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

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!

ALTERED SPACE // I’m The Poster Girl for “Hang in there”

April 18, 2012. The best day of my life. At 9:23am in a very baby friendly hospital in Elmer, New Jersey, John and I welcomed Lorraine Devi Vitarelli into the world. My Dad once told me that after my Mom had me, she said it was as if something had always been missing from her life but she didn’t know it until I arrived. That’s exactly how I felt. Raine was our little puzzle piece, the one that brings the picture into focus.

Rainey Pants, just minutes old

Rainey Pants, just minutes old

It surprises people when I tell them I had a C section. Since we are both Yoga teachers and all about being natural, everyone expects that I had my baby in our living room. I wish! But the process of pregnancy and childbirth is the first lesson in parenting in that it lets you know you are no longer in control of timelines and planning. You do your best and surrender to reality.

Around my 40th birthday, I went in for a regular visit to my OB/GYN and mentioned that we were trying to get pregnant. She said, “don’t waste any time, I’m referring you to a fertility specialist.” I rushed to the fertility clinic immediately and met this great doctor, Dr. Jain, who has since moved to Ohio, and they checked to see if I was ovulating. Good news! They saw that I had 11 eggs, 7 in one ovary and 4 in the other — great for any age they said, but especially for a 40 year old! The doctor explained all the possible procedures we would go through to get pregnant with his help, but basically sent us home with instructions to have sex, and then call the office on the 3rd day of my next period so they could start the blood work they needed to do to advise us on next steps. We happily went home…and I never had to make that call. Instead, I called a few weeks later to tell them I had missed my expected period date and tested positive on an at home test. John and I were positively giddy! We had been wanting to get pregnant for a year, and finally, we were! The power of a little attention and intention, right?

The follow up blood work confirmed my pregnancy but then, to my surprise, it was recommended that I remain at the fertility doctor’s office for my check ups due to my “Advanced Maternal Age.” Advanced Maternal Age was a phrase I would hear over and over again for my entire pregnancy. Every sentence seemed to begin with, “Due to your Advanced Maternal Age, we recommend…” or end with “…so exercise caution, you are of an Advanced Maternal Age.” Oh my god. Am I old? Have I been living in a bubble? A Yes. And another Yes.

I’ve been doing yoga for awhile, and for the past 11 years my whole life has been centered around Dhyana Yoga, which is a really fun place to be! We’re just a bunch of big kids rolling around on Yoga mats in our pajamas laughing and farting and then laying down for a nap. I didn’t notice the years going by. This week a student in my Restorative class asked me how long the Haddonfield studio has been open and I said, “let me think, well, it’ll be 3 years on December 3rd…” and she looked at me funny and replied, “that’s today!” I had to laugh at myself, I’m aware of time but it passes in a weird sort of elastic way. I can’t believe it was 3 years ago that John opened that studio, it feels like we’re just getting started! And I couldn’t believe I was of an Advanced Maternal Age… but the calendar is a thing people make a silent contract with the rest of the world to agree upon.

Photo by Joe Longo (you can see the baby kicking here!)

Photo by Joe Longo of me at about 7 months pregnant (you can see the baby kicking here!)

I often say I’m the Poster Girl for “Hang In There Ladies!” because I was such a late bloomer. It always felt like everyone else had life figured out except me. I was 31 when I listened to the little voice inside me that said “open a yoga studio” (and it was mainly because I was so tired of running around from place to place teaching. I remember thinking it would be so great to just be able to leave all my CDs in one place…I already told you my age so I don’t mind how that dates me!), I got engaged at 37 and married at 39, and in a blink, I was of an Advanced Maternal Age.

The really cool thing about having an Advanced Maternal Age is that you get lots and lots of extra sonograms, which equal a visit with your baby when you’re pregnant. I was excited every week to go see the baby’s progress and John came to every appointment. As we approached my final trimester, the doctor (and our midwife) started getting concerned that the baby wasn’t flipping over. First it was just a comment, then it was a bit of an issue, then it became a THING. We thought for sure she’d flip! We did everything to encourage her to flip around. John and I are pretty weird on a regular day, you can image what we tried doing to rotate this baby. Headstands, inversion tables, music and mantras, moxibustion, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, pellets, talking to her, meditating, warm baths with a pack of frozen peas on my belly… she moved around a lot, but she would not flip. The doctors encouraged us to schedule a C section. One day they almost forced us to schedule it. We just really believed she would dive when the time came. Finally we went to another special doctor called, “The Baby Flipper.” He’s famous. He goes in and manually flips the baby over and he has a very high success rate. When we arrived for our flip, they did a preliminary ultrasound before the procedure to give the doctor a clear view of what he was working with and, upon doing so, found that the umbilical cord had wrapped itself around the baby’s neck like a scarf. I was 39 and a half weeks. The little bun in my oven was fully baked and the timer was sounding. We had to get her out.

And so we ended up in a cold, bright operating room in the South Jersey Hospital instead of the warm, water filled tub we had reserved in the birthing suite. A nurse let me lean on her while the anesthesiologist worked behind me. I felt really alone at that moment. Then I felt nothing! I was laid out in a T shape on a table with both of my arms and my legs strapped down and a drape across my chest so I couldn’t see my body. John came in the room looking like a hot doctor but bawling his eyes out. A nice lady I had never met said she was my doctor. My midwife, Karen Shields, was there, and everyone else was named Tracey. I was floating! The doctor said, “my goodness, I’ve never seen such strong abdominal muscles! You must tell me your secret!” as she sawed away at my body and I can’t remember if I answered but John and I laugh about that all the time. There was lots of tugging and pulling and talking and I think the midwife leaned on my belly to help move the baby. John and I kept eye contact and repeated “Om Ganesha Sharanam” over and over and then suddenly, angels sang, everything else went out of focus, and all I saw flying in the air was a beautiful baby! She was here, she was healthy, she was gorgeous, she was making cute sounds, and she was perfectly clean! I thought they must have had a stunt baby waiting on the side to show me or something, but within seconds that very same little baby was placed on my neck and John held her to my cheek while it felt like a horse sat on my torso and the nice lady put my guts back inside of me.

It was the best. It was not what we planned. It was not what you’d expect. But it was perfection. It was the most epic, operatic moment of my life. And then life, redefined, began. In my new life, at my even more advanced age, I “Hang in There” a lot. Through the painful recovery from that abdominal surgery, through the shifts and negotiations (and fights) in my changing relationship with my husband, through the post pregnancy hormonal weirdness and hair loss, through the feeling that the walls of my house are closing in on me, through the confusion about whether to work or not and if so how much, through the attempts to get back on the mat, through the probably well meaning but often offensive comments from others about our parenting choices, through the feeling that I need to keep cleaning but nothing is ever going to be clean enough, through the nagging shoulder pain and the sleepless nights of early parenthood, through the baby’s first cold…I’m hanging in there.

There’s a great saying, “Bean by bean, the bag gets filled,” that runs through my head a lot. Life isn’t about gobbling everything, every pose, every relationship, every job, every experience up. You can go at your own pace, take detours, circle back, climb mountains, admit mistakes along the way, you can pause and start again. It’s not about going fast, it’s just about going. It doesn’t matter when you bloom, you’ll bloom when it’s your time. I’m glad I learned how to stay the course in life. Yoga taught me that. No matter what’s happening, or not happening, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking one breath after another, reminding yourself that you’re doing everything right, and surrounding yourself with good hearted, inspiring people who love and support you. After all, life is happening, so Enjoy the Hang!

Hangin' and Hoopin' on a Yoga retreat at 5 months pregnant

Hangin’ and Hoopin’ on a Yoga retreat at 5 months pregnant

ALTERED SPACE // GREAT AND FULL by Henry Yampolsky

Yesterday in between picking up bristle blocks a hundred times, sweeping up the dirt Raine took out of a plant and sprinkled around the kitchen, cleaning up after our old dog, painting the bathroom, realizing it was 5 o’clock and I was still in my sweats, switching the laundry, wrapping a few presents, and preparing my special mashed potatoes, I was thinking about what I would say I’m thankful for this year when it was my turn around the table.

Of course my family. John and Raine are everything, my breath and my heartbeat. My dad and the hilarious things he always says like, “Lunch is ridiculous” and “Travel is the best education.” And each time I thought of my Thanksgiving dinner speech, that’s about as far as I would get, and then Raine would yell, “Maaaaaaaaaama! Mama!” and I’d be off running to find out what was in her mouth and why her lips were green (crayon).

Then we got this awesome email from a Dhyana Yoga student, Henry Yampolsky. I had to share it. It resonates with me I’m sure because he mentions Yogi Bhajan, one of the most influential teachers of my lifetime, but also because I get what he’s saying. My life is Great and Full thanks to my family, but also because of my yoga practice and all it puts in my path. All the people at DY I treasure so much, all the teachings of yoga and the accessibility to them through classes, books, and trainings we have such amazing access to in this day and age, all the physical and non physical transformations it has supported me through, and most of all, how it continues to require more of me. Because of all of that, today I’m thankful to feel Great and Full!

 

Great and Full

By Henry Yampolsky

 

Since reading Louise Hay’s world-renown book, You Can Heal Your Life, affirmations have been an integral part of my spiritual practice.  Louise Hay teaches that affirming the life experience we want today with great feeling, as if we already are fully living in that experience, is the key to creating the reality we desire.  Hay and many other teachers instruct that affirmations of gratitude are among the most powerful vessels to bring us on the wavelength of abundance, fulfillment and joy.  So, especially around the Holidays, I would often affirm all the wonderful things I was grateful for. 

            However, as I my practice evolved, I began to feel certain unease about saying “I am grateful for…” as the phrase seemed to depend on circumstance, on having something or someone to be “grateful for” or worse yet being “grateful for” for something negative I did not have.  Neither seemed as wholesome as I would have liked.  The answer to my dilemma came from the profound words of Yogi Bhajan, the man who in the 1960s introduced Kundalini Yoga to the West: 

The purpose of life is to watch and experience living. To enjoy living every moment of it. And to live in environments, which are calm, quiet, slow, sophisticated, elegant. Just to be. Whether you are naked or you have a golden robe on you, that doesn’t make any difference. The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful – great and full – that you are alive, and you enjoy it

Yogi Bhajan in a sweet moment with a little one!

Yogi Bhajan in a sweet moment with a little one!

 

 

ALTERED SPACE // WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU WEAR

My husband, John Vitarelli, is about the most drama-free person you could ever meet. Nothing sticks to this guy, he just has a good vibe inside and out and because of that, drama doesn’t get too close to him. So last week when John said, “Send the letter,” I knew it was time to finally send the letter.

John V Bakasana

John pictured here in a pretty fantastic parsva bakasana wearing a Patagonia shirt he still has and a pair of pants he wore so much I did eventually make him get rid of them. Oh wait, he just told me he still has them. They’re Patagonia, too. Photo taken at Yogawood in Collingswood, NJ

Our letter asking Lululemon to consider us “Ambassadors No More” (coined via Jennifer Kries) was a simple one, opening with “This letter comes after a long time of consideration regarding our personal affiliation with your company, Lululemon, for which we served as “Ambassadors” in 2011.  We do not feel aligned with Lululemon, and are sending this letter as a request for Lululemon to cease using our images in any way and to remove us from all contact lists.”

Now I should back up and mention that when Lululemon first came to the Philadelphia market many years ago, the manager of the showroom at that time asked to me to lunch. She brought a bag of clothes and was talking about this “Ambassador” thing, which I didn’t quite understand. The whole Brand Ambassador title wasn’t part of the Yoga culture lexicon as of yet, or at least, it hadn’t hit Philly. I took the clothes home and tried them on. They didn’t fit and were too athletic looking for me (I’m more Bohemian swirls than sporty stripes) and a few days later I returned the bag to an absolutely stunned looking Lululemon representative and just said, “thanks, but I’ll never wear these. Maybe try giving them to some other girls at the studio.” That store manager was never nice to me again. I was just being truthful and not taking a bunch of clothes that I wouldn’t wear just because they were “free.”

I should have stuck to my gut. But when Lululemon approached my husband and I to be “Co-Ambassadors” many years later, we agreed. I have to say, John probably could have cared less. He practices in what is reasonably clean and won’t get in his way in Marichasana D. But I thought it would be fun to do together, and that having him by my side would make me feel more comfortable doing whatever we had to do. I don’t know what they do everywhere, but here, the Lululemon staff comes to your class and brings you a big bouquet of flowers or a giant plant and makes a big fuss over you in front of people when they ask you to be an Ambassador. It’s kind of like being asked to the prom in the middle of the High School pep rally. They don’t tell you what the “job” entails or educate you about their company and product, they just ask you out and then everyone hugs and takes pictures. Then you get invited to the store for a New Ambassador meeting where you meet the other Ambassadors, and they give you a bunch of self help books to read, and a folder of papers explaining what a “goal” is and how to crush one! Yay! Usually the person coaching you on how to “goal crush” is half your age. One of our teachers tells a hilarious story about this happening to them and it ends with the Yoga teacher saying, “Look, there are no goals in Yoga.”

As the months went by, we were required as Ambassadors to offer free classes to Lululemon shoppers. This is pretty standard fare, and basically your payment is the gift card they give you to pick out “free” clothes in the store. John and I did what we agreed to do, but as I got increasingly pregnant and dealt with an extreme case of morning sickness that lasted 3 months, John taught more of the classes alone. One thing you will notice in these free classes is that there are A LOT of people. Sounds great, right? Lots of people doing Yoga. The next thing you will notice, though, is that there is one teacher sprinting from one end of the room to the other trying to adjust people. A large majority of the people are just trying Yoga out and many even show up in shoes and jeans, so a lot of adjusting is needed to keep things safe. Also, you are either in a Lululemon store with all the clothing rounders pushed somewhat out of the way or you may be outside which presents all kinds of other complications, like people cranking their necks to see what’s going on because they can’t hear the teacher. Put simply, it might be a fun time, but in our opinion, these classes are generally unsafe. After our year tenure was up, Lululemon continued to ask us to teach these classes, and still does to this day. We politely decline.

You might ask, if it’s so bad, why are there so many Ambassadors? I might answer by asking, why are there so many Ambassadors? It’s not really even a special thing to be asked, eventually they get around to almost everyone in a market. But there’s another side to this that no one is really talking about, and that’s what we, as Yoga teachers, are getting out of the whole deal. Yoga teachers get what they see as “free promotion” by having a huge photograph of themselves in their local Lululemon store and by the store employees supposedly referring shoppers to their Ambassdor’s classes. This is going to take some radical honesty from Yoga teachers, like us. I have personally heard something along the lines of, “just take the free clothes and the free promo” from Ambassadors I know. Which is why an important part of our letter to Lululemon reads, “In our experience, teachers bash Lululemon in general conversation but can’t seem to sacrifice what they perceive to be free promotion from the local store by being open and honest about it. This is akin to being in an unhealthy relationship. Both sides, yoga teachers seeking promotion and Lululemon stores seeking advertising by outfitting those teachers, are being opportunistic and parasitic. It is our aim as not only yoga teachers, but as parents, and as people seeking to better ourselves, to not engage in what we find to be inauthentic relationships.”

If you are one of those “Ambassadors,” one of those teachers taking the free gear but making snarky remarks about the Lululemon brand in general conversation or even in your head, then you should not be an Ambassador. If you look at your colorful pile of Luon pants differently now that you know more about the company, then you should not be an Ambassador. If you have thought about how to cover up the little reflective logo so you can keep wearing the one piece you really like, then you should not be an Ambassador. I’m not trying to rally an “Ambassador No More” movement, but I am saying if you don’t love it and live it, if you don’t defend it when other people are trashing it, if you aren’t proud to walk down the street in your head to toe Lululemon outfit, if you can’t stand behind their marketing campaigns and public statements, then you have no business using them for promotion.

In fact, I don’t think Yoga teachers should sell out and be “Ambassadors” of or be “Sponsored By” anyone at all. If you like something, wear it, use it, share it, promote it, go actually work for the company! If it’s really what you use and suggest, let people know in your blog or on Facebook. But I think it’s kind of gross for teachers to get all free-geared up by any one brand, and that it’s a distracting goal for so many young teachers to nab these “Ambassador” titles be it for shoes, jewelry, or clothing. We regretted it from the beginning, but we really liked some of the Lululemon staff people and managers, so we never made  a big deal out of how we felt. I did personally meet with one of those staffers and pass on our feedback along with complaints I had heard from other local teachers as well (at the Lulu staff’s request for such “feedback”). We quietly gave away all our free clothing, much of it with the tags still on. Like I said, John is drama free. Until recently, and I think the Steven Colbert piece was the tipping point, he has encouraged me to just chill on it and enjoy my sabbatical.

I want Yoga teachers and studios to know that it’s ok to say no. Our local Lululemon store recently asked to make the Dhyana Yoga Seva Center, a studio set up as a charitable foundation with the goal of donating all profits back into our community, the “Studio of the Quarter.” This is another one of these free class scenarios Lululemon promotes, wherein you open your studio up to a weekly, complimentary class for Lululemon shoppers and they write your studio name on the big chalkboard in their store and presumably promote your studio above others during the months that you have this honor. John and I had already talked at length about disassociating from Lululemon, and so we did the only thing that felt right. Regardless of the fact that we would be sacrificing their promotion of the Seva Center, we said no to Lululemon. It really is ok.

Lululemon, by the way, is an athletic company with a clothing store. It’s not even necessarily a “yoga clothing store.” A “Yoga Brand” would very likely appeal more to the sensibilities of a person actually dedicated to Yoga by offering organic cotton tops and bottoms and items that you can wash and dry for years and still look great like Prana and Patagonia do. Lululemon is just an athletic clothing company that focused on the yoga population because there was a need in the market for brightly colored leggings and matching tops with thumb holes in them. My overall feeling is plainly that they should keep to their business in their stores and stay out of Yoga studios and stop trying to subtly advertise in those studios by giving the teachers who stand in front of the rooms free clothing. A lot of those teachers are poor and struggling. They are going to take the free clothes because they are broke and probably need them. They cannot afford to actually shop in Lululemon though, and given a choice even if they could afford to they might choose another brand, like Athleta, Zobha, Hyde, Teeki, Liquido, Be Present, or Hard Tail.

And it’s not just the teachers in the studios that are being influenced. I was surprised at how Lululemon seemed to be running the Philadelphia Wanderlust Festival earlier this year and you guessed it, they offered every teacher on the bill that day a free Lululemon outfit to wear the day of the festival in front of all the attendees. A friend even texted me, “(Lululemon store employee name) from Lulu asked me to teach at Wanderlust,” to which I responded, “Really? The Wanderlust people aren’t making those calls? Is it a Wanderlust event or a Lululemon event?” John and I were not on the advertised roster of teachers, but instead our friend Simon Park, who showed up to headline the event in Be Present pants and a “No Corporate Yoga” tee shirt from what I remember, secretly invited us to “surprise” guest teach the last class of the day with him. I’ve always loved Simon’s renegade spirit.

Did you know that Lululemon also pays for Ambassadors to go on special trips where they all meet up to “Create Awesome”? One “Ambassador No More” gives a well written peek into her experience in a brainstorming session on one of those trips in her recent Huffington Post article. I remember another Ambassador telling me, “Lululemon is flying me to Hawaii!” and me saying, “for what?” and getting the response, “Some festival or something, who cares, it’s Hawaii!” Do people have to pay $98 for a pair of pants in order to cover the expenses from these trips? It almost feels like the “Pay for Play” technique record companies used to employ to get radio stations to play certain bands…before that became illegal.

We closed our letter with the following statement : “Quite simply, what we learned from our time spent as “Ambassadors” is that we don’t wear Lululemon clothing and we don’t represent the Lululemon brand… A clothing store, it’s owner’s antics and politics, and it’s advertising and marketing campaigns have no place in the yoga room. Yoga teachers do. Yoga students do. All that matters when you practice is THAT you practice, not what you wear when you do it.”

John and I know first hand what being criticized publicly feels like and because of that I can tell you with certainty that if you can shoulder it, if you can accept that you made mistakes and not try to blame everyone else, and if you can put your ego aside for a bit, it is really there for your own benefit. If you are willing to let it be a catalyst for change, you will transform into an even higher version of yourself and you will make better choices moving forward. It’s not easy to take, I know, but everyone who puts themselves out there garners a few critics along the way. Criticism is feedback from the universe about what you have done, how that worked out, and how you can do better in the future. I think a lot of brands, and a lot of teachers, can do better. “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World” is not just a slick slogan to print on a bag, Gandhi knew what he was talking about!

Overall, we don’t care what you wear, we are just Yoga teachers striving to make better choices for ourselves, our daughter, and for all the people of all shapes and sizes that get on the mat to heal, not to be made to feel like it’s another place where they just don’t “fit” in.

Me smiling my way into a little tittibasana with my little sweetheart guiding me! She's wearing a romper her Nonna gave her and I'm in my favorite Hyde bottoms and my most comfy old tank, it's threadbare and I love it! Photo by YuJean Park

Me smiling my way into a little tittibasana with my sweetheart guiding me! She’s wearing a romper her Nonna gave her and I’m in my favorite Hyde bottoms and my most comfy old tank, it’s threadbare and I love it! Photo by YuJean Park

 

ALTERED SPACE // What We Eat

Most of the time I prefer to eat at home. I like the experience of going out to restaurants, and communing over a meal with a big group of friends or catching up with someone I haven’t seen for awhile over lunch, but I’m always left wondering about the quality of the ingredients and the way what I ate was cooked. When you cook, you’re putting your Shakti (primordial energy) into the food you make and whoever eats it, is also integrating that energy. So it’s really important to get yourself into a good mood before you start cooking! You can also say mantras while you prepare meals, think loving and peaceful thoughts, and stay relaxed by being aware of your breath. According to Ayurveda, the highest level of nourishment is achieved when you also take such environmental factors into consideration when you eat. Here are some helpful tips to bring more awareness into your regular eating routine:

1. Eat in a quiet, calm environment, 2. Eat only when you are hungry, 3. Do not eat when you are upset, 4. Eat at a comfortable pace, 5. Don’t overeat; leave 1/4 to 1/3 of your stomach empty to aid digestion, 6. Eat freshly prepared foods, 7. Eat what is in season and local.

This week I had a really profound conversation with a friend about how the most important thing is that we have a good, healthy relationship with food. So many people are chasing the “ideal weight” or trying another weight loss fad, and end up sacrificing not only nutrition, but the sheer joy of delicious food! During the following week, I encourage you to take a few extra moments when you eat to really taste and appreciate the food you are blessed with, and if you feel old Samskaras (patterns) of emotions like guilt or shame arising, allow them to subside by taking a breath and becoming more present in the moment. After all, as Hafiz said, it’s a gift!

Impressive Beet Risotto

Ingredients: 1/2 stick unsalted butter OR 4 tablespoons of EVOO, 1 jalepeno, 1 small yellow onion, 3-5 small to medium beets, 1/4 cup Parmesean cheese, 4 cups warm water, 2 cups Arborio rice

Preparation:

1. Dice onion and jalepeno and sautee on medium/high heat on the stove until coated and soft (in your oil or butter) in a big pan or wok. Stir gently as it cooks, 3-5 minutes.

2. Dice beets and stir them in. Mix completely and slowly add in the rice as you continue mixing. Get the rice all coated in the mixture.

3. Slowly add in water about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until absorbed and only then add more. It’s going to increase in volume a lot! Take your time and enjoy this part.

4. After you have mixed all the water in, turn down the heat to medium/low and cover it up. Cook covered until rice is tender, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Lift lid and stir in the grated Parmesean cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

*If you use red beets, this dish looks BEAUTIFUL on a plate! Bright, vibrant red offsets pretty much anything else you plate up next to it, or if served solo, this risotto is plenty filling and looks nice with a little sprig of greens in the middle of the bowl.

*If you use golden beets, no one will guess it’s BEET risotto! Astound your friends and surprise your kids…and husband…by letting them know afterward!

If you get a beet the size of your baby's head, you'll only need one!

If you get a beet the size of your baby’s head, you’ll only need one!

This yields 6-8 moderate portions or 4-6 big portions.

OM,

Diana

ALTERED SPACE // The Buck Stops Here

There are certain jobs, vocations, and paths in life that require those who pursue them to be in the front of the room looking out at a sea of other people who are actually there to listen. Being a teacher of any kind is one of those paths, and Yoga teachers are on it, whether they meant to be or not!

Some Yoga teachers are naturally comfortable in front of a room. Maybe they have a background in performance, or public speaking, or just a good amount of self confidence already. Other Yoga teachers are a little awkward, although it might be a charming awkwardness, or shy and quiet, or even aloof. One thing is for sure, in either case, part of a Yoga teacher’s daily Sadhana (practice) is to make themselves vulnerable in front of people, be it one person or a roomful, and to get out of the way so that the Yoga can happen.

When you put yourself out there like that, there can be great rewards! You break through a lot of your own issues, learn how to put others first, get an indescribable feeling of being helpful, and may even get slathered in compliments after class. Students will inevitably come up to you and say things like, “That was the BEST class I have ever taken! When else do you teach?” and “I felt like you were in my head today! You always know just what to say!”

And when you put yourself out there like that, there are bound to be a few arrows shot in your direction as well! Even the world’s greatest Yoga teacher has had a student roll up their mat and walk out in the middle of class, or gotten a note from someone who didn’t like their workshop and has advice on how it should have gone. With the advent of online reviews, there is no end to the complaints it seems, and that stuff never goes away. I know a bunch of Yoga teachers from all over the place and every, single one of them has had their bout with online bashing, ranging from stalkers, to trash talkers, to people who go out of their way to spread rumors about them, to competitive (yes, right here in the Land of Yoga) peers who throw jabs whenever they get the chance.

Recently I received this email regarding an upcoming workshop at Dhyana Yoga (I have changed the name to keep this confidential) : “How disappointing that you are holding a workshop with Beverly Crusher. She had about five workshops at various venues and each one was cancelled for lack of attendance. She is a very poor example of a role model for yogis.” 

Now, if I were a new studio owner, I might really call into question whether or not we should let Beverly Crusher lead a workshop at my studio. But I’ve been around, and I’ve been attacked in much the same way, and I don’t think it takes superpowers to pick up on the personal nature of this message. I brought the email to the teacher’s attention and sure enough, before I could even say the name of who sent it, she said it first. It is an alias this person uses to send such emails around about this teacher. It’s funny how the people who have the bells to write emails or reviews like this don’t have the nerve to sign their own names. I can tell you this particular teacher did not respond by attacking the attacker. Her response was informative, and compassionate, albeit sad in tone, which I can understand.

That really impressed me. Not striking back. It’s so instinctual to want to tell your side and rally the troops when something like this happens. But then we have engaged a war, and for what? An identity? An ego? A need to be right? I mean, if you’re going to war, it better be for something important, not just because your self image has had a tomato thrown at it.

When I had my turn at being bashed a few years back, I was newly pregnant and although it was devastating to me in many ways, I did not strike back either. I remembered that old saying, “The buck stops here.” and I just took it. Also I was smack in the middle of 2 solid months of the WORST morning sickness that lasted all day every day that I have ever heard of from anyone. Being weak and incapacitated was actually a great gift in this case. I laid on the couch and cried and cried and felt so raw, but I shouldered it. I did not want to wage war and have that become part of my forming child’s DNA. I let it come, let my identity, my ego, my notions of what was right, my husband, my work, my body, everything about me be maligned, and then I let it go. Because after all, who was attacking me? Who among us has the right to say who else is good Yogi, or a good role model for Yogis, or doing Yoga the “right” way, or doing the “right” Yoga??

No one that I want to listen to, that’s for sure.

Right here. This is where the buck stops.

Now let’s do some Yoga!

ALTERED SPACE // QUICK QUESTION!

My friend Cindi is one of the coolest people ever. If you know her and agree, shout a little “Jai Ma!” right now — she’ll get the message. She’s just that tuned in! Cindi is the guardian of the most amazing temple. It’s called RUKA (www.ruka.com) and there’s a door to it on 19th between Chestnut and Sansom Streets in Philly, but RUKA really exists in all the homes, businesses, offices, yoga studios, and on all the altars that have been blessed by one of the treasures gotten by stepping through that door.

Cindi

Cindi finds a treasure!

Cindi travels the world to hand select the beautiful murtis, textiles, decor, and jewelry offered at RUKA. She even leads tours of India and Thailand for those who want a personal peek behind the veil of these exotic lands! When I had the chance to ask her a “Quick Question” to share here, I wanted to dig a little bit into her travel secrets.

QUICK QUESTION FOR YOU… When you travel, what things from home do you bring along that you just can’t be without?

“My amulets! On my travel journal I have a holographic OM sticker, on my backpack, my bag, my phone, my passport, my wallet – well, practically everything else – I have 3D stickerts of the Turkish God’s Eye Amulet (all infused with mantra, thoughts, and intentions of protection)!

My gold and silver Nepali Ganesha box pendant on a gold chain grace my neck, and on a longer sacred thread I have my Tibetan coral charms with 100 year old silver temple amulets – A circular one with the warrior goddess and a house shaped one with the feet of Shiva. Around my left wrist I have a sai sin – the white, un-spun thread blessed by the Buddhist Monks in Thailand, which I received on my last journey to Thailand earlier this year. I look forward to being blessed with a new one when I arrive in Thailand in early 2014!

As I move around throughout my day, on the other side of the world, I look at my amulets and I breathe deeper with inspiration that I am always safe and always home.”

Cindi also does beautiful Mendhi, henna designs that are beyond compare. She has covered practically my whole body over the years between doing the designs for my wedding and a pregnancy design and even a beautiful one for an anniversary. You can see some of the wedding Mendhi she did in the photo below! If you are interested in traveling with an experienced, fun, and thoughtful guide, Click Here — adventure awaits!

A Mendhi Heart with the groom's name hidden in the design!

A Mendhi Heart with the groom’s name hidden in the design!

ALTERED SPACE // Origin Magazine features 10 Philadelphia Yoga Teachers!

This photo is so special because Joe, who has a way of catching special moments on film, took our baby's first picture here! That's Joe himself in the photo under the pink line.

This photo is so special because Joe, who has a way of catching special moments on film, took our baby’s first picture here! That’s Joe himself in the photo under the pink line.

Kudos to the editors of Origin Magazine for recognizing some of the teachers in the Philadelphia yoga community in their latest issue, which you can pick up now at Whole Foods! John and I are so happy to be snuggled in this feature with so many good friends and respected peers, and we are especially grateful to Joe Longo (www.joelongophotography.com) who I suspect orchestrated the entire situation! A lot of the other teachers in the photos you’ll see did their Teacher Certification at Dhyana Yoga and nothing could make us happier than their success in pursuing a career teaching yoga, which is not a path for the faint of heart. My Kundalini teacher, Yogi Bhajan said the students should become 10 times stronger than the teacher, and while I keep up in my own right, I always remember that, and revel in the victories of others.

All 10 of the Philly teachers in the article are unique in their lineages and styles, but I’ll tell you something we all have in common — At a certain point, every person you see there took a risk. There’s a point when, no matter what vocational path you follow, you come to a fork in the road and have to decide, do I go forward or go back? Do I take a risk or take the easy way out? There is a lot of processing, perhaps some uncomfortable but honest conversations, and ultimately a moment when you step forward into your destiny in such a powerful way that it inspires everyone around you to do the same.

The photo Joe chose to submit of John and I is especially dear to me because it is the very first picture of our whole family, including baby Raine, together. It was just hours later that I took a pregnancy test and it was positive, and we were positively overjoyed! That was such an amazingly happy time in our marriage, and boy, what a fork in the road! I feel like yoga was our training for all of the adventures parenting has presented to us.

An interesting sidebar for anyone who has read this far…

In my former life as a young woman working in the music industry in Southern California, I dated a musician for a few years who broke my heart. It turned out he had a “karmic connection” with someone else, of course, and this someone else (NOT a yoga teacher by the way!) is also in the very same issue of Origin Magazine. It just struck me as funny somehow that all these years later she and I end up in the same magazine just for doing what we love to do and are enjoying wonderful lives because of it…. Both of us WITHOUT that musician I might add!

The real victory for me is that I can look at this woman’s picture and truly harbor no lingering resentment for that whole messy situation. I can appreciate her beauty and talent  and not feel like it takes away from my own. I’m so grateful this article came out this month but without this karmic layer it would just be some passing press. Instead it’s been a great reminder to me that we are all, at our origin, intimately connected and infinitely entangled, and even if it’s messy, it’s up to us to wrap those connections in peace and love.

Connected and Entangled

Connected and Entangled

 

 

 

 

Sat Namaste,

Diana

ALTERED SPACE // A POEM FOR ALL WE DON’T KNOW

I’m not a poet or trying to be. I just scribble things down sometimes that have a certain feel to them. Having cleared that up, this is a “poem” I found in an old journal with the date March 1999 next to it. That year I was having a hard time making ends meet while I was trying to transition out of my full time job/old life and into Yoga. I was teaching Yoga anywhere and anytime to anyone I could, managing a retail shop inside a gym part time, living off of mung beans and rice, and couch surfing because I couldn’t afford rent in San Diego at the time, and I had a lot of friends with available couches. Looking back, it was a pretty great year…

MYSTERIES

There are some things we are not to know,

and though we’ll ask, we’ll not be told.

Your sworn soul mate might not be the one,

the man you raised might not be your son.

And though you’ll wonder, you’ll never know

how these mysteries will unfold.

Your worst enemy might become your friend.

Your final breath might not be the end.

And though you’ll ask, you’ll not be told,

because there are some things we are not to know.

 

 

ALTERED SPACE // WHAT WE EAT

People ask John & I all the time, “What do YOU eat?” Basically, we eat healthy, we eat fresh, we eat organic, we eat local, but most importantly, we EAT. We love food. We are Italian after all, so our taste buds are as developed as our unibrows. So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I will occasionally bring you a little Menu. Here is “What We Eat!”

This recipe is one that I could easily eat every week if there weren’t so many other great meals begging to be subbed in. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s seriously delicious. Don’t ask me about calories because I don’t know, but I feel safe saying this is a “light” meal. Unless you put sour cream on the side, which I sometimes do, but that’s your call my friend!

Rainbow Chard & Rice

Ingredients: 1 bunch of Rainbow Chard, 1 medium yellow onion, 1/4 cup oil (your choice, I prefer evoo), 1 cup water (OR broth for extra flavor), 2 tablespoons of curry, 2 cups rice (again, your choice, I like basmati), flax oil

Preparation:

1. Start rice. Chop Onion. Separate chard stalks from leaves & chop each pile up.

2. Warm oil in skillet or wok on medium. Put in chopped up onion until soft, about 3 mins.

3. Add just the chopped up chard STALKS w/ half of the water or broth, about 3 mins.

4. Add chard leaves & stir in curry powder, stirring occasionally, about 3 mins.

5. Add rest of water or broth, cover and steam 3-5 mins (to your preference, I like mine really green).

6. Plate, squirt on some flax oil, add any condiments you like (sour cream or even a chutney) and ENJOY!

This will serve 2 hungry people as your main meal or 4 regular people if you also offer a salad or something else. I’m sorry I don’t have a photo but we ate it before I could take a picture! It’s that good 🙂

OM,

Diana

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