The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

The Yoga of Getting Tattoos August 21, 2012

I WANT IT NOW and TRUST THE PROCESS don’t exactly go hand in hand.

That’s why it’s important to practice yoga and get tattoos.

*  *  *

Lately, I’ve been grieving…OK, OK…I’ve been whining in self-pity about what I don’t have.  I have completely forgotten: Be Grateful For What You Have; Time Takes Time; Everything In Its Own Time; Patience Is A Virtue; Good Things Come To Those Who Wait.

Because I want it now.

Thankfully, on my arm is a new, half-finished tattoo that is cracking and flaking all over the place.  A new tattoo forces me to be patient, accept things exactly as they are, and yes, trust the process.

*  *  *


Tattoo aftercare instructions are simple and clear.  Wash it a couple of times a day to keep it free of infection.  Avoid soaking it.  Moisturize with a light lotion to support a healthy peeling process.  And do not pick or scratch it.

No matter how tempting it is to speed up the process.  No matter whether that one little piece looks like it’s about to fall off so I might as well help it along.  No matter how gentle I think I am.  No matter if one eye has completely flaked off and the other is still caked with ink.  No matter how gross it looks to have deeply crevassed, nearly indistinguishable blobs of color on your arm.  No matter how much I want to cover it up during its ugly stages.  No matter how badly I want my tattoo to be finished and pretty and picture perfect.




Not that I have to completely disengage from the process.  As mentioned, I have to take good care of my tattoo.  I have to give it space and air to transform properly.  I have to prioritize its good health and nourish the skin.  But under no condition and in no way may I rush its natural development into the beautiful piece of artwork that lies beneath a sometimes messy outer layer.

Yup – the healing process of a new tattoo is just like the process of life.  Few things happen overnight.  I must do the footwork – then surrender, trust and be patient.

*  *  *

Practicing yoga is also a great remedy for self-pity and “I want it now.”  Yoga’s Eight Limbs are designed to cultivate peace of mind through any of life’s challenges, including desire and dissatisfaction.  In fact, the ancient text of Yoga Sutras promises, “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” – yoga restrains disturbances of the mind.

Regarding desire, it’s easy to make a literal comparison to the process of developing an Asana (yoga pose).  I have reached few goals immediately in physical yoga practice.  Over two decades of practice, it took many years to build proper strength or proper mechanics for certain poses.  Currently, I am spending a month trying to improve my Bakasana (Crow Pose).  My version feels heavy and low at the moment; and I’d like it to feel lighter and liberated.  Although “I want it now,” I can’t rush this transformation.  It will take dedicated time, energy and practice.  I have to let it evolve, day by day.

Still, after a month, my Crow Pose might not be what I wished for.  And I will have to accept it and move on – either toward more Crow practice, or if an improved Crow is not accessible, to another pose altogether.

From yogic ideology, the concept of Samtosha means practicing contentment.  Instead of dwelling on what I don’t have, I am invited to embrace things just as they are at this very moment.  Dissatisfaction is erased, and “I want it now” becomes “I have it now.”  Samtosha requires a deep acceptance of the infinite factors affecting any given situation – factors beyond my knowledge or control.  Rather than complaining, I can choose to be curious as I live in present circumstances and stop wishing for something different.

Do I want to dwell on (and in) dissatisfaction, disappointment and the “have not’s?”  Or do I want peace of mind?  With the acceptance, curiosity and trust that come from practicing Samtosha, I can be serene despite circumstance.  No more pity party.

*  *  *

And so, if I don’t accomplish my vision of the perfect Bakasana; or, if my tattoo looks flaky and strange; or if I don’t have the life I am envisioning (yet) – I have to trust that the present state is serving the best purpose for my journey.  Even if the outcome looks nothing like I imagined.  Even if it feels unfair.  Even if it hurts.

Both yoga practice and new tattoos reinforce my long-held belief that life’s process, although ugly at times, leads to great beauty.  If I surrender my impulse to rush things and allow life to happen, that is.  At the very least, the current influence of both yoga and tattoos guarantee that this phase of whining and self-pity will be short-lived, and I can return to gratitude for the abundance that I should be enjoying day in and day out.

OM Shanti Shanti Shanti.


My Heart’s Desire February 10, 2010

“Sunrise in the sky of the heart is the most blessed sight.”  Swami Nityananda

In this second half of our Bi-Monthly Focus of HEART, we’re shifting from an anatomical awareness of the neck, collar-bone, shoulder and rib area (see “Let Your Heart Bloom Open” for fine-tuning tips) to a more psychological or conceptual exploration of the heart chakra.

“Anahata” is our fourth chakra and the first of our “higher” energy centers. Not that the three lower chakras are in any way “bad” – simply, they govern bodily and material issues; Anahata is considered a balancing point between these basic functions and the spirit and intellect of chakras five through seven.  Its color is green; its element is air; its symbol is a 12-petaled lotus; and its qualities include love, passion and devotion.  The heart’s seed mantra is “yaum.”  (Yum!)  “Kalpavriksha” is the divine Wish-Fulfilling Tree that resides in the heart chakra and represents the manifestation of Sankalpa (resolute intentions or deep yearnings).  To “follow our heart” means planting seeds or making decisions while dwelling under Kalpavriksha.

In our February classes, we are focusing on the “heart’s desire.” I’m inviting students to revisit the symbolic bulbs they planted in Autumn 2009 during our Diwali celebration (see “Diwali Intentions”); the seeds they planted for 2010 in our New Year’s Eve workshop; the goals they set in Caroline Weaver’s January workshop; or even their simple, day-to-day intentions.  Throughout our classes, we are using Pranayama, Mantra, Mudra and visualization – for a taste, see the Meditation on the Heart’s Desire, below.

So what is my heart’s desire? Well let’s see…

Yesterday I was reading a blog by former Past Tense Yoga Studio ( student Abby, who recently moved to Nicaragua.  Her intention is to spend one year deepening her passion for music, songwriting and guitar through an “Eat, Pray, Love”-style journey.  When she described this plan to her friends, some remarked, “OK – so you’re taking a year off.”

“It’s not a year off,” she protested, “It’s a year ON.”

When I read these words, I felt my heart flutter.  The idea of a year ON vibrated high in my chest – the same place I feel anxiety.  But this wasn’t anxiety, it was excitement.  As if something was saying, “Turn it ON, Holly.”  Not that I’m going to pick up and move anywhere.  I think the fluttering is a reminder of intentions that started brewing during last Autumn’s Jewish High Holy Days and Diwali.  I feel it’s high time to consult the Kalpavriksha and started to follow my heart more proactively.

And there’s nothing like a Mondo Beyondo list to trigger the process.

In her January e-blast, DC studio owner Debra Perlson-Mishalove invited readers to trash traditional New Year’s resolutions in favor of celebrating their most “juicy and outrageous” wishes. The Mondo Beyondo list, she wrote, “is the list where no boundaries are considered – including lack of funds, time or energy.  This is the list that comes from the quiet stirrings in your heart…”  By the way, one dream on Debra’s own list gave birth to her successful Flow Yoga Center!  (

To uncover my Mondo Beyondo yearnings I followed Debra’s suggestions, including: journaling about obstacles, fears, security, purpose; meditating on my deepest desires; rewriting the limiting, negative, false stories I tell myself; and using my yoga practice as a mirror into my life.  Wow.  I’ll spare you the details – just trust that I unearthed some humbling facts about how I get stuck, play it safe and limit myself.

Thankfully, one of Debra’s nudges motivated prompt action.  “How can I make my life more juicy or get out of this rut?”  I resolved to explore my self-imposed boundaries, attend Level 2 yoga classes, take action to get a great job and more.  These explorations sparked my very own Mondo Beyondo list.  Here’s an abbreviated version:

Holly’s Mondo Beyondo List from January 2010

  • I will give birth to a yoga-based nonprofit to decrease violence in families and among youth.
  • I will soon work a full-time job where I am useful and of service; a job which contributes to financial independence.
  • I will hike all over Ireland, breathe that air, jam with those musicians, feel my mother’s origins.
  • I will travel to India, stay in an Ashram and live the essence of yoga.
  • I will erase my current loans and debt within five years.
  • I will rewrite all of my obstacle-laden stories and move on.
  • I will enjoy a true romantic partnership with a man who is… (well…I know what I wish but HP might have something else in mind).  We will find each other soon… (OK…on HP’s time line, of course).  We will love each other through thick and thin.  Period.
  • I will explore my self-imposed boundaries in Level 2 yoga classes.  And like it.
  • I will tour regularly with alt-country, country, folk and singer-songwriter bands as drummer or percussionist.
  • I will be part of my sisters’ and their families’ lives – even if only through meta and prayer.
  • I will teach at Flow Yoga Center.

Your heart’s desire wants to know: when will you start your “year ON” or make your Mondo Beyondo list?

Until next time…OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

(These instructions are archived on the Tips-n-Tools page.)

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.  Cross-legged, on the heels, or on a chair with feet flat on the floor.
  2. Close the eyes.  Witness the breath, the mind, the body.
  3. Begin to deepen the breath into three parts (Deergha Swaasam).  Inhale into the lower lobes of the lungs (belly area), middle lungs (rib cage) and upper lungs (collar-bone), then exhaling down from the collar-bone, ribs and belly.  Let each inhale be strong and full, and each exhale be long and thoroughly emptying.
  4. Allow the mind to rest on the breath.  Follow the flow of air with the mind, listening to the sound of the breath, or feeling the body move with each inhale/exhale.
  5. Feel the body sink and expand.  Become aware of the lower body’s contact with the ground, its stability, support, balance.  Become aware of the upper body’s length and let the heart center begin to open.
  6. Expand the heart center.  (See “Let Your Heart Bloom Open” for detailed instructions).  Using inhales and exhales to enhance your movement, reach the crown of the head toward the sky, maintain the length in the neck, broaden the collar bone, expand the rib cage, maintain the length along the side body, allow the shoulder blades to release toward each other and down the back.
  7. Bring the hands into Lotus Mudra.  Press the palms together in front of the heart; then, leave only the heel of the palms, the pinkies and the thumbs touching while spreading and opening the fingers and palms.  The hands represent a lotus in full bloom.
  8. Continue the Deergha Swaasam breath.  Imagine the inhale flowing through your lotus and filling the belly, flowing into your cupped palms and filling your ribs, then flowing up to the finger tips and collar-bone.  Imagine the exhale emptying from your finger tips and collar-bone, palms and ribs, then emptying the belly out through the lotus.
  9. As you continue this breathing technique, bring to mind your Heart’s Desire or Sankalpa.  It might be a resolution, an intention, or a wish for yourself or another.
  10. On the inhales, imagine filling your lotus with your Heart’s Desire.
  11. On the exhales, imagine releasing this wish from your lotus, sharing it with the universe.
  12. Continue this visualization for at least three rounds of Deergha Swaasam breathing.
  13. Seal your meditation by chanting the seed mantra for the heart chakra, “Yaum” (sounds like “OM” with an added “Y”).