Late For Now

“Now we begin the practice of Yoga.” – (Yoga Sutra 1.1)

I arrived at my first class in my new teaching space with 30 minutes of prep work to do and 15 minutes to do it in. The other 15 minutes had been spent at the breakfast bar in my kitchen repeatedly swiping a credit card through the reader I had just bought at Target that ultimately would never work. I would have to take my chances with manual card entry and nervous fingers. 

Body Advantage Prop Shelf

The blocks in question, shrinkwrapped for your protection.

My fresh cork blocks just delivered that day did make it out of the boxes and onto the shelves, but not out of their shrinkwrap. I forgot to erase the workout for the previous occupant of the room from the dry erase board. I ran about clearing items and cleaning and lighting candles in such a rush that by the time I slid open the pocket door to greet the first three students gathered there, I was a slightly sweaty mess. People kindly ignored that and remarked upon the coziness of the space, a sweet little room that feels like a secret vacation cabin, complete with fireplace. Somebody saw the workout outlined on the dry erase board and jokingly asked if we were doing burpees. Students good-naturedly peeled shrinkwrap off of blocks and agreed to wait until after class for me take my chances with my newly installed credit card app.

Finally, as has happened at the beginning of class hundreds (thousands?) of times over the last 11 years, students stepped onto their mats, lay down, and closed their eyes. I said a quick prayer that the skills I’d cultivated over those years and classes would still be accessible from my current location. 

Body Advantage Altar

A new space requires a new altar.

Before I said a word, I paused, and I took a breath, and I looked. And here’s what I saw: everyone was smiling. It is possible I am exaggerating, but that is exactly what it looked like. Faces were lit up in a way I hadn’t exactly experienced (or noticed?) before. Each of these people, so dear to my heart, looked simply happy to be there, and to be with me. And I felt happy to be with them, too. 

Ready or not, now had begun.

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Fresh Starts


This Friday, Fed Ex will deliver the two largest boxes ever to my front porch. In one will be ten dark blue yoga bolsters, and in the other 20 fresh cork blocks. I am busily outfitting my new yoga space, and I’ve got a breathless sense of back to school anticipation.

You could also call it anxiety. Will people like the new place? Will they be able to find it? In what unforeseen way will I disappoint them?

For the first time in ten years, I am transitioning where I teach. During that decade, It’s All Yoga was my sacred nest – the place that nurtured my teaching and my life. Each person that walked in the door altered my chemistry for the better, and I hope I altered theirs beneficially, too. 

I’m hopping out of that nest now, trusting that, if I don’t fly, exactly, a new branch might appear partway down. I am joining a group of wellness practitioners that include yoga, massage, chiropractic and personal training, and I’m excited to be part of such a complementary and collaborative approach. 

Should you want to hang out on this branch with me, here’s the September schedule:


Special two week workshop, $60

Sat, September 12th & 19th, 1:30-3:30pm

For those entirely new to yoga, or just in need of a brush up. Longer class time will allow us to dive deeper into the foundations of the poses. Students will receive handouts for home practice. 


Tuesdays: 5:30pm 

Thursdays: 4:30pm 

Mixed level: fundamental enough for beginners, but deep and subtle enough for experienced practitioners. Offered as ongoing series that start at the beginning of each month. Next start dates:

Tues, September 8th – 4 wks, $60 – FULL! (ask re: waitlist)

Thurs, September 10th, 3 wks, $45



1754 36th Street, Sacramento


Phone: 916.290.2693


Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Abandoning Hope and Beginning Again

(***AUTHOR’S NOTE:*** There are three and a half years between this post and the one that follows it. I took a little break from writing. Just a heads up so you know all this is well behind me now, and I’m doing just fine. Well, depending on the day.😉


Last Wednesday, while preparing to step into the bath, I took a quick glance in the mirror. Then I took a second glance. A vein that I had never noticed before had sprung up dark blue on the left side of my face, around the jaw. It threaded its way alongside the jugular towards my chest, where it spread out like rivers on a map, moving down my left breast and across my left shoulder. I looked away and looked back quite a few times, unsure of what I was seeing. I became aware of a marked tingling sensation over the area. I called my spouse, Joy, who told me she was leaving work to take me to the doctor. I cried the hopeless tears of someone who doesn’t want to go to the doctor, but understands they will probably have to go anyway. When the doctor mentioned the possibility of a blood clot, I cried again, one of those embarrassing hiccup sobs that drown out words, and made the nurse practitioner put a reassuring arm around me, while the doctor, apparently genetically unable to stop smiling, continued to talk. I had that thought, for a few moments: “Ah, this is the appointment you don’t come home from. Almost everyone has one, and this is yours.” I did come home. It was, thank goodness, not a clot. However, unfortunately, it is still not entirely clear what it is. In the meantime, it has been suggested that I move my left arm as little as possible, and not engage in contact pressure, which pretty much describes the sum total of what I do for a living. Until I see a vascular surgeon, and possibly afterwards, I am in a limbo, uncertain what I can safely do. I am a cataclysmically cranky patient. For the next few days, I curled myself into a dense ball of toxicity and frustration. My poor spouse, Joy, scrambled to care for me and cheer me up, making me meals, taking me for a sunny drive down the Delta. I stared out at the sparkling river and grew angrier and angrier. Its beauty was an affront to my self-pity, and it offended me. I pictured the unknowable space inside my left armpit, under my collarbone, dense, darkening, growing fractal, poisonous blockages that would swallow me entirely. It took me fully until Saturday morning to be willing to allow someone to tell me to knock it off.  Here’s the paragraph I turned to in Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: “In Tibetan there’s an interesting word: ye tang che…(it) means “totally tired out.” We might say “totally fed up.” It describes an experience of complete hopelessness, of completely giving up hope. This is an important point. This is the beginning of the beginning. Without giving up hope – that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be – we will never relax with where we are or who we are.” Ye tang che might as well have been tattooed across my chest in blue at that moment. The first part of my suffering was this unknown condition cutting off circulation to a crucial part of me. But the second part, the more torturous part, was the wondering and hoping: when will I be able to return to work? When will I do a down dog again? Who will I be if I can no longer do those things? In one of Joy’s many valiant attempts to cheer me up, she told me to think about football players. They become profoundly, consistently injured, and they deal with it, and they move on. Mostly, they find a way to play again. Sometimes, they don’t. All of them, it would seem, have made a decision that the game is worth the risk. At a certain level, they have to give up the hope that they can remain completely uninjured while playing professional football. Their bodies, which at some point will get used up anyways, become acceptable currency for the exhilarating ride of the sport. At some point, my body will be used up, and I will have to step off the yoga mat, away from the massage table. Dear reader, I sincerely hope that day is a long ways off. My prayer today is to find a way to be grateful now for this opportunity to practice letting go. A moment in which I can let myself get totally tired out, totally fed up, and begin the beginning again.

Posted in Death and Dying, Letting Go | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

How Being Human Can Wreck Your Body

The yoga championships came to town yesterday.

I will leave the evaluation of the evolution of these competitions to the yoga historians, although I don’t have to be Georg Feuerstein or Mark Singleton to have some pretty serious doubts that they are a “longstanding tradition in India that spans thousands of years” – to quote their promotional materials. They also explain that while “the majority of points earned are for physical ability, there are points awarded to reflect the character (emotional, mental and spiritual) of the competitor as a whole.”  I wish that I could have gone just to determine how one is judged on their spiritual character, but I was at the studio teaching my Saturday morning class.

This yoga circus comes fast on the heels a recent New York Times article entitled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” by William J. Broad. This expose on the dangers of yoga suggests that most of us would be wise to quit yoga before we succumb to a debilitating injury or a stroke.

While the subject matter was thought-provoking, I believed the tone of it was needlessly alarmist. As a yoga teacher, though, I felt a little too biased towards the benefits of the practice to comment neutrally on such a piece. Luckily for me, my students felt no such restrictions. “Did you see the New York Times article?” one asked me.  “What utter bullshit. I have no idea what they’re talking about. I don’t even know what those poses were they were supposedly doing.”

She made a good point. The illustrations accompanying the article were photographs of dancers demonstrating ill-conceived versions of shoulderstand and plow, both poses that have a high risk of injury if performed carelessly. Considering that the article essentially painted these poses as a stroke waiting to happen, it seems unconscionable that they endangered these poor dancers careers by asking them to hold the poses for the camera, and hold them so very wrongly.

I teach shoulderstand infrequently, but when I do I teach it carefully, step by step, and with I hope adequate explanation of its risks and benefits. In one such class, I had a student bent on insubordination. Any time I mentioned something I didn’t want the class to do, she seemed to choose to do just that. As we performed various stages of shoulderstand at the wall, I asked that once students were in any version of the pose, not to turn their heads to the side, but stay centered. (If you’ll notice, that is exactly what the poor, put upon NYT models are doing. Ouch.) Immediately, this woman popped up into shoulderstand, turned her head strongly, and smiled at me. I made a beeline to stand at her side and ask her to bring her head back to neutral. She just gave a little giggle. In a voice I had never before and have never since used in my teaching career, I said: “I need you to come out of this pose. NOW.”

When we step onto the yoga mat, we are truly captains of our own ship. It’s not generally a contact sport like football, where someone is going to tackle us and throw our bodies somewhere we didn’t choose to go. Our practice reflects our own habits, our predilections and prejudices, our decisions. Of course you can hurt yourself in yoga practice. It would be silly and naïve to assert otherwise. But might this be evidence not of the pitfalls of any particular physical practice, but a tendency inherent to human beings?  Any discipline can either refine and restrain our more unfortunate and reckless habits, or reinforce them in a ritualized ego stroke. Yoga is not immune.

The article takes as its primary subject the schools of yoga that are extremely physically vigorous  – the power flow and the hot yoga you are likely to find down the street at the Yoga Championships. This is a very visible aspect of the yoga population. But my instinct tells me that, just as in religion or politics, a vocal minority can often drown out a  quiet majority.

I believe yoga culture is already changing in America, with very little fanfare. People, some injured, some not, are emigrating from gym workouts and vigorous flow classes to more inclusive, less dogmatic studios. They are curious about the origins of yoga, and what it really means to their lives, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

On the day of the championships, I taught Eagle Pose in class. I noticed as I wandered the room that many of the students had their eyes closed, and almost all of the rest had a very soft look about the eyes. I mused aloud about how surprising that seemed, since we generally refer to “Eagle Eyes” as the sharp gaze of a predator.

Responses flowed out of the students:

“Maybe the efficiency of the predator’s gaze comes more from his ability to relax within himself.”

“Maybe his prey is within, not without.”

“The eagle is wrapped within himself, he’s resting.”

“He’s roosting!”

A conversation like this doesn’t make as sensational an article as a yoga induced emergency room visit, but I believe they are happening, noticed or not, at little studios across the country. Students and teachers, one by one, deciding for themselves that the risks of practicing yoga are far outweighed by the risks of not practicing at all.

Posted in Self Study, Teaching | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Chakras – the Chocolate of Yoga

Chakras have always seemed to me the candy of yoga. In a practice that sometimes seems in danger of becoming chronically virtuous, turning my attention to the chakras always feels like it’s time for dessert.

Not to say that the study of chakras is always pleasant. The messages they offer and the meditations they encourage can be unwelcome, or address areas of our lives and bodies that we would prefer to ignore. But, rather than introducing these subjects in an abstract way, they bring them up in a way that I find easily grasped, held, played with.

Chakras are the organs of our energy body. In Hatha Yoga, it is suggested that we are composed not just of a physical (gross) body, but also an energetic (subtle) one. These two bodies are intricately connected, and influence one another, but are not the same.

The chakras are energetic centers of the subtle body that bridge this gap – where the energetic body can most clearly be “seen” to be influencing the physical, and vice versa. In most current, mainstream chakra theories, there are considered to be seven main ones, aligned along the spinal column from the tailbone to the crown of the head.

If this is where you’re starting to feel like chakras might be too hopelessly woo-woo to be of interest to you, let me tell you something else I like about them: the study of them still works even if you don’t believe in them. You can approach the study of chakras organically – accepting that there are colorful, spinning wheels of light within your energy body, and then exploring what they might mean in your life – or – you can approach the study of them logically – using them as an elegant organizational system to better understand experiences that make up a human life. Even if these are ideas pulled out of thin air, they can still function as mirrors that sharpen what you do in fact believe to be true about yourself.

For an example, let’s start at the base.The first chakra, Muladhara, or “root” is said to be located at the tailbone, or the pelvic floor. Of all the chakras, it is considered the “densest,” or most physical. It extends down into the earth, shining like a flashlight into the cellar underneath us. The parts of life that it might be said to govern are basic issues like safety, money, your right to be in the world and take up space. The areas of the physical body associated with Muladhara include the legs and feet, the very low back.

So, let’s say you have a physical issue like sciatica, what I would call a pretty classic first chakra imbalance. (If you’re continuing to wince at the woo-woo of such a statement, stay with me a moment longer…) The organic, or “from the ground up” perspective might take the inquiry to the mat. We might notice in yoga asana that our timidness or low self-esteem causes us to tuck the tailbone, curling the area of muladhara chakra underneath us in an attempt not to be noticed (the right to be here and take up space) which causes energy to get stuck here instead of flowing freely. The logical, or more “top down” perspective might instead point out that sciatica would be a natural side effect from working, say, three jobs that are hard on the body (the right to financial security).

Whether you think these are entities or simply ideas, they are still helpful jumping off points for reflections on where your life is functioning optimally, and where it’s not.

If your curiosity is piqued by these energy centers, I’m offering my fifth annual chakra workshop on Saturday, January 28th, 2-4:30. This year’s theme is “Chakra 101” – an introduction to all seven major centers of the body. We’ll do some yoga together, and explore ways, logical (meditation, journaling) and lighthearted (belly dancing, karaoke) to address and balance these areas, both on and off the mat. It will be a swirl of color and sound and movement, a real yoga lollipop. Hope to see you there!

Sign up at or email me for more information:

Posted in Chakras, Teaching | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

New Year’s Revelations

Massage therapists, we worry about burning out our hands. In school, we are greeted with a barrage of horror stories: tendonitis, carpal tunnel, ganglian cysts. And sure enough, the first six months I was in practice, I had tingling from my elbows all the way down to my wrists and a sense of dread – now that I had found a job I loved with all my heart and soul, would I be able to keep at it?

The tingling subsided once I got some strength in my arms, my body, my hands. But it took a while for me to really learn how to avoid tiring my hands and forearms out. In my continuing education, at the San Francisco School of Massage, I had the immense privilege of studying deep tissue with the superlative master Art Riggs, someone who wrote the book on deep tissue. Literally.

Here’s what Art taught me to do with my hands: Sink in – and wait. That’s it. That simple instruction has changed everything about the way I work. And it’s beginning to influence the way I’d like to live.

Usually, in massage school, you learn a lot of strokes: patterns you are supposed to move your hands in, shapes you are trying to make in the body. Art didn’t teach many of these. Instead, he suggested that by sinking, gently but decisively into tissue with no agenda, and simply waiting, the tissues will tell you which way they need to go.

This way, a massage session is not something I’m telling the body, but a question I am asking, over and over.

This method can occasionally be scary. At least once, at the beginning of each massage, as I sink in, I have a little butterfly flutter of worry: what if this time, my hands get no answer, and they just don’t know where to go? What if I get stuck in silence with no plan?

It hasn’t happened yet. I’m not saying I hear voices, or have visions, or could even tell you why my hands are moving in the direction that they are, but somehow they always start moving, and so far, this technique seems to be working out just fine.

Yesterday was the last day of 2011. To celebrate the transition, I moved into a new massage office. I have been working in the same space for exactly eight years. It’s been a cozy (read: tiny) space, but it has served me well. It’s been a place of refuge, for both myself and my clients. It’s where we go when we need a quiet cave. Within this cave, the massage table itself seems to be something of a tunnel – it leads somewhere.  I have had reports from clients that they go traveling a bit, or have visits, or visions. Sometimes, of course, they just go to sleep.

That portal will move with me. I’m ready for more space – a little more room to move and breathe. My new office has room for real chairs to sit and relax in, for example, room to do a yoga pose or two.

So yesterday, as twilight gathered, I finished vacuuming my empty old space until it looked as anonymous as it did on January 1st, 2004. I lay down smack dab in the middle of the room in corpse pose.  I thought about how days are long, but eight years can seem very quick. Massage still seems new to me, although now I have been doing it (and teaching yoga) longer than I have done any other sort of job. But when you let go of what you think you know, and you let every day be a question, the job always feels new, it always seems fresh and unexpected.

That tiny room has seen all sorts of suffering, both my client’s and my own. I’m pretty sure 2011 is a year a lot of us are grateful to put to bed. This time, the beginning of a new year, feeds our hunger for a fresh start, even though it’s not particularly any more fresh than any day, any moment.

Human beings, we worry about burning out our hearts.  When faced with suffering off the table, my own or others, my first instinct is to jump in and massage it, make it a known pattern, an understandable shape. Like my poor hands those first few months, the heart can buckle a bit under the load.

What if I could apply these lessons of the hands to the instincts of my heart? Rather than jumping in with a plan to fix, could I let my heart sink into the moment, and wait? Stop trying to have all the answers, and, as Rilke suggests, learn to “love the questions themselves?” I honestly don’t know, as I’ve yet to take this approach to one difficult moment of my life. But let this be the year, let this be the day, let it be now.

Posted in Kindness, Letting Go | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments