Tips for Staying Motivated

Uncategorized Jun 26, 2020

My practice buddies: Paul and Hampi. Note, Hampi is only here for the savasana.

There’s a question I’ve gotten a lot over the years, and I’ve gotten it a lot more over the last few months: How do I stay motivated? It can be hard to stay motivated in any practice and under any circumstances, but it’s become that much more of a challenge recently with the adjustments we’ve all needed to make to adapt to quarantine. I'm here to tell you that there are a lot of mornings when I wake up and I would rather roll back over and fall asleep than get on my mat and practice. It's not always pretty, I don't always want to, and it doesn't even feel good sometimes. My point is, practice is hard. Staying motivated it hard. Here's what helps me.

  • One little thing I make a point of doing is saying the opening prayer out loud instead of saying it in my head. It sets a tone for my practice. It makes what I'm doing feel like yoga and it makes me feel more connected to well,...
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Ashtanga for All

ashtanga for all Jun 12, 2020

There’s something Tim Miller said to me once at a training that’s stuck with me ever since: It’s much easier to adapt the posture for the body than it is to adapt the body for the posture. Although people might think this is unusual in Ashtanga, I’ve seen Tim pass out blankets and grab straps for his students, and props were always welcome in his room, and the same is true for other teachers I’ve worked with - David Garrigues recently said that everyone in his Mysore group had implicitly agreed to use blankets for shoulder stand just by signing up for his class. Richard and Mary use blankets, blocks, and straps in their teaching regularly.

So why is it that Ashtanga continues to have a reputation as being inaccessible? And how can that reputation be changed to reflect the practice that I know and love, the style that I teach?

I started thinking a while ago about this question - how can Ashtanga be made more accessible to more people? How can we make the...

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Three Yoga Sutras for Trying Times

yoga sutra May 30, 2020

 The last few months have been difficult for so many people in so many ways. I’ve received a lot of questions from students over the past two months about maintaining a home practice, dealing with negative thoughts, and coping with isolation at home, as well as frustration with the world at large.

I try to teach with Yoga Sutras when I can, because they’re authoritative and timeless. Even though the sutras are two-thousand years old, they provide a map of the mind and the consciousness and give a greater context to our practice.

That’s why I want to attempt to discuss three that I think are very relevant right now.

YS 1.20 śraddhā-vīrya-smṛti-samādhi-prajñā-pūrvaka itareṣām

Some people are lucky and samadhi happens naturally. The rest of us need to help this practice along by relying on certain techniques:

Sraddhā - Faith in what we are doing, conviction, embodied trust.

Vīrya - Enthusiasm, energy, vitality, strength.

Smṛti - Memory. More specifically,...

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Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Through a Pandemic

lesson learned May 17, 2020

I always love to talk about how beneficial the practice of yoga can be during uncertain times, times of change, times of upheavals big and small. Whether it’s massive life changes or day-to-day disruptions, yoga grounds us, it calms the nervous system and it gives us energy to handle the unknown (download my grounding meditation and pranayama).

As unprecedented as the times we’re living through may feel, the fact remains that all of the lessons that were available to us before this are still available now, and they’re as useful and applicable as ever. The Coronavirus pandemic may have turned all of our lives upside-down, but yoga gives us the tools to weather every storm.

I know as well as anybody, though, that the truth of that can be easy to forget. When you’re up against massive existential fears and doubts, it can be hard to remember your own strength. That’s why I’ve put together these Five Lessons Learned from Practicing Through a...

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Practicing Releasing Anxiety

We all know that these are fragile times. I’ve heard so many people saying that one of the hardest things to deal with right now is the anxiety that feels like it’s coming at us from all angles - and many have been asking how to use yoga to manage it. I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, and I know as well as anyone what a terrible cycle it is and how impossible it can feel to pull yourself out. The world is always an uncertain place, but with so much anxiety afflicting the day to day lives of every single person on earth, I wanted to share with you some of the strategies I use in my own life and my practice.

It often doesn’t make sense to people that someone with a regular yoga practice can struggle with anxiety. Aren’t yogis supposed to be relaxed? And sure, a regular yoga practice can be incredibly helpful for anxiety - but, unfortunately, anxiety can make it difficult to do most of the regular things in your life, especially when...

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How I Deal With Frustration in Practice

frustration Mar 06, 2020
Ever feel like storming off your mat in frustration? Or worse yet, not even getting on it? We all feel frustration with practice from time to time. So how do we deal with it? Oftentimes, this is actually two questions: one is about frustration with your own practice; the other is frustration because you’re comparing yourself to others.
 
We all get frustrated with our practices sometimes, but it can be easier to break out of if you can remember the two central concepts of impermanence and nonattachment. Whatever it is you’re frustrated with will change, just like everything in life does. So recognize and accept the impermanence of the moment and the frustration, love the whole process, and move forward in your practice without attachment to the outcome.
 
But with the frustration of comparing yourself to others, it can be a little easier to address because you don’t need to change your own mindset. All you need to do is remove the things you’re...
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How to be Accountable for Practice

accountability Feb 29, 2020

Ever lie in bed on a Monday morning after hitting snooze and make excuses for why you should skip practice? I know how hard it can be to get started. In my years practicing and teaching I’ve met some people who spring out of bed prioritizing practice above all else, and others to whom the practice never really sticks. I think most people fall somewhere in the middle where accountability for practice can be a challenge.

One really incredible thing about yoga is that you’re ultimately accountable only to yourself. Your practice is YOUR practice, while this is ultimately an incredibly freeing truth, many of us are supremely challenged by holding ourselves accountable. This is just one more of the ways that our practices and our lives mirror each other.

The fact is, accountability is hard - it’s even harder when you’re the only person you’re answering to! Because holding ourselves accountable is such a central challenge, it’s also a great opportunity...

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Goals: 0% Injury Rate

injury Feb 21, 2020

In my last blog post I wrote about why I think Ashtanga Yoga is dangerous. There are a lot of injuries that can happen in the Ashtanga practice from either pushing too hard, carelessness or misinformation. And talking injuries can be a bit of a taboo subject. Students don’t tell the teacher that they are hurt, either because they don’t realize it until later, there is a shame regarding the injury, or my personal pet peeve - they don’t want to make the teacher feel badly.

There seems to be a common misconception in contemporary Ashtanga that injury is an acceptable, expected, or even glorified part of the practice. I think there’s a fairly open dialogue about it these days - the teachers in many workshops and trainings I’ve been to have talked about their goals of having no injuries, and I absolutely believe that we can accomplish a 0% injury rate in Ashtanga. While the system is a physically rigorous one, a holistic practice should be geared toward...

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Why I think Ashtanga Yoga Is Dangerous ☠️

Uncategorized Feb 13, 2020
 

I was recently asked if Ashtanga Yoga is dangerous. My immediate response was a vehement “of course not!”

And then I thought about it a little more. 

I realized that my initial reaction was a conditioned response rather than a considered answer. It was knee jerk reaction rooted in defense of a practice that I love and have devoted my life to. If I had been asked this same question 15 years ago, I would have had the same response and then gone on to explain that safety is all in the way the practice is approached.

Today, after years of practice and teaching, my views have softened. My experience of practice has changed. I’ve weathered injuries and I’ve witnessed injuries. This has changed both my approach to teaching and my view on whether Ashtanga is dangerous, meaning precarious, perilous, or risky. Ashtanga yoga certainly involves the chance of injury or harm unless dealt with carefully.

Over the years I have had the occasional student accidentally...

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Instagram Yoga vs Reality

instagram Jan 16, 2020
 
I'm fond of saying no one can show you the inside of yoga. You have to experience it yourself. When I see someone practice I can only guess how a student feels or where their mind is during practice. The outside doesn't tell us much about what is going on inside. And that's the shame of social media - it's one dimensional.
 
An increasingly common issue among yogis (and people who are interested but haven’t taken the leap yet) is the question of Instagram versus reality. We’re inundated all the time both with messages from social media and messages about its effects on us. This is just as true in yoga as anywhere else.
 
The question of “Instagram yoga” versus “real yoga” is a challenging one, mostly because they’re kind of false terms. Yoga is, first and foremost, the practice of each individual who engages in it. It’s not something that can be captured in a single photo, and it’s not something that can ever...
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