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🍪🍪🍪

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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!

http://www.YOGAthletica.com

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.

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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.

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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…

getting older without getting old

okay. i admit it. i have those days.

you know, the days where you (grudgingly) wake up and say to yourself “maybe i’ll just take this one day off my yoga practice.”

okay. i’ll admit it. i have them a lot. maybe because i never actually do take that day off (unless i am on travel…in the spirit of full disclosure). maybe because i’m getting older. but i have them more than i care to admit….i just admitted.

let me be clear, i don’t skip days because yoga practice is my drug, my addiction, or something i can’t live without. au contraire mon frere. i would happily spend the extra two hours languishing in bed if i thought it was an option.

but it’s not. and here’s why…

back in my early years, b.y. (before yoga), i was a total gym rat. practically lived at the gym. and every day at 4am (god help me for waking up at such an ungodly hour for a decade!), there was this guy in his 90s who would lift weights and walk the treadmill for at least an hour. oh…and he still had a full-time job, too!

it was because of him that i drew the conclusion that as long as you get up every single day and do your thing, there will never suddenly be a day when you wake up and cannot do your thing.

that idea has stuck with me literally every day for the last 20+ years.

i do get on my mat every day, no matter how reluctantly. and then there are the days when i think “i’m here. i’m on my mat. i did the hard part. i can skip my ________________ (fill in the blank…handstand series, backbend series, arm balance series, etc) and be fine.”

but…

i can’t.

skip my handstand series today (and it’s over 30 handstands of varying entries and exits each day) and it gives me permission to skip it tomorrow. and just a few more days (because what’s one more day?). until it’s gone.

i’m 45 years old and still practicing like a 25-year-old. some people think i’m crazy. some think i will seriously hurt myself. or kill myself. i’m just doing my best to keep myself strong and flexible and balanced and–quite frankly–young.

do things snap, crackle and pop more than they did ten years ago? yes. do they get exhausted, tight, or hurt more than before? hell, yes. but can i do things now i couldn’t even do back then? YES!  will i be doing bigger and better things in ten years than today? you can say i’m being naive, but i’m going to say i sure hope so.

one day at a time. every. single. damn. day.

i’m on a path and i have no plans on giving up. i’m getting older, but i have no plans of getting old.

 

living the life

whenever i have the awesome opportunity to teach in europe, i am always flooded with messages from friends and family telling me, “you sure live the life!”.

i will be the first to admit that i am blessed beyond my wildest imagination to be able to see the world the way i do, to meet the most amazing people along the way…and to actually get paid for it. believe me, i don’t need anyone to remind me of that.

here’s what’s interesting, though:

in america, people think you have to travel to europe to live the life.

in europe, they just live it.IMG_8879

i don’t mean this on the most obvious, basic level…that we think of their actual home as a vacation spot. heck, i live in l.a….on that level, i am also living the dream.

i mean it on a more fundamental level.

everyone in europe lives the life.

in europe, carpe diem isn’t a hip catch phrase, it’s a lifestyle. they don’t sweat the small stuff like we do. they eat well and eat big. they are passionate and loving and generous and gracious and they are happy. and when i’m there, i am happy, too. like crazy happy. insanely happy. over the moon happy.

granted, i am spending my time with yogis and yoginis, so, certainly the combination of yoga and europe is a potently happy one.

but when you look at the european culture, “the life” is built right in. siestas and long vacations, huge value in family and friends, and meals that never seem to end.

even look at the language. in american dialogue, we have life. in european languages, it’s never just life. it’s always the life. la vita, la vida, la vie…

we can probably learn a lot from the europeans. they can learn yoga from me, but i am more than happy to learn about the life from them.

i’m just…so…tired…

last year i launched my vimeo channel of full-length yoga classes (if you’re not already subscribed, you should be!) and something very unexpected happened.

i have been shooting short single-pose videos for years on youtube and it’s all been lollipops and rainbows. but when i started making full-length videos, i’ve found myself getting really, really tired. like, my-legs-and-arms-might-fall-right-off-my-body tired.

and it’s not because the classes are so very difficult.

in fact, every class i shoot is significantly less challenging than my daily personal practice…some very, very less. for example, despite doing 35 handstands of varying entries and exits every morning in my own practice without faltering, i find myself unable to do more than one or two in my videos before i start apologizing that “my handstands are off today” (again).

this exhaustion had baffled me for a long time and then the lightbulb went on: the reason that i am getting so tired filming these classes is that i am talking instead of breathing.

in my normal practice, the deep ujjayi breath underlies my every movement and carries me through the flow.

when you build any asana, you always start with the foundation, with what’s on the ground. feet for warriors, hands for handstands…but your physical foundation isn’t the real foundation of your work. your pranayama is.

pranayama (and i’m all about the ujjayi) is the foundation beneath your foundation. everything builds on top of it.

here’s the truth: if you are missing out on your breath, you are missing out on your practice. i preach it all the time, but now that i am experiencing practice without pranayama, i’m experiencing it firsthand.

so breathe, darn it! and breathe deeply. then watch how your whole practice changes.

depressing…

For a long time now, I have lamented how far the Western yoga industry has strayed from, well, yoga.

But this Instagram post by insta.yoga was the nail in the coffin for me (notice the 132 likes).

I hope that no further explanation is needed, but I will give one anyway…because you know I am not one to keep my mouth shut about just about anything.

This is just about as mean, judgemental, and un-yoga-like as any message I have ever seen in my life. Part of this is endemic to the whole yoga social media phenomenon where nothing (and particularly yoga) is more important than aesthetic beauty. Seriously. People worship whoever poses in their underwear or bathing suit and yoga has become little more than a sexier-than-thou competition. How dare anyone who claims to be a yogi or yogini judge someone just because they have a different size or shape of body than the one they idolize???

And how does a message like this make people feel who don’t fit the sexy yoga paradigm? Is this going to encourage them to try yoga? Or continue on their path, for that matter? This kind of ridicule has absolutely no place in the yoga community. Please don’t tell me to have a sense of humor or lighten up, by the way. Laughing at the expense of other people’s feelings is not funny. This shirt is shaming and shameful. There is nothing funny about it.

There are plenty of amazing yogis and yoginis out there who have truly committed themselves to their practices even if insta.yoga and their 132 likers think “their butts say McDonalds”. These people work hard, follow a yoga lifestyle, are proud of their accomplishments, and do not deserve to be embarrassed by social media messages like this one.

Everyone should be able to put on yoga pants, be proud of who they are, and have the freedom to work on themselves in the way that yoga promises…free of judgment and full of unconditional acceptance.