Emotions

Asana Lab: Trapezius Release

Asana Lab: Trapezius Release As we approach the end of winter and begin to rewire our well-earned “Snowmaggedon Posture,” we’re targeting the Trapezius Muscles. Try this fascial release pose to create happy tissue in a tight neck, shoulder, and back. Time 5–10 minutes Props •   1 Manduka recycled (extra firm) block •   1 mat •   1-2 tennis balls or Yoga Therapy Balls Introduction The trapezius muscle is a “hotspot” located between the neck and outer shoulder, and the back and front of the body. We’ll begin on the part of the trap where you see the ball placed, above. Before entering each part of the body, take a moment to connect. You can place your palm on the area you’re about to enter, or simply direct your breath there. This helps “prime” the tissue, and also promotes the ability to listen to the tissue and dial in just the right amount of …

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Of Trauma and Emotional Freedom

When I was about sixteen, squirrels invaded our house. They came and went freely and inhabited the attic, where they could be heard running wind sprints across the eaves, usually late at night when we were trying to sleep. F—ing bastards, my Dad would growl. We tried several methods to lure them back into their natural habitat; the more dramatic of these I won’t describe. But the squirrels, of course, were smarter. They’d outwit the mechanism, chow down on $7.99 all-natural peanut butter, and clamber back into the rafters. They were well-fed, these squirrels—and that’s what led, finally, to their demise. One spring day, in response to the sound of panicked squealing, we climbed the attic stairs to find a young, chubby, grass-and-peanut-fed squirrel inside one of the traps. My Dad and I elected my brother to place the cage in the back seat of the family Volvo and we drove, squirrel …

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What’s up with the Chakras?

At first glance, it can be tempting to dismiss the chakra system as an esoteric, new age concept. During my last teacher-training course in Boston, a participant voiced her reservations. “In theory, the chakras are so compelling,” she said. “But out of all the things we study, they seem least connected to the actual practice of yoga.” The class agreed. “What, exactly, are we supposed to do with them?” they wondered. While the chakras offer a rich conceptual framework for growth, they give less direction for putting that framework into practice. Over the past year of reflection on my students’ queries, I’ve begun to wonder whether there’s more to the chakras than meets the eye. Could it be that when we view them through the lenses of psychology, mindfulness, neuroscience, and yoga, the chakras become more than elegant vessels for self-understanding? Could they in fact be touchstones for practice, showing …

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Israel, from Desert to Sea

People often ask why I travel so much to teach yoga. The long plane rides push my body’s limits: 23 hours to Hong Kong, anyone? Nutritional challenges come up as well: why can’t I find cooked greens in Copenhagen in October? And luck can turn in a moment, bringing mishaps that make me want to go home: I still recall a bathroom flooding, foretold by me and ignored by the concierge, that had me perched for hours on the lumpy bed in a quaint Paris hotel). It’s difficult to explain why I travel. Yet something compels me to do so, as though I’m trying to learn a lesson that remains tantalizingly out of reach. Last November, I finished my travel year in Israel: first at the Moa Oasis just north of the southern port of Eilat, where the dry heat was intense. Dust infiltrated the filaments of my bronchial tubes, …

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Lose Your Momentum ~ Before It’s Too Late

Recently, during a therapeutic vinyasa practice at The Yoga Conference in Toronto, the class and I encountered a pivotal learning moment. As we reviewed the transition from Downward Dog into Lunge,  a participant asked about speed. “Intuitively, I get that slow is good,” she said. “But how slow? And is it O.K., sometimes, to practice the old and fast flow?” Her question gave rise to a passionate dialogue about how we use momentum in yoga and in life, and what the consequences are of doing so. Momentum refers to the building up of forward movement that takes us from one well-defined place to the next. It turns out that we use momentum in times of discomfort. We use it in transitions, for instance, when we’re caught between an old place or way of being and a new one. And we do so when the pressure to perform well lends emphasis to …

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The Importance of Going Backwards

In recent weeks, I’ve been struck by the number of healthy, strong yogis in our community that are in the throes of emotional crisis, experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and grief. At this time, we have more stress and emotional imbalance than ever before. Yet it wasn’t the number of yogis or the nature of their crises that affected me the most. Rather, it was something deeper and more disheartening: their responses to their own pain. Most of my yogis in crisis shared with me some version of a story that they shouldn’t be feeling what they’re feeling. Laced with barely disguised self-contempt, I heard, “Panic attacks–seriously?” Another said, “I thought I was past that.” “Why am I going backwards emotionally?” asked another. “With all the therapy, yoga, and meditation I’ve put in, I should be well beyond this,” proclaimed a fourth. Why are we so quick to be down …

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Ode to the Unbroken

I had a list of things I wanted to write about, including the art of watching and its relation to being present, and the relationship between neuroscience and magic. And I will, later. But something important got in the way. This week, I returned from a memorable teaching trip to Vancouver to find several members of my yoga community in the throes of an emotional crisis that took varied forms: panic attacks, PTSD, depression, acute grief. As I talked with each of them, several themes emerged that were so powerful, so universal, I had to share them with you. As you read these words, you might think something like “Why isn’t yoga taking care of all that?” or “Why can’t these yogis deal with a little stress—many people have it really tough.” If you think these things, you’re not alone; each person I talked with had the same inner dialogue …

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