I Wanted to Look Bad Ass–Is that so Wrong?

As my classes have grown and new relationships begin to blossom, I’ve been asked how I came to practice (and subsequently teach) yoga. While the reasons one should practice are varied, mine was pretty simple.  I didn’t come to yoga to heal my heart or work out deeply seated issues I have with my father/mother/brother.  I wasn’t looking to find the quiet space between my thoughts, deal with major trauma, heal from disordered eating, or cope with high levels of stress.  (That isn’t judgment, by the way.  I realize that some people DO come to this practice for a number of these reasons.  And while I can’t necessarily relate to them, I do appreciate that they are real.)  

To put it plainly, I wanted to be able to put my body into some bad ass poses.  (Scorpion was top on the list.)

Perhaps that seems superficial. Honestly, it wasn’t so I could “show boat” or be a bendy braggadocio. And becoming a teacher never crossed my mind. I just knew there was something to the process. The journey. The asana adventure. I sure as hell didn’t know what that meant or would entail, but it continued to intrigue me. Keep in mind that this was back in 1999/2000. While yoga was growing, it wasn’t as mainstream then as it is now. (Can you imagine a time with no Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or abundant yoga pose selfies?) So, when a co-worker told me she went to the studio that I passed regularly and had developed a strong curiosity about, we made a date to go together. 

My first class was (in my mind) a bit of a disaster.  I felt completely out-of-my-body.  Where the hell did my balance go?  Why don’t I get this breath-movement thing?  But once I stopped trying to be good at it (Okay, so I am a Recovering Type A), *tada!* I started getting better at it!  My practice became one of dedication and devotion to Ashtanga, typically going to four classes a week but often more.  As it happens with schedules and creatures of habit, many of the same practitioners came to the same classes. While each  was wonderful in its own right, there was something special about our Tuesday night group. A dozen or so of us would roll out our mats on a regular basis, breathing and moving in unison until the entire room seemed to pulse in time with the tempo of our ujayii pranayama.  Some of us still talk about those nights and how palpable the connections were.  Summer sessions would wind down with the day as we slipped into a sunset savasana and, as the seasons changed, practice would begin at dusk and settle in as the glint of snow gathered in soft formation outside. I can clearly remember driving home with a friend after a Tuesday practice one winter’s night.  We both left it all on the mat and were sitting in virtual silence in our seats when it began to snow.  Big, fluffy, gorgeous flakes fell and were illuminated by my headlights.  We both looked at each other with awe and enormous smiles.  This was a sublime moment.  And we were utterly and completely in it.  That was when I knew yoga would be a part of my life forever. 

Within my first year of practice, I decided to start running and signed up for a marathon.  At this point, I was practicing several times a week and had the time to properly train for the 26.2 miles I’d be running in Kona.  There were some touch-go-moments when I hit the double-digit miles, and I recall one of my teachers mentioning that running 10+ miles and doing two full-primary series practices within 24 hours might be a little much. It took some adjusting, but I was able to find a good rhythm between my practice days and my training schedule and crossed the finish line feeling pretty great! To this day, I attribute my lack of injury and swift recovery from running in the Kona heat to my regular yoga practice.

As life shifted, so did my practice.  I traveled more for business.  My yoga studio moved to a new location that wasn’t 12-minutes away.  I started going to the gym more.  Running twenty-some-odd miles on a Thursday instead of rolling out my mat. Eventually, my practice down-shifted to once or twice a week.  When it did, I could feel the result in my body.  I was strong as hell, but the fluidity, ease, and presence of mind were not the same.  My body moved better when I practiced more regularly. I missed sharing those simple and profound post-practice moments. It was time to make a change. More dates with the mat. Period.

To be honest, those moments often vacillated between first-date awkwardness and an adversarial inner monologue. My body occasionally staged a coup–What? You really think supta kurmasana is still in there? Ha!  Good luck with that…

I was in my head. 


I realized that the goal-oriented, marathon-running, strength-training mind and body were taking over the space reserved solely for my mind/body. While it was discouraging at first as it felt almost like starting anew, I went back to the basics of simply connecting my breath and movement; suspending judgment and expectations of what that 60- or 90-minutes of mat time would bring. In time, the mind chatter dissipated. And like spinning the right combination on a lock, my body released and gave way to the practice again. 

Over the years, through aging and injury and the life changes brought on by moving from bramacharya/student to grahasta/householder, my practice has certainly shape-shifted. And while I may have beaten myself up over it in the past, a conversation I had with David Swenson helped me to see that being humbled and feeling vulnerable were gifts. I had an opportunity to use this experience to “go inside,” learn and evolve. It would be several years before I made the transition to teaching, but I’m grateful for each of the little setbacks and small victories along the way. No matter what life brings, I still hold the practice and tradition with great reverence and respect all that it brings to my life.  To practice is to give oneself a gift over and over again. It’s one that I happily accept, and willingly and most humbly share.


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A Friendly Reminder

Rumi quote

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Thanks, Salt Room Yoga!

In a “previous life,” I traveled about every three weeks for business.  Those trips were usually jam-packed and left little time for yoga on the road.  In my “new life,” one of my own design and as a full-time yoga teacher, travel is almost exclusively for pleasure–even when it’s for my own business because my work is a pleasure!  So, when the travel bug bites, I make sure to bring my yoga mat with me whenever possible.

That said, I recently accompanied my husband on one of his work-related trips to Seattle.  I had hoped to practice with some of the teachers who I respect and are based in the Emerald City, but they were all traveling at the time.  No matter–I found a little gem of an Ashtanga studio.  Had a nice little practice in a very cool space.  Thanks, Salt Room!

View from my mat.

View from my mat.

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Ashtanga Yoga Confluence 2014

I’ve attended this event since its inception and am, once again, humbled to be in the presence of such incredible teachers.  While I may often teach a more vinyasa flow style of yoga in my classes, going back to the roots of my cherished Ashtanga practice is like mainlining inspiration and tradition.  You can’t help but feel connected to each and every Ashtangi–whether they are practicing beside you in the hundreds, or are someplace else in the world.  The thread that Sri K Pattabhi Jois started runs through each of us, and his spirit was palpable in every breath and every moment.

This year, we were joined by Manju Jois, son of Amma and Pattabhi Jois.  The tales he told about his parents and growing up in a home that was legendary to so many of us kept us rapt by his words.  It was touching to hear in his voice the love and respect he had (and still has) for his parents.  His dedication to the practice and sharing it around the world has kept him full of vim and vigor.  (It’s hard to believe he will be 70 this year!)

It was an honor to attend–thank you to so many yogis who covered my classes while I was gone.  Namaste.

YogaJolie and Manju Jois

YogaJolie and Manju Jois

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A Warm Smoothie? YES.

I’ve been on a pretty good smoothie clip lately, and the other day I wanted to blend something up, but I just wasn’t feeling the love of a chilled drink. I couldn’t shake the cold that seemed to set into my bones after a number of really frigid days, so I decided to turn up the heat and make a warm smoothie.

Before I lose you with the two words that seem incongruous to one another, let me say that you will love it! I should also say that not all blenders are created equal, so you may not get the same temperature with a standard blender as I do with my VitaMix. That said, if you prefer your smoothies unadulterated and chill, don’t blend as long!

What I threw into my blender:
1 banana
a handful of raw walnuts
~1 T coconut oil
~1 T of raw hemp seeds
~1 T of chia seeds
~1 T of maca powder (I used MacaForce in Vanilla Spice)
1-2 T of cacao powder
1 scoop protein powder (I used Vega)
~1 t cinnamon
dash of sea salt

Almond or coconut milk to desired consistency.

Turn that bad boy on and blend away! If you have a high-powered blender, you may only have to let it go for a minute or two to bring the temperature up a little. If you have a VitaMix (or the equivalent), be careful not to let it go too long–you can actually really heat your ingredients up to soup-level-hot if you aren’t paying attention!

But as you can see, my smoothie recipe isn’t a scientific, precise “recipe,” but more like a suggested list. You could use cashews or even your favorite nut butter. Leave out the maca, hemp seeds or chia seeds. Throw in more banana–maybe even a frozen one if you prefer your smoothies on the cold side.

It’s hard for me to describe what this tastes like–but it’s delicious. And if a frosty drink is like a sundress on a June day, the slightly warm temperature of this smoothie is like a cashmere blanket on a snowy Sunday.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Warm smoothie

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Eat Your Veggies – kale edition


Spring and summer bring great opportunities to hit farmers markets for fresh fruits, veg, and other items that are locally grown or produced.  It feels good to support area farmers and you can cut down on carbon footprint by not buying items at the store that are shipped and trucked in.  I realize that farmers markets aren’t in every community, so this recipe contains items that can be found pretty easily while giving you a good hit of vitamins along the way.

The heavy hitter in this recipe is the kale.  Kale is high in beta carotene, VitK, VitC, and is calcium-rich.  It also contains sulforaphane, which is a naturally occurring chemical with potent anti-cancer properties.  It also is a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.

Blueberries contain abundant phytonutrients called polyphenols, which can decrease age-related neurological diseases.  This powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory fruit may help decrease chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, etc. which can be caused by inflammation.  They are also packed with VitC, fiber, manganese and have a low glycemic index.  Sounds pretty good, huh?  Put ’em together with a few other ingredients and you have one hell of a healthy smoothie!

4-6 kale leaves (remove stems if thick)

1 c blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 1/2 c liquid (soy/coconut/almond milk)

1/4 c water

1 T flax

1 banana

I typically blend the kale, flax, and blueberries with a little liquid so that the drink is smooth before adding the other ingredients.  If you have a kick ass blender like a VitaMix or Blendtec, it won’t take long.  Other blenders might need a little time to break the kale apart.  When you have a good consistency, add remaining ingredients, blend, and enjoy!

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Some of My Favorite Go-To Pieces for Fitness

As a yoga teacher/practitioner and long distance runner, I spend at least five days a week in spandex, lycra, luon and power luxtreme, so people often ask me for advice on where to get quality gear for a decent price.  This weekend, after attending a class at my local lululemon showroom, someone asked me what my “go to” pieces were.  Well, I can’t lie.  I do love me some lululemon.  And if we are talking about my favorites, I can name two in particular that I have multiples of in my closet right now.

I do that often–buy multiples of my favorites.  It could be running pants, a tank, or even my running shoes.  Manufacturers often change the color range with the season/year to freshen it up, and sometimes they will make other adjustments to the item as well.  If I know that this year’s running shoe fits me well, I’m buying at least two pairs of ’em because I’ll put the miles on them and I don’t want to risk next year’s model having a tweaked toe box or modified arch support.  But I digress.

My two favorite lululemon items (though my collection is certainly not limited to these!) are the Power Y tank and the Run: Inspire Crop.  And here’s why: I can pretty much wear both of them for yoga and running.  I love the back of the Power Y tank because it’s minimal and the straps don’t get in the way during some of the crazier yoga postures. Plus, this tank is a little longer, so it won’t ride up during forward folds.  (Wear this outside on a sunny run and the tan lines will be super minimal.)  Added bonus: if you strength train, your back is guaranteed to look hot in one of these.  Hello, muscles!

Power Y Run: Inspire

The Run: Inspire crops are awesome because I can wear them on training runs in the spring, summer and fall (I tend to wear longer tights in the winter), and there is a small zip pocket on the back that can hold a key, cards/money, etc.  I’m partial to black tights, but they have a bunch of different colors available.  Like most of their stuff, it isn’t cheap–$52 for the tank and $86 for the tights–but if you wear it as often as I do, it’s worth the investment.

If you want to add a little sass to your ass while running, this Pace Setter skirt is adorable!  (Are you kidding me with those ruffles?!  LOVE.)  I’m a big fan and plan to get another color to wear when the weather breaks.  (I already own the black, of course.) There are built-in bloomers–so no need for modesty–and I love the elastic on the hems to keep the shorts from riding up.  $58.

Pace Setter skirtI’ve owned gear from a lot of different companies over the years, and have found some pretty good stuff out there.  Prior to my love affair with lulu, Nike dominated my clothing range because the fit and design were always pretty great and you can find their stuff in just about any sports-related store.  Now, I realize that not everyone wants to spend a ton of coin on clothes that are just going to get sweaty.  For you, check out the Active line at Old Navy.  Seriously.  I was in there the other day and the tanks looked mighty cute, but what really caught my eye were these awesome boot cut yoga pants!  Regularly priced at $19.50, they are a total steal, but they are on sale right now for $11.50!  What?!  Yes…  I own several pair as of yesterday.  They have interesting stitching/seams, wash and wear well, and they make my butt look cute–that’s kind of important, no?  Plus, since they have a fun boot cut, they are perfect to wear while running errands after class.

boot cut yoga pantsProbably the key thing to do no matter how much you spend on your fitness gear is to care for it properly.  Don’t wash it with your jeans or towels, don’t use fabric softener, make sure zippers are closed, and (if you can) air dry that stuff!  I use a special fabric wash on all our active wear and my pieces look good no matter how old they are.  Of course, check the care label for specific manufacturer instructions, but this has been my routine since the dawn of time, and it’s not failed me yet!

I’d love to hear what some of YOUR favorites are–let me know!

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New Year Reset – Bliss in a Blender

So, the New Year has found us, and as mindful as I like to be when it comes to consumption, I do give myself the latitude to indulge in some of the holiday goodness. (Not to excess, of course!) But I can tell when it’s time to ratchet it back a few notches. Or when I’ve had more acidic food/drink than usual and need to alkalize. This smoothie is so delicious and soothing–hydrating (which is much needed in this dry, cold weather), and is great for combating inflammation, stabilizing blood sugar, and delivering a punch of antioxidants and minerals that our bodies need.

Give it a whirl–let me know what you think!


4 celery stalks
1 cucumber
1 c kale leaves
1/2 green apple
1/2 lime (or juice of 1/2 a lime)
1 T coconut oil
1/2 c almond milk
1 c pineapple

Chop up, throw in blender (a VitaMix works beautifully, but any good blender will do), and power up! 🙂

I use frozen fruit because I like a thicker drink, but fresh is great, too!

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The time has come…

The time has come...

Haha! I saw this on a friend’s facebook wall and had to nick it. Seems like this is the time of year when people swear that once Christmas (or Hanukkah) pass… and the New Year’s Eve indulgences fade to memory, they’ll get it together and make their goals/resolutions happen. Seriously. This time I mean it. It won’t be like last time. *yada*yada*yada*

Well, take this as a healthy reminder. Make your goals. Decide what you want 2013 to look like–it’s nearly here, after all. And for God’s sake… Get your shit together.


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Great Stretches for Runners and Cyclists…in under 10 Minutes!

Okay, these are great stretches for ANY active person!

As a yoga teacher who is also a distance runner and cyclist, I’m often asked for the most effective (and efficient–let’s face it, we’re all busy!) stretches that can be done post-workout.  This article will focus on a handful of lower body stretches, so if you are a triathlete, stay tuned.  I’ll post some upper body goodies for you soon.  🙂 My massage therapist recommends two minutes of stretching per muscle group after a solid run–are you catching that, marathoners?  Half Mary fans, that means you, too.  Hell, if you are cranking it out there whatever your workout is, you should spend some time stretching! For runners and cyclists, the hips, hamstrings, glutes/piriformis, calves and quads get beaten up the most.  Tight hip flexors and psoas muscles along with tight hamstrings can sometimes present as low back pain, too.  It’s important to stretch right after activity, while the muscles are warm and pliable.  Otherwise, you run the risk of them remaining contracted and tight.  Here’s my routine after a run or ride.

Calves:  I usually stretch outside on my deck, so my calf stretch is done on the first step, one side at a time.  Let one heel hang off the end of a step, bending into the opposite knee.  As you continue to let the heel drop off the edge of the step, you should feel a stretch in the achilles as well as the calf.  You can adjust the stretch into the gastroc/soleus muscles by bending/straightening into the knee.

Hamstrings:  I go with a good, old fashioned leg-up-on-the-deck-railing stretch.  It’s important to feel the stretch in the belly of the hamstring and NOT in the attachment near the glutes.  Creating a slight bend in the knee can help. You can fold as far forward as your body lets you.  (My rule of thumb is feeling a stretch sensation of 6 out of 10–with 10 being screaming pain, flashing red lights.  A six will be more of a fuzzy orange light.) You should feel the stretch happen, but it shouldn’t be painful.  If you are very tight, stretching will probably be uncomfortable at first.  Breathe deeply and relax into your stretches as much as you can. If you are inside, this stretch can also be done on the floor.  Sit down with legs extended in front of you.  Bend into the left knee and let your left foot touch the inside of your right thigh, knee dropping toward the floor.  Fold over your right leg.  If you can’t reach your toes, reach for the calf or ankle or use a strap–a hand towel is a good strap substitute!  Remember to stretch both sides.

Hips:  You can’t beat a simple lunge when it comes to hitting the hip flexors!  You can either keep your hands on the floor with your back leg long and straight with the knee on or off the floor OR come upright.  

While in your high or upright lunge, tuck your tailbone a little to feel a deeper stretch in the front of the hip.  Depending how tight you are, your knees may be in obtuse angles.  Just settle in and breathe. 

If you are more flexible, your knees will be at 90* angles and will allow you to get a little deeper.  Continue to breathe, drawing the belly button toward the spine and tucking the tailbone down.

If your hands are on the floor (first photo), the movement of drawing the tailbone toward your back foot is more subtle, but still effective.  Try not to let the front leg take the brunt of the work.  You’ll know that it is when you feel a sensation at the top of the hamstring near the inner thigh/glutes.  If this is the case, draw that hip back a little to focus the stretch more on the front of your opposite hip.

Quads:  You can do this stretch standing or kneeling.  If you are standing, keep knees moving toward each other even as you draw the foot toward your bum.  It will protect your knees.  If you are kneeling, bring the front foot out to the side a little to create a wider base for stability.  Bend into the back knee and bring the foot toward the bum.  If your knee is bothered being on the floor, adjust your position so you are on the fleshy part above the knee or put something soft under it to add some cushioning.

Adductors/groin:  When it comes to lower body stretches, everything is connected.  If you want a complete, 360 stretch in the hips, you’re gonna have to get up in there and hit the groin as well.  This particular stretch can be done in stages, depending on your flexibility. 1) From the low lunge position, keep your hands on the mat on the inside of your front foot–the back knee can be down or up.

2) If that feels okay, you can come down onto your forearms.  3) Turn your front foot out 45* and either drop in lower OR walk your hands to the opposite side.  Let your head hang like fruit on a tree.  Don’t strain to support the weight of your head.

4)  The bonus stretch comes if you bring your hand to your knee and give the stretch an assisted boost.

Glutes/piriformis:  So, while we might work hard to get a high-and-tight ass, we should also ensure that it is stretched properly.  There are a few ways to do that.  1) If I’m still on the deck stretching, I hold onto the railing, cross one ankle over the opposite thigh just above the knee (to make a figure 4 with my legs) and then sit back as I bend into the standing leg.  The top foot is flexed and I’m continually drawing that knee down toward the floor.  If you hold on to that rail, you’ll get a bonus stretch in the low back.  2) Pigeon pose (see photos below) offers a great stretch and can be adjusted to meet your body’s needs.  If you are in down dog, which looks like an upside-down V on your mat/floor, simply bring one knee forward, landing between your hands, and lower the rest of your body down.  

Checkpoints: If your front knee bothers you, try adjusting the angle of the knee.  If your hips are off the mat/floor, you can either rock off to the side so you land on your hip or prop yourself up with a pillow or a yoga block.  Check the back foot to ensure you are on the top of the foot and the ankle isn’t sickling.  If everything feels good, you can start to fold forward over your front knee.  The more you can square your hips (think about LED lights on your pelvis–shine them straight ahead!), the more you will feel this stretch.

Two poses that are great for hitting the piriformis are cow-face pose and double-pigeon/firelog pose.  (I’ll spare you the sanskrit names this time!)  They are especially awesome if you suffer from sciatica.  3) From pigeon, lift your chest if you folded, rock onto the front hip, and swing your back leg around.  If your hips/glutes are tight, go for double-pigeon/firelog.  Stack one ankle above the opposite knee, and the knee above the opposite ankle: 

You can either stay here, supporting your knee OR you can begin to fold forward.  Remember to breathe deeply, relaxing into the stretch with every exhale.  You can fold as deeply as your body will let you, the weight of your torso adding to the stretch.

4)  Cow-face pose takes this stretch a little further.  From pigeon, rock onto your front hip, swing the back leg around and stack your knees.  Move your feet to the side so you aren’t sitting on your heels.  Hands can remain on your feet if this is enough of a stretch for you.

If you are ready to go deeper, start to fold forward.  This will really hit the glutes/outer hips/piriformis!  Again, going as deeply as your body allows, breathing fully.

If you can stay in these stretches for at least 30 seconds each–remembering to do BOTH sides–and do them regularly, you will definitely notice a difference in your flexibility.  AND you’ll be able to knock them out in under ten minutes!  If you want to hold them longer and you have a smart phone, set your timer, check your email, update your Facebook status, or check your new favorite blog  *ahem* and then switch sides.  Happy stretching!

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