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Dig Your Practice

Because it’s yours.

Modifications are the magical secret of every serious asana lover. They know it is imperative that we open our minds to ways of studying our bodies in asana that allow all body types, abilities, and circumstances the chance to dive deeply into a study of movement. The mindful exploration of foundation and alignment through modifications or prop use, gives an average asana shape the opportunity to blossom into its fullest potential and opens the door to those who might otherwise have been unable, injured by life, or over adjustment or lack of support. Not only this, but understanding how to suitably use props and execute modifications for ones particular situation creates a carefully crafted arsenal of practice tools to be used as life’s unpredictable ebbs and flows hit us.

The use of modifications or props should not be regarded as a temporary nuisance but rather the means to develop a deeper understanding of wellness and movement. Hold this as a brilliant form of self expression, breath investigation, and healing. Modifications and prop use are not about pushing past resistance or internalizing or ignoring pain or “cheating”. Modifications and props are learning tools designed to help you discover your own power, to get in tune with your own unique self and set of circumstances, to tap into your own internal knowledge and embrace the constant of change as something we can adapt for gracefully.

Join me Saturday, June 5, 2021 for the workshop, Dig Your Practice, a special class dedicated to this exact topic. Be sure to register early! 


Ashtanga Yoga for Everybody

I appreciate structure. In fact, I tend to thrive when structures and parameters are in place. Making lists, devising plans, following maps. I appreciate these things not because I am a fan of conformity or rigidity or being told what to do (because I’m truly not), but rather because structure provides a place from which I can explore, diverge, and when I need it, return. It’s like this: coloring outside the lines would not be possible if there were no lines to begin with.

That is something I deeply appreciate about the structure of ashtanga yoga, yet it wasn’t always like that for me.

At the beginning, I rather disliked ashtanga. It felt utilitarian, rigid, and unrelenting. It wasn’t until I started to experience the structure in different ways (through various depths of physical tasks, observing my patterns and somehow gaining ability to alter them) that I began to see and utilize it as a map from which to unearth a level of strength and endurance I had never experienced. Which was really amazing to me as I never saw myself as someone who could do half of the things I was doing. Not to mention the mental shifts that began to emerge. Pealing back the layers, as they say. Finding a voice, a charge, a desire to get to know myself better. To explore my inner world meant to push myself to the limit. Though I practiced daily, devoted my time, energy and resources, sacrificed comforts and indulgences, I was continually faced with challenges that inhibited my ability to excel and advance. I was consistently filled with a sense of defeat, envy, and a desire to be someone or something that I wasn’t. This realization did not come easily, or quickly, but eventually it lead me to discover that my limits were not the same as those around me.

Over the years, I have learned a great deal from this. The injuries my body sustained when I was young and reckless (or simply accident prone), my self image, my inherent tamasic nature, these have all been real life obstacles for me. Old injuries have a way of sticking around or creeping back up when you think they’ve been sorted. Old habits and beliefs lurking in the shadows. Because of this I had to get creative, devise ways to find symmetry within the asymmetry inside my person. It meant modifications and prop use. It meant doing less and digging it. And I had to come to understand that the path of ashtanga yoga does not have the same trajectory, look, or feel for all that choose to explore it. That the practice will emerge differently from each and every person who yearns to yield its benefits and harness its secrets because we are individuals.

This leaves us to consider what it is like to live in a human body surrounded by human circumstances within a society made of humans. We are most certainly a group who would benefit from having discussions concerning yoga asana that embrace the glorious concepts of individualization, prop use, and consent to touch, rather than completely missing it, minimalizing it, or utterly abandoning it all together. After all, what does it mean to individualize a practice that is traditionally taught as a rigorous structure of rules and restrictions to which one is meant to conform? It means we have to change.

The structure/sequences of ashtanga yoga is a brilliant container from which to hold a daily physical practice. A place and means of deep study into the foundational aspects of the asanas, and the discovery of their sweet essence. The practice will continue to blossom in multiple ways and when nurtured properly provide lifelong access to discovery in yoga asana and beyond.

A three part workshop series dedicated to this very topic starts this Sunday, July 26. Find out more here.

Strong Voice

What was it…? Try though you know you wont get there? Oh! Such fear! I have to know, to understand, to reach that place of finality! What is the destination?! I want to get there! Ahhhhhh!!!

Yet, what does it matter if I get there and have learned nothing of the process? Why would I choose to bypass such opportunity for knowledge and understanding and compassion gained from effort? Pass through this fear and try it all because it sits inside, for only this one Self.

Allow the darkness of fear. Let it touch you, as the light is also there.

Take your mind to that other place. Sukha. That place of healing and love and weightlessness. Where emotion riding on the surface dissipates through layers of compassion and empathy. Grace. Fill your mind, your movement, with grace. Solid as the mountains trees, soft as the peonies petals and joyous as bouncing light through a windows prism.

Sing with a strong voice and let your heart be full. 

Mr. Rattlesnake and Me

I see Mother Earth as the offerer of symbols, directional representations and spirit connectivity – something far more grand and divine than I. Sometimes these things scare me, like lightning that hits a bit too close or snakes. I am terrified of snakes.

My brother and I were heading into a weekend of camping, truck loaded up with two dogs and enough camping gear/food to last us much longer than we were going to be there. We had barely set out off the main road when he slammed on his breaks and veered off to the side. Worried he had hit something, he backed up to make sure he hadn’t. And he hadn’t. He pulled up next to a rattlesnake, who before we drove up on him (or her) was enjoying a nice lounge-about across the warm rocks of a remote dirt road, you can imagine the irrational sense of terror that welled up inside me as I sat safely inside the old trusty land cruiser. I mean, a land cruiser against this snake? I was obviously not in danger, in fact that snake was likely way more terrified than I, yet as we watched and listened to the warning sounds sent out by the effortless motion of his tail I kept noticing the wriggly dis-ease that crept its way up my spine. I was grateful as we drove away, that he was somewhere behind us and we didn’t have to see him again.

There are underlying themes in Snake Symbolism and Meaning and one is definitely personal growth. Snakes shed their skin as they grow, so ask yourself – what do you need to shake off so you can expand your horizons.

Snake speaks heavily of old, outmoded ways of thinking and living that will hold you back until you’re ready for release. Once you do, the Snake’s metamorphosis process can begin within and without. The only caution is that the way in which you use your time and energy matters in this journey. Apply yourself to noble aspirations that provide balance and substance, and raise vibrational frequencies in your aura.” – SOURCE

We continued down the road at a leisurely pace, headed further into the Cibola National Forest outside of Magdalena, New Mexico. I was still thinking about that rattlesnake as we climbed elevation, the low sagebrush and shorter piñon trees morphed into old growth ponderosa and elegant elms. A surprising mix. The forest was beautiful, the temperature a nice, cool dream come true, and the stars were already popping out in astounding clarity. As the light through the trees continued to fade, an enormous bull elk showed up next to us, just off the road, holding a set of grand antlers above his massive head and broad chest. Majestic. We stopped and watched him, stunned to silence. He watched us too. Both interested and not interested at the same time. His seemingly indifference to our presence made the moment all the more spectacular. I’ve seen Elk before but this moment, it oozed of grace and significance. I wanted to climb up on his back and ride away into the forest. Instead, we parted ways and continued on.

Elk medicine teaches us that by pacing ourselves we increase our stamina. Elk people may not complete a project first, but when it is done they have not burned themselves out. …

Animal spirit Elk reminds us of the importance of community, most especially fellowship with our same gender. … We are reminded by Elk that there is always support if we need it.

Elk also tells us to be aware of subtle changes around us and to be ready for a quick response.

Elk medicine stands for stamina, strength, nobility, pride, and survival.” – SOURCE

My brother was searching for a particular spot which involved looking for roads that didn’t seem much like roads to me at all. The main road was barely a road. All torn up and washed out from the spring runoff. Possibly many springs. And though there were two NFS lookouts up there, they were no longer in use, meaning the maintenance of these roads was not what it may have once been. And these offshoot roads we were searching through, looked more like overgrown pathways. By some miracle, after a few wrong turns and pit stops, we found the somewhat hidden road/not road he was searching for. It was completely dark. Time to set up camp. My brother hopped out and right there at his feet was a pristine larger than life wild turkey feather. “Hey! Look at this,” he exclaimed, “we were meant to find this spot.” With a bright smile on his face we started unloading the truck, fixing up a nice little fire and setting up our tents – the dogs went roaming around in absolute glee.

The wild turkey has a distinctive gobbling call that can be heard across great distances; this call advertises the presence of the turkey, for purposes of mating or challenge. Wild turkey teaches you how to project your voice and your truths. It is important to know when to say your message, truths or opinion; and how to say it clearly and loudly enough that other people take notice. Wild turkey can help you to learn appropriate timing for sharing your voice with others.” – SOURCE

Once camp was set up we sat under the bright, clear sky. The stars piercing. The air clean and crisp surrounding a toasty and mesmerizing bonfire. We stayed up all night talking about everything and anything that came to mind. Pain and joy, struggle and triumph. It was so nice to be able to share like that with my oldest brother, Jake. I’m not sure we’ve ever had that opportunity. The lateness of the evening however, meant a lazy day followed. Naps, reading, food, walk – repeat. During my afternoon quiet time, I woke to see beautiful shadows displayed on the wall of my tent. The sun shining through the trees making shapes, delicate paintings shifting as the time passed and the breeze came through. I closed my eyes for maybe a minute, maybe ten, and when I opened them again there was an image of a little boy. He had a ball cap on. I thought, “I have to get a picture of that,” and as I reached for my camera I must have fallen asleep because when I looked again it was gone. Part of me thinks it was Harrison saying hello. He’s with us always. And though the loss of him remains indescribably painful, his memory lives on in ways that remind us of just how special he was. When I shared what I saw with Jake, his response was an immediate reflection of my own, we received a visit from his eldest son.

A million different events happen in your day, and none of them stand out to you. When a seemingly benign event suddenly grabs your attention and makes you question if it’s a sign from your loved one in spirit…it probably is.” – SOURCE

Later on, our final night was accompanied by thunder and lightning. The LIGHTNING! A much different scene. Thankfully the rain mostly skirted us, leaving our camp dry yet highly entertained. We went to bed much earlier than the previous night, waking to delicious fresh brewed coffee and a nice, steamy breakfast, somehow more enjoyable simply because of our location. After a systematic camp cleanup, we drove out into the daylight forest, revealing a new perspective on our surroundings. While driving in the dark we hadn’t seen how extensively the mountains had burned. The landscape sat before us, ravaged by wildfire, possibly not more than a few years before. We drove in silence over the terrible washed out mountain roads, back and forth through the switchbacks and finally on to our decent. We took it all in. The stunning sight of burned out trees juxtaposed next to the vivid wildflowers popping up and out of a carpet of tall bright green grass. Life and death. Just incredible. Once again we found ourselves on the stretch of road where we said hello to Mr. Rattlesnake. Enjoying the breeze and the soft sent of sage as it blew through the open windows, I looked up to see a full on murder of crows circling and swooping in play against the fierce blue sky. We stopped and watched for a moment, staring out at the sky full of crows and clouds and blue, in observation of our time in the forest coming to a close.

Lightning is a metaphor for human emotions such as: Fear, Reverence, Creativity and much more. Witnessing lightning has a tendency to churn up a whole slew of internal reactions. In essence, lightning ignites our deeper selves. These bolts of energy can potentially tap into our most primal, basic emotions.” – SOURCE

It is a sign of change. All that you have been working for and toward is now coming to fruition. Alternatively Crow is giving you clear messages and guidance as to what your next steps are. Pay attention to your thoughts, and to the omens around you. The messages are clearer now than they have ever been.” – SOURCE

Receiving the gift of natures presence over the last two months, being greeted by the broad community of generous, beautiful people in my life, far and near, refreshed my resolution to do the work I need to do. That I long to do. I kept spinning, knowing what I want but not how to get it. WHERE? How? When? BUT… IF I COULD JUST…. From Montana to the Canyons of Utah to the hills of Santa Cruz and a whole lot of desert in between, I didn’t realize I was still searching. Or perhaps stalling. I didn’t realize I would have been effected so deeply by this round of travels. I mean, and epic year really! These two days, though, in the New Mexican wilderness brought about a sense of completion. That I’m ready for the next steps and although it could be rough, the support and care that’s needed to get it together is right here.

The Lies We Tell


I have spent a great deal of my life believing I am less than. That because of my shape I am less. Because of my past, I am less. I’ve believed that being heavy – curves and “a little extra” – meant I wasn’t good enough to have the things I desired and longed for, like companionship and acceptance. I’ve been much heavier. I lost quite a lot of pounds and then a put a few back on. And then off, and then on. I’ve beaten myself up. I’ve shamed myself and joked about it. I’ve belittled myself and tried to make myself small so I could somehow feel accepted by my peers.

A whole lot of lies perpetuated by years of misinformation and societal conditioning.

Beliefs have power. The things we tell ourselves matter. We can create pain when what we want is relief from it. So, how to unearth the truth? Shift from the negative to the positive?

To start, recognition of self-deprecating patterns and toxic influences is a must. Whoa! We have to see our patterns for what they are. And this means relationship. Relationship to our families, our partners, our friends, our teachers. Relationship to money, to objects, to food. Simply stated you would think it’s a snap. Just don’t do this or don’t do that and everything will be good! As a recovering addict, I know what it’s like to want something so badly that the consequences don’t matter. The risk of being physically or mentally stunted within the indulgence is easily overlooked, and afterward the inevitable return to a belief of being “less than” starts all over again. The internal bully encourages the turmoil and then to justify the internal abuse, the pattern repeats.

There is a line that my teacher quoted in an article not too long ago stating that “if you argue for your limits, you’re sure to have them.” I’ve been pondering this a lot. In terms of practice, in terms of general life skills. There are many ways that I dilute my own power. One of them is believing that I’m not as capable as or generally not as good as others because I haven’t attained specific goals. So what? This is, by no means, a statement as to what I am actually capable of or the depth of my understanding or the level of my own sacrifices. And, who sets the standard of these goals?! I have a BODY. I’ve explored my limits within it and will continue to do so. I’ve studied my injuries and the lethargy, the depression, that can accompany them. I’ve incorporated ways of moving, ways of practicing when my body was unable. I’ve broken the barriers of my own mind in order to make it to my mat and discover joy. What an accomplishment!

I’ve lived all the excuses, indulged in excesses and I’ve perpetuated enough self-hate because of them to fill a life time. Through it, it’s been my experience, that to feel joy, to bathe in the relief of self-awareness and acceptance, to feel the calm of contentment, one has to award themselves a generous amount of empathy and compassion. Practice a great deal of self-care, self-LOVE. Surround themselves with positive people — genuine, loving people.

In the end, the fact is, I’ve been blessed with a BODY. Blessed with the ability to do more than I thought possible. The more I learn about myself and the world I have entered into, the more I understand about real beauty and how wonderful it is to be so lucky to have this life.



You know it’s going to be rough when you realize your arms aren’t working properly. Every step, every motion (even the simple ones) are abnormally effortful and your mind hasn’t quite caught up to the fact that your so depleted you can barely speak. Then it hits you… “I’m sick and this could be bad.”

On arrival to Mysore, I was already feeling the effects of a long and awful car ride from Bangalore. The dreaded four hour drive, mid-day like a smart lady, with an alright but far from good driver brought the familiar back pain to a full on assault. Forward, backward, twist… None were accessible. Even sitting or laying down was terrible. Tenderly I went about my first few days, gentle, alert, breath-focused rhythm — slowly.

Then the fever hit. My flesh, burning to the touch, as goosebumps crept over every inch of skin. Getting to the toilet and back to the bed was all I could manage in an effort to win the battle for survival. I don’t think I’m gonna make it. After thirty-six hours of sliding in and out of consciousness I laid on the floor and tried to relax my body on the cool marble tiles, (- crazy how in our most vulnerable moments we get hit with epiphanies -) and it struck me — “I’ve been scrambling to ‘be somebody’ and it just doesn’t feel right.”

I’ve been out here, traveling around, jockeying for a place to belong while spreading myself thin, depleting my resources and decimating my energy stores. Granted, these have been some incredible times with some truly beautiful people, and I feel genuinely blessed to have been out here sharing in all this. I don’t regret for one moment any of my experiences out here. The fact is though, I’m tired. Grasping, clawing at something I’m not meant to attain… I’ve been trying to be bigger then I’m meant to be. It took a lot to admit that to myself. Expelling all this effort, striving to scrape up enough teaching opportunities – over here and over there – to support myself and share this lineage I’ve been witness to and discovered over years of study… and it’s killing me.

There is a bulging disc in my lower spine that’s pressing into my nerve centers. Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what it all means and Gods know how long it’s been there, but it’s likely one of the stronger roots to this reoccurring road block called chronic pain. It’s a horrible thing to live with. Especially when what you love to do is move and breathe and share it with those who could use some healing of their own. It’s telling me that I haven’t been listening. That this constant travel and grasping at opportunities is not my dharma. I am not meant to be out here spreading thin my power, depleting my energy trying to be something I’m not. I’m meant to put down roots and cultivate a forest.

My dharma is to discover and revel in self-love. I am destined to BE MYSELF and be strong in who that is. I don’t have to try and be someone I’m not, I don’t have to ache to be seen, I don’t have to fit into someone else’s mold. My dharma is to build a loving space and strengthen bonds with my friends who support this effort. My dharma is to surround myself with a loving supportive COMMUNITY so I can let my walls down and allow myself to be loved too. My dharma is to GIVE EVERYTHING of myself, to share this yoga from a coffer FULL of bhakti and deep love for its gifts. Ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga. Breath. My dharma is to teach what I know; what I’ve learned from my teacher and from my own depth of self-study, TO AND WITHIN, a community of people who love and support the same ideas. My dharma is to stand still, stand tall and gather myself up to not just survive this life, but to LIVE it fully and completely.

Homework 1. Kovalam, India

This last week David asked us to write about our experience with some of the principles he has offered in regards to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Hatha Yoga. The alignment and awareness of the body in space, in movement, in breath. This was my response. 


Clunk. Shoulder joint resists the reach to first position. Damn, it’s still there. What to do…? Hands together or not together? Doesn’t matter. Investigate the motion, the rotation, reach OUT —-> extend through the entire wingspan, the entire length —-> better… yet, maybe reach forward, at a diagonal. Yes that’s it. Scapula position? Down and in? Check. Breathe in, full complete extension from feet to fingertips. Opposing forces centered around and over the axis. Spotlights shining, brilliantly lighting up each checkpoint. Where is my pelvis? Snug as a bug in the hold of the bandhas.


Throw the top half forward, fulcrum–the pelvis. Braced legs; femurs, quads, hams, and adjust for balance. Take care that hamstring. —-> How can I be more prepared? Do I need to be more prepared? —-> Be as prepared as possible and follow through; accept the risk and use it to your advantage. Breathe the breath all the way out. Ahhhhhh… lifted pelvic floor, the lower belly hollowed, flying up and inside. Palms fixed to the floor, drawing a consciously submissive torso securely into an established foundation of leg power. Weightless stability cultivates the sweetest inward, emptiness. A brief moment of, solitary joy.


Inhale the torso to horizontal. Risk! Keeping the balance, extend the spine forward. The legs! Hold the legs! Don’t lock your knees back (WHY WOULD YOU?!), inner rotation for the upper thighs. Pelvic position unfolds.—-> What?! Wasn’t it like that before? How did I not notice this?! —-> Shift tilt. Fingertips grip the floor and aid in spinal extension. Front of the body exposed and open to the floor, yet protected by the stability of the spine and the grandeur of the in-breath, the power of uddiyana. What a glorious position, it’s the perfect preparation for the jump back. It must be.


The plan. Mom was supposed to come visit me in North Carolina. She was to meet my Durham family and we were going to celebrate our birthdays together, create some new memories. Less than a week before her trip over here she fell seven feet off a ladder, cracked her head open over a chair and got taken to the hospital where they found a tumor in her brain. Change of plans.

The one instant in which she fell created a ripple of possible outcomes. She could have died. Could have been paralyzed, or broken her limbs. The tumor could have been cancerous. She was lucky. We were lucky. Last Friday, my mom had brain surgery. Lucky it was benign. Lucky it wasn’t a millimeter to the right. Lucky she is now home, healing, resting. Still, nothing about it was ideal. Positioning, swelling… not ideal… brain surgery… not ideal.

Even though the fall was painful physically and emotionally, and created limiting factors which fostered frustration through lack of control… the fall led to discovery. Something was found that could have become much worse as she went about her daily life.

This is what happens. We make plans and those plans sometimes fail or change outside of our control. Accidents, traumas, heartaches — things we may not have had the foresight to avoid — these things have the ability to TAKE from us. Take self-confidence, take from the love we have for each other, the love we have for our lives… this life. I mean, look around out there. This world is fucked up. And how much of that is due to the need to control everything around us?

So, not every change of plans will lead to something terrible. Changes can shake things up, expose flaws, create an imbalance which forces us to seek stability. To search for answers, creativity, compassion, devotion, communication, love. Change teaches us to be malleable, to express gratitude for consciousness and can bring clarity around relationship. And as hard as it is… can lead us to an experience of relief in relinquishing control.


May 31, 2016 my Grandma died. She was ready… In her nineties, living with dementia, alzheimer’s, heart failure. A pretty rough and scary exit. And she handled it with as much beauty as anyone could possibly do in her shoes.

gramsThree Generations.

She lived through some tough times. Serious tragedies and heavy losses. And even at the hardest of times she filled her life with love. She grew up on a farm outside Circle, Montana and rode a pony to and from school by herself every morning until her folks had to move into town. I wish I could remember that pony’s name. When she grew up she became a nurse and served as a caregiver for most of her life. She had three children, George, Margaret, and John. She outlived George. And her husband, Fred.

She didn’t get a drivers license until her kids were nearly grown. She would park her car outside of town and walk in to get her shopping done. She made the best cookies. She taught me to make them too. The white and blue ceramic container that lived on the credenza was always filled with ginger snaps (my favorite) or lemon iced molasses cookies (also a favorite). She didn’t mind us taking them when we thought she wasn’t looking. I loved watching her dance. Especially when grandpa would throw on a big band record and they would sway through the living room, giggling. After grandpa Fred died it was amazing watching her learn to be on her own after 60 plus years of marriage. Her personality blossomed. She kept busy with volunteer work at the hospital, playing bridge with her girlfriends and enjoying a pint of cold beer with a hot slice of pizza from the Cove in Polson.

She loved her roses. Grandpa’s roses. Flowers in general. Always wearing jewelry; earnings, necklaces, her watch, lipstick with a flattering top and some nice slacks. She loved to wear those sweatshirts that have paintings on the front. Loved them.

There was so much to know about her. To learn about her. Things that where either too painful to retell or her ability to recall was lost. By the time I became truly interested in her history it was already too late. I am sad about that. I’m sad I didn’t spend more time with her. That’s the hardest part about when someone dies. The moments that didn’t get to be.

When you’re making a movie you get the opportunity to “reset” the scene. Put all the props back to their starting position, go back to the bottom of the stairs, light a fresh cigarette, make that dramatic entrance, stage right, once – twice – three times…  but we only get one go at this life. She was the last of my grandparents and the last direct connection to that era of family history. What I have left of her are beautiful memories, letters she’s written to me over the years, and this crazy desire to bake cookies for people on any variety of occasions or events.

Grandma, Millie Mielke – 1925-2016

Six Minute Savasana

All I want to do is sleep. And then all I want to do is practice. To breathe, move — keep moving, develop strength, grow, find silence, balance, challenge in grace. Long days making movies, lots of running and moving things around is tough on this already “rickety ship” of a body I’m in. All I want to do it sleep, but I don’t. I make cool props and decorate sets and sweep up floors and dig up cactus…. and I practice. And I love it.


Backbends. I NEED them. All day I need them. Desire the effect derived — spine ascends into the chest, breath in, shoulder blades broaden, support, legs rooted, length. UP, OVER, UP. Reach, lengthen, breathe. This — supporting my development  as a human wanting something better in her world. Supporting the creative, the life I’m living. As I work on this film, “I Am That“, I have to remember ever so clearly, that finding presence in each movement, each breath will allow me to do this thing to the best of my ability. Practice: ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga,  supports my world.

The exciting part about working with talented, creative people is learning new ways to look at things. To work out challenging situations, find solutions that not only work, but turn out pretty fucking awesome. My friend Joy Marzec has been writing stories and dreaming of making movies most of her life. As a long time friend and yoga pal, I am constantly inspired by her will to make this happen, this something collaborative, this something MAGIC.