Coming up for air (part 2)

As with every Yoga Challenge, this has been a time for me to reflect on who I am and what I want in this amazing journey called life.

I’m not going to lie. The last year has been, for lack of a better word, incredibly challenging. I went through a divorce, which was fairly amicable as divorces go, but it was still difficult. I completed the last two semesters of an accelerated master’s program and passed my board exams to become an RN. I got a major teaching hospital to fund my MSN/CNL project, only to be thwarted at the last minute by an egomaniac surgeon who convinced everyone that one IRB approval wasn’t enough and I needed a second, which was impossible in the timeframe I had to complete the project. I have spent the last six months searching for work as an RN. At the time of this writing, I have applied for 50 positions and have been officially rejected for about 30; the 17 others didn’t even bother to send out rejections. (There are still 3 for which I still hold out hope.)

And I have had my heart broken. More than once.

Through it all, I have been determined to stay strong. Tough it out. Find the blessing in each and every challenge. Don’t let anyone see me cry, especially my kids or the men who have broken my heart.

For the most part, I’ve been fairly successful. My best girlfriend, who has watched and been there for me, jokes that I have enough strength to hold up the Empire State Building. I realized this week, though, as I was smoking my way through Warrior II, that my quest for “strength” comes at a cost.

I sacrifice my softness and my gentleness. I sacrifice my femininity and my nurturing, two qualities which make me a really good mom and a caring nurse. I lose some of my warmth and affection.

What I also realized this week was that my yoga practice often centers around strengthening poses. I will often skip savasana, or make it a quickie. I think that’s why last week’s breathing poses were such a nice surprise.

This week brought more rejections and challenges on both the professional and personal front, so on Thursday I decided to head to the coast to do a little work on my laptop as well as some manifesting.

When I got to the beach, there were just a few people there. I got my chair and my backpack, sat down and ate my lunch. It was so beautiful outside.

My perch in the sand

My perch in the sand

As you can see, the beach was practically deserted. Walking along the shore, there was a man who kept looking at me, sheepishly, gently, almost to see if I was real. I kept wondering if he, too, had been there to manifest, and if I was a sign of some sort that he had requested. (Note to the dear stranger: thank you for looking at me like that.) Then he got into his car and left.

As I sat and watched and listened to the ocean, I knew there was no way I was going to get any “work” — as in job applications — done. So I got up, put my shoes, my phone, and all my stuff back into the car, and went back down to the ocean. It was low tide — my favorite way to walk on the shore — and the paper-thin ripples of water were warm under my feet in the sunshine.

I walked, totally alone on the beach. I searched for sand dollars for Luke (and found two without cracks or holes). I wrote myself a love note in the sand, just close enough to the water to be washed away with the high tide, because everyone needs to hear those words every once in a while. And I listened.

I don’t know what you hear, but the message for me was that it is ok to soften. It’s ok to be sad when I’m disappointed and afraid when I’m vulnerable. More importantly, I heard that softening would not make me lose my strength. On the contrary, it would give me room to breathe and grow in ways I’m not able to when I’m stuck in my Strong box. Softening will not stifle my joy, no, it will bring it out because I am able to look behind me at the darkness through which I have just emerged and understand how much light is in front of me — really, how much light I bring to myself in the here and now.

As with everything in life, it’s really about the balance, the Yin and the Yang supporting each other. For the last year, my fiery, determined Yang has shown me how strong I am. Now I can fully appreciate the perceived fragility of my Yin and the beautiful dance she does with Yang, making me who I am  — the whole me… strong, soft, fiery, feminine, vulnerable, and joyful.


Coming up for air (part 1)

Wow. It’s been a while since I last blogged. (Shoot, it’s been a while since any of us blogged!) Admittedly I have fallen off of the yoga wagon a couple of times in the last two weeks. No shiny new mat for me!

I can’t believe that it’s already April 19. Where did the first half of April go?

Ok, well, that’s rhetorical, because I know exactly where it went.

It went to the kids’ suuuuuuuuper long spring break (which I survived). It went to a conference and job applications and breathing.


Last week (as in the week before this one… I’m that behind on blogging), I spent most of my yoga practice breathing. I don’t normally make prana exercises the mainstay of my practice, but I was cycling (yes, gentlemen, I’m sorry, TMI), so I didn’t want to go all crazy power yoga on myself. There is a wisdom to Ashtanga that a woman gets to rest during her cycle, but this is the Yoga Challenge, and we don’t get days off to bleed. So I breathed.

I did khapalbhati and alternate nostril breathing. I did lots and lots of sun breaths. And weirdly enough, the breathing cleared my head. Literally. I felt as if someone had taken a broom to my brain and swept away all the cobwebs that come when you forget about breathing.

I could get used to that feeling. In fact, breathing all on its own as a yoga “pose” has become a welcome addition to my practice. I have to be careful not to breathe so much that I get a headache, but I like the way it opens space for, well, nothing.

And I could definitely get used to that.

Good for cleaning the blood

Wild arugula growing along the coast in Davenport — good for cleaning the blood

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Day 11. Guest Teacher

Right now I am sitting in the lounge and Amy Delozier is teaching the 5:30 PM class.

I can hear her voice but not what she’s saying. I can hear that there is music playing but not what that music is. I am really happy for my students because I know they are in good hands and they are being guided expertly.

It’s good to experience different teachers, different approaches, different sequencing, different analogies. All teachers, whether they are classroom teachers or yoga teachers get stale. They find themselves saying the same things over and over until they get to go to another teacher’s class and pick up some new stuff.

I wish I were in that room now, being guided through my practice by Amy. But mostly I want to be in there so I can steal some of her stuff.

When I travel to do trainings, I train at studios that have multiple practice rooms and multiple teachers. I have sat in hallways and lounges and listened through doors and curtains to other teachers’ classes as I have waited for my own. So it feels cool to be sitting in my own studio and listening to the thuds and bumps of people practicing yoga with another teacher, a teacher that is not me.

I sometimes fantasize about having a large studio and hiring teachers,—really, really GOOD teachers, and being able to pay them well, and have them have followings and giving students the opportunity of taking Gentle from one teacher, Power from another, Pre-Natal, Aerial–you name it. I know some studio owners who have places like this and they always say to me when I express this fantasy that it’s cut-throat in their city. They are always competing with 3 or 4 other studios for students. They have astronomical rents, they have to pay teachers, they have to make a living.

So yeah. I know what I fantasize about isn’t probably what I really WANT, but hearing Amy through the wall, I can sit here and fantasize for just a few more minutes that I am the owner of a Yoga Dynasty in Metro Mansfield, or maybe, Tahiti.



I’m on the road again and have the luxury of some unscheduled time tonight. Instead of staying in a hotel, I decided this afternoon to book a cabin at Keystone State Park, near Youngstown PA.  I always carry a wool blanket in my trunk, so all I needed to sleep was a pillow and sheet.  A few clearance items from Kmart fit the bill.  Dinner was take-out Italian, enjoyed on the cabin’s porch (thankfully covered, given tonight’s thunderstorms).  These were the easy decisions.

The cabin has two sets of bunk beds, so I had four mattresses to choose from. I decided that one of the two kid’s mattress would be best, since the plastic liner would inhibit any bedbugs.  I pulled the mattress onto the floor between the two bunks (I didn’t want to take the chance of bugs in the bed frame).  I made the mattress up with the new sheets, and flopped onto it stomach first.  With my head now directed at the floor, I noticed a dead cockroach on under the bunk bed, and a spider in the corner, and questioned my choice of placement.  I then spent five minutes or so examining the wooden bunk frame with a flashlight for any evidence of bed bugs.  Lots of dust, no bugs. Back on the frame went the mattress.  Then back on the floor.  Then back on the bed, where it is now.

When did we start hearing so much about bed bugs? I’m not sure when I began obsessing about crawly critters. I’ve done plenty of backpacking, hostel-ing, and couch surfing.  I can only reason that I am now more aware, and yet this does not make me more tolerant.  On another note, I have almost no fear of the stomach flu, and I prefer bugs to uber-cleanliness, pesticides, and hand sanitizer, which I believe can make us sick.  Hyper-avoidance of nature keeps us and our kids indoors too much, which indirectly leads to diseases such as type II diabetes.  It leads to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.  It leads to our guts denuded of natural bugs that help us digest our food. But, I digress.

When it came time for my evening yoga practice, I had another placement dilemma.  I had not brought my mat, but there were no ‘hotel towels’ this time to lay on the floor.  In the trunk of my car I had a very old yoga mat that I’ve been using as a trunk liner.  I yanked it out.  It was covered in mildew stains.  Back it went.

The cabin floor was a little dusty and somewhat acceptable, but I wanted to be outdoors. I checked out the dock – there’s something so great about doing yoga over water.  I walked out, now in the dark.  The dock was surfaced with a rough-textured concrete, and was wet from rain.  Lightning cracked nearby, so I decided that was not the best idea either and scuttled back to the cabin porch.

The boards on the porch were, as one might expect, layered in dirt.

I’m slightly ashamed to admit being such a goldilocks about grime.  (Hand sanitizer, bad.  Dirt underfoot in down dog, also bad.) As part of my last job, I collected fishes from salt marshes in Maryland. The task brought me knee deep in marsh mud, and I’d go home with sulfidic black muck under my fingernails, in my hair, in the folds of my ears, and inside my sports bra.  So, I’m OK with dirt, really, just not during yoga.   I used some baby wipes to clear off just enough grit-free space for my hands in downward dog.  Then I took the sun shade from my car – the kind that is like a metallic-lined, accordion folded bubble wrap  – folded it in thirds, and slid it under where my hips and knees might need cushioning.  Finally, I kept my Vibram 5 -finger shoes on, as grippy foot gloves.

The practice itself was sublime.  I lit a candle and listened to the rain and the peepers.


This spot was just perfect.

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Day 9. Tired

I’m really tired tonight. I am sitting on the couch, laptop on my lap, UConn vs Louisville on the TV, G making me jump by shouting, “Atta Baby!” at unpredictable intervals.

I woke up tired this morning, and my espresso did nothing. Came home after class, ate and fell asleep again, startling awake with the buzz of my phone–a FB personal message coming in.

It was from Amy, who runs the University gym and is a yoga teacher. I asked her a few weeks ago if she would like to “Guest teach” during the Challenge. I gave her the schedule and told her, “Let me know.”

She’s a new mom. She’s got a demanding job. I was ready for, “I’m sorry.”

The FB message was from her. She said, “How about I take this Thursday and your late class on the next three Mondays.

I read this squinting into my phone, still half asleep.

When it sunk in that I was going to get a few nights off this month, I smiled.

I was so tired this morning because I have not been managing my energy very well. I have been over-doing it during the day. That has to stop. I have two more appointments this week, and then I am going to stop making appointments and just focus on my teaching and my own practice for the rest of the month.

I swear.



Slacker yoga

Yesterday’s (Sunday’s) yoga session was a paltry ten minutes. Somehow I slept through my first alarm and didn’t wake up until the second, which cut my practice by 20 minutes. (I was getting together with a friend early in the morning and didn’t have much time to spare.) I barely got in some warm-ups and suns before my timer alerted me that I had to get into the shower if I didn’t want to be late (which I didn’t).

Then last night I slept terribly. It was sooooo windy out; I could hear sticks from the trees hitting my window, the chimes were going crazy, and even the cats were scared, with one lying between my legs at my feet, and the other perched with her head and paws on my hip, as if she were hiding in a bunker. I was up from 3:30-5 for some odd reason, then just as I was falling back asleep into Dreamland, Tatiana came in with a coughing fit from her cold, and at that point, it wasn’t worth going back to sleep before my alarm was to go off.

I am deep enough into the Yoga Challenge now that it was not a question of whether or not to get up and do yoga but rather what type of yoga to do. I was achy tired, in the mood for a gentle practice.

Then that little voice inside said, “Slacker.”

What?!? Me?!? I’m not a slacker. I was going to practice.

But that little voice kept at it. “Kath would be kicking your ass in the studio right now. This is the Yoga Challenge, not the Yoga Slack-off.”

Dang it, that little voice was right. She would be kicking my ass. Yet I also knew that if I did some wild and crazy power vinyasa yoga, I could potentially hurt myself, not necessarily a contact in the wrong solution burning the eye kind of thing, but enough to throw me out of balance for the rest of the day. A mom’s only got so much juju to last her when her kids are starting week #2 of spring break.

So I compromised.

There was no “flow” in my practice. In the 40 minutes that I yoga-ed, I did about a third of the poses I normally would. Rather than flowing, I sank into poses. I found my edge, breathed a few breaths, and took the edge a little deeper.  Smoking quads in Warrior I & II. Eagle, posed for the kill, until my whole leg wobbled. A dancing Shiva that would have made Baryshnikov proud (repeat on the wobbling leg). Upward bow, not once, but twice, until my legs and arms and whole abdomen shook.

You get the picture.

At this point in my life, I have learned that there is a big difference between pushing myself and challenging myself. Pushing tends to create a stress that I neither need nor want because it drains my energy and saps my joy. Challenging, on the other hand, implies an awakening, a little initiation through a mini-fire, where I emerge energized and stronger.

The difference may seem minute, but I can feel it. This morning’s practice energized me. Not a ton, but enough.  If I had slacked off, though, it would drained my energy in the same way that pushing myself through a Baron Baptiste power yoga session would have. Not only would I have been disappointed in myself, but I wouldn’t have given myself an energy boost to get through the day.

Without a fab teacher like Kath to challenge me, and without the life force of 15+ people breathing and moving together, it’s up to me to figure out where I thrive, and where I dive.

And I need that good juju.


Day 8. Teaching myself a lesson.

Today I did something really stupid: I took my contacts out before my shower and instead of letting them soak in Refresh solution, I soaked them in Clear Care.

Clear Care needs overnight to neutralize. Before it neutralizes, if you put your Clear Care soaked contact in your eye, it burns like lye.

I didn’t realize I had made this mistake until I put the right lens in.  My eye ignited. It caught fire. It took what seemed like 10 minutes to get it out, too,  because my eye squeezed shut against the pain. I had to go in and dig that sucker out and it took what seemed an eternity.

(It still hurts as I type this.)

It was a moment of pure, unmitigated not paying attention. It was a mindless moment. It was a moment of my brain running on autopilot. I was preoccupied. I was tired.

If I had been paying attention, my eye would be fine, and I wouldn’t have had to wear my glasses to class tonight.

So I decided to teach myself a lesson.

Tonight I led the class that I needed to take; I spoke the words I needed to hear.

I talked a lot about being the witness. I encouraged them to go slowly, and pay attention, and watch themselves doing what they were doing. (Not necessarily because they needed to hear this, but because I did.)

I have this (deserved) rep for teaching an athletic style of yoga, so it surprises some people that I am capable of leading a softer, slower, more meditative practice.

But I did just that tonight. In both classes. And it felt good, too. It felt exactly right. It didn’t help my eye unfortunately, but it brought home to me what I need to work on.