Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's a Busy Night for Yoga

Tuesday is a busy night for yoga. It might be a busy night for anything because a lot of people can do stuff on Tuesdays. It's rarely a holiday, unlike Monday and Friday often are, and people are up for doing things. One of the things people like to do is come out to a yoga class.

Most people at Rama Lotus, where I teach, like to do hot yoga in the Hot Room. I don't teach Hot Yoga for a variety of reasons but sometimes on a Tuesday night lately, I wind up with some of the hot yoga students because that class is full and they still want to do yoga so they come to my class. When the hot people end up with the Beginners in my class, it's a bit of a culture clash. Tonight there were a couple of guys with no shirts on, for instance. They wanted to be in the hot class. It turns out with that many people in it, my class gets hot enough for people to sweat and it's not too cold to have few clothes on. It's just funny. A contrast to what I'm used to being with.

And it's nice. When I get a bunch of new people in the class I get to say my old jokes with some fresh energy, for instance. I get to hear how my instructions land for people who are new. I get the privilege of being peoples' first yoga teacher sometimes. And that's a treat.

Monday, September 28, 2009

3 Simple Exercises for Your Back

Finally. A blog post with exercises.

These are the three most recommended exercises I give to people who complain of back pain. If it's not clear, come to see me in class tomorrow or maybe I'll make a DVD with three things on it. Here are the things:

Gluteal Rolling. Roll around on your bum. On the meaty parts. Go one direction on one side. Go the other direction on the same side. Turn the other cheek, heh. Do it both directions on the other side. Come to class to have me tell you the benefits. They go something like, "lots of tension is stored in those big muscles. Lots of muscles meet there, so this is good for your back and your knees." There are loads more. Ask me if you want to know.

Next thing. Stretch along a shelf or table. Reach out with your arms and have your hands flat. Press your right hip out, hold for three breaths. Do it on the left side. Same thing. Go back and forth a few times. This is to stretch the fascia, not the muscles. On a scale of 1-10, do it from 3-5. It's not a big stretch.

Third thing. Stand with your hands flat on the shelf or table. Have your right foot forward and left foot back. Find the hamstrings on your right leg. Hold for three breaths. Switch legs. Same thing with the left leg. Like Runner's Stretch.

No pictures. Just try it. Or come and see me. Or ask for pictures and I'll see what I can come up with. And keep moving. Being still doesn't help!

Friday, September 25, 2009


I am definitely not an expert on prayers by any means. I just had some observations about stuff I've experienced that I thought I could share given that I'm in the middle of my Prayer Project. It's totally still on and if you want me to pray (wish, intend, hope, affirm, suggest, whatever, call it pray) for you, please be specific about what it is you want so I can focus. Maybe when I get better I'll be able to do a general "all good" type of thing and I am sort of doing that now, but having a little direction would be good.

Early on with my prayer "buddy" what I noticed was that the prayer (good wish, thought, whatever) could be sent at any time to me (because at that time it was being given to me) and I would receive it when I was open to receiving it. The idea at one point was that we'd be both doing it at the same time. A part of me was afraid that if I missed the time, I'd miss the prayer and wouldn't get it at all. But what I experienced was that I could receive the prayer when I was open to receiving it. It's like it was waiting in its full potency for me to receive it. It was above my head, in my space, whatever, until I could take it in. It's like it transcended time and space. And I could feel something when it arrived.

And then I realized that it could be reviewed and it didn't go away. Like an email. It comes in when it comes in. Now, a phone call is different and I guess being aware and praying at the same time would be more like a phone call, but if you miss the call, it's like a voicemail message. You get the message. And you can replay it. Or like an email. It's in your inbox, you can read it when you like, when you have time, and then it's there and you can reread it. And even if you delete it, it's still there someplace. It's recoverable. So all of the prayers or good wishes that have ever been sent to you are retrievable, recoverable, they're there. You can get them again. They're stored on your server.

So those are my early stage observations. And again, what I've found is that it is so good to give the good wishes, but I did totally experience the benefits of being on the receiving end of them, too. I totally felt it. And as I mentioned yesterday, I get woken up by them. I've tried to sleep in past 6:00, past the time I said I'd get up and do my prayers for you people and something wakes me up and prods me into doing it. I've got a list now and I'm keeping it with me so I can remember who and what I'm working on. I still have room for more, so don't be shy. Feel free to ask for what you want!

(And for those skeptics out there, me too. I'm also one. I'm trying this out. And I have to say, it's something worth trying out. So if you have something and you want some extra energy directed towards it and you think every little bit helps, I'll do a little bit!)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Birthdays are Fun

So thanks, I did have a good day.

I tried to behave a little more like a 10-year old about it and less like a 43-year old about it and that worked out. I felt light and good and special.

I got lots of birthday wishes sent to me - mainly Facebook and emails, but a few calls and even two cards in the mail! Funny how things have changed. The Facebook cascade of wishes was lovely and reminded me a lot of something we used to do when I lived at Kripalu - a prayer circle where we'd put the person in the middle, they'd lie down and we'd sit around them and popcorn different things we loved or appreciated about them. Then we'd do a continuous om and that was it. Short and sweet. The Facebook thing is the closest I've felt to that lovely little ritual.

Hans made a fantastic cake even though I wasn't so enthusiastic about it when he was gathering information during the week (read yesterday). And it was delicious. And it was big. And thankfully, most of it is gone. Remi didn't like it. Didn't appreciate the kirsch in the layers. So she's made a request to have just the top part of the cake for her birthday next week!

So my day is just about up. My prayer project continues and the wishes pour in slowly. Let me know if you'd like me to pray for you and if so, what I'm to pray about. I don't know if it helps, but surely it can't hurt. This morning I sort of slept in during the time I was going to get up and I felt nudged to get up and do it. So maybe some of you are up at 6 and you're participating but you haven't told me. Who knows. It's been fun focusing my attention and noticing what distracts me and what can keep me in the zone and focused.

I feel full of love and I'm glad this day was a good one. Thanks for being a part of it. It makes a difference.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's My Birthday Tomorrow

I got an email recently that I think was attributed to George Carlin and I don't know if it was his stuff or not but the email asked me to forward to everyone I knew so I was thinking maybe he wasn't the originator, but anyways, it was about birthdays. And about how when we're young we are so excited about our birthday coming up and we count it in fractions. The we get older and we aren't so excited about it and then we get really old and we get excited and we count in fractions again.

My daughter's birthday is a week after mine. She has had her birthday planned for weeks. The guest list went out, I've booked the party space and the loot bags were ordered, and it's a happening. And then there's my birthday tomorrow. My mother asked me a week ago what I wanted for my birthday, but by now she's trained. I don't want anything, I'm not doing anything, it's not a big deal. And my friend Hans asked me days ago what kind of cake I wanted because he wanted to make me a cake for my birthday (he's a chef). I was almost mad at him. Did I want mousse cake or a flan or what did I want? "Cake. Cake is good. Okay if you're going to make me choose, how about something with layers and include chocolate? Writing on the top, jeez." He got right into it and apparently it's going to be Black Forest and it's beginning to be marinated in the morning, oh, and it's going to be big and I'm going to need to have people help me to eat it so I'd better call some people.

So while I was at the Children's Hospital today teaching yoga, I was aware that I was in the over-40 frame of mind but I was in the presence of the under-20s and that to them, for me to withhold that it was my birthday tomorrow would basically be rude, so I said, "tomorrow's my birthday." They were all audibly excited and one of the girls asked if was staying later to teach another class so she could make me a card. I tear up again just typing that. They were so happy and excited for me. Tomorrow's my birthday! Wow!

I picked my daughter up at school and she had something close to her chest. She said it was her homework and then presented me with a big card that said "Happy 43rd Birthday Mommy!" I loved the gesture, but it still looked to me like it was for someone else. "Surely that card from this lovely girl was not for me, because I'm hardly someone's mother let alone someone who's turning 43 years old!"

I'm not against growing older or even being 43. I don't dye my hair, I'm all about the natural process of things and still, 43 feels weird. 42 was at least the answer to life, the universe, and everything. But 43? What in the world is 43? Torsten mentioned that some driver's number is 43 in answer to my question. I'm still wondering, "what in the world is 43? Is it even a number?" And I got another message tonight, "43 may feel like nothing but it's something. Think back on everything you learned this past year. A lot. Not pleasant, a lot of it, I know. But, man, Really good." That struck me. I'm so me at this point in my life. I'm almost completely myself. I feel some of the constraints I'm in, but I'm really very close to me. And that makes it something.

So I celebrate tomorrow. Or as my good friend who thought today was my birthday saved the call, tonight's my Birthday Eve, we'll do it in the Jewish way. Whoopie! It's my birthday tomorrow! Yay! I'm going to be 43! Whoohoo!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Yoga in French

Today I led my first ever class in French. I agreed to teach it a while ago and have practised a little bit by increasing my vocabulary of body parts. I didn't know chin and wrist, for instance. And I don't remember them now, but I did write them down, so when I go to teach the class again next week, I'll have those words available. I will.

It made me nervous to teach in French and in fact had me in a bit of a mood for days beforehand. What if I can't get the words out? What if they don't understand me? What if I'm a fraud and I really don't know any French and all those years of school French never amounted to anything?

It turns out it was a lot of fun. Part of what was fun too was that I didn't understand everything the guys were saying to me. They'd make a big joke and laugh their heads off and I smiled and they knew I didn't know that they'd just said. They could have been making fun of me. And I didn't care! (I don't think that's what they were doing.)

But it freed me up to try something challenging like that and I'm glad I did it. It made me want to practise some more and teach more classes in French. I'm doing it again next week for the same group of police. But who knows after that? And they were a bit resistant at the beginning, I'll be honest. I was so into being nervous myself that I didn't let their resistance bother me! And afterwards they were very receptive and told me how much they thought they weren't going to like it and how much they did.

One guy even asked me if I'd heard of PX90 and raved about how the moves we did today were a lot like what's in the PX90 videos! I think it's great if yoga gets into mainstream culture and then filters through. It's great! Here's a PX90 commercial so you know what he was talking about.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Posture Project

The Prayer Project continues, so if you want to join me, just read below and get in touch.

On another note, there's a Posture Project underway and today we made some progress. I still don't know how it's all going to go, but it has started to take shape and I can see that we'll actually have a finished product in a little while. Like maybe really soon. It's still in development and it's still just a baby thing, but it's a thing, and it's out of my head and it's in an iPhone Simulator at least.

You may remember a long time ago I said I wanted to make an app for my iPod Touch. More recently there was some movement towards it. It turns out it's really hard to do if you don't know what you're doing and less hard if you do know what you're doing. So I've teamed up with some people who know lots more than me about it, and voila. An app is born. Or will be. It's still gestating.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Prayer Project

I've begun something I'll call my "Prayer Project." If you knew me as Sunali, you may remember some years ago I did a "Puja Project." This is going to be similar but without ghee and flower petals and stuff. Maybe I'll reintroduce that but for now here's the deal.

At 6 am I'm praying if that's what you'd call it, I'm asking the universe, I'm making a wish, I'm directing good thoughts, I'm thinking or praying for lack of a better word, for whoever wants it. The thing I've chosen to do though is only do it for people who want it. And if you want it, tell me what it is that you want me to "intend" for you. I'm sure it probably "works" on people who don't want it, but I'm more into helping people who want help at this point rather than helping people who don't want help. For now.

It's an extension of the Metta Meditation I've done, which can be done on people you don't know - I've grown quite close to one of the cashiers at the Metro but I don't know that he knows that. So I don't want it to be weird, I want to see if it would be helpful. And really the person I expect it to be helpful for is me. So far in my Prayer Project, when I've been praying for someone else, it makes me feel really good. So in that respect, if I prayed for anyone whether they wanted it or not, it shouldn't make a difference. But it has made a difference and a bond gets created and there's a tenderness present that I'm enjoying being with. What I've been doing so far includes someone else intending, praying, whatever, for me at the same time, but I get the feeling that the back and forth isn't necessary, although it's very sweet. So I'm not asking you to pray for me but if you want to, tell me you're doing it and I'll know that at the time.

I realize this may be an "out there" kind of thing to let you know about, but it's what I'm up to right now and I'll see how it goes. You can contact me through here or the other many ways to reach me. I'm not psychic though, or as I mentioned earlier, I can't tell, so don't try and ESP me. Use email or Twitter or call me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Missing Filters

I notice that I'm missing some of my usual filters and I have to say it's fun on the one hand and it makes me feel a bit vulnerable on the other. I think it was at the clown workshop I took a week ago that really highlighted this aspect for me. In one of the exercises people were encouraged to say whatever came up, to say the things that aren't usually said, and it might be funny. I think it was while Scott was visiting in the last hours where we talked about it. About how you have to remove that filter and allow yourself to be fully self expressed. Holding back isn't funny or entertaining or inspiring. What inspires is expressed, is out there, is beyond the norm.

I've played with this over the years, especially with Gurubelle or with some of the yoga practices. Like yesterday, I saw a woman walking backwards down the street for a bit and then she'd walk forwards and trust me, she wasn't doing strength or agility training. And I was thinking, "that's the kind of thing you'd do in an ashram." Like just try something different to shake things up. Sleep with your head at the foot of your bed. Don't put sugar in your coffee if you're used to that (except you'd be drinking your coffee behind closed doors because it wasn't permitted). You know there are guys in India go for years with one arm up overhead. Sometimes the thing is to do things differently to mix the brain patterns and free things up, get obstacles out of the way, or at least bring them to light. And that can be inspiring or entertaining or both.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sometimes I'm Psychic

I don't really think I'm psychic. But I know that I can come across that way sometimes - it's just that it never occurs to me that it's happening. I just say what I say. And then people say what they say.

So today it came up during a class at the children's hospital, where I'm dealing with teenagers who are still technically children and don't worry, I don't forget it, that addictive behaviour includes lying. The kids I deal with are in the hospital, some of them in the psych ward basically, for disordered eating issues - bad enough that they're in the hospital for it. I just talk to them like I'd talk to anyone else normally and today we're talking and the next thing I know we're talking about lying and being an addict, which is kind of like what's going on with ED, but I'm not talking about that, I was talking about smoking and how I'd lie like crazy to my mom about it and I'd come up with plenty of excuses, and they were totally relating, and then it came up that I mentioned, "you'll know you're getting better when you can't lie anymore and you find yourself having to tell the truth." One girl was laughing and the other girl was just lying there on her mat because she was really new, and the other girl was saying, "nobody's perfect." I took that one and ran with it. "Of course nobody's perfect and anyone who says they are is a liar," is what I told them.

As it turns out, one of them had totally been lying earlier in the day about hiding food and the other one had confronted her about it, mentioning that her hiding food was a trigger for her - behaviour is a big deal in these tiny communities in the hospital. Wow. During my little break between classes I bumped into someone (one of the therapists) who told me that she had been concerned how yoga would go given that there had been this tension earlier in the day between two of them. It wasn't hard to tell who she was talking about. I told her that we'd had the conversation about being an addict, she laughed and said that it was great that I reinforced that when you get better you won't need to lie. "The truth is manageable" is what I told them (and you know I'm into that - that was not a hard thing for me to say) and I told her and the therapist laughed. She seemed really pleased that I would send that message without any prompting or divulging.

It was funny to have hit the nail so totally on the head. It's neat when that happens. Again, I have no idea when I've struck a chord (or nerve as the case may be) but when it happens it's magical.

When you are lying there's something going on and trust me, it's not alright. The need to tell the truth is a sign you're getting better - you can handle the truth and you trust that the others around you can handle it too. What a powerful way to live.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Aliveness shows up in a lot of ways. I like it when aliveness shows up as happy and joy and tingles and fun. But sometimes aliveness shows up as sad or worry or wondering or pain. It's just as alive! But the "negative" sensations are the ones we try to get rid of. We worry about them, making them bigger, when what we really want is that they just go away. And sometimes they do. But they always come back. We always get winter. It is never not winter here (yet).

One of my teachers used to say "breathe. It beats the alternative." And when strong sensations came up he'd say, "it beats the alternative," as though those strong sensations we wish to go away are part of the deal too. In Elizabeth Lesser's book Broken Open, she's got someone in there talking about her problems like they're her friends. They're there. Hey, the only people with no problems are dead people, right?

So allowing aliveness to be in its fullness means allowing the discomfort to be welcome just as the comfort is. That Serenity Prayer always seems to make sense to me - do what you can about the things that you can and leave the things alone you can't control and know the difference between them. So when stuff shows up, a mood comes over, some internal weather pattern moves in, just trust it will pass for one thing. It always does. And something else shows up and then it goes too.

In Mother Daughter yoga today I mentioned to everyone that at some point probably everyday, the body is uncomfortable. It just is. Our thinking that it's supposed to always be comfortable inside and that there's something wrong when we are uncomfortable isn't helpful. It makes things worse! (Of course you can also get some other opinions - don't ignore sensations - check them out and get things looked at that need to be looked at!) Once you've done what you can to be comfortable and you're still uncomfortable, just breathe and consider those are signs of life. You're alive. It's part of the deal to be uncomfortable some of the time.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I'm big on this. You probably already know that about me. I don't have much to hide. I'm open. What you see is what you get pretty much. Some people I know are uncomfortable with that - it turns out the people I know for sure who are uncomfortable with that are people who do a lot of hiding and lying. Okay person. Nevermind.

It can be uncomfortable to say one thing and have that ring out in space. Other people may hear what you have to say. So if you like to say one thing to one person and something else to a different person (sometimes known as talking out of both sides of your mouth) you may not be comfortable standing by what you've done or said or having what you say be public. That doesn't mean you have to go around saying everything you've got going either. Filters are useful!

I sometimes like to say what's on my mind and when that changes, I'm happy to update. I think it's great that we share ideas and opinions and clips and songs and pictures. During the teacher training something came up about when to play mantras. It was suggested that maybe we don't play mantras doing certain things (supposedly unconscious things that perhaps happen at parties ha!). My point is if you can't play mantras doing what you're doing because it's not worthy of the mantra, why are you doing it at all?

Just this moment's thoughts...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yoga DVDs

Something I've been thinking would be fun to do is have a class where what we do is do a yoga DVD or CD together and then talk about it - what we liked, what we didn't like. We'd have a practice and a chance to chat about it afterwards. I think it would be open to intermediate students as well as people who've done a yoga teacher training. It would give people exposure to other styles, it would be fun to hear something different, and for some people who are interested in buying a DVD for home, it would give them a chance to do it in a group and see if it's something they'd like.

I'd go to that class. I'd lead that class! So today while I was doing Ray Crist's Vigorous Flow, Yoga Breath at home, I was imagining myself in the Crystal Room or Sky Room at Rama Lotus with other people. And I saw myself on my mat doing the poses with everyone else and then leading a question and answer about it.

Hmm. Would you come?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Clown Pose

So this weekend I've been in a Clown Workshop ;) Yep. I'm taking Clown. Don't ask, it just came up and seemed like a good thing to do at the time. It still is! However! We'll go from being sitting on a cold floor to all of a sudden running around in barefeet pretending to be riding horses in a ring. (It sounds weird as I read what I'm typing, but trust me, it seemed right in the context.) And we'll start jumping around and then go sit down for an hour and back and forth. I should have stretched first.

There's a place for yoga in Clown. At least in Clown Classes. We could do some asanas first and maybe a few after! Imagine a savasana after all that clowning around? Heaven.

Clown Pose itself has been interesting. It's a pose that requires being present and connected to the surroundings while having an intention and I would say a commitment, although we haven't talked about that. The pose, whatever it is, is the form and the being present inside of it gets us to have whatever vibration that pose is, that prana diagram, that experience, and there's freedom in that. That's exactly where it is, in fact.

So I'm learning Clown Pose. It's got a big stretch to it for me. Lots of sensations to breathe into!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Books on a Shelf

I heard once that most people don't read the books they buy. I must have been really young when I heard that because I could hardly believe it. How could you buy a book and not read it, I wondered. Hmm. So I've got more than a few books on my shelf that I have not read. To be fair, a lot of them were gifts, so it wasn't like I went out and got the book on purpose to read. But some of them I did buy thinking it would be great to read them, and then, as you can tell, I just didn't get past the first few pages.

So today I picked up a book I actually bought with a full intention of reading straight away. It came recommended to me and I have had it for a year and have not read it thoroughly until now, and that is Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff. I remember buying it at Omega on Steve Weiss' recommendation. He said it was a good anatomy book and he should know because he's really good at anatomy and yoga! I even saw this book on sale at Costco a few months ago for $12 or something. (And I figure if it's good enough for Costco, it's good enough for me.) Seriously, it came highly recommended and I'm giving it a thumb up too - when I finish it I'll probably have two thumbs up.

Anways, I'm going to back to reading it now. I'm really enjoying it! It's challenging and interesting and a great review.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Orbits - not Excuses

Lately I keep experiencing myself as being in different orbits. Not at the same time, but within moments I could be in one space and then poof I'm in another. One could say I'm having a mental breakdown, but chances are, that's not it.

So I go into habitual mind patterns, replaying things that happened in the past, getting myself all wound up, and then something happens to knock me out of that orbit and the next thing I know, I'm saying hi to Gurubelle or some other Witness-type Consciousness thing. I go from being a victim of my circumstances to being the observer of my life having a chuckle.

My watch is set for 15 minutes today. That's something I started back when I was working at Omega 15 years ago. I would write up little post-its to myself to remember to breathe or something simple and then my eyesight would go bad so I'd never see the post-it on the monitor again. At the time I had cool Iron-Man watch. I remember picking it out at the K-Mart in Kingston, NY. I read through the extensive instructions and figured out how to set it, and I set the timer to go off every 15 minutes. When it would go off, I'd take a deeper breath, look around, see what was happening and then get back to work or whatever I was up to. What started happening is time evened out. See, sometimes I'd hear the watch go off, and it seemed like it was going off every 5 minutes. That's when I was having a good time. Other times, the watch would take like half an hour to go off and I wondered if I'd even had the thing turned on. Those were more stressful times. After awhile, 15 minutes just felt like 15 minutes. I learned a lot from that. A few years ago I would use it and in addition to taking a breath and noticing where I was and being present, I would consider how I was being and what it might be like to be around me.

I haven't done it much in the past few years - I stopped wearing a watch and I just didn't do it - but lately it's back on. The first thing I noticed is how quickly the time went by when I was hanging out at Kat's place eating cupcakes, and then I was later on wondering if the timer was even set it was taking so long to go off. I had become out of practice and I've been living in the world of my circumstances.

So it's back on and it's helping me to get out of the orbit I'm in if I notice I'm not in one that's resonating with peace and health. But sometimes it takes something bigger to knock me out of something with a lot of gravity. Today it was something posted to my wall on Facebook. I went to Gangaji's website and read this page and bawled my eyes out. I'm out of that low orbiting place and I'm in a lighter, freer orbit. Thanks.