Looking for a few good students.

We are officially in the student teaching part of our yoga teacher training at It’s All Yoga. Now we just need students. If you have been wanting to try yoga, this is your chance. Please join us.

December 18, 4:30-5:30pm ~ Free Class! Join us, the teacher trainees, for a free all-level class.

21st and X Street, Midtown, Sacramento.

www.itsallyoga.com for more information

My Yoga Manifesto – Part I – REST

Manifesto: a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization (or in this case, yoga teacher).



I believe in resting a lot in yoga class. Sometimes I lay down flat on my back like a pancake, sometimes in constructive rest, and other times I rest with my forehead on the floor in child’s pose. Sometimes I sit on a block and drink water while looking at the shapes other people make with their bodies.  [So beautiful, the human body, all those different shapes and sizes, lines and angles…]

Why do I rest? Partly because I work so hard doing everything else in my life and I’m tired.

I rest partly because I’ve had excellent teachers that remind me to rest when I’m tired or to not push past my edge.  [ BIG THANKS to the teachers at It’s All Yoga in Sacramento for teaching me this lesson!]

I rest partly because it feels good once you get past the weird ego thing of ‘I’m in yoga class and I must do everything better than everyone else.‘ Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

At this point, I consider my resting  in yoga class a public service.

I rest so that all those people that might want to rest can look at me and think “Oh thank god, someone else is resting, I can rest too.”

I know this happens because it used to happen to me. A lot. I’d want to come out of a pose, but I didn’t want everyone to know I needed to rest so I just powered through it.

One day something clicked in my head and I decided it was my mission to make people feel ok about resting.  By being the first to rest, I am modeling the behavior I would like to see in others.  Now when I see people listening to their inner voices telling them to rest and they actually do, I feel I’ve done my work here.

We keep joking in my teacher training class that I should open a studio someday that only offers 90 minutes classes of Savasana. I know I’d want to come to the class where rest is not only ok, but encouraged, so maybe other people would too.

If you are one of those people that doesn’t think they need to rest (I know about your kind….) I think you should rest too.

You’ll thank me later.

Worry list

I thought I would share a current list of things that are weighing on my brain. Maybe getting them out of my head will help sort them out and give me some perspective.

1. Our adoption. I’m worried it’s not actually going to happen. In the words of Tom Petty, “The waiting is the hardest part.” Indeed.

2. Next school year…. Will I be teaching? Where will I be teaching? What grade will I be teaching?

Seems some changes may be happening and if I’m going to be teaching I’d like to know now who, what and where. Not so much on the last minute changes by other people. Just sayin.

3. If our adoption does go through in the next few months, how will I survive the travel? 

Jet lag + humidity + extreme heat + anxiety = bad news for Tami.

4. How will I handle the transition to parenthood? Will we really be able to live on one income?

5. Will I teach yoga? Where will that take me?

6. Ok, the thinking about the extreme Thailand heat got me thinking about the summer weather here. Will I ever get used to the heat in Sacramento? I really hate it. Seriously. Once it starts, sometimes I feel like it’s never going to stop and that freaks me out.

Will yoga help with…?

The short answer I’ve got for the question “Will yoga help with my….?”  is YES!!!

Here’s what yoga has helped me with so far.

This is by no means a complete list.

1. Touching my toes.

2. Getting the knot the size of Idaho out from under of my shoulder-blade which had been implanted there at birth.

3. Quieting the symphony of critics, judges, voices, whatever you want to call them – you know that thing that keeps you feeling bad about yourself.

4. Breathing more deeply.

5. Letting shit go.

6. Feeling better in my body.

7. Not thinking I’m fat anymore despite being heavier than I’ve ever been.

8. Lightening the hell up.

9. Judging less.

10. Laughing more.

11. Singing more.

12. Trying more.

13. Quitting less.

14. Taking more healthy risks. Hello, inversions!

15. Taking less unhealthy risks. Bourbon? Not never, but not so much.

16. Smiling more.

17. Interacting with strangers more.

18. Liking strangers more.

19. Liking people in general more.

20. Slowing down.

21. Beating myself up less.

22. Sleeping better.

23. Less PMS.

24. More hugs.

25. Letting go of the past.

26. Embracing the now.

27. Not agonizing about the future.

28. Finding, recognizing, and admiring kindness in myself and others.

29. Cracking open my heart.

30. Crying more.

31. Props are there to support you.

32. Support feels good.

33. I live for corpse pose!

34. Feeling like I’ve had a massage.

If you’d like to feel one of the above things, please try some yoga. I’d really recommend coming to It’s All Yoga in Sacramento because it’s through the loving kindness that I’ve received from my teachers I’ve learned all these lessons and have been inspired to teach them to others.

If you don’t live in Sacramento, then search for a place that feels like home. Don’t settle for yoga-cize or the competitive “no pain, no gain” classes at the gym or high fashion studio. It’s worth it to find your yoga home.

I have found mine.

Letting go a little improves life. Letting go a lot brings happiness and joy. — Jim McGregor

Letting go for me is a relatively recent phenomenon. Up until about a year ago, I was your go-to gal for righting the wrongs in life – big and small. You could hardly find a fight where I didn’t have a dog in the ready or a sword to fall on. However, I realized I was exhausted from carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. As a result, I’ve been practicing letting things go.

In the beginning it was really hard to let things go. I definitely had to practice. In fact, it was a serious fake it, til you make it kind of a deal. Someone would do or say something stupid and I’d have to make a choice on how to react. Most times I’d mutter to myself through clenched teeth, “Whatevs” or “Look at me, letting it go…”

You know what I learned from letting things go? The world kept revolving, the sun came up, the seasons changed and life just kept on going. I also learned I felt better about the world. I slept better. My face started to clear up and my back muscles were more relaxed. I laughed more and I had more fun.

I thought I had this beast tamed until I started this program. The anxiety around teaching and the pressure to get all the work done — and failing miserably despite my efforts not to —  was really wearing me down. It was coming out in how I was treating myself and dredging up all those yucky feelings of not being good enough.  Not fun.

I talked to my teacher about my feelings and she gave me some really good perspective. She reminded me that we aren’t working in the emergency room, so no one’s life is at stake. I was glad for the reminder that we’re not saving babies here. She offered loving words of encouragement, told me that I didn’t sound nearly as maniacal as I felt and that over time I’d feel more comfortable teaching.

So rather than grip to those anxious feelings and let them keep me from teaching, I decided to jump back in. Yesterday I opened a small class with some other TTs. I spent my 15 minutes guiding my students through some gentle movements and offering a reading as a theme for our practice. While I was in the front of the group I decided to just do what felt good and to breathe. A lot. Admittedly, there may have been too many audible sighs, but I suppose that’s better than not enough.

The point being, I taught yoga without freaking out!

Lighten up, Francis.  –words to live by.

Don’t worry about things you cannot alter. – Catherine the Great

Oh Catherine, how right you are.

The last couple weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster for me at work: I’ve been irritable, short-tempered, exasperated, shocked by the bad attitudes of my students. I have been at my wit’s end trying to figure out why my class had become so ill-behaved. Nothing seemed to motivate them and they didn’t seem to care they were losing out of activities. Kids have been losing recess left and right for not following directions, not being ready to work, being sassy with the teacher. I’ve been making way too many “your kid was naughty at school” contacts with parents.

Apparently, I keep forgetting that I work with eight year olds. If you’ve never worked with kids, you’ve never experienced the joy of seeing the worst parts of yourself reflected back twenty (or thirty!) fold. I guess this is what parents feel every day of their lives.

 If I’m short-tempered, critical and judgmental, guess what I get back. If I am kind, confident and respectful – you get the picture.  Recently, I’ve seem an increase in sassy, sarcastic responses – shocking, I know and really, really unattractive in a third grader. So I decided to alter the only thing I can – my attitude and my classroom management system.

Just to test my boomerang theory of behavior, I reinstated team points in my class. This has worked wonders in years past as well as with this very class until a month ago when I decided they were so great that they didn’t need it anymore. (Remind me of this, should I ever need to take mood altering drugs…. “I feel great! I don’t need to take those pills anymore!”)

I explained to my students that every time their team was ready to work before the one minute timer went off,  they would earn a team point. Since their off task behavior during transitions was DRIVING ME INSANE, I thought I would just focus on this one part for now. 

I made a chart paper point sheet, hung it on the easel in the front of the room, gave them their task and set the timer for one minute. POOF! Like magic, every single one of my students had all their materials out and were ready to work – BEFORE THE TIMER WENT OFF!

Thinking this may have been a fluke, I tried it again with the next transition. I gave them their task, set the timer and off they went to gather their materials. Another successful transition!

And another.

What was the big change you ask? Me. I was looking for what they were doing right, rather than what they were doing wrong. This shift in focus helped alleviate the negativity in the room. One other component I added to our “new” system was the “nag wall” – every time I nagged someone about something they weren’t doing right, I had to give myself a negative point.

Before recess we met as a class to debrief the new system. I asked them to think about what went well, what didn’t go well and if they felt better than the day before. Many students explained that we got a lot more work finished than usual because no one was getting in trouble, that they worked together to be ready, they helped each other and the teacher wasn’t mad anymore. I asked my most previously non-compliant kid why he was suddenly able to be ready and work and he said, “Teacher, I didn’t want you to have to give yourself a negative point because of me!”

I’ve got issues.

The actual teaching part of the teacher training is kicking my butt. When it’s my turn to teach a pose or two for my fellow tts or during this weekend, our new mamas-to-be, I feel light-headed and I have a hard time hearing anything besides my heart pounding in my ears and my inner critics. Plural. There is so much internal chatter going on that I can’t even really hear exactly what is being said, however I know none of it is complimentary.

Time slows down and I’m no longer able to judge how long we’ve held each pose or if I’m talking too much or too little. Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? Does my imagery make sense? Is my nervous energy oozing out of every pore or does it just feel like it?  Are they having fun? Why aren’t I? I have fun when I take class. I love yoga so much when other people teach it, why do I struggle so much to enjoy teaching it?

Even when I’m watching the teachers before and after my poses, I have a hard time being in the moment. I’m too focused on what I feel like I’ve done well and beating myself up for anything I feel I didn’t.

To say I experience great anxiety, self-doubt and anxiety would be putting it lightly. I experience something close to dread when it’s time to teach yoga. It’s “funny” given that I teach as my chosen profession and that I truly love the teaching part of my job.

I’m watching my fellow It’s All Yoga Teacher Trainees find their teaching footing and I’m in awe. So many of them are developing their voice and confidence, taking all opportunities to teach with grace and confidence. It’s like watching a bunch of flowers sprout from bulbs in the spring.

I’m feeling the opposite about myself. The crazy thing is that the further into the teacher training, the more my anxiety grows. I feel less ready to take the reins than I did the first day when I felt my teaching experience really benefitted me. Now I feel that experience is so different that it isnt’ as applicable as I first thought it would be. In theory they are very alike, but in practice, I’m finding much less so.

I am having a hard time figuring out exactly where this all comes from. A list of possibilities include: general perfectionist tendencies, feeling like I don’t have the expertise of my teachers (or fellow tts) so why am I in the front of the room? – hello, self-doubt!, not enough time to prepare, etc.

Flu – who is to blame?

I got sick this week  – sick enough to take two days off work without knowing who my subsitute would be and not really caring as long as I didn’t have to go into work.

I got sick enough I took a whole weekend off from yoga teacher training and well, from everything that didn’t involve laying on the couch or in bed.

I got sick enough that my big accomplishment for the weekend was showering and brushing my teeth.

I got sick enough I googled flu versus cold symptoms and fell decidedly in the flu column with a special shout out to the tiredness, unproductive – yet really, really annoying – cough, and overall body aches. Thursday morning I felt like my body had been worked over with a sock full of oranges Grifters style.

As the weekend progressed and I didn’t magically feel better, I began to wonder if I’d ever feel healthy again. I do this. When I’m sick I feel sorry for myself and to try to assign some blame as to why I got sick. It isn’t enough that it’s one of the worst flu years ever and I am surrounded all day by snotty, sneezy, coughy children. No, I need to know why.

A friend called me this weekend to check on me and her theory about my flu was less about my proximity to the little germ factories and more about totally stressing out about a high profile observation last week at work. And maybe report cards, grading and parent conferences coming up. As it turns out, she may be on to something or so says Parade magazine

“Stress affects your heart, weight, and skin. It’s also linked with “poorer wound healing, an increased risk for developing depression, the common cold, and influenza, as well as associated with increased symptoms among those with chronic illnesses,” says Dr. Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.”

So now I’m thinking the big work stressors combined with the little germ factories is probably what made me sick to begin with. Now I’m left wondering how I can counter all those factors…. hmmm, maybe some yoga?

Is yoga a religion?

I wanted to title this post, “I used hate all religion and now I only dislike some.” Catchy, huh?

Day Three

The Dharma talk. Uh oh.  The Dharma talk is the part where the yoga is going to recruit me into the cult. It will invade my brain and change how I view the world, God and myself.

God, I hope so.

Let me start at the beginning. I was raised to be a good Lutheran. Or at least that was the intention. My peeps are originally from Minnesota and as Garrison Keillor can attest, the place overrun with Lutherans. My father moved to California when he was three; however he brought those good Lutheran values with him on the ride.

Here’s the truth though. I went to the weekly classes and was confirmed a Lutheran when I was in eighth grade.   As it turns out, I was that kid. I was the questioner. I was the doubter. I was the pain in the ass with all the philosophical questions and then with the follow up questions which always ended with the pastor sighing audibly and replying, “You just need to have faith.”

Since being confirmed as a real life Lutheran, I have been to church exactly three times. When I go to church wedding, I worry that my lack of faith will somehow cause the architectural destruction of the church. Seriously, I worry that I’m going to ruin the wedding because the church falls down around us. I’m pretty sure the pastor at my church is still clapping gleefully every week when I am absent from his congregation. The dude looked a little panicked when he spotted me in the pews at my Grandma’s funeral. “Oh no, not that kid.”

“You just need to have faith.”

How could I have faith in something I saw as punitive and hypocritical? How could I have faith when there is so much suffering and injustice in the world? How could I have faith when I don’t see myself like these people?

“You just need to have faith.”

But it didn’t. In fact, for a very long time, I had the opposite of faith. I had scorn for those that blindly followed the flock and didn’t question. I looked down on them for their ignorance of what was real – evolution, science, fun. Needless to say, my spiritual life suffered greatly because of my rebellious attitude toward my family’s chosen religion.

“You just need to have faith.”

Then it happened. I started to question my questioning. I started to feel like something was missing in my life. I had a new very fulfilling job I was passionate about, a very supportive partner, amazing friends and yet something was missing. Did those JC lovers know something I didn’t know?  Damn them. Were they right?!? Did I just need to have faith?

So I went on a journey to find my spiritual self. Of course I mocked the hell out of the wonderful person that suggested I do that. Poor thing, just a sweet Buddhist shrink looking to help me find my way. I think I owe her an apology…

I didn’t go to yoga to find my spiritual self or any new ideas about the world. I was looking for a good workout and that post class feeling. That peaceful feeling. That feeling that was absent except right after class. So more yoga = more good feelings, right?

As it turns out, the real yoga comes after you leave your mat, your head and find your own inner goodness and peace. As it turns out, it’s the turning inward and looking for the divinity in yourself when all the goodness happens. It’s the Dharma that brings out the faith. The faith in the inner goodness in all people, the faith in the impermanence of all – good, bad, indifferent, the faith in the present moment.

Through the regular practice of asana and listening to the very wise IAY teachers, I have finally found my faith.

A home practice? Are you crazy?!?

We’ve been asked to begin a home practice. I know, huh? Why on Earth would we start a home practice when our studio practice is so delicious? You go to class, roll out your mat and some super knowledgeable yogi gives up the goods. You’ve got some exercise, mental clarity and fulfilled a commitment. You feel better because you’ve “done” yoga and you didn’t have to think about it.

I finally got it today. Our job as teachers is to help students become independent learners… (Geez, where have I heard that before?). A yoga class can be likened to excellent tier one (whole group) instruction. Teachers guide students through poses giving corrective feedback and modeling poses. Students that need a little remediation, get it. Those that don’t,  just do some guided practice under the teacher’s supervision.  Under this scenario, what is the student’s proving behavior? It’s not until students are left to their own devices do we as teachers know they learned what we taught.

In the end, to truly know your student is making progress is when they can do it on their own. Think of it as grown up homework.

Letting go of the doing.

Day 2

12 hours down, 4.5 to go for the weekend. Sounds crazy because most people think of yoga as active asana (poses) with a little meditation at the end of the practice ususally in Savasana. In reality though all of what we’re doing – studying, discussing, making body shapes, meditation – is all yoga.

Yin – the feminine aspect of yoga. It’s the practice of holding more passive poses for longer periods of time. It feels amazing because it is a slow letting go of the doing.  I haven’t always felt this way about Yin. I used to look at people and think they were just laying there. Really what were they getting from “just laying there”? Now that I’ve expanded my view of what yoga is, I get it. I’ve drunk the Yin koolaid. Now I love this gradual letting go. This is my yoga. Letting go of the doing…

Personal values and how we live (or don’t live) them is also a big part of this new yoga. Glad to report I’m living my most important personal values most of the time (yay ego!). Mostly what I learned about this is in my previous career in politics and living a really ambitious go-getter life didn’t serve these values and through the process of changing careers, I have been able to live more closely to these values. I’m so glad I already figure some of this stuff out! (ego rules!)

Here are my values in ranked order:

  1. humor
  2. family/friends/personal connections
  3. passion
  4. courage
  5. activism
  6. books
  7. music
  8. travel
  9. food
  10. green living
  11. enough (self acceptance, non-perfectionism, self kindness)

We were only supposed to choose ten, but that’s like asking someone to choose amongst her kids. Enough said.

Teaching yoga is an art and a science. Today we spent some time on each.  Practicing looking at each other’s alignment and giving corrective feedback was both an exercise in the science and art. How does one teach body alignment to people that seem to have no awareness of their body in space? How do you help someone change life long habits of clenching their butt or sucking in their bellies? What language do you use to help someone become more aware of what they are doing? Best answer we got today is to ask, “How does it feel?”

Today it feels a lot like letting go.

Yoga is like falling in love. It’s hard to explain to people that haven’t experienced it themselves.

In the interest of self-care, today I’m reposting my first ever post. 

Many of you haven’t seen this yet. It’s where the story began.


Today was the first day of my 200 hour yoga teacher training.  My first thoughts are that I’m so glad I’m doing this now and with these people. I have been working the front desk and practicing regularly at the studio for more than a year now. Looking around the room I saw mostly familiar people I’ve practiced with many times.  I’m looking forward to practicing and learning from everyone – not just Michelle and the IAY gals. 

Why here?

It’s All Yoga is the closest slice of yoga heaven I’ve ever experienced. The teachers, without exception, exhibit kindness, generosity of spirit, humor and wisdom beyond their years.  The space itself is an inspiration in green living and the studio’s commitment to the environment is evident. I spend all my spare time trying to drag everyone I know into the studio to share in the goodness.

Why now?

I’ve been flirting with a regular yoga practice for years. I took my first class more than 10 years ago and thought I’d never experience anything so amazing. Fast forward to summer 2006 when I did my first “summer school” (3 unlimited months of yoga) at IAY and I discovered that amazing feeling only compounded with regularity. School years take an obscene amount of energy the first few years of a teacher’s career and so my regular practice suffered when “real life” returned after the summer break.

Last summer I started “Desk Diva-ing” and the rest is history. Instead of exclusively focusing on my teaching job this last school year, I devoted several days a week to my yoga practice. Working the desk committed me to two days a week and sometimes that is all I could do. Other weeks I found myself on my mat many more – sometimes even at home! 

Over this past year, my mat became my friend and sometimes my enemy. I spent a lot of time crying on my mat – frustration at my body’s limitations, envious of other people’s strength and flexibility, sadness because of some fertility issues, grief because of past trauma, family illnesses and deaths.

It wasn’t all tears (although sometimes it felt that way). Connection, joy, self acceptance, love, dare I say – divinity have also been present on my mat. Had those been there all along? Had I missed them always living in the past and the future? Would I keep experiencing them if I continue to practice?

This new regular practice helped me take my yoga (non-competitiveness, loving-kindness, openheartedness) into my classroom as well. I am looking forward to seeing what this deeper self exploration means for me and my students over the next few months as I delve deeper into a practice I’m falling in love with.