it’s not what you think…really.

Let’s talk about svadhyaya, shall we?

Svadhyaya is the fourth of the niyamas (which are the second anga of the ashtanga) and certainly the most misunderstood. Literally translated: self-study.

People bandy this word about in very fancy ways. On Facebook, on instagram, in blog posts. Very profound. They go on and on about deep, deep stuff…about looking inwards and observing themselves. About self-awareness, self-improvement, self-analysis, self…self…self…self…self. You name the word that comes next. They just talk about self.

Which is precisely what svadhyaya is not about.

In fact, svadhyaya is actually about study of scripture. About texts that bring you closer to God, to the Divine. It can be any text, whether Vedic, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu…the god isn’t defined. Only the dedication to the study is.

How this concept has gotten so widely misinterpreted is anyone’s guess. Most likely because the people who are mistaken never read past the words “svadhyaya means self-study” to find out what that really means.

I mean, it makes sense that in our Western World, people would assume it means psychoanalysis. We live in a very ego-centric society. In fact, there is a good chance these people are discussing the concept in the first place as proof that they know a long Sanskrit word and can talk about it like any normal person can talk about Starbucks coffee or the price of gas. Ah…ego.

Keep in mind that all of yoga revolves around the concept of releasing the ego. So, why would the fourth of five niyamas (observations, which ascend from the base to the spiritual) be to exercise the ego? Answer: it wouldn’t.

The irony is not missed on the fact that so many people are posting about svadhyaya as the caption to a photo of themselves doing some sexy pose in a bikini.

Lucky for everyone, the real answer lies in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali…and if you pick it up, that’s svadhyaya.


your strongest muscle

2017 was, well, crappy. Let’s not mince words. Among other things, I spent the entire second half of the year with excruciating tendinitis in both elbows (golfer’s AND tennis elbow in each)…and knees…and in my right biceps. Add to that two bad shoulders (that I have lived with for over a decade) and a neck that wasn’t too happy about any of it.

I spent most of December in Israel and besides a few handstands each day (bending my arms hurt…straight felt good) and a few workshops I taught mid-trip, I took the time off to rest my injuries, thinking it would all be better by the time I returned to LA.

It all hurt so badly, I couldn’t even sleep comfortably at night.

When I got home on Christmas, I jumped right back, eagerly on my mat. And the pain was so extraordinary, it actually made me nauseated. Oh…and I could do basically nothing.

Seriously, I thought my career was over.

The next few weeks were massively challenging—both physically and emotionally—for me as I struggled to imagine life without yoga.

I called all the best sports doctors and no one could see me for months.

Three weeks later, after little to no progress and right before my teacher training intensive was set to begin, I decided never mind. I was just going to get better.


And the days leading up to the training were extraordinary. The things that were impossible (and I mean IMPOSSIBLE) on Christmas, I willed possible.

Handstand to Gandha Bherundasana (which I have done thousands of times before and couldn’t even begin to approach after my return). It’s back.

As are urdhva dhanurasana chakrasana, funky pincha to eka panda koundinyasana and a slew of other things that came flooding back while I seriously thought they were gone forever.

Something in me just said it had to be that way. And it was.

No matter how strong you are, never doubt your strongest muscle…your mind. It can do astounding things!

the yogi in my trash room

there’s a yogi in my trash room. ask patanjali. he’ll tell you all about it.

in the astanga of the yoga sutras, there are eight limbs. the first two are yama and niyama…the code of conduct for living. and the culmination of the niyamas is ishvara pranidhana, submission to a higher power. the final limb of the astanga is samadhi, bliss or being at one with the divine.

basically, while we in the west tend to think of yoga as being gymnastics and contortions, in the beginning, it was actually a true, deep and meaningful way of life. not just waxing philosophical on instagram to the tune of look-how-cute-i-am-upside-down-in-my-bikini.

it all starts with just being a good person. like, don’t steal or lie or be greedy. you know, the usual stuff. and after a lifetime of integrity, maybe–just maybe–you can be at one with the divine.

the key is to just hand it over to god (that’s all). i mean hand it all over. your life, your love, your successes, your failures, your joys, your sadnesses, your…well, your everything. accept your lot and be happy with it. know that you are blessed.

and, now, let me introduce you to mario.

mario is the guy who cleans the building that i live in. he used to be a collegiate track coach, college educated, before moving to america. now he cleans our trash room.

and he does it with a huge smile. always.

this guy. i tell you.

i’ve seen him sick as a dog. i’ve seen his car break down when he can’t afford to fix it. i saw him lose his wife. i’ve seen his work taper off, sometimes to the tiniest trickle.

his response: praise jesus.

now, i happen to be jewish, so jesus isn’t my personal dude. but to see mario’s unbroken, unwavering faith is something to behold.

if i am sad, he tells me jesus will fix everything. if i am happy, he thanks jesus. if i am traveling, he says jesus will watch over me. and if i’m busy wallowing in pettiness while he struggles in ways i’ve never had to experience, he consoles me…with jesus.

mario has arrived.

nothing gets him down. nothing breaks his faith. he knows everything will be okay. and he knows it already is.

what would it take for you (read: me) to find that level of samadhi? where there is no separation between you and god (whatever you like to call him)? only love. only happiness. only joy.

well, i’m not giving up on my handstands any time soon–or instagram–but i am looking a lot deeper than my bandhas and further than my mat to find my yoga.


i will make you sing!

i consider myself a pretty competent human being. i can at least sort of do everything i set out and try to do.

that was until i tried making a singing bowl sing. 😆

thinking this would be another fabulous skill to add to my vast repertoire (think yoga, eating and sleeping), i got this gorgeous tibetan singing bowl from shanti bowl to decidedly mixed results.

let me start by saying that i was motivated to master this panchaloha beauty because of the healing effects it is said to have, not the least of which are calming the nervous system, bolstering the immune system, reducing stress, mitigating pain, fighting depression (🙌) and, of course, balancing the chakras. you know what it’s like when your chakras are all out of whack and you just feeling like whacking a singing bowl will solve all your problems? like that.

as explains: “in ayurvedic medicine, illness is caused by disharmony within the body. because matter is energy that vibrates at different rates, the structure of matter can be changed by altering the rate of vibration. the body and mind are healthy when they vibrate in harmony.”

makes sense to me.

okay…so i practiced daily for months. pretty much the best i could do was hit the thing like a bell and rub it with a stick as the “ding” quickly faded into nothingness. in the process, i recruited friends, family and students to try their hands at it. then i felt better about my abject failure.

and i tried more.

all of this practice and recruiting culminated in the following practice session with three of my (gorgeous and phenomenal) nephews:

if nothing else, the effort of playing the bowl makes you focus…and smile.

and if you can make the thing sing, it’s like epiphany! it feels good on a visceral level as the vibrations literally synchronize your left and right brains, emitting alpha and theta brain waves that help to induce deep meditative states, increase intuitive receptivity, and stimulate creativity.

see? it stimulated me to write this blog…it works!

a few tips from an absolute novice (but getting better every day!):

  1. very important, rest the bowl in the palm of your hand without gripping. grippy fingers stop vibration.
  2. hold the bowl away from your body, so it’s as floaty in the air as possible.
  3. move your arm as you move the mallet (aka, “the stick”), instead of just rolling your wrist.
  4. don’t move too fast…slower will mitigate the ringy, hitting-the-bowly sound.
  5. be patient.
  6. enjoy! ❤️



no will power at all

when it comes to food, i have no will power.

what can i say? the only thing i like better than food is eating food.

no self-restraint.

funny thing is, people always tell me, “wow! you’re a vegan? you have incredible will power.”

they don’t get it.

let me be perfectly clear…i am a very, very strict vegan. i never make an exception. ever. not for real italian pizza heaped with cheese, not for birthday or wedding cake, not for cold, luscious ice cream on a hot summer’s day.

but none of that takes will power or self-restraint.

for me, not eating animals or animal products is little more than someone else not eating cars or couches.

to me, animals and animal products are not food. so, it’s pretty plain and simple. i don’t eat them.

ahimsa dictates that we always show kindness to all living beings. lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu…right?

animals are for loving, admiring, honoring and treating with respect, not for eating.

veganism is more than a diet. it’s a lifestyle decision. it’s a consciousness and a moral pathway. it’s view of life.

so, next time you refrain from chewing on your computer, think of me and vegans all over the world who also have pretty easy decisions what to eat or not to eat.

meantime, please excuse me while i eat this entire box of vegan cookies🍪🍪🍪


spirituality by any other name

many years ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, malibu), a synagogue asked me if i could do “jewish yoga” for their women’s group.

never one to say no to any opportunity anywhere ever, of course i said yes. whatever jewish yoga was.

so, i put together this whole class that tied together yoga poses and theory in a way that i thought was very jewish. i was pretty much flying by the seat of my pants, but it sounded good anyway.

after the class, the rabbi’s wife came up to me and said, “that was amazing…how do you know so much about kaballah [jewish mysticism]???”.

i didn’t really know how to answer because the answer was that i didn’t know the first thing about kaballah. i just knew about general spirituality…and ultimately, spirit is spirit no matter where it comes from.

from that evolved a whole “kaballoga” series that i taught at temples all around los angeles. i did it! i created jewish yoga afterall.

fast forward a decade (or more).

a couple weeks ago, i had the hugest honor of rabbi david wolpe coming to my home, speaking to my yoga students about jewish spirituality, and even eating my lasagne. (if you know anything about my cooking skills, you know what a big deal that is!).

if you don’t know who rabbi wolpe is, brief synopsis: most influential rabbi in america (newsweek), top 50 most influential jewish people on earth (jerusalem post), and one of the 500 most influential people in los angeles (los angeles business journal). he’s kind of a big deal.

but i digress.

he came to talk to my students about jewish spirituality and–what do you know!–it was all fully applicable to everyone in the room, regardless of religion, race, or creed (what is creed anyway?).

no matter who you are, if you are interested in spiritual growth and want to hear one of the most personable, accessible, and dynamic speakers of our time, i highly recommend checking out the video of the evening. and get ready for a lot of a-ha!


kids are changing the (yoga) world

the first time is an aberration. the second time is a trend.

unless you live under a social media rock, you have heard about tabay atkins by now. and if you are just crawling out from the rock, a quick primer…tabay is america’s youngest certified yoga instructor. eleven years old. he completed my YOGAthletica teacher training when he was ten.

it was pretty amazing. small boy. big hair. tons of passion for yoga. he breezed through training with “the big boys” (who all happened to be women) like a pro, navigating the mat like he was born on it…he practically was.


the amazing thing about tabay is that inside that pint-sized yogi was an incredible wisdom that transcended his years and never ceased to amaze us all. in short time, we forgot there was even a kid in the room (but for the fact that he would slide around the room on his back telling everyone he was a slug going to get his slug babies…there was that…).

a few months after the tabay media circus began (and it’s still going strong!), i got a call from a mom saying her 12-year-old daughter saw tabay on the internet and also wanted to get certified. a number of other trainings had already turned her down due to her age and she was hoping i would take her in.

now, i have to admit i had a massive simon cowell moment where i assumed this girl saw tabay getting famous all over the world and she just wanted the same. i met with her and she said she loved yoga with stars in her eyes…i thought the stars were about fame. they were just an honest and true, deep love for the practice. this girl, it turns out, is an honest-to-goodness yogini.

meet natalie.


you may or may not ever see her on the net beyond her mom’s and my posts because natalie’s goal is not to become famous, at all. it’s just to teach yoga. an instagram account was set up for her…she’s not interested.

can i tell you how impressed i am with this little indigo child? faced with the prospect of being all over tv, the internet, and print, she’s simply not interested. how many 12-year-olds, faced with the same opportunity, do you think would turn it down? (the media may find her anyway!)

let’s put natalie in perspective…on the last day of our intensive (this is FOURTEEN STRAIGHT 12-HOUR DAYS we’re talking about here!) everyone was pretty much dying or dead. i asked in our last philosophy discussion what was–by far–the most profound question of the entire training. everyone just stared at me, dumbfounded, and then she piped up exactly the correct answer in the clearest of terms. this was a question that i  don’t even know if i would have been able to answer myself had i not been the asker myself.

that’s natalie.

and i can’t wait to see which little guy or girl will grace our presence the next time around…stay tuned…