Friday, December 27, 2013

Anne Lamott On Why You Shouldn't Start a New Year's Diet

Anne Lamott just posted this totally reasonable anti-New Year's diet rant on FB. It's blowing up, for reasons which will become obvious as soon as you read it.

Love this woman and her so-real voice. Love that she lives right down the street from us here in Marin. And love her commitment to wearing forgiving pants.

We need to talk. 
I know you are planning to start a diet next Wednesday. I used to start diets, too. I hated to mention this to my then-therapist. She would say cheerfully, "Oh, that's great, honey. How much weight are you hoping to gain?" 
I got rid of her sorry ass. No one talks to ME that way.  
Well, okay, maybe it was ten years later, after she had helped lead me back home, to myself, to radical self-care, gentle Self-Talk, to a jungly glade that had always existed deep inside me, but that I'd avoided by achieving, dieting, people-pleasing, multi-talking, and so on.

Now when I decide to go on a diet, I say it to myself: "Great, honey. How much are you hoping to gain?"

I was able to successfully put on weight on book tour by eating room service meals in a gobbly trance in 13 different hotels. So that was exhilarating, to make myself feel like Jabba the Hut.

And then I accidentally forgot to starve myself in December, or to go back to the gym, which I've been meaning to do since I had a child, 24 years ago.

So I am at least five pounds up — but praise be to God, I do not currently have a scale, because as I've said before, getting on a scale is like asking Dick Cheney to give you a sense of your own self-worth.

I can still get my jeans on, for one reason: I wear forgiving pants. The world is too hard as it is, without letting your pants have an opinion on how you are doing. I struggle with enough self-esteem issues without letting my jeans get in on the act.

By the same token, it feels great to be healthy. Some of you need to be under a doctor's care. None of you need to join Jenny Craig. It won't work. Some of you need to get outside and walk for half an hour a day. I do love walking, so that is not a problem for me, but I have a serious sickness with sugar: if I start eating it, I can't stop. It turns out I don't have an off switch, any more than I do with alcohol. Given a choice, I will eat candy corn and Raisinets until the cows come home--and then those cows will be tense, and bitter, because I will have gotten lipstick on the straps of their feed bags.

But you crave what you eat, so if I go for 3 or 4 days with no sugar, the craving is gone. That is not dieting. If you are allergic to peanuts, don't eat peanuts.

So please join me in not starting a diet January 1st.

It's really okay, though, to have (or pray for) an awakening around your body. It's okay to stop hitting the snooze button, and pay attention to what makes you feel great about yourself, one meal at a time. It's an inside job. If you are not okay with yourself at 185, you will not be okay at 150, or even 135. The self-respect and serenity you long for is not out there. It's within. I hate that. I resent that more than I can say. But it's true.

Maybe some of us will eat a bit less, and walk a bit more, and make sure to wear pants that do not hurt our thighs or our feelings. Drinking more water is the solution to almost all problems.

I'll leave you with this: I've helped some of the sturdier women at my church get healthy, by suggesting they prepare each meal as if they had asked our beloved pastor to lunch or dinner. They wouldn't say, "Here Pastor — let's eat standing up in the kitchen. This tube of Pringles is ALL for you." And then stand there gobbling from their own tubular container.

No, they'd get out pretty dishes, and arrange wonderful foods on the plates, and set one plate before Veronica at the table, filled with happiness, love, pride and connection. That's what we have longed for, our whole lives, and get to create, now, or on the 1st. Wow!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Noon Classes Are Back!

After six weeks away due to flooding and teacher training, Urban Flow's noon classes are BACK!!

Starting today, join me on Tuesdays/Thursdays (and my most-awesome colleague Andrea Maltzer on Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays), 12pm sharp. We've really missed you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November Newsletter

Here's all the latest November news, including Urban Flow's post-flood re-opening, next month's book club, and more.

You can sign up to receive all the regular monthly newsletters at the link.


Kirtan This Saturday, Nov. 23rd

We're having a kirtan this Saturday! And you should come.

Join me, Becca Sullivan, Pradeep Teotia, drummers and the Flying Yoga Community in a lively chant session (Kirtan!) on Saturday, November 23rd at 6:30. Pradeep's class will transition into Kirtan and there will be tea and light refreshments served to hold you over until dinner.

As Becca reminds us: "Chant is an ancient practice that connects us to ourselves, each other and to the universe. Chanting raises our emotional vibration and makes it easier to feel alive, peaceful, centered and happy. Especially following a demanding physical asana practice that balances the physical body (like Pradeep's Bhakti Vinyasa), chanting gives us an opportunity to go deep within ourselves to cultivate balance and happiness on the emotional and spiritual level. This will be a great opportunity to connect a bit more with the Flying Yoga community."

Students are encouraged to sign up early for Pradeep's class (from 4:30-6pm), as it is likely to be full to capacity. Family friendly. Suggested donation: $10

Further details and FB invitation here.

December Book Club: Fierce Medicine

Our December book club selection will be Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit, by Ana Forrest.

We'll meet on Monday, December 16th at 7pm at OMpower Cycling and Yoga.

Grab your copy now!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Bebe at 25 weeks.

He's reading a lot of Kafka and Sartre these days.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Whoosh. This nails it.

"Loving whatever God has handed you."

This is the teaching of the Buddha, cloaked in the language of my Presbyterian childhood. I've discovered the Christian term kenosis, meaning "to let go" or "to empty one's self." Kenosis is the emptying of one's own will ... It is active. It moves from the inside out — milk poured from the pitcher, honey from the pot.

I'm reminded of Buddhism's shunyata, or emptiness, that place of no-place from which all things arise and to which they return. Kenosis and shunyata. Both are empty of self, both embody that bathwater maxim: loving is about turning over, about letting go and giving away. And both connect me to the ceaseless flow between form and void, between everything and nothing. In this flow all things are possible.

— Martha Kay Nelson, "Everyday Deliverance" 

Reference also: The Heart Sutra. ("Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.")

Reference also: the prairie.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On Spinning Out

There's a one-hour hike a few minutes' drive from our home.

It's sun-dappled and abundant and lush and alternately warm and cold, in pockets. Locals know it, and, judging by the number of faces you see at the same time every morning, many make it part of their daily routine. You'll reliably run across a few over-eager dogs bounding ahead of their sweatshirt-clad owners as you haul your heavy pregnant ass up and down the hill.

It's optimally engineered (as if human engineering had anything to do with it): a strong up-slope on the approach, with a good 3 hills or so, all peaches-and-cream downhill for the second half of the hike. Just right.

We've been hiking it regularly all year. It's been a godsend since day one, but especially now, at 6+ months pregnant, when my yoga practice is a shadow of what it used to be. I managed to keep at my usual fake-Ashtanga home practice clip right up to about 15 weeks or so, but since then, there's too much belly in the way to make even Chaturanga or Up Dog feel safe, so it's more stretching than anything else.

My upper arms are getting soft and weak. Like an 18th-century Austen heroine's.

My heart and legs are stronger than ever, thankyouverymuch, Cardio Hike.

(You are not your body. Ain't that the truth. Talk about lessons in impermanence. All things coming and going. Including your backbends. Male yoga teachers: you have no idea. I mean, what it's like to do Utthita Parsvakonasana with a baby belly in the way. What it's like to waddle to the top of the mat like an elephant in attempted Sun Salutations. What it's like to develop your practice for 13 years and then just let. it. go.)

We walked this trail daily in the weeks before the wedding. Spent much of it planning, up and down, up and down, seating charts and ceremony details and housing arrangements and the like. It lent sanity, a blessed escape from our phones for even an hour.

The Mister hikes it early in the morning before work.  These days I'm tired more often, not sleeping so well at night, so by the time I finally roll out at 7:30, he's long gone.

So I hike it more often on my own during the weekdays. I've had more time of late, what with last month's unexpected flooding at Urban Flow and the resulting temporary cancellations of my usual Tuesday and Thursday noon classes there while we rebuild.

Strange unfamiliar space. I'm not used to this much unscheduled time, at least not since my years bartending, that is, which echoed with long luxurious days spent reading the NYT and drinking coffee. More recent years have been top-heavy with commitments, exhausting 17-class weeks, the exceedingly rare day off.

Every day, I lace up my hiking shoes and zip up my ever-tightening grey fleece vest, the thrift store one that says "Space Camp" on the left lapel, and haul my body up and down that hill. Usually to the accompaniment of an intelligent podcast, the kind of podcast that makes me feel smart and connected and curious and not awash in the increasingly-dummified tides of New Age yogaspeak taking over the yoga scene these days.

I listen to theologians and scientists and philosophers. Folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber and Matthieu Ricard and Alain de Botton. They remind me not to get dragged down by the disappointingly anti-critical-thinking bent in the ever-more-commodified yoga world. They remind me to stay hopeful and clever and, by and by, to keep questioning.

I need this.

They remind me, too, that just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I have to get lost in mommy-slop. That there's room for brains in creating a child. That I am not alone in wanting autonomy and connection and intellectual stimulation and emotional complexity and no further unprovoked comments from random baggage clerks at Whole Foods about how it "looks like I'm baking a bun in the oven."

(Since when do pregnant women's bodies become automatic public property?)

The baby is going to know this beloved hike by heart, before he even takes a single step on his own.

When I walk it and think of him, which is most often what I'm thinking of, I am so grateful to be creating life in a place that offers fresh air and stillness and quiet. Environment is everything. That plainsong hush, that freedom to roam, that friendly backdrop of nature is what I had as a kid, and more than anything else what I wish for him, too.

But one day, mid-hike, I realized that I had been walking enveloped by a destination-worthy nature preserve and not been there at all. I hadn't seen one goddamned tree, I hadn't smelled one lone pine, I hadn't heard one sparrow sing, so wrapped up had I been in the thinking and analyzing and wondering and planning. I was so absent in the remembered past and the imagined future that I couldn't even process one iota of the beauty that was surrounding me.

It's so easy for us (yes, I'm talking about you, too, and you know it applies) to get lost in THINKING: capital-T Thinking, the kind that feels urgent and imperative and definitively world-shaping. We grow up assuming that if we can just get all our mental ducks lined up, everything in life will always be under our control. There are so many Very Important Things to always be sorting out, you know? Work and insurance and maternity leave and child carseats and finances and cribs and cloth diapers and all of the assorted paraphernalia of birth and infancy. A girl could spend all day up in her head about this action, not to mention comparing her current life to the one a year ago, which featured considerably more cocktails, or the one that will surely appear a year from now, featuring considerably more bodily fluids.

Enough already. It had to stop. I'd make myself crazy spinning out on plans and analyses and mental murmurings. And barely have the space or presence to enjoy the marvelous real-time circus that is carrying a small beating heart just below my own.

So I picked up Eckhart Tolle's The Power Of Now. I sat down a week ago Monday morning, and left my phone in the other room, and ploughed through all 230 pages before noon. And boy, did it shift things. Boy, did it remind me that this moment is all there is. That there's such sadness in wishing away the present moment for the day I'll be able to do my regular strong athletic practice again or wistfully remembering the moment I could slam 2 vodka martinis before dinner or worrying how the heck I'll be ready to travel cross-country with a 6-week old infant in time for my sister's wedding next April. That in living perpetually in the past or the future we absolutely forgo what is present, what is true, what is real.

Life feels slower since then. More content. I drop thoughts like a hot coal in my hands, just dropping them, coming back over and over to this very moment.

Aspects of Tolle's book irritated me, for sure. All his claptrap philosophy about women being closer to enlightenment because they are part of Mother Earth's creative birthing energy, blah blah blah? Dude, take a gender studies class already and realize that that attitude is why we're raping the Earth and plundering the seas and why women's bodies have been shoved under steel-toe boots for centuries. Get rid of that shit. And all the gratuitous flowery talk of the "Unmanifested" and other randomly-capitalized words? Enough already. Be real. Cut the faux-spiritual crap.

But there were other parts that served. The wisdom and liberation of learning to watch the mind. The freedom that comes with realizing you are not your thoughts. The power of stepping away from addictive mental masturbation (I think always of Michael Stone's reminder that "Your life doesn't need you to think about it all the time") and trusting that all will be fine and the bills will get paid and the baby will get swaddled and the career will be salvaged.

There are a lot of things I'd like to say these days which feel too edgy, too sharp, too critical. I am tired of feeling vaguely muzzled by the yoga scene. I am tired of endemic spiritual bypassing. I am tired of the assumption that yoga teachers shouldn't have prickly opinions, should be always and ever generally lobotomized by bliss. I am tired of perky brand-new 21-year-old teachers sharing exhausted Rumi quotes and naively urging the unwashed, over-worked masses to "BE HAPPY!!!" I'm tired of selfies and Instagram and recipes for turmeric kale juice. I'm tired of all the Top 10 "How To Be Perfectly Enlightened" lists. I'm tired of the pressure to be a perfect yogini. I don't want to be a super-ninja yogini mama doing backflips days before birth and subsisting on celery juice and chia seeds. I want to eat cake and rest well and stop hustling. (I'm serious about that cake part.  Check out Flour Craft Bakery in San Anselmo for 100% gluten-free god-blessed baked-goods heaven.) I want to be home, be still, read thoughtful books, play piano, spend less time sending out newsletters or planning workshops.

I know this is for the large part very normal, seasonal, hormonal, physiological, to be expected.

Just don't take it personally when I put off making plans. It's not about you. (Unless you're Chip Wilson.)

It's just, well; I'd much rather be hiking. Not thinking. Not talking. Just being. Listening. Breathing.


See you on the trail. I'l be the one huffing and swearing under her breath.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.

There are gaping holes in everything. Life is a nice fresh batch of Swiss cheese. (Note to self: Savor the holes, too, like the spaces between musical notes.) 
                                 — Anne Lamott

Spent this cool foggy almost-Daylight-Savings-Time autumn morning finishing up Lamott's Some Assembly Required. Grateful for writers like her who dare to be at once spiritual and — gasp! — human. As I read her writing, I thought of my friend Andrea's reminder: "Don't get so spiritual that you lose your personality."


Friday, November 1, 2013

Last Night's Tunes

I had a few questions about last night's playlist. You can find all the details below. Class began with Garth Stevenson's "Flying," which isn't listed here.

Happy listening.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Embracing Your Ghosts

Headless horsemen and haunting and All Hallow's Eve everywhere you look this week, accentuated by the City's own seasonal cool and gloom.

Haunted by a few ghosts of your own these days?

Don't worry; we all are.

Maybe those apparitions look like remnants of the past that linger in your wakefulness; maybe they're the looming fear of what is to come; maybe they're the whimpering wisps of craving for that which will never be. However you want to look at them, these creeping, craving, lurking, never-satiated spirits love to wrap their long winding fingers around our hearts, breathing eerie, raspy voices into our thoughts, urging us on to dissatisfaction, destruction, turmoil, tumult, despair.

Fantastic Kripalu teacher Amy Weintraub has written a gorgeous piece on that classic Buddhist concept of the Hungry Ghost.  Here's a blurb:

For many years, when feelings of grief or humiliation or self-hatred overwhelmed me, I reached for the anesthetic at hand — sometimes food, sometimes alcohol, sometimes an addictive kind of love and sometimes, in the beginning, even yoga practice. Maybe you’ve identified your own numbing-out strategy, or maybe you haven’t, but most of us have struggled with these cravings. In fact, they’re so common that there is an ancient archetype associated with them — and it’s called the Hungry Ghost.

Who is this Hungry Ghost? Though I call her “she,” my own Hungry Ghost is androgynous and so ugly she’s lovable. She has an enormous and wrinkled head, and, unlike traditional representations, she has a great cavernous mouth into which I have poured various unhealthy substances in order not to feel. Yours, if you have one, may look different.

You may have seen a picture of the Buddhist Wheel of Life, a mandala that depicts the Six Realms of Existence, realms we cycle through endlessly, birth after birth. Beneath the Human, Animal and Hell Realms is the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. These creatures are withered, E.T.-like, with bloated bellies and necks too thin to eat or drink without feeling unbearable pain. Hungry Ghosts wander, insatiable, unable to nourish themselves. “The very attempts to satisfy themselves,” writes Buddhist psychiatrist Mark Epstein in Thoughts Without a Thinker, “cause more pain….Attempts at gratification only yield a more intense hunger and craving. The Hungry Ghosts must come in contact with the ghostlike nature of their own longings.” They must understand their own emptiness. Remarkably, the Boddhisattva of Compassion appears in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, “carrying a bowl filled with objects symbolic of spiritual nourishment,” says Epstein. It is only when we embrace the Hungry Ghost with compassion that we feed its starving spirit....

I've long loved this notion, inherent as it was in my old academic work on desire, culture and consumerism; that image of the ever-craving empty-bellied ghost dances over and under so many of our most complicated religious and cultural concepts. Take a few minutes between Halloween parties to sit with Weintraub's beautiful writing, and in so doing, to come home with great compassion to your own Hungry Ghosts, to be gentle with them, to find peace and perhaps a glimpse of santosha in the midst of your all-too-human hauntings.

What is it that you crave? What is it that you grasp for? What is that one thing that you think to yourself: "Oh, man, if I could just get [rich] or [skinny] or [the perfect job] or [the perfect partner] or [that new gadget] or [fill-in-the-blank], then everything'd be absolutely friggin' PERFECT, and I could finally be happy and complete and my parents would actually be proud of me and those high school bullies who were so mean to me would finally, totally feel like the jackasses they were?"


As Weintraub points out, the archetype of the Hungry Ghost comes to us in many forms, across many cultures: as the Fallen Angel, as La Llorona, as the Sanskrit Preta. This universal naming of the pain and pleasure of Desire strikes me as somehow so heartening, reminding us that we're all in this together, craving and dissatisfaction and all, and that the practice of saying "It is enough" is in fact a shared challenge, a major victory, a super-sweet daily aim. Can you be brave enough to glimpse your own Hungry Ghost in the mirror, and, rather than running away from her, or numbing her out, or shutting her down, give her a loving nod, maybe a wink, maybe a curious tilt of the head, seeing her for what she is, and thanking her for the inadvertent teaching she's wrought in your life? It's a worthy practice, this sitting with ghosts, on an otherwise deep dark dank Halloween week.

So get your ghost on already. Give her a fond squeeze. And then let her go.

Compassionate Practice: Embracing the Hungry Ghost (Yoga Chicago)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup

Always hated cooking. Unbearably tedious and domestic. Unless I had a cocktail in hand, and even then, meh.

Then I spent the afternoon chopping sweet potatoes and singing Ella & Louis duets to my unborn son. (He needs to learn.)

Might've changed my mind.

Thanks to my little sis for the original recipe. It's cooking now. Perfect for autumn (to be devoured with an agave-drizzled hunk of that leftover cornbread from the other night). And for lazy rookie chefs who like to have lots of leftovers so as to avoid further cooking.

Smells delish.

Spicy African Peanut Slow Cooker Soup
from Peas and Thank You

  • 1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 3/4 tsp. garam masala (I couldn't find any, so left it out this time around)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • Sweetener to taste (sugar or stevia)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1 14-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes, in juice
  • 1 14-ounce ounce can light coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup red lentils, drained and rinsed
Combine all ingredients in a crock-pot and set on high for about an hour, then switch to low for an additional 4-5 hours. If desired, garnish with chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts or sour cream.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Over It.

Ok, gotta say it: I'm so OVER all the yoga selfies.

As a teacher, I purposely don't post many pics of myself doing tricky yoga poses because I want to remind students that this yoga stuff is not about the physical form. The only selfies you'll see anytime soon will be me eating nachos and chocolate cake with my girl Andrea Maltzer.

Rogue yogis for the win.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Oh, hey! I'm pregnant.

If you've been to one of my classes in the last week, you've noticed that something's a little different.

Yes, that.

Oh, hey! I'm pregnant.


Today's National Coming Out Day, and I'll admit that in coming back to the studio this week, I've felt a definite sense of coming out of the closet. We've known about this Big! New! Project! for months, of course, but very deliberately kept the news to ourselves as long as possible. It felt sacred and sweet that way, you know? Like a little private treasure box of sorts.

We'd planned all along to keep Bebe quiet until after returning from our honeymoon, at which point I'd likely be sporting an excellent bump, and sure enough, by the time last Monday rolled around, there would be no more hiding things.

I'm a little over 5 months along. The little mister will arrive sometime late February/early March.

Did you catch that? It's a BOY.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, we've already glimpsed a few most-rad 3-D ultrasound images, and not only does he appear to have his dad's cute nose, but he's even smiling. By all accounts, he's a contented, strong, healthy little monkey, swimming around in there, forward-folds and lotus-legs all over the place, all fingers and toes and elbows and knees.

Little man is already a yoga ninja, wiggling up a storm first thing in the morning and late at night. I'm loving the fact that he's been able to hear us chanting for the past few weeks, now that his ears have developed.

(You realize you're all singing to him now, yes? That Guru Brahma chant has taken on a whole new meaning for me in these last several months. Talk about a teacher. Little man's kicking my butt with new lessons and humbling revelations. Like, for instance, oh hey, after 12 years of intense daily practices, no more twists or core or handstands or backbends. Say goodbye to mega-heated rooms, which don't feel so cozy when you've already got a hot-cross-bun in the oven. Even Warrior 1 feels strange and not-necessarily-healthy anymore. And I've been skipping Utkasana — with unbridled joy — since about June. And, feeling woozy? Sit down and listen, sister. Be still, rest, sleep, slow down, says Teach. I've never ceded my power — or my asana attachment — so willingly, or with such great love.)

We spent the summer months so full with work and wedding planning that we've been reserving our bebe reading for these slower, wet, dark, autumnal days, other than some big fatty tomes from the Point Reyes bookstore and a couple of week-by-week pregnancy podcasts that have alternately inspired me, comforted me, informed me, and made me want to chew my hand off in "mommy-culture" irritation. (More on that below. There are moments when I am convinced I am a dude in a woman's body. Except for, well, all the stuff.)

The Mister has been amazing about picking out some smart books for us, so I packed a few along for beach reading in Kauai. I dove headfirst into Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions (she the patron saint of keepin' it real), a stellar, hilarious, heart-rending memoir of her son's first year, while we were lounging around on the lanai. It made me laugh out loud. Touched me deeply. And inspired me to get with it on keeping a journal, even if no one ever sees it.

Needless to say, there are a zillion and one blog posts that could be written about this whole experience. Most of them have been written, and written very well, by other people. I've had a surprising inclination toward silence these last several months. People have said, "Wow, you'll have so much to write about!" and I've thought to myself: "Yes, sure, but not right now."

Right now wants listening and reading and paying attention, noticing, being in it, in the day-to-day. Without dropping into clich├ęs, there are a shit-ton of miraculous and mind-blowing things going down on the regular. Most of them are hard to capture without feeling like just one more Gushing Mommy Blogger.

I've never been a fan of "mommy culture."  In fact, I rather hope the little man decides to call me "Ma" like some Jersey Shore prolonged-adolescent ("Hey MA, didja do my laundry yet er what?! I need that leather shirt to wear tonight at the casino") rather than "Mommy," which still sounds toothless and suburban and waaaaaay too domesticated for my tastes.

So it's been with some cultural and intellectual reticence and a great sense of clarity that I've been steadfastly making my way into this new terrain. It helps wonderfully to have several badass, sexy, brilliant friends who also happen to be fantastic mothers, and who remind me in countless ways that mothering doesn't have to mean getting lost in pastels and diaper talk. After 20 weeks spent squeezing my gonzo prego-boobs into yoga tops that have finally just gotten too tight, yesterday I finally broke down and hit up the maternity motherlode. Bebe's growing wonderfully well, and I trust that he'll continue to thrive until I'm nice and round come late February. Which means I should have a few clothes that fit, eh, even though I'm still avoiding the scary stretch-waist mommy-jeans in favor of cute dresses and forgiving leggings.

We're wrapping up the Festival of the Goddess right now in the Hindu calendar, which feels particularly appropriate given all this. The women in my family are fertile as farm stock and we tend to have an easy time of this popping-babies-out thing, and I am ever-grateful for health and good food and strong genes. Nothing has made me appreciate that more than discovering the wonders and terrors of genetic counselors, blood tests, prenatal diagnostics and the like.

Little Man doesn't know what he's in for. He's got the absolute best, most thoughtful, most kind, most gentle, most beefy, most wise, most patient Dad out there, ready to coach him in baseball and teach him sweet-ass dance moves and patiently classify the entire Grateful Dead oeuvre with him.

And I myself am stoked for a little boy. I realized at some point that I studied gender and feminist theory all those years not necessarily because I really dug being a chick; it was, in actuality, because there were so many aspects of being female that I really hated, that felt messed-up and boring and creativity-stunting and life-denying. And that, under all of that, I was more of a dude than anything else. My best friends were men, and they laughed, and cracked dirty jokes, and lived well in their bodies, and didn't apologize for being human.

I wanted more of that in my own life, balanced out with the sweetness and spice and lacy socks and fluffy skirts and love poems and sappy music and all that other stuff that came easily with growing up as a girl in this culture for umpteen years.

I am looking forward to teaching this little mister what it means to be at once curious and strong and fierce and gentle and compassionate and intelligent and embodied and light and earnest and adventurous and faithful and laughing and spirited and loving.

There is a terrific amount of work ahead, and a mind-blowing array of gifts before us.

In the meantime: lots of cozy autumn evenings meant for sitting in front of the fire, wrapping my belly in a dusty blue cotton throw, eating more cookies than I've consumed in the last decade, and reading everything I possibly can about this business of birthing a living being.

Wish us luck.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Autumn 2013 Teaching Schedule

      Urban Flow
          1543 Mission St. (at S. Van Ness)
          Tues 12-1pm
          Thurs 12-1pm

      Flying Yoga
          4202 & 4308 Telegraph Ave
          Sun 1045am-1215pm (in the Annex)
          Tues 730-845pm
          Thurs 730-845pm

      OMpower Cycling & Yoga
          66 Townsend Street (at 1st)
          Tues 515-615pm

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Few Wedding Pics, and a Very Mellow Aloha from Hawaii

All married up.

One week since the big shebang. Sitting here in Kauai listening to the ocean roar just beyond the lanai, belly full of pineapple and coconut water, finally opening my laptop for the first time since before the wedding.

I set my email Out Of Office auto-reply way back on the 18th. It was arguably one of the most thrilling moments of the last few weeks, right up there with walking down the aisle or stepping off the plane to Lihue.

Nice to unplug.

The wedding weekend was perfect, really, in every way. Could not have asked for more. Wonderful families all in one place, weather that held, delicious food, great company. As I imagine many brides and grooms have experienced, the wedding evening itself was one big wild blur. What we would've given to have been able to streeeeeeetch it out a few hours longer so that we could've had much more one-on-one time with every single beautiful soul there.

Family was in town through Monday evening. We had time to take the Wisconsin babies to the beach for their first dose of the Pacific, relished a final dinner together, and hurriedly packed for Hawaii. Woke at 3am Tuesday to head to OAK, made it painlessly (and yes, sleeplessly) to Lihue, and found ourselves in lush island paradise.

Robb's been here 5 or 6 times and knows some fab old friends on the island. It's my first time here, though, so I'm seeing it all with new eyes. We have a quiet house all to ourselves. Yoga mats laid out perpetually on the lanai. Private, no prying neighbors, Vitamix on the counter ready to rock.

It's hot, here; tropical, yes. Hard to motivate to do much of anything during the languid afternoon hours beyond sprawling around and listening to the breeze. I'm learning to appreciate the wonder of iced peppermint tea. Well, of anything iced.

We are enjoying disappearing.

Days start with a walk or a swim in the Ke'e Beach lagoon under the shadow of the Na'Pali Coast. Then, yoga on the lanai. Then, eating and drinking ourselves silly. We're fat, well-rested, and happy. Watching football, eating farmers market pineapple and mango like it's going out of style, and sleeping enough to make up for all the short nights in the last few months.

A few pics are below. All credit goes to the most-amazing Paige Green Photography for capturing the evening in the most magical, realistic, breathtaking of ways. We adore you, Paige! Thank you for giving us the great gift of so many sweet memories. We can't stop looking through the photos and reliving each moment.

Love from Kauai.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


A perfectly perfect weekend.

More to come.

Here's a sneak peek.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The most precious wedding gift I could ever receive.

Saturday is our wedding day.

College friends have already arrived from the East Coast, my siblings (who haven't been all together in 4 years or so, I'm guessing?) are on a plane as I write, the wedding bulletins are folded, placecards are addressed, and final details are coming together with surprising ease and grace.

I guess making those 72 obsessive-compulsive lists paid off in the end.

I taught my final class last night. Not back in the studio again for three weeks. (Feels strange!) We had time to hike and practice yoga together today. And the weather's clocking in at a dreamy sunny and 82.

What can I say? Already this week feels like a gift.

Gotta tell you, though; we received something that trumps all of that a few days ago.  Sunday afternoon I came home from teaching to find an email from my cousin John in Nebraska.

My father had performed John and his now-wife Nici's wedding 10 years ago in August of 2003. He had spent the previous year undergoing chemo, radiation, and drastic surgery for esophageal cancer. Having gone into remission that summer, he was back in the saddle behind the pulpit, although still weak and somewhat a shadow of himself. I picked up where I'd left off the autumn before and made plans to follow through with my original notion of moving to San Francisco to go to graduate school. John and Nici's wedding service was literally one day before I packed up my old red Ford Festiva with everything I owned and drove out on I-80 to live in a 1910 flat on Lower Nob Hill, sight unseen.

When we knew the end was near, about 3 weeks before my dad died, I flew out to Nebraska for a quick weekend in early April 2005 to say goodbye. We sat and talked there by his hospital bed in the living room, recording the conversation on an old tape deck (though I've never yet had the strength to listen to it in the years since).

At one point, he asked me, in his frail voice: "Rach, do you think you'll really never get married?"

And I proceeded to outline all the firm reasons I didn't believe in marriage and why it was a hopelessly-failed institution and oppressive and rooted in the exchange of property and blah blah blah.

And he raised his head, straining every muscle in his skinny little neck, and looked at me with clear blue eyes blazing out from under his heavy tired eyelids, and he said: "Yes. Sometimes it SUCKS."

"But it's an adventure. And I'd hate for you to miss out on that."

I think he would be very proud today to be prepping a wedding sermon for his bossy, fiercely-independent, feminist daughter. 

As a wedding gift for the Mister and me, John had painstakingly transferred the 10-year-old 8mm tape to a VCR and then to digital format, finally uploading it on YouTube. I followed the link he sent, and there, in front of me, these 10 years later, unfolded a video of my father offering a wedding homily to John and Nici — likely the same words he would have spoken at my wedding this weekend, were he still alive.

There is so much joy involved in a ritual like a wedding.  I feel it overflowing even now, before most folks have even arrived. Robb and I are crying like little girls every time we receive a sweet unexpected card bearing good wishes or open a package sent with so much love. And don't even get me started on the waterworks that come with reading through the ceremony liturgy.

But, with sacred ceremonies like this one, when you've lost a parent, there is also a great deal of bittersweetness that simply can't be brushed under the carpet. As a kid, you never expect that your parents won't be present for something like your wedding. Growing up, we always pictured our Lutheran-preacher father standing at the front of the church blessing our marriages and baptizing our babies. The sorrow of that absence is one that any child of loss will feel, even on such a joyful day as this.

So John's offering us this most precious gift — the first glimpse of my father in action, familiar hand gestures and vocal inflections and all, in the 8 1/2 years since he passed — was perhaps the most incredible treasure I might ever receive. Robb and I sat on the sofa and watched my father offer his wedding advice, and it was the first time in all these years that he's ever "met" my dad. Talk about a sacred blessing. Talk about a welling-up of joy and gratitude. No registry, no fancy wrap, and no expense necessary.

We'll be singing a hymn at the wedding that we sang at his funeral. The same song that was sung at our baptisms, my sister's marriage, and her children's baptisms. Shiva's cycles of life, that cosmic dance of creation-preservation-destruction, moving full-circle.

Thank you, John, for your thoughtfulness. My wedding felt "made" already way back on Sunday.  You could have given us no greater gift.

Meet my Dad.

Friday, September 6, 2013

She reappears.

Good morning, y'all.  Happy Friday, happy September, happy back-to-school, happy football season (yessss!), happy Rosh Hashanah, you know, all of it.

Here we are.

Forgive the absence. Silence on the blog front for a good month or so.

I'm two weeks out from a wedding (mine), and on top of all of the to-do list rigamarole associated with that celebratory endeavor, have been simultaneously absorbed in a couple of other Big! New! Top-Secret! projects. Said sayonara to a couple of dear friends who've moved to Seattle in the last week, taught a yoga class for hotel workers in SF (which was rad, indeed), hiked up and down a beautiful forested hill a million times and back, and sat in a lot of traffic while the Bay Bridge was closed. Hence, no computer time, no blog love. Sorry, kids. I've missed you and stared at Raw Rach longingly in all of those moments when instead I had to turn to the wedding RSVP spreadsheet or wrangle family members' travel schedules or buy fancy-lady dress-up undergarments or hustle up some candles or find a high chair for my niece or sit down to knock out who's sitting where at what table that won't turn out awkward or unfamiliar.

You know.

Anyway, I'm here now (hooray), and it's a beautiful dawn breaking here in West Marin, and I have just a couple of minutes before I head out to teach Gentle Yoga over at YogaToes in Point Reyes. So thought I'd toss out a few little bits and barbs before rolling out the door.

Opera In The Park is this Sunday, September 8th at Sharon Meadow. This is one of my favorite annual rituals. Never disappoints, always thrills. Go! Really. You must.

Jon Stewart is back at The Daily Show as of earlier this week. Am I the only one who's underwhelmed by his return? And missing John Oliver's sweet, Brit-nerdy lack of pretense?

We watched Django Unchained the other night. Have you seen it? Violent, yes. But I kind of loved it. Tarantino knows what he's doing.

My colleague Andrea is teaching a stellar workshop for women at the end of the month at Urban Flow. She flirted with calling it "Menopausana" before settling on "Flash Dance!". You get the drift. It's going to be fantastic. Saturday, September 28th. You should most definitely go.

I've got a new article out in the latest issue of Common Ground. Their September issue is always yoga-focused, and this year's doesn't disappoint. Cover at left, story below.

And just in case you're the type who plans ahead — I've got just a few more classes left in September before I head out for a couple of weeks getting hitched and whatnot. I'll be teaching my regular schedule through Tuesday, September 17th and then whisking away to an undisclosed location for a little bit, where I plan to do nothing involving planning, spreadsheets, or lists. Back in the studio Tuesday, October 8th. Fabulous subs lined up for you in the meanwhile.

Finally, in amazing it's-almost-fall news, honeycrisp apples are back on grocery shelves. God bless America. There is indeed beauty and meaning in the world.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On Women, Weight, and Why You Should Stop Talkin' Smack

Ladies: can we make a deal, please? No more talking about what we "shouldn't" be eating. Period. It's not cool and it's not empowering. Eat what makes you feel good. As much as you need. The rest will sort itself out. Your body knows what's up, yo!

Maybe that means beans and guacamole every day. Maybe that means apple pie for breakfast. Maybe that means uber-vegan. (For me, right now, that's what makes me feel good. Maybe not for you. All good.) Maybe that means tons of meat and greens. Maybe that means a donut every morning.

Whatever the case: stop it with the shackles already. Especially if you are a grown-up woman who considers herself autonomous, intelligent, and self-possessed.

In case you missed Gender Studies 101, eating is a primary battlefield upon which many of the greater dynamics of our lives are played out. When you're a 20- or 30- or 60-something woman whose primary energetic focus is still how many calories a day get consumed and what number the scale shows, that means most of your prana, your life force, is getting misdirected to a silly irrelevant cultural construct, a malleable pop culture standard, a farce.

Cut the crap (not the carbs). Choose to shift your attention and your energy. I personally (and consciously) don't choose to hang out with women who spend lots of precious breath talking about weight loss and calories and diets and all of that junk. I've got too many other big things to do and big places to go and big thoughts to think: What is God? What's the meaning of life, of my life, of yours? What did I do with that old copy of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance? And how can I make a delish buttery gluten-free blackberry cobbler out of those berries from the bush up the hill?

Seriously, women. The best thing you can do for yourselves and your relationships and your art and your spirit is to chuck the negative food self-talk. Eat whatever the hell you want. Ironically, what I've discovered is, over time, when you feel completely allowed to eat anything you need to, you usually stop wanting the fast-food and processed Kit-Kats and junky-sugary stuff that isn't exactly life-giving. Once you practice — and yes, sometimes we're talking years of practicing — eating everything, you realize that greens are delicious and beans are amazing and hummus feels so much better than ice cream and a bigass salad leaves you feeling a million times richer than a huge box of cinnamon rolls.

It's all practice. It's never good, never bad. We employ that non-judgmental language of meditation (not good, not bad) to something like food, and it just becomes one more vast sweet lovingly-curious experiment in what our bodies want and need most, in what it feels like to be truly healthy and nourished and energized and well-fed. And the most empowering thing you can do is to learn to be tender with your body, to rest in compassion, to learn to give it exactly what it needs instead of punishing it or resisting it or making it do with less than it should.

(Who ever said there's power in shrinking? And why did you believe him?)

Weight, body shapes, numbers on scales and the values we attribute to them are absolutely culturally relative. Nourishment is what allows you to lead an expansive and fearless and wild and creative and passionate life. So chuck the restrictive language already. The best gift we can give the little girls in our lives is to never, ever, ever talk about what we "should" or "shouldn't" eat. Own your choices. Own your health. Let yourself be big. Let yourself be expansive. Let yourself take up space.

This life is short. We don't know how many days we get. Do you really want to spend them all counting calories?

How To Talk To Your Daughter About Her Body (HuffPost)

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don't talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don't say anything if she's lost weight. Don't say anything if she's gained weight.
If you think your daughter's body looks amazing, don't say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
"You look so healthy!" is a great one.
Or how about, "You're looking so strong."
"I can see how happy you are -- you're glowing."
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.
Don't comment on other women's bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.
Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.
Don't you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don't go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don't say, "I'm not eating carbs right now." Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because there is nowhere better to explore your spirituality than the peak of the universe. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that's a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you'll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn't absolutely in love with.
Prove to your daughter that women don't need men to move their furniture.
Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.
Pass on your own mom's recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It's easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don't. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.
Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.
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