Maintenance, progress

If the last year felt like idling in maintenance mode, then the coming summer season may be time for progress. “Just do it” does have undeniable benefits. But making a plan, preparing, then moving into action often yields a more positive and lasting outcome.

Seasonal changes are opportune times to undertake my personal favorite 7-step plan: Break a habit. Practice. Achieve a goal. Practice. Rest and reflect. Practice. Transform your life. Repeat seasonably for best results.



Not to overthink it, but lunar eclipses can give us a glimpse into what Carl Jung referred to as the “shadow self.” We all have that other less savory side of ourselves (the cosmic mirror), and eclipses supposedly offer an opportunity to embrace our wholeness, to see where we have room to grow in new directions.

That sounds like a nice gateway from where we’ve been in a year+ of unsettling pandemic fatigue. Being on the mat is always a de-stressing mini-vacation that activates our energy and keeps us centered through any storm. An accessible way to nip pandemic fatigue in the bud. Last night’s blood moon eclipse may be the perfect, potent bonus to make room for something even better.

The practice that’s right for us

One of the most iconic quotes by the late Guruji, K. Pattabhi Jois, is: “Yoga is 99 percent practice and 1 percent theory.”

What I think he meant is that the postures hold the secret of revealing what we can’t always see in ourselves. We can really only get that connection by understanding that the practice – the asanas – are more about doing than talking.

One of my early teachers used to say that we progress and open when we put in more miles on the mat. And if we truly connect with where we are, stay focused and don’t get ahead of ourselves, we are always in the practice that’s right for us. Om namah shivaya.


Imagine our practice aiming us toward being a Siddha that nurtures shelter (structure) and sanctuary (safety/protection). Siddha is the accomplished one, or one who has achieved spiritual realization and supernatural power (a shift in the sense of reality and inner perception).

The only place this practice lives is in our practice. As we evolve in the practice, our supernatural power is to create a sacred space of deeper understanding of ourselves and in the dharmic sense, the right way of living. Each time we practice we give the practice power. In turn the practice gives us shelter and sanctuary that benefits ourselves and others, intentionally and in unseen ways.

It also prepares us to be ready for anything and everything.

Beginner’s mind

There’s something about the sunrise that evokes optimism and possibility and stirs the beginner’s mind. It’s nature’s way of clearing the slate, gaining perspective and connecting us back to our own internal rhythms.

In yoga, beginner’s mind keeps the practice fresh, allowing us to discover the spaciousness and nuances about poses and our relationship to them. It also simplifies the practice so we can see things as they are and not as they should be. Practicing with beginner’s mind promotes less judgment and more acceptance. And we could all probably use more of that.

Showing up

I was remembering Woody Allen’s quote, “80 percent of success is just showing up.” But it was something else he said that got me thinking: “Tradition is the illusion of permanence.”

Over time our yoga practice inevitably changes. Each time we show up on the mat we realize our practice meets us right where we are. It’s like a refuge that gets us through all of the other stuff in life.

As our practice changes and morphs into something different than before, it’s tempting to compare it with where we used to be, or where we think we should be. More open hips, stretchier hamstrings, a deeper backbend, getting handstand. It’s fun to be surprised, so just go with it. And the best part is all of the benefits are cumulative. Every pigeon pose counts, forever.

Yoga is the practice that keeps on giving; as it changes it gets better. Breathing and moving, like dance, is the passport to a better present space. Just showing up reminds us we have more to give and a lot longer to go.


January was named for the Roman god Janus because his spirit took up residence in doorways and arches, transitions, time and duality. Janus had the magical gift of being able to look forward and backward, e.g. between years, into the future and the past, and presiding over the beginning and ending of conflict.

Statue representing Janus Bifrons in the Vatican Museums

The last week of January prepares us for the lunar new year of the Metal Ox. The ox is known for diligence, dependability, determination and strength. The Janus metaphor applies: ending the conflicts and confusion of 2020 whilst simultaneously setting and achieving goals for a stronger, clearer Ox year ahead. And oxen thrive on conscious and determined effort.

Yoga, as you may have heard, has abundant and magical tools and skills to aid us through the metaphoric gateway into a stronger, clearer, calmer, more determined place.


The revered naturalist, John Muir famously said, “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” Muir’s observation is at the heart of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras written more than two thousand years ago. The word yoga is from the sanskrit “yuj” in two ways: one in the sense of samādhi, or concentration, and one in the sense of to yoke or to join. It’s often translated as “union,” but it also means “method or technique.”

As Muir understood, everything is connected and we are connected to everything. The goal of the practice lies in the realization of eternal oneness. Richard Rosen, who wrote the seminal 2006 book on pranayama, sums it up this way: “Yoga doesn’t create a union, it reveals that it’s been there all along.” And that everything is hitched to everything else. Exactly.

Feel the sky

“Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly”  —Van Morrison

I love the term “gravity surfing,” coined by the amazing yogini, Ana Forest, to define balancing. Figuratively and literally gravity surfing is the space between lightness and groundedness, the effervescent center (samana vayu) that unites our inner winds of inward/upward energy (prana) and downward/outward energy (apana).

The work of apana is lessened by receiving and improving the quality of prana. Prana and apana are always working to balance each other in an isometric push-pull dance. As a metaphor of life, minimizing the input of negativity and maximizing the input of positivity will help improve the balance of prana and apana. And let our soul and spirit and body fly.

Metta = Lovingkindness

May all beings be free and safe from harm
May all beings be happy and fulfilled
May all beings be healthy and strong
May all beings have ease and joy in their lives
And be free from suffering.
— Lovingkindness chant

New Year’s, or anytime really, is a good time for metta meditation. The concept of metta is that we direct lovingkindness first toward ourselves and then, expanding outward, toward someone we love, one we are neutral towards, someone we may have conflict with, and ultimately to all beings everywhere.

It can be as simple as a momentary focused intention in our yoga practice to offer lovingkindness through our efforts, toward someone or something in our life. Every drop of sweat, each hip-opener, that third backbend.

Ultimately, the most powerful insight that comes from a metta-infused yoga practice is the sense of compassion and nonseparateness – of being inclusive rather than exclusive. For a lot of us, past conditioning led us to not trust our capacity to love. Practicing metta yoga opens our hearts wider, reminding us that we can indeed love, both ourselves and others, and that everything comes back to love.

Happy new year and happy new you!