be so tired from not sleeping, but I'm not — the exact opposite, in fact: I feel fired up and jazzed to have an excuse to spend time and energy on all this philosophy and history.

When I first moved to San Francisco in August 2003 (and started practicing yoga for the first time 2 weeks later), I didn't know a soul. I was a bookish introvert quite happy to be quietly surrounded by books and music and art. So I spent all my evenings and weekends trolling around SF's iconic bookstores reading geeky yoga philosophy books. There weren't many at the time, but I'd dig out the dishy ones and plop on the floor in City Lights in North Beach or Barnes and Noble overlooking Union Square and lose foggy hours to those texts.

They lit up my mind and stoked my heart and changed my life.

I certainly never sat down to read those books thinking I'd ever have a career in them. That didn't even seem possible. I just did it because they made me hungry for more. They made me feel connected to something deeper. And they made sense of the world in a holistic, intelligent way I'd only ever imagined possible.

So I kept reading. And 13 years later, I get paid to do what I'd do for free, for fun, for the sheer love of it: talk about yoga philosophy!

You can major in Business and decide you're going to be an accountant. You can go to law school and set a clear career path. But if you, like so many of us, wonder what your life's purpose (or dharma) really is, ask yourself: if I could wander into a bookstore and just get lost for a few hours, what would I read first? Which section would I make a beeline for? Where could I disappear and only come up for air hours later, not realizing any time had passed?

That's your heart. That's your passion. THAT'S what wants to be your life's work.

Trust it. Keep reading. You never know where it might take you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Holy Crap.


Holy crap. Front page of HuffPost Women. Chillin' with Monica Lewinsky. :)

Thanks so much for reading, and relating, y'all. This was one of those pieces that I almost didn't post. Too intimate. My heart raced for a good hour or so after publishing. (Those heart-racers are usually the ones that people end up relating to most. Never fails.)

I always say that good writing should make us feel less alone. The act of writing is blessedly (wonderfully) solitary. The sharing of said writing is incredibly intimate and vulnerable, like sharing a piece of one's innermost self. It's usually, erm, terrifying.

So I am ever and always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read. Thank you.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Newsletter


Just sent out my Spring newsletter. I rarely send these anymore because too much email. If you want to subscribe, there's a button top left. Cheers.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

#ThanksSocialism


Yesterday my family and I went to the library, hiked a state park, mailed a letter, and waved to a fire truck. ‪#‎ThanksSocialism‬ ‪#‎FeelTheBern‬

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Insider's Guide To The Definition Of Yoga


Thanks to BeYogi for publishing my latest, An Insider's Guide to the Definition of Yoga:

"And there, right there, in the messy middle of all of it — this is where the yoga starts.

It starts when the breath gets ragged. When you’re not sure why but your chest tightens up, your jaw is suddenly stone, and your mind races. Suddenly you’re worthless and you’ve accomplished nothing and what are you doing with your life anyway, silly?"

You can find the whole thing here.

Yoga Philosophy For Dummies


Delighted to teach a Yoga Philosophy For Dummies workshop at YoYoYogi next month. Open to all, whether you know anything about yoga or not. I promise it won't be woo-woo.

Sign up here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

When I'm An Old Lady, I'll Be Glad I Took This Picture


This is a selfie.

I talk a lot of shit about selfies. Have for a long time. You know, that they're narcissistic and precious and self-conscious and misguided and pretty much the downfall of the yoga world these days. All about "The Gaze," all about "being seen" rather than just "being." The practice lost to the performance. No small thing.

But, shit. That's a goddamned selfie.

And you know what?

I fucking love it.

Do you know how people take yoga selfies? There's not a single graceful thing about it.

That effortless Handstand-on-the-beach? She took 62 shots of that and they were all sandy and shitty. That relaxed Pigeon in the park? He ran back and forth to the camera 17 times before he could actually get into the pose in time. That Natarajasana on the mountain top? She about lost her shit and fell into the Grand Canyon.

I had to prop my iPhone up on a wooden stool and stack a children's book on top of the stool and then a Vitamix pitcher on top of that, and lean the iPhone precariously against the blender. My kid was napping and he'd already been asleep for two hours and was due to wake up any second and my husband was at the gym and it was just me and the afternoon light and my stupid smartphone there for a few rushed minutes. I'd just finished an hour's practice listening to Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown and Cheryl Strayed and was feeling open and strong and unraveled and said to myself, Ahhhhh, fuck it,

I want to take a goddamned picture of this healthy strong bendy resilient 37-year-old body of mine.

So I propped up the shit and turned on the light and set the timer for 10-second-delay and hurriedly softly carefully pushed the button on the precariously-blender-supported iPhone and ran over and dropped on my butt on the wood and took some goddamned selfies.

And most of them suck. Most of them have a foot cut out or a knuckle missing or a hideous slant. Or my thighs groan like hamhocks or my red cheeks glow even in the shit lighting.

But you know what?

One or two, I fucking love. They make me feel fierce and flexible and strong. And, ok, I'll say it: beautiful. They make me feel beautiful.

We are not supposed to say that out loud.

We are not supposed to admit that.

But I will.

When you call yourself beautiful, and really mean it, you are no longer prey to their not-enoughness.

You are no longer at someone else's mercy.
You are no longer living in externally-imposed lack.
You are no longer a slave to the capitalist-misogynistic beauty industry.
Because you no longer need their approval.
And you no longer need to buy their shit.
And you have no desire for $95 pants.
Or $27 mascara.
So you win.

And goddamn, if that isn't liberating.

My first childhood dance teacher just died. Nevorah, she of the long legs and the fishnets and the high-heeled tap shoes and the vague resemblance to a 63-year-old Lucille Ball. (At least in my 5-year-old mind's eye, that is.)

She who hoofed it out with us up on the second floor of a dusty wooden studio there in Brookings, South Dakota, Nevorah and my sister and me, tapping it out to the Beach Boys and Me and My Shadow and god knows what else.

You don't realize the huge impact you can have. Even then, I looked at her and thought: I want to be like this woman. I want to move through life like this tall elegant creature. I want to be able to kick my nose when I'm 63.

Talk about motivation. I think of her still.

She ended up an elderly woman with a broken hip and a dancing spirit. (As we all do, if we're lucky.) And she surely had no idea what an impact she made on a shy little South Dakota girl.

And I realize, even now, that one day I'll be the one in the recliner with the oxygen machine and the twinkly eyes and the broken hip.

So I'll take the damn selfie, in the body that still bends, wearing three-year-old hand-me-down leggings from a teacher-friend and an old black shirt from Target, make-up all sweated off, heels cracked.

And I'll look at that photo and feel like a fucking queen. Regal, all size-8-and-not-size-0 of her. And I'll raise a glass to what she has been through, and that size-0 does not equal joy, and that picnics and books and coconut milk chai teas do, and the baby that body has grown and birthed, and the cupcakes she's eaten and the broccoli she's cooked and the stairs she's climbed and the house she's built and the dirt she's tilled and the lawns she's mowed and the airport floors those hips have slept on and the wooden floors those bare feet have danced on and the crow's feet those eyes have earned and the pots of coffee she's chugged and the grey hairs coming in and the tired eyes who've not slept for two years and the cracked heels and the stubbed toes and the despair and the delight and all of it right there in that body

right there!

resilient as fuck

and

selfie, my ass.

There is no-self. (Haven't you heard?) Anatta, no-self, that idea that we exist only in relationship, that our notions of permanent selves are ever in co-creation, ever fluid. It's a Buddhist thing. But it's also process theology, and ecofeminist theology, and yoga.

And as soon as you drop the notion that you are this particular form, life gets so much easier. Once you were an infant. Now, you're not. Once you were a kindergartener in a duck tutu and tap shoes. Now, you're not. Some day, if you're lucky, you'll be elderly. Now, you're not. Follow me?

I always give a private nod to this reminder at the end of every class. Right as folks are rolling back up into their seats for the final OM, I lead them through one last oh-so-simple head circle, rolling their heads first slowly to the right, and then reversing, circling to the left.

I do it for me, selfishly, that one day if the only yoga-asana my body can manage to do is a simple neck roll, I might remember that it's holy, and it's real, and good, and life-giving, and that I've been practicing for that moment all my life.

I do it for you, too, that even if you don't realize it, you might one day give yourself the same grace, if your body will no longer let you stand on your hands or fly into Hanumanasana.

You are not "you." You are not your selfies. You are not your twists or your arm balances or your vertical splits. You are just this moment. This Sunday-afternoon squeezed-in selfie before the iPhone fell to the floor and the kid woke up and the husband got home and the light changed.

Isn't that a relief?


Thursday, April 7, 2016

New Article: 7 Tips For Teaching A Kick-Ass Vinyasa Class



I wrote this new piece for Yoga International, published today. I've long respected their work, and am thrilled to contribute to this thoughtful, intelligent magazine.

Pretty much my personal teaching philosophy, right here.

A little preview:
Let’s be honest: there are tons of vinyasa classes out there these days.

What can you do to ensure yours is terrific? What are the essentials for designing a really solid class, beyond the basics (like safe sequencing, cueing the breath, and making sure no one passes out)? And how can you make your class the kind of can’t-miss experience that keeps students coming back for more?

Here are seven keys:

1. Be yourself.


Don't get your "yoga-voice" on. I've taken classes from a number of rad, funny, cool yoga teacher friends who, once they step in front of a class, totally lose their personalities and become yoga automatons. Don't be afraid to be real—to speak in your normal tone, like you would in everyday conversation, and maybe even (gasp!) swear once or twice (if that’s normally how you’d talk). People are more relaxed in the presence of a confident leader, and your students will feel at home when you’re at ease. That said…

2. Don't talk too much. For real.


This is the feedback I hear most often from students who have negative class experiences. Have you ever taken a class where the teacher's so eager to fill all the silent spaces that they jabber the whole way through? Honor the introverted, meditative nature of the practice. Nonstop chatter makes it really tough to settle into a meditative flow, and it can be, quite frankly, invasive, unhelpful, and really annoying. So step back. Don't feel like you need to explain everything you've ever learned about a pose or a philosophical topic in the span of five breaths. Offer the basic instructions necessary, count out a few breaths as you go along, and then STFU. Your students will thank you.

3. Keep a nice rhythmic pace, as though you’re playing an instrument.


And I don't mean choreographing your routines to the Skrillex song playing in the background. Let your vinyasa pulse like a heartbeat.
There's much more. Read the whole thing here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

June 26th Yoga + Hiking Retreat



Yes, we're doing it again! 

I'll be back in Northern California the last weekend of June, and summer should be bustin' out all over. Looking forward to sharing another yoga + hiking retreat with you. It's a great chance to get a dose of sky, bust out an old-school vinyasa, luxuriate in a long meditation, and ramble together over sunburned conversation in the woods. 

So please do join us.  

What: Day-long Point Reyes Yoga + Hiking Retreat  

When: Sunday, June 26th, 12-5ish pm  

Where: Toby’s Feed Barn, located at 11250 California Hwy 1, Point Reyes Station, CA. (About an hour northwest of SF and Oakland.) Drive up anytime Sunday morning to enjoy Point Reyes Station. Make your way to YogaToes Studio (MC Yogi and Amanda Giacomini's home studio) between 12-12:15pm for check-in and brief hellos. We’ll share a full vinyasa + meditation practice, take a quick break to change and refuel, and then head out for a 2-3 hour hike in the wilds of Inverness and Point Reyes National Seashore.  

What To Bring: yoga mat, water bottle, solid hiking shoes, sunblock, rain gear (if it’s wet), and comfortable clothes. Wear layers, as temps can drop when the fog rolls in.  

Registration: $50 covers a 2-hr hike and a 2-hr yoga/meditation class. Link is below! (Studio space is limited to 35, so it will definitely fill up.)  

Questions: Email me at rachelmeyeryoga@gmail.com 


Registrations

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Are You Afraid To Sing OM?


are you afraid to sing OM?

don't be

please

OM is

the song of your breath
the hum of your heartbeat
the thrum of your lungs
the whistle of the wind in your ears
the scurry of the squirrel in the tree across the street
the golfer whacking the ball out on the green
the garbage man dumping beer bottles with a CRASH
the timer on the oven telling you the fries are done

it's Kanye and Kim (ok, North and Saint, too)
it's Woody and Buzz (you've got a friend, you do)
it's Bernie and Donald (yes, even Ted and Hillary, too)

the familiar hush of your mother's voice
the low rumble of your father's lullaby
the lilt of your son's sing-song toddler voice
the holler of his wails when you stop him from coloring on the walls
the ache of your muscles aging
the groan of your bones heaving
the creak of your hips and the wrinkle of your eyes
the realizing
you are your mother now, too, and she, hers

It's OM
the vinyasa that is your life
the dance that is birth + death

not something to be afraid of
your voice especially
even though you think you're not a singer, i know
and that one time in 3rd grade they told you to lip-sync the words
so you didn't ruin the song

and you haven't sung since

but
f*ck that

because

OM is you
your quiet breath when you're alone and still and realize
this won't always be

so you sing
OMMMM
and

in spite of yourself
the harmonies delight

Saturday, March 26, 2016

#BirdieSanders



I can't stop thinking about the #BirdieSanders thing yesterday. It was totally yoga.

Did you see how light and open everybody got when it happened? Not to mention Bernie's childlike, wise response: super-present, just smiling quietly, watching, appreciating. It was like everybody in that huge dome just dropped their masks and let go.

And it was spontaneous. Unplanned. A rare uncrafted moment in a political world shellacked with premeditated words and catch-phrases and selves. The present moment flitted in. Literally. And it took everyone off guard.

Feels so good to have a dose of levity inserted into the hatred and malevolence and fear that have characterized this election. Thanks, little finch. You brought a world of good, just by doing your thang.

#FeelTheBern