On Getting Tattooed

Photo above by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography. Photo below by T. Libertiny.

Hey yogis! Do you have tattoos? I'm a big fan of wearing my art on my sleeve. :)

All of my tattoos have very specific meaning and represent important moments in my life. Recently I completed a sleeve on my left arm by the beautiful and talented Jen Leonardi of Leonardi Tattoo.

The majority of the artwork is based around mandalas, sacred geometry, and lotus flowers. All of these evoke notions of peace and harmony. I love that at a distance, the sleeve is bold, beautiful, and colorful…and when you look up close, you can also see an incredible amount of intricate detail behind the tattoos.

As for the flowers, I’ve always loved the phrase no mud, no lotus – it speaks to the idea that all of the suffering we experience in life is what creates our strength; without the darkness, we cannot have the light and beauty. In that way, the lotus flower represents both beauty and courage to me. And I’ve incorporated all of the colors of the chakras in there as well. 

The piece on my shoulder is inspired by the beautiful state of California, my home. :) I love the imagery of nature, the vibrant colors, and the way the design fits with the shape of my shoulder.

Around the inside of my upper arm, I also have the flower of life pattern.

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

On my back is the Sri Yantra symbol, with its interlocking triangles surrounding and radiating outward from a single point. It is said to represent the balance between yin and yang, between male and female, Shiva and Shakti.

For me, it is a reminder to find balance in all things, and to remain mindful and aware.

I also have a tattoo of one of my favorite mantras, om namah shivaya, on my right ankle. I got this one at a time when I wanted a clear path in my life, and vibrating the mantra has helped me overcome obstacles. 

Often I will sing om namah shivaya throughout my day. It is a calling out to Shiva, the Destroyer, the one who takes the status quo and turns it upside down :) This tattoo reminds me to live in the moment, not becoming attached to any one situation.

I like that I can see the tattoo while I practice yoga, and that it points to my feet, which take me on my journey. (Credit goes to Mike Dalton at Chicago Tattooing and Piercing).

I also have a tree branch inside an imperfect circle on my inner forearm, one of my first tattoos on my arm. This one has various and very personal memories associated with it. 

The artwork represents moving through pain, acceptance of self, and living in a natural way that's in tune with the earth. In many ways, it's a reminder to myself to live peacefully regardless of the crazy experiences I have, or the chaos that others may bring close to me. 

It's also a testament to children of divorced parents, victims of abuse, and broken families; you are stronger than you know and my heart goes out to you. (Credit goes to Zach Stuka of Deluxe Tattoo in Chicago)

I got one of my tattoos in upstate New York, a lotus flower on the upper right thigh. This lotus represents beauty, grace, and restraint. To me, it's a reminder to be patient and to place value on serenity and purity over instant gratification. (Credit goes to Emel at Ink Inc.)

One of the early tattoos in my sleeve is an infinity sign. It represents my desire to keep creating art throughout my life and never to give up on artistic pursuits. (Credit goes to Jason from Chroma Tattoo in West Bloomfield, MI.)

Photo by Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography.

So, that's my ink... so far :) I think next I want to do the tops of my feet...

Do you have any tattoos?

Coloring Flower Mandalas (Book Review)

Do you ever feel like your creativity needs a boost?

I think all of us can relate to that 'stuck in a rut' feeling, whether it's in regard to our own art projects, work, relationships, or even our yoga practice.

It's so important to try new things, and to adopt a playful attitude!

Recently I was lucky to share the amazing book Coloring Flower Mandalas by Wendy Piersall with my lovely sponsored yogini Elizabeth. It's the perfect book for bringing out your inner goddess and inner child, all at once!

Here's what Elizabeth said about the book:

I absolutely love Coloring Flower Mandalas. It was the most colorful meditation I've ever experienced. 

Such beautiful hand-drawn designs! It was a great way for me to be present in the moment and find a few moments of calmness. I was able to bring out my inner artist and have some fun. I even turned on some good reggae and got in the zone. Thank you so much for creating an amazing adult coloring book!

A big thanks to Wendy Piersall for creating such a lovely book, and to the team at Ulysses Press for sharing this unique book with Alive in the Fire!

You may recall I have some mandalas tattooed in my sleeve :) What I love is that these designs have existed for thousands of years as tools for meditation and healing... the powerful sacred geometry, the spiritual symbolism, the lovely colors... all of it works together to create a beautiful, meditative design :)

Cheers to all mandalas, whether they're in books or tattoos or your meditation space!

Namaste, friends.

No Mud, No Lotus (On Suffering, Injury and Tattoos)

Through my struggle, I am developing compassion.

My back has been hurting again this week. I think it became aggravated during a chair twist, one I demonstrated while I was teaching. I wasn't careful, and now there’s pain again.

I've been frustrated. I cried about it. My ego showed up, saying, “What did I do to deserve this? Why me?”

But I choose to breathe. Today I invite patience, calling upon my yoga practice.

I read recently that you can tell you've been practicing yoga for a while – that it’s working – when you notice that you’re a little slower to anger, a little more aware, that maybe you can laugh when something unexpected or uncomfortable comes along.

I think about my beautiful sleeve of lotus flowers, each of them a reminder of some pain I’ve been through.

“Most people are afraid of suffering,” Thich Nhat Hanh says. “But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower grow. There cannot be a lotus flower without the mud.”

I am in the mud, and I am the lotus.

All is exactly as it should be.

I consciously choose to adopt an attitude of gratitude for what this experience of back pain is bringing me: new appreciation for my body… new appreciation for those who support me…and a chance to step away from my mat and let my teaching be my practice. 

To see my students with adoration, and to have an intention of helping them stay safe in their yoga—good alignment, careful, integrated movement.

I even have plans to develop a class for people who are dealing with injury, and for those healing back pain. 

I have plans to use the next few months to study anatomy, to dive back in to my teacher training curriculum and expand my understanding of how each pose affects the body. And to start fundraising for my next training. 

I may be off my mat, but I am still actively involved in my yoga practice.


Longing, loss, devastation… they make way for repair. They are the mud that creates the beautiful, graceful lotus.

I invite the fullness of healing. I invite patient awareness. I invite growth. This, too, shall pass; in fact, this is already exactly as it should be.

Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Book Review)

Photos via Indie Spiritualist website and on Facebook.

“You were born to be real, not to be perfect.”
Chris GrossoIndie Spiritualist

Being true with ourselves is so important. This has been surfacing again and again in my life lately: how, at a very deep level, yoga is a practice of being real.

For all its fancy postures and esoteric spiritual practices, yoga is, quite simply, a way of tuning in to what exactly is happening in the present moment. 

I may be on my mat, in a posture (asana), feeling what it feels like to breathe (pranayama). Or maybe I'm choosing to treat others with kindness (ahimsa) in a moment where I want to react in anger.

Yoga helps us detach from needing everything to be perfect, and instead just to feel, to allow, to explore, to truly connect.

I recently received a copy of Chris Grosso's book, Indie Spiritualist and it's one of my new favorites. Chris explores what it really means to be honest with ourselves, to let go of the darkness of a broken past, and to heal.

He says:

True spirituality embraces all of this [life]: the beauty that is almost too much to bear, as well as the paint hat leads some to the brink of insanity. It’s all grist for the mill. We practice our asanas and mantras, prayers and aspirations, and that’s great; but are they serving to strengthen our identification as a “spiritual person” or to help us release our identification with that illusion, and in the process deepen our exploration of more than meets the eye?

I like Chris' down-to-earth approach to exploring what it means to be human. Following his story, I really connected with the idea of him as a seeker, someone wanting to grow, and let go. And his path is not easy -- he falls down, he feels hopeless, he messes up -- but, ultimately, he chooses to keep going.

I was very inspired by his honesty, and the way he embraces all of his experiences (including the road from addiction to recovery) with an open heart.

If I am to be truly responsible for myself, then I have to accept discomfort and acknowledge the aspects of myself that scare the shit out of me and make my heart sink, because this is where the true healing can begin.

These were two other passages that really resonated:

The gift of desperation
“I was blessed with what the twelve-step fellowships call ‘the gift of desperation,’ which means that I’d hit such a rock bottom that I was finally able to surrender. I had nothing left to hold on to, and nothing holding me back. I was completely bankrupt in every sense of the word – morally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically – which allowed me to completely let go. In turn, letting go allowed for true inner spiritual growth to begin.”

The fear behind the fear
“As I kept moving forward with my recovery, I began to explore the reasons I was so scared to look at the things that sucked in my life—self-loathing, fear, emotional scars, and other baggage. I began to see clearly the futile nature of fear behind the fear. And herein lies a perfect opportunity to explore why we’re scared to take an honest look at the unpleasant things in our life (besides the obvious fact that they’re unpleasant). And more importantly, to figure out what we can do today to begin making even small steps toward changing that.”

Thank you, Chris, for sharing your story, for choosing not to hide, and for being true to yourself. Namaste.

Happy HallOMween!

Hey beautiful yogis! Happy Halloween :)

I hope you're celebrating and enjoying festivities today.

I decided to dress up as a recently-tattooed yogi… :)

I met up with Jennifer at Leonardi Tattoo last night to start working on my half sleeve again, and I couldn’t be more stoked about how the piece on my shoulder turned out. The mountain scene is a little tribute to Mother Earth, nature, and the importance of being present (as inspired by Lake Tahoe and life in California). I see the flowers as a representation of the divine feminine – of beauty, strength, self-acceptance and love.

It’s been wonderful wearing my heart and my art on my sleeve today (ha!) and it’s so fun seeing other people light up when they notice the new ink. Looking forward to showing my yogi friends at the studio tonight, too!

Did you dress up today?

We had a cupcake decorating contest at work, and I have plans to go salsa dancing after yoga class tonight. I’ll be rocking the masquerade mask :)

Photos via Pinterest.

Hope you guys are having a blast practicing yoga as ghosts and zombies!


Yogis With Tattoos

Photo by Piotr Redlinski via The New York Times.

As you guys know, I love tattoos. I have a few and am about to get new work done on my left arm...I’ll have a half sleeve soon! :)

A while ago I shared some yogi tattoos from readers, and I'd love to do that again.

Photo via Pinterest.

Calling all you yogis with tattoos!

Want to share your art with the readers of Alive in the Fire?

Email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com with some photos of your tattoos, plus a brief description of what they symbolize to you.

Photo by Piotr Redlinski via The New York Times.

Photo via Well and Good NYC.

Get 10% off a tattoo kit when you shop at www.AccessTattoo.com. Valid until November 2013.

Tattooing Equipment (A Guest Post for All You Inked Yogis)

Photos by T. Libertiny.
Yogis, you know I love tattoos and have several. I think tattoos are a badass way to wear your art on your sleeve, and I enjoy seeing what tattoos other yogis have.

Today I'm excited to bring you a guest post from The LA Shop, which sells an awesome tattoo equipment kit for artists. Here's what one tattooer had to say about their experience with the kit. I love how he talks about overcoming her initial fear about being a beginner (newbie yogis, you know you can relate!) and how a hobby eventually became a way of life.

Getting My First Tattoo Gun 

When I first became a tattoo hobbyist I thought I was going to get in and get out, meaning, I thought I was going to be intimidated by the art itself and those who are expert at it. It’s only natural to recognize your short comings when you’re first starting out. It’s what everyone does, no matter what you’re doing. I was not immune from that. I thought I was awful and was never going to get better. 

I had a realization that the equipment I was using, hand me downs from my brother in law, really, were old and not that good. That was the problem. Not the only problem, I mean, of course I had to get my skills up, that’s only normal. But it didn’t help that the actual physical things I was using were old. 

I realized I needed some tattoo kits, to get all the materials I needed, like a tattoo gun and new needles and inks. That really what was keeping me back. You get the new stuff and all of a sudden you feel like a new man, like a new artist. I loved it. 

I remember that first afternoon after getting my new equipment, going home to my wife and saying, "Honey, I got good news and bad news."  She asked for the good news first. And of course that was that I finally for the first time felt like I had a real talent. But the bad news was she was going to see a lot less of me! We had a good laugh. 

But the hobby has really become more than just a hobby, it’s a way of life now. Anyway, I got all my stuff at http://www.thelashop.com and I can’t recommend enough that if you’re looking to break in, get yourself good equipment on this site.

So, all you yogis with tattoos, now you know what equipment to recommend to your artists! Namaste.

Yogis With Tattoos

Photo via Yogic Photos.

As you know, I'm a big fan of tattoos. Do you have any?

I'm always inspired when I see other yogis with them in class.

I think tattoos are a cool way of sharing your art with others.

If you agree and would like to share your tattoo with readers at Alive in the Fire, shoot me an email (aliveinthefire at gmail dot com). I'd love to feature a photo of you on the blog! 

Namaste, beautiful yogis!

Am I a Badass Yogi?

Photos by T. Libertiny. This is Jason from Chroma Tattoo, whose work I highly recommend.

I had such a fun weekend in Detroit. I felt pretty badass taking a boxing lesson and getting a new tattoo. I also enjoyed taking a break from being online so much, swimming in the hotel pool, and working on a novel.

Lately I've been pondering what it means to be a badass. I'm not convinced that in order to be a badass yogi, you need to know all the advanced postures. You don't have to have a perfect flow or a perfect body.

It's certainly not about having ink or wearing sexy outfits to class.

You don't have to be able to sit in meditation for hours, still as a statue.

In order to be a badass yogi, I think you need to learn to leave your ego at the door.

You learn to trust the teacher, and the energy of the students that surround you.

You let go.

A badass yogi knows she's beautiful because she's smiling (or calm as a cucumber, depending on the pose), not because she's being watched by those around her.

My trainer Dan from Detroit.

A badass yogi is playful, caring, and loving to others.

A badass yogi gives back, shares in community, and has an open mind and an open heart.

And a badass yogi knows when it's good to have a sense of humor... like when you fart in class, or fall on your face because you're exerting 110% on every pose.

Are you a badass yogi? :)

PS If you need an extra laugh...this video is totally badass:

Bust a Yoga Move

Photo by a new friend from NYC. Thanks, Joshua, for sharing!

What do you fear? 

Yoga with no mat? Practicing yoga where someone might notice you fall out of a pose awkwardly?

Wondering who might notice your ass sticking up in the air in downward dog pose? :)

Photo by Tom Libertiny.

I used to fear these things. But with practice, I let go. I began erasing some deep-seated fears. (Am I good enough? Am I pretty? Am I strong enough?)

Learn to not fear your own body and its place in the physical world. You're beautiful, and you're right where you're supposed to be :)

Now I'm that girl on the sidewalk, barefoot and trying out lion's breath, being silly, meeting new people and sharing my love for yoga with them. Talking about mountain pose, child's pose: there is energy both up and down, I'll say. Here, try your hands like this.

I like to bust a move because sometimes I see a stranger smile and that makes my day. Have you ever tried yoga?

I'll ask with a smile, and I usually get one back. :) 

Busting a move is worth the little bit of awkwardness or embarrassment that sometimes creeps in. Try it! See what happens.

Do yoga during your travels. Be unafraid to stretch in a busy airport, an open field, or your neighbor's porch. Be free... go ahead and bust out your yoga moves.


Lotus Sutra (A Poem)

Lotus Sutra
There is the sound of this train
traveling by
my thigh burns
with the beauty of a new
tattoo -- he inked into me
a symbol - grace,
effortless grace,
this night echoes on. I feel
a stirring in the depths

sitting there,
more like laying there - reiterating my life
to myself in numbers, waves,
heat pain in the most pure, simple form...
I felt as though we knew each other 
long before this night. Speaking while creating
art. The rhythm of it. The others,
unspoken truths, spoken 
laughter... sarcasm and cigarette smoke
hanging in the air like
a lotus petal
stuck on water.

Sometimes we have nowhere

else to go except
back to 
who we are to begin with.

Begin again.


He speaks there, writing into me.

Now is the right time.

Where have I gone 
to deserve this?

Going onward,
knowing pain,

You touch me, 
knowing me,
won't you be
beginning again?

Go on,
follow me.

Tattoos in the Blogosphere

All photos in this post courtesy of Alive in the Fire readers who are inked. 
Many thanks to all who shared!

Ever wondered what sorts of tattoos yogis have? I posed that question a while back on the blog and through Twitter, and received some fascinating photos.

Take a look!

Just as we are on our mats, these yogis are a diverse and colorful group.

I wanted to share some great links from around the web, too. I read some other blogs written by those who share a passion for body art :) You can find tattoos all over the place...
  • The blog Sometimes Sweet runs a weekly feature called Tattoo Tuesday highlighting some incredible bloggers and their tats. I love reading the meaning behind certain symbols and seeing all of the close up shots.
  • Tattoologist is a tattoo blog with an artful approach. Most of the tattoos I've seen there seem to have an effortlessness and a lightness about them (not a whole lot of sleeves or intense color). If you're into tattoos with text or interesting typeface samples, be sure to check this one out. 
  • Needles and Sins is a tattoo blog that tracks news and trends. With a wicked name like that, it's hard to resist swinging by :)
  • Even on some wedding blogs, such as A Practical Wedding, you can find posts about how tattoos are everywhere.
  • So Fawned is another of my favorite blogs. When I spotted these sleeves, I ooohed and aaaahhhed at the screen. Aren't they breathtaking? 

  • A post from the cooking blog Sweet Paul featuring the funniest guy tattoo I've ever seen. You've got to be a serious crafter to sport that tat! Do you guys know anyone with comical tattoos?
  • A post from Not Your Average Ordinary on script tattoos. Elegant and eloquent. If you got a word on your wrist, what would it be?
There's always a story behind getting inked. Coming soon: my story on the new tattoo I've got big summer plans for! :)

A Video to Inspire Your Spring and Summer

Video via Lululemon on YouTube.

Anyone else ready for sunshine? I'm hoping it brightens up this weekend, but yesterday and today have been so gray. (Although I do enjoy fog because it reminds me of growing up in northern California, I wouldn't mind a few rays and puffy clouds!)

I just discovered a beautifully-composed video from Lululemon. I love the way the upbeat music, close-up shots, and outdoor settings make me feel fired up for spring and summer.

Hope they inspire you as well! Oh, and see if you can spot the cool tattoo in this video :)

Happy Friday, all.

Yogi Tattoos: Got One?

Photos via the Bikram Women's Retreat on Facebook.

Hey yogis! Happy Thursday. Hope you're having a rockin' end to the week.

Are you practicing your yoga? I'm excited: I'm heading to a class tonight at Grateful Yoga of Evanston, a local studio I love. Nick and Lela, the owners and head teachers there, are amazing people. So full of heart! I'll be posting about them again soon.

Plus, tomorrow I'm going to be teaching a little mini yoga class at Northwestern's huge philanthropy event Dance Marathon. I'll be leading the group's highest fundraising individuals (probably around 20-30 undergrads) in a short flow class. It should be fun to incorporate the most invigorating postures so they don't fall asleep on me! During the event they dance for 30 hours straight, and the class is being held about half way through... so I'll be making it as engaging and fun as possible. No savasanas :)

It should be a fun and yoga-filled end to the week. Where are you practicing?

And are you sporting a sweet tattoo at your yoga studio? Lately I've been a little obsessed with them.

I'm also planning a blog post featuring yogis I know with awesome body art. Want to be included? Send me an email with an image of your tattoo! (You can reach me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com.) You can also leave a comment below and I'll follow up with you. 

Hope to hear from you (and see your sick tatts) soon, yogis!

PS Check out Teeg's awesome response to this post. Namaste.