Practice, contemplation, and insights

June Greetings (Web Version of June E-Newsletter)

Dear Friends,

One of the yoga practices in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is sauca, which means cleanliness or purity.  It does have a basic aspect of physical cleanliness, which has lead me this year to do an especially vigorous spring cleaning.  I think following the principle of saucra also applies to the clarity of our intention for the practice of yoga:  are we seeking to experience and act from a place of deep connection to spirit (or good or oneness or divine or whatever you name it)?  In practicing sauca, I think the most basic question is whether we have dust on the mirror that reflects the good in ourselves obscuring our vision, whether there are blockages to the energy flowing to bring us to optimal physical and emotional health, or whether anything is getting in the way of our manifesting our intention?

When it has been too hot to go into the garden over the past month, I have been reorganizing and sorting through old papers.  As a once every five or ten years spring cleaning, it is lasting longer than usual.  I tend to be good about keeping on top of these things, but there are crevises of old records of my life that seem to just get stuck back into a folder to be decided on some other time.  This afternoon I came across intimate letters from a friend who, not long after we went our separate what had become cross-continental ways with regret on both sides, discovered he had brain cancer.  There were a few notes not in envelopes.  I reread those, but did not open the envelopes.  Back into the miscellaneous file until the next time.  The same with the print-outs of emails to and from Peru right after 9/11.  It wasn’t avoidance.  Over time and distance, regret and grief have faded.  I did not have the need or the time to read them now.  They went back into the file because I am curious what will be my reaction to these documents when I am 87 should I be around in this body then.  I find that when I see them after again more years have passed, I can see how much the yoga (asana and meditation) as a steady practice over time has shifted how I relate to my past, to all the decisions better or worse that brought me here today.  I am more at peace with the various detours and convolutions for the teachings and the good at the time, even if they do not appear to have been squarely or most efficiently on the path.

Just as most of us have pieces of paper or things that for some reason get saved, but spend most of their time in a drawer or a file cabinet or a closet, we have thoughts and emotions around past experiences that can emerge into memory at what can seem to be the oddest of times.  With a strong meditation practice, it can sometimes feel like we are cleaning out the closets of our mind.  With a therapeutically focused asana practice, it can seem as though we have found old energetic entanglements, and it may feel that it would have been easier never to have practiced at all.  If we stay steady and keep coming to class and our own practice, we witness how much change can be wrought.  When we remember to bring our clear intention to the yoga mat, the meditation cushion, the garden and the kitchen, the laundry, work and commuting and everything we do, then we in an ever more refined and deepening way open to grace, the fundamental AnusaraR principle.

I am happy to let you know that I am now E-RYT 500.  My spring cleaning on the physical level motivated me to do the paperwork with Yoga Alliance.  My carrying the designation E-RYT 500 means that teachers taking my classes and workshops can get Yoga Alliance continuing education credits, in addition to Anusara study hours.

I am looking forward to studying with Christina Sell at Willow Street Yoga next weekend.  Come join fellow yogis for what promises to be a joyously challenging weekend of classes.  The following weekend, I head up to Vermont for the Anusara Grand Gathering.  If you are going, let me know and we can try to connect.

Special June Location Information for William Penn House Classes:  June 14 and 28, William Penn House will be completely taken over by conference groups.  Class will be held at the house location.  RSVP’s are required.  For those who have been regulars, but who have been full up with other things in life than class, it is a sweet way to get back.

Hope to see you soon.

Peace and light,



Yoga for Our Troops

It is too far from my current world and beyond my temporal limits at the moment, but if you are interested, please contact my friend Robin through the website link below, who writes:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As some of you may know, the last 5 years or so I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to take yoga way beyond the reach of a yoga studio and teach yoga and iRest meditation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. It’s been a life-changing experience.
Though its only 5 minutes away from the WSYC Takoma Studio, Walter Reed is a world away in many ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the news reports about the soldiers suffering from trauma, brain injury, loss of limbs, etc. And their families carry enormous burdens that are not all met by military services. I regularly see 22 year old women with a baby on back and toddler beside them pushing a young husband who is seriously injured in battle. And these wounds may be more readily addressed than the wounds that are invisible to the eye — depression, flashbacks, anxiety, sleep deprivation, mood swings and isolation.
One piece of good news is that the military is now beginning to embrace mind-body approaches such as yoga and bring them into healthcare settings.
Several teachers, including Karen Soltes, and I have created a training program that helps (200 hr +) yoga teachers to teach safely and effectively in military settings. Our experience shows that one must have a respectful understanding of the culture of the military AND a basic knowledge of the signature war-related conditions and injuries.
Part One: Fundamentals of Teaching Yoga and Meditation in Military Settings is a 7- week teleconference program that you can take from anywhere with just a phone and email. It runs  Wednesday June 8 – July 20. If you miss a class, we record every one of them so you can listen at your convenience.
Please visit our website at  I’ve attached a flyer, if you feel inclined to post this at your yoga studio. Let me know if you have any questions.
Also, please pass this message on to anyone in the country or Canada who might be interested in working with the military community.

Take care and thanks so much, Robin


Random Quote for the Day (Atharva Veda)

Sometimes when I am looking for inspiration, I take a book off of my shelf, let it fall open where it will, and see whether there is a sentence or phrase that resonates for my day.  Here’s my random quote for the day:

“May we be without fear/ by night and day!/ Let all the world be my friend!” Atharva Veda, XIX, 19 (Raimundo Panikkar, The Vedic Experience Mantramanjari)



After I have been working and studying intensely, I sometimes find myself called to lie underneath the cats and read fiction.  Just because it isn’t hard work, doesn’t mean I won’t find treasures that further my explorations.  This bit, for example:  “Then he felt his heart floating again, sunlit and serene, impossibly heavy, impossibly light; he felt the earth itself balanced on his outstretched finger.”  Patricia A. McKillip, Alphabet of Thorn.



Web Version of May Newsletter–Invitation to the Dance

Dear Friends,

One of the most captivating elements of dance as artistic expression for me is that it has the capacity to show the beauty in the full range of emotions.  Whether the choreographer is telling a story or sharing an impression, making a political statement or expressing a feeling, the dancer’s inherent grace can show us that there is beauty in all things, helping us through the artistic medium to abide with what might otherwise seem emotionally intolerable and to celebrate more fully that which would naturally make our hearts sing.

Since I first began practicing asana, it has been for me an embodiment of the dance.  The exquisite technique of the Anusara® principles of alignment  transformed healing work into a dance of exploration.  The expansion of my strength and flexibility in middle age — when because of my dance history I thought only would contract with age — allowed me to express progressively more fully the joy I find in my body.

This year, John Friend’s overarching theme for his workshops and trainings around the world is “Dancing with the Divine.” The theme resonated especially fully for me because I started attending regularly last fall the Sunday contact improv jam on Capitol Hill and have been re-exploring dance after all the shifts I have made with an ever-deepening asana practice.  It has been with an eye towards not only my own dance, but the connection of the community, and our dance of relationship with our living planet that I am choosing which trainings and workshops to attend this year.

When deciding what my study priorities are for the year, I look first at where my practice and teaching could benefit from some deep attention and wisdom offerings.  I look to the local offerings to deepen my connection to my home community and to minimize the environmental impact of getting to be in the same room as the teacher.  I am thoroughly appreciative of how wonderful it is to have a burgeoning and dedicated local community that has incredible teachers and draws others.  When planning which workshops or trainings with John Friend I will attend, I look at whether there is an opportunity to combine a training with a visit to friends or family or an opportunity to see art exhibits or museums that are of particular interest to me.  I like to go to any trainings that I can get to by train and, like even better when it happens, where I do not need a car once I get to the training/workshop location.

Next dance for me with the bigger community is the Anusara Grand Circle in Stratton, Vermont for the summer solstice.  My heart expands with the anticipation of being in the mountains of Vermont with clear, starry nights and bright, vivid almost endless days for a gathering of fellow yoga dancers, those I already know and love, those whom I will get to know better, and those I will meet for the first time.

It is especially exciting to know I will have the opportunity to study with some of the incredible teachers in the international community I am honored to know, but from whom I have not yet had the privilege of taking a class.  It is also a great opportunity to be with people who are just beginning to get excited about Anusara (gatherings like this are a great opportunity to study with John Friend without having the formal application process.)

Local yogis, I look forward to seeing you in regular class offerings in the neighborhood and Willow Street, including just until the end of May, Thursday night restorative yoga.  I expect delightedly to see you, too, as fellow students at many of the incredible offerings both in and around DC and the country.

And if any of you are interested in coordinating a trip to the Grand Circle to celebrate the solstice, send me an email.

Peace and light,



A Flash of Abhuta

I contemplate (practice bhavana on) the yoga principle abhuta (wonder) on a fairly consistent basis. When we can find wonder in sheer miraculous diversity of manifestation, we can enter a space of joy whence we can more likely respond in the highest.

This afternoon, perhaps because I have so recently gone on a practice intensive, I experienced a spontaneous uprising of delighted wonder on receiving an email that would otherwise cause me some consternation and annoyance. Instead, my first reaction was, “My goodness! Another one just like the others, but still new and different! Amazing how that happens. And now I will have to respond.”

I felt that way again as I joined the rush hour crowds on my way from work to go lead the restorative class at Takoma Park. (If you’re in town, drop-ins welcome. Thursdays at 8pm at Willow Street Takoma Park through the end of May).

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


Making Your Practice an Offering to Yourself

This morning, when I was walking to work, a young mother stood on the sidewalk talking with a friend. Her daughter, who was perhaps a little over a year and new to walking, lit up with a huge smile when I came within range. She dropped her mother’s hand and ran over to me, holding out a flower petal. That her hand was slightly grubby and the petal crumpled only made it more adorable.

Nearly eleven hours later, as I get ready to leave the office and head up to Takoma to teach a restorative yoga class, I find myself recalling the offering, with such innocence and joy, of the flower petal.

What we want to do with our practice and teaching is to have it be, at least on one level, such a spontaneous, delighted, and innocent offering that any perceived obstructions or interference with a sense of grace (such as a long hard work-day and attendant fatigue) dissolve. We can melt into the knowledge that practicing and making offering is just the right thing to bring us back to our own fullness (purna).

What we choose as the particulars of the practice, of course, will be tempered by our physical and mental condition.

Peace and light, E — Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


High Desert (and the Plains of Consciousness)

I am not drawn to the desert.  I prefer the lush fullness of a wetter climate, but the very otherness of the desert from my usual environment fills me with awe and appreciation for the immense variety of existence.  I went to the desert on this trip because that is where my teacher was teaching, and the teachings were more important to me than any preference for visiting a particular outer landscape.  One of the great benefits of combining intensive meditation with travel is that it can demonstrate at the most profound level that the infinitude of the inner landscape is the same no matter where we are and no matter what are the features of any outer landscapes we visit.