Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Back to School!

What does "Back to School" mean to you? Is it time to go shopping and buy a few new outfits? A time to get serious, to 'buckle down' and get to work? Do you remember being a kid and feeling so much excitement or anxiety about who you would be sitting next to, which friends would be in your homeroom, which friends moved away? Or do you feel so far removed from the traditional education system that this is just another day, week or month?

At Wake Up Yoga, "Back to School" means that it's time to re-connect with your breath, and re-commit to your yoga practice. It means creating a schedule for yourself of when you will practice and/or meditate, chant, journal, study ... and then devising ways to keep you faithful to your intention. Maybe you can find a yoga-buddy to be accountable to. Make "yoga dates" to ensure nothing keeps you from your mat. Entice your friends, family and loved ones to begin practicing yoga so that you can support one another in realizing your fullest potential. Be sure to remind yourself everyday to honor what it is that you hold as Sacred, allowing THAT to inform your thoughts, words and actions.

"Back to School" reminds us that we're always learning and growing, and that each mOMent is our teacher. We recognize that there are new friends to make, and new ways of relating with our 'old' friends.

As the new season and September schedule are upon us, you may notice that a few teachers have moved away from Wake Up Yoga and are no longer on the schedule. Jake, Amy and Meagan are each following a path that has required them to give up their class. Wake Up Yoga is sad to see you go, but excited for you in your new ventures. We hope you'll keep in touch, and come to the studio any time you're 'in town' or simply have the opportunity. You've given so much of yourself in your teachings, and hopefully have received equal parts of respect, gratitude and joy in return. You will be missed. Hopefully you will each take a little seed of this very unique, special place with you and plant it in the garden of your new life. Each one of you has the capacity to create a space in which students feel safe and nurtured enough to soften their armor, tenderize their heart(s), cultivate compassion for themselves and others, while reaching for their dreams. Please keep us posted on your success!

This "Back to School" season has naturally brought a few new teachers, and even two new classes to Wake Up Yoga South. All of our teachers LOVE yoga, they LOVE Wake Up Yoga, and they are passionate and excited to share their experience of yoga with you. Find an opportunity to introduce yourself to one of the new teachers and savor the flavor each one uniquely brings to her class.

For me, "Back to School" is very much that: back to teaching. You may know, I took a 'Teaching Sabatical' for the month of August. My time was invested in creating systems for operating the three studios, as well as practicing with many of our very skilled and impressive teachers, and preparing for the next Teacher Training program (which begins in 3 weeks!). With the help of Joseph, Alane and Biz, I've also been sprucing up the studios. Maybe you've noticed, maybe not. As long as you find the spaces warm and cozy, that's enough for me. A few rennovations are still in the works, so stay tuned!

We're also about to launch a new website, which is very exciting. Under the creative genius of Jill Margraff and her colleague Ransom Weaver, Wake Up Yoga's website will be visually interesting, user-friendly, and faithful to the flavor of who we are and what we offer. Stay tuned for news of the launch, as well as an invitation to a celebration party.

As you reflect upon your summer and plan for the autumn, here's wishing you the excitement and freshness of "Back to School" perhaps hidden within each and every breath!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Summer has officially begun! Here on the East Coast we are experiencing long, hot days and the accompanying extra levels of expansiveness and energy. Maybe you agree that it is so much easier to get out of bed in the morning when the sky is already bright and blue.

The extra sunlight we get to bask in may be just a reminder of the inner light each one of us is destined to discover. In fact, you may enjoy looking at the word ‘Light’ itself and reflecting upon the many meanings we ascribe to this word.

In one definition we use the word light to mean radiant and luminous. In another we use the word light to mean buoyant and weighing less or weightless. In another, we say someone is 'bright' or 'brilliant' to illustrate intelligence. It's occurred to me that we can work on developing our relationship with these 3 aspects of light through physical yoga practice.

Employing Bandhas (energetic locks) and connecting with the Prana Vayu (uplifting inner energy) while practicing yoga can enhance a student's sense of feeling light. Often we relate so much with the pull of gravity that there is no sense of being able to float or fly upward. In many ways, the practice of yoga is kick-starting this ascending current on multiple levels! By connecting with the inner current of energy that is seeking to merge with the sky, students find themselves moving with more grace, control and buoyancy.

Also, by unlocking the hips - the body's center of gravity - often a feeling of weightlessness is perceived. See for yourself: spend 5 or 10 minutes sinking into sleeping pigeon, or ankle-to-knee pose, and then move toward a handstand, headstand, or arm balance. You may discover that the floor is hard to find!

Our moods often 'lighten up,' too. Suddenly the things that used to inspire dramatic outbursts are seen with a clearer perspective and recognized as not being that serious. It's as if we become more firmly established within and connected to the things that are truly valuable, and, like lotus blossoms, find ourselves floating above the mire that used to weigh us down.

Awakening an inner intelligence is also achieved through dedicated yoga practice. We start to recognize the cause-and-effect cycle of thoughts, words and deeds. This intelligence begins to witness when our own behavior is at odds with what we state as our highest values, and we start to make choices that will reduce the suffering we cause to ourselves and others. This inner-knowing may prevent you from moving quickly toward the deepest expression of a pose, for example, before you are warmed up enough to feel steady, sweet and sustained by breath in that shape. This inner intelligence helps you distinguish when you are operating purely from ego, which often leads to injury, from when you are embodying the Niyama of Ishvara Pranidhana (surrendering the fruits of effort to something you hold as higher than yourself).

As for the radiant and luminous aspect of Light, it has been stated that light is the only thing that can overcome darkness: the light of attention, the light of awareness, the light of truth. If we invert this statement, it seems also true that darkness is only a covering or veil that obscures light. On the yoga path we have the Niyama of Tapas as a tool to burn up or purify whatever darkness is covering this inner light. We can employ pranayama(s) (breathing practices), asana practice and even meditation in order to face discomfort and move beyond attachments and aversions, which surely obscure radiance. In fact, you may begin to regard the physical practice of yoga as one that it is specifically designed to put you in touch with aggression, jealousy, greed, awkwardness, insecurity and all manner of unpleasant human experiences so that you can be freed from the desire to avoid them! You learn to directly perceive what is arising, find the breath to stay with the experience, and then consciously choose to respond in a non-reactive way. By acknowledging and accepting these ‘darker’ aspects of your motivation, they become disempowered, and the light of your true self begins to shine through.

Contemplate how you feel after the physical practice of yoga. Do you feel clearer, more ‘plugged in?’ As if you are floating a few feet off the ground? Do you send mass texts of joy and gratitude to everyone in your cell phone? Do you find complete strangers smiling at you and saying ‘hi?’ Little by little perhaps you can begin to have faith and confidence that you are truly being enLIGHTened by your efforts. This is a cause for celebration!

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Effulgent, Sorrowless Light That You Are

The sun is out in Philadelphia. It's as if the entire Cosmos is reminding each and every one of us of the light that we are. We lean into the light, turn our faces to feel the warmth, notice our own smile and take everything a bit easier.

Consider that we use the word light to have at least 3 meanings. Light means buoyant weightless; it means radiant and bright; and bright we also use to describe intelligence. Light is the only thing that can overcome darkness, and darkness is only a veil covering light.

Perhaps you can experience yourself as light: Buoyant, Radiant, Intelligence. Know yourSelf to be boundless luminosity. Find comfort in the thought, even if you don't abide in that realization. Yoga Sutra 1.36 (Vishoka Va Jyotish Mati) says that we can overcome obstacles to yoga practice by concentrating on the Effulgent, Sorrowless Light within. Perhaps you visualize a glowing radiance in your heart and feel that expand outward in all directions. Cultivate confidence in that. Know that the power that made the universe created the sun itself, and that power is within you, and that power is you. Beam your heart outward to illuminate the sun.

Hafiz says, "One day the Sun admitted: I am just a shaddow. I wish I could show you the Infinite Incandescence that has cast my brilliant image! I wish I could show you when you are lonely on in the darkenss the Astonishing Light of your own being!"

Open up the window of your heart and let your light shine out!

Friday, January 08, 2010


Happy New Year, My Friend!

Don't you just love the excitement of new beginings? They contain within them all of the possibilities and dreams we have for how life could be. Many people write lists of changes they'll make, attitudes they'll adopt, and bad habits they are committed to transforming. Like new love or springtime, the energy of beginnings is an aphrodisiac - positively intoxicating! In the yoga tradition this relates to Brahma and Saraswati - the Creative Energy. This spark is quick and explosive; it's the 'ah' hidden in the beginning of a chanted "OM."

However, as we find ourselves now just one week into the New Year you may notice that already some of that excitement has burned off. The hard work of change reveals itself to be more demanding than previously believed. Many people feel that if their efforts aren't met with immediate results than the goals are unattainable, and so not worthy of pursuit. Or they find boredom slipping into excitement's place, and they forget the inspiration for the desired changes. The phase that follows the creative spark of beginnings in the energy of Sustenance and Preservation, symbolically represented by Vishnu and Lakshmi; it is the longest part of a chanted "OM." Because this phase has the longest duration one needs tremendous focus and discipline to stay the course. It is during this phase of life that our mettle is tested. Like boulders in a river, we are shaped and smoothed by the force of life's current. I believe this is where we discover who we are, what we are capable of; it is also where and when we can genuinely enjoy this existence.

The "MMM" part of a chanted "OM" represents the ending, the dissolution, or the destruction of the thing. This is the energy of Shiva and Kali. It's the closure we all yearn for at the end of a bad relationship, and it's also the loss of something we hold dear and feel devastated without. It's the Savasana of an asana class; bedtime of any day; 11:59 pm on December 31. This phase often provides clarity and immediacy, and often reveals our deepest values and what we hold most dear.

What's exciting to notice is that this "OM Cycle" (so named by the lovely Manorama Devi ji) is continuous. Every ending leads to a new beginning; everything that is still vital can be infused with extra energy; relationships can be transformed; what hasn't happened yet doesn't have to happen; what is happening now has never happened before. It's like hundreds of people singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" in 'rounds,' each one starting when the previous singer hits "gently down the stream." Every where you look you will find different phases of this cycle.

Another word for OM is Pranava, which translates to mean "That which is ever new." And so as the 'new-ness' of 2010 begins to fade, if your mind tries to seduce you back to sleep with phrases like 'been there, done that,' or 'same ol' same old,' carefully bring your attention to the continuous flow of life, and realize that your experience of being alive is unfolding one breath at a time. Maybe what we’re all heading toward is the experience of the three audible parts of the OM cycle happening simultaneously in the present moment; the ‘Atha,’ the NOW. Perhaps through careful observation of the flow of life each moment will reveal the excitement of new beginnings, the comfort of what is familiar, and the sweet sadness of letting go. Maybe this is the reminder each of us needs to live consciously, conscientiously, with veracity, tenacity and love!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Dear One,

The fullness and richness of gratitude is perhaps what we should aspire to in each passing moment of our lives. Anthony De Mello is quoted as having said, "You sanctify whatever you are grateful for." Renata has shared that Swami Satchidananda often said, "You want to be great? Be grateful." Paul Grilley has shared that his spiritual teacher, Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, has insisted that by being grateful for every single situation and event in your life you can reach enlightenment in this lifetime. And Julio Kuperman, long time yoga student and very dear friend, often reminds me of the origins of words used to offer gratitude. Merci in French indicates Mercy; Gracias in Spanish and Grazie in Italian hint at the Grace required for gratitude. Danke from German comes from the root "to think." Perhaps we can think with mercy and grace to arrive at gratitude.

Being grateful for what is good and special in your life is easy. When you catch a 'lucky break' or receive a special honor, for example, gratitude easily flows from the pores like sweet scent from a honeysuckle. Finding sincere gratitude when things are challening, frustrating or painful, however, is a true practice. To remember that life's difficulties often lead to the greatest rewards, and that we discover our true mettle through adversities, is to remain peaceful and grateful no matter what the arising moment brings.

Remembering to be grateful for the many gifts and treasures already present in your life is the antidote for taking anything for granted. Running water, heat, electricity, ample access to food, people to love and love you, sunlight sparkling on the water, the smell of chocolate cookies baking, the soft fur of a kitten, the gurgles of a baby ... these are some of the greatest gifts of life, and yet we often brush past these obvious luxuries to complain about the many things we perceive to be lacking. It's occurred to me that taking something for granted is the opposite of gratitude. If we make something sacred through gratitude, then perhaps we desecrate anything we take for granted.

As we look around at all the gifts we enjoy in life, I firmly believe it's important to be grateful for the gift that YOU are to the world. To see and celebrate your own goodness and talents and uniqueness; to not only see your 'shortcomings, failings, or inadequacies.' Toward the end of my Grandmother's life, as she looked through photo albums of her life, she quietly remarked, "I never knew how beautiful I was." This is probably true of all of us; revel in your own splendor!

As we head toward the holiday season and end-of-year festivities, hopefully we can all remind ourselves of the richness and fullness of our lives, exactly as they are. I'm confident that everyone receiving this email is blessed with tremendous abundance, relative to the rest of the world, even if it doesn't always seem that way. All of us have the choice to spend energy focusing on what is wrong and who to blame, or we can invest our most precious resource bowing down in reverence before each situation, regarding each moment as a blessing.