Happy New Year!

2013 has been a wild ride.

I've seen my share of ups and downs. So much has changed.

Lately I am reminded over and over again that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The universe has provided me with so much love and light, so much abundance. When I receive confirmation that I am walking my path, fulfilling my dharma, I sometimes become overwhelmed by gratitude.

Today as I reflect back on this year, I am amazed… humbled… surprised by my own strength… appreciative of my friends and family… excited for what is to come… and yet fully satisfied in this present moment, this now.

This month, Alive in the Fire broke a new record for pageviews. My sponsored yogis are getting excited to share their stories. I’m connecting with other writers and yogis and companies who are passionate about helping people live in good health and to raise the collective consciousness. This blog community is ever-growing, ever-evolving.

I am about to celebrate my 5-year anniversary practicing yoga. I’m experiencing life as a yoga teacher. I have settled into my home in California.

I am so grateful.

Here’s wishing you a beautiful end to 2013 and a grounded, centered, exhilarating start to the new year. I love you guys!

Peace out, 2013!


I Create My Own Chaos (Thoughts on Staying Relaxed and Setting Boundaries During the Holiday Season)

Photos via Pinterest.

Today on Alive in the Fire we’re going to talk about setting healthy boundaries for yourself and with those you love. During the holidays, this can be especially challenging – you’re meeting up with family members you may not have seen in a long time, or maybe some who you don’t get along well with. It’s important to check in with yourself: what are my needs? What emotions am I neglecting?

Often it can be tempting to agree to spending time doing whatever everyone else has planned, or saying “yes” to all of the chaos that’s available: over-spending on gifts, filling up the calendar, pushing yoga to the bottom of the priority list, not taking time to release frustration and built-up emotion, and just generally getting overwhelmed by the flurry of activity going on.

As we close out this year, I invite you to consider this: what chaos am I creating in my own life? What can I choose to let go of?

It’s just like finding our edge in yoga and choosing to respect that edge while we are in the pose. Where can I soften? Instead of forcing, where can I release?

One of my sponsored yogis, Justin, shares some reflections on how you can protect your own space and choose to be happy even when the holidays provide opportunities to get stressed… these are some fantastic tips!

The holidays are usually a time of year I would prefer to avoid. I watch as the number in my bank account decreases, and my expectation for having the "perfect" holiday increases, and the likelihood of family drama usually sky rockets. Often I do my best to avoid the typical holiday, but this year I had the most family interaction in over 5 years and there was little to no trouble with my family members...and No...I didn't replace them with paid actors, I've just put into practice many tips and techniques I've learned over the years.

Visiting family over the holidays is similar to trying out a new yoga studio after a long break from practice. The studio might not be the right temperature and my body might be super tight...this certainly is not what I want! But if I accept that the studio and my body are how they are, and work with them in that moment, then there's the opportunity for things to warm up, get moving, and actually be enjoyable. I've learned that if I accept my family as they are and don't expect them to be the perfect, father, mother, sister, etc. then the entire interaction has a chance to warm up as opposed to when I fought so hard to make them into the person I wanted them to be. 

I know that was an amazing metaphor that will instantly transform you life, but just in case it didn't here are some practical tips that have helped me reduce holiday drama:

  • I stay with a friend I like spending time with instead of family.
  • I have an alternative plan for every situation that makes me nervous. It's easier to stay if I know it's by choice and not lack of options.
  • I plan for the worst and hope for the best.
  • I limit the time I spend with people I don't like. I can hold my tongue easier for two hours than two days.
  • I start defining my plans and expectations for the holidays weeks in advance. This prevents me from surprising myself and others with the expectation of a Walton family Christmas.
  • If I'm invited to a fight, I don't accept the invitation. Like when I'm in half moon and my mind wants to make plans for the weekend I kindly decline and go back to improving my posture.

All these behaviors take practice to implement and it's helpful to hear other people with similar situations describe their success or failure with different options. Whether it’s friends in the yoga community or through other support groups I find listening to other share their experience gives me options I didn't know existed. 

Also having a chance to share out loud my thought process makes conscious my attitudes and beliefs and gives me the opportunity to put them in perspective and change them once I recognize how unreasonable and unhelpful they are. 

The 2013 holidays are almost behind us; let's use them as a reference point for learning and growth and a stepping stone to cheerful holidays in 2014.

All Is Love

"Hi, beautiful!"

To walk into a sacred space and be greeted by loving, kind, open-hearted yogis is such a gift. Today I am blown away by the love and gratitude present in my yoga community.

I am so, so grateful to connect with fellow students and teachers. To look around the room and sense the presence and compassion. To witness the beautiful energy that comes from raising our collective vibration.

I am so grateful to sit at the front of class and feel my heart flutter as I beat on my drum and sing a chant and watch the yogis around me engage fully in their practice.

As my teacher says, "We are all, quite literally, in this together."

We can choose to be loving and kind to each other. That energy we send out is coming right back to us.

"Everything around us is a sea of love... all you have to do is swim in it."

Today I am humbled in gratitude for the yogis standing on the mats next to me, for our teachers who fearlessly hold space and help us find our fire and stand in it.

All is love!

om shanti shanti shanti ~ ~ ~ peace!

108 Sun Salutations on the Winter Solstice

Photos courtesy of Andrea Manitsas.

This year I'm celebrating the Winter Solstice with a transformative 3-hour yoga workshop at Yoga Tree in Corte Madera. We're going to be doing 108 sun salutations! 

I'm so excited to connect with my breath and body in such a powerful way, and to allow myself space to meditate deeply. I'll be thinking of the day as a mini retreat (and I'm excited to detach from holiday stress) -- a chance to reconnect, to invigorate my spirit, and to join in a powerful community celebration of nature.

Here are some reflections from Andrea Manitsas (who is teaching the workshop) on the symbolism behind doing 108 sun salutations and what she hopes yogis like me will get out of the experience.

Come December 21, we will continue to guide ourselves into the coldest, darkest months as Winter Solstice makes its presence known with the least amount of light and greatest amount of darkness of the year. If there's one thing a decade-long yoga practice has shown me, it's how to make my own light shine bright when all I can seem to see and feel is darkness. We gather to celebrate this-- that we are connected to the great cycles of the seasons, the Earth, the Universe-- that we are of it, but also empowered within it. That we can light the way through our awareness, dedication and devotion. 

As with all good rituals, fire will be our centerpiece. We gather in ceremony to offer our efforts to its transformative flames. I often recite mantra using my prayer beads, numbered 108. I look at this event as one big body mantra, 108 opportunities to move with the power of our intentions. 

While this is a physical feat, I would like all of us to leave feeling lighter and fuller, not depleted and defeated. 

We will explore several variations of Salutations - Earth, Sun and Moon. We will do nine rounds of 12 with breaks for breath, mantra and reflection between each round. 

Participants will be encouraged to find a personal pace, encouraged to rest when the body asks but play with the boundaries of the mind. You will be surprised by how much you are capable of - and how good it feels to drop into the rhythm of all that is!

You can read more about Andrea on her website: AnjYoga.com.

Are you doing anything to celebrate the Winter Solstice?

Gifts from the Heart: For Deep Thinkers

Photo via Pinterest.

Today's post in the Gifts from the Heart series features ideas for yogis who are interested in the deeper side of yoga. 

Try these gifts for all your friends who love learning about the history of the practice, the meaning behind mantras, the spiritual benefits of the postures, and exploring the 8 limbs.

Sanskrit flashcards or a class on chanting mantras from Sanskrit Sounds (for those who already notice the difference when the teacher says adho mukha svanasana versus urdhva mukha svanasana in class, and who wants to know more about the sacred ancient language behind yoga).

A copy of a classic yoga text such as The Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali's 8 Limbs of Yoga or The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (guidance from a well-trained yoga teacher is recommended!). If you can find a workshop or seminar on these essential spiritual readings, even better!

A subscription to Elephant Journal (for some entertaining reading on spirituality to break up the seriousness).

A handmade meditation cushion and incense (for awesome meditation).

A custom set of mala beads (to use while chanting and to wear around town).

A copy of Deborah Adele's Yamas and Niyamas, for a down-to-earth guide to yoga's spiritual and ethical principles (so you can apply ahimsa and satya to everyday life, or at least figure out what those words mean!).

A custom-drawn mandala artwork (to hang in their at-home meditation space).

A personalized reiki session (so they can practice with attuned chakras).

PS For more shopping ideas, see the gift guide for beginners or the gift guide for yoga dudes.

Gifts from the Heart: For Yoga Dudes

Photo via Yoga Dudes.

Today's shopping guide features gifts for guys who practice yoga...perfect for all the dudes who aren't afraid to roll out their mat, and for any guy who's into sports but hasn't tried a class yet!

Yoga Gifts for Men

The Ultimate Yogi DVD series (for a killer at-home workout for any yoga dude seeking a six pack).

A license plate surround (because he know's what's up!).

A t-shirt he can wear to class and to football parties (and because he loves beer and/or whiskey as much as rolling out his mat).
Some PrAna pants he can practice comfortably in (so he can stretch farther than ever).

Real Men Do Yoga: 21 Star Athletes Reveal Their Secrets for Strength, Flexibility and Peak Performance by John Capouya (for inspiration from athletes who practice).

Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga by Benjamin Lorr (for a fascinating look at one Bikram yogi's wild journey).

A heavy-duty mat and towel from Manduka (so he won't slip after getting sweaty in class).

Photo via Pinterest.

Major props to all you dudes who yoga! You guys inspire me.

PS For more shopping ideas, see Alive in the Fire's gift guide for beginner yogis.

Holiday Stress

Photos via My Morning Coffee on Tumblr.

I’m feeling heavy today. My mind seems to be running wild with worries.

When will I be done fighting this cold? My schedule is so busy.

The holidays are coming up. Can I afford to buy that gift when I still have one more teacher training payment left?

Work projects are making my head spin. It’s hard to concentrate when I feel tired and sneezy…

I wasn’t expecting a text from a family member I haven’t talked to in months. For some reason, reading his message made my heart feel heavy. What will I say to him? I wonder if my yoga and meditation practice are stirring up old hurt that I’m ready to move through now. Now I’m thinking about past relationships, and my future, and yet wanting to live in the present moment…

Yesterday at my yoga studio I overheard a teacher talking to a student about how she’s been noticing people in classes lately are moody. “It must be the holidays – everybody’s grumpy and angry!” she said. “You can feel it as soon as you walk into the room.”

The two of them laughed about how at this time of year we let ourselves get stressed out.

“You know what I’m going to do between now and Christmas?” she said. “I’m going to make a commitment to get to a class at the studio every day. Even if that means getting up at 5:45 so I can fit my yoga in.”

Today, while things feel chaotic, I am reminded of the value of making time for my practice. I commit to getting on my mat.

Today I’ve gone through the process of getting upset, observing myself overreact, and allowing myself to sit with the feeling of discomfort for a moment rather than turning to the nearest distraction for momentary relief. Instead of letting the worries run wild, I took a moment to look at them and figure out what was really bothering me. I made a list of what’s priority—what I can take care of now, and what I can let go of. And I made a promise to myself to practice yoga today as part of that letting go.

Ultimately, I realized: I’ll be OK. I always am. This becomes clear every time I take a moment to breathe, to reconnect. When I make an effort to consciously be more grateful for the blessings I have, or to ask for the help I need. This moment of heaviness will pass.


Gifts from the Heart: For Yoga Beginners

Photo via Pinterest.

First up in the Gifts from the Heart series is a guide to finding gifts for newbie yogis. Here are some ideas for what to buy any beginner so that they feel prepared for class.

Yoga Gifts for Beginners

Pick Your Yoga Practice by Meagan McCrary, a guide to exploring and understanding different styles of yoga (so they can figure out which classes to try).

A class pass to their favorite studio (because helping them learn from an experienced teacher is really the best yoga gift you can give!). Try Groupon or the Yoga Journal Directory to find local studios.

A handmade yoga block from JBN WoodCraft Design (to stay safe when trying new poses).

A mat strap from The Apron Shop (so it's not awkward carrying a mat around).

Mat spray from AromaZen (to keep so fresh and so clean).

An album of relaxing yoga music by Adam Lees or Neil Middleton (so they can drop into their practice while at home. Check out my review of First Light or my review of Sunrise Music.

Next up in the series: gift ideas for yoga dudes!

Gifts from the Heart: The Yogi Gift Guide

Do you need some gift ideas for what to get your yoga-loving friends and family for the holidays?

For the next ten days, I'll be featuring some of my favorite shops where you can find high-quality handmade, eco-conscious, and super practical products.

Photo via Pinterest.

Stay tuned for plenty of ideas :) Yoga mats and spray to make sure yours doesn't stink after class... clothes to help you feel comfortable and empowered... snacks to keep you energized...

Books on yoga and spirituality that will awaken your consciousness...

Artisan mala beads to add a little beauty to your everyday wardrobe... yoga gifts for dudes... and much, much more!

Photo via Pinterest.

Cheers and happy shopping, yogis!

Mindfulness and Teaching Yoga

Hey lovely yogis!

I hope your week is off to a beautiful start.

I'm enjoying a quiet morning at a coffee shop... I took a sick day today since I'm fighting off an icky cold. My voice is half-gone and when I do talk, I sound like a frog... good times! :)

Sometimes the universe reminds me that it's time to slow down. I'm grateful for days like today, when I can rest and be fully in the moment.

My intention today and throughout this week is to move through the day mindfully, practicing awareness and gratitude in all I do. I hope to put myself and my health first, remembering the basics: eat well, hydrate, sleep enough, and make time for getting to my mat.

And-- exciting!-- I'll be teaching a one-hour vinyasa class at the climbing gym again this week! I am so grateful for the opportunity. If you're in the area, come join me!


5 Minute Meditation

Take a moment from your day. Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Close your eyes.

Trace your inhale. Notice when the inhale begins and when it ends. Notice the moment of stillness between the inhale and the exhale.

As thoughts appear in your mind, notice them, but do not attach. Let them arrive and leave again like waves.

Focus your attention on your third eye. 

Ask yourself: how would it look to be living my ideal life? How would I spend my days? How would I feel?

Relax. Gaze into your third eye. Allow the answers within to surface.

As you transition out of meditation, deepen your exhales. Feel your body grounded on the earth. Slowly come back.

It's Time to Put the Brakes On

Photos via Pinterest.

There is more to life than increasing its speed.
- Gandhi

I’m feeling pulled in all directions this week. Lots going on. Lots of people reaching out. Lots of new possibilities.

At this time of year, it’s easy for me to over-commit. I think I may have wandered into that territory already.

Thankfully, I have my yoga practice. On my mat, I return to center. I re-align with what is most important. I check in with myself.

Where am I physically, mentally, emotionally? What do I need? What have I been neglecting?

It is important to rest in stillness, but so often I make excuses not to slow down. I’ll rest after I check the next thing off my list…

This week my intention is to slow down and to be gentle with myself. I choose to actively cultivate self-awareness, to practice good self-care, and to release what no longer serves me.

PS I recently discovered this Guide to Cutting Back When You Feel Overwhelmed from Leo at Zen Habits. It has some really helpful tips about how to go about cutting down your to-do list, and generally lowering stress by being realistic about your commitments!

Happy December!

Photos via Pinterest.

Somehow the holidays always manage to sneak up on me.

One minute it’s flip flop season and the next, Halloween and Thanksgiving have already passed. Do you guys feel this way?!

Regardless, I’m excited for December. I love seeing all the festive lights and getting cozy and wearing slippers and having hot chocolate. I love wearing scarves and boots. And I love how awesome it feels to be in the heat during yoga. Such a relief from the cold, and such a light, almost magical sense in my body by the end of class.

My intention this holiday season is to hold onto that feeling of release and lightheartedness throughout each day. To give myself the gift of yoga. To connect with those I love.

And not to get caught up in the whirlwind; rather, simply to enjoy each moment as it happens.

What are you up to this holiday season?

I'm Worth It, and You're Worth It Too

Photos via Pinterest.
I am worth it.

There have been times in my life when I let myself believe otherwise.

I deserve love, happiness, peace.

When I acknowledge that my self-worth comes directly from an undeniable and unchanging connection to the universe – not from my actions, my doing, my appearance, my accomplishments – I am able to feel high self-esteem. We are born worthy; this worth is intertwined with our very being.

Self-esteem is not the same as self-worth. Regardless of how I may feel about myself at any given time, I am always worthy. I was born this way; it is innate to my very being.

As I accept and love myself, I am happier. I am able to live freely, pursuing my dharma with confidence.

I let expectations give way to acceptance of what is rather than being harsh with myself. I live in my truth, standing in light, knowing I am worth it.

T-Shirts for Good Karma

Video via MustBKarma on Kickstarter. Photos via MustBKarma.
"Think good thoughts. Do good deeds."

This is the mantra and driving force behind the brand MustBKarma, an awesome t-shirt company that is devoted to promoting positivity. The owners started selling apparel and jewelry as a way to raise money for She’s The First, an organization that educates and mentors women for the prevention of female infanticide.

I absolutely love hearing about brands like this one—amazing people who are out in the world doing amazing things. If you’re looking for an organization to support during the holidays, definitely consider checking out MustBKarma’s Kickstarter video. Or buy a shirt: they are buy 2 get 1 free!
It’s really cool that the inspiration for their t-shirt designs comes from their daughters, too.

MustBKarma was kind enough to send me two shirts, one for me and one for a sponsored yogi. I’m honored to wear their brand and share their story, and I invite you do the same. The whimsical illustrations and comfy material make for an awesome t-shirt that would be a great stocking stuffer! (And they even have adorable shirts for dogs!)

Thanks, MustBKarma, for sharing the love and for making a difference in the world. Keep doing what you’re doing – and keep sharing your inspiring message: opportunities for doing good are limitless.


Announcing the Sponsored Yogis 2014!

I could not be more excited to announce this year’s Sponsored Yogis team! Without further ado…
Jena (Roseville, CA)
Justin (Folsom, CA)
Liz (Incline Village, CA)
Samantha (Washington, DC)
Ty (St. Louis Park, Minnesota)
Deborah (Asheville, NC)

These yogis have amazing stories to share and I am so honored to invite them to the Alive in the Fire team! Welcome, all!

Stay tuned for posts about:
  • Ayurveda
  • Yoga for athletes
  • Meditation
  • Yoga in nature
  • Men and yoga (looking at femininity and masculinity and gender roles in the yoga community)
  • Yoga, psychotherapy, and emotional healing

I’ll be posting profiles of the team members soon and I’m hopeful that a few other applicants will be contributing to Alive in the Fire as guest posters. A big thanks to all who applied – you guys are amazing. It was really challenging narrowing down the group this year, and I am so grateful for the chance to connect with all of you.

I also want to give a shout out and humble bow of gratitude to all of the incredible sponsors who have been sending donations along! I am super excited to share welcome packages with the sponsored yogis soon, and hear about how they enjoy trying new products and taking classes at various studios.

More soon… Namaste!

Photos by Cait Loper.

How to Meditate During Your Daily Commute (Conquer Road Rage with Yoga!)

T-shirt by MustBKarma.

On some days, morning traffic gets me down. I can get impatient, grumpy and irritated sitting in my car, or pissed off when other drivers are slow or incompetent.

Instead of getting swept up in my reactions lately, I've been trying instead to cultivate loving kindness during my commute time. Often I speak this mantra aloud and envision love and compassion reaching the people around me.

May you be well; may you be happy. May all beings be well; may all beings be happy.

Every now and then a driver in the car next to me will catch my eye and we exchange a smile. Silently, I wish them a heart-centered Namaste.

Stranger, fellow driver, fellow yogi: I acknowledge you. I honor and respect you. May you be well and happy.

It’s amazing how much a simple practice such as this can transform a very ordinary experience into something meaningful. The same happens when we give our practice on the mat away. We detach from the outcome and the yoga becomes a gift for the benefit of others.

More and more, I realize: everything in life is yoga. I carry my practice with me wherever I go.

Photo via Pinterest.

My invitation to you as you transition out of the Thanksgiving holiday and back into your work week is to practice loving kindness to everyone around you. Let your heart be full of love.

PS Here's another relaxing workday meditation.

PPS Another fun way I spend the commute is reciting the yoga flow I'm about to teach. Or just singing mantra.

The Breath as Prayer

This morning I offered my practice as a prayer. Let every movement, every moment, come from devotion. This was my intention at the start of class.


I closed my eyes so as not to seek answers from the mirror before me.

Listening. Drawing inward. Stilling the mind.

I did not look for perfection.

If there was any to be found, I stumbled into it with my eyes closed and my heart open.

The teacher reminded us about Thanksgiving week. "I'm sure you've been doing a lot of classes centered around gratitude," he said. "But why not let gratitude be an every day, all day kind of thing?"

When I sat beside him with my djembe for the chanting, I closed down my eyes. I let my heartbeat be an offering. I let my hand on the drum be an offering, a drawing out of sound.

In yoga, my purpose is to draw out more love from my heart, my core, my very being. Today I was reminded of the power of prayer, of letting the body be a moving, singing prayer on the mat.

Om bolo shri sat guru bhagavan ki... jai! To my teacher within, the only teacher of truth... victory.

Live the Life You Love

Photos via Yoga Dudes and Pinterest.

How long will I wait before I start living the life I desire?

How am I holding myself back?

We create our realities from the inside out. I manifest this life, these experiences.

What am I choosing to create? What am I building?

If you are afraid to write or edit or assemble or disassemble, you are merely a spectator. And you are trapped, trapped by the instructions of those you've chosen to follow. Twenty people in the field and eighty thousand in the stands. The spectators are the ones who paid to watch, but it’s the player on the field who are truly alive.
-Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception