Just Do Your Best

This is all I ask of students who venture into my Yoga classes. Do your best today; not yesterday’s best and not tomorrow’s best. Do your best today with whatever you have. A sentiment that is out of the norm in a society of full calendars, adrenaline fueled must-keep-going ideology, and do a minimum of 110% all day, err day and if you can’t do that you’ve failed.

Something I notice with students is there’s an expectation for the practice be easy, that they – the student – should be able to do everything from the get-go, that they should be progressing quicker, and every class should always result in a feeling of being extremely relaxed. When those things aren’t happening the student feels distraught. The bar is set so high that students do not allow themselves to be human, and the essence of the practice – being mindful and present – is lost.

Downward-Facing Dog is a great example of students becoming frustrated. The very first Down Dog is uncomfortable – a physical and mental struggle. It can be a big upper cut to the ego. However, overtime the more the posture is practiced there is potential for more ease, which feels like a reward every time it happens. This doesn’t happen every time, though. Some days if feels like you’re back in the first Downward-Facing Dog.

This happens with breath work, single-point concentration, meditation, Yamas, Niyamas…basically, every aspect of Yoga. Yet, no one gives themselves credit for continuing on, even when the path isn’t clear and there’s no pot at the end of the rainbow. There’s no “but at least I tried, at least I showed up.”

Yoga is not about showing up in the way you want or the way you think you ought to. Rather Yoga is about coming to the practice as you are in the moment and using whatever tools you have available, wholeheartedly.

Today I shared this quote with my beginner class. Maybe it will resonate with you.

Divers search in the ocean for pearls; they don’t find them every time. They may have to dive twenty or thirty times in the deep sea to get them – and even then they don’t always succeed. Sometimes they may not find certain pearls for years, although the pearls are there. The diver is doing his duty, but he is not getting a reward. Each of us must likewise make repeated efforts in our own life. Always make an effort. But there should be sincerity in it.
– Swami Rama

Feurerstein, Georg. Yoga Gems: A Treasury of Practical and Spiritual Wisdom from Ancient and Modern Masters.

How do you approach your Yoga practice or any activity/task? Do you expect a “pearl” each time? If you don’t find a pearl, how do you feel and what do you do? Can you accept that you did your best and take pleasure in that knowledge?


Let’s Talk Hot Yoga & Body Detox

If you’ve seen anything about hot yoga online or talked with certain yoga teachers, studios, or students you’ve probably seen/heard claims that these heated classes remove toxins from the body through sweat. Here’s the thing…that’s bullshit.

Let’s start with an short anatomy lesson to understand how the body actually detoxes itself.

The Liver

This is a large, meaty organ located on the right side of your body under your rib cage. The liver filters all the blood coming from the stomach and intestines, breaks, balances, and creates nutrients for the body to use. It also metabolizes drugs, making them easier for the body to use. Some of the others things the liver does – production of bile to help carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion, produce certain proteins for plasma, store & release glucose, conversion of ammonia into urea which is major organic component of urine, clears the blood of drugs and other harmful substances. When the liver breaks down harmful substances they are released into blood or bile. Bile by-products enter the intestines and exit the body as poop. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys and exit the body as pee.

The Kidneys

Your kidneys are two bean shaped organs about the size of your fist located below your rib cage on either side of your spine. These organs filter your blood of by-products from the liver, waste from food you eat and normal breakdown of active muscle, and extra water. These are then exit the body as urine.

Basically, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly and you are pooping and peeing then your body is removing toxins all on its own. It doesn’t need your help.

Right now you might be thinking, “But wait. What about sweat? Sweat isn’t mentioned in either of those descriptions. My yoga teacher says that sweating helps the body detox.” Let’s talk about perspiration.


Perspiration, aka sweating, in your body’s way of cooling itself. Clear liquid is excreted from sweat glands either due to increased body temperature (i.e. fever or being in a hot room) and/or the activation of your sympathetic nervous system (when you are anxious) resulting in the release of adrenaline.

Tada! That’s it.

Now, some people are going to argue that studies have found heavy metals in sweat. While this might happen, when you actually look at the levels of heavy metals they are so minuscule that there’s no benefit. And there’s really no proof that these heavy metals were “sweated” out, but could be found on the surface of the skin because we are constantly being exposed to heavy metals in many ways. However, for the fun of it let’s pretend for a second that the level of heavy metals found in sweat would actually be of benefit to the body. If you are someone who doesn’t rinse off or change clothes after getting sweaty, this means your body would be reabsorbing everything in your sweat and you would be undoing everything.

I have taught a lot of hot yoga classes over the last three years. Some students genuinely enjoy the heat, and I’ve had some students with arthritis tell me the heat makes their joints feel better. Those are valid reasons to be in a hot yoga class. However, a lot of students come to the practice because of the misinformation that is floating around. Hot yoga will not help you “sweat out” a cold or hangover.

Your body is actually quite an intelligent machine. Let it do its job. If you start to notice concerning changes, please contact a medical professional.

Now is the Practice of Yoga

A couple weeks ago, I felt pulled to my copy of Sri Swami Satchidananda’s commentary of The Yoga Sutras. Specifically, the first Sutra (1.1) of the entire collection, “Atha Yoganusasanam.” I had been introduced to this Sutra during my 200 hour yoga teacher training, and reintroduced when I attended a workshop series discussing the Sutras, but it didn’t really mean all that much to me.

Maybe it was because in my yoga teacher training we, the trainees, we’re given the translation, “Now is the practice of Yoga.” My thought was, “Well, yeah. We were practicing yoga because we were at yoga teacher training. Duh.” Not much discussion was offered on this, instead we went to the next topic without obtaining much depth.

Or maybe it is because Sri Swami Satchidananda’s translation of “Atha Yoganusasanam,” is, “Now the exposition of Yoga is being made.” Satchidananda explains this as, “Anusasanam means exposition or instruction because it is not mere philosophy that Patanjali is about to expound, but rather direct instruction on how to practice Yoga. Mere philosophy will not satisfy us. We cannot reach the goal by mere words alone. Without practice, nothing can be achieved.” (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, page 3) Each time I read this I was like, “Neat,” and simply went on.  The thing is, though, the first Sutra of each book is the most important, and the first Sutra of the entire collection is the most important of them all. If I am a Yoga teacher, and I’m not connecting to this first Sutra, then how can I share any kind of depth with my students?

So I started to wade into the muddy water. As I kept coming to this Sutra and looking at Sri Swami Satchidananda’s words, the notes from the Sutras workshop, and other interpretations of this Sutra I started to feel like the water might be come clear at some point, but I still had some wading to do before I would be able see to the bottom of this pond.

One day as I was driving to teach a class I had a thought about the word, “Atha,” which translates to, “Now.” Now is defined as the present time or moment. I feel most people, including myself sometimes, think of Now as a finite concept, like an appointment. However, Yoga is repeatedly said to be a continuous practice because it is done, both, on and off the mat. If Yoga is to be practiced constantly, then it must be practiced throughout every moment. What if “Now” was replaced with “every moment?” That would make it, “Every moment is the practice of Yoga.”

When I made that small, yet profound, switch of verbiage in my interpretation I felt a bit more clarity, but still needed more to really understand. This was the catalyst that caused me to return to my notes from the Yoga Sutras workshop I had taken. The instructor, who had been a student of Satchidananda’s, had broken down a couple more Sanskrit elements.

“Yoga” means to “union,” “to yoke,” or ,”join.” (If you’ve taken any number of Yoga classes you’ve probably heard a teacher use that translation before, but usually referring to the union of breath and movement or breath, body, and mind. I’ve heard it countless times. I’ve even used it in some of my first classes as a teacher.) The next phrase she described was “Anu.” “Anu” is “little moments where you see the most vastness.” These little moments occur when we feel connected to our higher Self, when everything feels aligned and right. That everything is as it should be.

When these new elements are added to the Sutra, the result is, “Every moment is the practice of joining with your higher Self.”

In each moment of our lives, we are trying to attain this state of bliss or enlightenment. Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. However, Yoga is a continuous practice. Yoga isn’t something that just happens on your mat. It happens at work, the grocery store, the park, in the middle of standstill traffic. Every waking moment the practice of Yoga is happening. And with each new moment comes a new chance for this union with your higher Self to occur.

Atha Yoganusasanam.

Now is the practice of Yoga.

Have You Grounded Today?

The word “ground” is used a whole freakin’ lot in yoga classes. “Ground through your back heel.” “Ground into the earth.” “Ground within yourself.” Sometimes we, yoga teachers, will switch “ground” for “root.” What the heck does “ground” even mean? Why are we grounding so much in classes?

Ground, typically, means two things; 1) to physically connect with the earth/ground and 2) to draw inward. There’s some kind of connection with the ground in every yoga posture. Generally, teachers give alignment cues from the ground up in an effort  of Creating a study foundation. This not only brings physical stability to the body, but it also creates a feeling of being centered, or stable psychologically.

What got me thinking about this idea of grounding was some reading I did. In Yoga of the Subtle Body, by Tias Little, the entire first chapter is about the foot. Why? Because as bipedal beings our feet are our foundations, the feet are usually what gets us from Point A to Point B, and our feet are what’s used the most to connect us to the floor/earth/ground. As I was reading the description of the anatomy of the foot, stretching the plantar fascia, standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), and how if there is a misalignment in the feet the rest of the structure can be thrown off causing pain and discomfort in other parts of the body I started to ask some questions.

Do people feel less grounded mentally and emotionally because there is less physical grounding? What would happen in people were barefoot more often? How would that effect them both, physically and psychologically?

The next time you are in a yoga class, weight lifting, running, walking, sitting at your desk, etc. try to 1) take time to actually ground/root into whatever your feet are touching and 2) notice if by taking the time to physically ground do you feel more mentally grounded.

I think there is so much more that can be discussed on this subject, and maybe one day I’ll revisit this, but I think for today we’ll stop there.

“A pose isn’t supposed to look like anything.”


At least once a week, a student will either say to me before class something about being very sore or having an injury and following that statement with something like, “So please don’t be upset if I don’t do some things or change things,” or a student will come up to me after class and apologize for not doing everything I offered or for modifying postures. I usually follow these statements by asking them why should I be mad about them listening to their body. As a yoga teacher, I love when students know their limits and respect their bodies, whatever that looks like in that moment.

There’s this idea about students having to mimic a teacher exactly or doing every single posture given, and I say (warning adult language) a big, “Fuck that,” to this concept. As a child I developed knee issues shortly before I turned 11 years old. It started with an osteochondroma, a benign tumor on the growth plate of my right knee, then several boughts of bursitis, Osgood-Schlatter Disease, and Runner’s Knee. I also suffered a break of the talus bone in my right ankle at the end of my freshman year in high school. I was lucky to have a dance teacher who taught me to listen to my body, and at times who made me take breaks or would change choreography because I was stubborn and would ignore what my body’s demands to take it easier. She taught me, maybe unknowingly, that poses and movements can be tailored to suit the body performing said poses and movements. For me, I believe there is not a single perfect pose that everyone needs to strive toward. Instead, I believe each individual body has a perfect pose for each individual moment.

One day I had experienced a student talking poorly of their practice. I had commented how I love to watch her practice, and she immediately replied trying to be tongue in cheek with, “Because it’s so lazy?” I was taken aback. No, her practice was wonderful because she listened. She modified. She moved with ease. She took breaks when she needed them. A day or two after that encounter I found myself reading How Yoga Works by Michael Roach, when I came across a paragraph that helped affirm my belief.

It was during an exchange between Friday, a female traveler who was jailed and acting as the local yoga teacher, and the small son of the jail’s sergeant, Ajit. Friday wants Ajit to teach the other boys that day. Ajit agrees saying he’d teach the boys giving and taking, breathing, etc., then get Friday when it’s time for the poses. Friday makes it clear she wants Ajit to teach everything, including the poses. Ajit quickly says he can’t because he has a crippled leg and can’t do the poses perfectly himself. Friday is quick to reprimand him, gently.

“I took his scarred cheek in my palm, and he let me, innocently — did he know it already looked better? ‘There’s something you have to understand, Ajit. It’s very simple and very true. A pose isn’t supposed to look like anythingNobody can do a pose so it looks perfect. A pose is perfect only when you are doing the very best you can –gazing steadily, breathing sweetly, and thinking of how it will help someone else. And I watch you every day, doing lots of these perfect poses. And that’s the kind of poses I want our wonderful boys to learn.'”(How Yoga Works)

If you are planning on apologizing to me or any other instructor, then stop and ask yourself the following questions first. Did you breathe consciously, sweetly, actively? Did you focus and use your drishti? Did you think of how this might help someone else? Did you do your best in that moment? If so, then you have nothing to apologize for. If not, you still don’t need to apologize to me. Take a breath, release judgement, and move on.

Studio Etiquette? What’s That?


Maybe it’s because I’m leading a workshop designed for beginning yogis or maybe the Universe is just trying my teacher patience, but etiquette, sometimes lack thereof, has been showing up a lot lately in quite a few of my studio classes. As a yoga teacher, I try to provide a safe, supportive, and respectful space for students to practice in.

For anyone new to yoga or new to practicing in a studio here are some things to be conscious and aware of in class. For anyone currently practicing at a studio this is your friendly, not-so-subtle reminder about respecting the yoga space, your practice, and the practice of others in the room. Keep in mind each studio has its own culture. Therefore some of these may not apply or they might have even more rules for etiquette.

  1. Be in the room at the scheduled start time for class. Or better yet, be in the room early!
    • Getting to class early allows you time to actually set up your space and settle yourself before class begins. Sometimes things happen, like traffic, and it’s difficult to get to class early. If that’s the class try to be in the practice room at the time class is scheduled to start. The instructor can always give announcements while you are getting settled. Another tip is to call the studio if you are running late. In some cases, the instructor can set up a spot (mat and props) for you so all you have to do is quickly come in while they are giving announcements.
    • Entering the practice space after class has started causes a few issues. First, it’s distracting for everyone involved. There is no possible way for this to not distract the other students and the teacher. It’s like trying to open a potato chip bag in a quiet room. Second, if the class has already gone through their warm up you are putting yourself at risk of becoming injured because you have not given yourself ample time to warm up. Third, depending on the class type or size there’s a possibility of getting kicked in the face or accidentally knocking into someone potentially causing harm to you, someone else, or both.
  2. Avoid flopping your mat down.
    • Other students are trying to get settled and center before class. When someone drops or flops their mat on the floor it creates an unnecessary distraction and throws off other students’ peace of mind.
  3. Unvelcro your mat strap before entering the room.
    • Similar to #2. Try to create as little noise as possible when getting yourself set up for class. For some people this class might be their only quiet time or personal time that day or week. Be respectful of that concept.
  4. If it isn’t yoga related, then don’t bring it in the room.
    • This includes cell phones. Personally, I prefer when students leave watches, fitness trackers, and smart watches outside the room, as well. Part of practicing yoga is removing distractions. How can you have a distraction-free practice if you are worried your phone might go off in class or when you are texting on your smart watch during Savasana?
  5. NO shoes in the room!
    • Do not wear your shoes into the practice space. Depending on the flooring in the studio, shoes can actually mess up the floor. It creates an unhygienic practice area. Keep in mind hands, feet, and faces all end up near or against the floor at some point. Studios work incredibly hard to keep the practice space floors clean to make sure students stay healthy. I know this can be hard at smaller studios. Believe me. I’ve practiced at a studio where you open the door and you are in the practice space and cubbies were all the way across the room in a separate space. Take your shoes off the moment you walk in and carry them to the cubbies. Easy peasy.
    • The only time it is acceptable to wear shoes into the room is if you have a medical condition, i.e. plantar fasciitis. In that case, bring a second pair of shoes to class that is dedicated only to being worn in the studio – something that is never worn outside or anywhere else.
  6. If you think you will be tempted to talk to your neighbor during class, then place your mat elsewhere.
    • Sometimes friends, colleagues, or partners will go to class together. I know it’s tempting to talk during class, especially the first class, because it’s something new and weird, and nervousness is pouring from you and it’s manifesting in an urge to talk. But please don’t do it. In fact, just put your mat somewhere away from your buddy if you think either of you will be tempted to talk.
  7. Do NOT place your hands on another student!
    • You’ve convinced your partner to come try yoga. You get everything set up while your partner is filling out their liability waiver or changing in the locker room. Class starts. Everything is going peachy, then the first Downward Facing Dog arrives and you decide to get off your mat and “adjust” your partner. (Yes, this has happened in a class before.) As a teacher, this is the fastest way for me to go from being nice to flames in my eyes and smoke coming out of my ears. DO. NOT. TOUCH. SOMEONE. ELSE. You are responsible for you. Unless you attending an integrated accessible yoga class as someone’s caretaker and are being employed to assist them through the class then DO NOT PLACE YOUR HANDS ON ANOTHER PERSON! Don’t do it. Ever. I’m sure your intentions are good, but forcing someone’s body into a shape it’s not used to making is a great way for them to get injured. If you think you might be tempted to touch them, then see the suggestion in #6 – put your mat elsewhere.
  8. Stay the entire time.
    • Please, please, please stay the entire time. Savasana (Corpse Pose) is essential to the practice. It allows students to practice letting go of the grasp on thoughts and observe them entering and exiting the mind as they please. If you aren’t quite ready to practice thought control, then think of it like a cool down for any other physical activity. It lets the body calm and relax and the practice integrate with the body. This allows the body to reap maximum benefits and decrease the risk of injury.

This list and my thoughts might seem a little harsh, but these are all things I’ve experienced as a teacher and as a student. These are things I’ve had students complain about or wish would be practiced more often. The studio space may be just a workout space for some, and that’s fine, but the studio space is also a sacred space for others. No matter your reason for coming to a studio, please respect the space and the people you share it with.

If you practice at a studio, what are some other guidelines you wish others would respect? Do you try to practice all of those listed above? Maybe you are someone who unconsciously does one of the things listed about, would you be willing to make a conscious effort to do something different? Leave you comments or insights!

Coffee, Accessibility, Bali, and Connection


Tuesday, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my lovely friends for coffee. She’s also a yoga teacher. A little about my friend, she teaches weekly classes at a couple of studios, goes into a local prison to teach inmates, teaches life skills and yoga classes with inmates about to be released, and teaches yoga at a shelter for women recovering from violence, addiction, and sexual exploitation. She is one of my favorite people, and it had been a month since we’d seen each other.  So much had happened in a matter of four weeks. Time to connect was definitely needed!

As we sit down, we’re both so excited about what the other has going on in their lives. I’ve been diving deeper into my passion of body positivity, inclusivity, and accessibility of yoga. She’s been traveling. First a yoga retreat in Aruba then a trip to Mexico with friends, and soon…Bali.

We go back and forth between our desires, dreams, goals, etc. She’s decided to ask herself if she could do anything without having to worry about anyone or anything else what would that be. She wants to immerse herself into her study of yoga so she can go further into her teaching. She’s found, what sounds to be, an amazing school in Bali that aligns so much with who she is. She’s also allowing herself to be open to possibility. While she has a ticket back to the States, she might take some extra time to travel to neighboring countries before returning home. But only time will tell. A hope of hers is to apply new teachings and a new understanding of herself to her work serving the under-served.

I, on the other hand, am staying put. I’ve recently completed a training called Yoga for All, in which I learned how to teach open-minded classes that are accessible to students of all body sizes, shapes, types, and abilities. In the near future, I am hoping to offer a workshop focusing on body image and yoga. As part of my teaching philosophy, I wholeheartedly believe every single person who wants to have a yoga practice can have a one, regardless of age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, size, shape, income, and whatever else. Unfortunately, yoga is quite exclusive, but I’m hoping to add my voice to choir of those fighting for inclusivity.

Although, her path and mine appear to be quite different from the outside, I really don’t think they are. I think our end game is the same. What I see is two teachers looking to create deeper connections with themselves so they can connect more fully with others, especially those who are “unseen.” I’m going to miss my friend so much while she’s gone, but I am so excited for the moment when our paths will cross again and we get to reconnect…hopefully, with coffee.