Back to the Blog








But I’m back to blogging! There’s been a lot of changes for me in the past few months.

To back up a bit, a little over a year ago, I left a full-time job as an online community manager. I wanted to focus on teaching yoga, but was fairly sure yoga teaching wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do career-wise.

It’s been a great experience as far as deepening my teaching and growing a base of amazing students. Still, I also missed doing the online community work that I used to do and quickly discovered that I like having the structure and regularity that comes with a full-time, salaried job.

I was in the middle of the interviewing for a couple of non-yoga jobs when my husband and I left on Thanksgiving for a two-week cruise through the Panama Canal. There’s much more to be said about this fabulous vacation, but one wonderful part about it was that we were offline for the most part, with no cell access nor internet access (well, except for 75-cents-a-minute for what access might be there in the middle of the ocean). Unplugging is important to do from time to time.  But I digress.

I had an second interview mid-trip on one of the days we were in port. When our boat docked in Floria early on a Friday morning and I had internet access again, I came online to a job offer and was on a plane to Portland for training the next week. So it was quite the whirlwind. The universe can have a wonderful sense of humor when it comes to bringing you change.

Thus far, I am loving the work. I work for a nonprofit organization I’ve long admired and respected. I’m back working with a similar group of constituents and have been blown away by the warm welcome I’ve had from many people I know in this network. Best of all, I get to work remotely and have some flexibility with my hours which means I’m able to keep teaching away.

Right now, I’m still teaching a lot with a number of privates and group classes a week, so it’s busy and I’m juggling a bit to get into a routine with it all. That said, I’m loving it. Perhaps what I love most of all is teaching. I’ve re-discovered the joy teaching brings me. Now that it’s not the only thing I’m doing, I find myself excited again about coming up with juicy sequencing and exploring new assists. It feels like the best of both careers.

It took me a long time to get to writing this blog post. To be honest, I’ve been scared to talk about my new job and situation because I’m afraid: “What if it doesn’t work out? What if I blog about being happy about things are coming together so well and it all goes to hell?”

Ironically enough, as much as my fear makes me want to hide and not make a big deal out of things, I have two careers that are very public and require that I put myself out there, be it online or in front of a class of people. I can’t be hiding behind a curtain waiting for the other shoe to drop. What is a blog for if I can’t also be honest and put my truth out in words?

There’s a lot of stories out there about yoga teachers finding their path to teaching from another job. It may seem odd to find one’s path by taking a step back away from teaching, but that’s the way I’m finding my way and weaving my two careers together.

AND…I’m happy to be back to blogging and bringing in the beauty reports to come in 2013!

The Cell Phone Clutch


The act of taking out a cell phone from one’s pocket or purse, resulting in other people in the vicinity taking out and checking their phones as well.

From Urban Dictionary

This would be even funnier were it not so true. There’s that awkward pause at a party or work event when suddenly someone starts checking their phone. Of course I feel compelled to pick up mine. I want to look important and busy too, even if all I’m doing is checking out Facebook.

Now the distraction of a mobile phone can be a glorious thing. It’s made me a much more amenable passenger in a car, particularly in traffic when I can pass the time or catching up on blog posts. Being able to respond to a time-sensitive email right away without having to worry about getting back to a computer to answer eliminates a lot of unnecessary stress. I like the security of knowing that if I lock my keys in my car or forget my wallet, I can call someone right away. (Not that I’ve ever locked my keys in the car. Or forgotten my wallet. Or both. Or both on multiple occasions. But I digress).

As much as I kid (kinda) about being surgically attached to my iPhone, I think it’s important for me to be aware of the flip side or shadow side of my smart phone. I’m noticing how whenever there’s waiting: waiting in line at the grocery store; waiting for an event to start; waiting for another person, my automatic impulse is to reach for my phone. Do I really need to anything that important? Am I really enhancing my life by whatever I cram in doing on my phone for five minutes?

So my relationship with my iPhone? “It’s complicated.” But here’s where I can draw on my yoga practice for relationship advice. Yoga is a process of paying attention and becoming aware of our habits and learning new ways to work in ways that are beneficial for ourselves. I can use this same approach to look at when my cell phone is beneficial and where it isn’t serving me well.

The point of being conscious of my cell phone habits is not to denounce technology (“Cell phones are making us an unfeeling, detached, self-absorbed society”), nor be judgmental (“If only I were more yogic and practiced greater non-attachment to object, I wouldn’t be so glued to my phone”). Rather, it’s a matter of paying attention and observing my behavior. Sometimes I notice grabbing my cell phone makes me happy, such as sending a funny text to a friend. It brings a burst of connection in my day. Other times I see that I use my cell phone as a way to procrastinate that task I’m avoiding. The constant checking (be it email, Facebook, Twitter, or the latest news) makes it hard for me to settle down. I will try to read a book and I’ll feel compelled to check something online or I remember an email I forgot to send, and then realize I haven’t followed anything on the page that I just read.

Striking a balance between making the most of the ever-increasing cool stuff you can do on a phone and taking time to be unplugged is a common juggling act most of us are negotiating these days. Being aware of the clutch is the first step in determining what kind of relationship you want to have with your cell phone. My iPhone and I are still working on ours.


How to move past a plateau to the next level

Ever get to a point when you’re practicing a skill where you feel stuck? Feel like you’re putting all this effort in, but you aren’t getting any better? Start wondering if you should really be even trying since you’re clearly not cut out for doing it?

Yeah, me neither.

But I recently read a great book, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer that throws a wrench in this thinking. In the book, Foer, who is training his memory skills to compete in a memory competition, explores his learning process. He cites Michael Posner and the late Paul Fitts, two psychologists who described what they termed the “OK plateau” that occurs when you are acquiring a new skill. In the”OK plateau”, you’ve moved past the first stages of mentally and physically getting the hang of a new activity and assimilating this new knowledge. You reach a stage where the activity becomes more autopilot.  It’s no longer as difficult as it was, but you get to a point where you stop improving. You’re ok at what you’re doing, but you’ve come to a plateau.

How do you get past the stagnation? Foer points out Dr. K Anders Erricson’s study of expertise. We move past a plateau by failing keep our brains in the OK plateau. The people who are able to get past this wall and improve further, “deliberately practice the things they aren’t good at or that are hard.” That means failing. On purpose. And using our failures as a tool for improving from our mistakes.

Easier said than done, especially if you’re a person who tends to be a perfectionist. It’s very tempting to stay in the comfort zone of being “OK”, where you don’t fail, but you also never progress any further. In Forrest Yoga, we are continually challenged to stay out of auto-pilot. Consciously staying present in the breath is one of the best ways I know to begin to push past a stuck point in a pose. Yet it’s challenging and sometimes scary and there are days when I just want to zone out, revert to auto-pilot, and go through the motions, staying comfortably on my safe plateau.

In my practice, I’m becoming aware of the times–or particular poses–where I resist the challenge and risk of failure that are required in order to move forward. In an upcoming post, I’ll share how I, along with some fellow yogis,  are committing to push ourselves beyond our wall.


Don’t Do List

To-Do Don’t Do List

I just got through reading Chris Guillebeau’s terrific book: The Art of Non-Conformity. The book is full of practical tips not just for having a non-conventional job, but for living a meaningful life regardless of what work you do.

Time, or rather, the lack of it, is one of the biggest challenges people often complain about or use as an excuse to not do something. In his book, Chris explores ways you can make time in your day for things that are important. One tip he suggests is making a “Don’t Do” list. Make a list of things that you do that drain your energy and do not contribute to your well-being or how you want to live your life.

Of course, there are some draining tasks (i.e. washing the dog, paying bills, etc.) that you won’t be able to drop from your life. However, aim for finding 3-5 things on your list that you can eliminate.

Some possible things that might be on your list

  • Constantly checking email
  • Watching a TV show you don’t really care about
  • Unproductive meetings
  • A volunteer commitment you do not enjoy

Here’s a few on my Don’t Do List that I’m working to eliminate (or at least cut back on):

  • Mindlessly surfing the internet
  • Staring into my closet trying to decide what to wear
  • Trying to stay current on reading numerous blogs and email newsletters

So in the last week, I’ve been doing a few things to help with my not doing. I unsubscribed to a number of email newsletters that I either don’t read or just aren’t particularly pertinent or useful to me. For the newsletters I do get, I set up a filter in my email to send these newsletters directly into a “newsletters” folder and skip my inbox. When I have time to catch up on some reading, I can go to the folder and read then. Similarly, I went into my Google Reader, where I have a list of blogs I read and eliminated many from the list and put the ones I read most often at the top of my list.

The closet indecision? Going through my clothes and giving things I no longer wear nor want to Goodwill helped, as did organizing my drawers a bit so I can easily see my options.

For me, the hardest on the list is limiting my internet time. One technique suggested by many people is to set a timer for internet time. For example, set the clock for thirty minutes to check email and after that, closing your email and moving on to the next task. Another strategy I try when I have writing or other non-internet-related computer work is to work at a cafe and purposely not sign on to the wifi so I’m not tempted by the distraction of Facebook or the latest tweets coming in. It’s an ongoing challenge for sure–I easily can fall back into the internet time-suck!

This not-doing is often a lot harder than the to-do list, but it is pretty humbling to see how much time I spend on things that don’t really matter. Yet it’s incredibly satisfying to simply consciously drop doing something. It’s freeing to know that nothing will happen if I miss reading an article or two or don’t respond to an email for a couple of more hours. Best of all, there is more time in my day for the dos and the simply being.


Summoning Spirit

I found a technique for connecting to my spirit that takes advantage of my tendency to be stuck in thinking. I start by doing the opposite–conjuring up things I find delight in:


My family: both the people…

…and furballs

Where I live

Penguins (naturally)

Being out in nature

And my amazing partner, soulmate, and love of my life

Next, I take the love I feel when thinking about these parts of my life and begin to breathe and wash those feelings into my body. I connect the memories in my mind to the feeling they create in my body. It feels warm, comforting, and peaceful.

Is it as easy or as automatic as going immediately into self-criticism and fear? No. But this is where the practice part comes in. The more I practice connecting to spirit instead of the usual crap, the easier it will become.

Comedy vs Yoga

My brother, Sean Keane, is a very funny guy (if you think I’m biased, just ask the SF Weekly). Today is Sean’s birthday, so it has me thinking about Sean and comedy. Building a career as a stand-up is a tough one. It takes no small amount of guts and hard work to show up at various settings where stand-up comedy takes place: laundromats; sketchy nightclubs; college auditoriums, and eventually on to the top local venues (in the bay area, these being the SF Punchline and Cobbs Comedy Club).

I have proudly watched Sean’s career move from many of the former to the latter venues and frequent out-of-town gigs.  More than once, I have admired how Sean gets on stage again and again. When I first started teaching yoga, it was petrifying enough to be teaching a group of people. I could not imagine the pressure of standing on a stage and making people laugh.

It got me thinking about the parallels between stand-up comedy and teaching yoga. Both require public speaking, some advance preparation, and ability to improv and play to the energy of the crowd. Here is a point-by-point comparison of comedy and yoga, determining which one has the advantage for each aspect of the job:

Comedy: Keep people laughing
Yoga: Keep people breathing
Edge: Comedy (if you are Sean)

Average Set Time:
Comedy: 10-45 minutes
Yoga: 60-90 minutes
Edge: Draw. If you are eating it on stage, you do not have long to win back the audience. On the other hand, you only have to sink for a brief time before the set is over. If you’re teaching a yoga class that is not going well, you have time to turn it around for the better. On the other hand, it might be a long class…

Comedy: Endless open mics
Yoga: Minimum 200-hour registered program
Edge: Yoga. I can’t think of much scarier things than continually getting up on stage at open mics.

Audience-Enhancing Beverages:
Comedy: alcohol
Yoga: coconut water
Edge: Comedy. Plus alcohol tastes much better than coconut water.

Physical Interactions with Crowd:
Comedy: Aggressive heckling
Yoga: Hands-on adjustments
Edge: Yoga. Why is it some people do not realize what happens when one chooses to sit in the front row at a comedy show?

5-Minute Wrap-Up:
Comedy: People in drunk, happy laughter
Yoga: People in savasana
Edge: Draw. Generally it’s easier to get people to laugh than it is to get them to relax. But if you’re Sean, the laugh part is not a problem.

Happy Birthday Brother Sean!

When you’re in a hole, don’t mole

Image credit: Alexa Opal Hamilton

Ever get in that place?

Yeah, I have been on the express bus to cranky-town lately. My work is going through a number of transitions with the summer coming and my kids classes coming to an end with the end of school year. I am exploring options for doing some non-yoga work in addition to teaching. Things are up in the air. I don’t know how it is all going to turn out.

This makes me cranky. Actually, it brings up a lot of issues of uncertainty, insecurity, and doubt.  Not to mention that mental racket that tells me I should have it figured out already and what’s wrong with me that I don’t. Being already irritated with myself, I get increasingly nit-picky about everything I do and frustrated by situations beyond my illusive control. Ironically enough, it gets harder and harder to take steps that would make me feel better (such as practicing yoga, hanging out with other people, getting outside, etc.) It occurs to me as I surf Facebook, finding further evidence to support how much more exciting and accomplished everyone else is than me, that this might not be the most uplifting or worthwhile activity.

The difference is I am realizing when I get into this hole and most importantly, when I start to mole deeper down into it. I dragged myself kicking and screaming to my yoga mat (ok, maybe just mentally sticking my lower lip out). My irritation continued on the mat. “I don’t wanna do this yoga sequence. I don’t wanna hold the pose any longer.” Still I kept slogging through pouting all the while.

But something my instructor said stuck with me. He had us become aware of the ways in whichwe self-deprecate and lack compassion for ourselves and asked if we could be be open to the possibility that we can change how we feel. Not that we have to change or want to or even believe we could feel differently. Just being open to the idea that we might be able to make this mental shift.

I felt as if the negative harness cutting into my skin had suddenly slackened. Here on my yoga mat I was given permission. Feeling great was not a requirement for entry, nor was it mandatory I feel great at any point in the process. The only thing asked of me was a willingness to be open.

Back when I was in the middle of my teacher training, I remember having one day where I was completely exhausted and frustrated. I wanted to extend a middle finger to my teacher and the assistants. The thought of more relentless feedback or another round of elbow to knee pose was unbearable. At the end of the day, one of my fellow trainees asked me how I was doing. I answered honestly about it being a rough day. She responded, “Some days the success is just getting through the day.”

Some days are like that. Success is sometimes just showing up and getting through. Although I might still be in the hole, not really sure how or when I will get out, I can be open to the possibility of finding a way to climb out.



Total Eclipse of the Heart

Last weekend my husband, Nevin, and I were driving back over the Bay Bridge towards San Francisco in the early evening when he asked me, “Want to watch the eclipse?” If you know my husband, you wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that he had MacGyver’d together a viewer using a small welding lens, cardboard mailing box, and packing tape (and remembered to put it in the trunk). We stopped off at Treasure Island and settled in to watch.

Our makeshift viewing device worked splendidly. There is something amazingly peaceful about watching the sun as, little by little, it is obscured by the moon. It helped that it was one of those perfect weather days where you wish you could paint the colors of the sky and preserve them forever. Gazing out at the water, it reminds you of why you put up with the cost of living, parking, and fog to live in San Francisco.

Yet I almost the experience. I thought about the laundry at home that needed folding, the emails I needed to return, and all the other seemingly pressing to-dos on my list. Did I really want to spend an hour watching the sun?

I thought about how easy it is that I can fall into my own eclipse.

There are times where I feel a bright blaze of warmth in my heart. I’ll be out in nature or curled up with a purring cat on my lap and it occurs to me how lucky I am. Sometimes after teaching or just being around close family or friends where I genuinely feel bursting with love.

Yet how quickly I can let darkness start to creep in. Uncertainty, criticism, and self-doubt come up and I let these seep in, effectively dimming my brightness. Eventually, everything from traffic to the aforementioned parking to the dishes Nevin left on the table, turns into a negativity that blocks me off from my spirit.

In an eclipse, the sun doesn’t disappear or go away forever. It merely slips away from our view. Similarly, my spirit isn’t gone for good, but I can let a cloud of negativity block it off into darkness. Unlike an annular eclipse that will not return for another eleven years, my own eclipse can recur in mere days–if I let it.

It would have been so easy to listen to that nagging voice. Instead by ignoring it, I got to share watching the eclipse with Nevin. As we drove off and the darkness started to unfold across the sky and the predictable San Francisco fog started to roll in, neither could block off the re-kindled sun inside me.