Cleaning House (With Yogi Surprise September)

How recently have you 'cleaned house' on the different areas of your life?

In the last few weeks, I've been savoring moments when I can release what is old and needs to be surrendered.

I've been organizing paperwork, tidying rooms, and making space for my yoga mat.

I've been talking to friends about the past, and seeing what ways I need to (and am ready to) let go of it.

I've been writing down my thoughts.

Taking time to sit. To notice. To breathe.

To imagine my whole body, mind, and spirit free from clutter.

What do you need to release in order to be more present? What practices help you do this?

If you're feeling a little lost on where to start, or overwhelmed by the thought of surrendering something, it can be helpful to simply do one thing.

Clean your yoga mat. 

Take a long, hot bath.

Take a walk somewhere barefoot and picture every bit of negative energy, every old, stale, untrue thought, every doubt-- picture them leaving you, exiting your body through your feet, being left to dust.

This month's Yogi Surprise box helped me clean house. My two favorite products: the Pura Botanica Bath Infusion Rose' Retreat (it has mineral sea salts, essential oils and curative herbs and, amazing!), and the Happy Spritz Namaste Ninja Handcrafted Aromatherapy (an energizing blend that has anti-microbial properties and will keep your mat feeling, and smelling, super fresh.)

Wishing you clarity, peace, and patience as you clean house. Namaste.


Maybe you're tired, or feeling defeated, and you'd rather sit on the couch than roll out your yoga mat.

I encourage you to try a little movement, despite the discomfort.

Five minutes. Maybe ten. Set yourself a small enough goal that it's really hard to make an excuse not to move.

Take a walk around the block. Do ten pushups and ten situps in your living room. Three sun salutations.

Do only the yoga poses that feel good, the ones your body is calling out for, and for now, skip the rest. Release any feeling of guilt, any notion of, 'I could do better,' or, 'I'm not good enough.'

It may not feel fun to get started, but I'd guess that afterwards you feel grateful you made time for keeping your vital energy moving.

Find a little movement that works for you in your day. See how you feel.


Photos in this post by Ken Johnson of (1), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (2) and Justin Kral of Kral Studios (3).

PS, as a side note, this post is as much for me as it is for you... so please remember, you're not alone on the days when you might struggle to make time for movement. And if you happen to be having a sh*tty day, this is another great post to check out.

Yoga at Home with Rachel Brathen

When you practice yoga, it should feel good.

Sometimes the poses are a little uncomfortable, but they should not be painful. Additionally, the practice itself should not be punishing. Yoga is meant to nourish the body, mind and spirit. On and off the mat, our goal is to practice ahimsa, which is nonviolence. Do no harm.

Have you ever been in a studio class where you felt like the pace was moving too fast, or the sequencing was too hard or confusing? Maybe you went to beginner’s or all-levels class, but felt like the teacher was teaching an ‘advanced’ class. We’ve all been there!

Photo via Rachel Brathen on Instagram.

Today I want to share Rachel Brathen’s amazing yoga videos. Rachel is a world-famous teacher whose approach incorporates ease and grace into the practice. Her knowledge of anatomy finds its way into her cueing, but she manages to keep it simple. I highly recommend these videos for beginners, and also for advanced yogis who are looking to get back to the basics.

She mixes it up and teaches a little differently than most teachers I know, and I love that. If you’re feeling stuck in your practice, or want to try something new—something that feels really good in your body—check these out.

You can find the videos online over at Gaiam. They're a great deal -- I recommend the $40 'Ultimate Collection' which includes 10 different yoga practices!

Photo via Rachel Brathen on Instagram. 
Adopt an attitude of sukha, or ease. Pause to feel the sweetness in the poses. Rest when you need rest.

Let your practice nourish you.

As Rachel says, Let yourself have slow days. Adapt your practice to how you’re feeling right now. But no matter where you find yourself, keep practicing.

Photo via Rachel Brathen on Instagram.
Rachel is an amazing yogini and resource on all things yoga. If you’re looking for more inspiration, try her blog, new book, Happiness Tour, and awesome Instagram feed.

If you'd like to watch the videos on YouTube, here are the links:
Rachel Brathen Yoga: Find Your Purpose 
Rachel Brathen Yoga: Release & Let Go

Rest and Rejuvenation (Yogi Surprise January Box Review)


Lately I’ve been pondering the importance of rest. Life gets so busy, and I know I spend more time than I’d like to running around, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of plans I have on my calendar.

What would your life look like if you practiced slowness, being present, and giving yourself time to relax on a daily basis?

We can choose to do this at any time, by noticing what’s going on around us, savoring the moment. Focusing on the breath. Pausing to feel grateful. Clearing time to just be instead of do.

And, of course, it helps to plan little retreat days! What’s your favorite way to get a little extra R&R?

Maybe you enjoy hot baths, aromatherapy, and massage. Or maybe you take a weekly hot yoga class and enjoy a leisurely lunch with friends afterward. Writing… meditation… a long walk… a gourmet meal. All of these things help us to rejuvenate.

This month, the Yogi Surprise box is themed around rejuvenation. This is such a powerful practice to engage in. When we neglect ourselves, we miss out on the beauty of the present moment and our ability to fully appreciate it. For me, rejuvenation helps me to fully enjoy good health, peaceful relationships, and contentment in all areas of life. It is a key to happiness!

My favorite products from this month’s box are the palo santo incense sticks and yummy snacks (Betsy’s best bar and chocolate-covered cherries). I’ve been keeping the palo santo in my car, and I love the calming, earthy scent. Each time I get in my car now, I think, ‘Mmmmm,’ and take a big, deep breath. It’s a feeling of being ‘home,’ if you know what I mean. Relaxed and comfortable.

The snacks were perfect for on-the-go energy. I tried the Betsy’s bar as soon as I opened the box, actually. It had been a long day at work and I got home after teaching yoga and was exhausted and so hungry (borderline hangry!). I saw that the bar had 10 grams of protein and thought, ‘Perfect!’ It was the ideal snack to enjoy while cooking myself dinner. As for the chocolate-covered cherries, they are a lovely indulgent treat for any time I’m feeling the need for a pick-me-up. They’re a great reminder of summer, too, and how much I can’t wait for long, sunny days.

If you haven’t checked out Yogi Surprise yet, I highly recommend cruising over to their website. They post great information and inspirational content on their blog, plus every month they offer their customers the chance to enter in a giveaway for a yoga retreat. 

Use the code 'LOVEYOURSELF' to get 20% off your order!

I love getting the boxes each month because they are a great reminder to slow down and take time for just me.

Namaste, yogis. Here’s wishing you a rejuvenating rest of January 2015!

Yoga Books: Going Om (Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat)

I just finished reading GoingOm: Real Life Stories On and Off the Yoga Mat, edited by Melissa Carroll. This is my favorite yoga book of 2014!

It’s such a beautiful collection of personal narratives from talented authors. Each story is a glimpse into what it really means to be a yogi, how the experience spills over into real life. The way asana illuminates the truths of life. The laughable moments of what sometimes goes on in a yoga class… and the deeper reflections that show us how they lead to healing.
Photo via Pinterest.
The writing in these essays is effortless – sometimes witty and clever, sometimes heartbreaking. What I love about the book is the raw honesty that comes through, and the way that the book is as much about what it means to be human as it is about what it means to do yoga. I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or someone who wants to learn more about yoga.

Here are a few excerpts I really loved. The first is about how yoga helps us see our bodies with compassion, instead of criticism; the second is a beautiful description of how yoga can be captured using photography—and how the real yoga is in the shedding of the ego. Enjoy!
Photo via Pinterest.
from Being Seen by Emily Rapp

Yoga changed the relationship I have with my body by forcing me to understand that it was not a fixed entity to control but an embodied presence to be enjoyed.

I found that some days I could balance, some days I could not.  I found that I had more upper-body strength than I had counted on. I found that I stopped worrying about the way I looked doing a pose, and just found a way to do it. I stopped trying to be good.
Photo via Pinterest.
One day, in the middle of practice, on a day when I was finding the poses particularly difficult, the teacher approached me and said, "You have a beautiful practice." I had always wanted to hear that I had a beautiful body, althought I knew part of me would always resist that that could possibly be true. I felt, in that moment of acknowledgement, seen. Not for looking a particular way or for conforming to some norm, but for simply being present in that room, in the moment...

True yoga isn't about being technically skilled, and it's never about being good, as hard as it is to believe these statements. It's about being prsent, being alive, and for me, being truly seen. Now, instead of thinking, I will never be good at yoga, I think, I love to do yoga. A subtle change, but a transformative one.
Photo via Pinterest.
from Broga by Alan Shaw

One picture slayed me. Dru is in a south Tampa yoga studio, a few years younger than she is now, her hair noticeably shorter. The picture shows her hovering over the floor. Wearing a red top and pink yoga pants, she's inclined forward in Eight-Angle Pose. She holds her upper body in a lowered push-up position, and her legs bent around to her right. One leg is fed under her arm and the other over, and she's twisted them at the ankle.

I've seen her in this pose in three other photos from the album, and each one just knocks me out. The casual strength it must have taken, the years of focusing on her core, her form. She's exhibiting in the photos the strength I chase each time I practice yoga. The power in her body I see each time I look at this photo kills me and reminds me of why I fell for her. 

It's in her eyes. She's looking at the camera, face placid as a still lake at dawn. No sweat on her brow, or grimace marring her mouth, no red flushing across her cheeks.

She's at peace.

And there's no pride in her expression.
Photo via Pinterest.

Many thanks to the team at Cleis Press for sharing the book. Namaste.


Photos by Julia Robbs. Found via A Cup of Jo.

If you’re hurting, slow down. Take a breath. Give yourself permission to move closer toward what you’re feeling, rather than covering it up.

Maybe instead of turning on the TV or drinking another glass of wine tonight, take a few minutes to write in your journal about what’s going on.

Or go roll out your yoga mat and dedicate the next 20 minutes to sun salutations, and hearing the sound of your Ujjayi breath.

In yoga, our goal is not to feel better; it is to feel more.

It is easy to hide behind fear, instead of addressing what’s going on beneath the surface. The first step is awareness, and that comes from sitting still for long enough to become aware.


Wholeness Over Happiness

I had an amazing conversation last night with a person who I really love. We talked about how often we see people shy away from ‘negative’ emotions, and how it’s so much easier to let them go when we allow ourselves to experience them.

“They wash over you like a wave,” I said. “And if you fully embrace them and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling, it’s so powerful. If you’re sad, be sad. Allow it. It’s amazing what happens when you actually do that.”


He nodded, and we both smiled. “And then the fear or sadness or whatever passes,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed.

“And it makes that moment when happiness returns so much better,” he said. “It’s such a relief and so beautiful when you feel good again.”

How powerful it is when we allow feelings to exist as they are. When we acknowledge what is. When we remember that we are never alone in our experiences, however painful they may be.

This quote I discovered on A Cup of Jo said it brilliantly, too:

I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don't mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It's a really odd thing that we're now seeing people saying "write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep" and "cheer up" and "happiness is our birthright" and so on. We're kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It's rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don't teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, "Quick! Move on! Cheer up!" I'd like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word "happiness" and to replace it with the word "wholeness." Ask yourself, "Is this contributing to my wholeness?" and if you're having a bad day, it is.

Hugh MacKay

PS You were made to be real, not perfect. I was, too. Bloggers are not always happy. Yoga teachers are not always happy. And this is OK :) Namaste.

Yoga and Relaxation Music by Adam Lees

Photo via Pinterest.

Don't you love how a calm, melodic track can take you deeper into your yoga practice?

Music is such a beautiful complement to yoga.

I love finding music that is both relaxing and invigorating -- an inspiration for that perfect sweet spot in a pose where you're balancing effort and effortlessness while holding your edge.

Recently I was lucky to receive a copy of Adam Lees' yoga/relaxation album called "First Light." His music is perfect for any yoga or meditation practice; it doesn't distract, but only focuses the mind and softens the attachment to any one sensation or thought.  

Photo via Pinterest.

Together, the 11 tracks make an hour of calm, uplifting music that you can play in the background while you move through your yoga routine, or while you sit in stillness and meditate.

I highly recommend checking out the CD... you can find preview or buy it here:

Thanks, Adam, for sharing your talent and positive energy with the yoga world! Keep doing the beautiful art that you do.

PS If you want more recommendations for yoga music, check out Neil Middleton or Jai Uttal

Real Men Do Yoga: Matt Cooke

All photos courtesy of Matt Cooke.

It's been a while since I brought you a story in the Real Men Do Yoga series. I couldn't be more thrilled to share this guest post from yogi Matt Cooke today. His is an inspiring story about taking charge of your life and making great things happen. Thanks, Matt, for sharing!

One of my favorite questions to ask myself is: What would I pay to do? I come alive when I share yoga with others, and when I talk about optimizing life and creativity with others!…So I’m following my bliss.

Starting college as a BFA in Musical Theater, I quickly gained a lead role as a freshman, being Berger, in Hair: the Musical.  After receiving this huge ego boost, I then got hit with a flurry of reality checks in class, not getting cast the following semester.  I was producing crappy work that I knew was life-less….not filled with ME.  I realized I couldn't just wait around expecting my “muse” to come when I was “struck by inspiration.”
I was dumbfounded as to what I could do to be filled up again as an artist, and quickly fell into anxiety and depression that can commonly accompany being an artist.  I quickly realized that I couldn't find it through food, or alcohol or sex…all in fact, just distracted from my dharma, my work. I needed to inspire myself, rather than rely on outside sources for inspiration. After my sophomore year, I found Brian Johnson, and his work with Philosophersnotes and Entheos.  His “notes” gave me do-able steps to implement into my life, realizing I create my reality, and life circumstances!

He gave me the balls to think: “Wait!  You mean, my creativity and happiness are in my control?…I can actively make myself a stronger and productive artist, while being ecstatic about my work and gut feelings?…and fall on my face…and get back up, confidently?”…The answer was a resounding “Hell yes!

Next question: How could I systematically create the reality I wanted, by applying small things to my life, with hard work, discipline, and playfulness?

Mastery of anything comes from showing up to do the art/work on the business/the yoga regiment with “Blissipline” (Bliss/Discipline), every morning, after waking.  I immediately began letting these small changes happen, until they became habitual patterns of daily life! This included giving gratitude, meditation, running/cycling, eating amazing food that nourishes my body…and yoga…all before 10am!

After 16 years of baseball and weight lifting wreaked havoc on my knees and joints, I couldn’t even touch my shins at 21 years old.   Yoga gave me back my body and kinesthetic awareness.  I call it “getting in my body”, because I really feel in my skin, tapped into every feeling inch of my body, rather than just using my body as a vehicle for my head. 

Yoga could be a catalyst for creativity and incubating new ideas, and knowing that once I embody my Highest Self, the work can just flood forth through my mind to pen, clay, or machinery, and body. One of the first things I did after beginning my “Blissiplines” was end a 3-year relationship that wasn't life giving or supporting my growth, or hers.  I began to realize that I had a choice in literally every facet of my life, including the way I interpreted any situation in life.  I created a small group of friends/loved ones, (including my highest self) that empowered me, and that I could do the same for.

I then added a second major of Health Promotion/Wellness with an emphasis in Wellness Coaching, and attended the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Massachusetts for a month-long 200 hour YTT immersion, a life-altering experience.  Now, after creating a Yoga and Meditation Club on my campus, I’ll be heading to Vancouver, BC in May to begin an internship for My Yoga Online! Jai five!

Ready to Rock your Highest Self?




To connect with Matt on social media, check out Creative Warrior Yoga or Creative Warrior Yoga on Facebook. Here's Matt on Twitter and on YouTube.

Rowve Yoga Bags: Perfect for the Hot Yogi

If you're like me, you know having the right bag for your yoga gear makes a world of difference -- especially if you're practicing in the heat. Once you leave the studio, you've got sweaty clothes to bring home and that can quickly turn into a stinky mess.

Hot yogis, I've found the perfect solution: Rowve bags! Rowve has a collection of designer bags in a variety of sizes that are perfect for carrying your sweaty stuff around. The best part? You won't end up with a smelly bag, because they're made with cotton-backed laminate which is easy to clean.

I also love that Rowve's bag collection includes stylish designs that you can utilize as purses or travel bags, too! Each piece is eco-friendly, attractive, useful, and affordable.

The Rowve website includes a variety of small, medium, and large yoga bags. I encourage all you Bikram yogis and hot vinyasa flow yogis to check out the brand!
Photos via Rowve.

Setting Good Habits in Yoga

Photo by Cara Brostrom.

The habits we set when we're tired really matter. I realized this the other day in the middle of my practice, sweating and exhausted on my mat, as I was trying to catch my breath.

I had just been doing forearm balance near the wall, and it hit me: the little mantra my swim coach used to say. "The way you swim when you're tired will define your habits in the water. If you set bad habits during the end of practice, those are going to show up on race day."

I think this is a great reminder, whether you're a beginning yogi just learning the poses, or an advanced practitioner who's been on the mat for years. What kinds of habits do you set on the days when you're tired in class? Do you half-ass your way through inversions? Do you find yourself having bad alignment in warrior pose? 

It may be wiser to simply take a break, or try a child's pose, rather than set a habit you'll have to undo later.

Stop Staring at Your Ass in Class

Photos via Pinterest.

Here's something I believe wholeheartedly: mirrors in yoga class are a distraction.

This may come as a surprise, considering I used to be hardcore into Bikram yoga, and spent every 90 minute class in the heat staring at myself in the mirror.

I'm almost four years into my yoga journey now, though, and my perspective has certainly changed. I've come to realize that yoga is as spiritual as it is physical. Yoga is an ancient practice focused on manifesting non-violence and inner awareness. Sure, it is rooted heavily in asana, but it reaches deeper than that. The physical poses are meant to prepare the mind for meditation, reflection, even self-transformation.

Yoga is a holistic practice of learning to accept yourself and love yourself. By doing so, you begin to love others in a more balanced way.

Yoga helps us gain compassion. This process doesn't happen by wasting time in class staring at others and comparing yourself to other bodies in the room, or by focusing all your energy on whether you look skinny (enough) in your yoga pants.

Instead of checking yourself out, I believe your time could be better spent relaxing into the pose, focusing on the teacher's words, or asking yourself the question, "What's happening now?" Observe how you feel, what muscles you've engaged, where your breath is moving.

Focus your energy inward, instead of on those around you or on your reflection in a mirror.

Trust that your teacher is keeping an eye on your alignment. Trust that you'll feel it in your body if you aren't doing the pose correctly. Trust that part of the process is perhaps doing the pose wrong for a little bit before you learn the right way. 

Forget what you think you know about your own body. These poses will change you. They'll even firm your ass if you come consistently to class.

Allow that to happen, instead of analyzing every step along the way. Allow yourself to be present, instead of distracted. You don't need the reflection in the mirror; you need the strength and integrity you have within.


PS What do you guys think? Mirrors or no mirrors in a yoga studio?

Yoga Flash Mobs

Photo by Something for Kate on Flickr.

Have you ever participated in a flash mob?

I keep reading about ones where people gather in mass to do yoga or meditation as a way of promoting peace. I'd love to get involved in one, or maybe even organize one.

Photo by emjc on Flickr.

I love the way yoga brings people together to change the world for the better.

Practicing in public generates so much positive energy, don't you think?

Dharma Yoga Teacher Training

I just found out I got in to the Dharma Yoga "Life of a Yogi" Teacher Training program! 

I am so stoked. :)

Between this news and the fact that I hooped fire last night for the first time, I am feeling insanely alive in the fire

Stay tuned for ways you can support me in my yoga journey.

Peace and love to you guys!

Update: I postponed my Dharma training but am currently training at Leap Yoga in Folsom, CA to teach vinyasa.