mean girls (or boys, etc) don’t belong in yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga about twenty-one years. I’m an old hat.

I’ve been to lots of classes – hundreds. And I’ve seen all kinds of behaviors from students and teachers alike!

But two of the worst behaviors I’ve seen, I re-experienced rather recently:

Snobbery and exclusion.

Yes, I attended a class where the instructor and the regulars didn’t make eye contact, ignored my presence, and rebuffed my general friendliness.

As practiced as I am – and as good as I am at finding joy on the mat – I left feeling dispirited and unwelcome.

So.

Here’s the thing!

Social engagements are tricky. What someone might experience as snobbery from a class regular could be a regular who is shy, uncomfortable with new people – that kind of thing. So even with my recent unsavory experience, I’m keeping an open mind. Gee I sure FELT unwelcomed, but perhaps I misread the vibe.

But yes – it goes without saying there ARE people – including instructors – who are simply unwelcoming. They’re not likely to be reading this post and they’re not likely wanting to change.

I’m not here trying to change THEM.

I’m trying to help US build a better yoga community!

So here are some actions we can take to make sure we aren’t a yoga “mean girl” (/boy/genderqueer person, etc).

Learn about the specific purpose (and/or level) of the class.

Even terms like “beginner”, “intermediate” and “advanced” are hard for a new practitioner to interpret. So as a class regular, your job is to understand and, when you represent the class (for instance, sharing on social media) to describe the class accurately.

If you’re a student in a class, take note of the class itself – which starts with the instructor. What is the instructor’s vibe, attitude? Are they hushed and reverent? Are they feathery and New Agey? Are they athletic and aggressive? Are they strong, gorgeous, witty, urbane and playful? (that last one’s me!)

As an example: my Sunday group class is listed as “for all bodies”. This means ALL bodies are welcome as I can accommodate anyone who shows up with a pulse. (And if I have trouble, you know I will research and do better next time!). So for instance in my class if a student can’t or doesn’t want to attempt an asana, I include them verbally, with optional instruction, and I include them physically by mirroring their body.

Take note of the class accommodations and setting. Is the environment a calm one (private and peaceful), or a fairly active one (say, in a gym)? Are yoga props not only used but encouraged? Does the instructor have a plan – or do they wing it? Is the class an active, strengthening one – or more down-regulating? Does the class include meditations, chanting, or readings?

The sooner you as a student begin to pay attention to the different types of yoga classes, the better you can represent and (if need be) orient new attendees.

Remember: new people are intimidated.

If you’ve been practicing a while you probably know that yoga is not all that intimidating. The teacher could be up front in some kind of obscenely difficult one-finger handstand wearing posh yoga fashion and heck who gives a shit, you’re allowed to chill out in child’s pose in your tattered sweatpants. (If you’ve learned this lesson… you’ve mastered a BIG part of yoga!)

But… remember, newbies have probably been conditioned their whole lives to compare: to think of someone else as “better” or “more fit” or “advanced”.

In fact newbies – and not-so-newbies – are often straining to copy an instructor’s shape rather than really FEEL into the asana. I have to work to deprogram this behavior, all the time! And I am sad to say some people never stop straining – even in yoga class. It’s a sad reality.

Now realistically, we can’t change fitspo attitudes in a single hour together – no matter how welcoming we are and no matter what we say. But we can stay mindful that there are some in the room who are experiencing frustration, intimidation, confusion – even shame. Hold space for them by BEING on your mat and doing your best to stay connected to your breath and body, moment by moment.

Greet people!

After your first class with a new instructor or location you are now charged to be a greeter. When new people show up – simply look at them and say, “Hello!” That’s it. That’s the job. 

It makes a huge difference!

If you can: remember names – and use them.

I try VERY hard to remember names, and I try to use them. Greeting a student with “It’s good to see you, Clark” on his second class – it makes a huge impression. I know EXACTLY how it feels to have been noticed, and named, and welcomed. It’s wonderful.

Smiling works too, if you’re feeling it. Don’t force a smile but if you find one arriving – let it fly!

Avoid cliqueish behavior.

This is something we should remind ourselves of regularly.

It is natural that as we come to know one another we look forward to seeing one another weekly (or daily, or whatever). It can be REALLY easy for the student regular AND the instructor to lapse into social chit-chat at the beginning of class, either vivacious or heated or animated or simply, in-depth in some way not accessible to a new person. This is NATURAL and this means we are feeling connected to one another.

However I guarantee that ninety percent of new attendees won’t appreciate this. If they walk in and feel like everyone knows eachother already (even if that’s not true), this can create a chilling effect.

Remember this too at the end of class: gently returning to social conversation is fine. But cannonballing into an animated, complex or highly-involved insider discussion is less than welcoming for new students.

Yoga is a social activity but it’s not a social club. Engage cautiously with studios and instructors that try to create a social club over a welcoming and grounded yoga practice.

Most important: invest in your own practice

Are YOU still comparing, pushing yourself, trying to get “fit” or get toned abs or lose weight on the mat?

Let’s dismantle that!

Listen I’m not the boss but I can tell you: all the above, THAT’S NOT YOGA.

What is yoga? Well I am neither qualified nor educated enough to give you a definitive answer (spoiler alert: no single human being could!) – BUT I can tell you one thing: yoga isn’t about abs, fitness, mastering a cool pose and taking a slick picture. One thing yoga IS about is unifying breath and body, learning to love and cherish the breath and body, finding more stability and peace, and finding a lot more playfulness and joy. Life is very very beautiful and a dedicated yoga practice can help you find this.

So invest in your OWN practice. Find that breath, and body, and joy and playfulness! If you want other people to invest in yoga, make sure you’re investing your best self.

Community comes and goes, waxes and wanes. If you find yourself fortunate to have a good leader, instructor or student – do your part to create an inclusive community.

You’ll miss it if it disappears!

one month in as an online teacher

If you ask any yoga teacher whether they prefer online or in-person yoga class, most say in-person. 

Most human beings like being together to go good work. They like sharing space, and taking comfort with these kinds of connections.

This makes sense!

That said, there are so many benefits to an online class.

Online classes – whether teaching or participating – remove a lot of barriers to taking, or teaching, a yoga class. Online classes are generally lower overhead – you don’t need to drive anywhere. As s a student you can show up RIGHT when class starts, and (if you needed to) you could also leave early with minimal disruption.

For those who are housebound, or without easy access to travel, those living in rural or remote spaces, those with any form of social anxiety, and those wanting to minimize risk of illness – online live yoga classes are an absolute blessing

Each week I teach twice in-person and twice online.

I am still over the moon to be included in Ompractice’s impressive lineup! This teaching gig is a real blessing for me as it allows me to be paid appropriately for my expertise, to get to practice teaching – and to be part of a passionate yoga teaching community.

The Ompractice platform is also just exciting to be a part of! They continue to deepen, develop and improve – it’s very exciting to be involved!

So!

I’m adjusting to the differences of online vs. in-person. (I did teach online FREE GRATIS all year last year, but I had pretty low attendance.)

For instance:

As an online instructor I find myself more preoccupied – more worried – about my teaching performance. In person it’s easy to make small talk, to make eye contact. It’s also a bit easier in-person to sense someone’s feelings. Not that I’m all that great at that, but there is a tactile awareness that transpires between students and teachers, when we share the same room.

Uncharacteristically, at the end of my online class I find myself wanting to ask, “Was that okay? Did you have a good time?” 

I don’t do that – for many reasons!

But I still wonder!

I notice that both online and in-person students are similar in that they are shy about asking for help before, during and after class.

This might just be down to personality. I am a total TEACHER’S PET and NERD, I always have been. When I’m in a class I’m highly-engaged and I want to brain suck (warning, gross scene lol) everything I can out of teachers and fellow students. Now I’ve lived and learned enough to temper this proclivity of mine and to read the room, but honestly this is the kind of student I am!

I am already starting to get some online “regulars”, which feels very special. And just like it’s best not to guess at why someone does or doesn’t return to a class in person – it’s just impossible to figure that out, online. Still, when someone comes for several classes and then doesn’t return, I (of course!) worry it was something I did or didn’t do, that turned them away.

The truth is it’s likely they didn’t return (or haven’t yet) simply because 1. life is busy and/or difficult; and 2. very very few people discipline themselves to regular physical, mental and emotional self-care.

I love the mix I have right now – teaching both in-person and online.

I love being able to bring something wholesome and helpful to the world. I love being part of a platform that makes live yoga classes so easy! I admire all the work that went into Ompractice to help it thrive (and through teacher meetings I’m starting to get a peek behind the curtain).

Wherever you can find live embodied physical classes – whether at a gym, at a studio, online or in a living room – please do support these classes! Support these options with your dollars – and share with your friends, spread word on social media.

We need to make the kind of world we want to see.

Every one who attends my class(es), helps this good work continue.

Thank you – from the bottom of my heart!

Agni Hogaboom from Little Switch Yoga is now teaching on Ompractice
Read more about the article i am not a “good vibes only” yoga teacher
Agni Hogaboom of Little Switch Yoga, Grays Harbor Aberdeen, WA

i am not a “good vibes only” yoga teacher

Agni Hogaboom of Little Switch Yoga, Grays Harbor Aberdeen, WA

I’ve been wading through the Americanized versions of yoga and there’s something that bugs me.

Okay there’s more than one thing.

But here’s a start:

The “good vibes only” yoga messaging is just terrible.

And it really, really is EVERYWHERE.

First of all – the “no negative energy, please” messaging is not based on yoga’s history.

There’s nothing in the 5,000 year old practices of yoga emphasizing “good vibes only” enough to where you’d sloganize it on a t-shirt.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga start us with the Yamas and Niyamas – that is, spiritual practices and personal observances respectively.

These are as follows:

The Yamas
Ahimsa (non-violence)
Satya (truthfulness)
Asteya (non-stealing)
Brahmacharya (moderation of the senses/our energy), and
Aparigraha (non-greed) – 

The yamas teach us how to behave in an ethical framing – how to conduct ourselves in the world.

The Niyamas
Saucha 
(cleanliness or purity)
Santosa
 (contentment)
Tapas
 (discipline)
Svadhyaya
 (self-study)
Ishvara Pranidhana
 (surrender to the Higher Self)

The niyamas invite us to find joy and strength in our personal practices – our inner disciplines.

So right away we have our first two limbs of yoga and TEN practices we can study –

and there’s no mention of or tone implying “good vibes only”.

If anything, the yamas and niyamas indicate disciplines and practices to employ – regardless of whether we’re feeling groovy about it or not.

So to be honest I am not sure where all the “good vibes only” came form, but I’ll tell you one thing:

Your bad vibes are welcome in your practice.

Your bad vibes are welcome in my studio space!

I don’t want you to avoid class – or practice at home – because you’re in a “bad vibes’ place, and can’t snap out of it.

I want you to practice regularly and learn to let your “bad vibes” show up too – maybe you can start to (gasp!) make friends with those bad vibes!

The thing is…

If we only practice yoga when we feel good, then we’re going to skip a lot of practice.

And if we only practice yoga to instantly get some kind of result – we’ll give up when we don’t get what we want.

If we only practice yoga to change how our body looks or what impressive bendy shapes we can make – we’ll give up there, too, when progress doesn’t happen the way we want to, or as fast as we want to.

If we only practice yoga to lose weight or get those toned abs – 

we are not only being a fair-weather friend to yoga,

we are being a fair-weather friend to ourselves.

I invite you to be a best friend to yourself.

It’s a really smart investment, relationship-wise!

do you feel like you aren’t good enough to deserve nice things

A lot of people won’t commit to a contemplative or physical practice because they don’t yet feel “good enough” to invest (time, money, energy).

Let me explain:

They aren’t good at meditating, so they don’t want to try.

They are “out of shape”, so they want to somehow first (magically) get “in shape” before they join the gym.

They won’t be as fit/strong/capable as others in the yoga class – so they stay away.

I get it – I really do.

***

These days I am a daily yoga practitioner. But for many, many years I went in and out of practice. I’d sign up for month-long challenges, work my butt off, complete those challenges – then I’d take a break off the mat. One day turned into two days turned into three weeks turned into months.

Don’t get me wrong, I was more committed than most. For example: post-Covid we had precisely ONE weekly yoga class here in town and I was there, every week. Many weeks, I was the only student there. I shared about the class on Facebook and Instagram in hopes more would attend, because I knew it was unreasonable for the teacher to keep teaching with just one person there! Eventually she stopped. I am still so grateful for the time she gave me.

But I digress.

All this to say: the stop-and-start yoga approach is really, really typical.

(And nothing to be ashamed of.)

So what happened, to make me a daily practitioner? (And a daily meditator!)

***

In late 2021 I started really thinking over my desire to become a yoga teacher. I love yoga so much and my favorite thing about it, is the way we can share. I also have had a taste of a yoga community – and it’s wonderful. I knew that if I took the training, I could start building that community.

I also knew if I started teaching classes, I’d bring my A-game – and I’d actually practice more.

I was right – about all of it.

I hacked my own system – my drive to be consistent and quality in everything I do – because I knew I would commit to practice more deeply.

***

I also built the yoga practice I wish we had here in Grays Harbor. I longed for a consistent teacher who left fitspo and fatphobia at the door. I wanted a group that dedicated itself to all the teachings of yoga – instead of treating it like another workout modality. I didn’t want anything to do with “wine yoga” or “beer yoga”. And frankly, while yoga helps a great deal for physical strength and mobility – I didn’t want a fitness-oriented approach.

Yoga is so much bigger than that!

What I wanted – and what I still experience, and what I bring to the mat – is for people to feel joy in their practice!

When we feel joy in something we do, we are sure to return it.

***

I am proud to say every week so far, I’ve had at least one student in class. I wish I had a minimum of more like five students, as that would help me cover expenses and pay myself a living wage.

But I am also very patient!

I know I’m a good instructor.

So: why is attendance so low?

Part of this is the summer. People fall off their programs, during the summer (and also during the holidays).

But a big part of this is:

People don’t think they’re worthy.

If they commit to yoga once a week, they are committing to looking at, feeling, and experiencing their bodies in a deep way.

Many people just don’t want to.

They know they want to feel better –

but they don’t want to start at Square One, and become a beginner (again!) and stick with it.

Because if you don’t commit to practice, you can keep that fantasy that well, the day you DO commit to practice, you’re going to rock it and all your dreams will come true!

It’s easier to live in that fantasy – counter-productive as it is – to be curious about the reality.

It’s easier to be a strong yoga practitioner IN THEORY/in a fantasy future – than to start where you are, today.

And yes, I get it.

No judgment here.

***

I am not here to talk anyone into adopting a consistent practice – yoga, meditation, or otherwise.

I am only here for two things:

  1. to remove the barriers that are keep you from doing what you already want to do; and

  2. to share how much yoga as benefitted me, personally

To some people, it will seem like I’m trying to talk you into class so I can make a living teaching.

But if you know me – you know that’s not true.

I am regularly sharing many other practitioners’ mindful and joyful movement classes!

Because I want you to find what’s best for you.

But I also want to tell you: no one will do this work FOR you.

You have to seek it out, and you have to commit to extended practice – to know what benefits you may reap.

I am so, so glad I found committed practice in my life.

***

My yoga and meditation practices have helped me more than counseling, more than medication, more than book clubs, more than support groups.

(all those things are wonderful AND I’ve used or continue to use them all!)

But as far as benefits; yoga has helped me the most.

Yoga is one of the only times I get a guaranteed respite from self-absorption, from worry, from obsessive thoughts.

Yoga is always there for me. If I can breathe, I can practice.

Yoga never lets me down.

I have always felt better after I stepped off the mat!

Meditation is trickier – it took a lot longer for me to consciously experience benefits. (I’m grateful I stuck it out as long as I did!) I plan to write a lot more about meditation this year. I hope you stick with me!

And in the meantime:

I’m here, if you want to join me.

I’m ready when you are!

It’s the adventure of a lifetime!

let’s get real about meditation

Mediation is beneficial; this is known and obvious through thousands of years of scientific study as well as even more compelling anecdotal and empirical evidence.

We know it’s good for us.

It’s also FREE – it costs nothing.

Then why don’t we do it?

***

The vast majority of people who find this post, will not be meditating daily, or even regularly.

I am not here to shame anyone about that.

I’m not even here to convince anyone that they *should* meditate.

That’s kind of beside the point, for me.

But I want to offer a few thoughts, and share some of my experience.

First: meditation is not (usually) an instant gratification activity.

In other words meditation rarely gives us a high. In contrast, we get an immediate boost from a cup of coffee or an impulsive shoe purchase (two delights I experienced this week) – that kind of thing.

Now – some people DO experience bliss in meditation –

However, that is rather rare.

And I’ve not met a regular practitioner who experiences bliss *EVERY time they meditate*.

(and yet they keep at it!)

So for me, this means we might decide to meditate – and commit to practice – knowing we likely won’t receive immediate benefits.

And despite the fact we engage in all kinds of “good habits” just because we know they’re good for us  –

(for instance very few people absolutely LOVE brushing their teeth but most of us do it regularly as the alternative is much worse) –

for some reason people don’t want to invest five minutes a day in something that could improve their BRAIN.

(I don’t know about you, but my brain needs all the help it can get!)

***

I want to point out that for many years, I was no exception. I crumpled up “meditation” on a list of things I “should” do, good habits I “should” employ – like saving 10% of my paycheck, or staying hydrated –

and I just let those “shoulds” beat me up.

Rather than doing anything about it!

So here is my second point:

Almost all forms of meditation are training the mind.

We KNOW that brains can be trained. We train our brains every day – either on purpose or,  for the most part, fairly unconsciously through the things we choose to put into our brains.

In fact we put in a LOT of brain-training time.

It follows that:

Any wholesome training of the mind, will result in improvements in our life.

In fact, that should be obvious.

In other words: we don’t have to know HOW our minds and our lives will improve –

we just get to TRUST that they will, and look forward to observing the change.

Actually, it’s a pretty cool process.

***

Personally, I don’t think we’re being lazy about any of this.

If you think about how hard life can be, our behavior makes sense.

For most of us our minds work well enough that we don’t give them much focused attention.

Our minds work pretty well or IF THEY DON’T, we’ve found a way to get through our day, to survive.

Well I don’t know about you, but I want more than survival.

I’ve been in survival mode and I didn’t like the kind of person I became.

I want to thrive, and I want to be able to help others to safety, to wholeness, to joy and healing.

So!

I’ve put a lot of effort into improving my health, my behavior, my life and the life of my community.

And in that effort – and in doing that research – I came to see that a committed meditation practice was missing.

So I added a meditation practice.

I am very clever so – I found two weekly groups to commit to (one in person at no cost, and one online for monthly dana), and I downloaded a free app for seven days a week solo practice.

I put meditation in my daily task list – so that I get to check it off at the end of the day.

(This feels quite satisfying!)

And this practice is starting to feel very good – and I’m experiencing benefits.

It’s starting to really take hold.

I’m glad I gave myself the chance to see it through.

***

So!

Once again: I’m not here to tell you to meditate.

But I will share that it’s made a huge difference in my life – in my relationships, in my physical health, but most importantly:

in the quality of my mind.

I hope you consider making a consistent practice of meditation – even five minutes, uninterrupted, per day.

Don’t let anyone talk you out of it!

(Even if it’s YOU trying to talk yourself out of it!)

Why not give yourself a chance?

You’ll never know how much your mind – and your life – can improve, unless you commit to the experience.

I look forward to hearing about your results!

why I don’t say “namaste” at the end of class

I don’t say “namaste” at the close of class. 

This is a deliberate choice on my part, and here are some reasons why:

1. Many South Asians object to this, or at the very least find it annoying; because:

2. “Namaste” doesn’t mean what many white American yoga teachers say it means: The Light Within Me Honors The Light Within You“. It actually means something more like, “greetings to you”, or even “‘sup?”

3. “Namaste” has been over-commercialized and, frankly, bastardized. You may have noticed all the t-shirts and yoga bags out there – MANUFACTURED IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH IN SWEATSHOPS, MIND YOU – cultivating a “spiritual gangster” or a groovy “yoga chic” message. That is not for me.

4. If I’m going to teach yoga, all eight limbs of yoga, and lead my students through this learning journey then I think we owe it to the practice to deepen our understanding wherever we can.

I don’t say “namaste” at the close of class.

I do say “Om Namah Shivaya” and I invite you to join me!

But you can say anything you like at the end of class – for instance, you could simply say “thank you!” – or you can refrain from speaking and bowing.

Please do what feels comfortable.

Remember, I am here to provide space, safety, nurture and care!

(and of course, share some of my yoga education!)

Thank you for listening!

seven things i love my students to do

Yoga asana class is hard. 

As a student you’re meant to listen to and watch the instructor, to work with the breath (pranayama), to follow the instructor’s verbal and physical cues, to work on your alignment – all at the same time!

So!

When someone comes back to class at all – I count that as a huge victory!

Therefore if you’ve made time for yoga this year – give yourself massive props!

And if you want to go above and beyond, I’ve got a list of seven things I love from my students:

I love it when they challenge themselves.

I have definitely seen students taking half-hearted or lukewarm positioning on the mat. There are a lot of possible reasons for this. Some students lack proprioception – they honestly don’t KNOW what it means to take a large step on the mat, for instance. Some students are scared to over-exert themselves. Still others don’t really, REALLY want to be there.

Now I would rather a student was cautious, than to push themselves too hard!

But also… I mean, we signed up. We paid the fee. We got dressed. We got our butts to the studio.

So let’s do some WORK!

When I look out at my students and see sweat, and a bit of trembling, and focused expressions – that feels awesome.

I am literally WATCHING them get stronger, and watching them build  more self-confidence.

It’s cool beans!

I delight when my students breathe deeply!

A lot of students hold their breath or don’t focus on their breath, because they’re busy trying to follow the pace of the class. That makes sense! I sometimes lose conscious contact with my breath when I’m a student, too.

But when students breathe deeply, I can usually hear them and it feels so good!

It really, really helps regulate the entire class as well!

There are certainly apocryphal tales of yoga students who breathe WAY too loud or ostentatiously. But honestly? In my many years of class, I haven’t come across much of that.

So when I hear students breathing deeply, I feel confident they are focusing – and getting a benefit. After all – breath work is PROVEN to help with stress.

And I definitely want all of us to experience less stress!

I appreciate it when students interrupt and/or ask questions!

This statement I deliver with a caveat as there are definitely teachers and spaces and classes and scenarios interruption is NOT a good idea.

But for my general group classes – which are for any level and any body! – we are experiencing a community vibe. And honestly, an interruption and a question is really for the best.

Yes, it can take us out of the moment to hear a voice besides the teacher’s. But almost always if ONE student has a question, the others will benefit from having the question raised. I take students’ questions seriously and I always try to respond with gladness and helpfulness. If I can’t deliver a great response in class, I am sure to do more research in the next week so I can improve my skillset.

I love it when my students grunt and/or laugh!

There is NOTHING that makes it more obvious that people are engaged, as when I hear grunts of effort or laughter! In fact last week I was upside down in a pose and couldn’t see my students, but I could hear them and everyone was laughing (because the pose was difficult for us all)!

This is a peak yoga moment as a teacher, because it means we are all efforting together. 

I honestly believe that kind of group effort is so, so rewarding!

I enjoy when students make asana requests.

There are thousands of asana and variations – there are also the Patanjali sutras, the eight limbs of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, the chakras – there is so, so much we teachers can study and draw from when we prepare a class. 

But you know what? Sometimes we really want to be of SERVICE. We want a student to come to us with a need!

So when a student comes to me with a particular pose – or say, a specialty or request – this often is a wonderful spark to help me develop a meaningful class!

I want my students to form a relationship with YOGA – not just with me. When a student ask for a focus, an asana, or an accommodation I start to think that particular student might be bold enough to use yoga for self-nourishment – not just another workout.

I am absolutely delighted when my students greet the new person – and orient the new person to the class culture.

If you’ve been to my classes you know that we are already a community. We have a culture, and we are beginning to know one another.  We’re sharing a lot of warmth and laughter!

Sometimes in a community we get excited to see one another, so we want to chat in a personal way either before or after class. And I get that!

But I love to see my students greeting the new person, and gently making extra space for them – rather than lapsing into familiar talk with the others.

Because remember: it can be intimidating to be the new guy!

So when my students welcome the newcomer, I feel so much gladness for all of us.

I am *thrilled* when my students go to ANY length to enjoy their practice.

I have a theory I’ve never seen any other yoga teacher champion – that the ONLY way we’ll keep doing yoga, is if we enjoy it.

Enjoying yoga means thinking outside the box.

How can we learn to enjoy our time on the mat? Maybe if we pay for a series, that will keep us from giving up. Or perhaps we need to purchase a special yoga mat – or some really yummy, soft clothing for practice. Maybe we need to clear a room in our house – clear it of everything but our mat, and a little shrine. Or perhaps we can make an accountability date with a friend. Maybe we need to give ourselves a five-minute guided meditation at night – and then write an affirmation in our journal.

I say: do whatever it takes to enjoy your yoga practice. Because I know a strong, sustaining practice will develop from that joy. I know it – because I’ve lived it!

***

Thank you for reading – and thank you for coming to class.

It is my honor and joy to build this community with you!

how to get better at yoga

I am in possession of the number one secret on how to get better at yoga.

I don’t know if I’m the first person to discover this –

but I never hear anyone else talk about it!

The NUMBER ONE WAY TO GET BETTER AT YOGA IS…

To figure out – with your super-smart brain, with all the resources available to you –

how to love yoga!

I have practiced yoga for many years but that doesn’t mean I’m “good at” yoga.

I am practiced, meaning I am used to the world of yoga.

I am familiar with many asana and I am also able to look at the instructor and translate their actions to my own (that takes practice). I have also developed more proprioception and interoception – a sense of my body in space, and a sense of my inner sensations.

I am also good at MODIFYING or RESTING during class.

Learning HOW to rest – and doing so with convidence – is a game changer.

All of this – everything I’m pretty good at above?

These abilities – mirroring, proprioception, interoception, modification and rest – take time to develop.

So if you feel a bit lost or awkward on the mat – I promise, with practice that will pass!

Also…

I just gotta keep it real here, for a minute.

If you go into yoga embarrassed about your newness, or your inflexibility, or your weakness – and if you see yoga as something where you need to “keep up” with everyone else (students, or instructors) –

then you will ENJOY YOGA LESS.

If you practice yoga and hate or dread it, you will eventually injure yourself – or quit, or both.

So my STRONG SUGGESTION is to find a way to LOVE yoga.

This could mean ONLY going to classes where you like the instructor.

Don’t punish yourself going to a “workout” type yoga class, if you don’t vibe with who is teaching.

That could mean buying yourself a really nice mat, or selecting comfortable clothing you ONLY wear to practice – to honor your practice in this way.

That could mean treating yourself to a night of rest after class – no work, no errands, whatsoever when you get home.

That could mean asking your partner to make a cup of cocoa for you when you get back home.

That could mean buying a lovely essential oil to use to wipe down your mat.

YOU are creative – YOU can figure out how to love your practice!

If you focus on the love of the practice –

you will gain every other skill mentioned here.

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

But!

We have time (as far as we know).

We have time – until they day we don’t.

I want to spend my time, doing things I love – and enjoying them.

How about you?

yoga didn’t heal my body image, but teaching yoga did

Goddess pose, Little Switch Yoga Aberdeen Washington

I didn’t want to write a post about my body image – ever, really! – but here we are.

My terms of reluctance are legion: first, the cultural conversation seems over-saturated, often surface-level, full of the same platitudes and (increasingly) commercialized languaging.

Secondly, as a white American voices like mine are over-represented in health and wellness spaces. Why should I add my thoughts? Who would be interested in hearing them, anyway?

But it goes deeper than that.

I’m tired of the body image conversation. 

A conversation I haven’t even dipped my toe in!

I’m tired.

Let’s be real: I’m exhausted from watching the Diet and Wellness Industrial Complex shoehorn the sacred constructs of self-care and self-love into programs selling weight-loss subscriptions, quack remedies, diet programs and foodstuffs, and flat tummy teas.

In fact the other day Facebook so kindly showed me a fat loss ad using the phraseology: “I’ve learned my inability to release weight is a trauma response.”

Reader, that headline alone made me feel D-O-N-E.

Nothing more disgusting than telling a trauma victim it’s their own fault they can’t be smaller.

***

But here’s the thing.

Under Capitalism – and its little red rover buddies White Supremacy and the Patriarchy – all our bodies are under assault, being sold and sold to, up for grabs. All human and non-human animals are served up, sliced and diced (for billions, literally), commodified in every way and marketed to relentlessly.

Now: I didn’t set that up.

But I have to survive it.

And so do you!

And just because I’m Tired –

Doesn’t mean I have nothing of value to add.

I deserve to have my say, in the chance maybe – just maybe – I could help someone reading here.

Because I know my interests and my goals are far more wholesome than those of Capitalism.

***

Some day I’ll tell my story of what I am up against.

What it was like growing up in my maternal family lineage – surrounded by the women who sang duets and trios with one another about how they needed to lose weight, or how they were “bad” for eating that cheesecake, or how their asses were too fat and their features too unlovely –

and the men who encouraged these women to care about this stuff. The men (including my beloved Grandfather) who wanted these women to make themselves smaller, the men who took pains to compliment women when they shrank (physically or socially).

Some day I’ll tell my story what it was like growing up, crammed into the wrong gender. Because if you think you know how it feels to have your body shape and size policed, growing up trans is a whole ‘nother Level. My whole childhood it was “girls” or “boys” and which one was I, har har. I was complimented for any “femininity” of figure and form – I was never given space for my own gender autonomy. “Look at you here,” my mother says to me, jabbing a finger at a photo of me on the dock, at the lake. I’m thirteen, here. “You’ve a wasp waist,” she flushes, beaming with pride.

No, I didn’t.

I did not, and have never, had a wasp waist.

Nor did I want or need one.

This was my mother’s jam: she wanted to eat up my mind, my body to serve her own dreams.

I grew up in this battlefield, to say nothing of the larger culture in which I was indoctrinated.

It wasn’t healthy – to put it mildly.

***

I’ve practiced yoga twenty one years.

And practicing yoga didn’t change my mind about my body very much.

I didn’t suddenly start experiencing an empowered nonbinary state. I didn’t lose weight – or any of those weight loss-attendant dreams so many chase! I didn’t achieve that body, those accomplishments that had been sold to me my whole life.

None of that happened.

Now yoga didn’t change my MIND about my body –

but it certainly changed my body itself!

Because it’s impossible to practice yoga regularly and properly (properly: don’t push yourself and listen to your body!) without change.

When you practice, you get stronger.

And so did I.

So in those early years I was creaky. I felt a pain behind my knee when I’d practice trikonasana, shortness of breath when I held ananda balasana. I couldn’t hold myself up in a plank for more than a few breath cycles – trembling and (silently) cursing the teacher! And headstand, handstand? No way!

That pain is long gone. That body is stronger, more flexible, more mobile.

I really do feel better!

I can do things today (at forty-six) I couldn’t even do as a child.

And it wasn’t just my body that began to change.

I also began to experience more peace of mind, more honest endorphins, an hour at least of less self-absorption, less anxiety, less obsession.

I’ve always felt better after getting off the mat. Always!

***

Oddly though, my changing body and mind didn’t make me love my body more.

I still felt the same – really, as I had all my life.

And while I’d rejected the more harmful familial and cultural narratives – I still hadn’t formed my own.

Until.

***

Teaching gave me a breakthrough.

Now listen: teaching yoga is an impressive skillset. And while I’m pretty new, I take it seriously.

First, I had to acquire (and continue to deepen) a yoga education – we’re talking about studying a multitude of traditions 5,000 years old!

Second, I had to learn how to actually practice asana – as well as the other seven limbs of yoga: the yamas, niyamas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi – and begin to transmit this knowledge to students.

Then I had to get in front of a class and demonstrate how to move through practice. I have to run physical practice and provide verbal cues all while watching my students and adjusting my teaching style and aims depending on what I observe.

I’ve gotta deal with the practical aspects of running a business. Even though I’m not yet making a wage – I still have to show up as a professional (and that’s fair)!

Now: there are plenty of yoga teachers who get to a degree of competency here, and can end up on autopilot pretty fast.

But if you know me, you know I’ve never been on autopilot a moment of my life!

***

In my first few weeks of teaching regularly, I had the benefit of a huge studio mirror in the space we worked.

I had the privilege of seeing my body – clear as day! – in a multitude of asana, contortions, silly little sweaty shapes.

I got to see my body how it really is, and WHILE my body was being observed by others.

We’re talking: trembling limbs, shaky voice (at times), saying “left” when I meant “right”. We’re talking having my physical form on display for an hour straight to a room of people – sometimes, complete strangers!

I lost the anonymity of the mat – because all eyes were now on me!

And it didn’t take long for what remained of my reservations about my body, to burn right out of my body.

In a deep revolved lunge, to see my t-shirt cling to every fat roll on my back and to my sweaty face in the mirror and – to be forced to see it, and to know everyone else was looking too.

But –

Honestly, it was only a little bit jarring at first. 

In fact I felt a great friendliness with myself, in a way I hadn’t ever before!

I had work to do, after all. And I was doing it!

Because just like my students look beautiful when they’re exerting Right Effort in asana

So do I!

Because Right Effort is beautiful.

Always.

And Right Effort almost never, ever looks like the heavily-doctored, artfully posed moments in a glossy yoga magazine or brochure.

Since I see yoga as beautiful, I see myself in practice – not my idea or imaginings of self, but my actual Self – as beautiful.

And since I see myself that way on the regular now,

I’ve changed.

The way I feel about myself, has changed.

***

Listen, I’m as surprised as anyone that this developed out of teaching.

Like I said: I practiced two decades without my body image budging an inch.

So I’d long ago given up the idea I could really change it.

But: it changed.

And it continues to change!

I love teaching. So much!

The practice is also neither a competition, or a series of pretty shapes to make or strain towards.

The Practice is there for us every minute of every day. 

If you can breathe, you can do yoga!

And I sincerely hope to get more people to see it the way I do.

They might be surprised to discover how they see themselves, over time.

five impressive yoga statistics

Why don’t we take stress seriously?

We know stress literally kills. We KNOW it takes a toll. And yet we keep magically hoping for a fix – or maybe, a pill.

Stress statistics:

Instead of allowing ourselves to be the victim of these forces – maybe it’s time we did something about it.

We are not helpless!

I’ll see you on the mat!

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