It’s Just Yoga

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Many are doing it. Oodles are practicing it. Plenty are teaching it.

Yoga is far trendier today than when I started practicing almost 20 years ago. Though, I would argue that the part of yoga I found to be so life-changing is not necessarily the same part of yoga that is attracting the masses today. I sometimes think that in this ginormous industry yoga has evolved into over the years, that particular component has some how lost its way. But that’s just me.

Just to clarify, this is not another article about what real yoga is, isn’t or should be.

I honestly believe that only we can determine for ourselves what we want to gain from it. And in turn, that will ultimately determine what we get out of it. And if a person chooses to approach yoga as just exercise, then that’s their decision.

But isn’t it possible to still do both? What if we not only used yoga as a path towards fitness but also used it as a doorway towards mindfulness…

What if when we stepped on our yoga mat we understood that touching our toes is about more than whether we can touch our toes.

What if we questioned more often why we do a pose, and worried less often why we can’t.

What if how we get into a pose is more important than how far we can go once we are there.

What if we paid more attention to how our movements affect others than how are movements look to others.

What if we killed ourselves with kindness rather than insensibly beat up our bodies.

What if we spent just as much time on healing the pain when our heart has been stabbed as we do straining our muscles so we can feel the burn.

What if we didn’t just practice yoga on the mat, but off the mat too.

What if we ceased defining our yoga practice by how we appear, and instead by how we behave.

What if we discontinued all the empty talk, and started to lead by example with a meaningful walk.

What if we put more importance on aligning our heart with our actions than we do with stacking our knees over our heels.

What if instead of repeating words because they sound good, we speak words because they are true.

What if we put an end to believing in our own bullshit so that we can start to clearly see the facts.

What if we accepted that we will all fuck up and sometimes act like an asshole. But we don’t have to be a fucked up asshole.

We can be this: strong and confident.
Without being this: arrogant and callous.

What if we understood that it’s no one else’s responsibility to make us happy, and instead worked on cultivating our own contentment.

What if our beliefs and truths were in sync with our actions and words.

What if we agreed that not all relationships were meant to last forever and it is possible to move on gracefully, rather than spitefully.

What if we appreciated that what is best for someone else might not be best for us, and there is no one to blame.

What if telling others what they feel and need was less important than listening closely to what we say and why.

We used these words less: authentic and unyogic.
We lived these words more: real and raw.

What if we discerned and didn’t judge.

What if we made a pact that when my purpose and your purpose are not in tune we can dance to our own rhythm and still share the floor.

What if a prerequisite for balancing on two hands was being able to stand grounded in our own true self.

What if we didn’t just do yoga, but actually tried to practice too.

What if we preferred a yoga mind over a beach body.
What if we practiced a soul search rather than just a seated twist.
What if we meditated on life rather than fixated on things.
What if our intention was in how we go rather than in what we get.

What if we transformed the world rather than performed a pose.

It’s how we think.
The words we choose.
It’s how we act.
Trusting our internal cues.

It’s a discipline not an art.
It’s an attitude from the heart.

It’s just mindfulness.
It’s just yoga.

Secret Single Behavior of a Yoga Goddess: kombucha, kale and selfie flare

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Secret Single Behavior (or SSB): (noun) a habit or activity that one might like to indulge in when home alone. (Of course, you don’t need to be single – it’s just stuff that goes down when no one’s around).

Yoga Goddess (or YG): (noun) any woman from Western civilization who teaches yoga for a living.

I read that definition in an article written by a wise woman a few years back, and it stuck. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t like a job title with the word goddess in it?

Secret Single Yoga Goddess Behavior (or SSYGB): (noun) those things YGs do when they are not working. (You know, the stuff that goes down when our students aren’t around.)

Now, before some of you start hating, I am a yogi and I try to live my yoga. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Occasionally stumbling along the way. I am not talking about someone who preaches but doesn’t practice. I am actually talking about those who try to practice each and every yama and niyama (yoga’s ethical principles) every single day of the year. But there are always those stereotypical ideas about us. The misconceptions of how we spend our time when not teaching. Usually things that really aren’t relevant to whether we are a good yoga teacher or “real yogi.” And maybe SSYGB is less about what we do and more about what we might not do. And while as YGs we should always aspire to live our yoga, we are not only yoga. It’s not all kombucha, kale and kumbaya.

Of course, I can’t speak for all the YGs out there, but here is a small glimpse into my SSYGB, my world out of the studio:

  • As I just mentioned, kombucha is not for me. Nor are juice cleanses and endless cups of green tea. If you love that stuff, rock on. I prefer my coffee in the morning and my wine at night. I will sip Wild Turkey on occasion. As a SYG, I have been known to hang out at a bar every now and again. My shot of choice, tequila. Two shots…well, no good ever comes from that. And that’s all I am saying about it.
  • Yes, I fit the vegetarian stereotype. I got the whole ahimsa, non-violence thing going on. But wagons were built to fall off. I don’t cook, so it is usually take out for me. My freezer contains exactly three items: vodka, ice cream and ice. As long as I have coffee, half and half, and cat food (for my cat, not me, FYI) in good supply, I can survive days without going out. Oh, and wine too. Let’s not forget that. I like my pizza and french fries, and the endless supply of homemade baked goodies my friends make for me – in moderation, of course. But we all need to indulge sometimes. You can keep your kale, if I can keep my gluten.
  • I do not spend my time off taking yoga selfies. (Except the one for this article, of course). I rarely #stopdropandyoga. I also do everything I can to avoid following anyone on Instagram who posts a new pose #everydamnday. Post a high quality sarcastic quote, a cute cat or anything from Jared Leto, and I be liking. MY yoga challenge is trying to find ways to avoid seeing Instagram #yogachallenge postings. However, I will say this, you Instagram celebs get a whole new respect from me. How do you do it? I spent about five hours on just that one shot. Talk about practicing tapas – burn baby burn. It would take me another hour to just try and type all those cute hashtags on my tiny little keyboard to post with it. You are all #instacool.
  • I don’t spend all day practicing yoga. (Well, I “practice” it all day long. But I mean the actual physical kind on the mat). Sometimes after being at my studio every day for five days straight, the last thing I want to do is take my mat out. (I might want to pull some hairs out, though.) The first thing I want to do is feel my ass on the couch and a drink in my hand. I wear many masks to run my studio. Mental and physical exhaustion sets in, and I can be pretty lazy when I am off. Case in point, the pizza I mentioned above. I store my empty pizza boxes in the oven. The recycling bin at my condo complex is THREE buildings away. (Remember, I don’t cook, so I never use my oven. Have no fear all you Fire Marshals out there!) I look at it more as brahmacharya – energy conservation – why make five trips when I can do it in just one? Makes good sense to me. The boxes fit quite neatly and are out of sight in the oven, so there’s your saucha – cleanliness. And that, my friends, is the art of killing two yoga principles with one stove.
  • I do not spend all my time talking about yoga. Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration…yoga does come up in my conversations probably a bit more than the normal non-yoga goddess person. But often it’s to make fun of it. Yes, I am a firm believer that it is good to laugh at yoga. (This article for instance…THAT’S FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE NOT GOTTEN THE JOKE YET. Yes, I was yelling). Yoga is life changing stuff and sometimes we need to lighten up about it. Especially if we are trying to practice it. But mostly my girlfriends and I talk about sex, saving turtles, getting old, solving world hunger, girl problems (the struggle is real), my online dating tribulations (that’s for comedy relief after the whole world hunger conversation), how it would be so much better if women ran the world, and who we want to punch in the face, but of course won’t because, you know, all that yoga and non-violence crap we are supposed to be practicing. (I think that’s probably the point in the conversation where we start mocking yoga).
  • Now, as mentioned before, being single is not required for your normal secret single behavior. Nor is it for SSB of a yoga goddess. All of the above can be “practiced” single, attached or otherwise engaged. But, I am single, so here goes…believe it or not, the last thing I want to do is date a yoga dude. I don’t know what it is, but most of the ones I have met were just way too intense for me – and I refer back to the need to “lighten up” and the “yoga crap” mentioned above. (Disclaimer: I said “most,” not all. Just to clarify, before you yoga dudes get your yoga shorts all in a bunch.) Too much of a good thing perhaps? I prefer someone to be yang to my yin. Sthira to my sukha. Hard to my soft. (OK people, get your minds out of the gutter, you yoga peeps know what I’m talkin’ about). Maybe this is where I should give another shout out to all you Fire Marshals…

So you ask, what is the point to all of this? Well, I guess it’s this. I am just like everyone else. Simply trying to do the best I can. Hopefully, because of my yoga practice, maybe I do that with a little more awareness than I would have if I had not found yoga.

We all have our jobs, some of us are lucky enough to have not only careers we love, but careers that are true extensions of our self. I am one of those. But no matter how much we love our job or live our job, we all need to sometimes let our hair down and take our yoga pants off.

Whether I throw out my pizza boxes that day or the next week, or drink wine instead of green tea, doesn’t determine whether I am a good person or not. I will tell you what does – my actions, my words, how I treat others, my intentions behind what I do. Do I succeed all the time? No. But without yoga, I would most likely fail more often than not.

And I don’t think this makes me less of a yoga teacher either. I think it makes me a realistic one. Perhaps I don’t fit into the “typical” stereotype with some things, but I won’t pretend to be something I am not – secretly or not so secretly. I am fairly confident that many of my students already know quite a few of the aforementioned things. (And if not, now they do.)

Honesty trumps hummus. (And there’s another one of those damn yamas popping up again.)

So you see, it’s not about kombucha, kale or selfie flare. It’s about the yamas, the niyamas and perhaps knowing a quote or two from the Dalai Lama. Can you like and do those three things AND practice the yamas and niyamas? Absofuckinlutely. (And if you haven’t picked up on that yet, I recommend going back to the part about lightening up and getting the joke). Yoga Gs don’t need to own mala beads to practice mindful deeds. But ya can…

A few of my yogi friends and I like to joke that we do yoga so we don’t kill people. And while obviously the reality is not that extreme, I do know without yoga I would be a lot worse off.

And this is what else I know: I know that when I would rather run away screaming from an extremely difficult situation, yoga has helped me stay and see it through. I know that I have absolutely no control over other people’s actions, but I do have control over mine. I know that most of the time more force creates more resistance, and though usually the harder choice, by letting go just enough the universe has a funny way of working things out – the way they should.

And because of my practice I know that I am enough, and looking for someone or something else to complete me would be an endless search.

I know that I am totally, abundantly flawlessly flawed, and sometimes the best thing I can do is just try to keep it real. And get my ass off the couch and back on the mat…where I can keep practicing it all.

I also know that life is pretty messy, and sometimes #whenyogajustisntenough, well there is always that bottle of vodka in the freezer…

read elephant journal version….

How The Grinch Found Yoga

“An open heart is an open mind” – Dalai Lama

How The Grinch Found Yoga_part oneFeatured on
Inspired by Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

Every yogi in Yogaville liked yoga a lot….
But the Grinch, who lived just west of Yogaville, did not!
The Grinch hated yoga! The whole yoga culture!
Now, please don’t ask why. It would only be torture.
It could be his mind was closed a little too tight.
It could be, perhaps, that his breath was too slight.
But I think that the most likely reason could be,
He kept his heart protected, not allowing it to be free.

Whatever the reason, his heart or his mind.
He stood there that evening, not feeling very kind.

Staring into the studio, with the look of displease,
At the warm yoga bodies moving with such ease.
For he knew every yogi was perfecting their pose,
While looking their best in their fancy yoga clothes.
“And they’re standing on their hands,” he said with despair,
“Without a single strand moving, not one! In their hair!”

Their photos, their quotes, their Instagram postings!
The kale and kombucha, the juice cleanse hostings!
And soon, oh so soon, they would be yoga singing!
The sound of their OMs! Well, it would have his ears ringing!

Then he got an idea! A crazy idea!
This “unyogic” Grinch got a crazy idea!
The Grinch held his breath, not knowing what was in store.
He walked up to the studio, and opened the door…

The Grinch came from the outside and found his way in.
Which is often how many of us also begin.
He stepped onto a mat, without expectation.
The evolution was slow, but he found meditation.

And there on the mat, released of all drama.
The Grinch discovered more than only one of the yamas.
It just takes some presence, a trust in the self.
In mindful action, the Grinch found some wealth.

And the Grinch, with his grinch hands touching his toes,
looked around in amazement, thinking, “How could it be so?”

“It came without judgment! It came without goals!”
“It came without challenges, selfies or ‘no’s’!”
And he sat down a few moments, till his breath became longer.
His mind became quiet, his inner voice grew stronger.
“Maybe yoga,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a pose.”
“Maybe yoga… perhaps…is an exercise for the soul.”

And what happened then? Well…in Yogaville they say,
That the Grinch’s trapped heart broke open that day!
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite such a mess,
His mind opened up too and he found yoga bliss.
And he stepped on his mat. Both feet firmly at home!
And he, he himself! The Grinch sang the last OM!

Love Dr. Seuss? Love yoga? Buy Lyn’s book, Om, the Poses You’ll Do!
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Yoga Teachers and Studio Owners: Let’s be sure to practice asteya, when sharing please give credit to the author.
Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman/Flickr