Saturday, October 3, 2015


Say yes, say yes, say yes. ~ Say Yes, Langhorne Slim

I was having an ordinary day as part of an ordinary weekend as part of an ordinary week.

For me, it’s the ordinary that’s extraordinary. I find it calming. With a good bit of anxiety behind me, the ordinary provides precious equanimity. That’s why I adore my regular schedule, because it’s so easy to flow when I know where to go.  

I have one yoga instructor who requests at the end of each practice that we be grateful for what most might say is ordinary. After a rigorous practice, she asks us to put our hands in prayer and be thankful for the ability to move on the mat and even for the clarity of our minds.

So several times a week, I put my hands on my heart and recognize the extraordinary in the ordinary.

It just so happened that on this ordinary day I received a group text from a fellow yogi. She wanted to know if we’d like to go down to the river early the next morning for Stand-Up Paddle Boarding (SUP).

For the others on the text, SUP was not extraordinary. For them it was an ordinary way to start any day.  

I hesitated. My weekend was pretty much mapped out with practice plans and dinner plans and more. Plus, I’d never done anything like this before! But, oh, how I’d always wanted to try, and time was almost up. Summer’s end was nigh.

I consider these friends my yogi sisters. They know me from the mat. They think I’m brave! You’ll be fine, Anne!

Okay, let’s do this, I wrote back. I’m in!

That night, I arrived home from a late dinner and laid out everything for the next day. An outfit for the paddle board. My mat and towel for a practice to follow. Another outfit, in case I went overboard, and another towel for that, too. I added to the pile some cash, a credit card and my license, and then I made a mental note to look for the sports bra that had gone missing.

When I finally went to sleep, it was only for a few hours. I awoke in the middle of the night to a tumultuous current of maybe’s. Maybe I was a little nervous? Maybe I ate too late? Maybe I should cancel?

I turned on the light to turn off my mind and got up to fold some laundry, a therapeutic endeavor no matter the time. I rolled up my mat and spotted my missing sports bra! All that and some tea seemed to settle me, and I climbed back in bed and closed my eyes as the waters calmed for the rest of the night.

And when the morning came, I gave myself no time to think. I popped up and grabbed some coffee and put my many things in the car. My saying yes to this outing was so emphatic that I arrived 20 minutes early!

It was a beautiful morning and the river was calm. I put my bag over my shoulder and walked to the boathouse. Lots of people were strolling around and some were even riding bikes. Everyone seemed to share in a secret called Sunday Morning At The Water, and I sat down at a picnic table to wait for my friends. A message from the universe blasted through the outdoor speakers with the lyrics of a song, Say yes, say yes, say yes!

I looked up to see my friends arrive, one on a bike and the other on foot, their experience apparent in how lightly they traveled. I placed my bag on the ground to make room for them to sit down. And then we signed our lives away on some forms.

We stuffed my stuff in a locker, put on some life jackets and walked down to the pier. A young man served up the boards, and my friends hopped on, paddling away on their knees before standing up.

I told this young man that I’d not done this before, and he showed me how to tie the leash to my ankle. I hopped on my board, balancing on my knees, and he told me which way my paddle should face. I awaited more instructions, but apparently that was all he had to give. So I paddled out to meet the others who had made their way under a bridge.

That spot is your center of gravity, Anne, said one friend. She pointed to the center of my board, and I stood up!

Keep your arms straight when you paddle, said the other. And now use more of your core.

I was thrilled to be upright and still dry, and I happily paddled in circles under the bridge.

There’s an island up there, one said. We could go that way!

Wait! We were going somewhere? I looked up the river and saw three rocky islands, The Three Sisters.

There is an extraordinary tale of three Native American sisters who crossed the river late one night, leaving their tribe on one side for another on the other. But they never made it over. Halfway there, they drowned, and legend has it that their spirits emerged from the water as three barren, rocky islands.

That’s where my friends wanted to go! It’s the deepest part of the river, and most locals know about the tumultuous currents hidden below the deceptively peaceful surface of the water.

But none of that was on my mind this morning.

We paddled up the river, our oars slicing the smooth surface of the water on either side of our boards, first on the left and then on the right. We flowed along with ease, chatting amiably and gliding quietly. Sometimes, one of us moved forward; other times, another fell back. We traveled with a comfortable camaraderie formed from so much shared time on our yoga mats.

I felt buoyant on my board, and I recognized this feeling. It was the same as the one I have when I’m lifted in my practice.

When I practice, my spirit emerges like those of the sisters from the water. On my mat, I am adventurous and daring and ready and able. And that’s the person who formed these friendships. That’s the person who was paddling this morning as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

I was starting this day as part of three sisters connected by something born at yoga. It was that collective energy created by the practice that lifts us up and ties us together and accompanies us wherever we go.

It’s what enables us to float, and so of course we brought it with us to the water. We carried it here without any effort at all. And it helped us flow safely up the river and back, the same as it does for us on our mats.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bare Feet

I’m trying to remember why I was afraid to be myself and let the covers fall away. ~ Naked, Avril Lavigne

I climb three flights of stairs to get to my yoga class.

And when I reach the top I am greeted by dozens of shoes. It’s warm outside and the landing is a maze of flip flops and sandals.

I stop and stare at the shoes. For some reason I am so happy to see them, as if I’ve been greeted by the people they fit! I don’t know why I feel this way. They belong to those in the class before mine, and I don’t even know whose they are!

But here are their shoes, their spirits still in them, standing to greet me.

I step into the studio and find the owner behind the front desk.

It makes me feel so good to see all those shoes, I say to him as I check in.

He’s a friendly guy, so I can’t tell by his usual kindly welcome whether he thinks my observation is silly. He’d lost his voice in the past few days, and we talk about that as I sign in and take off my own shoes.

When I first started yoga, I was struck by how everyone walked around in bare feet. To me, it seemed so intimate, because I’m never anywhere with my feet bare. Inside the studio with no shoes, I felt undressed.

I guess it’d be true to say that I really felt quite undressed when I first started practicing. I’d never spent much time in the sun, and it had been forever since I’d been to the pool or the beach. I didn’t even own a bathing suit! I’m fair-skinned and freckly, and I sport what my children affectionately call my freckle patch. It’s high up on my right side, under my arm. It’s where one day all my freckles decided to meet and never part.

In fact, early on when I told my children about my yoga practice and my newfound yoga friends, they responded by teasing me. Really, Mom? They like you? Have they seen your freckle patch?

I started practicing in the fall, and it wasn’t until the spring when it was warmer that I bought some shorter cropped pants. I was used to being in my bare feet by then, but I felt bared again with even just my calves on display. And it was a good two years before I practiced in a cropped top. I started going to hot yoga and found that I couldn’t tolerate the heat and the sweat while wearing anything over my stomach.

So the more I’ve practiced, the barer I’ve become. And I’ve bared myself in more ways than one.

Practicing yoga has been such a huge turning point for me. I look back over the years, and there’s a new divide. There’s the Before Yoga and there’s the After Yoga. The covered and the uncovered.

In the After Yoga I started to write. I met an editor who asked me to blog on yoga, and I put to use my journalism degree earned in the Before Yoga. I practiced and posted and practiced and posted. I wrote about Warrior I’s and Crows, about Headstands and Handstands. And little by little I uncovered myself. Parts of me were sprinkled throughout my essays like the freckles on my skin.

And now my writings are a blend of my practice and me. Each essay is one big freckle patch that can no longer stay hidden.

I am barer in my writing than I am on the mat. I’ve let parts of me show for the first time, and not just to others but to myself, too. There’s been someone in me whom I’ve been waiting to meet, and I think she is finally here.

She is not afraid. She lets herself be known. She is barefoot in a cropped top and shares about herself. And it’s okay because she is only who she is, and that’s all she needs to be.  

Yesterday at work I posted on the office calendar that I had to leave by five o’clock that evening. I wanted to make it to the six o’clock class at the hot yoga studio downtown, and I knew I’d need the drive time.

Once I arrived I took off my shoes. I changed out of my work clothes and into my cropped top and short pants, and then I set up my mat. Gratefully, I flowed for an hour and a half, showering in the heat and humidity of the practice room.

We worked a lot on the positions of our feet with instructions to root down to rise up. In every pose we were told to press into our feet in order to ground ourselves while reaching up or bending back or folding forward. There was an assistant in the room making adjustments, and she put her bare foot on mine for an even stronger stance.

At the end I sat there with the others, soaked and rooted, and listened to the instructor’s send-off.
She talked about our feet and pointed to hers.

You have to ground down in your feet to get out of your head, she said. If you are too much in your head, you don’t know where you stand.

And right away I thought back to those shoes on the landing from the other day, and I realized why they had made me so happy. All those people who belonged to them were doing the same as me.

We were all just looking for a place to stand. We were there to find our feet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Anne flies with instructor Jonathan Ewing (pants by
Fly by night, away from here. Change my life again. ~ Fly By Night, Rush

When I was little, my father used to fly me around on his feet.

He’d lay on his back and put his feet on my stomach and lift me into the air like Superman.

Other times, he’d lay on the floor and put up his knees. I’d climb on top and perch there, placing my feet in his hands, driving an imaginary car while I pressed into his palms with my right foot on the gas and my left one on the brakes.

Of course when my children were little I’d do this with them, too, only we’d drive on top of the bed to accommodate the wild turns. In addition to their imaginary stops for donuts, they’d steer recklessly from atop my knees, flying overboard in all directions for wild and crazy landings softened by the mattress.

And now, after all these years, I am flying again! There is something called Acro yoga, and it’s just the flying game all over again for grownups.

The first time I flew was a little over a year ago. It was a Thursday evening, and I arrived early to yoga. There was a young man in the class who was big on Acro yoga, and he was early, too.

He walked into the practice room and without saying anything pointed at me. Your turn!

And he lay on his back and put his feet on my stomach and lifted me into the air like Superman.

It was scarier than I had imagined! I had seen others do this before the start of class, and I thought it’d be a breeze. But I felt so high up! The floor was a long way down!

He guided me from my stomach to a seat atop his feet. I wrapped my legs around each of his, one at a time, and then I let go of his hands.  And I felt as if I could touch the ceiling if I reached up high, but I sat carefully in the air and instead put my hands in prayer. And he rested his hands by his sides and let me stay up there.  

I don’t remember how I returned to my stomach, back to the tops of his feet and parallel to the ground again, but I do remember him telling me to tilt forward, so that my legs lifted to the ceiling and my torso dropped down.

And then he told me to keep diving, and I had to fully trust as I made my way through the air, upside down to vertical. Maybe he placed his hands on my shoulders to finally brace me once I inverted. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is that as I dove forward, balanced only on his feet, I felt a pull in my heart which surprised me.

I’d never felt that before! Flying on my father’s feet came close, but I was too young then to know how special it was to invest any trust. Maybe the pull was just my heart remembering, and that’s why I was able to dip it down so freely. Maybe that’s how my feet lifted up so easily. 

Inverted, I had no choice but to keep fully trusting, and I wound up hovering there, eye to eye with this young man. And then, without missing a beat, I jokingly put my hands on either side of his face.

I love you! I exclaimed, laughing, upside down. And after this I’m going to tell you all my secrets!

Ten minutes of flying, and I was making jokes about love and trust and disclosures! And this surprised me, too, because these three things aren’t really such laughing matters. Truly, my efforts to balance them have been a little haphazard at best.

And that’s created for me a fear of flying, so to speak. It can be a long way down if I dive too fast.
It’s more than a year later, and now this same young man is an instructor. And it was another Thursday night at yoga, only this time he was our substitute instructor.

We did our Sun A’s and Sun B’s and moved into early Crows and other balances. Midway through, we were instructed in Supta Virasana, or reclining Hero pose. I sat with my legs bent at the knees, my calves folded against the outsides of my quads. My feet reached around and rested on their shoelace sides, and I lay back on the floor.

Are you okay like this? he asked. I nodded to indicate that all was well, and so he pushed his hands into my quads and lifted himself into Crow pose, taking flight above me.

And, as I did more than a year ago, I jokingly put my hands on either side of his face but this time pinched his cheeks so that he was the one who laughed.

After class I requested another flight. I figured I might be braver by now, that it might not feel so high, that the floor might not seem such a long way down.

So he lay on his back and put his feet on my stomach and lifted me into the air like Superman.
And again I moved into a seated position on his feet, and this time around it wasn’t so scary up there. In fact, I lifted my arms from my perch and waved at my friends below.

And then I moved into an Acro Shoulder Stand, inverting while holding his ankles before he caught my shoulders. I almost went overboard, but a fellow yogi stepped up to spot me. And from there I splayed my legs and bent them at the knees, so that I hung from his feet, upside down by my hips.

And then he told me to tuck into a little ball and reach through his legs to grab my own feet. And before I knew it I was spinning above his head as if I were a basketball atop a player’s hands.

Finally, I did my best to lift into a star, inverting into the sky. And I never realized that another yogi had stepped up to spot me, so that when I became a falling star I landed safely on my feet while still shining.

I’m not so sure when the next time will come for me to fly, but I do hope it’s soon. I need to balance and dive and soar, in order to practice all that love and trust and more.

Besides, now that I like it in the air, I’m not so scared to be up there. And that makes me so much lighter, which can only mean that I’ll fly higher. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Back

But deep down inside we're coverin' up the pain. It's an old thing. It’s a soul thing. But it's a real thing. ~ Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further, Elvis Costello

My back is better. The hurt is gone.

When I first started yoga, I feared for my back. I had sprained it years earlier, and sometimes it still gave me trouble.

It wasn’t long before I realized that with every pose, there really wasn’t much that didn’t involve my back. So I was cautious, and it took a lot of encouragement and a lot of baby steps before I got brave enough to progress. I was grateful for the pace and the patience of a class that allowed for this.

Soon my core got stronger which strengthened my back. Not long after, there was a photographer in the studio, and I was given a photograph of myself in a handstand with my back reflected in the mirror.

I showed this photo to my father to let him in on what I’d been spending all my time doing, and he took one look and exclaimed, You’ve got muscles in your back!

I hadn’t noticed! But once I looked closer, I saw them, too, and I felt suddenly stronger, as if I’d accomplished something big!

Today, my back is my barometer. For me, having a strong and healthy back (A) equates to having a strong and healthy spirit (B). And even though I invented this equation, I think A = B is what’s true for me.  

It’s just that sometimes I get a little thrown off when my back starts to hurt. When this happens I slide back to where I was before I progressed, before I could twist and bend and all the rest. And when this old hurt shows up, others tend to join in. The old stories come back, and I suddenly can’t remember accomplishing anything big at all.

This can happen after the most wonderful times and after my best practices. Suddenly, there’s pain beneath my sacrum in a place where it’s hard for anyone to reach. It hurts to sit at work, in the house and even on my mat.

My yoga practice has its own set of A’s and B’s, but they don’t equate to each other. The B’s are always greater than the A’s, and we always add them together.

We start the practice with several Sun A’s, reaching up and folding over and moving through our vinyasas before landing in our Downward Facing Dogs. Then we move to the Sun B’s, doing the same but adding in Chair poses and Warrior I’s.

And then we rest in Down Dog for five breaths, and this is when one instructor always asks, See how the prana, or energy, has shifted after the Sun B’s? And she’s right. I can feel how fast my heart is beating and how awake I am from head to toe.

Prana is the Sanskrit word for Life Force. When we twist and bend and all the rest, our Life Force gets activated, igniting our bodies and our spirits. Prana has an equation of its own. It equals A + B. When added together, both my back and my spirit are strengthened.

So whenever I start to hurt I know my prana is in the negative. And then it really doesn’t matter the order of my equation, whether my back hurts first and so the old stories creep in, or whether the old stories appear and so my back hurts.

I remember the first few months of my practice when I was starting to feel strong. I surprised myself in wanting to ask for a class so hard that I could feel the hurt. I wanted to flow to the point where it hurt all over.

I have no idea why I was looking to hurt when I was feeling so good, and of course I couldn’t bring myself to ever ask. How would I explain when I didn’t even know the answer myself?

But it’s never necessary to ask for hurt outright. It has a way of appearing on its own, no matter what’s come before. And I do my best to ignore it, but there’s no denying its arrival. Soon it hurts to sit at work or at home or on my mat.

And it’s hard to find the salve when this happens, and I wonder how I could ever have almost asked for it. It’s like the hurt is in my skin, and I’m the one who let it in. My back hurts and I ache with all the old stories, and I know that I must find my way back to A and B, so I can add them together and get things right again.

In this effort, I continue to practice. And I book an appointment with the sports medicine doctor who’s somehow privy to the prana equation without explanation. Somehow he knows the hurt in my back is the same as the one in my spirit. So he works on me and talks to me. And I rest at home when I usually don’t.  

And slowly things start to add up again. I feel strong once more, and I can sit again at work and at home and on my mat. And I am finally able to put those old stories back to bed.

The hurt is gone and it’s as if it never were. And it suddenly doesn’t matter anymore that once I almost asked for it, or that I ever even felt any at all.

All that matters now is that A and B are back together again. And so am I.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion years old carbon. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden. ~ Woodstock, Crosby, Stills & Nash

I’ve been looking at the sky since I was a little girl.

I look up when I leave the house in the morning, and I look up when I arrive home in the evening. All throughout the day, all I have to do is look out the window. Our offices occupy the top floor of a building, so I get to work right in the sky!

Really, if it were possible to keep my eyes open, I’d watch the stars all night.

There is some kind of tie between yoga and the heavens. It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but for me there seems to be a connection between the practice and what’s going on up there. This seems to be what grounds me.

If I try to put this into words, I’d say the sky is limitless, and when I move on the mat, I feel limitless, too.

It doesn’t matter that I practice indoors. I’m still keenly aware of what’s going on outdoors. I watch as the windows in the practice rooms lighten with the days’ arrivals, and I watch as they darken with the days’ departures.

And the moon is a part of this, too. I follow the moon with an app on my phone and with a moon dial on my clock. I know when it’s full or new or waxing or waning. And the yogis around me know this, too, especially those who practice Mysore, the disciplined Ashtanga practice that starts at five o’clock in the morning.

For them, moon days are days of rest. When there’s a new moon or a full moon, there’s no practice, and for one friend in particular, that always means pancakes.

I wonder why I’ve got this tie to the sky. And I wonder if it’s something that’s inherent in everyone, or whether a practice is needed to cultivate it.

Maybe, really, all that’s needed is a limitless imagination. Maybe that’s what makes us look up for something more. Maybe that’s how we try to be something more.

There’s actually a place right here on earth that’s trying to measure imagination. It’s called the Imagination Institute, and it’s part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center. There, the scientific nature of imagination is being studied in an effort to measure how people flourish, how they optimize their potential to become something more.

The institute’s scientific director, Scott Barry Kaufman, says this: You’re only limited by the amount of time you have left on this earth.

Basically, I think what he’s saying is that the sky’s the limit! If we can imagine it, we have a chance to be it.

So maybe what’s in the sky is what’s in us, too. Maybe what’s up there is what enabled Dr. Seuss to rhyme his words and Walt Disney to build his world and Shel Silverstein to plant his Giving Tree.

Maybe my pull to what’s in the sky is one and the same as the pull to what’s in me. Maybe I’m just trying to flourish.

Even the scientist and television personality Bill Nye the Science Guy thinks that we are one and the same as the heavens, that we are symbiotic with the sky, and that there’s even stardust in us. We are the stuff of exploded stars, he says. We are therefore one way the universe knows itself.

But not every day is full of sparkling stars and sunshine. I must confess that I don’t always feel so limitless, not even in my practice. And I’m left to wonder what’s happening, because after several years of yoga, I feel I’m supposed to be as expanded as the universe, and I get a little confused when I’m not.

I arrived at practice the other night under heavy skies. All day, the sun and then the moon remained hidden by rain clouds, and somehow I felt hidden, too. As usual, I was concerned for feeling this way, because I depend on my practice to keep me lifted as high as the heavens.

We flowed for a bit and, once we warmed up, the instructor shifted the format. The class turned into more of a workshop, and the architecture of several arm balances and inversions was broken down and built back up. It was a creative and interactive practice, and afterward we sat with our hands in prayer, waiting for the closing.

The room was as quiet and dark as it was outside, save for the twinkling lights that draped the windows like imaginary stars.

The instructor praised us for our efforts that evening.

It’s good to challenge ourselves as we did tonight, she said, and to not let our limited beliefs hold us back from what our bodies can do.

It was as if she were the director of our own Imagination Institute! Here, she was telling us to look up, to flourish by imagining all that we could do. After all, that’s the only way to land upside down in a handstand or to teeter on one arm in a balance.

Did she even know she was telling us how to access the vast universe that is us?

By the next day, the sun had reappeared, both outside the window and inside of me. And I turned on the computer to do some research. I wanted to read about the stars. And what I found was a quote by Carl Sagan, the astronomer of great and limitless imagination:

The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff.

And so I write this here for the days when I forget that the stars up there are the same as the ones down here. And this will ground me the same as my tie to the sky, forever endless and without limits, as far as the eye can see.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


You know the nighttime, darling (night and day) is the right time (night and day) to be (night and day) with the one you love, now (night and day) … ~ (Nighttime Is) The Right Time, Ray Charles

Lay down. Take Savasana.

The practice had been hot and strenuous, and at its end the instructor turned off the lights and with these words put us in Savasana, the final resting pose.

I should know by now not to be surprised at the end. I’m aware by now what happens as we draw to a close, how we move from abdominal work to backbends, from folds to twists and, finally, to Savasana.

But on this night, as on so many others, I’m as surprised as ever. Before I know it, it’s over, and I’m startled to hear the instructions to take rest.

But I listen and lie back. I pull the bobby pins from my hair and dismantle my ponytail. I lay out my arms and my legs. I open my hands, palms up on the mat, and I splay out my feet.

You don’t have to do anything now, he said. Nothing else is happening. Nighttime is starting.

It’s only recently that I stopped dreading the night. I would assume most people start sleeping well once they begin practicing yoga, if only from sheer exhaustion. But my practice seems to wake me up, which is great if it’s morning, but not so great if it’s evening.

All the thoughts I thought I never had have seemingly appeared, and I think it’s my practice that’s brought them forth. On the one hand, yoga has made me calmer; but, on the other, I haven’t really been able to sleep. At night when I get into bed, it’s as if I need to hear again the instructor say that nothing’s happening and there’s nothing more to do.

And so I started to take something to help me sleep, just a half of a half of what was prescribed. And that helped me get some shut-eye, even if my sleep was not so deep and was often without dreams. Even so, it helped to know there’d be some help when the nighttime arrived.

Especially helpful were my evening hot yoga practices. It would be late, and I’d watch the nighttime cover the windows as the practice closed. The heat would melt me into a puddle, flat on my mat. And I’d straggle out as the studio closed, too, picking up my bobby pins and packing up my mat while wondering how it was that everyone could change and leave so quickly.

I’d arrive home, grab something to eat and draw a bath with water as hot as the practice. I’d lay back and dunk my head in my own version of Savasana, doing my best to rest.

I’d do all this just to get to the morning, just to get past the point when nighttime was starting.

But, really, I don’t think the point of the night is only to get to the next morning. I think we’re supposed to live the night as much as we do the day, to fall asleep as easily as we awaken.

In fact, research shows that sleep is vital to our well-being. Sleep mimics the yoga practice. When we practice, the poses clear our bodies’ energy channels to wash away any toxic karma, and when we sleep, fluid flushes our brains’ microscopic channels to wash away any toxic buildup from the day.

Sleep is how we refresh. It’s when we recover, so the nighttime really shouldn’t be anything to dread.

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally started to fall asleep without any extra help, and I’m trying to figure out what’s made that happen. It’s springtime now, but I think I turned the corner last fall.

What was it that finally made it okay to take rest? Could it be that I updated our television sets, which prompted a clean-up in the house? I finally cleared out some furniture and made some space. Or maybe it was the fact that I wound the clocks again? I even moved one into the kitchen where I could see it every day. I hear the tick tock as I write, and the soothing chimes tuck me in as they echo up the stairwell. Or was it my wintertime cleanse? I think I cleared out my body in much the same way as I cleared out my house.

Maybe it’s that all of these efforts balanced the space around me and then balanced me, too. Maybe that’s how I’m finally able to sleep.

Or maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the yoga. Perhaps the practice not only awakened my thoughts but also made it okay to have them.

Maybe that was okay, so I was okay, and so I could sleep again.

We had a substitute the other night at yoga. He teaches a style called Jivamukti and asked us to chant at the opening. He played the harmonium and sang out some words, but we stumbled and mumbled along.

Really? He stopped playing and looked around, disappointed with our meek response. And then he explained the purpose of chanting.

We chant to remember who we are, he said. He further explained that we chant to remember who we were before we learned to define who we’d otherwise be.

Throughout the practice, he assisted us in our poses, while speaking of this remembering.

The class was twisted into Reverse Side Angle, and he helped a yogi twist some more. And he spoke more about our thoughts, and how when we meditate we’re supposed to just watch those thoughts go by.

I don’t really meditate, for the very reason of my busy thoughts, but this much I knew.

Well, who is it that does the watching? he asked.

This I didn’t know! He says it’s our soul. He says we’re trying to reveal our soul when we practice.

That’s why we do yoga, he said. We do the poses to release the karma so we can remember who we are.

It was a lot to think about.

After, I decided to do some reading about this remembering. I visited the Jivamukti website and, interestingly enough, the first paragraph referenced our sleep.

I read that when we sleep deeply, we can access our original natures, what the instructor was calling our souls.

We can remember who we are in our sleep! So I have to remember to sleep, because I have to sleep to remember!

And now I think that’s the real reason why I’m sleeping again. It’s not so much the furniture or the clocks or the cleanse, although I think all of that did help.

Instead, I think it’s just me trying. I’m trying to remember who I am, and in my search, I sleep. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Kiss me on my eyelids, make bad things go away. Kiss me on my forehead, make everything okay. ~ Kissalude, Basement Jaxx

When I was little, I didn’t really have a forehead.

I had a keppe instead.

Keppe is the Yiddish word for forehead. As a child, I was always kissed on the keppe, and I was tucked in at night with instructions to put my keppe in the pillow. If I was ever hurt, a kiss on the keppe would always make things better.

Of course, my children grew up with kisses on their keppes, too, and I’d tuck them in at night with a game, a kind of Goodnight Moon for the senses.

I’d call out and point to the parts of their faces, starting with their noses, followed by a light tap on each. I’d say eye and other eye, and they’d turn their faces toward mine and close their lids for another tap; then, one cheek and next the other, then their ears, their mouths and chins.

And finally, the keppe, and they’d let me put my hand on their brows and rock them goodnight on their pillows.

It was a game of acknowledgement, and they never tired of it. In a few moments with just these parts, we named and recognized all that was them.

To this day, any reference to the keppe conjures notions of nurturing, and I was more than surprised to hear about it at yoga.

Early on, I was in class, building some courage for Crow. Lots of us were new, and we were doing our best to balance on our hands with our knees on the backs of our arms.

And as in my children’s game, the instructor called out parts of us to recognize, but for this it was our knees, our elbows, our bellies and more. We were encouraged to find a teeter point, and I tucked in my knees and lifted my feet ever so slightly off the ground before tipping back to safety in my Squat.
From there, I remember looking around and fearing a face plant for us all. But I wanted to stay in the game, and so I continued the effort with the others, and that’s when I heard what I’ll never forget.

Be careful of your keppes!

The instructor had called out our keppes! I couldn’t believe it. There on the mat, I was little again, and the words came at me in a wave of kindness that I doubt he even knew he expressed.

I don’t know why I was so touched. No one else seemed to be.

In yoga, there’s talk about energy centers in our bodies. These energy centers are called chakras, and they exist in the subtle body, the non-physical body. The chakras are the meeting places of the channels through which our bodies’ energy moves. We can’t point them out, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The Sixth Chakra is the Third Eye, and it’s located at the center of our foreheads, right above the eyebrows. It’s the point of intuition; the place of perception. It’s the part of us that senses beyond our five senses. It’s what we use to make sense of what we can’t name.

It’s the keppe!

To see through the Third Eye is to see the truth, whatever that is. This is the kind of sight we see when we turn our faces and close each lid for the clearest visions we’ve ever known.

And now the goodnight game from long ago makes so much more sense. A final goodnight has to be granted to even the keppe, so this eye can close for the truest rest to be attained.

It seems I’ve grown cautious of my keppe without even realizing it. It doesn’t escape me that my forehead is never really on display. In fact, the most important part of my visit to the hairdresser is our continuing discussion about my bangs, as if we’re forever designing a curtain over my Third Eye.

But yoga is the one place where I pin back my bangs, where I see myself and let myself be seen.

It’s no wonder why it’s a bit of a big deal for me when an instructor places a hand on my forehead during Savasana, or final resting pose. These adjustments are not out of the ordinary, but to me, they are anything but.

A hand on my forehead is for me as it was for my children. It’s as if I am being wholly named and recognized without anyone necessarily knowing me.

And, most important, I am putting myself in a position for this to happen. For that brief moment at the end of practice, I allow myself to feel cared for in a way I usually don’t, and I think that’s a good thing for me to practice, too.   

The other day, I was at the dentist, a place I used to dread. But, these days, I adore my dentist and everyone in his office, and nothing ever really hurts. The visits are always more than okay.

This time, though, I needed Novocain, and there was going to be some drilling. I spent the day prior calling out the tasks that I knew would help me relax, so that I could arrive at my teeter point without any fear of a face plant.

I was proud to make it through the appointment. After, I lay in the chair feeling like I do in Savasana, rested and with a sense of accomplishment.

Then, right before I turned to get up, I felt someone lean over my head and plant a kiss atop my bangs.

You did a really good job, Anne.

It was the dentist, sending me off with a kiss on the keppe.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Again

This is for the ones who stand, for the ones who try again, for the ones who need a hand, for the ones who think they can.~ Comes and Goes (In Waves), Greg Laswell

My handstands had left the building.

My yoga schedule was off, and so was my usual inclination to go upside down.

My handstands were missing, and I didn’t know how to find them. And I wondered if rearranging the furniture hadn’t actually been the best idea. After all, the armoire against which I’d practice my handstands had left the building, too. Maybe that was the reason?

It was a Monday night, and I arrived at practice for the first time in a week. I set up my mat and told the instructor what had happened, that my handstands had disappeared. It was not the first time they’d gone missing, and it made me feel back at Square One.

When you ask who’s new tonight, I said, I may not raise my hand, but I’m the one who’s new again.

I’m not sure why I had to confess, but I wanted someone to know!

The instructor thought for a moment, and then exclaimed that it was good to be new again, that I’d have the chance to learn from scratch.

Months earlier, a friend and I had stayed after class to work on our handstands. At that time, I had them down, and this same instructor came over to see what was up. He stood on his hands while telling us that handstands need to be fed every day. This made sense to me as I had been serving mine breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I tried a few of my own before standing up to hear what I hoped would be some good inversion tips.

But the instructor skipped over any such tips. This young man who could probably cross the room on his hands instead sat on the windowsill and at once began to talk about the point of the postures, especially the handstands.

He spoke of compassion and loving others and loving ourselves in order to love others. And before I knew it, he was talking about the need to heal over and over in an effort to find this compassion and this love for ourselves and for others.

Suddenly, my day turned as upside down as I had set out to be, and I hoped it didn’t show how much work it was for me to remain upright. Having felt so good from both my practices that day, I was surprised at how unsteady this topic made me.

I listened to him and forgot about the handstands. Instead, I asked how he came to know all this and how one is supposed to go about this healing.

I learn from my teachers, he said, and I surround myself with people who are good to me.

I didn’t know that healing and handstands were one and the same, that both were practices that needed to be fed every day.

It was several months past this discussion when I found myself in the week of my missing handstands. It was the Tuesday after the Monday I was new again, and I was putting my overclothes in a cubby at yet another practice as another instructor stood nearby.

While I stuffed away my shoes and my shirt, I declared that my handstands had left.

He obviously didn’t know from such catastrophic thinking, but his reassurances didn’t stop me from mine. And I didn’t mention how I’d connected the dots to conclude that my practice had left, as well. I struggled through the very hot practice that followed and was secretly relieved when there were no opportunities to invert. I hadn’t even been ready to try.

We sealed our practice with three Oms and, before I left the room, I stepped aside to look for my handstands. I lifted first one leg and then the other and felt my hips float into the air. I pressed into my hands and pulled in my core, and, slowly, the ceiling became the floor.

Do you see they’re still here? It was the instructor. The room had emptied as I lingered upside down before standing up to hear what I hoped might be some good inversion tips.

But this instructor also skipped over any such tips and, before I knew it, I was back in that same conversation, the one that had nothing to do with handstands.

I thought they were gone, I said, as if my handstands had feet that could walk away.

Don’t even think that sh*t!

That was all it took for him to explain that it was me who had left and not my handstands. And I quickly understood that my search for handstands was indeed the same as a search for healing.
And so, in this apparent effort to heal, I made a bold reply.

As someone who gets teased for her clean language, I repeated his words, more to myself than to anyone else. And then he said it again to make it sink in, and I said it right back, so it would. I wanted to seal this message as I did my practice, so it could be with me for a while.

And then I got dizzy from what I think was the heat, and I had to sit down to rest. And from there I explained the way I’d connected the dots, because I had to further confess. And he told me some more, without mincing words, but he spoke from compassion and love.

And that night I left with my hope intact, and the next day my practice was back!

My handstands returned from all that I learned, and I knew some healing had happened.

Friday, January 9, 2015


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. ~Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

I met a man named Adeoye.

I’d met him before. He works in a store I frequent when I arrive at yoga too early and need a place to go before class.

I didn’t know his name then. He is a beautiful man, with a beautiful voice and smile to match, who serves as the greeter for the store.

And he does a good job greeting. I even remember what he said the first time he greeted me. He paid me a compliment. He told me I looked fierce.

I smiled back and thanked him. It was early on a weekend morning, and I was feeling far from fierce. I was dressed in a hodgepodge outfit with my hair half done. I had blown out my bangs but left the rest to dry in every direction. Wearing barely any makeup, I had on my yoga gear and what I call my supersonic socks, the rugby socks my son had bought while backpacking abroad. Emblazoned with the words, All Blacks, the socks pay tribute to the New Zealand men’s rugby team, the nickname earned more than 100 years ago for wearing all black while on tour.

I didn’t think I’d ever before been called fierce. I figured it must be the socks, or maybe it was just one of the many words the greeter conjured as he spent his day saying hello. But the compliment worked. I was happy to be called fierce!

I think I could have been fiercer before. I think it would have served me well. I was always fierce in my convictions but not always in my actions. Somehow, I let happen things I thought would never, and it’s hard to excuse myself for not having taken better care.

Maybe, now, that’s why I’m so thrilled to be called some names I’ve never before been called. Names create beliefs, and they can stick like the All Blacks for 100 years to come.

When I started yoga, I was surrounded by lots of strong people. I was determined to get strong, too, and with regular practice, I started to get more powerful. I didn’t know it then, but what I wanted to be was fierce, and that apparently starts with a little insanity.

The class was at play in inversions, and I had my mat against the wall with the others. I was in a Scorpion handstand, my feet doing their best to meet the top of my head while upside down. And from across the room, I heard the instructor pointing out those who practiced regularly in an effort to get another yogi to build her practice, too.

That’s Anne, he said, pointing at me. She’s insane!

Hearing this, I could feel my feet get that much closer to my head. I was proud to be insane!

It wouldn’t be the last time I’d be introduced as such, but it was the first time, and from then on, I knew that things could be different, that I could be different. With this practice, I believed something for me could change, and I could be stronger than I ever was.

The other day, Adeoye was dressed as Santa Claus. Bare-chested, he wore only pants and a red cape with white fur. I walked into the store, and he wrapped his arms around me for a great, big greeting.
What are we going to do about all this after Christmas? I asked, pointing out his outfit from head to toe. I wanted to know who he’d be after the holidays.

And that’s when he told me his name.

Adeoye, he answered. And when I repeated it so I could get it right and remember it, he sang it to me as a song, and his smile was so big that I wondered if he had invented his own name. And then the song stuck, and I found myself singing it in the days that followed.

I remember when my son earned himself another name. When he was young, he was small for his age in the sports he played. But he always knew that he was fierce; his fighting spirit was more than big enough. And one day his coach stepped aside to exclaim to me about my son’s tenacity.

Samit is a beast! he said.

And to this day, the name has stuck. He is a beast, and I tell him so whenever he accomplishes anything.
Adeoye did not make up his name. With pride, he told me its meaning. Crown of God, he said. And in the way that he said this, and in the way that he didn’t say more, I saw that this man in the Santa outfit was indeed Divine. He believed it, and so he was.

Shortly after I met Adeoye, I forgot the meaning of his name. I researched it and somehow landed on a new meaning, A vision of mercy. I checked in with him to confirm, and was surprised to hear that I had it wrong. But, he made it okay, saying that he loved my invention. He told me that he would hold on to it as his spiritual name and then he thanked me for christening him.

The other day, I was at yoga, and I can’t even remember on what we were working. I recall the music playing, the class flowing, and the instructor suddenly calling me out. I think it was the jump backs. I’ve been trying to jump back without hitting the ground, pushing myself up and swinging my legs under and through to land in Chaturanga, or low push-up.

With the instructor’s encouragement, I hoisted myself up and back with the barest of pit stops. And in this effort, I earned myself another name. Out loud and from across the room, the instructor called me a beast, and that was better than any jump back I could have done.

I felt fierce like my son!

And I want to believe it, so I will be. I want to walk around in my supersonic socks as the most insane beast for 100 years to come.

And so these days, I’m taking better care, so I can serve myself well.

And now it makes sense why, ever since Adeoye told me his name, it’s been on repeat in my head. It’s because in order to be fierce, I have to know that I am Divine, too. And there needs to be a vision of mercy for all the times that came before, when I forgot.