Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Silence is Golden (sutra 1.49)

Every winter for a solid week my husband and I travel West (this year Snowmass/Aspen, CO) for our annual ski trip.  The thing is I don’t ski anymore.  I get many looks and shocking responses when I tell people this.  People further probe “don’t you get bored?” or “what do you do all week?”

Honestly it’s the perfect vacation.  Trading the hustle & bustle of the Washington, DC area for the beauty of the snow-covered mountains and fresh crisp air is a welcomed change.  I unplug about 90% of the time (no cell, no laptop) and enjoy the quiet of the day as my husband is off skiing.  I step onto my yoga mat daily and practice without the interruption of someone knocking at the door, my dogs getting in the way or feeling rushed through practice because I need to be somewhere (i.e. teach a yoga class).  In addition to yoga, I read more than I can at home (sitting next to a cozy fire), hit the gym and go for a couple of hikes in the snow by myself in silence.  For a full week it’s as if I’m hiding out.  I have nowhere to be.  I have no one to talk to until my husband returns.  I have no one expecting anything of me.

What I’ve discovered is when I can be verbally quiet and move at my own pace for a few hours almost daily, its way easier to turn inward and access a level of peace from deep within.  This experience is unlike anything I seem to be able to find when I’m back at home and driven by a schedule of “to do’s” and yoga classes to teach.  It’s as if the silence in itself becomes the true vacation.

So it was within the silence of my vacation I was reminded that actually a component of yoga, as described in the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, is mouna.  Mouna is Sanskrit for silence.  As explained in Swami Satchidananda’s commentary of sutra 1.49: 

“Mouna vakya Prakratitha Parabrahma tattvam.”  “The Parabrahma tattvam, or unmanifested supreme principle, can only be explained by silence, not by words.”  In not only the physical silence, but in the real mental silence, the wisdom dawns.

Again I fully admit in my day-to-day life as a mobile yoga teacher in the DC area, mouna is challenging.  Or maybe it requires discipline I have yet to cultivate.  Yet when I’m away, completely unplugged and hiding in the mountains, I am able to easily drop into the silence.  The best part is I enjoy it.   And the real beauty is when the silence fills you up from the inside, whispers of the divine can be heard from deep within.  It’s an experience that can’t be fully described.  I will say when I am blessed with extended silence the result is greater clarity in my thoughts and my writing is on fire.  To this, I have last week’s silence to thank for this blog post.

Karma Yoga Defined

Yoga is Sanskrit for the word union.  Yoga means uniting body, mind and soul.  Yoga also means uniting with other souls.  This to me is where Karma Yoga comes in.

A main component of my yoga teacher training with Sri Dharma Mittra is Karma Yoga.  So beyond just performing my hours of karmic duty to fulfill my training requirements, I’ve been really thinking a lot about how so many small and daily actions can be considered Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga is defined as selfless service.  When selfless service becomes a natural extension of our everyday life, we are really starting to practice and experience yoga in its fullest sense.  Selfless service can be as simple as holding the door for a stranger at your local Starbucks, or lending a hand to a neighbor in need.  Though the most often talked about type of Karma Yoga seems to be around organized volunteer or giving opportunities (i.e. donating food to a local food drive or giving money to charity).  These are all great acts of service but with the later (donating) there is little human connection and often a low level of frequency.

To me Karma Yoga is most effective when we do it often and it flows naturally within our normal daily activities.  In this way, Karma Yoga becomes a path that constantly carries us to a deeper connection with others and ultimately a deeper connection within ourselves.

Touch the heart of others with a simple gesture and you’ll not only shine from your heart but you’ll shine light to help others realize the importance of giving each and every day.  Thank you.

Vision Board Comes to Life

As some of you know I spent a few days last week at a meditation/writing retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, CO.  It was a serene three days of meditating and writing, without cell/internet/tv/radio service and 600 acres of land to explore at my leisure.

One of the unexpected highlights of my trip was spending time outside, in and around The Great Stupa.  I had read about it online prior to my trip but the online pics paled in comparison to seeing it live with my own eyes.  Nestled up in the mountains, about a 15 minute walk from where I slept each night, it is a spectacular sight from the outside in the midst of what seems like nowhere.  Even more stunning is the interior.  I spent a good 30 minutes inside each day meditating in this magnificent space in the presence of a 20′ gold Buddha statue.

On my second day there, I was getting up from my quiet time with the Buddha and a voice from behind asked if I would remain seated just a few more minutes.  Of course, I listened and complied.  Marvin Ross, an international photographer, was setting up shop.  After a few additional minutes of sitting, I was free to get up.

little me inside The Great Stupa

A couple days later, Marv kindly emailed me the shot.  It is beautiful and I think you’ll agree.  It is way more captivating than I expected.

Even more fascinating is it is almost a match of the central image on my 2011 Vision Board.  It’s as if when I selected the Buddha pic for my VB (a page I randomly ripped out of a magazine), and added the words “are you listening” that I was predicting something like The Stupa shot would happen.

Is it coincidence?

Was I simply in the right place at the right time?

Or did the energy from my Vision Board travel with me?

I wonder but continue to believe the universe works in mysterious & supportive ways.

Feeling Fall

The chill is in the air.  Pumpkins are for sale.  Halloween decor is out.  I’m so not ready for Fall but it is here.  Fall is now.

Rather than wishing it was still Summer, I need to open up to all of Fall’s offerings now.  Otherwise the next thing you know, it will be Winter.  Then I’ll wonder “what happen to Fall”.

Embrace “what is” vs. resisting is a practice I’ve learned on my yoga mat.  I often catch myself needing this lesson in everyday life.  Learning to accept and appreciate where I am (i.e., in a yoga posture) vs. wishing I was somewhere else (i.e. in a more advanced expression of the posture).  Waking up to being grateful for the life I have vs. dreaming of a different life or coveting a friend’s.  The grass might appear greener on the other side but there’s beauty in the grass right under my feet if I take the time to look at it instead of peering elsewhere.

So the lesson I share…Every moment we have a choice to either accept where things are or reject.  By accepting, there’s plenty of opportunity to explore, learn and grow.  By rejecting, the door of possibilities is closed shut – possibility of what the new season brings, what newness will show up in life and/or what is possible on the yoga mat.

So here it is…happy Fall!  I’m here for you.

Take a Yoga Vacation

The title of this entry does not imply going on a yoga retreat to do yoga all week as a vacation.  What I am suggesting is you take a break from your yoga practice for a few days, maybe even a week.  Dare I say this!  Why would I suggest it?

The best thing for your practice can sometimes be not practicing.  I discovered this a couple weeks ago while spending a week of vacation in the Caribbean.  The first few mornings my natural inclination was to immediately think I needed to jump out of bed, unroll my yoga mat and practice with the sunrise.  Something told me, hold back.  After all, I was on vacation to take a break from my daily routine.

Sure I practiced a little asana and meditation almost every day (anywhere from 15-45 minutes) but I did it without a plan.  Even in these short practices, I felt my body in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. –stiff!  Yes, I felt stiffer than usual because I wasn’t practicing as much.   But this unfamiliar stiffness brought greater awareness to areas of my body I hadn’t quite paid attention to in some time.  I felt more connected from the inside out.  I moved slower but I felt more in sync with my natural surroundings —the swaying palm trees and calm morning ocean.

Now as I settle back into the reality of my everyday life, I have returned to my mat with a greater appreciation that I have yoga in my life.  I am appreciative for the longer practices I am able to do most days.  I am even more appreciative of a couple poses I previously wasn’t a huge fan of, such as upward facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).

P.S.  If you were reading this blog entry in hopes of finding a yoga retreat for a yoga vacation, grab a copy of the November issue of Yoga Journal and read “Great Escapes”.

Focused Fun

“Focused fun” – I’m coining this term to describe asana practice.  More and more people are getting on their yoga mats to release stress and tension –mental, physical and emotional.  Ironically with the intent to let go of tension, more often than not they look stressed out as they are moving through their practice.  I witness this frequently in the office yoga classes (aka corporate yoga) I teach as well as in the studio environment.

To fully experience yoga asana, you must be present.  To be present, you must be aware of the moment at hand.  To be aware, you must be focused with the eyes, on the breathing, feeling the movement. Yes, there’s a lot going on in the asana practice and it’s a lot of work –mentally and physically.  And it’s fun work.  Focused fun!

If you’re not focused and constantly scanning the body internally and externally (awareness) when you’re on the mat, there’s a greater tendency to check out of the present moment.  Being focused and present takes continuous practice.  It’s a moment-by-moment practice.  Asana is a moment-by-moment practice.  And to fully live life, you need to be in the moment.  And being in the moment means fully taking in challenging times and good times.

Back to the mat…next time you’re on it, notice the intensity of your focus.  Is your breathing choppy and fast?  Back off.  Is your face tight or jaw clenched?  Let it go.  Where are you straining?  Instead of zoning in on your fatigued muscles, can you relax through breath?  A simple smile can invite ease and fun into the moment.   The point is stay focused as you move and tune into your intention for unrolling your mat in the first place.  My guess is your not practicing yoga to create more stress.  Lighten up and have some “focused fun!”

D.C. Yoga Week 2009

Whether you’re new to yoga or an experienced yogi, D.C. Yoga Week is the perfect time to try out that yoga studio you’ve been meaning to visit.  From May 2nd through May 9th, a hub of studios will be offering free and $5 yoga classes in and around the Washington, D.C. area.

Round out your yoga week on May 9th with an outdoor, free-for-all yoga day on the National Mall from 2-5 p.m. Simply show up with your mat at the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.  See you on the mat and chant for sun!

Visit for participating studios, outdoor yoga info and other details.

Free Outdoor Yoga presented by Even Keel™

Find inner peace in urban chaos this summer with Even Keel’s 2nd Annual Free Outdoor Yoga Series.  Washington, DC has beautiful parks, stressed out residents, and a great yoga community –including some great locally-based yoga clothing companies like Even Keel.

This yoga series is open to anyone in the DC area interested in practicing yoga outdoors.  Just show up with your mat, meet some new yogis/yoginis and experience a new style of yoga or a teacher you’ve never met. Details below.

WHEN: Third Sunday of every month – May through September (May 17, June 21, July 19, August 16, September 20) from 10:00-11:00AM

HOW: Participants show up the third Sunday of the month at the designated location and are encouraged to bring a mat, towel, and water. All levels of students are welcome, although it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of yoga.

WHERE: Rock Creek Park – Connecticut Ave/Cathedral ExitOff of Calvert Street, NW (near the intersection of Connecticut and Calvert) take 24th Street, NW into the park – at the bottom of the hill in the grassy field on the right hand side (near the exercise stations).  Metro: Red Line to Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan, walk south on Connecticut Ave., right on Calvert St., left on 24th St, walk down hill into Rock Creek Park, open field on right hand side of road.

About Even Keel Even Keel is a yoga apparel company that specializes in unique designs, beautiful colors, and sustainable fabric.  The company was started by Liz Matthews, an avid yoga student and occasional teacher.  Even Keel brings a balance of style and function to the mat.  The colors are rich, the designs are elegant – and all of fabrics are made of bamboo and organic cotton.  Even Keel believes strongly in using sustainable fabrics. And all of our clothing is manufactured in the United States.  For more information, please visit

Frequency vs. Variety

Given I’m a full-time yoga teacher, I’m often asked by my yoga students “how often do you practice yoga?”  Sure I practice 5-6 days a week, which I know is a privilege.  Though it recently occurred to me the frequency/discipline of getting on my yoga mat regularly isn’t the only thing that matters.  The variety of learning from different teachers and playing with other yoga styles is what really will challenge and advance me.  In addition, the intention I bring to my practice is just as important as variety if not more so.

For four years, I’ve religiously gone to the same studio in D.C. and practiced with some of the best teachers in the area.  It’s been a convenient option and offered me a lot of growth during that time.  More recently, I realized the easy option isn’t the best option for me anymore.  In some ways my growth has been stunted.

Solution to my problem…I’ve challenged myself for almost two weeks not to go into my “home away from home” studio.  I’ve forced myself to explore other places and teachers.  I’ve spent more time in my home yoga space, learning from myself  —we are our own best teachers.  Throughout the last couple weeks my intention was to simply remain open to what ever came up.

As hard as this was at first, I realized that going to the same place everyday to practice (frequency) kind gave me “tunnel-vision”.  The discipline in mixing things up is giving me new strength and confidence —in my personal practice as well as my teaching —and a few “ah-ha” moments in my overall life.  Though I struggled with the change at first, it was one of the healthiest decisions/changes I’ve made for myself in a long time.

Lessons I was reminded over the last two weeks:  1) Easy is not always the best option.  2) If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.  3) Variety is the spice of life!

In with the New, Out with the Old

With the plethora of yoga mats to select from these days –styles, colors, thicknesses, eco-friendly materials, etc. – it’s tempting to buy a new one every couple of years.  And many do, even when they don’t really NEED a new one.

A few times I’ve been asked by students “what can I do with my old mat?”  Usually I suggest donating it to a school or church that offers community yoga classes.    Though I’ve always felt this answer is a little vague since it doesn’t really point someone in a specific direction.  Needless to say, I was happy to recently stumble upon Gaiam’s article “50 Ways to Reuse Your Yoga Mat”.

I will admit a few of the suggestions are extremely creative, but I guarantee at least one of them will appeal to you.  Now you might feel good about buying a new mat even if you don’t really NEED it ☺