Painful is the Space

I recently quit my teaching job that I’ve more than loved for the last 6 years.  I gave up my beloved classes—and the wonderful students that showed up week after week—to devote my time to my new-ish academic endeavors.  I started my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree way back when I was pregnant with Hannah (now 4) and I took a leave of absence during my second pregnancy with Rhys (who is 2).

During the first few weeks of the semester, I attempted to juggle it all:  school, mommying, being a loving wife and teaching my classes. “Choose Wisely,” the brilliant Nikki Villella of Kula Yoga Project suggested during a class I attended, “or choose wrong and be willing to change.”  Oh shit, yes, my poor decision making was evident in my relationships, my reactions and my sleeping patterns.

I chose wrong and I had to get real with the need for change.

About 6 weeks ago, Hannah and Rhys were home from their respective child-care facilities.   Desperate for some QT with my mat, I set them up with a show in Hannah’s room to squeeze in a 45-minute, quick and dirty practice.  I needed that practice…like, whoa.   I closed my practice with tears streaming down my face and immediately called my boss and delivered my notice.


I’m changing things up to be more present for this face. Photo courtesy of Megan Rechin.

For those of you that know me, I have (essentially) a board of trustees with whom I consult before making any decision.  For sartorial wisdom, I call Bri. When I need a spiritual adviser, I text Alex. When I am doing absolutely anything—including the aforementioned—I turn to Kate.  My decision to quit teaching, however, required zero external consultation or struggle or fight or validation. The universe delivered a request and I submitted.

Yesterday marked the first Sunday in five years where the Sunday 10:00 am Vinyasa class officially belonged to another teacher.  I should have been elated to have my Sunday mornings back after all these years.  But at about 10:04 I noticed that I was experiencing a familiar twinge of grief—heartbreak.  You know this feeling, right?  After the first bout of heartache, you and your body memorize the feeling but persevere—all in vain—to swear it off for eternity.  Leaving my students felt (rather, feels) like a break-up; a separation after a long  and ever-so-formative relationship.

So, ala Kath, I responded to my melancholy by consulting my board.  “Why do I feel like this?” I asked of one friend.  “Why I am being so melodramatic about a choice that I made? Is this weird?” I inquired to another.  The best response came from my go-to spiritual adviser who validated my feelings, yes, and further unpacked their significance by saying:

“Painful is the space between one love and the other, but that is just the sensation of room being made.  New space for you to be fulfilled.”

“That’s it!” I exclaimed. “Space!”

Change, aka the making of new space, is painful and difficult and heady as we get mired down deep in the anticipated logistics. The transformation don’t come easy (or we would all evolve with ease).  In yoga we simulate these moments:  within challenging transitions, movement, and difficult postures we practice non-attachment and the discipline to soften and surrender to the present moment. Ultimately, we practice connecting to our deeper essence or that-which-we-need-ness or—the technical yogic term—our dharma (=divine purpose).  In the simulated space of our mats, the dabbling into our bigger picture is safer, we always have an out once we roll up our mats.

It’s when we move off of our mats and the shit gets hella-real that we really need to invoke our yogic tools.  Right before we surrender to the transformation, with one foot out the door and stepping into the realm of possibility, distractions appear and with them come the flood of excuses.  Stuck in our story, we become defensive, staving off the change through our fight or flight mechanism like we’re shadowboxing.  With rigid tissues and a hardened heart all the movement ceases;  we choose the comfort of the familiar—not because it’s fulfilling, because we know it ain’t—simply because it’s familiar.

I’ve inhabited that space and know I will visit it again.

I KNOW I loved almost everything about teaching.  I loved the comfort of my classes and the joy my students brought into my life.  Even though I’m 100% sure that I’ve made an impact at least on a few different people in varying degrees, I know that it’s time to move into a space beyond my comfort zone.  Every piece of me yearns for new challenges and growth and movement. Moreover, I long for my children to see how hard I work not only for them but for myself and others as well.

I’ve invited change and with hands-to-heart and enormous faith in myself and the universe I courageously surrender to the challenge.  For the people who have asked me about my plans or what’s next or why I’ve stopped teaching yoga at the studio, here’s where I’m at:  I haven’t articulated the questions yet, so I can’t possibly fathom the answers.

So here I am, in the space between comfort and whatever-the-hell-lies-ahead.  School is my focus for the next few years but otherwise, I’m roaming into unknown territory, immersed into a new community and I have hardly any plans.  I become anxious, fearful and full of doubts and I can easilyespecially at 4:00 am—convince myself that imminent disaster lies around the corner. I sure can.  But I can also breathe, sit, move, shake or invoke any other healing modality to remind myself that I am exactly where I need to be.

Onward and upward!



Post-Yoga Smoothie Bowl: Guest Post from Nature’s Apothecary! (vegan, gluten free, raw)

After a month-long hiatus, we are back to the blogosphere!  Kate spent a few weeks exploring Alaska and then Kath hit the road for a 10 day trip to the Pacific Northwest; we apologize for leaving ya’ll high and dry!  We post daily on Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to like/follow us on social media.  We are stoked to share this recipe from our friend Elena, owner of Nature’s Apothecary in Buffalo, NY.  Her food, juices and desserts are all raw vegan and seriously delicious. We’re pretty much drooling over the recipe that she is sharing today!  In case you  missed the announcement, Elena is officially our chef for our Equinox Refresh Retreat in September.  A few spots remain open, so RSVP to Continue reading

Road Trip Tunes… A Summer Yoga Playlist!

I spent last weekend at Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival on the beautiful Stratton Mountain in Vermont.  This year marked our second annual trip to this particular festival and we’ve already started planning next year’s excursion.  In two days, I took five diverse and uniquely enjoyable yoga (asana) classes and 2 exhilarating rounds of Taryn Toomey’s the class.  I put my body through the ringer and then some!  Although I’m still recovering from the soreness, I’ve replenished my spirit and rejuvenated my love for this path and this beautiful,  adaptable and totally-open-to-interpretation practice.


I look lopsided in this picture because the ground was very uneven! Although a beautiful landscape for a picture, this spot is not an ideal place for practice!

My biggest takeaway from Wanderlust 2015 is that love is the ultimate end-game or goal; or, as the wise and utterly entertaining MC Yogi puts it, “only love is real.”  Regardless of the the specific techniques or details of the process—practicing to the Eurythmics in a room lit only by blacklights, football sprinting while screaming or channeling into the subtle rhythms and connection in the body through a perfectly-refined alignment-based practice—the end result that we seek as yogis is the ability to quiet the mind and live in love.

In order to experience love in the world beyond our mats, whatever we choose to practice (on our mats) on a day to day basis should bring us joy.  Our commitment to our practice hinges on whether or not we feel joy!  If practice becomes a chore or just another thing we do every god forsaken day, then check it.  Our practice should ultimately enhance our lives by allowing us to see the extraordinary within everything and our relationships flourish.  Judging other people’s paths or practices is a telltale sign that something ain’t working on your mat.  Explore your habits, your routines and tendencies to identify and work through the kinks. The ancient practice of yoga has evolved and taken many shapes over the years, adapt the practice to serve your personal needs; avoid rigidity and let your experience of yoga evolve.  It’s never to late in the game to bring joy back into your practice and your life.

Am I still yapping…?!

While driving in the car to and from Vermont, I put together this playlist.  I’ve practiced to it a few times this week and I’m really digging it!  I hope it brings you lots of joy along your journey and aids you in your quest for love!



Orange Curried Quinoa Salad (Vegan and Gluten Free Recipe)

Oh boy… I’ve got a serious quinoa baby in my belly as we speak (rather, as I write).  We all know that It’s très important—for quality assurance purposes, obviously—to taste test the finished recipe; I may have gone a little bit overboard this afternoon.  I blame the quinoa for being way to damn good.

At our local co-op they make a finger-licking-damn good orange quinoa salad.  It’s curried and flavorful and it boasts that unbeatable (and often ineffable) harmony of salty and sweet.  This salad has an edge.  There’s something curious about the flavor; like, it shouldn’t work but it does.  Oh, yes, it really does.  This recipe is my interpretation of the co-op recipe.  I think I may have nailed it.

When I prepared it for lunch today, I threw a handful of chopped romaine on top (as I do everything) and some sliced avocado.   I imagine this would pair beautifully with a piece of grilled fish or even just some super lemon-garlicky pieces of grilled asparagus.  Hey look, I just planned your next dinner party!   For the record, this bad boy totally and completely holds its own. Continue reading

Stubbornness is a Fluorescent Pink Cast

Last week,  while filling the baby’s water bottle in the kitchen, Hannahmy spunky 3-year oldraced into the house crying that her arm hurt.  I asked her what happened and she brushed by me withholding a response.  She melted into the couch in an inert and extremely-unlike-Hannah stupor.

My husband returned home shortly after Hannah’s mystery accident.  Despite our cajoling, coaxing and bribery-filled interrogation, Hannah refused to even admit that her arm hurt anymore nevermind providing any clues as to what happened.  Even though she could muscle her way through every range of motion, she exhibited signs of something-not-quite-rightness:  using her left (eg. non-dominant hand) to eat dinner, demanding assistance while changing her clothes even though she swaps dresses and shoes multiple times within an hour, and relentlessly protesting in the form of epic meltdowns at any mention of doctor or hospital.

After consulting my dear friendalso, conveniently a pediatric nursewe put Hannah to bed with the intention of  visiting our own pediatrician in the morning and avoiding, at all costs, an ER situation.   After nearly a full day passed between a doctor’s office, the x-ray clinic and finally the orthopedic wing of the Children’s Hospital, Hannah was garbed in a fluorescent pink cast extending from shoulder to wrist.  She never cried, developed her alibi, nor did she confess that she felt any pain.


On one hand, I’m awestruck by my child and the scope of her will.  She sucked it up, muscled through the agony and steadfastly clung to her story that she felt OK.   She refused to let emotions get the best of her and she, all-in-all, made a beautiful spring day stuck in a hospitable a bearable, if not pleasurable, experience.  On the other hand, her stubbornness and downright relentless refusal to disclose her story and admit that she needed some help worried me.

In my tough-as-nails Hannah, I caught a glimpse of my mother, my aunt’s, my sisters and of course, myself.  We are the strong-willed women who never say no to anyone’s request, can’t sit down during dinner parties because we incessantly prepare and clean, and would rather totally sabotage a situation before asking for help.   In Hannah’s determined face, 31 years of my total, utter and unforgiving stubbornness flashed before my very eyes.  “Uh-oh!” I pondered to myself during my epiphanic vision, “I’ve got to help her break this cycle.”

I’m proud to have an offspring who, though she may look like her father, clearly takes after moi.  I mean, I like me and I’ll forever cherish the episodes where my tenacity and persistence have worked in my favor.   For example, the resilience and unwavering strength I demonstrated during my two drug-free, totally natural labors.  Or, the fact that I’ve remained consistent and committed to teaching and practicing yoga over the past 10 years.

But I’ve seen the other side of the coin while fighting with my mom or my husband and in those super heartbreaking fall outs with dear friends.   In excess, stubbornnessthe kind that swallows any hint of vulnerabilityis strength’s evil twin.  When unmonitored, stubbornness is nothing more than stiffness in thought and body;  it’s impermeable rigidity that creates boundaries inhibiting acts of love and kindness from entering or exiting our being.

Since this incident with Hannah, I’ve been reflecting on the qualities of strength and stubbornness and the difference between resilience and rigidity.  Strength, strong-will and even stubbornness, when applied appropriately, make change possible. If individuals never embraced and utilized their strength (stubbornness included), situations could never change; growth might never occur.  An unchecked or excess of resiliency is rigidity; strength gone awry. Rigidity results from a lack of discernment; namely, the ability to discriminate between an event that requires strength and that which demands a softening and a total surrender to the grace and love of others.

Our yoga practice is a perfect illustration of this concept.  One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras reads, “Sthira sukham asanam.”  (Ironically, Hannah has this one memorized). In english, the asana (=posture, seat) should be both steady and comfortable; balanced between ease and effort.  Building mental and physical prowess takes time and patience. The pursuit of strength is a worthwhile endeavor.  However, strength is a double edged sword.   If we consistently grunt through our practice (or any exercise), stick to a strict agenda that compromises and over-stresses our alignment, our comfort and our mobility in the name of strength, we will become rigid and immobile; injuries will prevail.   Mobility, freedom of movement and the ability to be fluid AND strong exemplify the balance of the stability of sthira and the freedom, happiness and comfort of sukha.  Strength that cannot breath is stiff; it’s lifeless.

Stubbornness basically means we’ve made up our minds before entering into the situation. Out of fear (probably) or some equally comfortable-but-unhealthy aversion, the narrative in our heads is set in stone and we close ourselves off to any other alternate outcome.  Simply put, we’re not present in the moment or available to anyone including ourselves.    Our practicedefined by our journey into intention and attentionprovides a space to develop and cultivate discernment and bring new layers of perspective and presence to our lives.  Equipped with the lense of discernment, we won’t necessarily stumble into our stubborn autopilot-like habits or replay the same old, out-dated (sorry-but-it’s-a-pretty-lame-excuse) story.   Instead, we approach the situation wholeheartedly and appropriately, recruiting the right tools and the most effective attributes.

Hannah is a small child, she responds to instincts and she imitates.  As her caretaker, she subconsciously relies on my discernment and my reactions.  The way I handle situations that involve her or situations she observes leave impressions on her judgement.  I’ve got a lot of work to do as her mother and for myself to break this cycle of stubbornness.  I aspire to demonstrate acts of honorable stubbornness (eg. in matters of human rights and social justice) and to also show her that I can humbly ask for help.  For the next three weeks, that enormous hot pink cast will remind me to discern before acting and try on vulnerability for size, to practice functional and breathable strength and to, ultimately, let my story change, evolve, feel and become more inclusive.     


Forbidden Fried Rice (vegan and gluten free)

“Forbidden Rice” sounds so naughty, so enticing.  If you aren’t familiar, it’s chinese black rice.  It tastes sort of sweet and has a hearty texture.  It makes for a great savory dish, salad or even a dessert.  We frequent a local restaurant in Buffalo, Sun, because they offer a black rice menu including sushi,Thai and Burmese dishes and my favorite-of-all-time black rice salad!   Until my love affair with Sun, I was always curious about the black rice in the bulk section of co-op, but never brave enough to cook with it.

When I prepare dishes with black rice, sometimes I mix it with brown or jasmine rice if I want to soften the texture a little bit.  But this variation, which is pretty heavy on the veggies with the rice almost peppered in, I let the black rice fly solo.  My husband and I gobbled this down for dinner the other night.  The next day, Kate and I added some fresh red cabbage to it (for an extra crunch) and ate it for lunch.  Make extra because it’s even better as a leftover! Continue reading

The Great Yoga Smackdown

The late, great Sri Pattabhi Jois once said “Yoga is an internal practice. Everything else is just a circus.” I read those words a long time ago and understood them with my brain, but not at all with my heart. To me, in those early days of asana, yoga was a circus. I was learning how to do some crazy stuff with my body, and even crazier, it actually responded to those things with a little work and a lot of persistence. In my fledgling years as a yoga practitioner, I was like a sponge. I soaked up every style and every teacher and I was ceaselessly amazed by a) the rigor that yoga demanded of my body and 2) that my body could live up to and exceed that rigorous practice with ease.

This is the circus part.

This is the circus part.

There were minor injuries along the way, of course. An over-stretched hamstring here, a tweaked knee there…but nothing that would slow me down for long, and certainly nothing that ever kept me away from class or that made me question the practice. It was the relationship of a lifetime. I was in LOVE, and I was in love BAD. Continue reading

No-bake Peanut Butter Cook-bars Recipe (gluten free and vegan)

Every morning when I arrive to pick up my son from his school, he gleefully races up to me and once I pick him up he whines the words “cook-bar, cook-bar…”  I wish that his excitement was for me, not a cookie or granola barcook-bar is Rhys-speak for anything sort of sweet that he can eat in the carbut I can’t complain because he’s so awesome.  To appease my tired children and to keep them awake in the car, I always have a stash of Lara or Kind bars tucked away in my glove compartment.  Everybody wins; they get their sweet treat and remain happy in the car and I am guaranteed a break during their afternoon nap.

 Our cook-bar budget is astronomical and they leave behind an embarrassing number of wrappers, crumbs and leftover half-eaten pieces lingering around my car and purse.   We keep dateseg. nature’s glazed donutsin the house at all times and I have no excuse for buying cook-bars instead of making them.  So finally, today, I spent a whopping 10 minutes whipping these babies up.  They are guilt-free, SUPER easy and adaptable and absolutely wrapper and packaging free.  I even made them itty-bitty so that I have less leftover chunks smushed in their car seats.  Seriously though, I will have to let you know if these are any less messier than other bars… kids (and their messy parents) are just gross.

 Peanut Butter Cook-bars

 2 ½ cups pitted dates

¼ cup salted peanut butter

1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts

dash of sea salt (or two if you like a little bit extra)

1 tsp vanilla

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor for two minutes.  Roll them into little balls and place on parchment paper.  You can keep them in a ball shape or add the peanut butter cookie fork marks for fun.  Kids are really good at helping with the the rolling and fork impression part!  Place them in the fridge for a couple of hours.  Depending on how much “dough” you eat, .you should yield about 15-20 cookies




Kapotasana Sanskrit for “the mother of all backbends”

…It’s not the sanskrit translation, not even close.  I just wish that the translation was as epic as the pose itself.  Read on for the actual, rather humble, name of the asana!


Kapotasana… translate from the sanskrit to pigeon.

Back in 2008, while living in Paris and meandering through Europe, I dropped into a Bikram yoga class in Rome taught by a beautiful, italian speaking Swede.  After the first round of ustrasana, she asked me if I wanted to try full, advanced expression.  Having NO idea what she meantbut embracing the “when in rome” mentalityI consented.  She draped a towel around my back like a hammock lifting my upper back as I dropped back. As if she had several arms, she lengthened my back and assisted me in catching my heels.   Her support never faltered, and upon returning to my knees, I inconspicuously wept.  She didn’t hurt me, not at all, she guided me into the deepest backbend of my life (at that point) and I was moved.  My tears were cathartic and sweet.

 When I began to practice ashtanga, I learned the name for “full camel” is kapotasana (=pigeon pose, not to be confused with eka pada rajakapotasana).  Kapotasanathe infamous, humbling, mother-of-all-backbendsis more than meets the eye.  Flexibility helps a ton, and I won’t downplay its role, but strength and integration are absolutely necessary to practice this asana safely.  Beyond the more obvious physicality, emotionally, the pose is terrifying as it flips your perspective and creates serious vulnerability with the front body open, exposed. Continue reading