Flashy Yoga

There are things I look back on as a yoga teacher that I just wouldn’t do again. Classes I wouldn’t teach. Events or promo I would say no to. Like no matter how many times people ask John Vitarelli & I to do glow in the dark yoga again I just can’t do it. It was actually really cool 10 years ago, but thinking of it now makes me cringe. Ugh. Trappings.

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Hopefully I’ve grown as a teacher. Hopefully I don’t need to put on a big show to prove that I have something to offer. And hopefully I would make my teachers proud. That’s important to me.

I have watched teachers start out brand new and rise to popularity like a rocket ship!

That has never been me. I am a paper airplane. I have had moments of grace… and I have awkwardly plummeted my point into a wall.

I have gone back to the drawing board again and again… to rebuild. I am in a constant state of rebuilding.


As a studio owner though, I have to admit interesting offerings are a big part of community building, so I 100% support and even encourage teachers to come up with fresh, even weird, content to present. I agree with the people that say that things like “Class and a Glass” will bring in students who might not otherwise try a yoga class at all, BUT I always thought there was an AFTER CLASS policy on that. I’m not the boss of you, but please don’t drink during yoga. I wish it went without saying.

But if you have done yoga with beer or something like it, I’m not trying to judge you or the teacher or the studio. We’re all growing while we’re learning yoga, growing while we’re learning to teach yoga, growing while we’re learning to bring yoga into the rest of our lives.

I’ve had growing pains.

I’ve never claimed to be a “great” teacher. I aim to be, but I make mistakes, lots of them, and I will again. The second side eludes me. I am profoundly flawed. I am everything I have been called, and then some. But I deeply love yoga.

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I love it so much that somehow I find an ounce of energy to climb out of my pit of self-loathing over and over again, out of the depressive state that mocks any success I might have, to make the often painful changes that are necessary for growth, apologize or stand up for myself as needed, do more studying and work on myself, and learn from my mistakes so I can do better.

I am a paper airplane. I will fly. But if you see me glide too high… by all means —

Knock Me Down Again.

Parenting when your kid is sick

My 5 year old daughter was sick for the past 13 days and we were both up most of those nights, her thrashing with fevers and me tending to her, with medicines, essential oils, cold towels, changes of jammies, lullabies, hugs & kisses, tissues, pedialyte, whatever she needed… and then somehow getting up and managing the day ahead.
Can I just say, be extra nice to anyone who is parenting?! It’s so hard to keep going on no sleep plus you’re stressed out watching your kid suffer and still have to keep going to work.
Everything starts to suffer. Laundry piles up, floors are unswept, the car needs an oil change, clutter is stacked on every surface, the sink gets clogged… you fall behind. I even dropped my meditation practice the last few days and let me tell you, that’s no good. Without it I’m all frayed edges. That’s really when I started making bigger mistakes and forgetting things. Lost my glasses. Left for work for the day with out my bag, or wallet, or lunch. Not sure if I brushed my teeth. Frayed.

Meditation is not an option for me, I need it.

Even when my Bob Pug was sick I used to feel like this but he was a tough little dog to the end, he usually got better fast, but I know from experience parenting furkids can be intense too.

So ok just be extra nice to everyone, you don’t know what they might be keeping them up at night. The darkest hours can be long and lonely, for so many reasons. Depression. Pain. Loss. Anxiety. Addiction.

Today my girl is healthy and happy again, and slept through the night, which means I did too 😊 AND I found my glasses this morning so things are looking much clearer and brighter again, especially since I’m back on track with my much needed meditation practice.

Thanks to my friends supporting me at Dhyana Yoga. I love you.

DianaPromoBC1

My struggle with Miscarriages – A Yoga Mom Shares

Last year at this time, I was finishing up a month in India practicing yoga with Saraswathi Jois in Mysore. John and I were packing up the apartment we called home while we were there and saying our final good byes to friends. Our 3 year old, Lorraine, was going home with what we hoped would be lasting impressions from her experiences there, and more than a few super cute outfits! And, I was pregnant…

Blessed.

Blessed.

I have always fallen into the “late bloomer” category, but nothing bloomed later in me than the desire to get married and have a family. I was a wild teenager, a confused college student, took on the world in my early 20s, collapsed under the weight of the world in my late 20s, pooled my life’s passion into a career in my 30s, and poured every ounce of my energy into that work as a yoga teacher and studio owner from then on. Even though I had been engaged along the way, it really wasn’t until I started dating John, now my husband, when I was 38 years old that marriage truly felt like a reality. There was a certainty to our relationship from the first date. We talked about marriage and we talked about kids. I wasn’t feeling any pressure to have children, but there was something about being with John that made me comfortable talking about starting a family, and we even discussed adoption and fostering. If you know us, we are those kind of people!

After we had Lorraine in 2012, I was shocked at how many people were “on” me right away with nagging questions like, “are you going to have more?” or “do you want to try for a boy next?” I squeaked out a natural, healthy amazing baby at age 41 and it was the pinnacle of my life — but it didn’t seem to be enough! Another one? I noticed as these questions continued, from friends, acquaintances on my Facebook page, and even from absolute strangers, that I was kind of smiling and brushing it off, but John… John was interested.

When you have a new baby you can be baby crazy. You are so in love and your hormones are all over the map. In my experience, I was surprised at how naturally I took to being a Mom. I felt great and got my organizational systems locked-in, was working, meeting new “Mom” friends, and I loved taking care of Lorraine. We agreed to try again. And we got pregnant! And I miscarried. And we got pregnant again! And, keep in mind I’m almost 43 at this point, and I miscarried again. I was able to get pregnant three more times, but unable to sustain the pregnancy. The 5th time I miscarried at 11 weeks and it was one of the most emotionally and physically traumatic experiences of my life. In addition to my husband, who mainly had to take care of Lorraine while I was miscarrying, I am eternally grateful for the support of friends at The Chopra Center who kept me afloat during this dark time with their kindness and Ayurvedic routines. I was in unspeakable physical pain, ravaged by blood loss, and going through hormonal swings that made me so, so terribly sad that I told John that I absolutely couldn’t go through it again. I sought wisdom from the systems I believe in, mainly Ayurveda and Meditation. I had everything I needed to feel fulfilled, happy, and peaceful. I felt called to honor the seasons of my body. Look, no matter how well you hold it together on the outside, the years are ticking by on the inside, and although I do believe in miracles and everyone is different, when I listened to MY own insides, they said, “we are done!” And that was OK with me. I worried if it would be OK with John.

It wasn’t really. He wanted to keep trying. I reminded him roughly in a moment of frustration that he was no spring chicken either and if he wanted a big family he could have started a few decades earlier, too. This is not just on me. I reminded him of the toll the process was taking on my body and was a little jealous that he still had all that juicy energy that had been sucked right out of me. It was hard on our relationship. The truth is, if I had started having kids 10 years earlier and realized how much I love being a Mom, I would have fewer yoga studios and more children. But I couldn’t have done things any differently, and I wouldn’t change anything now even if I had the chance.

There’s a lot of talk in Mysore, India about “Mysore Magic.” Mostly people are referring to the amazing progress made when practicing yoga there, the postures able to be attained in the Shala that somehow cannot be done again upon returning home, and things of that nature. When I took test after test and kept seeing the “+” appear, the look on John’s face was pure magic, and like all happily, newly pregnant couples, we blissed out and giggled a lot and stared lovingly at each other for the next few weeks, swooning in our secret. We came back from our trip and many things awaited us at home like jet lag, some stressful work related situations that needed tending to, the struggle of getting Lorraine back into a routine, but also the comfort of home and fun reunions with family and friends. The days were filled with things to do, and at night we would whisper about things like what color to paint the nursery and baby names…

What we didn’t expect, and I know I should have after losing so many pregnancies before, was another miscarriage on the very day of my daughter’s 3rd birthday party. I wish I could say it was any less painful, any less devastating, any easier in any way because I had been through it before or because I at least already have my dear little girl, but it’s just hard. At the time, it just hurts deep inside. When the heart breaks, there is nothing else but the breaking. The landscape you looked out on the day before shatters like the mirage it was, and a heaviness settles into your cells. The ghosts of all your demons come to call, reminding you of everything you have worked so hard to stop believing about yourself. I felt lonely, foolish, old, and broken. I had 3 girlfriends who got pregnant just around this time and my happiness for them was mixed with a lot of my own grief. I found myself avoiding them, scrolling quickly past their posts, and trying to distract myself from their adorable stories about feeling fat and doctor visits and decorating plans. It was difficult to practice yoga, go to work, socialize, or even stand up long enough to take a shower. We had only told a few people of course, so mostly I suffered in silence, quietly responded to questions from people at work, and mourned alone. Last week John said, “This time last year we were getting ready to leave India,” and it all came rushing back. Grief can come back like a tidal wave. Letting it pass is a process, and a practice.

When something extremely dramatic, painful, or damaging in some way is happening, there is the tendency is to get wrapped up in a self-centered perspective and only focus on what is happening “to me” and forget that we are all connected. All of our experiences, high and low, are woven together. The pain you feel today is a point on a line that is similar to someone else’s pain of yesterday, or tomorrow. The laughter you share with a friend over dinner tonight echoes back to times we sat around fires outside of caves under the stars sharing stories constructed perhaps of fewer words but being of no lighter weight.  This story as part of the story of my life is one I know many of my sisters tell in similar ways, although each unique in experience and personal struggle. It connects me to them, and it strengthened my bond with my husband, too. Our loss after Mysore and the grief I still carry won’t be the biggest challenge of our relationship. As it turned out, though, my last miscarriage was the catalyst for a revelation that would make our future together much, much more interesting… and that story, I will save for another time.

Sisterhood.

Sisterhood.

Shivo Hum

Shivo Hum

Nataraja

Nataraj Nataraja Jai Shiva Shankara Nataraja

Shivaraj Shivaraja Shambho Shankara Shivaraja

 

Nataraja is an aspect of Shiva that represents creation as well as preservation and destruction. Typically we see these 3 qualities in the Hindu Trinity: Brahma- Creation, Vishnu- Preservation and Shiva- Destruction.

The beating of the damura (drum) represents the movement of all things material and immaterial.

As Nataraja steps upon Apasmara, who represents ignorance, he maintains purity and intellect that will lead us to discover the true self.

Nataraj is always surrounded by a circle of fire. The ring represents our conditioned existence, We have been conditioned by the collection of experiences we’ve encountered throughout our entire lives. Our conditioning is unavoidable and has some negative consequences. Mainly, the routines and habits, some of which we’ve become blinded to, that do not bring joy to our lives but instead brings misery, which in turn continues to act on our lives that can only bring more misery. For instance, smoking. We know that smoking is not good for us yet many will continue. Many times it is not the act of smoking but getting in a car, having a drink or some other cue that signals the smoker to light up. It is the habit that is part of our conditioning.

To change our habits and thus our conditioning we need to burn it off. Thus the fire. This fire in yoga is Tapas. Tapas is the effort we put in to create positive change in our lives. It can be as simple as waking up early, starting a meditation practice or fasting. The practice of postures in yoga is a perfect example of tapas. We willing put ourselves into sometimes challenging and/or uncomfortable postures and retrain our minds to deal with the discomfort. We train the mind in discipline. The same is so for fasting. Fasting is not about the physical benefits but the discipline that arises from it and, in turn the use of that disciple to exact change in our lives.

 

Every time we step onto our mat we burn off our Samsara (conditioned existence) and move towards Sukha (joy).

Happiness After Depression

I get reflective in the Fall, thinking about the year fading into the past as the leaves start to change colors… this year has not been easy. Physical challenges, loss of a long time friendship, financial stress, etc have all weighed heavily on me. But the other day, I was at the dentist getting THREE cavities filled and after all the drilling, two shots, and the extra shot because I could still feel the drilling, the Dentist said to me, “How do you feel?” I answered like my lips and tongue were made of jello, “Happy,”” and she turns her head to the side and says, “No, how do your TEETH feel?” Ohhhhhhh…

Apparently I’m not depressed anymore, because the first word that came to mind even in the Dentist’s chair was, “Happy.” All the things that happened this year were worthy of a few days in bed feeling sorry for myself, a resurgence of bad habits, reaffirmation of negative self talk, playing the victim, all that stuff. It took a long time, over a decade, of work on myself, yoga, more yoga, and even more yoga, learning how to treat myself and others better, mindfulness, hard choices, pulling up my bootstraps, never giving up, MORE yoga, meditation, getting over myself and my ego, starting over and over again, being radically honest, getting as much therapy as I could afford, building and rebuilding relationships, you know, doing “the work.”

The work WORKS. It’s not instant, it’s not easy, but if someone like me who fought serious, serious depression for most of my life can instantaneously respond, “Happy” after having my teeth drilled, then it’s worth it. It works, and for anyone out there suffering right now, just don’t give up, don’t stop — get to a yoga class, volunteer somewhere, read all the inspiring books you can get your hands on, do whatever little bit of work on yourself you can each day, it WILL pay off. Only you can do it. Just like no one can get on the mat for you, no one can meditate for you, no one can eat right for you, no one can work on you for you. This work, it’s an inside job, and we all have to do it for ourselves. You’re worth it.

I never imagined I could be this happy!

I never imagined I could be this happy!

Breaking an Apology Habit

I work every day, teach yoga full time, maintain a family home, do my practice, try to keep some heathy level of social interaction going, and have an energetic 3 year old glued to me the second I wake up each morning, yet it never feels like I’m doing enough. I find myself feeling like I have to apologize a million times a day for all the calls I can’t take, the events I can’t get to, and the emails I’m trying to get back to…it makes me feel so bad, like I’m letting people down, or not good enough at all of this, yet I never stop moving & working. I have to put my family obligations first, yet still I’m constantly cleaning or planning something for Dhyana Yoga. I wonder, are other Moms struggling with this or am I the only one straddling these canoes? There’s nothing that means more to me than being a great Mom, but I also love my work, work with many of my friends and want to be there for them. I just have to find a way to balance out the two, eventually. But for now, and until my little girl has a schedule that allows me to spend more time away from home, I can only do so much, because in the midst of everything I do get done, I absolutely have to stay present for this little gem right here, my daughter, Lorraine 💖 I just hope people understand and can give me and all Moms a little extra time, a little break, or just appreciate how hilariously hard it is for us to simply get out of the house everyday. I hope I can kick this apology habit — It’s not something I want to pass on, and feels disempowering. I’m working on “taking the opposite thought,” as the Yoga Sutra recommends — I am enough, I do enough, I have enough…and no apologies necessary!

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“As she walked alone on the forest path, she knew her mind had nothing to offer but recycled advice that always took her to the same place of confusion. So she slowed down, paused, and moved into her heart.
It was here that she could hear the heartbea
ts of all the other women in the world who were searching, just like her. In that moment, she knew that advice was not needed.
The only thing she needed was to reach out her hand to another woman who would take her hand and remind her that the journey to the heart takes time… it is a slower walk than the run to the mind. The slower walk into the interior landscape gradually cleared the forest path with a tenderness she never imagined…”
~moe ross

Work As Ritual

Work As Ritual

Every morning on my way back to our apartment from the shala I had an opportunity to see the neighborhood of Gokulum awaken to a new day. Each day there’s a very simple task that most, if not all, homeowners seem to take great joy in doing. They work diligently at cleaning their entryways, from doorstep to the driveway out to the street and even beyond. There’s a pleasing sound to the task as the women of the house brushes her homemade broom along the concrete and pavement. Then after they sweep, the entire area gets another scrubbing with water. After all is done it sparkles. The final touch is a glyph carefully drawn by hand using rice flour.

Mysore Glyph

They do this every morning!! The work takes some time depending on the size of the property.

It may have been the post practice euphoria or the intoxicating sights, sounds and smells (some good, some bad) of Mysore but I had the sense that each woman was not doing this to simply “clean house” but instead to welcome the divine into their home. A prayer through work.

As practitioners of yoga and on the path to spirituality our efforts into our daily practice should be seen in this same light. Effort not just for the sake of effort but to commune with the divine. To learn that the act of work can be an act of reverence. In practice it is not effort for physical or emotional refinement but to transcend into the realm of the Self.

It may not be a god or the divine you are seeking but instead a clearer understanding of your Self. That’s a capital “S”, Self. The Self that is spoken of in the Yoga Sutra, Vedas, Upanishads and so on. The Self that is the pureness of our own being that has been masked by all of life’s happenings. Through a light-hearted approach to your practice the shackles of the material are unlocked and the True Self (Atman) gains some command of your daily actions. And that’s the catch. Ashtanga is set up in a way that it can create desire towards the material. There can be anticipation for the next posture or a desire to have the perfect Janu C or possible frustration arising when the body is not as light as the day before. These thoughts must be held in check and in doing so mental fitness is gained. From this mental fitness, a certain level of respect for this practice and maturity towards it alters our perspective so that we may prepare our own entryways to welcome in the Self.

A Month in Mysore — The First Two Weeks

Our flights departed Philadelphia International Airport on the evening of February 26th, 2015. We arrived at our destination, Mysuru, India, approximated 8,400 miles away, almost 2 days later…

Layover in Frankfort, Germany airport

Layover in Frankfort, Germany airport

Day One in India :: After over 30 hours of travel, including a 45 minute Level 3 Security Screening for me that left me in tears, two 8 1/2 hour plane rides, a 5 hour layover, endless times in lines, and a 3 hour car ride to our hotel, we arrived at a hotel in Mysore at 5am on Saturday. Bleary-eyed and covered in travel-slime, we stayed up just long enough to take in the free breakfast and then all 3 of us crawled into bed and closed the curtains on the arrival portion of our adventure…

First Practice :: John, Raine and I arrived at the Shala during the check in times only to be told to come back in a few hours. Not sure why, but other groups arrived as we walked away and were told the same. We laughed about how this would go over at home — can you imagine if we had listed something on the Dhyana Yoga website and people came thousands of miles at that time and got turned away?!!? Haaaaa! We’d be bombarded with pointy emails! So we go back later, and even though we only have half of our paperwork, we have a 3 year old with us so they mercifully let us through. We get our assigned practice times. John is with Sharat, Mysore practice daily 6am, Led at 4:30am on Saturdays and 5:30am Mondays, off on Sundays. I am with Saraswathi, daily at 8am (so we can trade off watching Raine), Led at 8:15 on Sundays, off on Saturdays. In a twist of fate, I, who wouldn’t mind another day off, will be the first to practice, and John, who is foaming at the mouth to roll his mat out, will have to wait until Monday… the Leela continues!
Sunday morning, I nervously arrive at the Shala almost an hour early. I am not the first one there. A girl smiles at me and I sit next to her and we talk. She is a Vinyasa teacher from Jordan. At some point they usher us into the room. I watch how everyone is setting up and do the same. We wait. 35 minutes later Saraswathi enters the room. I know very little about her, but upon seeing her I remember what my very first Ashtanga teacher, Tim Miller, said about her, that she is “just darling.” We stand and chant the invocation and she begins leading us through Sun Salutations. She messes up the count during the 2nd round of Bs, and she laughs and says, “oh! mistake!”

I didn’t come here expecting anything at all, this is really John’s trip, but at that moment something shifted. I looked at her at the front of the room, sweetly laughing at her little mistake, and I’m all in. She has given us permission to be imperfect. Jai ma!

After practice I was shaking, but a “Love” smoothie at everyone’s favorite local cafe, Depth ‘n’ Green, set me straight. Can’t wait to get back on the mat tomorrow…

Settling In :: On Monday, we could finally move out of the hotel and into the apartment we’ll be staying in for the month. John was detoured on his way to practice, and, again, in full India Leela, he will have to wait another day to roll out his mat. I arrive early again, and go in early, because parents are allowed to go in whenever they want. It’s awesome how family oriented they are at the Shala, but also, in all honesty, it’s a major difficulty factor having a child along. You’re not getting rest, you’re preoccupied with their safety, you’re carrying them and all their stuff…and you’re doing so lovingly, as a conscious parent. As Sri K. Pattabhi Jois famously said, “parenting is the 7th series” — the most difficult Yoga.

The guy who has been living in the apartment the past month is not ready to leave when we arrive, but he told us the day before to come whenever we wanted. There are 3 awkward hours where he and his girlfriend wait for his taxi, and our little family hovers near the door with our bags. On first glance, the apartment is sweet, we are psyched! 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a deck, a balcony, sizable kitchen, and washing machine! But I am anxious to clean and set up house…
Finally, we say our goodbyes to our new friends and I begin to work the magic of the Divine Feminine on the space. It has clearly just housed a bachelor, and being a rental, it’s likely people only invest a certain amount of effort in it each month. There is questionable food in the fridge and there are cobwebs throughout. All but 2 light bulbs in the whole place are burnt out. The altar is beautiful but cluttered with random items like sunglasses and single earrings, likely items left behind by previous renters. The first 3 things I did (that you can also do in your space right now to activate it’s energy):
1. Reboot the Altar : Not being ours, I would not add or take away anything (except trash), but you can put anything that inspires you on your altar. I carefully moved the Ganesh murti, the photo of Pattabhi and Sharat, and the images of various deities aside, dusted, shook the altar cloth out, and replaced them thoughtfully. The incense box got cleaned out and I lit a fresh stick of pungent Lakshmi doop (which I also walked through the entire place with for clearing). Finally, offerings of a coconut, bananas, and flowers were sprinkled around. If you don’t have an “altar” like us, maybe your altar is your mantle of family photos, or something you brought home from a favorite vacation.
2. Get rid of clutter : We didn’t bring much, so packing and putting our things away was quick work, but in your place, you may have to do some letting go, or at least invest in some storage bins. Don’t be afraid to throw things out. Nothing is really yours anyway, and if you haven’t used it recently, either use it, or give it to someone who will. This act is all about freeing up flow. I wouldn’t throw things (except old food) away in this rental, but was able to move the little bit of furniture around so all the pathways were clear and we each had somewhere to put our things. After the de-cluttering stage, look around and make aesthetic adjustments — when your eye lands on something, is it pleasing? If it’s crooked, even it out, if things could be grouped, do so! And whether you are male or female, invite in the Divine Feminine by lighting candles or having some flowers around.
3. Make it your own : Even if you’re renting, you are there for a certain period of time, so your space will effect your energy. Do what you’re going to do sooner than later and enjoy it longer! We reorganized the kitchen and made the beds. I put out a candy bowl and John went to the store for fresh food. All the light bulbs were replaced. We talked about a few things we could pick up at some textile shops to brighten up the place, and John cooked… which is a story I’ll get back to later!

Our apartment is on the top floor of this building in Gokolum, just off of Shala Road!

Our apartment is on the top floor of this building in Gokolum, just off of Shala Road!

Later on, we got in a rickshaw and set off to find the school we are trying to enroll Lorraine in for the month, ABC Montessori, which I’ve been in touch with over email. As we bounce along through the delightfully noisy, dusty streets of Mysore, I keep thinking of a sign I saw posted in a nearby restaurant that says, “Any place is a palace if you see it that way.”

Celebrating :: Even though our taxi driver from the airport said “No, not this month,” when we asked him if there were any festivals about to happen that we should know about, there seem to have been celebrations every day since we arrived in Mysore. There are little celebrations each time we come to our mats, bigger ones as old friends reunite and hug at the Shala, a seemingly continuous rain of chants over a loud speaker we can hear from our apartment at all times of day, and even the actual Springtime holiday, Holi, took up about 3 days last week — and this in a region that is not known for celebrating Holi!

Celebratory Post-Practice Coconut Ritual!

Celebratory Post-Practice Coconut Ritual!

Marking off holidays is one way cultures have used to mark time. We go from one to another, orienting ourselves on our made-up calendars, trying to anchor ourselves in time by season, by year, by month, by day. We try to find a line to walk in non-linear space-time. We look at clocks to figure out when we should be where and get annoyed if everyone else isn’t playing by the “rules.”

As I type this, at 6am, Mrs. Ganapathy (owner of the building we are staying in) is ringing bells and performing her morning ritual. I walked up as she was doing it once and stood back to observe. Eyes closed and lips moving silently, she rang bells over lit oil lamps in front of the doorway to the house. I folded my hands as she held incense and turned 3 times with it, then stuck it in a plant. When she saw me she smiled and I smiled back, our eyes and hearts meeting in the early morning quietude. I felt her welcome me into her celebration of the blessings of this household. We both said Namaste, giggled a little, and then shuffled on with our mornings.

As I understand the Ayurvedic view, it is believed that each breath cycle represents one full day of the universe inside of us. The Inhale is an entire day, the Exhale an entire night. When I honor that cycle of life by paying attention to my breath, it symbolizes the respect for the gift of that breath. It is not guaranteed. My own mother passed away in her sleep when she was just 24 years old, so I grew up understanding that this life is so very fragile that you really might just not open your eyes again one morning, and for no particular reason. It is not guaranteed.

So ring the bells, celebrate! You have morning! You have everything. Breathe.

Take Rest :: Our first Moon Day, or Lunar Cycle, or Tithi, or Holiday from Daily Practice (as you wish) came all too soon for me after our arrival to Mysore, India. I had just started doing (assisted) Drop Backs 2 days prior — something I have not done since, like, the 90s — and was eager to do more of them. But such is the gift of Moon Days. They give you pause so you don’t reach too far too fast, and they bring you back into peaceful awareness of the rhythm of the natural world. AND they stoke a great desire to regain your rightful position at the top of the mat again the following day… at least for me they do!

Being “Bags of Mostly Water” (‪credit: Startrek, TNG), we are as deeply effected by the pull of the Full and New Moon cycles as are the bodies of water on our planet. No one will dispute tides are higher and lower during these phases. So whatever it is you do with fervor, consider getting a calendar that shows Moon Phases and resting during the Full and New Moons. You may find a day OFF is just what you needed to move ON!

The pull of the waters was strong for John, Raine, and I on our first Moon Day, so off to the much talked about “Silent Shores” pool we went! We swam, rested, ate veggie burgers and drank milkshakes to our hearts content, and everyone slept well after a relaxing day in the sun!

With temperatures edging easily to 99 every day, you're bound to spend some time at Silent Shores Pool if you get to Mysore!

With temperatures edging easily to 99 every day, you’re bound to spend some time at Silent Shores Pool if you get to Mysore!

What Tim Said :: As the days of early morning practice, mid morning chanting, getting Raine to and from school, and afternoon Sanskrit classes edge on, we begin to settle into what feels like a very normal life in Mysore. The initial excitement has worn off, and I finally had a morning when I didn’t want to go to practice. My routine (waking, washing face, a quick coffee, brushing teeth, and then changing into the practice clothes I laid out the night before so I don’t have to think too much in the morning) supports me in getting going. Yes, I have a coffee. I also eat 3 almonds I have soaked in water overnight. It’s my jawn. I also carefully lay out Raine’s school outfit for the day, in the order the pieces are to be put on, and make her lunch, leaving John with strict instructions to brush her hair before she goes (which he never does). Finally, I cover up with a long skirt and scarf, grab my mat bag, and flip-flop my way down the road to Saraswathi’s Shala.

As soon as I start, I decide it’s hot enough that I could just do 3 As and 3 Bs and be plenty warmed up. After the 3rd A, I was convinced Saraswathi was counting and freaked out in my head enough to go on and complete all 5 As (I’m talking about the warm ups, Sun Salutations, for any non-yogis here). But I’m still set on just 3 Bs, maybe just 2. Of course by the time I get to the 3rd B, I realize it’s silly not to do the last 2 after coming that far. You just can’t go wrong with 5 and 5.

I’m plenty warm! Sweat actually pours up into my upside down nose in my first forward fold. I don’t remember a lot after that, as practice goes, but I’m left after certain sections feeling like this is a good, solid practice. I’m glad I didn’t give in to the temptation to stay home. “Good for you,” I hear in my head over and over. “No Circus!” and after a particularly nice interface with a certain pose that has been alluding me I also hear, “Some small progress!” It’s Tim Miller’s voice. I hear it all the time.

I have had a lot of good fortune in my life, but practicing at Tim’s old studio in Encinitas, California way, way back in my 20s is something beyond luck. I only went there for 2 reasons, and I have to be totally honest here so feel free to laugh at me! 1. It was close to my apartment, and 2. the surfers went there. Whatever your reason was for starting Yoga, maybe cross-training, maybe because an Ex dragged you there and you kept going after the break up, I get it, it’s all good. God has to get you on the mat somehow. Doesn’t matter how.

Anyway, Tim was the teacher who made me LOVE Yoga. It made my insides hurt (metaphorically) I loved it so much. His place was special and it changed me. But here’s the interesting thing, I don’t remember Tim ever actually paying any attention to me, or giving me an adjustment or anything. There was an assistant in the room who helped me, and I even took a few privates from him, but Tim was helping other people. You have to understand, in the Mysore room, the teacher is helping certain students with some poses that really require a hands on assist, and that they have been working with those students daily for years, maybe decades. Also, I was a terrible student. Much as I loved practice, I was not there every day, I was working at a radio station and doing all the late-night things that come along with that, and you can’t expect a teacher to pay more attention to you than you’re willing to pay to yourself. Still…
I would hear Tim’s voice from across the room. “Why making Circus?” he would laugh. “Good for you,” he would say in a tone that simultaneously felt like ‘congratulations’ and ‘so what.’ And of course, the epic, “Some small progress!”

Sometimes Some Small Progress creates Some Small Boo-boo!

Sometimes Some Small Progress creates Some Small Boo-boo!

I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever in a million lifetimes ever be able to thank Tim enough for making me love Yoga. There is nothing I could say or do or give him that would be proper repayment. Anything I have offered to anyone in terms of Yoga or Dhyana Yoga or just talking about Yoga all goes back to him, though. What I can do is practice. Especially on the days I don’t want to go. To sweat up my nose. To finish with pruned fingers and completely disheveled hair. To not force or want or strive for anything, and to do it all AGAIN.

3 Important Questions to Ask and 3 Questions that Really Don’t Matter if You Are Considering a Yoga Teacher Training Course

It’s a thought you can’t unthink — “I want to do a yoga teacher training.” Once that thought crosses your mind, it’s just a matter of Where and When until you find yourself locked in a yoga studio for 8 hours a day on all of your weekends. I’ve noticed over the years at Dhyana Yoga that people enter the program in different ways. Some have absolutely no questions at all. Others have a rolling list of questions that spills over into the first day of class, every discussion throughout the program, all breaks big and small, and requires multiple emails threads to complete. I’m equally appreciative of both approaches and find that the mix of personalities that land in any given semester of training keeps my excitement level about being there as a trainer really high. Although the content may remain consistent, every training program is wonderfully different based on the energy of the group that comes together. For each of these two types, though, I offer the following “Do” and “Don’t” lists which I think will help teachers-to-be understand the program they are considering much better.

Do ask…

1. What is the lineage of the school you are considering?
I was surprised recently when speaking with a yoga student who is currently enrolled in a teacher training program at her home studio to get a blank stare when I asked her what the school’s lineage was, as if she had no idea what I was talking about. Do your research! What you will learn and how you will be taught will be a direct reflection of the lineage. This blog entry from YogaDork (regardless of the spelling issues) gives a pretty understandable overview of lineages if you are wondering about your school. You may be able to bounce from studio to studio and teacher to teacher when you are starting out practicing, but when it comes to training and what you will graduate being able to teach, this question needs to be answered and understood!

2. Do the lead teachers teach yoga full time, and/or how much actual experience do they have?
There is no substitute for time spent teaching, and no short cut either. Your teacher trainer will only be able to pass onto you what they have experienced, so why not connect with someone who is not only a great teacher, a great person outside of the yoga room, and someone you feel comfortable with, but also who has a good chunk of time put in actually teaching, interacting, navigating different situations, and learning how to pass on content in a generous and practical manner? Find out how long the trainers have been teaching, how much they actually teach, and how long the school has been offering their teacher training program. I’m not saying there aren’t good new trainers out there, but if you have the choice between someone with a little bit of experience and a lot, or between a school that is offering it’s first teacher training or 21st, finding out the answer to this question may give you a little more insight into the program you are considering.

3. Who did the lead teachers train with themselves, and/or who are their greatest influences?
The lineage question will give you a school of practice and philosophy to track back to, but this third question will fill in the gaps. For example, someone may tell you they practice Ashtanga Vinyasa in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, but it is unlikely they actually studied in the direct presence of Krishnamacharya. However finding that out, and then finding out if they either studied with BKS Iyengar vs. Pattabhi Jois, or even with Tim Miller vs. Erich Schiffman, or a teacher under either of those teachers, will tell you a tremendous amount about the program. Check out the teachers noted or thanked in your teacher trainer’s bio and you’ll start to understand where their teaching is flowing from and that will help you decide if the program is a match for you.

Don’t bother asking…

1. Is the program Yoga Alliance certified?
In my opinion, it means absolutely nothing. That’s all I’ll say for now.

2. How many people will be in the program?
There are benefits to having a big class, and benefits to having a small class. I think some people get hung up on wanting to have a small class thinking that they’ll get more attention, not feel overwhelmed, or not get lost in the shuffle. While this may be true, you also interact with fewer people in a small training, which means fewer ideas and opinions are offered, and fewer body types and practice levels are part of such a training. All in all, I think it’s a pretty even race between pros and cons of each size, so don’t over emphasize either.

3. Will I be able to teach after taking this program?
There are no guarantees in life. Yoga teacher training is as much an opportunity to get to know yourself better and examine your choices as it is to practice more yoga and potentially teach yoga. Some people enter yoga teacher training with a background that makes them more comfortable in front of the room than others, and some make major leaps in self confidence just because the time is ripe for them. Others enter thinking that they want to teach immediately and then realize they need more time being a student or just want enjoy practicing without teaching for a little longer. In any case, yoga is a lifetime of study, so whether you teach after the program or not doesn’t matter very much. The best thing to do is go into the program with a desire to learn and see where that takes you!

If you’ve had the thought you can’t unthink, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re on your way… Swaha!

More info about Dhyana Yoga here

ALTERED SPACE // I GO TO WORK

Last week I was talking to a group of teacher trainees at DY about business, and I found myself saying what I always say when asked how I’ve managed to build a successful business : “I go to work.”

I joked about trying to write this article for weeks now, and having a block because my big secret is : “I go to work.” End of story. Publish. Share.

My husband and I have another joke about how we are people just made to work. We come from hard-working stock. My mother’s family was from Baja, Mexico and worked hard not only to get to Los Angeles, but to survive there. I am actually more Mexicana by blood than Italiana, but my driven father who raised me is Italian and he instilled in me a gut wrenching work ethic which he himself had to develop at a young age in order to put himself through school. When I am happy, I go to work. When I am sad, I go to work. When I am tired, I go to work. When I am scared, I go to work. When I am depressed, I go to work. When I am excited, I go to work. It’s this weird reflex I have… I go to work.

If you could see the table I am sitting out now, I have my computer in front of me so I can do this work. To my right is my journal and some scribbled notes I just used to work on an update of my Bio for the website. To my left is a stack of colored paper and beads and goo to work on some crafts when the baby wakes up from her nap. Off to the side a pile of Italian grammar and vocabulary books tugs my eyes their way and whispers, “don’t forget to do your homework!”

When I am on the mat, it’s hard work. Nothing comes easily to me in Yoga. You might find it funny that I am not particularly good at Yoga asana. But I persist, 25 years into practice, and when I have that great blessing for all the stars and planets and things in my busy life to align that allows me to actually get on the mat these days, I am just happy to do my work there. I know other people are more graceful and accomplished and playful than me on that mat, and that looks nice. But it’s not what happens for me. When I practice, I have to work. Oh sure, you’ll see me smiling here and there at something the teacher may have said, or laughing when I splat out of a hand balance, but then, it’s back to work!

Work sustains me. It makes my heart feel full. I love my work. It’s never about the pay, either. You could be getting a huge paycheck and be miserable, and be getting a little check and be happy. That happiness has more value than ANY paycheck. I happen to get an effervescent feeling from doing a good job at all things big and small. I enjoy contract negotiations as much as cleaning out the fruit bins in the fridge. I sit back and look at the paperwork or sparkly drawer when I’m done and marvel at the job well done! If I am not satisfied with my work, it’s just not finished, so I get back to it. No biggie. To me, that’s the nature of work, do your best, wait for some feedback, and plan your next step. Adjust. Get creative. Maybe you are done. Maybe you need a toothbrush to get into the murky corners, or maybe you need to let go. It’s all part of the process.

One of the verses from the Bhagavad Gita that has always struck a chord with me is, “Finite bodies have an end, but that which possesses and uses the body is infinite, illimitable, eternal, indestructible. Therefore fight, O Bharata.” (2.18) Krishna is advising us to do our Dharma, the “fight” is a metaphor for the task at hand. The good work we do is infinity being channeled through us, and the deeds we leave in our wake are a legacy of energy that we ride until our own finite body turns to dust, and that all of those thereafter will inherit. In other words, you’re here for a short while, why not leave something nice behind?

I’m just going to call this the “Preface” to future installments on how I started Dhyana Yoga and things that I learned along the way, and I will definitely address the great questions people have specifically asked, especially the ones that you can’t find out through a Google search. But for now, the baby is rustling around, so it’s time for me to… ah, probably PLAY for awhile!

Make shapes that create Harmony, Peace, and Love in your life!

Sat Namaste!

Diana

Diana & John Vitarelli

VitarelliDiana & John Vitarelli co-own and operate Dhyana Yoga out of their cozy home in the little town of Morrisville, PA, just outside of Philadelphia. Diana was born in Chester, PA and John in Camden, NJ, so they share not only an Italian heritage but also a hard working approach to life.
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ALTERED SPACE // WHAT WE EAT

In 2002 I moved back to Philadelphia after 14 years mostly in Southern California, and partly on a journey literally around the world (more on this later). I came back in July, and it was hot. By August I had found a little room at 12th and Walnut and rented it in a handshake deal with plans on opening a yoga studio. I sweated it out the next few months getting that room ready by refinishing the floors, painting the walls, and doing a 3 layer lotus stencil design 108 times around the top of the walls. I wasn’t used to the humidity, and as I sewed curtains and made pillows and even stapled in some carpet, I longed for the cool breezes of San Diego. On October 5th, 2002, Dhyana Yoga at 1212 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor had it’s Grand Opening celebration, though, and my friends and relatives showed up in support… and in sweat. The turn out was great, and the room was HOT! It got even hotter as more people arrived, and even more so as my new friends Simon Park, Marni Sclaroff, and Phil Migliarese did asana demonstrations in the front of the room.

And then it got cold. So very cold. I hadn’t endured an East Coast winter for quite some time. I thought I owned a coat. It was not a coat, it was a thing with sleeves. In San Diego, a nice, heavy, cozy sweatshirt is a coat. In the middle of winter in Philadelphia, that sweatshirt did nothing to protect me against the biting wind as I walked my also cold dog, Santa (AKA “Bob”) morning, noon, and night. I fell on the ice in my Puma sneakers and Bob ran home without me. It was almost too much to take. I had to rally. Winter lasts awhile. So I bought a big, unflattering, puffy jacket at a thrift shop on South Street and my neighbor gave me a hat. And I practiced a lot because at least the practice room was warm! I’ll admit, I wondered more than once that long winter why I ever decided to leave San Diego and come back to my hometown.

Now 11 years later I have a little stockpile of winter gear, the right boots for snow and ice, and that gritty Philly girl that got soft on the West Coast resurfaced, and even enjoys the winter cold these days! I also have support from the inside, via my Ayurveda practice, to keep me warm. Below is an amazing, easy, and absolutely delicious recipe for a hearty soup that will keep you toasty, nourished, and going back for another bowl! Also keep in mind that Ayurveda says when you feel wet and cold, to favor lighter, warmer foods and spices that balance out Kapha (the earth and water elements that may make you feel cold, damp, and lethargic). Also, during times of transition, be they seasons of nature or seasons of your life, it is wise to pay special attention to the basics of good health: meditation, regular exercise, sensory nourishment and emotional healing. I hope this healthy soup recipe will warm your body, delight your taste buds and make you happy! Enjoy!

Heart-y Ginger Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: 3 carrots, 4 rutabagas, 3 stalks of celery, 2 inches of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 an onion, 1 turnip, 2 cartons vegetable stock, 1/2 small carton of Pomi tomatoes, 1 tablespoon evoo, salt & pepper (parsley to garnish)

John's 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

John’s 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

Preparation:

1. In a stock pot, warm oil. Add diced garlic, ginger, and chopped onion, stir 3 mins (don’t burn the garlic!). Add chopped celery and turnip and cook on medium heat stirring lightly 5-7 minutes so they can soften.

3. Add chopped carrots and rutabagas, which look like crazy carrots. If you have knife skills it’s best to chop them by hand because your shakti (love and power) goes in them, but I don’t have knife skills so I do them the in the food processor and say a mantra instead, which is also fun! And fast…

4. Stir up everything in the pot and keep cooking for 5 more minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir more. Everything should be in the pot now. Bring it to a boil.

5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

6. Stick an immersion blender in the pot and blend everything up. You might end up with a few chunks of rutabaga or carrot but that’s kind of fun to come across in a bowl of this soup so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

7. Salt and Pepper to taste, but you won’t need a lot. When you serve it up, put some fresh Italian parsley leaves in the bowl if you have them, totally optional.

This yields about 8-10 bowls, but everyone will want seconds! Enjoy!

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