Weekend With a Master Teacher.

The Lotus Pond Center for Yoga and Health
After a strong morning asana practice and lunch at The Lotus Pond, we sat down in front of Karin Stephan, an arc of students along the floor. Blue eyes shining with the secrets of the world, she offered us her views on teaching. How to choreograph a class. How to see people. How to stay true. Authentic.

As always, her teaching advice mingled and blended with the current of life.

“Remember, you don’t have to know everything right now,” she said. “If you go to China, and you know five words, and the person you are with knows one…who is the teacher?” 

And she pauses to rest her eyes on each of us.

Hello, Ego. Goodbye, Ego.

There it is. The energy of the yoga class is buzzing. Jiving through an asana flow. Chataranga. Bhujangasana. Downward dog.

Fatigue settles in. An old shoulder injury speaks up. Your wrists scream “stop,” only to be scolded by the voice in your head.

“Oh, come on. You can do it.”

This is not yoga.

Yoga is absent of ego. The internal sense of separation we attach to ourselves and apply again and again throughout our lives. Ego. Really, a way to say:

This is me.
This is mine.
These are the things I’m best at.

Helpful in everyday life? Perhaps. It’s hard to deny the seeming ease and convenience the ego provides. In less than a second, I can sort and categorize myself. You. Others. But the problem is, in every statement of who I am – in every “this is me, this is mine, this is what I know” – an unspoken “not” follows. 

I am a writer. You are not.
This is my best friend. Not yours.
My body is strong and flexible. Unlike yours.

Negatives are exclusionary. They strip the compassion from us. The caring. The understanding. When instead we should be reminded that, yes, we are each our own person, but also that we are cut from the same cloth.

After all, there’s far more value in our common denominators than our differentiators.

This is yoga.

The Modern Brahmacharya.

"I cleaned out my closet," my yoga teacher said. "There's space, again, for the hangers to move." 

"It's a good feeling," I echo. Legs tucked up underneath me on couch, I glance around the house. Cozy. Warm. Inviting.


Brahmacharya, once only interpreted as celibacy, is our last yama to talk about. Brahma=truth. And charya=course of conduct. Restraint with the idea that, if we control our desire, our life force, then it can be re-channeled back into our practice.

Now, however, a broader, more modern interpretation has settled into yoga practice. Moderation. Careful evaluation of how (and when) we approach and use all of our senses. A way to deepen our growth and enrichment. Become more spiritual.

Though many yogis may disagree, to me, brahmacharya is also about the amount of things we possess. Moderation of ownership. It is finding that sweet spot where purpose and value settle into nothing more--or less--than enough. Creating an environment free from material excess, which can deplete and exhaust the soul.


Usually softly spoken at the end of yoga class. Maybe even the beginning. Hands in prayer, placed between the brows, the third eye, or at the heart center, where love flows.

Respect. Reverence. Sacredness, passed down from an ancient Indian greeting.

Namaste. I bow to you.

Ever so more beautiful, though, than this literal translation, are the meanings gleaned from far deeper interpretations. 

I greet the place where you and I are one. 
The divinity within me salutes the divinity within you.
My soul acknowledges your soul.

Or, my favorite: The light within me sees the light within you. An understanding and acceptance of the unique threads that run through all of us, and, at the same time, of the even stronger fibers that connect us. 

A thank you, I suppose you could say. Yes, for coming to class and sharing your practice. But mostly, for just being you.


Kids get it.

People always rave: Kids are fantastic at yoga.

See one kick up to handstand in front of you, and it's nearly impossible to argue. There they are: Limber. Flexible. Balanced. Brave.

But what's also hard to argue is how children seem to naturally embrace concepts inherent to yogic philosophy too. Like being in the moment. Like surrender. Like acceptance.

Yesterday we spent the day at the beach. On our way down the condo stairs, the little boy we'd met at the pool Tuesday stood still on the steps, snorkel in hand, waiting for his mom, dad and brother. 

"You going to the pool?" he asked, squinting up at us. All freckles and sun-kissed cheeks.

"Beach," I answered, holding up our bag. "Waves today. You guys should come out."

Hours later, I spotted him crossing the dunes. Trailing behind his mom. Boogie board balanced on his head. I tiptoed my way across the smattering of shells to say hi, avoiding the jellyfish littering the shore.

As I dodged another blob, I sighed for the millionth time. Eight years I'd stood on this beach. Never, not once, so many jellyfish.

"Where do you think all these came from?" I asked, scanning the water, the horizon, and then pointing with my toe. A little irritated. Upset. Not quite the picture I'd had in my head.

Shrugging, he stooped down to give the jellyfish a good look. "The ocean," he said, tossing his boogie board down on the water.

And off he went. No over-analyzing. No disappointment. 

No worry.