Tag Archives: yoga

Day 8: A Mindful Meditation

It has been a fun few days in Philly!  Between the amazing food, beautiful weather and getting to see old friends, I couldn’t have asked for a better trip.  That said, we’ve been going non-stop, so when it came time for the man-friend to go to work yesterday, it suddenly hit me that I was exhausted.  Usually I look forward to getting on my mat for some “me time,” but yesterday even that seemed like too much of an effort.  As I’ve said before, the practice of yoga is about tuning in and understanding what your body needs.  Yesterday afternoon, I knew what my body really needed was a nap.

Of course, napping in the middle of the day can end up throwing you off, especially this time of year when it gets dark out so early.  When I woke up yesterday I was pretty groggy, and since I was meeting an old friend for dinner, I really needed to wake up.  I decided a short meditation would do just the trick.  I set myself up on the bed with a lot of pillows for support so that I wasn’t distracted by any physical discomfort in my body, set my phone alarm for 10 minutes, then closed my eyes and began some deep ujaii breath and repeated my so hum mantra (I discussed meditation techniques more in depth back in this post).  When the alarm went off, I felt more centered and calm and I was ready to catch up with an old friend over delicious food!

Today I’m hoping to try out a yoga studio in the area.  But first, it’s time for some touristy action at Independence Hall.  Have a great day everyone!

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Days 6 & 7: Yummy Hip-openers and Scrumptious Brunch

Hi All!

I may not have blogged yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that I forgot to practice.  I had to catch a bus to Philadelphia in the morning, so it was this handy-dandy Yoga Today practice for me.  It ended up being a great mix of hip openers and strengthening core and arm balances.  There is a misconception that you have to be super strong arms to accomplish arm balances, but in fact, a strong core is really the key; Neesha’s inclusion of knee-to-nose planks and navasana (boat pose) were not only strengthening, but also got the core muscles firing, making it easier to tap into that strength when it came time for the arm balances.  However, I especially needed the hip openers since I had a long bus ride ahead of me.

Today’s challenge was finding time to practice.  As I said, I’m in Philadelphia for the weekend with the man-friend, who so kindly invited me to join him on his work trip.  Since he didn’t have to work until later, we had a long, leisurely brunch at a restaurant called Farmicia, which turned out to be an amazing recommendation from my friend Lindsay.  We feasted (not an understatement) on baked Brie, french toast with apple-cherry compote and a mexican omelette with potatoes, after which our waiter had to roll us out the door.  So. Good.


After that, the man-friend had to go to work, which would have provided a perfect time to do yoga….except that too much food had happened.  I was also torn because the Jets game is on, and for those of you who know me, know that the NFL is a fall sunday staple for me.  So what to do?  I made a pretty fair (if I do say so) compromise:  I watched the first half of the game, and then found this 30-minute practice from Sarah on Yoga Today to do during halftime (and a little bit of the 3rd quarter).

Just a few notes on this practice:  There is a lot of intense hip-opening, which is necessary to prepare for Bird of Paradise pose in under thirty minutes, but was a little too intense for someone like me who has very tight hips.  I was also having an off-day concentration-wise (which I think can also be a symptom of squeezing in your yoga practice rather than having a time carved out for it).  But overall, it’s a good practice when you’re short on time.

Alright guys–that’s it for today!  Time to go enjoy more of  Philadelphia on this fine Sunday (i.e. head to a bar to watch the afternoon games :))

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Day 5: Hey Ego, Simma Down Now.

Happy Friday Yogis!

After taking it easy the last two days, I was ready for a vigorous flow this morning.  I decided to take Emily’s Level 2 class at Laughing Lotus in Manhattan.  I’ve practiced at Laughing Lotus a handful of times, but this was my first time taking Emily’s class.  It was everything I was looking for: great flow and challenging sequencing.  Of course, whenever I find myself in the midst of a challenging sequence, my ego likes to come out to play–not so yogic, I admit.

I find my ego is even louder when I haven’t been in a class setting with other yogis for a bit.  When I’m by myself in my apartment, it is a lot easier to focus on advancing my own practice and not worrying if my pose doesn’t look “perfect.”  However, get me into a yoga studio and all bets are off.  Side Angle Pose with my forearm on my elbow is no longer good enough–I have to stretch my hand to the floor.  Step back to plank?  No thanks, I’ll jump into chaturanga today.  And the thing is, nothing is wrong with changing your practice from day to day.  But what we need to pay attention to is WHY we are changing it.  For me, in a group setting, it is often to try to impress others, or at the very least, boost my “yogi cred.”



Today, the beginning of class was not much different for my ego and me.  I was definitely not practicing non-judgment as I fell out of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), blaming my empty stomach (and subsequently my poor time management that prevented me from eating this morning).  I felt slightly better when I improved on my second side.  But why?  Because everyone else around me will approve of me more?  After a while, the chatter in the mind becomes exhausting.

And then, before we knew it, she was leading us straight for headstand.  I didn’t recognize it at first; she had us lowering into dolphin with clasped hands, and I was anticipating a forearm plank or forearm stand.  But then she directed us to lower our heads down and walk our feet in and I realized what we were doing–and what I should not be doing.  As I mentioned earlier this week, I am on a headstand hiatus until my wonky neck starts to feel better.  But this was Laughing Lotus and, without looking up, I estimated that at least 3/4 of the class would be going upside down (I later learned I was correct).  It was really tempting to want to get up there to basically say to everyone, “Hey guys, I can do it to!” (accompanied by a side-to-side head shake and maybe even a “Pshhh!”).  But I decided (to the relief of my neck) to remain in the prep for the pose, and when that started to feel uncomfortable, I surrendered into child’s pose.  Of course, a tiny part of me was still looking for a way to alert the entire class that, in fact, I am able to do a headstand, I am just CHOOSING not to.  But alas, that did not happen and the beautiful thing is both my ego and my neck are still in tact.

So…not a perfectly executed “extinguishing” of my ego…but it was a small step.  And really, that’s all we can ask for from our yoga practice: small but meaningful steps towards our goal.  They will keep adding up to something great.

What small step have you made recently towards a goal?

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Day 4: Primary Series Express

Remember yesterday when I said I was going to get up for my roommate’s 7am vinyasa flow this morning?  Well, that didn’t happen.  I couldn’t quite get my act together so early in the morning, especially since I would have had to leave straight from the studio to go to the hospital where I teach yoga in the Pediatric department to renew my “volunteer” status (I use quotations marks because, as I talked about in this post, I am sponsored by the wonderful Starlight Children’s Foundation).

However, the wonderful thing about yoga is that it not only improves your physical flexibility on the mat, but also helps you to be flexible in your every day life.  The fact that I didn’t make it to the studio was not an invitation to beat myself up over it; after all, my practiced hadn’t been sacrificed, just changed.  Instead, I pressed snooze two extra times (my best friend will tell you that’s quite an improvement from college), got up, grabbed my laptop and rolled out my mat in my living room.  In just a few clicks, I’d found my favorite g0-to quick practice from Yoga Today, which I actually access through YouTube: Adi’s Primary Series Express.  Though I definitely prefer at least a full hour of practice, if not more, this is a really well-rounded class to do when you are pressed for time.

The Primary Series Express is a shortened version of the 90-minute Primary Series of Ashtanga yoga.  Ashtanga is a really powerful style of yoga that incorporates a lot of push ups and lift ups and jump throughs, of which the latter two I am still working on.  In case you aren’t sure what a lift up or a jump through look like, you can see examples here and here.  And no, it is not lost on me how ridiculously easy both of these yogis make it look.

Aside from a mat, yoga blocks are probably the best investment you can make for your practice–they are extremely versatile and can bring your yoga experience to a whole new level!

Oh sure, Michael Taylor, I will just bend my knees a few extra times and take a big deep breath to warm up and then I will lift myself up light as a feather.  No problem.  Except…that advice kind of helped me.  You see, recently when I practiced my jump through (using blocks under my hands of course!) I would end up majorly stubbing a toe or falling over completely.  This was strange only because I used to be able to do it (again, WITH blocks!) without much of a problem.  Something was getting in my head and I wasn’t sure what it was.  So today, after watching (…and scoffing) at these two videos, I gave it another go, taking some deep breaths before and voilà!  My legs were through.  It wasn’t pretty, but I got there, and now I can continue moving forward.  Which just shows how powerful taking a deep breath and focusing on the task at hand can be; it’s something I tell Charles all the time during school, but clearly need to work on myself.

What’s a pose that has been challenging to you?

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Day 3: Unwind

I wasn’t sure it was going to happen after my 4am wakeup call this morning, but I did, in fact, get my yoga in today.  More specifically, this evening after Little Man went to sleep.  Seeing as I was exhausted and it was 9pm, I didn’t want to choose anything that was going to energize me and make it difficult to fall asleep.  I opted for this class from Neesha on Yoga Today entitled, “Unwind.”  The title says it all, really.

This website is really fantastic when you can't make it to a class--perfect if you're at home or traveling.

This website is really fantastic when you can’t make it to a class–perfect if you’re at home or traveling.

Although Neesha directs this class toward travelers who have recently flown, it turned out to be a really great option, as it was slow-moving but allowed you to go deep into some forward bends and hip openers to release the legs, all while connecting to the breath.  It also includes threading the needle pose, which is one of my absolute favorites to get into the neck and shoulders–bliss!  Part of practicing yoga is turning inward and tuning in to what you need in the moment.  While a big motivation for this challenge is to get my practice back to where it used to be, it is also about taking care of myself.  An hour of arm balances and vigorous flow may have strengthened my muscles, but it was not at all what my mind or body needed tonight.  Instead, I stretched, breathed and relaxed, preparing myself for a good night’s sleep.

And that is what I’m going to do now–I plan to get my flow on tomorrow at 7am with my roommate Kate’s class at The Yoga Room in LIC (don’t you love their new logo?  The lovely Kate designed it!).

Goodnight yogis!

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30-Day Challenge: Days 1 and 2

Good morning friends!

Yesterday I told you all about my 30-day challenge.  What I failed to tell you is that I officially started it on Monday!  So let me take a few minutes to fill you in on the classes I took.

Since I was in Harrisburg visiting my man-friend, I practiced at a studio called Just Plain Yoga in Camp Hill, PA that I discovered last month.  There are a bunch of yoga studios in the Harrisburg area, but I originally chose this one for the variety of classes they offer and the convenience of the schedule.  I chose to go back this week because I loved the teacher I had and everyone was so stinkin’ nice.

On Monday morning, I took their Hatha 1-2 class, which was described as an all-level “moderate to mildly dynamic” class, which was pretty accurate.  It was slow-paced in that we held each pose for a while, but by no means was it cake.  In fact, for me, having to hold poses for a long time can be extremely difficult.  That’s when the chitta vritti (sanskrit for “mind chatter” and more fondly referred to as monkey mind) really gets going.  “How much longer am I going to be here?” or “What will she make us do next?” start to get in the way of the breath and being in the moment.  During this class I tried to make a conscious effort to really focus on my breath during these long holds.  Don’t get me wrong, more than once I silently cursed our sweet teacher for keeping us in bound side angle pose for so long, but that is why yoga is a practice–because we are constantly working on it.  Overall, it was a good class–and even more noteworthy is that it was my man-friend’s first yoga class ever!  He’s taking the challenge too 🙂


This guy seems to have triumphed over his monkey mind 🙂

On Tuesday, I went back to JPY to take their Vinyasa flow, which was the first class I took there last month.  When that first class began, I mistook the teacher’s soft-spoken directions to mean that the class was going to be easy and relaxing.  Boy was I wrong!  Anne is Ashtanga-trained, so there were tons of chaturangas and power poses throughout the class to make me sweat.  Therefore, after Monday’s slower-paced class, I was excited to switch it up a little bit.

Anne didn’t disappoint.  In addition to several rounds of Sun Salutations A and B to get the body warm and the heart pumping, she included plenty of slow 5-counts lowering into push-up, plus some core work (knee-to-elbow planks anyone?).  And as in the first class, she offered up yogi’s choice of inversion at the end of class.  My neck has been feeling pretty sore lately, so I’m abstaining from my headstand practice for the time-being (which has been quite the test for my ego, but I’ll talk about that another time); therefore I decided to work on my handstand, which I still practice against the wall.  She gave me a great tip for finding my balance in the pose: Move back a bit from the wall, kick up into handstand and find the wall with your feet.  Bend one knee so that just the big toe is touching the wall as you lift the other foot up straight.  As you continue to lift and straighten the one leg, the toe touching the wall will gradually start to come off the wall…theoretically at least.  This wasn’t a magic fix for getting my handstand away from the wall, but it did allow me to play around with the balance.  Maybe by the end of this 30 days I will break my dependency for the wall!


If I have to be on a headstand hiatus, at least I can enjoy the cutest attempt ever!

I have yet to practice today; I had to say goodbye to the man-friend and Harrisburg at the ungodly hour of 5am (the golden hour of meditation for many yogis, but not this girl) to make it back to NYC for work.  My goal is to do a practice with Yoga Today later this evening.  Worst case I will roll out the mat for a few sun salutations before I inevitably collapse into bed tonight!

Several of you have said you will join me in the challenge.  Keep me posted on your journeys!

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30-Day Yoga Challenge

Hey everyone! It has been a ridiculously long time since I’ve posted anything. Many of you know that in addition to teaching yoga, I am a private teacher for a 9-year-old boy named Charles and so I do a ton of traveling with him and his parents. The last 8 months have been a whirlwind of airports, lesson planning and teaching in an array of locations–both exciting and exhausting!

Recently, we haven’t been traveling as much, which is a much-welcomed reprieve. Most people, upon hearing what I do, tell me how lucky I am and how amazing it must be. And it is, to an extent. But those of you who travel a lot I’m sure can relate that after a while you just want to stay in one place for a while and not think about a suitcase! And so, the first few weeks of fall were glorious; I was able to catch up with friends, TV and sleep! However, the last few weeks of October, I found myself in a terrible routine of staying up late and waking up late, often sacrificing my yoga practice for my couch and The Daily Show and Colbert. While the saying may be that laughter is the best medicine, it appears it can only do so much because I ended up getting sick (and consequently spending more time on the couch!). Then Sandy hit and I officially hit my limit of down-time. I needed to get moving again, and my first step was to get my yoga practice back.

I used to be here...

I used to be here…

...and now I'm here :-/

…and now I’m here :-/


So here’s the deal: I will find time to practice every day, even if it ends up being just a few sun salutations. Then I will blog about my experiences here: where I practiced, the style of the class, and anything new or interesting that happened in my class and my own practice that day. Blogging about this challenge will not only help to motivate me more, since I have now shared my challenge publicly, but maybe it will also be helpful to some of you yogis out there! I’m looking forward to seeing where this challenge takes me both mentally and physically as I share these yoga “snax” with you all!


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Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

This weekend I visited my 94-year-old grandparents (but you didn’t hear their age from me).  They are both amazing–still living in the house my mother grew up in, my grandmother cooks and cleans (lugging a vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs) and my grandfather takes walks and swims after a quadruple bypass 8 years ago.  Both still drive, both have amazing memories of names of people, places and events from over seventy years ago.  And both grew up in a time very different from today–at least in terms of social norms.

Those are some good-looking 94-year-olds.

So, needless to say, I was taken by surprise when during the visit, my grandfather asked me how I felt about gay marriage.  Anyone who’s met Harry knows he’s made some comments that only a 90+ year old could get away with these days, so what was even more surprising about his question was that he was genuinely interested in what I thought.  He wasn’t bringing it up to start an argument, but seemingly to get a new perspective in order to see all sides.

I told him what I thought–that any couple who loves each other and is committed each other should be able to get married, no matter their gender.  When he asked, “But what about the children being raised by gay parents?” I responded that, in my opinion, a home with two loving parents is better than one where the parents are constantly fighting and creating a toxic environment–regardless of gender.  Not to mention the numerous financial and legal benefits that come with marriage that many same-sex couples haven’t had access to.

I heard his side too:  That it was something he was never exposed to (that he was aware of) for most of his life, so it certainly wasn’t part of his social norms.  Furthermore, he worried about the children of homosexual couples and if they would be affected (having had a difficult upbringing himself, he is always worried about children in any situation).  For the most part, he told me with a thoughtful expression that he “just couldn’t wrap his brain around it.”

In the end, I’m pretty sure I didn’t change my grandfather’s mind on the issue, but that wasn’t my goal, nor was it what I took from our conversation.  Rather, it was really refreshing to have a civil conversation about this controversial issue.  In a time where people post their opinions on issues and current events in social media (such as…what I am doing in this blog…) the art of lively, face to face conversation, the exchange of opinions, and debate has become a rarity.  Instead, it is replaced by “likes,” retweets, and short comments that may or may not support the posted opinion.  In this forum, you don’t really have to listen, tone can be misinterpreted, judgements made, and debates can escalate to arguments or end abruptly in silence.

In yoga, we practice non-judgement: of ourselves, our yoga practice, and others.  Of course, the key word there is practice, and that effort can make a huge difference in our outlook on ourselves, others, and the world as a whole.  When it comes to issues like gay marriage, those who disagree with it can lose sight of the fact that the decisions surrounding it affect real, live people.  If those on the opposing side of an issue really stopped to see the full picture, and even ask questions like my grandfather, they may just find that the people they are judging are not so different from them.  Take Ellen Degeneres, for example.  This week on her show, Ellen responded to critics of her JC Penny partnership (who are against it simply because she is gay) by saying, “I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for.”  That sure sounds like someone I would want representing my company, doesn’t it?

This week brought great news to gay marriage supporters in California and Washington, with Prop 8 being ruled unconstitutional and the gay marriage bill being passed, respectively.  As support continues to grow, I hope that more conversations happen, whether face to face or via media, which foster genuine interest  in differing perspectives and debate without judgement.  Total agreement on every issue is not what our country needs; practicing those traditional values that Ellen talked about–equality, kindness and the Golden Rule–is what will truly bring people together.  My relationship with my grandfather is proof of that.


Filed under Dharma, Non-Judgement, Tolerance, Yoga

The Wisdom of Coach Taylor

Extremely grateful for this love muffin.

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” One of the greatest lines from a TV show if you ask me. But when you really think about it, it’s also a great perspective to take in life. In yoga, we dedicate our practice to emptying the mind and filling the heart in order to see more clearly and live more deeply. Coach Taylor would probably scoff, but he is quite the yogi.

I have been feeling this mantra even more deeply in recent months. My heart is so full of gratitude for all of the incredible changes and amazing opportunities that have come my way. But even more importantly, I am so thankful for all of my family and friends, who have been such an amazing support system along the way. Thank you will never be enough to express how I feel about all of you.

While I won’t be with my family today for Thanksgiving, I am fortunate to be able to spend it with my friend Ashleigh at her family’s alpaca farm! Extremely grateful to have such hospitable friends all over the country.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with today, I wish you all a healthy, safe and delicious Thanksgiving….and of course, clear eyes and full hearts.


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Taking This Yoga on the Road

Traveling is one of my passions; the feeling of landing in a new city, trying the local food, having crazy adventures. It’s one of the main reasons my new job was so appealing to me. But kind of travel I do is usually pretty hectic, and now it is going to be much more frequent with work travel thrown in he mix. Between long flights, lugging around heavy luggage and lots of walking around exploring the area and culture, my body can take a beating. Yoga is a great way to take care of yourself while your travel. But classes are not always accessible and yoga mats may not fit in your luggage, especially if you’re packing light. So what’s a yogi to do?

Fortunately, there are a few fantastic options that allow you to take your yoga with you, no matter what. There are travel mats that are super thin and able to fold up like a towel, making them extremely suitcase-friendly. Manduka has a fantastic mat (I got mine as a gift from my sister last year and I love it!). It is a thin, no-slip rubbery material that I can take anywhere.

If you want to go even lighter, Gaiam sells gloves and socks with rubber on the palms and soles so you can literally do yoga anywhere. These are also great to use with a mat if your hands tend to get sweaty and prevent you from getting a good grip.

Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable making up your own practice, there are several free podcasts that you an download from iTunes. Yoga Download and Yoga Journal are great. If you’ll have your laptop with you, websites like Yoga Today and Yoga Glo offer full-length classes. Yoga Today has one free class each week, but is only $10 per month for unlimited access to all of their classes.

Hopefully these tools will help you maintain your yoga practice on your travels so you can keep up your energy for your adventures and still feel rested when you get home. Bon Voyage!


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