Making yoga practice personal.

A note that was originally written for (and sent to) teacher training students...but for yogis everywhere who hope to deepen their practice outside the classroom.

I hope there is something here for you too.

The practice was strong  – but you stayed with it, bringing your own unique energy to the room. It was wonderful to witness such an engagement of tapas, yet, also, a collective mindfulness of ahimsa (non-harming), bramacharya (moderation) and santosha (contentment).

As you continue or begin (or think about beginning) your personal practice, remember that it's these things that will sustain you. Bring them onto your mat and cultivate them. Much like the rest of our lives, our personal practice is ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-evolving.

With classes, it's easy to rely on the instructor, go through the motions, maybe even skip the inner work of each pose.
The thing about personal practice is that it helps you grow in ways a class can't. Being alone on the mat teaches you to silence your internal dialogue and chatter, bringing you to the heart, the center of yoga. Suddenly, in your vinyasa, your flow, the past is the past and the future is not even a thought. There is no mourning. No analyzing. No wondering. Just presence. Tranquility. Serenity. 

It's hard for some of us though. It's easy to be uncertain at first. Timid, even. Unsure of what to do, how long to do it or if we're doing it right. My advice is to listen to your body's needs and let it guide you. Sit, breathe, meditate. Stand, balance, twist. There is no right or wrong – only what serves you and what does not.
Unroll your mat and begin.

I practiced yoga asana for years before I made it personal. I remember I unrolled an extra mat in the spare bedroom and left it there. The first time I tiptoed on, I thought, "Now what? What pose? This is silly." It felt awkward and forced and hard.

Like the saying goes though, beginning is the hardest part. So, if all else seems daunting, start with savasana. Then work toward adding postures beforehand. Tadasana. Pigeon. Forward fold. Doesn't matter. Because, over time, with tapas – that inner fire and discipline – stepping on the mat at home will become something you just do. The awkward, the forced and the hard will wash away, leaving the freedom to move and breathe. Slow. Fast. Meditative. However you feel. Yes, taking the time for svadhyaya and alignment and self-correction. But also taking the time to just be.

Ishvara-pranidhana. Letting go to what is.

Five Songs to Deepen Savasana.

yoga: savasana

Ahhhh, savasana. 

The easiest and hardest yoga asana to do. But it is like dessert, yes? Topping off the end of class. Cultivating stillness. Offering the body a way to release the muscles. Allowing the nervous system to integrate the day's practice.

Laying down on the back with the eyes closed, arms slightly away from the body, palms facing the sky, savasana is physically accessible to almost everyone. But mentally and emotionally...savasana presents challenges. 

Students are used to moving into asana and through vinyasa – but invite them into savasana's motionless-ness and there it is. Eyes peeking open. Fidgeting. 


Even so, savasana is my favorite asana to lead. The opportunities to help students quiet their minds is a privilege and honor...and the ways to get there are beautiful and rife with meaningful cues and language.

Though welcomed by many advanced practitioners, savasana in silence rarely serves beginning and intermediate students. Music lends purpose to savasana. It grounds it. Fills part of what seems like a vast stretch of time that these yogis are still discovering and weighing the value of.

Finding music that's right for savasana can be tough. As difficult, even, as helping new students connect with the posture's sweetness. After trial, error and searching far and wide, here are five songs that have found their way onto my playlist lately – and into my and my students' hearts.  

Five songs to deepen savasana:
(Let them play more than once!) 
  • River Flows in You (Yiruma)
  • Suni-ai (Slow) by Snatam Kaur
  • Om by Jane Winther
  • Dedication-Center & Calm the Mind- Aad Guray Nameh by SatKirin Kaur Khalsa
  • Opening the Gates by Drala  

Where now intersects with asana. Are you there?

In a culture so set on doing, achieving, succeeding, it's no wonder we approach our asana practice the same way. More is better. Strain is gain. Quick is best.

Step on your mat and tell me it's not true.

"I just love power classes," a fellow student (and teacher) confesses to me. "Gentle? Can't take it; can't teach it.... Can't go that slow," she adds, laughing.

Don't get me wrong. Power has its place. Sending the body into asana after asana is a workout. But what about finding middle ground? Forget gentle, forget power. Step onto the mat with the intention of good old-fashioned, no frills, non-dressed-up hatha. The sweet practice of mindfulness, of sinking inof recognizing the inner work of the pose and being right where you are, in the moment, at the intersection of awareness and asana.

Awareness, mindfulness of now, is tough to cultivate. Elusive. By nature, fleeting. And nowhere is that tendency to settle in the past or lean into the future more evident than in yoga asana Warrior II (sanskrit: virabhadrasana II).

Where are you? Find a mirror that reflects at least your torso. Stand tall, grounding through the feet, lifting through the sternum, shoulder blades moving down the spine. Step the left foot back three to four feet. Let the soles of both feet ground into the mat; the left foot at a 45-degree angle and the right with the toes pointing straight ahead. Come into Warrior I by squaring the hips and moving the right hip forward, allowing the front knee to bend toward (never) past the right ankle. Lift through the chest again and inhale the fingertips toward the sky. Exhale, keeping the height in the chest.

Warrior I (picture from

Keeping the right knee bent, inhale again and exhale the arms parallel to the floor, allowing the pelvis to open to the left. Right arm is extended over the bent leg and left arm over the back leg. Send energy into the fingertips and gaze out over the hand. Pause here, in Warrior II, and turn your eyes toward the mirror.

Me, Warrior II
What do you see?  

Most common is for the torso to pitch or lean forward over the front leg, as though you're reaching into the future or anticipating the next moment, the next asana. (I am, slightly, in the photo.) Are you? What does this say about you? Do you think about plans, where to go, what is always happening next? Or are you the opposite? Is your torso leaning back slightly – and, if so, is your tendency to reminisce, dwell on memories?

Wherever you are, be aware of it. Just...notice, feeling this inner work of this strong, powerful pose. Then square the torso directly over the pelvis. That's where now is.