Does My But Look Big in These Pants?

I have a big but. So big, it gets in the way of things. I sit on the couch, on my big but, thinking about things that I could do.

It’s a beautiful day, I could take walk, BUT I’m too tired.
I could clean the house, BUT I don’t feel like it.
I could write something, BUT I don’t feel inspired.

Even on the yoga mat.
I would like to hold myself up in crow for more than a millisecond, BUT I just can’t seem to do it.
I would like to do a handstand in the middle of the room, BUT I can’t.

My big BUT is usually followed by some sort of rationalization.
I would run, BUT I can’t get up in the morning.
I would stop eating bread BUT I just can’t do it.
I would teach some yoga workshops, BUT what about my family’s schedules?
I would publish a book BUT I don’t have the time.
I would get another job, BUT I think it’s too risky.
I would make lifestyle changes, BUT it’s just too hard for me.

Even small things have big BUTS.
I would put my iPhone down when people are around, BUT it’s a habit I can’t break.
I would grocery shop according to my conscience BUT that would be really hard work.

That’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.   If you really wanted to, you would just do it.   So, stop saying you want things, stop saying you woulda coulda or shoulda. Don’t even talk about it unless you are going to get up off of your big BUT and try it.

The truth is, if I really wanted to hold my crow pose, or do a handstand in the middle of the room, I could. All it would take is daily practice. I know that, but I don’t do it. So maybe I don’t really want to.

If I wanted to make lifestyle changes, like giving up bread, I could.  I have done it before.  Now my BUT has gotten in the way again.  So maybe I don’t want to do it.

Or maybe it’s time to take a good look at my big BUT, and let it know that this behavior is unacceptable.
I think I will.
In fact, I will.   No buts about it.

What about you?  What are you not doing because of your big, unacceptable BUT?

I would ___________ BUT I can’t/won’t/don’t because ______________.

Your BUT is just a big excuse. (Illness and injuries excluded)
Get up offa that thing.

Posted in It's All Yoga | 4 Comments

I’m Still Cutting My Teeth

I’ve been feeling a bit restless and unsettled recently.

The other day, I was driving home from teaching little yogis, and thinking that it has been almost three years since I decided to take yoga teacher training.  It has been over two years since I quit my job and became a yoga teacher.  Two years ago I was manifesting sh*t all over the place; starting a blog, leaving the security of a regular job, letting go of everything that didn’t serve me.  It was a time of big, tangible changes.

And now, time has passed.  I have settled in to this phase of my life.  I have grown accustomed to this routine.  I found yet another comfortable place to exist.   It has been a while since I shook things up and did something new.  So I decided right then and there that it was time for something new. Time to get out of my comfort zone again. I was going to think of something big to do next.

That night, just before I feel asleep, I felt a tooth break through my gums.  Hmmm. That’s something new.

Yup. A real tooth. Way in the back of my mouth.  Apparently the tooth has been making its way up to the surface for quite some time.

So even though it seemed like nothing was going on, it was.  Very slowly. Small movements every day.  Until one day… Here it is!

Like the changes taking place underground right now, the crocuses, the daffodils.  Like the slow subtle changes in my body as I attempt to get into a challenging yoga pose day after day.  Like the slow subtle changes in the children I teach as they repeat the same breathing exercises each week.

Just because it’s not exciting and shaking things up, just because it’s not big and uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that big change isn’t happening.   It just hasn’t surfaced yet.  It will, eventually, in its own time.

It may take 46 years. And I may be completely surprised when it does surface. But perhaps, it will bring some wisdom along with it.

As for my restless uneasiness?  It will pass. Apparently it’s just teething pain.

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Take Your Monkey to Work Day

Never take your monkey to a lock-down drill. Trust me, it’s not a good idea. Unless you’re going for dramatic effect.  Then it’s a great idea. Because those monkeys, they sure love drama.

Today I was teaching the kids in Newark a lesson about breath control. They were learning about how controlling their breath can help them with the NJASK, the annual standardized test that is coming up in May. We were working on slow steady breaths to keep calm under pressure, lion’s breath to relax and refocus, and fire breathing to wake up and get energized when boredom or exhaustion starts to set in.

Between classes I was walking through the hall when I heard the loudspeaker. Click. “Code Blue,” a voice said, “Code. Blue.” I’ve been through this before in another school, so I knew that it meant it was time for a lock-down.

Drill or not? I wasn’t sure yet.

I walked to the closest classroom, and as the teacher was making her way to the door to lock it, she saw me, and said “Quick, come in here with us.”

I made my way back to the corner of the room where the kids were already sitting in a huddle, some behind chairs, two under desks. Just as I sat down on the floor, the teacher looked at me and mouthed, “It’s a drill”.

Whew. Thank you for telling me. I was just about to be nervous. Good thing it’s just a drill. I can relax now.

And that’s when the monkey showed up. But what if it weren’t? What if it were a real situation? What then?

Nope. Not gonna do this. You have to be quiet right now.

Come on, you know these things really happen. Especially around here. You watch the news.

I said be quiet. You are not allowed in here.

Remember last time? It was right after Sandy Hook? I was there. Remember how scared you were? Thinking about those kids, and those teachers? How our children have to live in fear? Oh, now you’re doing it again, aren’t you? Thinking about them? Be careful. You don’t want to cry.

Did I tell you to shut up? I am working here.

Two boys in the corner got the giggles. Directly across from me was a girl with a big round face and a head full of braids and beads. Obviously worried, she tapped one of the boys on the shoulder and gave them both a very stern look.

Oh, she looks scared. Look how scared she is. You know these are not suburban kids. They know way more about violence than your kids 8 miles up the Parkway. She is scared. I know she is. I know what’s going through her head. I have a cousin who lives in there.

Obviously, you’re not going to listen to me, so I have to take drastic measures.

What are you gonna do?

I brought my hands together at my heart and took a deep breath in.

Oh, not the breathing!

Looking to the children’s faces I exhaled loudly though my nose, and inhaled deeply. Exaggerating the movements of my body, lifting up and rounding down as I breathed in and out. Rising and falling, breathing deeply. Some of the kids began to copy me. Moving up and down, and breathing deeply. “Yoga” I mouthed to them, as they smiled and inhaled.

You really think this is gonna work?

I just spent an hour telling kids that they can deal with stressful situations by controlling their breath. Telling them that even though they may not be able to control their situations, their environment, they can get a handle on their breath. They can send a signal to their brains that everything is all right. They can get present, get focused, if they can grab on to their breath, the one thing that they can control, and control it.

Yes. This is going to work. Slow, deep breaths. All I can hear is my breathing, and the breath of the little ones around me. I am here, present. I am breathing. I am here, right now, just sitting here. There is no need to think of other things. No need to bring up the past. No need to worry about the future. No what-ifs.  Just sitting. Just breathing.

Psst. Hey! Listen.
That is not me, this is my monkey. Inhale.
Psst. Hey.
I can’t hear you. Exhale.
Nothing but the breath…

Click. “All clear” the voice on the loudspeaker repeated, “All. Clear.”

It was just a drill.  On the outside it appeared as a bunch of us sitting on the floor for ten minutes, smiling, breathing, giggling.  It was nowhere near as dramatic as the monkey makes it seem.  There was nothing at all for me to be worried about.  There was nothing to be afraid of.  Nothing to be angry about, outraged about, sad about.

It was just a routine drill. A drill our kids all do once a month.

Our kids, and their monkeys.




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(for Darlene and Hope ,
two pretty awesome women I know,
who take amazing photos.)

Your photos are poems
I wish I had written,
stories I wish I had told.
I see them and think
of the moments before them,
imagine what’s next to unfold.
The images move through my mind
but they’re still.
The words won’t come out,
but I hope that they will
in an instant. A flash
a puddle, a cloud,
there’s  just not enough time
to say them out loud.

All at once all the words
form an image on screen.
In one second
past present and future are seen.
A haiku, a sonnet,
an epic, a tome.

I’ve not been here before
but it’s like coming home.
And although I wish
that the story were mine
it can only belong
to that moment in time,
when you looked, and you saw,
and you painted the scene
of what happened,
what’s coming,
and what’s in between.

It may be a shot
of one second you see-
but each picture you take
is a lifetime for me,



Posted in It's All Yoga, Poetic License | 1 Comment

Spring Eternal

There’s a promise in the crocus,
there’s a hope that I can see,
as she pushes through the frozen ground
with such tenacity.
Her delicate soft petals
defy the wind and frost.
All through the polar vortex,
her battle wasn’t lost.
Determined to reach for the sun,
she focused on one thing;

our coldest, harshest winters
still lead us to the spring.


Posted in It's All Yoga, Poetic License | 1 Comment

Sing, Sing a New Song

There is always music in my head.   At any given moment if you ask me I will have at least one song playing in there. 

Currently, I keep hearing a line from Accidentally in Love over and over: “Come on, Come on. Spin a little tighter.”  I can also hear lines from Heavy Bells, which has been in heavy rotation in my head this week.

 There are other songs that routinely pop into my head. Every time I pack a suitcase I sing ‘Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin”  Every time I butter toast I sing “I like bread and butter”. Whenever I get on the turnpike I sing “counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike” . Drinking coffee in bed? Then it’s Squeeze, guaranteed.

Sometimes I hear TV theme songs, or old commercials.   When I color my hair, I sing “I’m gonna wash that gray right outta my hair”.   Outside forces do it to me as well.  The hum of my vacuum sounds just like the beginning of Cannonball,  so I sing it every time I vacuum. 

It’s not just me, right?  Does everyone do this? Aren’t we all full of music?

I think our minds are like LP records (the black vinyl things in the basement, kids).   There are grooves in the records, and there are songs in those grooves.  Those songs can be triggered at any moment. 

We also record new songs onto our records.  Our reactions to situations, events, and people, form more grooves, and our own songs are recorded.  Then, when we are faced with similar situations, events or people, we simply bring the needle back to that song, and play it again. We play the song over and over, wearing the grooves deeper and deeper into the record, making it easier for the needle to find the groove when it’s time again.

There are songs we can play at full volume when we are all alone that we would never play with other people around.  There are other songs that we know are safe to play when we’re at work.  Songs that we can play with our close friends.  Old familiar songs that we play when we’re with our family.  And they play their same old songs too.  They sound like a bunch of broken records sometimes.  You may want to pick their needle up and throw their record across the room. 

Things that happen in the outside world can also control the turntable arm, move it over a certain groove, and drop the needle down. Life is constantly picking the arm up and putting it back down somewhere else. And we react by letting the needle fall into some familiar groove. 

When we’re born we are a smooth piece of vinyl. Some might argue that we have past life experience, or songs of collective unconscious, archaic remnants that exist deep inside of us somewhere. Perhaps we have some reptilian brain songs.  As we move through life we record our own songs.   Imprints are left on our subconscious by our experiences and impressions.  We make judgments, we learn behaviors, we cut the record.

The grooves in the record are sanskaras. They are imprints that have been left on our subconscious by past experiences.  Impressions we have collected throughout our lives.   They determine our desires, our actions, our behaviors.  They become our thoughts, our ideas, and memories.  Our mental and emotional patterns.  They are the lens through which we view our reality. The grooves on our subconscious vinyl.  The soundtrack of our lives.          

Just like songs that pop into our heads for seemingly no reason, we react to outside forces by playing our familiar songs without even realizing that we are doing it.   All of our decisions are based on these sanskaras.  The chances that we take, new things we will or will not try.  They are all based on our impression of what the expected outcome will be, which is based on previously experienced outcomes.   

Think about what you may be doing almost instinctively without questioning.  What habits (good or bad) have you accumulated? What are you avoiding because of past experiences? Where have you become stuck in a groove?

We need new and opposing experiences to help us get out of those grooves, even if we’re comfortable there.   We might resist new patterns. just like we may be reluctant to listen to new music.  But when we get out of our comfort zone,  we evolve. We get closer and closer to our true nature.

 It doesn’t have to be the Same Old Song.  We can always change our tune.

record album


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The Road Back

I have been bread-less and booze-less for almost an entire month.

Strangely, I find myself wishing that the month were longer, so I could stay here in Rehab.   I don’t want to go back out into the real world.  The world of bagels, croissants, seven grain breads and french baguettes.   The world of pilsners and porters and pinot noir.  There is so much temptation out there!

So, I have decided to stay… Sort of.

Oh sure, I will have a beer on March 1st.  I am really looking forward to raising a cool, smooth, creamy pint of Guinness with friends.  I may have a second, and even a third, over the course of the evening.  Who knows?

Surprisingly though, (and this may be one of the craziest things I’ve ever said) I don’t think I want to eat bread anymore.   It is so strange to say, but I feel much better without it.  My energy level is more consistent.  Jeans that I had to squeeze into in January fit well now.  My skin has cleared up.

For the first time in my life I know how it feels to live without bread, and it feels pretty darn good.   I have taken another step on my own personal road to enlightenment.  And though I often travel backwards on that road, I hope to keep moving forward for a while, now that I have awakened to this feeling.

We are all awakening to things daily.  We are in a constant state of rehab.  Rehabilitation is the process of restoring something back to a condition of good health, or good working order.

All of the things that we use to restore ourselves are like mini-stints in rehab.  Running.  Yoga classes.  Listening to music.  Decompressing with TV.  Reading a good book.  Laughing with a friend.  Dancing like a maniac.

But sometimes, along the way, we get tricked into thinking that the habits we’ve picked up are actually our rehab. We start to believe things like  I can’t function properly without a cup of coffee.  I need a cigarette to calm down and feel like myself.  Comfort food makes me happy.  A glass of wine will help me better tackle that task.  I’m more fun after I have a few beers.  Yeah, that last one is a tough one.

This month I traveled backwards on the path, to find out where some of my habits became a form of rehab, and I am trying to examine them, one by one.  I am hoping to shed some of them on my quest to restore myself back to my best health and my best working order.

I may have to stay here for a while…   So, what are we giving up for Lent?

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