Embrace Change

I arrived in the Bay Area a few days after Mount St. Helens erupted, in May of 1980. That first summer was a rough one and there were times I thought about returning to Nebraska, where I’d just graduated from Doane College with a degree in art and education. I thought about running back home to Pennsylvania, too, even though I knew there was nothing there for me.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I worked my way from a hostess at The Good Earth in Santa Clara to a teacher’s assistant at Lakewood Elementary School in Sunnyvale. For a time I directed an after-school extended day care program but I left that job when I began work as an artists’ model. That odd job – sitting still while a room full of painters or drawers or sculptors fashioned my likeness with paint or charcoal or clay – introduced me to a new way of being in the world. Until then I’d felt a bit lost and unsure of who I was and who I was meant to be. But my new friends, most of whom were fellow artists and models, had a way of shaking off any expectations the world held. They walked less certain paths in life. Paths littered with stumbling uncertainty and bold adventure.

One new friend, a fellow model, invited me to join her for a Friday morning yoga class at the only yoga studio in town, a little Iyengar studio on Cowper Avenue. That was sometime around 1985. I didn’t know it then but two decades later I would be the one teaching that very same Friday morning class.

But on Friday, June 27th I will teach my last Friday class at California Yoga Center. My class ends at 10:00 AM.

IMG_3300At 10:01 California Yoga Center, after forty incredible years, will close its Palo Alto studio. A team of volunteers will come in to take away the bolsters and the blankets, the blocks and the belts.

When the news first broke four months ago I held my own grief as well as the grief of my students. Change is difficult. Order in a chaotic life – knowing that at Friday’s from 9 to 10 AM I was teaching at CYC – was easy. But now what were we going to do?

I have three more classes to teach at CYC – this next week, a final Yin class on Monday evening at 7:30 and then my last two hatha classes on Tuesday and Friday at 9:00 in the morning. I will miss the studio very much. It is where I began my practice and where I began to consider teaching.

But change is inevitable and the truth is that we will move on.   Some students will find new teachers and new studios. Others will find my new classes.

Beginning the week of June 30th I’ll be teaching all of my community classes at Samyama Yoga Center at 2995 Middlefield Road (next to the Winter Palace) in Midtown, Palo Alto. Here’s my new schedule:


Monday 8:15-9:15 AM – Shakti Reset: Slow Flow in the main studio

Tuesday 7:00-8:15 PM – Pure Yin in the main studio

Wednesday 8:15-9:15 AM – Shakti Reset: Slow Flow in the main studio

Friday 1:30-3:15 PM – Pure Yin in the main studio

Saturday 4:00-5:30 PM – Slow Flow in the main studio


One of my yin students left a note for me in my sign in notebook. He wrote,

Embrace change.


Subbing Season is Early This Year












I’m helping out a few friends over the next few weeks by teaching their classes while they:

  1. attend a wedding
  2. take an unexpected business trip
  3. recover from an injury

And so, in addition to my regular studio schedule…

  • Monday Evening Yin at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 7:30 to 9:00
  • Tuesday Morning Flow at Samyama from 7:00 to 9:00
  • Tuesday Morning Iyengar at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 9:00 to 10:00
  • Thursday Morning Flow at Samyama from 7:00 to 9:00
  • Friday Morning Iyengar at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto from 9:00 to 10:00
  • Friday Afternoon Yin at Samyama from 1:30 to 2:45
  • Saturday Afternoon Flow at Samyama from 4:00 to 5:30

…I’ll also be teaching these classes:

Saturday, June 8:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Bethany

12:30 – 1:30 PM at California Yoga Center/Palo Alto for Candy

Monday, June 10:

7:00 – 8:30 AM at Samyama for Bethany

Wednesday, June 12:

7:00 – 8:30 AM at Samyama for Bethany

11:30 – 1:00 PM at Samyama for Amy

Saturday, June 15:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Bethany

Sunday, June 30:

8:30 – 10:00 AM at Samyama for Clive

Wow! I’m going to be one busy yoga dog! I better stock up on Scooby snacks!

Looking forward to sharing our yoga journey.

How the Faux-Grinch Made Christmas All Her Own

yogaI’m not really a Grinch. I’m just one of those folks who love winter not for the shiny tinsel but because their’s nothing quite as cozy as a cold winter day burrowed under the blankets with a few good books and a hot toddy.

Too much burrowing, however, does not a festive yogi make.

This year I’ve decided to celebrate the season doing what I love. Yoga.

And I hope you’ll join me. Over the holidays I’ll be teaching these four classes at the California Yoga Center:

Monday 24 December – Christmas Eve

7:00 – 8:30’ish PM (please note earlier start time)

Yin Yoga

Donation Based

Tuesday 25 December – Christmas Day

9:00 – 10:30 AM (please note extra half hour)

Hatha Flow

$18 drop-in

Monday 31 December – New Year’s Eve

7:00 – 8:30’ish PM (please note earlier start time)

Yin Yoga

Donation Based

Tuesday 1 January – New Year’s Day

9:00 – 10:30 AM (please note extra half hour)

Hatha Flow

$18 drop-in

CYC Students – Please note the time change on the Yin Yoga class.  We’ll be starting at 7:00 and NOT 7:30.  Also note the extra half hour added to the morning classes.  

I think we deserve a longer savasana on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  Don’t you?

Summer Class Updates

If you’ve been to my classes you’ll know that I love to “hang out” in the asana. 

I don’t believe in rushing, I don’t turn yoga into aerobic exercise, and the thought of practicing yoga in order to build a better backside is loathsome to me. 

So if you enjoy exploring the shape of a pose, feeling how the energy shifts as you change your alignment; if you enjoy testing your strength and flexibility while dialing down the stress – then I’m your guide.  My classes begin with two minutes of quiet reflection/meditation and end with savasana.

Seasons change and so does my teaching schedule. At least a little bit.

Here’s a summer update:

California Yoga Center

The Monday Evening Donation-Based Yin Class continues to meet from 7:30 to 9:00 PM at the Palo Alto Studio.  All equipment is provided.  Some understanding of Yin is helpful (you can find that here) but not necessary.  There is no class on Monday 30 July.

My Tuesday and Friday Iyengar-inspired Slow Flow meet from 9:00 to 10:00 AM at the Palo Alto Studio.  Please bring a yoga mat.  These class are Level I/II. $15 drop-in.  The class on Friday 27 July will be taught by Terry Lesser.  The class on Tuesday 31 July will be taught by Lisa Brill Robinson.

Prajna Yoga and Healing Arts

My Hatha Yoga Class meets on Wednesday from 6:15-7:30.  Please bring a yoga mat. There is no class on 4 July. The class on 25 July will be taught by Yiwen.


Registration for Summer Session, which begins on Monday 9 July, is still open.  I teach two classes at the senior center:  Monday at 1:00 and Friday at 10:30.  We’ll have seven class meetings over eight weeks, with no class on Friday 27 July or Monday 30 July. 

For further details on any of these classes check my website.

Start Where You Are – Building a Home Practice, One Step at a Time

You might think you have no time for yoga outside of your once-a-week studio class.  Think again.  I’ve broken down your yoga practice into three sections – “Wake Up”, “Focus” and “Relax.” The sections correspond to morning, mid-day and evening.  Each should take no more than five to ten minutes.  You don’t have to do every pose listed in the section – choose what resonates and what you have time for.  Choose what feels good.  Stop if it feels bad.  Don’t rush.

These routines are very, very simple and exclude classic standing asanas (we’ll save that for later).  Still, it’s  not for someone brand new to yoga.  You should have enough beginning experience to be familiar with the movements.  Take your time and take care.  And remember to breathe.

Equipment:  Yoga mat, bolster or a firmly rolled blanket, a strap.  Anything else you may need for support.

“Wake Up – The Morning Routine”

 Begin Supine on Floor

Pelvic Rolls:  Inhale the tailbone toward floor; exhale the tailbone toward the ceiling.  You can add arm movements after the fourth or fifth cycle simple by taking the arms up and back on the inhale and bringing them down by your side on the exhale.

Knees to Chest: Alternate one knee at a time, extending the opposite leg.  Hold for several breaths and switch sides two or three times.

Windshield Wipers: Knees are bent and the feet about hip distance apart.  Drop the legs gently from one side to another.

Both Knees to Chest:  Hold the knees toward your chest for a few breaths and then allow the knees to move with the breath.  You’ll find they move away as you breath in.  You can tuck them tighter on the out breath.

Supported Bridge:

  • Place the bolster under the hips – keep the knees bent and the feet flat on the floor
  • Stay in supported bridge for a few breaths
  • Extend the legs along the floor and take the arms behind you if it’s comfortable – if this bothers your lower back return to supported bridge
  • Extend the legs toward the ceiling for a bit of an inversion
  • Bring one foot down at a time

Reclining Twist:

  • Cross the right knee over the left knee
  • Shift your hips to the right a few inches
  • Drop your knees to the left
  • Allow the right shoulder to drift toward the floor
  • Repeat on the other side

Table Top/Hands and Knees

Cat/Cow:  On the in breath lift the tail bone and face; on the out breath tuck the chin and the tailbone.

Downward Facing Dog:

  • Come to table top
  • Walk the hands a hand length forward and take them about shoulder width apart
  • Tuck your toes
  • Inhale the hips up
  • Exhale the heels down toward the mat
  • After five breaths step forward to a standing forward bend and then curl up slowly to a standing position

 Finish with any standing stretches that feel right – your body will know what to do. And then standing breath awareness.  I love “pancaking” both hands over my heart to feel the beat of my heart and the warm of my hands meeting one another.

“Focus for the Afternoon”

We begin seated in a chair

Neck Stretches: Move slowlyand hold each position for several breaths.  ‘Tease’ the stretch a bit to find what I like to call the ‘sweet spot’.

  • Right ear to right shoulder
  • Right ear toward right shoulder blade
  • Right ear toward right armpit
  • Repeat on left side

Chin to chest:  Allow the chin to drop to stretch the back of the neck.  Don’t force the position.

Shoulder Shrug:  Shrug shoulders to earlobes and hold (but don’t forget to breath); count three and then drop the shoulders.  Repeat three or four times.

For Your Ankles and Feet:

  • Cross the right knee over the left
  • Circle  the ankle ten times in each direction
  • Point and flex the foot three or four times
  • Repeat on the left side

Piriformis Stretch:

  • Cross right ankle over left knee
  • Sit close to the edge of the chair
  • Hinge gently from the hip
  • The sensation should be in right hip
  • Repeat on left side

Seated Back Bend:

  • With your hips toward the edge of the chair place your hands on the seat of the chair behind the hips
  • Lift through the sternum
  • Think less about bending the lower back and more about opening the front of the body

Seated Twist:

  • Place your right hand on the left leg, left hand behind left hip, twisting to your left on the exhalation.
  • Breath in – lengthen the torso.
  • Exhale and settle into the twist.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Seated Forward Fold:

  • Sit toward the edge of the chair with your feet wide
  • Allow the spine to round forward until your upper torso is folded forward between your thighs
  • Hold for a few breaths and then inhale and curl up slowly


Standing Stretch with Flat Back:  Use the edge of your desk or the wall.  Stand about three feet away and hinge at the hips.  Let your hands rest on the desk, arms extended and legs perpendicular to the floor.

  • Bend right knee and drop right hip for stretch in left hip
  • Bend left knee and drop left hip for stretch in right hip

A standing stretch with a flat back is a great stretch for any time of day, anywhere. It’s particularly good if you’ve been standing all day – it brings a lightness to the feet and legs.

Wall Stretch:

  • Keep right foot about twelve inches from desk
  • Step left foot back about three feet
  • Hinge at hips, keeping hips level.
  • Allow your hands to rest on the desk or a wall for stability

With the right foot forward this will wake up the right hamstring and left calf.

Repeat on left side.


  • Standing with feet hip distance and the arms by your side, turn the palms out and inhale the arms up.  Extend the fingers toward the ceiling and, if it’s comfortable for your neck, look up between the hands.
  • Turn the palms out and exhale the arms by your side.
  • Repeat three to five times.

Ideally the Focus practice ends with 5-minutes of seated meditation,

quiet reflection or breath awareness.

“Relax Yourself to Sleep”

 Seated on Floor in Easy Cross Legs

Seated Spine Stretch*:

  • Sit in easy cross legs with your hands on your knees.
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale – hollow out the front of the body and round the spine to stretch between the shoulder blades
  • Inhale – lift the chest toward the ceiling
  • Exhale – fold forward

You can do this for as many cycles as you wish. I suggest beginning with at least three.

Seated Twist*:

  • Bring the right hand to the left knee
  • Place the left hand behind the left hip
  • Inhale – lengthen the torso
  • Exhale – twist to the left

Take a few breaths to move into your full expression of the pose and then settle into the twist for a bit. Avoid “cranking” into the twist by using your arm strength to pull the torso.  Repeat on the other side.

Lateral Stretch*:

  • Place the right hand on the floor next to the hip and then walk the fingers out until you begin to lean to the right.
  • You’ll notice the left hip is lifting from the floor.
  • Inhale – Bring the left arm up and over until it’s arching over the head.
  • Exhale – Press through the heel of the right hand in order to encourage the left hip to move toward the floor
  • Repeat on other side.

Forward Fold:

  • We want this to be as gentle as possible as this practice is supposed to a “winding down from the day” practice.
  • Sit with your legs in front of you, feet and knees slightly apart
  • Place the bolster underneath the knees
  • Round the torso forward
  • If you need to, use your hands to help support the torso but know that this forward fold is heavy and relaxed as opposed to a forced struggle.  Make it as gentle as possible and just trust that the spine is going to become more and more giving with each practice.

Supine on Floor

 Alternate the Knees in the Chest – just like you do in the morning practice

Hamstring/Hip Stretch– TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS!

  • Place a strap at the ball of the right foot.
  • Extend the leg toward the ceiling, opening the back of the knee and stretching through the heel.
  • Extend the left leg along the floor.  Stretch through the heel and point the toes toward the ceiling.
  • Take the strap in the right hand and drop the leg out to the right, rotating from the hip so the toes of the right foot point toward the floor.
  • Continue to work the foot toward the head to stretch the inner thigh.
  • Bring the leg back up and take the strap into the left hand.
  • Drop the leg a few inches toward the left to stretch the outside of the thigh.
  • Repeat with the left leg.

Knees to Chest and Windshield Wiper

Rest quietly in Savasana for ten minutes.

I need to thank teacher Kelly McGonigal for the Seated Spine Stretch, Seated Twist and Lateral Stretch in the “Relax Yourself to Sleep” section.  I first learned those movements from her at Avalon Yoga Center in Palo Alto, California.

Avalon Teacher Training Program

This past Sunday marked the end of my six-month teacher-training course at Avalon Yoga Studio in Palo Alto, California. While I don’t often speak for a couple dozen or so other people (at least not all at once) I believe it’s a safe bet they’re as ecstatic as I am to see the return of a weekend for the first time since the beginning of September. I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t confess there is a part of me that will miss the gathering – the friends I made, the philosophies I embraced and the moments that tested and challenged me.

The teacher training at Avalon is unique.  Where other programs train to a certain method or school, the comprehensive 200-hour program at Avalon introduces participants to the major styles of modern yoga.  Guest instructors lead us in sessions of Iyengar, Jivamukti, Restorative, Dharma Mittra and more.

The program places a heavy emphasis on recent scholarly research that suggest the asana practice we believed was thousands of years old is actually a 20th century construct.  Not everyone is ready to accept this radical re-thinking of our discipline’s history.  For me, however, knowing Surya Namaskar arrived at the beginning of the last century and not centuries before brings a sense of relief. Understanding how asana practice evolved gives me permission to participate in the evolution.

The program also offers an examination of the yogic texts.  Most of us won’t be scholars on the subject but yoga teachers should at least be familiar with the Sutra’s, the Gita, Pradapika and Upanishads.   Fortunately, the teaching at Avalon made the philosophy of the ancient texts relevant to our hectic 21st century.

The Avalon faculty is a diverse group. Standouts for me are psychologist and author Kelly McGonigal, yoga historian Mark Singleton, restorative yoga doyenne Judith Hanson Lasater and musician Girish.  We can’t forget beloved local Iyengar instructor Shastri and Jivamukti dynamo Giselle Mari. Although Jivamukti doesn’t resonate with me, Giselle is an amazing teacher full of life and energy. She even softened my hard-edged opinion about the use of music during asana practice.

Avalon Studio Owner and Director of the Teacher Training Program Steve Farmer is a generous man.  During the duration of the training participants are invited to attend any yoga class at Avalon for free.  He encourages us to build our teaching skills by inviting us to teach free classes for the community at the Avalon studio.

All this is great.  Without a doubt the Avalon Teacher Training Program is an excellent educational opportunity. But like most teacher training programs it is not without its flaws.

I entered the program with a beginner’s mind and eighteen years of teaching experience.  I wanted to learn.  But there is an art to teaching people how to teach and I found too many guest lecturers did not have that skill.  While they are more than able to teach yoga blind folded with two hands tied behind their back, they don’t have the skill set for teaching people how to teach. I found this frustrating, and a bad attitude began to crowd out my beginner’s mind.

And while the opportunity to practice our teaching skills through the free community classes is a generous one, someone with limited prior teaching experience might find the prospect too intimidating to consider.  My feeling is that the program should offer more opportunities to teach in the classroom right from the start and that those teaching moments should include a peer review.

I am not the only one who feels in-class teaching time was too limited.  The issue was discussed in an open forum on our last day of class.  Steve easily agreed and is working to add more teaching peer reviews.

The Avalon Teacher Training Program is not perfect, but do I recommend the program?

Absolutely.  Without a doubt.  It’s the best non-residential yoga teacher-training program I’ve seen.


It happened about four months into the training. One of my long time students approached me after class.  She said, “You know, Mimm, I’ve always enjoyed your classes.  But something’s changed. It’s your teaching.  You’ve become a better teacher.”


My first thought was “after eighteen years it’s about time.”

But then I realized that despite the moments when my beginner’s mind failed and arrogance overwhelmed me; even when I wore my bad attitude like a heart on my sleeve, I still learned. When I disagreed with an instructor, my faith in what I believe yoga is grew stronger.  And when the words I heard resonated in my heart – which was often – I learned even more.

The Avalon Teacher Training Program stretched my teaching wings.  It pushed, encouraged and enlightened me.  My confidence as a teacher has grown but more than that I now know with unstinting certainty there is room for the style of asana practice I embrace in the continuing evolution of modern yoga.  And I have the Avalon Teacher Training Program to thank for that.

And Now, a Quick Word from Our Sponsor: January Classes

I thought it was time for me to remind everyone where I teach, how to register and what to expect.  Currently I teach in two studios:  California Yoga Center and Avenidas Senior Center.  I work privately with individuals or small groups in the home and am also available to teach introductory classes and workshops at your school or office.

California Yoga Center

One of the first yoga studios on the Peninsula – and where so many of us were first introduced to yoga – CYC has locations in Palo Alto and Mountain View.   My classes are at 541 Cowper Street in Palo Alto between University Avenue and Hamilton.  I teach three classes at CYC.  They are on going.  Two are Iyengar-influenced “slow flow” style classes and the third is a Yin class taught in the Paul Grilley tradition.  If you’re still looking for a last minute gift you can purchase Gift Certificates for individual or a series of classes.  More information about purchasing gift certificates can be found on the CYC website.

Here’s what to expect from a class with Mimm:

Yin Yoga – Mondays 7:30 to 9:00 PM

Yin is a donation-based class.  Please pay what you can afford up to $17 (the regular drop-in fee).

The long-held stretches characteristic of Yin Yoga help to recover and maintain a full range of movement and flexibility in the joints and connective tissue.  The work is challenging but profoundly relaxing. While Yin should not be confused with Restorative style yoga on more than one occasion students have told me, “I have the best night’s sleep on Yin nights!”

I keep the studio very dark.  Soft futons and bolsters, blankets and pillows are used for support.  Sometimes I’ll use music to help set a tone.

Verbal instruction is kept to a minimum.  Nevertheless, enough suggestions and options are offered to create an environment that feels comfortable and safe.

All the work takes place on the floor and poses are held between 2 and 6 minutes.  For more information regarding Yin Yoga look here.

Iyengar-influenced Hatha and Slow Flow – Tuesdays or Fridays from 9:00 to 10:00 AM

The drop-in fee for these classes is $15.  A 4-week series is available for $52.  An 8-week series is available for $104.  Classes do not have to be taken consecutively and there is no expiration date (this applies to my classes only.  Other CYC instructors may have different policies).

In the beginning, there was Iyengar.  At least for me.  I loved the attention to alignment, the emphasis on safety and the slow, careful pace as we moved from one pose to another.  But things change.

I still love my Iyengar roots, but I also love moving with my breath from one shape to another.  We move at a pace that allows time to settle into the pose and to explore how it feels in the body.  I provide options for anyone not ready to take on the more challenging standing poses.

Both of these classes are Level I/II – suitable for beginning and intermediate students.

California Yoga Center has everything you need for a safe practice:  bolsters, straps, pillows, and blocks.  It’s recommended that you bring your own “sticky” mat.

Avenidas Center

It’s a misnomer to call Avenidas a “senior” center.  Yes, you have to be over the age of fifty to enroll in classes – but what’s a number?  Pre-registration is required, but you can enroll online or drop by the front desk at 450 Bryant Street (cross street University Avenue).  Classes are held in 10-week blocks.  Our winter session begins the week of January 9th, 2012.  There is no drop-in but anyone is welcome to visit and try out my yoga classes before enrolling.  The price for a ten-week session is $60 for Avenidas members and $70 for non-members.  Where are you going to find a one-hour class for $6.00 anywhere on the Peninsula?

I have three classes at Avenidas:

  • Mondays from 1:00-2:00
  • Fridays from 10:30 to 11:30
  • Fridays from 11:45 to 12:45

Because of student demographics these classes tend to lean toward the introductory level but everyone is encouraged to deepen into the work as their bodies allow.  Some students have had years of yoga experience and will have a more full expression of the pose we’re working in.  Others who are new to yoga are given modifications that help awaken the body.

All three classes begin with floor warm-ups, followed by a carefully planned standing sequence and then finishing with seated work and relaxation.  Because of the nature of my classes at Avenidas, it’s suggested that students be able to safely lower and then rise from the floor.  That being said, chairs are available to assist.

Unfortunately, equipment is limited at Avenidas. We have soft exercise mats but I recommend you bring a sticky mat and two bath towels that can be folded into mini-bolsters.  A strap is also handy – this can be a yoga strap or, if you’re on a budget, a man’s tie or belt.  Yoga blocks are helpful, too.

Individual Study

If you are recovering from illness or injury then I recommend two or three sessions of individual study.  Together we can see where you’re at in terms of strength and flexibility.  We can build a program that will support recovery instead of setting it back.

Some clients, of course, simply enjoy how individualized attention deepens their practice. You’ll discover the body responds to the work easily when hands on adjustments and personalized modifications are part of the program.

Why I Love Teaching at California Yoga Center

Over the weekend someone asked me the name of the studio where I teach.

California Yoga Center,” I said with a smile.

“Huh,” he sniffed.  “I walk by there all the time and it’s always empty.”

I confess. Un-yogic thoughts overwhelmed me. I admit to being, from time to time, overly sensitive.  Perhaps even a bit defensive. But what I interpreted as a flippant dismissal stunned me and I missed my opportunity to reply with a witty retort as the conversation quickly moved on to other topics.

But his comment has buzzed around me like the nagging mosquito that finds your ear just after you crawl into bed.  And boy is it annoying.

I teach at California Yoga Center.  And I’m proud of the fact.  And here’s why:

  • California Yoga Center opened in 1980, making it not only the first yoga studio in Palo Alto but also one of the oldest studios in the Bay Area.  It now has two locations – the original studio at 541 Cowper Street in Palo Alto and the new studio in Mountain View at 1776 Miramonte Drive, in the Blossom Hill Shopping Center.
  • I attended my very first yoga class, with teacher Betsy McGuigan, at California Yoga Center in 1984.  When I returned to Palo Alto in 2005 after an eleven-year absence one of the first places I visited was the California Yoga Center.
  • We’re plain folk at CYC.  It’s about the yoga, pure and simple.  Plain wooden floors that have a distinctive squeak.  Plain and patched walls.  No giant Buddha or tented ceiling. No fancy retail area.  The most exciting indulgences are the dozen or so 8×10 framed black and white photographs of Mr. Iyengar hung above the mirrored wall at the Palo Alto studio.
  • While its focus remains on offering classes in the Iyengar tradition, CYC has mellowed somewhat over the years.  You’ll now find my Yin class on Monday evenings in Palo Alto.  Another instructor offers Anusara.  Plus, weekend workshops offered throughout the year at both locations help deepen your practice.
  • On top of that, CYC Mountain View is one of the few yoga studios on the Peninsula with a dedicated rope wall to offer support or facilitate stronger work.

Yes, I teach at California Yoga Center. My classes are filled with happy yoginis.  Of course, from time to time I teach at other local studios – Studio Rincon in Menlo Park comes to mind, as does the Page Mill YMCA – and while I embrace every opportunity to teach, CYC is my yoga home and I can’t imagine leaving.

So if my friend walked by CYC’s window and found the studio empty, he was walking by at the wrong time.

If you’re a teacher or a student at California Yoga Center, tell me, what makes it special for you?

Half Moons and Flying Dragons

I remember the evening twenty-five years ago when our teacher led us into Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose).  I had been attending Karl’s class for just a few weeks and it was my first Half Moon.  It wasn’t pretty. I distinctly remember thinking that night would be my last night at Yoga.  My standing leg was shaking, my extended leg’s hip was screaming and my brain was telling me “This is nuts. You can’t do this.  Just go home.”

But I didn’t go home.

To this day Ardha Chandrasana ranks as one of my favorite poses.  Several classes after that first attempt, when I smoothly transitioned into the pose from Triangle and felt the strength in my balancing leg and the openness in my hip, I was free.  I felt like a soaring bird.

And when I introduce Half Moon to a new class for the first time, teaching in the same studio where I was taught, I always stand in the spot where I attempted the pose for the first time and tell the class “Things change.”

These days I’m adding modifications to my Half Moon.  Sometimes, with limited success, I bring my fingers up from the floor to rest the hand on my heart chakra.  More often I’ll take the ankle of my extended leg and pull myself into something I’m certain has a proper name but I call Sideways Bow.

We grow.  We learn.  We fall down. We try again.  We grow.

It took a lot of prying to open my mind to a new way of thinking about Yoga.  My practice was firmly rooted in Iyengar.  There was no other way.

But things change.

While I will probably never, ever understand how I can further my Yoga practice while listening to rock music (please, someone, explain this trend to me), a few years ago I was encouraged to explore the possibility of a fluid, non-alignment based practice.

Enter Flying Dragon. Wait a minute, wasn’t that a Bruce Lee movie?

The truth is, I can be a little bit…ahem…rigid in my thinking.  I like having a place for everything and everything in its place.  Just like an Iyengar practice. I’m not saying Iyengar theory is rigid, only that it might appeal to someone with rigid thinking.

When Suzee Grilley introduced the Flying Dragon sequence to us on a summer morning at teacher training my brain was telling me, “You can’t do this.  This isn’t Yoga.  Give Up.  You’re too out of shape.”  My brain even said this, “You’re too old.”

Several mornings later and I was flying my dragon with joy.

Flying Dragon is the cure for my rigid thinking.  I can feel my soul open to the universe when I practice Flying Dragon.  It lifts my spirit.  It is a balm for the type of depression that feels heavy and leaden.

Different approaches to Yoga fill different needs. Right now I need less formal alignment and more fluid movement.

And for the past few weeks I’ve had this idea in my head that I can’t shake.  There’s a local park not far from my home, and I see myself there, teaching Flying Dragon to anyone who wants to learn.  When I mentioned this to a friend he suggested I was ‘giddy’.  I probably am.  But the thought of a Flying Dragon Flash Mob puts a big smile on my face.

So that’s what I’m going to do.  If you’d like to free your rigid mind – or just feel like flying your dragon – join me for a morning of Flying Dragon (with a few Golden Seeds thrown in for a nice warm up) this Saturday at 11:00 in the park on Homer Street in Palo Alto.

Update:  Four hours after I posted Half Moons and Flying Dragons the August (August?  Seriously?) issue of Yoga Journal arrived.  My “Sideways Bow” variation of Half Moon has a name:  Ardha Chandra Chapasana.  Whew.  Now I can sleep tonight.

An Old Dog Learns a New Trick

I may have mentioned once or twice that in Chinese Astrology I am a Yellow Dog.  Not only am I prone to drooling in my sleep but I can also catch a Frisbee between my teeth, forgive instantaneously and love unconditionally.  I am also fiercely loyal.  Loyalty is, at times, a curse.  It makes it difficult for me to try new things without feeling as though I’m being unfaithful.

But on Sunday I overcame those feelings and attended my first ever Restorative Yoga Class.  I was on a quest. I needed calm.  I wanted my mind to clear and my nervous system to unwind.   I didn’t need to break a sweat.  I didn’t need to feel the burn.  I didn’t need my heart pumping within 85% of its maximum rate.

I considered a Yin session at home, but I’ve been making an effort to get out more.  And so that’s how I found myself at my local JCC at 5:15 on a sunny afternoon.

Chihiro is a lovely teacher.  Confident and quiet, she demonstrated all three poses we completed in the hour-long class.  Yes, that’s right.  THREE poses:  the first was a supported chest opener, the second took our legs up the wall and the third was supported relaxation.  As my body melted into the work, Chihiro observed, corrected and comforted students with a whisper.

In my Yin class on Monday, I mentioned the Restorative class.  Several students wanted to know the difference between to two styles of yoga.

Here it is:

The Difference Between Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga

Restorative Yoga uses props to create support and reduce stress on the body. 

Yin purposely places stress on the connective tissue.

Yin requires that the practitioner open to discomfort rather than requiring comfort in order to open.

It was important for me to allow my inner Yellow Dog to run off leash.  Chihiro’s restorative class offered the support I needed and I learned a valuable lesson.  Even though my yoga loves are Yin and Iyengar, there are times when other schools of yoga are better able to heal my body, mind and spirit.