Tag Archives: mypractice

Pranayama Intensive: Sama Vritti

For the past five weeks (concluding last weekend) I was engaged in the Pranayama Intensive online class with Judith Hanson Lasater and Lizzie Lasater. Last summer I was a student in their Experiential Anatomy online class led by the highly talented teaching team of Judith, Lizzie, and Mary Richards. When the opportunity arose to participate in another class with them, I immediately jumped in. The class was intentionally offered at this time, when so many of us are sequestered in our homes as a result of the pandemic, making it for me an auspicious time to study the breath. When breathing is slowed and exhalations become longer, the slower, deeper breath calms the nervous system. 

Judith noted that Pranayama and Breathing are NOT the same thing. Pranayama is intentional control of one’s breath. Prana refers to energy, and yama is restraint. Taken together, pranayama is “working with the physics and energetics of breathing.” Within the yogic umbrella there are several types of controlled breathing patterns; the first one we explored was Sama Vritti.

But before we could practice, we had to set up the yoga mat with props to enhance the sensation of the practice. The photo just below is the suggested setup. I have tried this and did not find it sufficiently conducive to my practice so have made subtle changes. Pranayama ProppingIn place of the stair-stepped stacked blankets I used a soft bolster with a sweatshirt rolled at the front to fill in the space between my low back and the bolster. In place of a rounded bolster under the back of my knees I used a squishy bed pillow. And I prefer a small, soft pillow under my neck and head. Delightedly, the first time I practiced was on a lovely warm, sunny Saturday afternoon when our back deck beckoned. Propped next to my head was my iPad for playing the guided pranayama audio file. my setupSama means same, which appropriately is what the spell checker usually tries to change “sama” to each time the word is typed. Vritti refers to busyness and activity. Sama Vritti Pranayama is a balanced breath pattern, each inhale and each exhale being of equal duration, like a balanced seesaw. In this manner, the breath balances the busy mind. 

I have seen this breath referred to as Box or Square Breathing, though I prefer the Sanskrit flow of the words on my tongue, like the flow of my breath. I enjoyed 22 luscious minutes listening to Judith guide me in to the setup and practice, listening to the quiet as I breathed, listening to the silence in my mind, returning at the sound of the chimes and listening to Judith guide me out of the practice. 

I would like to write that my practice has been in earnest, taking the time every day to practice, be it five minutes or twenty. Alas, that has not been the case. Twice. That’s the total number of times I have practiced. Partially this is because I lead yoga practices online three times a week, and partially because I still have a day job. However, the day job concludes next week and it marks not only the end of a school year but my retirement from the world of school teaching and transitioning more fully to the world of yoga teaching, something for which I have been preparing for the past four years!

Yamas: Asteya ~ Not (Non) Stealing

Asteya is the third of the five yamas, the yamas being a personal code of conduct for living peacefully and in harmony with all living beings, including the Earth. Donna Fahri writes

The practice of asteya asks us to be careful not to take anything that has not been freely given.

She goes on to give seemingly mundane examples, yet they are powerful because they are so commonplace. For instance, when calling someone on the phone, asking first if this is a convenient time to talk rather than immediately jumping in and presuming the recipient is ready for the overflow of information. The jumping in and taking of someone’s time is equivalent to stealing their time; better to first ask if the time can be given rather than to immediately snatch it.

Both Farhi and Deborah Adele bring up personal satisfaction and the commonplace action to reference others in determining one’s own satisfaction. This comparing oneself to others often leaves an individual feeling something is lacking, in a sense they have stolen from themselves by not looking inwards. Emma at Ekhart Yoga sums this up succinctly (and you can read more of her explanation here)

The need to steal essentially arises because of a lack of faith in ourselves to be able to create what we need by ourselves

From that vantage point of comparison, it becomes easy to insert oneself into conversations with others so that the conversation becomes about you rather than the person you are speaking with, in a sense stealing from others. To quote Adele quoting Yogi Bhajan:

Be a forklift; you should always be lifting people up.

According to Deborah Adele, “we steal from others, we steal from the earth, we steal from the future, and we steal from ourselves.” She suggests a practice of reciprocity in order to give back what has been taken.

Both Farhi and Adele believe that Asteya necessitates looking inwards to see who you are and who you want to be, and then turning your attentions and actions to the deeds needed to achieve your goals. As Donna Fahri states

Not stealing demands that we cultivate a certain level of self-sufficiency so that we do not demand more of others, our family, or our community than we need. It means that we don’t take any more than we need, because that would be taking from others.

One way to help cultivate that sense of taking only what is needed is to build a practice of gratitude. Acknowledging all that one has to be grateful for is a way to foster a “sense of abundance.” Again to quote Deborah Adele, this time quoting Albert Einsten:

A hundred times a day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other people, living and dead, And that I must exert myself in order to give in the full measure I have received and am still receiving.

My prior posts on the Yamas:
Ahimsa – Nonviolence
Satya – Truthfulness

Yamas: Satya ~ Truthfulness

Satya is the second of the five yamas, the yamas being the first of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Two years ago, for our 200 hour yoga teacher training graduation, each of us led a portion of a one hour practice designed so that any of our guests would be able to participate. I guided the final part of practice consisting of Savasana as well as an explanation of Satya, and a summing up of our group-led practice.

As Donna Fahri has written, Satya is a commitment to Truth, truth with others and truth with oneself. I was particularly taken by her statement to “practice right speech…when we say something we are sure of its truth.” This asks for a commitment to only utter words that you have validated as true; leave out the gossip, innuendo, “office cooler” talk, assumptions and the like.

The practice resonates deeply with me, because I know how easy it is to get sucked into the non-right speech of others. This is also a reminder that to try to construe someone else’s meaning based solely on their actions is likely to yield incorrect non-right thoughts or speech; it is much more effective and accurate to actually speak with that someone else and ask them for clarification.

Deborah Adele suggests that another aspect of Satya is to be your “real” self rather than being “nice”. It is one thing to be polite, another to be nice, particularly if being nice translates to saying words that are inaccurate in an attempt to not say anything that may be construed as uncomplimentary. For many of us who grew up feeling we needed to be nice to everyone, even if it meant telling a fib, it can be a refreshingly newly learned behavior how to speak politely and still tell the truth. One of my favorite quotes from my 200 hour teacher training is from Paula, who said

A good no is better than a bad yes.

Deborah goes on to rephrase the psychologist/psychiatrist Carl Jung in her discussion of how each person’s truth will change over time: What is true at one point for us will, at some point no longer serve us and therefore eventually becomes a lie. After all, we change and grow and develop over time, and as we change our needs and what is “true” for us also changes. We need to change our truth to accommodate our development as humans.

Ekhart Yoga, an online repository of yoga practices, meditations, talks, and readings that I periodically pop over and check out, has a series of articles about the yamas, including this article on Satya. Emma’s post offers another way to look at the meaning of Satya, and provides a way to cultivate a personal practice of Satya in daily life and on the mat.

My prior posts on the Yamas:
Ahimsa – Nonviolence


Yamas: Ahimsa ~ Nonviolence

There has been much written in books and on the web about the 8 Limbs of Yoga, the Yoga Sutras, and Pantanjali. Two of my go-to references have been The Eight Limbs, The Core of Yoga by William Doran at Expressions of Spirit-Yoga, and Deborah Adele‘s book The Yamas & Niyamas.

It’s one thing to have access to references, it’s another to actually study the references and learn something! My yoga practice (includes my yoga teaching) has gently brought me to a place where I am ready and open to better understanding the 8 Limbs of Yoga. And so I begin at the beginning with the Yamas.

In my early years of practicing yoga with Ellen, she would have us chant the 8 Limbs, which are part of the Yoga Sutras. The first of the limbs are the yamas, of which there are five. They are, as Ellen explained, the “principles of social and personal behavior for peaceful living” with the first being Ahimsa, to do no harm. 

Donna Farhi, in her book Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit, says that before we can contemplate the meaning of nonviolence in broad terms, it is necessary to first look inward and think of nonviolence to oneself. Ultimately, we must practice self-compassion before we can practice nonviolence towards others. (Quick bits about self-compassion here and here.)

Deborah Adele shares her metaphor of purchasing a paint can of a certain color, knowing that “the color of the paint inside the can is the color that whatever we paint becomes.” She continues: The “color” of how we treat ourselves is the “color” of how we treat others.

With self-compassion we can then practice nonviolence towards others. Donna Farhi eloquently states the concept of nonviolence towards the world as 

When we begin to recognize that the streams and rivers of the earth are no different from the blood coursing through our arteries, it becomes difficult to remain indifferent to the plight of the world.

Delving deeper into Ahimsa, Deborah Adele notes that fear, specifically fear of the unknown and unfamiliar, is what often drives violence. This violence can come in the form of words, feelings or actions, and be focused on ourselves or on others. The practice of Ahimsa is to confront these fears, understand them, and begin to work with them, and to do that requires courage. Two people with seemingly bottomless courage and exemplars of practicing nonviolence as a way of being were Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr

Deborah defines courage as “the ability to be afraid without being paralyzed.” We cannot control our amygdala’s automatic response to fear – that kicking in of the fight, flight, freeze or faint stimulus when the brain senses a threat. Indeed, there are times when we need that response to kick in for survival. However, stress is so prevalent in modern life that our fight or flight stimulus kicks in with undo frequency. To reset our inner balance we can intentionally summon our parasympathetic nervous system to calm and center, giving us a moment to consider what is happening and how we want to respond. This is what lets us be afraid without being paralyzed.

Another factor Deborah believes impacts our ability to do no harm is that of balance. which comes from listening to an inner wisdom of what to do “to be vital, healthy, and in deep harmony.” When our balance is off-kilter, our ability to function in a balanced manner becomes difficult, often resulting in small or large acts that may be considered harmful to ourselves or others. She discusses the sense of powerlessness that can arise when it seems there are no viable choices for moving forward. Two years ago, when I first read her book, I highlighted her approach to dealing with powerlessness. She suggests asking:

What do I need to do right now to feel competent to handle this situation?

Her personal approach to outmanuevering a sense of powerlessness is to practice gratitude, trust in the moment and think about others. Ultimately, if we change the stories we tell ourselves, we can shift our viewpoint and find our way towards practicing Ahimsa.

I stumbled upon an article in Yoga Journal for incorporating each of the yamas and niyamas into asana practice. I have not yet tried any of the practices, nonetheless, here is the practice for Ahimsa

Shaun House

In Being Well in a Digital Age – The Science and Practice of Yoga Stacy Dockins interviewed Dr Shaun House. Shaun was interviewed not for his roles as a professor and a lawyer, rather he was interviewed for his role as a yoga student. It might be inaccurate to call it a “role” because yoga permeates all aspects of Shaun’s life. I enjoyed hearing about someone else’s journey into yoga, and was especially pleased that Stacy chose to interview a male because the vast majority of yoga practitioners in the United States are female.

Stacy’s first questions, what brought Shaun to yoga and did he recall his first class, had me rewind back to why I began the practice of yoga and my first class. At the time, in 2005, I was sharing a 7th grade homeroom with Nancy R. and we bonded over the many similarities in our lives outside of school. We decided to try a yoga class so that we would be novices together and not feel awkward or embarrassed on our own. And as of this past spring I was still taking class with our first teacher Deb Gorman, with whom I have a warm mutual admiration and friendship.

Stacy went on to ask Shaun about how he perceives yoga supporting his well-being and how it might inform personal experiences in his life. I appreciated their conversation, with Stacy paraphrasing Shaun:

Yoga is something we learn to embody

and Shaun paraphrasing Stacy:

To better understand yourself puts yourself
in a position to better understand others

Shaun went on to talk about how yoga has informed and now permeates his jujitsu practice and teaching, saying:

You learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Both Shaun and Stacy mentioned practicing self-observation on the mat in order to take it off the mat and into your life. And, when asked if Shaun had one last bit to share with others, he smilingly offered this encouragement:

Allow yourself to enjoy yourself


What finally brought me back to blogging (about yoga)

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll see that it had been about 16 months since my last post. After spending months studying for and blogging about my 200-hour yoga teacher certification, I took a break from blogging about yoga (but not a break from blogging – I blog at another site unrelated to yoga.) What finally brought me back to blogging about yoga?

My husband recently sent me a link to a new edx online course that was slated to begin in October: The Science and Practice of Yoga. It was impossible to not be intrigued by the title, especially as I was in the midst of enjoying the lectures from The Science of Religion.

As part of the Yoga course it is suggested that we journal about our experiences; this is my Week 1 journal entry.

There are three topics suggested for journaling, and I have something to note about each of them.

First – The Wheel of Awareness was explained during one of the lectures; my annotated screen shot is below. (As an aside, I wheeldislike the term “lecture” and feel that “talk” or “explanation”  or “share” is more apt due to the short nature of the “lecture” videos, and because “lecture” connotes less yoga and more stern commentary!) I visited the Wheel of Awareness link (see above) and was put off by the full screen sign-up form that kept popping up. While I did register for Dr Siegel’s website, I am not a fan of sites that go heavy on the marketing, and so have – at least for now – put off further exploration of the Wheel, the practice, and what Dr Siegel has to share.

Second – I thoroughly appreciate the “How am I Feeling?” mini self check-in, and think it life practiceis a useful practice to do on a regular basis. Since I typically spend my Mondays thru Thursdays as an integrator at a lower school (this means I join grades PreK thru fifth for a wide range of projects), taking a moment to pause and check-in seems like a useful way to help maintain equilibrium and energy. Due to multiple administrative initiatives that have dramatically altered how I (and my three co-integrators) collaborate, guide, and spend time with teachers and students, pausing to parse my inner and outer senses is a beneficial way to administer self-care during the day, and perhaps restore positive energy. I plan on printing out the Life Practice check-ins and taping a copy to my desk at school as a reminder (and to share it with colleagues). And I have to grin, because it is one thing for me to lead my yoga students in honoring the moment, pausing, breathing, checking-in, and quite another for me to do so!

Third – Setting an intention for this course is easy, as I am goal-oriented and a list-maker! We have been asked to choose one goal for this course, though I have three. As I wrote them in my paper journal (a large notebook of unlined paper where I jot ideas, plan out classes, scribble and doodle, and take notes), they poured out of me in easy succession, beginning with my main goal.

I want to improve and grow as a yoga teacher. Intricately intertwined with this are my two additional goals, enhancing my personal practice, and learning more about the science of yoga, anatomy, and philosophy of yoga. 

I have a thriving personal practice, as well as a studio practice between two and four times a month. Am anticipating that this course will provide tips and techniques that I may not be aware of or have forgotten about. And there is no doubt that, for me, my personal practice and the teaching of yoga are deeply related to and influence one another.

The area in which I am least comfortable is yogic philosophy. I hope to be exposed to ways of explaining that will make it easier for those who practice with me to be open to the spiritual aspects of yoga; they are already open to the physical and mental ones.

My yoga is my ballet; it is my moving meditation that speaks to me spiritually, physically, and mentally. It is that conscious combination of breath with movement, letting my breath be my guide. However, I am not a conscious practitioner of the 8 limbs of yoga. After 12 years of practicing, perhaps due to this past year of teaching, I am finding myself receptive to understanding more about yogic philosophy and learning how to share this with my fellow yogis.

My Husband’s Work

Good GreenHouse House7

My husband is an amazing 3D visualizer and artist. Using SketchUp he creates abstract art and designs architecture. Since the arrival of a 3D printer in our home, he has been printing many of his creations, including light sculptures made with LEDs and Arduinos. Recently he has been intrigued with the idea of a greenhouse space, and in this rendering of a home he has given me a yoga studio on the rooftop. Ah ommmmmmm 🙂

20 Hours – Half Way Point

Twenty hours of my 200 hour teacher training are to be spent as a student in classes separate from our training experience. The idea is to take classes with teachers from whom I can learn. To that end, I am taking classes with people I do not usually study with, as well as classes in areas I want to learn more about (such as Restorative Yoga),  and at least one class with each of my three yoga training teachers so I can experience their studio teaching.

Now that I am half-way through those 20 hours, here is what I have distilled from the seven different classes and six different teachers.

Basic Yoga at Wainwright with Kelly
Small world! Kelly is related to one of my YTT teachers via marriage. The world of yoga teachers turns out to be as connected as the world of independent school teachers, of which I have been a part since 1982. I was interested in Kelly’s class because this is likely the type of yoga class I would teach as a new yoga teacher. I enjoy the sequence and flow of her sessions and have asked her how she creates them. Turns out Kelly has been teaching for a little over a year, prepares her sessions in advance and writes out the poses on a small index card that she then updates after actually teaching the class. I also appreciate the metaphors Kelly uses as she guides us with her suggestions. What I miss is the spiritual sense that comes from both the physical space (more on that in a moment) and the tone of the class, for instance as with the sharing of a reading or poetry. The upstairs room in the main house is carpeted with windows that overlook Long Island Sound. However, the rectangular room has tables and chairs piled at the far short end, there are limited props, and the space feels like a conference area rather than a yoga space.

Gentle Restorative Yoga at Wainwright with Sonya
I took this class on the Friday morning of one of my YTT weekends, intentionally choosing a restorative class so I would go into the training weekend feeling refreshed. I thoroughly loved this class! Sonya’s voice and cues were soothing and calming, and I knew at once that this is a type of yoga I would like to offer to others. I have already looked into restorative yoga teacher training and would like to encourage The Wainwright Yoga Training Academy to offer this type of training. I have taken restorative yoga classes just a few times over my 11 years of practice, and am looking forward to trying this in my Thursday afternoon practice teaches with my friends Ann and Ginny. I plan on taking more of these sessions with Sonya. (This class is also taught in the upstairs room at Wainwright, so you know what I thought of the space!)

Mixed Levels at The Yoga Garden with Patty
The yoga world just keeps getting smaller 😉 as it turns out I took a class here about 10 or so years ago with a colleague from school who discovered The Yoga Garden as a result of she and I talking about the benefits I found via practicing yoga, and she deciding to try some classes at a studio near to her home. This class is taught by one of my three YTT teachers so I had an idea of what to anticipate, and Patty was true to form. As it is during our training sessions, Patty guided me through new ways of moving my bones and muscles. As I typed that sentence it made me wonder at what point is it that we/I have stopped playing and exploring through our bodies. Given the myriad ways to experience movement, and the strength that breathing provides in being able to move, we humans (certainly those of us in the metropolitan area!) seem to have decided to relegate ourselves to more sitting and less utilization of the movement of which our bodies are capable. And the less we use “us”, the less “us” will remain flexible and able to be used. Patty’s class is a vivid reminder of the playfulness present in our bodies; we just have to be willing to let it out! Finally, Patty’s space is calming and inviting, with lovely wooden floors, soothingly colored walls, and one long wall of windows looking out on a grassy area.

Ayurvedic Yoga at Birth of Venus with Susan
As with Patty, Susan is another of my YTT teachers, and as with Patty, Susan’s studio classes are similar to those she leads in our training. When I do yoga with Susan it makes me feel graceful. I tend to feel that way in yoga classes that have a flow. While I don’t think of Susan’s class as a flow class, there is something in how she guides that conjures up flowing, soothing water, and I move accordingly. I am in awe of how Susan creates her plan: she asks her students what they need and then comes up with a sequence to address those needs. I realize this comes from years of study and practice and teaching. It also comes from someone confident in what they are doing. Susan’s space is an office studio that can accommodate about six of us. She sets up the space in advance so mats and props are all neatly arranged and easily accessible on the wooden floor. As the space is L-shaped, we do our practice in the long part of the L, and the short part has one wall that is all windows, thus bringing natural light into the space. I liked the intimacy and calm that the space creates.

Yoga for a Painfree Body at Wainwright with Athina Pride
The last in a series of six sessions, each designed to cover a different part of the body, this session was left open to student choice. As it turned out, I was one of just two students so we were able to have a session dedicated to the back and hips – yippee! Athina’s class very much reminded me of Susan’s class in that she designed it on the fly, based on our needs, and taught it with a similar pacing. I found it calming and relaxing, as well as therapeutic. I asked Athina about her approach to sequencing, and quickly realized that it comes from years of experience. There is no “easy” answer, though I do wish there was a well-recommended resource that deals with class sequencing so that I have a guide as to what poses “play well” with each other. I suppose the other answer to my question is for me to sit down and sift through all my resources and come up with some sequences and then I can always check the results with my teachers.

Yoga at the Nyack Yoga Center, and Mature Yoga at The Annex in Nayck, both with Paula
How appropriate to cap my half way point with three hours of yoga with my third YTT teacher, Paula. Paula has been teaching yoga for 50 of her 79 years, and has a deep well of body knowledge that guides her teaching. Her Yoga studio class is quite similar to those in our YTT; the Mature Yoga class has a very specific audience in mind (more on that later.) Paula’s Nyack Yoga classes alternate each week between sitting and standing, and this week of my attending was a seated week. (Thankfully this was the case, because it was only my second day out after having been home for a week and a half dealing with the flu! So much for vacation. ;-)) As with my other YTT teachers, Paula’s classes are informed by wisdom, experience, practice, study, plus a dance background and years of myriad teaching experience. As a student, my idea of body-heaven would include at least twice weekly classes with Paula. I leave her sessions agog at what my body is capable of, while understanding that her coaching is a large part of my process. I don’t want to “turn off” the spigot of possibilities, but still need to acknowledge that until I have taken more classes with Paula and my body incorporates the muscle memory, I’m not sure I can create the same movement range on my own at home as happens while in her classes. I understand why Paula has a dedicated group of students, helped by the large and welcoming studio. I was intrigued by two new types of props, both made from what felt like styrofoam. One was a large rectangle cut to fit on top of a yoga mat for extra support. The other, from the same material, was a small rectangle to accommodate a foot or ankle so that in seated poses where feet go beyond the mat, there is support for the bones. At the conclusion of class we pulled our mats into a circle. With our hands in anjali mudra (palms together at heart center) we listened, eyes closed, as Paula closed our session, and then we joined together in “Om”. Finally, with eyes closed, we thanked everyone with bowed anjali mudra.

Here is how Paula’s flyer explains the Mature Yoga class, the focus of which “will be geared to the special needs of the participants”:

To learn the ABC’s of turning pain into peace.
     Align for greater mobility with strengthened muscles.
     Balance with your bones and breath.
     Concentrate to clear the mind and increase your energy.

Paula talked about the wisdom and wonder of our bodies, and those words resonated. While it seemed like we barely did much movement, in fact we worked our bodies, breath and muscles – upper torso front and back, head, legs and arms – while mostly seated in folding chairs that were placed on yoga mats to prevent any slipping or sliding of the chairs. What was probably the last 15 minutes or so of the hour were spent standing, using the chair for balance to focus on our backs and legs as we did standing supported table and tree (and I am not talking about your simple, typical tree!) Paula’s version of tree had us bending our knees and folding over our legs. Even in a class designed for people with special needs, Paula knows that to use our bodies means to make our bodies possible to use themselves. If that isn’t clear, then this will sum it up: use it or lose it!





The Tree of Yoga ~ asana and pranayama

This past June a colleague gave me B.K.S. Iyengar’s The Tree of Yoga as a parting gift to celebrate my years at the school. I determined to read it slowly and try to soak up the sense of yoga pervasive in Iyengar’s writing. The Tree of Yoga is a compilation of Iyengar’s writings about yoga and life, practice, health, teaching, the individual, and the world.

I was familiar with Iyengar as a style of yoga and have another book, one of the first I ever purchased about yoga, that details poses according to this style. The B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga site has plenty of information about Iyengar’s life and his philosophy of yoga. 

One of the many aspects of yoga that I love is simply going through a series of asanas. When my mind is focused and my body glides, I feel graceful and strong, like a dancer. Over my years of practice, my body has kinesthetically learned how to move, how to come into and move out of a pose. I know what my teachers are talking about when they describe a movement and often know some of the Sanskirt names. I love the flow that comes from practice. Here is what Iyengar says about asana:

The asana has to enshrine the entire being of the doer with splendour and beauty. This is spiritual practice in physical form.

Asana means posture, which is the art of positioning the body as a whole with a physical, mental and spiritual attitude. Posture has two aspects, namely posing and reposing. Posing means action. Pose is assuming a fixed position of limbs and body as represented by the particular asana being performed. Reposing means reflection on the pose. The pose is re-thought and readjusted so that the various limbs and parts of the body are positioned in their places in a proper order and feel rested and soothed, and the mind experiences the tranquility and calmness of bones, joints, muscles, fibres and cells.

Every one of my yoga teachers focuses on breathing. It is the breath that helps us move. I can just hear Franklin saying: Move with your breath – Be with your breath. Breathing, not simply normal patterns of breath but breathing deeply in through the nose, feeling the breath and letting it out through the nose at the same pace as which it came in, is what helps to guide the body through the asanas. As Iyengar wrote:

Prana is energy. Ayama is creation, distribution and maintenance. Pranayama is the science of breath, which leads to the creation, distribution and maintenance of vital energy.

Any asana done on an inhalation will end in merely physical action, whereas an asana done on an exhalation is vital and organic, and produces physiological action and cellular health.

I smile to think back upon my first year of yoga classes, when my mind had to learn to move parts of my body in ways not normally singled out, when my body had to develop strength and control and wake up sluggish muscles, when my mind had to learn new words, and when my body and my mind had to learn to control my breath so that now, almost eight years later, Ujjayi breathing comes naturally as I begin each yoga practice.

Back to Basics


That is the sound of relaxed delight breathing out of my psyche as it bends and stretches, twists and moves through yoga all this week and next. (My school has a two week December break, and that means yoga at The Yoga Sanctuary for me everyday save Christmas and New Year’s!)

In class today, Deb read us these ten fundamental principles of Ghandi’s for changing the world. Yup, it is the time of year when we tend to look for inspiration to guide our moving forward to the next year. But this list includes “fundamentals” in the title, and fundamentals, for me, means “the basics”. And any time of the year is time to remember the basics.

May your holiday season be joyful and manageable, and may the coming year find you regrounded in the basics of who you are, and where you want to go.