I’m a Coach. Don’t Roll Your Eyes.

When I began my training with International Coach Academy (ICA) at the beginning of the pandemic (and isn’t it odd how we now tell time according to COVID?) we were asked to find peer coaches with whom we would practice our developing skills. One of my peer coaches – who I’ll name Jane – was close to graduating from the sixteen-month program. I found Jane’s coaching prowess intimidating. She possessed limitless self-belief and her blinding confidence glowed like a pulsating aura. What Jane lacked was empathy. She didn’t notice that my habit of comedic self-deprecation is the tactic I use to disguise my fear of failure. It was both her loss and mine.

Before my peer coaching relationship with Jane began, I believed coaching was easy. I had no doubt that I was going to sail through ICA’s intensive program without breaking a sweat. But the opposite was proving true. Coaching is a skill that takes practice and dedication to master and I was struggling. Jane was blind to my struggle. When she told me that 80% of the individuals who graduate from a coaching program never become professional coaches, she didn’t see the movie reel of my life as a coach burst into flames. She couldn’t know that the committee in my head, my little saboteurs that run around with needles to poke holes in my hopes and dreams, never once thought to tell me I could be in the 20% who succeed. And so, when I graduated from ICA I didn’t shout my achievement from the rooftops. It was more of a whisper. And these days, despite my excellent training, I use my coaching skills on the sly. No one even notices. What a shame.

Newly minted coaches are encouraged to practice with peer coaches. I have two that I see on a regular basis. We use our time together to refine our skills and to share experiences. Most recently we’ve been trying to determine why, as bright and well trained individuals, we find it so difficult to ‘sell’ our services.

Part of our struggle is found in the knowledge that, like yoga, life coaching is an unregulated industry. And although coaches have a strong governing body – the International Coaching Federation – for there is no incentive to jump over the many rigorous hoops required to earn accreditation through the ICF when the truth is that anyone who attends a weekend long ‘coach training’ workshop can then hang out a shingle. For that reason, if you are interested in finding a coach, it’s important to review their qualifications in the same way that you might want to know how long your yoga instructor has been practicing and where she did her teacher training.

Another industry problem is the myth that working with a life coach is a luxury only the self-indulgent can afford. While it’s true that some coaches bill at a rate per hour that is so high as to be offensive, others offer their services on a sliding scale or are willing to negotiate payment options. 

Some parts of the health and wellness industry view the coaching industry as nothing more than an interloper riding the coattails of licensed mental health professionals. But coaching is not therapy. Coaching does not examine the past. It begins in the present moment and builds a scaffolding of accountability and action to support the client’s journey forward. It is a grounding, effective technique with which we can navigate and overcome the obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals and living by values that, for us, carry heart and meaning. Coaching shifts perspective. It helps us to become ‘unstuck’. 

As a coach, I facilitate your journey toward the clarity required to find all the possible paths that will lead you to the future you envision. I create space for you to uncover and to shift the long held limiting beliefs that prevent you from bringing your best self fully into focus.

Coaching is client led. The relationship can be thought of like this: 

Imagine you and I are on a road trip together. I’m your coach, sitting in the passenger seat. You are behind the wheel. You are choosing the destination and the road we’ll take to get there. Along the way you might discover a different road and maybe even a different destination. My job is to help you find your way around roadblocks and to navigate detours. I help you determine for yourself if the choices you are making and the journey you are creating are coming from a place of authenticity aligned with who you are and who you hope to be.

There was a time when I reacted to the words ‘life coach’ with a Pavlovian eye roll – even when becoming a coach was tickling my intuitive heart. Now I understand how coaching works. I understand the skill and the techniques involved. I’ve experienced coaching’s magic. The way it can bring lost ambitions, goals and values back into focus.

Have you lost focus? Do you feel stuck? If you have an important decision to make or a habit you would either like to break or create – let a coach climb into the passenger seat. You’ll be happy you did.

International Coaching Week is happening soon. What better time to try coaching?


The Cotswolds, Broken Cherubs and Choosing Autonomy

I remember a trip to the Cotswolds. It must be over thirty years ago. I was on a solo visit to Oxford and was scheduled to enjoy a day’s excursion to the green rolling hills with an unassuming tour company called Spires and Shires. We might have visited Chipping Camden in the morning and perhaps were on the way to Bibury. It doesn’t matter. What I remember is that we stopped to visit a tiny chapel. We were a small group, maybe ten altogether and that’s counting Ceri, our guide from Spires and Shires. Everyone’s attention was directed toward the altar but Ceri and I were standing at the back of the group and unable to see. So we turned to explore what was behind us. We found two broken cherubs resting on a thick stone windowsill. The mid-afternoon sunlight, made soft and languid by centuries of dust, filtered through the diamond shaped panes of glass and fell on the sleeping angels like a warm blanket. It was a serendipitous moment of peace and beauty impossible to forget even decades later. 

What does a trip to the Cotswolds have to do with leading a yoga class? When I’m guiding a group of students through a series of postures I’m a little like Ceri from Spires and Shires. I can see where we are and I know where we’re headed. I keep us on the intended path but what you choose to look at – how you choose to explore our yoga path – is up to you. 

To encourage your exploration I offer options. Lots and lots of options which, I’m certain, might be annoying to anyone who arrives at our Monday, Wednesday and Friday online yoga practices yearning to be told exactly what to do and how to do it.

The thing is, I stopped being that yoga teacher long ago. 

When I offer choices, I’m really offering autonomy. We move along our intended path…triangle…warrior I…extended side stretch…but how you follow that path is your choice because it’s your practice. Do you use a blocks? Do you raise your arms or keep them by your side? Do you rest your fingers on the back of a chair? Do you answer your body’s call to work at your own pace and to a depth that is appropriate for you in that moment and in that pose?

The invitational language I use, the choice making I offer, turns our practice together into a present-moment experience as our bodies move from form to form. Those of us trained in trauma-informed yoga recognize these ideas as the lens from which a trauma-informed practice flows. But shouldn’t all practices be viewed through this lens? How else can we learn to the listen for the story our body wants to tell?


Growing Freer

I’ve been thinking about balance.

At the start of the pandemic, which now feels a lifetime ago, I decided that my new found spare time offered me room to begin running again. It didn’t matter that over the previous two decades I moved no faster than a brisk walk. In college I ran to relieve the stress of studies and an unhappy marriage. After college and well into my thirties I ran because when I ran I felt strong and invincible. I wanted to feel that way again. And so I made my preparations. I researched the best shoes for my finicky feet and purchased what I could afford. I found websites and apps with titles like Running for Women, Running for Seniors and Running for Senior Women. I downloaded training schedules and created a list of routes to run and calculated the distances. It didn’t take long for me to graduate from brisk walk to shuffle to an actual jog and in those first weeks I looked forward to a healthy body, a clear mind and the lean, organized structure to my life that I craved.

And then a broken side walk came between my toe and my hopes. While my knees and my thumbs healed I considered giving up. A few months later, when I had a second hard fall, I did give up. 

Falling down was not a rare occurrence when I was a child. My mom would tease, You can trip over thin air, she’d say. When I was in sixth grade one of our teachers who was fresh out of college watched me stumble my way through a tangle of classroom chairs and then, dripping sarcasm, joked about my ‘grace’. It’s funny how we remember these things and not our moments of actual grace. To be fair, it’s true that my knees were skinned more often than not throughout my childhood. But I don’t believe it was because I was clumsy or awkward. I was too busy thinking about the next adventure to notice where I was going. My head was always a million miles ahead of my feet.

And I didn’t think too much about having skinned knees when I was a kid. I always bounced back up, brushed myself off, stuck a bandaid on my scrapes and moved on with life.

But last year the cracks in the sidewalk that sent me flying caught me by surprise. I didn’t bounce back like I did when I was a girl. Something was different. For the first time the trust I had in my body, that all would be well, was questioned. For the first time I found myself afraid of the future and the changes my body would continue to go through as I aged. 

When I stopped catastrophizing about a future that is a mystery to me and began to think clearly I realized that there was plenty I could do now to improve my strength and my balance. How I take care of my body now will inform how my body thrives in the future. I can eat more vegetables. Especially cruciferous ones. I can take Vitamin D. I can add more weight bearing exercises to my routine to keep my bones strong. I can remember that physical balance can be practiced. And then I can make sure to include standing balance poses to my yoga practice.

I don’t really have a formal game plan. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I’m not working toward my healthy future. It means I’m letting go of some of the anxiety I hold about the future. Over the last few weeks I’ve realized that a balanced body goes hand-in-hand with a balanced mind. And to keep a healthy, balanced mind I need to remain present with what is rather than focused on what might be. I can smile more. I can reach out to friends more often. I can immerse myself in the things that I love like art and reading and cooking. 

And I can remember that sometimes we sing the body electric’. Sometimes we fall down. 

This Pablo Neruda poem appeared in my Facebook feed this morning along with this advice: we are growing freer…not older.

You Start Dying Slowly

You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,

if you do not read,

If you do not listen to the sounds of life,

If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly

When you kill your self-esteem;

When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly

If you become a slave of your habits,

Walking everyday on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine,

If you do not wear different colors

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly

If you avoid to feel passion

And their turbulent emotions;

Those which make your eyes glisten

And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly

If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetime,

To run away from sensible advice.”

– Pablo Neruda


What Would You Carry?

As of this week I’ve filled eighty-six small to medium sized boxes that are light enough for a sixty-three year old woman in good health to lift with relative ease. Each box is numbered, the contents roughly noted on a Google spreadsheet. In twelve weeks – give or take a few days – those boxes that I’ve filled with treasures, junk, books – oh so many books – cookware and memories will be loaded onto a truck by a couple of burly strangers and driven across the country. 

When I was young a move required nothing more than a backpack and a few boxes. I had my life pared down to bare necessities and when the weight of possession became too much I happily gave it away. But to flit about as I did in my youth required a lightness for which I no longer yearn. What I want now, more than anything, is an anchor. I want to feel tied to a place and a people. I want a home. I want family and the sense of belonging that’s alluded me since the days when I was able to pack almost everything I owned into a cardboard box. 

I feel some guilt around my selfish wants. I know there is a difference between a ‘want’ and a ‘need’. I have everything I need and for that I’m grateful. But still, I want these things. Wanting pretty things like porcelain teacups from Japan. Wanting furniture made from wood and not multi-density fiberboard. Wanting a dining room table with extendable leaves and room enough for my beloved’s sisters, his nieces and nephews and their children. Cloaked around the knowledge that it can be taken away without warning is a deep want for stability. But this morning I’m wondering if a stability is determined by your environment or how you experience your environment.

What’s interesting about the process of packing is that as our moving date approaches we’re finding it easier to let go. But I struggle with the precious things. The little things. The tchotchkes that serve no purpose but are the keepers of such potent memories. The carnival chalk ware figurines I found at a car boot sale in Letterkenny, County Donegal twenty years ago. The elf shaped, never-been-burned three inch candle that my beloved keeps at his desk and refuses to abandon. What do we do with the precious things and what would our lives be without them?

The things we choose to keep around us tell our story. They remind us of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve loved, the dreams we’ve lost and the dreams that came true. 

But if I had to chose between these things and my life I would abandon everything without question in order to survive. What must it be like, do you think, to be forced to do that with a moment’s notice? What must it be like to wake up to the sound of explosions and to realize that everything you know, everything you assume will always be there – the school, the hospital, the corner market – is about to be destroyed?

For five weeks we’ve watched missiles rain down on homes that look like the homes we live in and on cities that look like the cities we love. Two weeks ago we saw a mother with her two children, two family dogs and the family friend leading them to safety. One moment they were alive and when the dust cleared they were dead. What did they carry with them? If we opened Tetiana’s rolling suitcase what would we find? What precious toy did her daughter Alise find room for in her backpack? What book was so important to Mykyta that he would choose to carry it with him on their futile attempt to escape a savage war?

What would you bring? What book would you carry?


Accepting Change

I was reared in a family that never scheduled routine check-ups and avoided seeing the doctor unless it was an emergency. I remember Dr. Yost being called out to our house for me three times in the ten years we lived in Lynnport. When I was seven I had a bad flu, when I was in fourth grade he pulled a large splinter from the back of my leg, and when I was in high school what started as a cold turned into something much worse. Each time my mother’s call to Dr. Yost was the last resort after all efforts by her to heal me failed. So I learned early on that you don’t call the doctor unless there are no other options. And a gazillion options are one click away. 

Following my families tradition I’ve avoided asking a doctor to examine my right hip and instead have designed my own treatment plan. What’s wrong with my right hip? What began as pain a few months ago has settled into unrelenting ache. It aches when I walk. When I climb stairs. When I sleep.

Instead I use heat. I use ice. I use over-the-counter NSAIDs and sleep with a pillow between my knees. My yoga practice is dialed down and until this week I shortened my long walks to brief strolls. I do core exercises to strengthen my back. I’ve added core exercises to support my back. But family traditions die hard and I’ve not seen a doctor. Although, to be fair, the physical therapist I work with ran some range of motion tests on my hip…so there’s that.

But with my medical degree from the University of Google, I assume it’s arthritis that’s plaguing my right hip. I don’t know that, of course, but I assume. And I don’t want to go to the doctor to have my assumptions confirmed and my current approach to treating the pain validated. While I’m blessed to have insurance it comes with a very high deductible which means a very high bill. So I am, for now, sticking to my ice and my heat, my NSAIDs, my mindful movement and my tummy crunches.

Here is the point of this long winded story:

While I continue to avoid seeking medical attention I’ve begun working on accepting change. Because isn’t that what’s really happening? My body is changing. This skin sack I live in, with all its bones and tendons and ligaments, nerves and muscles is aging. And my right hip is reminding me of that truth. 

I have nothing against growing old. I love watching my hair turn silver and I look forward to dispensing kitchen wisdom to any potential step-grandchildren that might show up in my dotage. I’m just not a fan of the baggage that comes along for the ride.

Like my achy hip. Which, by the way, is responding to my treatment plan.

Here’s some news you might use. Did you know yoga teachers have a higher than average incidence of hip replacement? I began teaching yoga almost thirty years ago. All those triangles and twists add up. Factor in the ego-driven yoga practice of youth and you might be looking at a titanium ball and socket joint before you collect social security.

For an interesting take, read this.


Truffles, Baseball Caps & Judgement

During the pandemic a friend of mine eschewed the sourdough bandwagon and instead  mastered chocolate truffle making. His truffles are exquisite. Velvety smooth, they’re indulgent but somehow never ‘too much’. Some of the truffles he makes are elegant and traditional – little spheres of creamy chocolate rolled in cocoa or hazelnut. Others are playful and wear coats of chocolate sprinkles or crystalized ginger. All are simply perfect. 

Sunflowers

I’m thinking about truffles, COVID and politics this morning. Is it just me or does it feel like we’ve figured out how to live with COVID? At least in the the San Francisco Bay Area where vaccination rates are high, infection rates are low and people lean toward wearing masks indoors. New variants don’t hold Omicron’s power to terrorize and we’ve figured out how to enjoy social occasions with groups larger than two again. We’ve even mastered Zoom.

But I’m still baffled by anti-vaxxers. Early on, when vaccines first became available, a friend explained why she would remain un-vaxed: “I take vitamins, I exercise and I’m in good health. And I did my own research.” In hindsight I wish I’d replied, “I bet a lot of people said that before they ended up on a ventilator” but I was too flummoxed. More recently – during the peak of Omicron – a friend invited me to lunch. They excused their lack of vaccination this way, “I’m not going to catch COVID and even if I did, I’m going to die anyway.” Sigh. 

This, believe it or not, brings me back to truffles. 

My truffle making buddy and I meet – vaxed, boosted and, now that mandates have softened, carrying a mask just in case – every few weeks for coffee. If his ganache hasn’t broken I’m presented with an elegant box purchased from Etsy and filled with little yummy bites of joy. 

Today’s truffle was rolled in finely crushed Oreo biscuit and black salt.  The addition of salt added an unexpected and nuanced sophistication to the cookie crumble.  I enjoyed it with a cup of Earl Grey. The morning was pretty much like the truffle – delightful. The sun was shining and people were happily filling bags with produce from the nearby farmer’s market or standing in a long, chatty queue at the dim sum market stall across the street. Even the cafe’s usually grumpy owner was wearing his frown upside down. A few tables away sat a group of four middle-aged friends and a dog. One of the men – slightly older with a thick, grey beard – was wearing a light brown baseball cap with the message ‘Biden Failed Us’ embroidered in gold on the crown.  

To say I found it triggering is an understatement. But not for the reasons you think. Free speech, after all, is a human right.

But in today’s political atmosphere wearing a hat that is guaranteed to provoke feels unnecessary to me. It feels ugly. Selfish in the same way that, unless you are exempt for health or religious reasons, not being vaccinated is selfish. It’s an easy way to be loud without opening your mouth. To look like you are well informed when really you’re more like the Great Oz when he’s revealed to be less of a wizard and more of a fraud. 

I know nothing about the man with the hat and maybe, if I’d asked him, he would have explained with clarity his position. Yet I let his silly hat drag me kicking toward a mental space I find myself locked in more often than I would like. 

Judgement. 

It’s been a messy two years. An exhausting two years. And just when we thought we could see daylight again the world has fallen into a frightening state of chaos. 

I’ve been accused of being a Pollyanna and the accusations are true. I am a card carrying, dyed-in-the-wool Pollyanna. But I believe with all my heart that we have a light within us and this is the time to shine. We shine our light by thinking about how our decisions impact the lives of others. We need to consider how our choices – down to the hat we choose to wear – should lift people up rather than tear them down.  We need to speak with care. We need to own our beliefs but share them with compassion, not vitriol. 

We need to stop being mean.

And above all else, we need more truffles.


New Guided Autobiography Series

I never know where to begin when it’s time to write about Guided Autobiography. I always want to let you know that it’s not a writing class – even though each week you’ll be writing. And I always want to describe the impact Guided Autobiography has on those who join – but it’s difficult to find the words. 

Guided Autobiography, I guess, is about processing. It’s about looking at the events of our lives. It’s about finding again those lost experiences that may have been the catalyst for profound change in our lives. 

And it’s about sharing those moments. Which is the best thing about Guided Autobiography – the friendships that are deepened and made all the more rich as we learn from one another’s stories.

Our Guided Autobiography meetings follow the same format each week: 

  • We begin with a check-in – a casual chat about the successes and the struggles we endured or celebrated during our writing week. This typically involves howls of laughter.
  • As our check-in winds down I introduce the writing theme for the following week. James Birrin developed his Guided Autobiography program around twelve life themes and the questions that accompany each theme as a means to stimulate our memory. When I was a fledgling GAB facilitator I followed those themes and questions to the letter. But as I gained confidence I did what most GAB facilitators do and developed my own themes and questions. Themes can run the gamut from how we developed trust in ourself or others, moments in our lives that became turning points, or the experiences we’ve had around failure or loss.
  • After the theme is introduced I offer a five minute break but no one ever wants to take a break so we jump right into reading.
  • The essays we write are about 800 words – two pages. And it’s important that we try our best to keep to this limit. Once read, as a group we don’t offer a critique of the writing. What we offer instead is encouragement and support. We might ask questions to know more details in the story. On more than one occasion tears have been shed by all of us.
  • When we have finished our readings we close the class with a final discussion about the following week’s theme.

And that, for the curious, is Guided Autobiography in a nutshell.

Our next 6-week Guided Autobiography session begins Thursday, March 31st at 2:00 PM.

Tuition is on a sliding scale from $60-$120, payable through PayPal.

To register, a simple email will do.

Once I receive payment you’ll receive our Zoom invite.

Class size is small – no fewer than four, no more than eight.


Do More! Bend More! Twist More!

I facilitate yoga classes for people in chronic pain. In the decade that I’ve been doing this work my teaching has changed, my attitude has changed and my body has changed. I love this work. It’s beyond rewarding to witness the transformation in people as they discover their capacity for movement and learn to trust their bodies again.

Some aspects of the work, however, are challenging. For instance, it’s difficult sometimes to convince students to ‘start where you are’. To lean into the present moment experience, to feel what they are feeling right now and to allow those feelings to lead the practice. But this challenge is not unique to students in chronic pain.

At times we’ve all abandoned what our bodies need in the moment in favor of our deep rooted goal-oriented mindset. Who hasn’t, at some point, embraced an ego-driven yoga practice? Who hasn’t attempted to show off in front of their instructor or maybe the person on their left, the one with the fancy Manduka mat, struggling with ardha chandrasana? Who among us hasn’t judged their practice through the lens of ‘I have to do more, bend more, twist more, achieve more?’ 

The Sutras remind us that we practice in order to ‘still the fluctuations of the mind’. And in order to still those fluctuation – in order to self-regulate – we must maintain a dedicated practice with no attachment to the outcome. So there is no room for pushing ourselves beyond our limits, no room for unreasonable expectations. There is no room for competition with others and no room for competition with ourselves.

We know that our physical practice is just one limb of this beautiful thing we call ‘yoga’ and that together, all eight limbs of yoga create the yoke that unites the body, mind and spirit. In other words, the dedicated practice called for in the Sutras is not limited to perfecting trikonasana. The forms we create with our bodies, the poses we flow through in alignment with our breath, will build stamina and flexibility. But their true intention is to build the strength we need to find stillness in meditation. An asana practice does not refine our physical body through exercise so that it is capable of doing more. It refines our body so that it might do less.

In your practice this week, what can you do to remain present with your body in this moment? What shift in thinking do you need to make in order to do less?


The Intentional Human

Have you ever met someone with whom there’s an instant connection? That’s what happened when I met my friend Evan. We became peer coaches for one another while completing our sixteen-month training with ICA, the International Coaching Academy based in Australia. That was two years ago. And now, every Monday morning, we meet for an hour ostensibly to keep our coaching skills ‘laser focused’. But no coaching takes place until we catch up with one another’s lives and more often than not laugh ourselves silly.

Evan talks a lot about intentionality. I like that about him. He’s curious about his purpose in life and how he might better live with intention. So keen is he on the idea of living with intention his company is named Intentional Human Group.

But it’s challenging, this whole ‘intentional life’ business. Where’s the user’s guide? There is none. It’s as if we’re handed something that looks like a map but it’s nothing but an empty white void with a red ‘you are here’ in one corner and ‘your purpose’ in the other. The only way to show the path that will lead us to the life intended for us is to take one well-thought step at a time.

In short, you better pay attention to your intention. 

Forty years ago Joseph Campbell urged us to ‘follow our bliss’. Like so many others I took the idea to heart. The problem is that the full quote – the idea Joseph Campbell was trying to share – doesn’t fit on the front of a tee shirt.  Why is it a problem? Because the notion of following our bliss has no foundation on which to ground. It’s as light and airy as a flatulent unicorn’s rainbow fart. Taking the concept of following our bliss to its extreme – which is far removed from Campbell’s intent – removes accountability for our actions and disregards the affect those actions have on the people around us. It gives us permission to see self-centeredness as a virtue.

Here is the full quote:

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

Just for fun, change the word ‘bliss’ to ‘intent’. The word ‘intent’ creates a foundation on which we can build. It has edges, boundaries. It has form. Ask yourself, ‘What is my intent? What are my intentions? How are my actions and the choices I make intentional?’ 

It’s easier to live with intention than it is to follow bliss. Living with intention is a powerful choice.  

Let’s be intentional humans.


Are Alignment Cues About Safety or Aesthetics?

Ten years ago I was in my second decade of teaching alignment informed yoga classes heavily influenced by my years of practicing with teachers who had studied with BKS Iyengar. 

Trees come in all shapes and sizes. So do bodies.

So when a student described a workshop she had attended – a workshop about something called ‘yin yoga’ where poses were held for minutes at a time and any thought of alignment was tossed out the window – I’ll admit to feeling annoyed. No alignment cues? Impossible! Unsafe! Ridiculous! But I was also intrigued and when the opportunity presented itself I hauled my yin-curious self to the nearest Paul Grilley workshop. 

Midway through the first day, from the back of the room I called out, “But what about alignment?” He looked at me, smiled, and then gazed out across his rapt audience. It was the yoga equivalent to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and Grilley’s first beatitude might as well have been: ‘Blessed are those who study yin and forgo alignment, for they shall learn that alignment is about aesthetics’.

The moment blew my little yoga brain into pieces and was the catalyst that changed forever how I teach.

Until that moment I had never considered the obvious. That although we are all made up of the same components – bones, muscle, connective tissue and so on – those components will differ in length, width, tensile strength, yield strength, efficiency and power depending on the gene pool in which we swim and our lifestyle. We’re sort of like cars, I guess. A Maserati does not drive like a Mini Cooper. A car that has its oil changed and tires checked does not drive like a car that hasn’t seen the inside of a garage for fifty thousand miles.

In other words, we are all different. 

In other words, alignment is about aesthetics. Kinda. Some alignment cues are about safety, too, and that’s something we shouldn’t forget.

A decade ago I returned home from that weekend workshop questioning if everything I’d ever believed about asana was wrong. The answer, of course, was ‘no’, but maybe it was time to reevaluate my attachment to the philosophy around alignment I’d studied for so long. I had never considered that there might be another way to move through an asana practice. To move through space. For so many years on my yoga journey there was only one ‘right’ way to practice.

But that’s not true.

Every beautiful human moving through a series of yoga postures is having an experience unique to their body, their mind set, their belief system.

As teachers, we should remember that.