“Come on the risin’ wind. We’re goin’ up around the bend.” ~ Up Around the Bend, Creedence Clearwater Revival

I’ve started teaching yoga.

This has come as a complete surprise, because teaching yoga was never anything that I’d ever dreamed I’d be doing, not even when I’d signed up for the teacher training. In fact, when we took our seats in a circle on that first day, we were asked for a show of hands as to why we were there. Had we signed up to teach yoga? Had we signed up to deepen our practice? Everyone raised their hands accordingly; everyone, that is, except for me.

I didn’t have an answer as to why I was there. I was seated without any clear intention, knowing only that I needed something next, and I wondered if this might be it. I figured in 200 hours over the next five months I’d be able to figure that out.         

I’d felt much the same way when I started practicing yoga. It was several years earlier, and a sign had suddenly appeared for a new yoga studio in the shopping center near my home. I saw it every time I drove by on my errands to the bank, or the grocery, or the gas station. I circled it like this for months before finally stopping in. And then I signed up for a class without any clear intention. At most, I thought I might get some exercise. It would be an understatement to say that I was in for a big surprise! 

Right away I started practicing and couldn’t seem to stop. And I kept on like that, completely unaware that I had embarked on any sort of journey. In fact, if I’d been asked as to why the practice had gripped me so, I don’t know that I could have answered. I wouldn’t have been able to explain why it felt so good to move on the mat the way that we were moving. All I knew was that the movement moved me. Practicing was making me feel as if I were on my way somewhere, and I think that’s why I was always there.  

In truth, I’d been there many times before, because the new yoga studio was in what used to be the video store! Oh, what irony that the place that once put me on the couch was now the very one to lift me from it! For years my children and I had roamed that same floor, looking for movies to kick off our weekend. Our all-time favorite was The Sound of Music. On countless Friday nights we’d sprawl across the couch with family and friends and watch it all over again.  

Those Friday nights were a like a breather for us. Our busy week had ended, but the even busier weekend had yet to begin. In many ways, those Friday nights mirrored my life. I was taking a breather, too. Recently separated, I’d made enough decisions to settle with my children in a home of our own, but not many more than that. The rest would have to wait. Repotted for the time being, we were taking root, and those Friday nights were watering us.    

It would be many more years before I would find yoga. My children would grow up, and then I would, too! They flew the coop first, jetting off to college within a year of each other, and I was the last to go, jetting all the way down the street to my first full-time job since before they were born. And what a big turn that was for me! My Friday nights became a breather again, this time in between my work week and my weekend. With my new schedule filled to the brim, it never occurred to me to look for anything more.           

But, as it turns out, just because we aren’t looking, doesn’t mean that something’s not around the corner, just waiting for us to make that turn. And that’s how I discovered yoga. I literally turned the corner, and there it was, outside my car window! I’d been on my way to the neighborhood shopping center, and when I made the turn, I spotted the new sign above the old video store. It simply said, “Yoga.” That would be the first of many times I’d see that sign. Like a favorite movie, I’d watch it all over again, until that fateful day that I dropped in.   

Right away, I loved the practice! Yoga was like Twister, the game from my childhood. While trying not to fall, we’d put our hands and feet here and there and twist and turn in all sorts of directions. The practice was hard, but it was also fun! From the very beginning, I was eager to learn, so I paid close attention to all the directions, even though I struggled with some. Apparently, I had some inhibitions to overcome. But I persevered, because it felt good to move. And that perseverance, coupled with a lot of encouragement and some very patient instruction, helped me turn some corners that I hadn’t even known were there.   

And so I made a deal with myself to keep practicing, because I liked how it felt to flow like this, not just on the mat, but also around those corners. Each revolution was an evolution, and the practice propelled me. And that was a good thing, because, as it turned out, the practice made for a lot of turns! In fact, that’s how I found teaching. After several years of practicing, teaching was what was around one of those corners, and so I made the turn and signed up for the training.

And that’s where I met an expert on turning. Another trainee, he was a dancer who’d been turning from the young age of three. And whenever I’d turn upside down, he’d claim to see a dancer in me! He said that he could tell I felt good there, as if it was a natural place for me to be.

“I always felt good turning,” he said, “so I can understand.”

Turning, he said, made him feel protected and on top of things. And while he knew that I preferred my turns upside down, I knew that he preferred his by spinning around. Maybe that’s why, at the end of the training, the instructor insisted that he perform several pirouettes before getting his certificate. He had never danced for us before, but he quickly agreed. He had so many turns inside of him that it wasn’t going to be a problem conjuring them.

“Watch your heads!” he said.

We scooted back to make room for what we were about to see, and then we cheered as he easily set them free. We watched as he spun, releasing his turns, one by one. In multiple revolutions, he propelled himself across the floor before arriving in a gentle landing on the other side.           

And I wondered: Did he even know that his turns were a gift? Or that they were evidence of fearlessness?

I looked down at my own certificate and thought of the many turns that had landed me here. With those in mind, I guessed I’d been practicing long before I ever saw that neighborhood sign. In many ways, by that time, I’d long been putting my hands and feet here and there, twisting and turning in all sorts of directions, while trying not to fall. And now I had learned how to teach the practice, so that I could help others do the same.

The energy of his impromptu performance hung in the air like an invisible sign that read, “Turn here!” And I could feel it directing us around the next bend, where it promised that we might find that same energy again. And, so, while I couldn’t see it then, I followed that sign like I had the other, and now I’ve started teaching yoga!

And I’m surprised by how much I like it! Mostly, I’m surprised by how at home I feel when I teach. I turn on the music and start the class, and I feel as if I’m where I should be. And my goal is to make everyone else in the room feel that same way, too. And so, when I call the class to the top of their mats, I ask them to set an intention. And then I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t have one. If that’s the case, I say, then just flow with me and see what’s learned, because I’ll be teaching from all the corners I’ve turned.  





May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift ~ Forever Young, Bob Dylan

I’ve been taking Rocket yoga for more than a year now.

Three times a week, I go to the same class with the same teacher. She mixes it up, and we fly and invert and lock and lift.

I rarely miss a class, so I figure I’ve practiced Rocket more than 100 times. How is it, then, that I’ve only recently realized that at every practice, we move through a foundational sequence before we take off?

Am I the only one who didn’t know we were putting on the undergarments of our practice before getting dressed for the rest?

Like most young girls, I was taught my first foundation lesson at an early age: to always wear nice underwear in case I’m in an accident and wind up in the hospital.

Foundations can last a lifetime, and that’s why every day, I’ve got on pretty underwear under there. And I think that’s also why we are working on a foundation at Rocket. It’s not just for that day’s practice, but for the rest of our practicing days.

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Catch Me!

Catch Me!

"Upside down. Who's to say what's impossible and can't be found?" ~ Jack Johnson

I was in a very hot yoga practice, and we were more than halfway through. The day had only half begun, I was only half-caffeinated, and we were in Eagle Pose.

For some reason, I’ve been having trouble keeping my balance in Eagle. I try to find a point in front of me to clear my mind, so I don’t even have to think about balancing, but that only makes me think about it all the more, and over I go.

This day in Eagle, my mind is already moving quickly ahead. Usually, we do Eagle on both sides, right and then left, and then right and left again. Sometimes, after the second time around, we move into bound Warrior III and then into Standing Split.

And then I know what’s coming next. In fact, my mind is already there while I am wrapping myself up in Eagle. At that point, for those of us who want to, we get to pop into handstand or, at least, to try.

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“So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world from upside down.” ~ The Cave, Mumford and Sons

The other night, I was at yoga, laying out my mat, unwinding it from its bag and doing the same from my day.

I prefer a spot against the wall, where I can try a few handstands without going overboard. I walk along my mat and talk with those nearby, enjoying the switch from my work day to my yoga night, chatting and pacing and popping into handstands.

And I wonder, where else, really, would this seem normal?

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It’s been almost three years. Three years of handstands.

When I first started yoga, I would not go upside down. I knew I could do it, but it just felt so silly. I’d often goof around with my kids and only a couple years earlier, before even finding yoga, I had done a headstand on Skype for my daughter and her college roommates.

So, it’s not that I was never silly. It’s just that I was never so in public. And the yoga studio counted as being in public.

Then, one day, it was just my daughter and me in a private lesson. In my mind, this was not public, so upside down I went.

And then, almost every day thereafter, I only wanted to be upside down.

Headstands led to forearm stands. Forearm stands led to handstands. I could not get enough and still can’t.

And now I can’t remember what there was to ever feel so silly about.

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'm learning from the other side at yoga.

I am relatively new to a nighttime practice, not so close to home.

And for this reason, most all of the yogis, save one or two, were strangers when I first arrived.

But the energy in the room seems to tie us together and, at the end of each practice, I often feel a sort of kinship with my classmates, even the ones I still don’t know.

In this class, half the room faces the other half. And now I’ve made some buddies on the other side.

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I was trying to make a late evening yoga class, and it was a bit bumpy getting there.

I am a suburbanite but have found some classes downtown and, in the evening when there is no traffic, I can zip down there fairly quickly.

The studio is hot, the people are warm, and the energy is high.

I love stepping in.

But, the other night, the road was literally blocked, and I had to take a detour.

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Suck It Up!

Suck It Up!

It seems like forever that I've been working on my handstands.

In every single class, I am upside down and trying to remain so. If I happen to be at a class where none are done, I stay after to work on mine.

At one point, I was in a class where we were all helping each other. Pressing down on my mat, I moved my feet as close to my hands as possible.

In my mind’s eye, I press down to go up. I want to pull in my belly and straddle my feet while raising them up to land a handstand.

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Okay, let’s play with an inversion.

These are the words of my yoga instructor towards the end of each class. We get about five minutes to go upside down before our final stretches.

Any kind of inversion will do, as long as our legs are above our hearts.

Some people are in shoulder stand, on their backs with their feet in the air, arms tucked under the hips for support. Some people rest their legs up along the wall.

Others are in Headstand or Handstand or Forearm Stand, trying one and then another other and stopping in between to chat.

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Sweet Spot

Sweet Spot

Handstands make me happy.

Sounds odd, but it is true!

This month, I learned something new in yoga. We are incorporating Handstands at the start of our Vinyasas, the transition sequence of which we do many, moving from a low push up to a high push up and back to a downward facing dog.

For me, it is great fun, and I cannot believe how elated I get over it.

Really, I never would have thought that I would be happiest upside down, but this is so, and the feeling lasts once I'm upright again.

Incorporating Handstands changes up the same old, and now the Vinyasas offer up an opportunity and a challenge as opposed to their normal reprieve from the practice.

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Turkey Sandwiches

Turkey Sandwiches

Yoga is a mindful practice that spills over into other parts of life.

It lifts the spirits, calms the mind, deepens the soul and strengthens the body.

Not only does it tone the muscles, but it increases consciousness about what to feed those muscles.

Over the years, I would usually eat most any item on a menu. I never really steered clear of red meat, frequently ate salads topped with chicken, made a mean short rib barley soup and created comfort meals of meatloaf and my signature meatballs. Family celebrations would find us at the Palm, where I would order the Filet Mignon.

But that was all before yoga.

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There are people in my life who influence me, some to whom I am very close; others who are really just passing through. It never really strikes me that I might be in a position myself to influence others.

Turns out, I am!

And that position is upside down.

Being upside down has become a highlight of my day.

The inversion segment of my yoga class is only about five minutes long, but it is the part of class that is the most fun for me.

During this time, we can practice anything we want as long as part of our body is upside down. Shoulder stand. Handstand. Forearm stand. Headstand.

It is our choice, and our instructor either walks around and helps us or leaves us be on the chance we might topple over with his attention.

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Last Friday I went overboard.

Faced a fear and lived to tell!

I consider my yoga mat a safe haven.

Like a Kindergartener who pulls out a mat during rest period, I am content to arrive at yoga, take my mat from the shelf, unroll it, and step to it.

My mat is longer than my body and less than a yard wide. And, best of all, it is purple, my favorite color since Kindergarten days.

The yoga practice takes place 100 percent on the mat. One yogi, one mat. Some classes can be so crowded that a person might be only inches from a neighbor, but each one’s mat honors a personal space.

The yoga mat is home to every student and to every asana.

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was pretty lucky to have enjoyed a fairly carefree childhood.

I have great memories, especially of summer evenings, when all my neighborhood friends would gather on the front lawn to play games, ride bikes and stay out until it got dark

In my elementary school years, I was actually pretty adventurous. I used to hop on the back of my friend’s bike, and he would drive wild all over the streets, careening down the most hilly ones at top speed. 

We would do the same on his skateboard, riding double and hanging on for dear life.

He tied a stick to a rope to a tree, and I hopped on and swung over the backyard’s creek from one bank to the other, until I had to jump before risking getting stuck still over the water.

I would ride my bike with no hands, fearless, and walk on the stilts my dad made.

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