Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Yoga, Ethics, and Integrity: a Recipe for a Saner Life

Do you have something you are avoiding right now? Something you promised to do, or some emotion you’d rather not feel? If you say no, I’m pretty sure you are lying (if only to yourself). Every one of us is out of integrity in some way. The state of being human is also the state of imperfection. Our willingness to look at and own these imperfections is what keeps them from unconsciously owning us and is a key piece of the elegant system for living that we call yoga. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word integrity has two definitions: “the quality of being honest and fair” and “the state of being complete or whole”. Unfortunately, it seems we have interpreted the first definition too loosely and disregarded the second. Honesty and fairness have gotten mixed up with morality and virtue and in doing so, we’ve lost track of why they are important. Integrity is not about right and wrong, it’s about what is functional. Offering to help others even when we know we will drain or deprive ourselves is not functional. Neither are breaking promises, chronic lateness, or shoddy work. Making time for self care is functional. Burning the candle indefinitely at both ends definitely is not. The more that we live our lives with integrity, the worthier we will feel. Not the sort of worthiness that implies a hierarchy (as in, worthier than thou) but the worthiness that we all share as living beings. An internal sense of this kind of worthiness helps us to enjoy the preciousness of our own lives and see other lives...
Why I’m Not Teaching Inversions Workshops Anymore

Why I’m Not Teaching Inversions Workshops Anymore

I love inverting. I love the energized feeling I get. I love the sense of accomplishment when I make progress. I love the challenge and sometimes I even appreciate the frustration of working so so hard and still failing. There is no doubt that for me, inversions are a valuable teacher. For the past several years, I have enjoyed helping people challenge them selves and face their fears of going upside down by teaching a workshop called ‘Inversions Demystified’. In this workshop, I break down the different components of inversions into manageable parts and allow people to work at their own pace towards their next milestone. Everyone who attends leaves with an understanding of what to work on next and many of the people who attend have breakthroughs during these workshops.  However, recently I decided to stop teaching them. The reason that I’ve made this decision is not because I am less focused on the physical aspects of yoga. I am as fascinated and in love with human movement and breathing as ever. I still believe that taking on the challenge on inversions is a valuable way to practice abhyasa/vairagya – consistent steady practice and non-attachment. It’s also not because people tend to approach these poses greedily, willing to harm their future structural integrity for the sake of ‘achieving’ a pose today. This is true, but my workshops are actually a great antidote to this type of thinking since I am very honest with people about what they are ready for and show them physical examples of why. I am choosing to move on from this type of workshop...
Abdominal Awakening Video: Core Yoga Practice

Abdominal Awakening Video: Core Yoga Practice

This is a short (10 minute) core focused yoga video. These exercises are a small sampling of the work we do in my Abdominal Awakening workshop. Details on how to register for the next session are available below the video. I hope you enjoy it! 2 Workshops For the New Year with Mado Saturday, January 4th You can register for either one of these workshops independently, or come to both for a discounted rate. ABDOMINAL AWAKENING 2:00-4:00pm Learn a series of extraordinarily deep abdominal exercises that will strengthen you from the inside out helping to penetrate weak muscle fibers, awaken sluggish organs, stretch scar tissue, and cultivate vibrancy throughout your nervous system. Core integration significantly enhances your yoga practice, noticeably sharpening the quality of your inversions and backbends. It is a safe and transformative class for those dealing with specific core injuries and is a challenge for all levels from newcomers to teachers. You will leave class rooted in the radiant support of your integrated core. INVERSIONS DEMYSTIFIED 4:30-6:30pm For all levels of yoga students and teachers who wish to take on the challenge of inversions. Whether you love inversions or fear them, this workshop will increase your confidence doing, teaching, and assisting these powerful poses. You will work at your own pace, skill, and comfort level to break inversions down into their basic components and put them back together in ways that help your body make sense of them. Learn: Strategies for dealing with fear and anxiety about inversions. How to strengthen your body and train your muscles to invert with ease. How to figure out who should...
The Breakfast Dilemma

The Breakfast Dilemma

Breakfast. Sometimes called the most important meal of the day, I call it the most troublesome. When I wake up in the morning, I feel groggy and it takes a while for my brain cells to settle into their proper places. I do try to get up extra early to compensate for this, but still rarely have the time or energy to cook a complicated breakfast (much less clean up afterwards!). Aside from the few enviable ‘morning people’ who spring out of bed each morning with bright eyes, most of us face a similar conundrum. I believe this lack of mental clarity in the morning leads us to make more emotional and less rational choices for what to eat in the am than we do at other times of day. In this article, I will share several solutions that have helped me to deal with the breakfast dilemma. At the end, I will share my family’s top-secret recipe for a quick and easy breakfast that is nutritious, detoxifiying, and delicious. The problem with cold cereal No wonder so many people resort to cold cereal, pop-tarts, or cereal bars. They are quick, tasty, and look – the box says “fortified with essential nutrients”. But even the advertisements for cold cereal state that it is “part of a complete breakfast” – not a breakfast by itself. And if we had the time and energy to cook that complete breakfast, well we probably wouldn’t choose cereal in addition to eggs and toast. Many argue the place of these heated, sugared, and extruded grains in our diets at all. Nourishing Traditions is one...
Mado’s top 4 tips for getting the most out of your hip openers.

Mado’s top 4 tips for getting the most out of your hip openers.

Since most of us spend a lot of our days sitting, ‘hip openers’ have become a popular focus of yoga classes, videos, and workshops. However, our sedentary hips become weak as well as tight and a thoughtful, balanced approach is necessary to keep this large and stable joint healthy and functional.  Read on for my advice on how to get the most out of your hip openers. #1 Listen to your low back Your hips are the joint that connects your legs to your pelvis. Many of the muscles that move your hips affect the tilt of your pelvis. If those muscles become imbalanced, they often pull your low back into an overly rounded position, an overly arched position, or sometimes both at once! Therefore, the health & wellbeing of your low back is directly connected to the health and wellbeing of your hips. When you practice hip opening poses, pay special attention to the sensations and mobility of your low back. If you find yourself in a position where you cannot move your low back forward into its natural lordotic curve, you are likely placing your back under unnecessary stress. This is different from consciously choosing to round your low back during a hip opener, which may be a very helpful and enjoyable position. #2 Make time for downtime Even though most of us live safer lives than our ancestors, we spend more time with our SNS (sympathetic nervous system) activated. The SNS is the part of our nervous system that ensures our survival (the fight or flight response). It causes us to be alert, watchful, and ready...
Hips feel Stuck?  This might be the reason why…

Hips feel Stuck? This might be the reason why…

Some people walk into their first yoga class, press the soles of their feet together and boom – their knees fall right to the ground for a perfect bound angle pose. Other people practice for decades and still need to sit on something to get their knees to level with their hip bones – the measure for this pose to be safe for your spine. Often, the latter group will ask their teacher “will my hips ever open?”. The answer is, most likely, no. That doesn’t mean you should stop stretching them – but it might change how and why you stretch them. If your hip mobility is limited when you first begin yoga, there is hope of improvement. However, if you’ve been working on it for years or even decades, the problem is most likely the structure of the joint itself. Just as human beings come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so do their bones. The largely ignored consequence of this diversity is that human movement varies greatly from person to person. Your ability to perform many traditional yoga poses is determined more by the shape of your bones than the stretch of your muscles. While there is infinite variety in the human form, there are two main structural differences in the hip joint that inform your ability to perform yoga poses. The first is the size of your femur head & the depth of your acetabulum (hip socket). People with a deeper hip socket tend to have less mobility in their hips because the bones with encounter limitations more quickly. In the photograph below you...
Will Yoga Wreck Your Hips?

Will Yoga Wreck Your Hips?

People have been asking me for my response to William Broad’s latest NY Times article on yoga, so here you go: While the article is a bit sensationalistic, it does bring up a very important topic that is the elephant in the room in conversations about the benefits of yoga: the problem of hypermobile people making flexibility the main focus of their exercise regime. Muscles need to be both strong and flexible in order to be healthy. Yoga isn’t inherently just about flexibility, but it does have a flexibility bias. Of course it’s problematic to talk about ‘yoga’ as if it were a defined entity – it definitely is not. However, since yoga classes have become ubiquitous in the US, it’s important to me to observe the trends (both positive and negative) and see how I can be a part of the solution. The unfortunate truth is that naturally supple people tend to train flexibility and naturally stable people tend to train strength. This is a mistake in either direction. It’s a classic story. A naturally flexible person attends their first yoga class & the poses come easily. This makes them feel sucessful, and they often get positive reinforcement from the teacher or other students. The combination of internal and external reinforcement entices the student to practice regularly and a love of yoga is born. I was one of these people. Never very athletic, I pretty much hated exercise until I found yoga. Finally, an exercise modality that I was good at! Within a few years of practice, I loved it so much that I took a teacher training....
Yoga for Tin Men and Women

Yoga for Tin Men and Women

If you get out of bed in the morning feeling stiff and creaky, this is a great yoga class for you. This short audio yoga practice focuses on lubricating, strengthening, and mobilizing your joints. Not just for tin men & women, all of us who care about our bodies can benefit from a focus on maintaining the health & strength of our joints. Your joints are the basic tools for movement in your body and your muscles engage to act on your joints. Joints have a healthy range of motion and when they are either overstretched or underutilized it will cause a cascade of problems and eventually injury. By maximizing joint function, you will be able to move more freely, reduce pain, and recruit your muscles more effectively. Most exercise focuses on muscular action; the action of the joints is presumed. Warming up your joints before you workout will increase the effectiveness of your workout – whether yoga, running, weightlifting, cycling or any other activity the focuses on muscles rather than joints. Age, cold weather, and physical activity (or lack thereof) all have profound impact on our joints. This audio yoga class is a perfect winter practice, great for first thing in the morning, or right before a workout. So whether you would like to improve your performance, feel better in your body, or just counter the effects of aging – focus on your...
Gentle Yoga for Energy

Gentle Yoga for Energy

This audio yoga class is for those days where you can’t imagine doing more than childs pose in your yoga practice. Whether sleep deprived, under the weather, jetlagged, or just plain run down, this yoga class will help you get through your day.  This audio yoga class starts out super super slowly and lazily. As your energy builds through the gentle breathing & movement, the yoga poses get just a little more active.  The end result is feeling better in your body, no matter how you started out. Listen to Gentle Yoga for...
Hippy Yoga

Hippy Yoga

We all sit way more than our ancestors did – if they did at all. For most of human history, squatting was the low energy way to hang out. Now that many of us are sitting most of the time, our hip have gotten mighty tight. This 20 minute audio class is designed to help our hips chillax – and that leads to less back & shoulder pain...