30 September 2009

I can see Russia from my house....

I began to wonder why so many people from Russia were hitting on this post....

So I went to the site they were hitting from and found this:

What a shock it was to see photos of my yoga room posted from some place in Russia! I used an online translation site to find out what was being written about my room and everyone has such nice things to say, even wishing that the person who has this room be healthy and prosper! From what I can figure out the post is about "environment yoga room."

It's nice to have my design vision appreciated from thousands of miles away.

Hey, maybe they'd like The Sama to come teach...or at least design a yoga room.


29 September 2009

and I thought Jazzercise was dead

"Ana Brett & Ravi Singh's dynamic style of Kundalini Yoga is the best of both worlds: its spiritual depth and energy work will satisfy your Eastern yearinings (sic). Its cardio element, with lots of ab work, stretching and toning will satisfy that Western need to get everything covered!"
(emphasis supplied.)

You can't make this stuff up. I found the video on Facebook via Yoga Dawg's blog.

There's a great discussion going on about Americanized yoga at it's all yoga, baby, so I thought I would post what one of my students thinks about Ana Brett and "her" style of yoga. I want to say from the beginning that I am sure Ana Brett is a nice person and dedicated and I know many people love her bubbly style and yoga videos. If they work for you, great, to each their own. If she wants to dance around to Bollywood hip-hop music, call it kundalini yoga, and make a buck off it, more power to her.

But like any other celebrity (and we certainly have our yoga celebs now), when you put yourself out there, be ready for criticism. IMHO, I have to say that adding the Buddha statue to her "yoga" mix here is pretty cheesy but maybe that adds the requisite "spiritual depth" for those of us with Eastern "yearinings"...just sayin'. Hey, at least Buddha's face isn't on her hot pants. whew.

The discussion about Ana Brett and her yoga clothes choices started a long time ago here (sorry I can't find the exact post.) At that time I asked my students what they thought about the way Ana Brett markets herself and the most pithy comment came from a 17 year old student who will graduate from high school next year. She's been my student for about three years -- she's a young yogini with an old soul. I wanted a young person's opinion since I am old, jaded, and cynical.

So given the recent blog discussion on Americanized yoga, this video, and the talk I'm attending this week on whether American yoga is in crisis, I thought it was the appropriate time to publish my student's comment (I did not change a word.)

"Ana Brett has some very legitimate things to say about yoga and I would be willing to bet that her DVDs are pretty good based on what people said. I understand wanting to see her body to learn about the alignment in certain poses. In Iyengar, which she studied, that is very important so I can see where she is coming from. Now I am not really a conservative type of person, tattoos, piercing, and multi-colored hair I don't mind and in fact I love. However baring that much skin is out of place in a DVD about yoga. Her outfits would be fine many places but just not with yoga. Yoga is spiritual and so much emphasis put on the teacher's body is rather distracting from spiritual intentions.

I don't think that her point is as Blisschick said "as women, we can TAKE back our bodies and change the (negatively) sexualized perceptions of them."

Because Ana said "We are sexual creatures, and we all use our sexuality consciously or unconsciously. Advertising is almost all about sex! When our DVD covers were shot, I was going for strong, confident, and healthy. Those are the attributes I aspire to and wish to inspire in other women. Some people, I guess, look at the covers and just see overt shameless sexuality. And yes, I can see where, especially the Kundalini Yoga for Energy & Super Radiance cover could be considered "sexy" and mainstream. But is that so bad?"

She said she can see how people would see it as sexual and that it is geared towards the mainstream (which is not inherently bad, getting the Yoga word out is good!) However trying to appeal to the mainstream with sex is not the way to go, and that seems to be what she was implying. After reading her answers to the interview questions I think that she does enjoy the true bliss of yoga and her intentions of happiness and appealing to many are also good. I do think that she is degrading herself and lowering the respect she gets by dressing that way.

When I see her covers of her DVDs I ask why does she dress that way? She said that "it was for the practical reason that it looks better". Looking better is not really a practical reason. It doesn't make women feel liberated to see a sparsely clothed woman. To me it seems like mainstream America is influencing yoga and not yoga influencing mainstream America.

I think that truly liberated women, in this day and age, have the confidence to cover their bodies and still feel beautiful/appealing. If she feels like she can't show proper alignment without showing her body and she can not appeal to the public without bearing so much of her body on her DVD, she is not giving herself enough credit as a teacher. There are so many yogis that raved about her DVDs that she has something going on other than a great body, so Ana Brett, appeal with your bliss and not your looks, break out of the constraints that societal constraints and liberate women."

(emphasis supplied.)

Talk amongst yourselves.

(P.S. I'm not dissing Jazzercise...I loved it, did it for 10 years, and almost bought a franchise. The video has inspired me to go find a Jazzercise class again! Note I said Jazzercise, not yoga.)

28 September 2009

is American yoga in crisis?

Now that I have your attention, that's the title of a talk I am attending this week at the Theosophical Society:

"Is American yoga just an exercise regimen masquerading as spirituality? While 16 million Americans practice hatha yoga, yoga’s development as a popular fitness workout has lost sight of its ancient roots and transformative power. Tonight is a wake-up call to yoga’s highest aspirations."

Tom Pilarzyk is speaking on this topic and his bio says he is a "social scientist and author who has written on Eastern religions and American culture, including most recently, Yoga Beyond Fitness." You can read words of praise for his book on his website:

"Dr. Kelly McGonigal, Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Yoga Therapists, says of Yoga beyond Fitness:

'One of yoga's core principles is self-reflection. Yoga beyond Fitness gives the yoga community an opportunity to reflect on where we came from, who we are and how to return to the essence of a yoga as a spiritual practice. It is a 'must read' for anyone who wants to understand Yoga in the United States, and anyone who cares about the future of Yoga in the West.'"

Regular readers of this blog know my thoughts on "Americanized" yoga, so I'm intrigued. Blog post to follow.

18 September 2009

do yoga in Africa and help women

According to the Seva Foundation "two-thirds of the 45 million blind people in the world are female, yet women receive less than half of eye care services. Moreover, 80% of these cases are preventable or treatable forms of blindness."

As part of their payment for yoga, each participant will donate $108 to the Seva Foundation for the Kilimanjaro Center for Community Ophthalmology. You can read all about KCCO here. KCCO isn't a hospital and doesn't provide clinical services, but the work is focused on research, program development and training, all intended to help eye care service providers and public health workers reach a huge population that has never had these services before.

It really is more important to me that people come on my Yoga Adventure in Africa in order to donate to Seva than for me to make a ton of money. I would be happy to get my plane fare covered. Frankly, a teaching experience that is so outside the box is worth much more to me.

Have you signed up yet? You can get all the details here.

15 September 2009

top 50 yoga blogs

The Physical Therapy Assistant Schools have named their Top 50 Yoga Blogs for a Healthy Mind and Body. They divide the list into categories such as "Yoga Wisdom: Live the Life, Not Just the Lifestyle"; "Yoga Practice Blogs: Learn the Moves That Will Give You A Healthier Body and Mind"; "Understanding Yoga: Wondering What the Hype is All About?"; and "Yoga Stories and News." This blog was named to the first category about living the life and not just the lifestyle: "Go with Linda on her journeys to India to study yoga and maintain mindfulness. Don’t expect any fluffy mumbo-jumbo – Linda is insightful, but frank."

Tee-hee. "Insightful, but frank." I like that because I've been called worse.

"Don't expect any fluffy mumbo-jumbo." Yeah, the physical therapists nailed it -- if you're looking for some peace-love-dove-connect-to-your-inner-butterfly yogaspeak, fahgeddaboutit. I'm an acquired yoga taste just like masala spice and South Indian sambar.

Other yoga blogs mentioned were Roseanne's, Grace's, and Brenda's, to name a few, but no mention of Dork, who was named to this list, and no Dawg, who I am sure subscribes to Groucho Marx's belief that he would not want to be a member of any club who would have him as member.

I was also named to the Top 100 Yoga and Meditation Blogs according to the X-Ray Technician Schools a while back, so I am curious: who are the people who determine these "best" lists and why are these schools doing it? Inquiring minds want to know.

OK, I guess I can drop the Rodney-Dangerfield-I-don't-get-no-respect act. If me and Yoga Journal's Yoga Buzz Blog are on the same top 50 list, I guess I've made it. Kinda.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. Now if only I could make a little dough from writing!

12 September 2009

karma yoga in Tanzania, Africa

I borrowed this fabulous photo of Mt. Meru from Miss S and her blog Yoga, Dogs, and Chocolate. Miss S was kind enough to help spread the word about my Yoga Adventure in Africa. I was overwhelmed that someone who has never met me could write these words: "Linda is an old soul, peaceful and living in the light. She really has a way of making you feel good and know that no matter what is going on everything is going to be OK."

Thank you and much metta to you, Miss S. I will say again that it overwhelms me to receive the support from global yogis ever since I started writing this blog (and you know who you are!) I am blessed.

Much more important to me is that if you attend this yoga experience of a lifetime, YOU WILL ALSO LITERALLY HELP PEOPLE TO SEE because $108 of your yoga payment will be donated to the Seva Foundation for their eye clinic in Moshi, Tanzania.


That's compassion in action. That's karma yoga. If 10 people attend this yoga camp, that's $1,080.00 donated to the eye clinic. Do you know how far $1,080.00 will go in Africa?

What are you waiting for?

11 September 2009

yoga to make you cry

Despite all the yada yada about western yoga and yoga in India, to me THIS is true yoga ("For Homeless, Serenity Arrives On a Yoga Mat.")

"The permutations and sub-genres of yoga are easy to make fun of, for sure. There's hot yoga, cold yoga, street yoga, hip-hop yoga, Broadway yoga, rock yoga, prenatal yoga, postpartum yoga, naked yoga and dog yoga (yes, yoga with your dog, the very beast that was doing "downward dog" long before yoga mats were invented). I totally admit to subjecting my children to baby yoga. Which was cute. And a bit silly.

But these are people who are hungry and tired. They might be mentally ill, and they are certainly downtrodden."

Those of you who are regular readers know that I teach yoga and meditation at a domestic violence shelter. I teach for free and it's my favorite class. Every month the group leader tells me "good class tonight...they were crying."

So sorry if this offends anyone, but you can have all your fancy arm balances, all your sick inversions, all your core work for those yoga 6-pack abs, all your yoga trance dance, all your perfection of primary series, all your sweat that makes you believe you had a "good" practice, all your Lululemon pants and chakra jewelery, and keep it.

What does it all come down to? Yoga to turn myself or someone inside out and back again is where the rubber meets the road for me.

Use yoga to help someone turn to face their shadow self and make them cry. Use yoga to cook you. Show me how you live your life and who you serve.

09 September 2009

selling myself

As per Svasti's suggestion that I should ask people to spread the word about my Yoga Adventure in Africa...I am asking you to spread the word. All of you who are regular readers of this blog and the yoga bloggers on my blogroll, please help spread the word about my yin-yang yoga weekend in Arusha, Tanzania. This yogini of a certain age is bustin' out of Middle America and going global, baby.

Dear Svasti was the first one to help advertise this on her blog and on Twitter.

Yes, I know in this global economy that yoga funds are limited but they say if you're going to dream, dream big, so I'm dreaming big. The fact is that there are always people with disposable income even in crunch times, they just have to find me.

The genesis of this trip is thus: I was asked to teach there. I met Pat at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in 2005 when we both did the month-long intensive. She said that traveling yoga teachers are few and far between in Arusha so could I come teach to the ex-pat yoga community. We kept in touch but the timing was never right for me. Now it is and all things happen for a reason. Here is what I'm offering:


Friday afternoon: Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation

Saturday morning: Yin + Yang practice + meditation (2.5 hours)

Saturday afternoon: Yin practice + meditation (2 hours)

Saturday evening dharma talk:

Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness as they apply to your yoga practice

Sunday: same schedule as Saturday


We will explore both practices of passive (yin) and active (yang) yoga. Yin yoga consists of long-held poses (3-5 minutes) focusing on the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and spine. We will passively stretch the tendons and ligaments in order to unblock and distribute chi (prana) throughout the meridians (nadis), clearing blockages, and helping to balance our organ and meridian systems for our general health. This powerful practice opens your body and enlivens your mind for meditation. A slow flow vinyasa class follows the yin practice visiting the poses that you already love. You will relish the extra space cultivated in the yin poses as you discover a new sense of freedom and grace in yang movement. Recommended for students of all levels with a “beginner’s mind”, and is especially recommended for athletes and all “stiff” yogis! An open mind, rather than an open body, will deepen the experience of this profound and powerful practice.

This is truly a yoga experience of a lifetime because after the yoga weekend there will be two safari options available for you. If a safari is not your thing, book five days at the Blue Oyster Hotel on Zanzibar (and who does not want to say that they chilled out on Zanzibar?) BEFORE the yoga weekend and you'll get a 10% discount off 2010 prices (proof of retreat participation must be shown at check-in.) Complete details and safari prices are available here.

Most importantly, this trip involves seva. $108 of your yoga payment will be donated to the Seva Foundation to help support their eye clinic in Moshi, Tanzania. If you come on this yoga adventure you will literally HELP PEOPLE TO SEE.

It's always been extremely difficult for me to market myself (I need an agent!) When I did my first website it took me 6 months to just write about me. The bottom line is that yoga in the west is big business and I need to get my name out there. Look at any of your favorite big-time yogis and they are not shy about marketing themselves and putting what they offer out there. They also have people who are more than willing to help spread their words.

It's my time after all these years. According to Wikipedia, Arusha is also the Hindi word for the rising sun. There are no coincidences.

So if you want to help a yoga gal out, spread the word. I've already spent $512 on a half-page ad in a local yoga magazine, I need to make back some dough!


08 September 2009


I had a dream that not one person signed up for my Yoga Adventure in Africa, not one person from either here or in Tanzania. not. one.

I also dreamt that my nose stud fell out while I was sleeping. In the dream I went to look for it and when I picked it up it wasn't my diamond, but a diamond-shaped, faceted piece of large, cloudy plastic. In the dream I touched my nostril and where the stud had been was a hard red bump. The dream seemed so real that when I woke up this morning I touched my left nostril to see if my piercing was still there.

Unlike other people, I rarely remember my dreams, and the ones I do remember are always disturbing ones.

Maybe it signifies that all my diamond dreams will turn to shit and I am nothing but a cheap fake. The feelings that I will die in India are becoming stronger.

06 September 2009

I've got a secret -- and it's not deodorant

Amazingly I received the link to this video from a friend in India who saw it in the Washington Post -- "The Dirty Little Secrets of Yoga Teachers." Or, the light in me honors the stink in you.

I don't know which is worse: the smelly butts or the creepy dude yoga teacher. "Savasana massages"? I don't want anyone touching me in savasana! Let me guess...he only massages the young and the skinny.

03 September 2009

age before beauty

(a crazy old yogini)

I've written before about how according to Yoga Journal the only good yogi is the young, white, skinny woman sans cellulite and wrinkles. Two years ago when I was 53 I wrote this post about American yoga and ageism. So I was glad to see the latest issue of YJ devote a few pages to American yoga's spiritual elders: Patricia Walden, 62; Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, 67; Sharon Gannon, 58; David Life, 59; Angela Farmer, 71; and her partner, Victor van Kooten, 69.

I like the phrase "spiritual elder." I attended a Buddhism workshop at the Omega Institute over July 4th weekend that was led by Lama Surya Das. Lama Surya referred to an old woman as a "spiritual elder." She said she's a former Quaker and she asked many questions and challenged Lama Surya on some things he said. Every time she did, he'd smile and they would spar a little. Toward the end of the workshop he referred to her as a spiritual elder, that unlike the East, in this culture we lack spiritual elders, that we look at certain pop celebrities as our new "spiritual elders", that is until the next big book comes out then there's a new spiritual elder.

Like the older yogis in the latest YJ, my yoga practice has also changed the older I've become. I wrote this post asking people to get real about their practice if they're in their 40s, or 50s, or 60s. No offense to the young teachers out there -- we all start out green and we can and do learn from everyone no matter the age (I have a 17 year old student who has been with me for three years and she's a joy)...but I'm just not drawn to a younger teacher. Go ahead and call it reverse-ageism if you want to (I'm too old to care.) I am certainly not saying a young teacher does not know anything or that I know more or that seasoned people like me know everything. I'm saying that there is much to be said about life experience. It's not all about what you read in the yoga books. I did not become a yoga teacher until I was 48 and frankly I am very grateful for that because for me the difference between 28 and 48 is not just 20 years but light years. You'll see. Maybe it's time that younger teachers start listening to us crones in our 50s and 60s. It's good to be a crone.

Not only my own practice, but my teaching has changed. I used to feel that I had to keep people entertained and like Angela Farmer, I also feel the atmosphere of a class. I want people to intuit their own practice and get out of their heads and into their bodies, I don't want students to mimic what I do. The longer I teach, the less I demonstrate, the more I walk around the room, even with beginners. I hate routine, one foot has to be this way, the other that way, the arms have to be here or there. How boring. How rigid. How dull. That is yoga prison to me. I choose to be a rasa devi and move in and with passion.

Fancy arm balances and pretzel poses no longer impress me. Show me how you live your life and what you can give up for 10 days at a retreat without complaint -- that will show me what you've learned from yoga. Show me your service and gratitude.

I live with chronic pain nowadays and like Buddha said, there is no escaping old age, sickness, and death. Yoga and my spirituality has made me comfortable with it all, even the thought of death. During meditations I've had visions of myself of what seems like 20 years from now -- I now know where that place is, where I will be. Just burn this crazy old yogini's body and throw my ashes in Ma Ganga. I will have been grateful for it all.