The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Focus: Abundance – Love & Light December 31, 2010

I have long believed that people are beautiful beings, inside and out. Our humanness, our perfect imperfection, our state of constant growth gives me faith in the beauty of life as a whole.

Tonight a street drunk and I watched a meteor fireball together. I was walking to yoga class when a huge white comet-looking thing with a long firey tail burst across the sky then disappeared. “Wow.” We stopped dead in our tracks. “Ha lo visto?” I asked in my unpracticed Spanish. Yes, he saw it. He told me that it would keep going. We stood together for a few moments, faces lifted toward the sky. Then we went on our respective ways. Before we got too far, he yelled to me and gave two thumbs up. I waved goodbye to my new brother.

The gift of light and a moment of love between the two strangers who witnessed it. Seriously. Love.

This is how I experience humanity – when I’m not stuck in fear, distrust, anger and disgust, I look around and I love everyone. I love the street drunk, I love the pushy drivers, I love the grumpy shoppers, I love the crying babies, I love the lashing out friends. I love them in addition to the smiling, cheerful and sober people. So thankfully, it’s been a very loving couple of weeks.

Finally. The return of love and light.

I didn’t plan for the weeks to unfold like this. I didn’t will any of this beauty to happen. I simply wrote a decidedly revealing blog about pain and healing and bouncing back (see “Focus: Abundance – Growth”) a few weeks ago, and soon after, the fog started to lift.

Too simple to be true?

For me, the fact is, when I look squarely at and then honestly share my “stuff,” it’s no longer in the shadows. Writing out my “stuff” sheds light on it. I take action, I spark the flame. I turn my face toward the light. I stretch my arms out to it.

And the light reaches back to me in all kinds of ways…

*  *  *

It all started on Friday the 17th. I practiced a slow and prayerful Vinyasa with my 7am class. We were flowing to Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky,” a spiritual ballad about the power of fellowship on the long road of life. I paused to look outside – and the sunrise sky was a radiant orange! Of course, I was brought to tears.

And from there forward, I have been shifting away from past troubles and toward inner happiness. Hallelujah!

It doesn’t hurt that our December Class Focus has been Abundance, and in my own practice, I have been savoring the sweetness of a favorite Asana among the challenging. Dwelling on that instead of loathing the other poses. Knowing that somewhere along the set, that sweetness is coming. I can bank on it.

Just like life. I’ve been dwelling on light.  And love is coming. I can feel it.

*  *  *

The day after that beautiful orange sunrise, I curled up at a cafe for hot drinks with a friend, and mused about living in the solution of a spiritual life. We were both weighing out certain situations in our paths. I encouraged her to trust her instinct, to research rather than run away from seemingly risky situations. To live. And to discern.

And breath by breath, I am taking my own advice, diving in a little bit while exercising healthy caution.

That evening, I popped around the corner to DC Supersonic Kirtan’s monthly chant fest. Kirtan is like a can opener for my heart. No caution here! With everyone around me singing their lungs out to the gods, there is no room, no need for caution. I leave every Kirtan blissed-out with love. Fearless. It’s like rebirth.

Fueled by Bhakti bliss, the next day was deeply connective, relaxed and joyous. I felt I had more to offer the day, the world, my life. My tiny studio apartment (aka The Urban Yoga Den) became a wonderfully crowded house of chilled-out, indulgent women, celebrating a few rare hours of down-time together at my annual (pre-) Solstice gathering. I love to just stay in the background and soak in how these wonderful women relate, interact, connect.

People are precious! And spending carefree quality time with like-spirited pals is priceless.

Later that night a friend and I discussed the world of dating. He mentioned the sensitivity of navigating what we like and don’t like about our mates – or what they may or may not like about us. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I like everything about you.” He was stunned. “Perhaps even the things you don’t like about yourself.” He paused to absorb the news. “No one has ever said that to me,” he revealed.

We are all works in progress. Growing, stumbling, flying, crawling.  For me, it’s easy to love someone for all that they are. The way I would like to be loved.

The way I would like to love myself.

*  *  *

Moving along the holiday week, the good vibrations kept flowing. I started a temp job. Typically I spend my days alone, at my home office, working on my own projects. Deeply fulfilling, yet also primarily self-serving. There’s nothing like suiting up and showing up for a group of workers and supporting their goals. I am certain this interaction and service to something beyond my personal intentions has also encouraged my softening heart.

To end the week, I attended Caroline Weaver’s “Warm the Heart” workshop on the morning of Christmas Eve. I love Caroline because she’s not afraid to bring god into a yoga class. (Hello, god!) Or god as some personal concept of higher power or a virtue that’s worth our full commitment. The uplifting, devotional energy of her class was so enveloping, I don’t remember much about it, except getting to a point in Warrior 1 where Caroline reminded us, “Remember, you are dedicating all of this to your highest virtue.” I felt this breathtaking swell of gratitude in my heart.

“Thank You Thank You Thank You Thank You” I whispered repeatedly like a Mantra.

I strive to remember to dedicate ALL of this – not just my yoga moves, but my entire life – to something beyond me. When I remember that life is about playing a small role of service in the big picture of the universe, the great mystery, the infinite abyss, nature, Jesus, compassion, generosity – whatever name you pick for your god idea or highest virtue – I feel an abundance beyond “having.” I feel the abundance from giving.

*  *  *

Earlier in the week, during Winter Solstice, I’d visited family in Nashville and experienced a totally spontaneous opportunity for pure service, for giving without expectation of receiving. Karma Yoga. I awoke on Solstice morning, after what is known as the darkest night of the year – maximized this December by the the full-moon lunar eclipse. I thought, “THIS is like New Year to me. I truly feel different.”

I continued to lay in bed, in and out of post-alarm clock dozing. My brain started to play that age-old “should” game – I should get up, should do Pranayama/Asana, should pray, should make tea – and then it locked in on one thing. The broken bird house and bottle of Elmer’s Glue sitting on the desk across the room. My dad’s fix-it project. But he’s never been a fix-it guy. Since childhood, I have always been the fix-it girl. If you’ve read my story in other blogs, you know that at times I had to be.

I admit that sometimes my “fix-it” nature is not productive in adult life and relationship worlds. But in this instance, looking at my dad’s broken bird house, “fix-it girl” was the appropriate role to play. My 1st preferences (Hatha Yoga and prayer) were all about my routines for well-being – which I do believe are essential to being able to show up for others. On this morning, however, lazying around in bed after a full night’s rest – I am fine, my well-being is intact. But Dad’s bird house – something that brings him great joy – is not. It’s broken. And I can fix it (and with strong staples, not Elmer’s Glue).

My dad was so excited. He filled up the bird house with seed, went out the back door, and shouted, “Hey guys, we’re back!”

Karma Yoga occurs when love sets the priority. When priority outweighs preference. When big picture beats self-centered routine.

*  *  *

There are many more little stories of heart opening, light shining, exhaling, melting moments from the past weeks. I’ve been basking in the small yet profound pockets of joy.

For instance, while driving to the airport early in the morning, listening to Paul Duncan’s “The Lake, Pt. 2” I watched streams of sunlight (aka “Jesus rays”) burst through the clouds. I thought, “Hmmm, last Friday the sunrise burned radiant orange, and now it’s bright and golden.” And at that moment, I felt a jolt of realization that the days, the universe, my world is getting progressively brighter! The lunar eclipse proves that it’s always darkest before the dawn. It dawned on me – there is personal significance to this year-end season, more than just “The Holidays” and gift shopping and programmed cheer. BRIGHTNESS RETURNS. And at that moment, driving and crying joyfully, it felt like the 1st time I’d ever recognized that significance.

Also, while on my Nashville trip, I felt my 11-month-old grand-nephew burrow his little body into my heart center in the most loving embrace ever. (Ever.) I reunited with my ex-brother-in-law (who has always been like a true brother to me, and my only brother) and got a big bear hug. I witnessed the passion for life returning to my big sister after a very heavy number of years.

And remember that friend who I like everything about? A few days later, during a different tone of conversation, he said he cares about me. “Yeah? How and why do you care about me,” I angrily snapped back. He then proceeded to list the ways and reasons that he cares for me. I was floored as I silently absorbed his penetrating truths. He told me he loves me. And we continued to dwell in that love all evening. I haven’t felt that loved in a long time.

To no fault of the people who love me – just my own obstacles.

On Christmas morning, snow swirled softly outside my window and the swirly songs of Sea & Cake warmed the air inside. My 1st 100% free day in what felt like forever – I flowed with the solitude here in my cozy little home…writing, lounging, being. (Milking that isolation as long as I can. Hehe.) Then I got my butt out the door to accept invitations from the loving and caring people in my life.

*  *  *

In my December classes, I have been encouraging students to concentrate on the space between poses. To take time to grow into each shape.  To be present with the transition, the process, the breath. To make room for discovering abundance where it was unexpected or unplanned. I guess my own instruction has been rubbing off on me. Bit by bit, I have been opening up where I was once firmly sealed shut. Leaving space for orange skies and Jesus rays. Allowing the darkness of an eclipse to reveal joyous Solstice light. Making room for love.

To be honest, it doesn’t always feel safe. But I’m opening up anyway.

For a few of my classes, to complement our Abundance theme and reinforce that we are all surrounded by a supportive community, I taught an Asana set that built to a group pose. We held hands in a big circle for a collaborative Warrior 3 (not my most stable balancing pose). As we leaned into the circle, I felt the entire group unite with a strong energy of responsibility toward each other. We floated into and held the pose for a few long breaths.

Now that’s love. The dedication to serving your neighboring yogi. Or maybe just your neighbor. Or maybe just the random stranger with whom you watched a fireball streak across the dark sky.

* * *

Thanks to friends, family, students, strangers for the beauty of life. Your humanness fortifies me. Happy holidays, merry new day, abundant being.

OM Shanti. h*

P.S. No kidding – after drafting this blog, I checked e-mail and found the following holiday wish from yoga teacher and writer Max Strom:

“Dear Friends, I hope that on this day you experience a rise of the sun within you, the return of the light within your life, the embrace of your family who surrounds you, and the knowing that you can begin again anew. I write this as I witness the sunrise out my window and hear the winds of change blowing the trees outside.”

(Photo credit: “This exceptionally bright fireball meteor trail was photographed with a fish-eye camera at a Czech Republic station of the European Fireball Network on January 21, 1999.” [GSFC, 1999])


God Rest Ye December 23, 2009

…Merry Yogis and Yoginis!

So, we’re winding down our November and December class focus of “Rest.”  We’ve spent two months exploring yoga’s balance of effort and ease.  We fine-tuned our Asanam to the “nth” degree, soothed our nervous systems with Pranayama and rested flat on our backs to some pretty Yoga Nidra songs.

In addition, I tried to share quotes from various sources to complement our Restful theme.  Here is a compilation:

  • Patanjali: “Sthira sukham asanam.”  (Asana is a steady/firm, comfortable/pleasant posture.)
  • Satchidananda: “Take it easy, but don’t be lazy!”
  • Lao Tzu: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
  • Thich Nhat Hanh: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
  • Lily Tomlin: “For fast-acting relief – try slowing down.”

For a compilation of practices, song lists and other tools that have supported our “Rest” focus over these months, please see the Tips-n-Tools page.

It has been a pleasure to pass on resources that have helped me find comfort and joy through the holiday craze – plus before and beyond.  I hope you found something useful!

And a reminder – check out the Events page for info on a special NEW YEAR’S EVE WORKSHOP.  Launch an abundant 2010 under the Full Moon!

Thanks, all, for sharing mellow spirits and soulful OMs.  Wishing you peace, joy, love and light – in this season, for the new year, and always.  OM Shanti.


Comfort Songs for a Restful Holiday Season December 18, 2009

Sorry, my dears, you’ll find neither Christmas Carols nor Hanukkah Songs on this list.

These are the Comfort Songs.  The songs that say, “Everything’s gonna be OK,” “I understand” and “I’ll be there for you.”  The songs that paint rich pictures, give you permission to slow down, warm a snowy day and complement clouds, mist and rain.  They lull you to sleep, encourage you to connect, inspire you to awaken.

These songs may or may not be considered appropriate for yoga class.  But they’re A-OK in my book.


  • Calexico – Slowness
  • Donna De Lory – Sanctuary
  • EastMountainSouth – Hard Times
  • Eddi Reader – Lucky Penny
  • Grant Lee Phillips – Little Moon; Nightbirds; Buried Treasure
  • Jack Johnson – Breakdown
  • Joshua James – Pitchfork
  • KD Lang – The Valley
  • Neil Halstead – A Gentle Heart
  • Nick Drake – Pink Moon
  • Nora Jones – Seven Years
  • Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Killing the Blues
  • Ryan Adams – In My Time of Need
  • Sera Cahoone – Baker Lake
  • Son Volt – Windfall
  • The Low Anthem – (Don’t) Tremble; Charlie Darwin; Keep on the Sunny Side; Coal Mountain Lullaby
  • Townes Van Zandt – If I Needed You
  • U2 – Grace

You’ll find this list permanently archived on the Tips-n-Tools page.  Some of these performers are not the original writers of these songs.  I just like these versions.

Wishing you misty mornings, understanding hearts and awakening souls this holiday season and beyond.  OM Shanti.  Holly


…and Joy December 6, 2009

“The gloom of this world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within reach, is joy. There is a radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, and to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

“Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy, or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find

beneath it, a living splendour, woven of love, by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys too; be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

“And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.”

– Fra Giovanni Giocondo (1513)

Wishing you peace, joy, love and light.  OM Shanti


Comfort… December 3, 2009

Again, a yoga class moved me to tears.

Tonight’s closing “OMMMMMMM” had the sweetness and harmony of a lullaby.  It hummed out to the universe to join the OMs I’ve heard in other teachers’ classes lately (thanks, Jenn).  Perhaps there’s something about a mid-holiday season yoga class that releases the peace from students’ souls.  It seems so to me.

Continuing our bi-monthly focus of “Rest,” (see the “Firm and Pleasant” post) we enter this second month with a more conceptual approach – versus our very physical exploration of restfulness in November, when we re-visited Sutra 2:46’s exploration of the balance between a firm steadiness and restful comfort in Asana.  We engaged the heck out of every inch of our body, breath and mind, then released all effort within or between poses to cultivate a deep stillness.

In December, as the pace of the world quickens with work cramming, gift shopping and party hopping, we get to sloooooowwwwww down in yoga class.  We gently shift from the physical aspect of our “Rest” focus to concepts like slowness, comfort and joy.  Focusing on the breath, movements can flow effortlessly.  Between poses, transitions can be quiet and mindful.  Keeping the set simple, eyes can stay closed.  Body, breath and mind float away into a much-needed comfort.

Also this month, Yoga Nidra is a huge part of our practice.  In addition to the usual deep relaxation session toward the end of my classes at Past Tense Yoga (and elsewhere), the studio is hosting a donation-based Yoga Nidra each Sunday, following the normally scheduled 7pm Detox class.  (See “Events” page for details.)  Contributions for this luxuriously restful session of Nidra, Pranayama and meditation benefit Rosemount, an early childhood education center in our Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.  So if you’re burnt out from going, going, going all weekend, join us each Sunday, 8:15-9pm for some stopping, stopping, stopping.

Who knew you could save the world while laying flat on your back?

For Yoga Nidra during regular classes, I’m playing my favorite “comfort songs.”  (Set list below and on the “Tips-n-Tools” page.)  Typically, I use devotional Sanskrit chants, quiet instrumentals or other meditative music.  During December, a variety of folk, alt-country or other artists will sing their nurturing, peaceful messages.  Tonight, we rested our heads on the beautifully dreamy pillow of “(Don’t) Tremble” by The Low Anthem.

“If the wind surrounds your house, do not turn and twist about.  Just wait it out.”

Tonight’s Nidra lullaby connected to the quote we shared to both open and close the class, inviting us to make time this holiday season for comfort, slowness, nurturing and of course, rest.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  – Lao Tzu

Hope to see you Sundays for Yoga Nidra at Past Tense (again, details on “Events” page).  And thank you, students, for tonight’s sweet and soulful OMMMMMMMM.  Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.



(updated 12/04/09 – how could I forget Joshua James???)

  • The Low Anthem – (Don’t) Tremble; Charlie Darwin; Keep on the Sunny Side (yup); Coal Mountain Lullaby
  • Calexico – Slowness
  • Donna De Lory – Sanctuary
  • Sera Cahoone – Baker Lake
  • Grant Lee Phillips – Little Moon; Nightbirds; Buried Treasure
  • U2 – Grace
  • EastMountainSouth – Hard Times
  • Son Volt – Windfall
  • Neil Halstead – A Gentle Heart
  • Eddi Reader – Lucky Penny
  • Nick Drake – Pink Moon
  • Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Killing the Blues
  • KD Lang – The Valley
  • Joshua James – Pitchfork